Sunday, April 14, 2019

20 RARE LEGION COLLECTIBLES

If you're a diehard Legion of Super-Heroes fan, you'll probably try and get your hands on any comic, magazine, publication or general paraphernalia related to your favorite group.
    While many collect only officially authorized stuff, others delve into esoterica like original art, bootlegged products, unlicensed material or comissioned sketches.
    As a dedicated Legion follower, I have amassed a pretty complete collection of licensed product. I often get queries from followers of my Facebook page about the availability of some of the merchandise, which has provided the inspiration for me to compile a list of my top 20 hardest-to-find Legion-related items. 
    Note there is a difference between collectibles that are difficult to find, and those which are not rare and may simply be too expensive for the average collector. For example, copies of ADVENTURE COMICS #247 are easy enough to acquire if you have the funds. Likewise, the highly sought-after Mattel 12-pack of Legion figures, or copies of the ridiculously over-priced SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION #23 with the Adam Hughes cover, are not scarce, but will cost you quite a handful of Huopian energy money and Dracksler mirror coins to purchase.
    So let the drums roll. Here's my top 20, in ascending order of rarity. Every item pictured is from my collection. And as with many lists of this nature, note that it's all subjective.




20. HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE LARGE POSTER


The poster compared to its fold-out counterpart in the HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE HARDBACK.

    The limited edition HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE hardback (10,000 copies) released in 1988 included a fold-out poster of various DC characters drawn by some of the industry's greatest artists. The Legion was represented by a P Craig Russell rendition of the White Witch. 

    The book came with a card which readers could use to buy a bigger version of the poster, rendered on high quality Bristol board stock. Only limited numbers were made and finding a copy of this now is definitely easier said than done.


The postcard that had to be sent in to buy the poster.


19. ALEX ROSS VERTICAL GICLEE LEGION PRINT 



    What more can be said of Alex Ross' huge 29” x 54” Giclee print of the Legion, issued in 1997? It had a run of only 500, and those fans who snapped one up are unlikely to ever sell their prints. Occasionally a copy pops up at auction houses, but you'll have to monitor them closely for a chance to bid. 
    A word of warning: if you do get an opportunity to buy, make sure it comes with the certificate of authenticity attached to the back, which also includes a key to the characters in the painting. 


18. DC COMICS BACKING BOARD CARDS



    This set of cards came in six different sheets of eight that formed the backing boards for comics sold in three-packs at large retailers. In original condition, the perforated boards have a header, used for hanging the product. The Legion-related cards spotlight Tyr (#21), CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS 1 (#38), and ADVENTURE COMICS 307 (#43).
    The first set was released in 1987, the second in 1989. Individual cards cut out from the boards can be found on Ebay from time to time, but intact sheets are very hard to come by.



17. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES FLOW CHART



    Issued in 1997, this was a large poster made up for retailers to display on their shop walls, showing the relationships of Legion members to each other. This was a companion piece to the Legion stickers issued at the same time, but the poster contains three members not depicted on the sheet:  Leviathan, Kid Quantum I and Atom’x.  
    Most fans snapped the posters up from their local stores when they were done with them. Generally, the flow charts are not easy to find these days. 


16. WEETABIX BOXES


The Weetabix box with Legion characters on it (above) and a bigger pack with a cut-out model, which has a picture puzzler inside featuring Worldsmith.

    I've included these even though they're a product from the United Kingdom. I think they're a definite collectible, but of course opinions may differ depending on personal criteria. 
    Granted licence by DC Comics, the UK cereal company Weetabix ran a Superman promotion in 1979, its boxes adorned with various play scenes and cut-out models (a Kryptonian flyer, and Kal-El’s rocket). Hidden in the actual cereal were various character cards, issued in strips of three or six, depending on the size of the pack. Altogether there were 18 different cards, which could be slotted in to the play scenes. 
    While there were no Legionnaires, there were four related characters: Worldsmith, a Resource Raider, the Raiders’ chief (a floating brain), and the Galactic Coordinator (who only appeared in one panel of the comic book). 
    The characters were depicted on the Weetabix boxes as well as on the cards. The inside of the boxes featured six different “picture puzzlers” (which you could only get to if you tore the box open). They included a "spot the difference" puzzle with Worldsmith, a Resource Raider connect-the-dot puzzle, and a word game with the Brain. A smaller snack pack version, which did not contain cards, featured the characters on the outside of the box. The boxes are the most troublesome to procure as most of them would have been discarded or disfigured by consumers. The cards themselves are relatively common. 


The Legion-related picture puzzlers featured inside the boxes.

The Legion-related Weetabix cards.


15. LEGIONNAIRES CLOISONNE PIN



    These metallic lapel-style pins with butterfly clips were given out to retailers for every 100 issues of LEGIONNAIRES #1 ordered. Smaller than standard pins but quite nifty in appearance, they're hard to track down, although some have recently surfaced on Ebay.

  
14. McDONALDS HAPPY MEALS POSTER



    A window poster was produced to promote the McDonald’s animated Legion of Super-Heroes figures (released jointly with a Build-a-Bear set) on one side, and McDonald’s “Good food to grow” on the other, which depicted a milk shake, a juice, a fruit cup and some nuggets. Variations of this poster were used on the menu boards of the drive-thrus, along with a pictorial listing of the figures. 
    In general, this is a scarcer item than the promotional display stand which included all the the Legion and Build-A-Bear figures. 


The bottom half of the display stand for the Legion figures, pictured next to a Happy Meals box.


13. RED LEGION JACKET-STYLE T-SHIRT



    There've been a myriad of Legion shirts made over the years but most of them are unauthorized product. The scope of this list covers only the tops that were licensed from DC Comics, of which there have been several produced over the decades, including ones featuring Jeff Moy Legionnaires, Frank Miller Legionnaires, a Legion symbol over a starfield, and a Tom Grummett drawing of Kon-El and the three founders. 
    I've found that the Legion shirt in shortest supply was the red one produced to resemble the Legion jackets of the time (1997), which bore a big Legion symbol on the back, and a simple, plain front. Beware of forgeries: the original shirt bears a Gildan label.  


12. ZERO HOUR POSTER



    This poster featured heads of various DC characters, including Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl, and was inserted into copies of COMICS VALUES MONTHLY #95. The now discontinued magazine has low resale value and comic stores do not often stock back issues. Finding copies of this particular issue is not easy, let alone locating ones with the poster still intact within. 


11. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOTING BALLOT PAPER (1976)




    DC Comics held its inaugural (and so far only) Super DC Convention in February 1976, at the Hotel Commodore, NYC (taken over by the Trump Organization that year itself and duly converted into the Grand Hyatt). With so many fans attending the three-day event, DC decided to ask them to elect a new leader for the Legion.
    Ballot papers featuring all the Legionnaires were made available to attendees, who were asked to circle their preferred leader on the form as well as writing down the character's name in the space provided, and placing them in various Legion ballot boxes placed around the venue.
    Random forms were drawn at regular intervals throughout the sessions and door prizes awarded, with the fans' choice announced on the last day. Superboy was the clear winner, with Wildfire coming in second. But because Superboy was only a part-time member, Wildfire was named leader, and duly sworn in in SUPERBOY 225, Paul Levitz' first Legion story. Element Lad came in third, and interestingly, Tyroc placed fifth.
    The double-sided ballot papers measured 8.5 x 11 inches, and were accompanied by a survey form compiled by "the DC staff", asking fans a series of questions about what they liked and disliked about DC Comics, with three lucky participants winning pieces of original art. While many fans filled the ballot papers in, those with more collectors' instincts kept a few for themselves. There are probably only a handful of these unmarked papers left today. 


10. ADVENTURE COMICS 515 (VARIANT COVER)



    The variant cover of this issue was drawn by Lee Bermejo and was produced to commemorate DC Comics' 75th anniversary. It had a distribution rate of 1:25, which really isn't that low compared to other variants, but it continues to prove elusive for collectors still looking for copies. 
    Hint: if you're hunting for this item, use both ADVENTURE COMICS #515 or #12 in the search fields, because this was the last issue in the revived series which used dual numbering.


9. LEGION OUTPOSTS



    While not a licensed product as such, I believe the historical importance of the Outposts make them a bona fide collectible for Legion fans. Originally published in 1972 as the official newsletter of the Legion Fan Club, the Legion Outpost soon became the premier Legion of Super-Heroes fanzine of the decade, featuring contributions by fans, pros, and soon-to-be pros. Launched at a time when the future of the Legion was in doubt, the Outpost was at the center of fan-based efforts to revive the title, and was largely responsible for its rescue from obscurity. Indeed, Jim Shooter was brought back into the writing fold after being tracked down by one of these fans, a development that would have future ramifications on Marvel Comics and the comics industry as a whole. 
    In total, there were 10 issues of the Outposts, and some extra supplements. The best of the Outpost content was compiled into a book published by TwoMorrows, but it's nigh on impossible to find copies of the original fanzine, in particular the first eight.


8. DC COMICS FOLDERS


A DC Comics folder with  the three Legion founders shown on the back.

    DC Comics produced various stationery items branded with corporate logos and depictions of characters, such as bookmarks, rulers, and notepads with letterheads. Two folders it produced in the 80s featured Legion characters: one incorporating Jose Garcia-Lopez art from its style guide cover which showed the three founders, and the other displaying characters from all its titles of the time, with Dawnstar representing the Legion.  



A DC Comics folder with Dawnstar shown on the back cover.


7. VS SYSTEM CARDS: DC EXCLUSIVES 


 

    This little-known VS System set, named DC Exclusives, contained three Legion-related cards; four if you include the “A Clash of Worlds” card (DCX-026), which depicts Kon-El. There’s also a card featuring Supergirl (DCX-005) if you feel compelled enough to include her in a Legion set. 
    In general, the “Too Ordinary” card (DCX-021) is hardest to track down, which shows Superboy being turned down by the Legion. The other two cards feature the Persuader and Tharok.


6.  DC COMICS CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAP




    There are two known DC Comics-licensed gift wraps which include Legionnaires among the cast of characters featured on the paper. The more common one, a birthday wrap, depicts various Legionnaires and DC heroes next to a birthday cake. 
    Far more elusive is the Christmas wrap, which shows several members around a Christmas tree as Santa extends season's greetings from a monitor screen. I've never seen this one ever listed on Ebay.


5. DC ORIGINALS STYLE GUIDE 2011 WITH FULL INSERTS


The 2011 DC Comics style guide (named ORIGINALS) binder. Legionnaires are shown on the spine.

    [Historical note: In the early 80s, DC produced a style guide to serve as a reference manual for artists to draw DC Comics characters, and also provided spec illustrations and color palette guidelines for licensing and merchandising purposes. Altogether, there were more than 200 pages of illustrations produced, most of which were done by Jose Garcia-Lopez. The guide featured a wraparound cover that included the three Legion founders on the back: the sole reason why it is considered a collectible by Legion fans, because the group is not featured in any of the interior pages, although there is a page devoted to villains from the Super Powers title, which includes a shot of Tyr. 

    This style guide is NOT hard to acquire if you can afford it; copies continue to be offered via Ebay for exorbitant prices.]
    The style guide that makes this list is a revised one that was released in 2011, which uses a more contemporary version of the 1980s wraparound cover. The content was different, including new illustrations for the DC characters. In keeping with the times, the model sheets, graphics, color palettes, logos and general presentation were more sophisticated and smarter-looking than the guide of the 80s. 
    Most of the art was done by Jerry Ordway. The pages had more references to the Legion than the 80s guide, including new shots of Tyr and Supergirl, and included covers of some Legion-related issues.
    The complete style guide also comes with a CD that contains all the information found on the sheets, and includes printable PDFs. 
    The style guide binder by itself can be found for sale from time to time, but it's rare to acquire ones with a full set of style sheets plus the CD-ROM. 
    You can see examples of the Legion-related content here.


Examples of interior pages in the guide.
A character sheet for Tyr from the guide.


4. DC SUPER-STARS APPLICATION FORM



   Just before the DC Implosion of 1979, readers were invited to join the much-heralded DC Super-Stars Society, for which there were 12 chapters (one of which was the Legion). Each application kit consisted of the same format: four pages comprising an introductory page relating to the chapter's character(s), a quiz page, another outlining what the membership kit contained, and then  the actual application coupon, which fans had to fill in and return along with payment of $4 for each kit. 
    Promised with the packs were a DC cloth patch; a glossy DC Super-Stars Society insignia decal in color; an insignia transfer for a t-shirt; a membership certificate; a membership card; discount coupons for comics and merchandise; and best of all, a huge color poster of DC’s Super Stars. Nothing ever came of it because of the Implosion, although some members did receive the poster (which is a collectible in its own right), which depicted several Legionnaires. 
    As most fans would have actually sent in the forms, tracking down an original, unmarked and unused application kit for the Legion chapter can be a futile, frustrating exercise. 


The poster that was mailed out to a lucky few.


3. STAMPIN' THE FUTURE FIRST DAY COVER




    In 2000, countries around the world were invited by the US Postal Service to participate in a world-wide children's stamp-design competition, named Stampin’ The Future, with the grand prize winners from each country assembling in Anaheim, California, for a special global celebration. One of the first day covers issued at the occasion featured the cover of  ADVENTURE COMICS #247, produced by BGC (Barry and Gerry Lesser Cachets).  
    It's so obscure that most stamp dealers have never heard of it.


2. ANIMATED LEGION TV SERIES STYLE GUIDE


The front and back cover of for the CD which contains the style guide.

    A style guide for the animated Legion TV series was produced by spoon+fork Studios in 2006 for DC Comics. The jam-packed CD, with a lavish booklet, contained specifics for five Legionnaires – Superman, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf and Bouncing Boy – plus designs for banners, backgrounds, logos, fonts, turnarounds, borders, colors, and various other graphic elements. 
    Most of the art for the guide was created by the legendary Mike Zeck, with other art contributed by Lynell Hakim Forestall. 
    You can see more of the contents here.

The CD and booklet that accompanies the style guide, which folds out.


1. ANIMATED LEGION TV SERIES PRESS KIT



    To promote the debut of the animated Legion series in 2006, a press kit was issued to the media, which included an interactive CD-ROM and a DVD, an information booklet, and a t-shirt compressed into the shape of the show's logo. The goodies were packed inside a handsome box within a transparent slipcase engraved with the logo. This is a really cool collector's item and will be worth the trouble to hunt down, but to my mind it remains the most difficult Legion-related collectible to obtain, particularly one in top condition and with all the contents still inside the box.


Inside the box. The DVD and CD are kept in the slipcase at the top, and the logo-shaped notebook-style package features bios, designs and information on the characters and creators. Beneath this is a shirt with the show's logo.

The menu from the interactive CD-ROM.

You can see more of the contents in this video.



Honorable mentions:

If you collect WHITMAN editions, then you'll know that the holy grail of the Legion comics is SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION #264. Not only is it the scarcest Whitman Legion book, it's also one of the hardest to find of all Whitmans, with less than 100 estimated to have been printed.



    In total, there were 13 issues of SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION with the Whitman branding, and four of the LEGION'S own title after Superboy left the group.
    You can read more about these comics here.

    Then there's the LEGION OF SUBSTITUTE EDITORS PIN. This is another item that depends on the collector's parameters. But if you feel you need it, you'll have a challenge finding one. 



    In 1991, DC Comics turned to the fans to suggest new titles for publication. During the summer convention season, they ran a ballot of 20 characters to choose from, with the two highest vote-getters moving on to their own titles. The contest was dubbed the "Legion of Substitute Editors", and pins were given out to fans to promote this event, using the Legion of Super Heroes font of the time. 
    The list included Adam Strange, The Creeper, Cyborg, Fire and Ice, Flex Mentallo, Gorilla Grodd, Nightshade, and of interest to Legion fans, Valor, who received his own title in 1992. After more than 2000 votes were counted, the winner was Death, from the Sandman series, followed by Martian Manhunter. 

    There are also a couple of other items which would have made the list several years ago, but I have noticed that their availability has become easier in recent times. I've gauged this primarily from Ebay listings and posts on various Legion Facebook sites.
    These are the LEGION FLIGHT RING VILLAGE BROCHURE, a four-page promotional booklet for the 5YL incarnation; and a SECRETS OF THE LEGION BUMPER STICKER, issued to retailers to promote the mini-series.


The four-page promotional booklet for the 5YL Legion.


The bumper sticker released to promote the SECRETS OF THE LEGION mini-series.


You can see the full range of Legion-related paraphernalia here.

If there's anything you feel should be in there but isn't, please let me know!




Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.


Monday, March 25, 2019

THE WRITE STUFF: BACK TO THE FUTURE! Pt 2


BACK ISSUE! 22 (Jun 2007)
Following on from the article in BACK ISSUE! 15 which featured both Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell, this issue turns the spotlight on scribe Paul Levitz and artist/writer Keith Giffen.
    At the time of the joint interview, Paul was president and publisher at DC Comics, while Keith was handling Countdown for DC and Starlord for Marvel.
    Paul's love for the Legion is well-known, as is evidenced by his three separate tenures as the writer of a title which he acknowledges would be “a pain in the ass” unless you really loved it.
    “You'd literally have to write the Legion with a scorecard and notes. If you didn't know them and love them, it was a lot of hardwork,” he said.
    Keith was more direct. “If you didn't care for these characters, it woluld be agony,” he said.
    


    Both agreed that the biggest incentive to accept the Legion gig was that it guaranteed a monthly paycheck, “which was the Holy Grail', Keith stated.
    “Even if you didn't love the Legion, no-one in their right mind back then would go “A monthly book? A regular income? Hell No!”.
    Paul agreed, saying “it had been written for the cash a couple of times in the past”, to which Keith pointed out “And it showed”.
    Something the creators had to deal with was the lack of a ready reference for Legion characters and worlds, which was a blessing and a curse.
    It was in the days before encyclopedias, DC Whos Who guides and wikis on the net.
    “There are 18 to 20 members at any given time and you can't reference things,” Paul said. “But I really loved the fact that the Legion was off in its own little corner so I didn't have to worry about how the streets of Smallville were organized or who Superman was fighting this week. We coud have this wonderful science fiction time inventing things.”
    Reflecting on his initial run, Paul was critical of many of the stories but was rightly proud of the Earthwar saga.
    "The five-parter may well have been the longest story that DC had done to that date,” he said.
    “Artist Jim Sherman found that doing a monthly was really out of his reach, even if we cut some of the pages out for backups and things.
    “He has commercial commitments. Jim is a wonderfully successful commercial illustrator and designer.
    “He was sort of perfect for the Legion because he was very much a Curt Swan for his generation.
    “He really knew how to draw faces and emotions the way Curt did. But there was just no way he could keep up with the book, so we had him and Mike Nasser as the theoretic primary alternative for him.
    “As the scheduling became more challenging, more and more people jumped in, and eventually, Joe Staton replaced him.”
    


    Keith, on the other hand, was one who felt keen to take on the artistic chores even if he was aware of the difficulties it would pose.
    "What I saw in the Legion was a lot of untapped potential in terms of the visual take on the book,” he said. “What you can do with different cultures, how you can approach the characters, how you can make the stories really stand out.
    “Paul, I seem to recall you coming over to me and led with 'I'm going to use Darkseid'.
'If I had any doubts at that point, that pretty much evaporated because I was a big fan of the Kirby Fourth World stuff.
    “And to me, reality has always been a distraction. I was really thrilled when I picked up the Legion because I would never have to look up a Studebaker again!”
Giffen came on after a run of artists which included the afore-mentioned Staton and Jimmy Janes.
    “Jimmy was spectacularly ill-cast for the series,” Paul said. “He was a good meat-and-potatoes storyteller, but ke knew reality better than he knew fantasy.”
    The Great Darkness Saga was another storyline fondly-remembered, with Paul recalling that many moments of inspiration came from his time in the Legion Amateur Press Alliance (APA) Interlac, during which period this blogger was also a member.
    An example was the notion that Validus was a child of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.
“Legion fandom back then was very vocal,” Keith said. “Paul and I had a very good relationship with fans, we would include them in certain aspects of the book, makin them feel appreciated.
    “This was before the internet. You had to wait for this APA phone book to come in the mail. And there would often be a litle nugget in there and we'd go 'Maybe we should use this one'.”
    Among the members were Tom and Mary Bierbaum, who would later become Legion scripters in their own right.
    (*And if you're interested, Interlac is still going strong.)
    


    Paul points out that the glory of writing the Legion was that they could “do things that were real change”.
    “In most comics, you have the challenge that you can't kill any of the principal characters, you can't kill them off,” he said.
    “In Legion, you could kill somebody every couple of years, mayy somebody in-between, screw with their lives in one fashion or another!”
    “Well we had to keep ourselves interested, but I think from day one, when it comes to Karate Kid, I was campaigning for him to get the bullet,” Keith said.
    “I despised the character. KK was the one that rubbed me the wrong way … and when we killed him, I left the book. I was fulfilled [laughter].”
    Ironically, Keith was also working on Countdown at the time, the series which culminated in gruesome deaths for KK and Una, one of Duo Damsel's bodies. It would be the third time Keith killed off the martial arts hero (the second being the SW6 batch version during the Five-Year-Later period).
    Keith expands on the reason he originally left the book.
    “It was the poster,” he said. “When DC wanted to do posters, I said “Let me see if I can put on a poster every single character that appeared in a Legion book since it started.'
    “And by the time I was done with it, it's like being force-fed pizza for a year. After that, do you still want more pizza?”

Keith Giffen's infamous poster.

    “I lost a collaborator when Keith left,” Paul said.
    “I ended up with some good people: Greg Larocque was very solid. Steve Lightle came closest to Keith as being a collaborator. He came up with Tellus. He always had a bunch of ideas.”
    But Keith admits one can never really leave the Legion.
    “It's like a siren's song calling to me over the waves,” he said. “You can only ignore it for so long. Then you go back and say “Oh God. Here we go again.”
    Never were truer words spoken. Paul and Keith reunited on the Legion on several more occasions, the last time during the run which would ultimately led to the Legion's cancellation.
    Given the directive by DC to wrap up the series, Keith came up with a plotline that destroyed the Legion and left it in tatters. Sun Boy and Star Boy were killed along the way, Mon-El lost an arm, while leader Phantom Girl deserted her post in cowardice.
    The only saving grace perhaps was Paul's twist that the story could have taken place in an alternate universe, but that was scant consolation for the hundreds of fans who felt cheated at the end of the arc.
    The Legion has not returned since the end of that series.

**The article covers other subjects, such as the creation of the Pocket Universe as a band aid for John Byrne's Superman revamp, Keith's aim to topple TEEN TITANS as DC's top-selling book, and the reasons behind some of the 5YL developments.

MORE ON BACK ISSUE! TO COME!



Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

THE WRITE STUFF: BACK TO THE FUTURE! Pt 1

In our series on comic magazines which featured articles on the Legion, one title was conspiciously absent: BACK ISSUE!, the fine fan publication produced by TwoMorrows and edited by fervent Legion fan Michael Eury. Starting with this post, we will review all the BACK ISSUE! issues that featured Legion content.




BACK ISSUE! 15 (2006)
Sporting a glorious Mike Grell Legion commission on the cover, the issue spotlights the two artists regarded as being responsible for turning the Legion around in the 70s and restoring the title back to glory: Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell.
    At the time of the interview with Philip Schweier, Dave was finishing a Futurians project, after being involved with Soulsearchers and Company, while Mike was busy with his Shaman's Tears and Jon Sable books.




    The two men recall how they got their jobs drawing the Legion. Dave was handed the gig by editor Murray Boltinoff after working as an apprentice with Murphy Anderson, while Mike was asked to come on board after being tried out inking a Cockrum story (SUPERBOY 202), and doing it sufficiently well to impress.
    “Joe Orlando recommended me after Dave quit the Legion,” Mike recalls. “Murray said, 'Congratulations, you got the job. Now the bad news. You're going to get hate mail. You're replacing the most popular artist we ever had on the Legion, and we're killing off one of their favorite characters (Invisible Kid).”
    “He was right. It was a long time before anyone mentioned me without comparing me unfavorably to Dave, and justfiably so.”
    Dave confirms that part of the Legion's popularity owed much to his redesigning of several of the members' outfits to suit the 70s.
    “I really had to fight Murray over it. He was very conservative, he didn't like it, but reluctantly, he let me go ahead with some costume changes,” Dave said.
    This resulted in new looks for Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Karate Kid, Duo Damsel and Chameleon Boy.
    “A lot of people actually think I redesigned Matter-Eater Lad too 
(SUPERBOY 193), but they just got the color wrong,” Dave said.


Some of Dave Cockrum's redesigns for Legion costumes. Courtesy Glen Cadigan.


    Mike reveals the flak he got for changing Cosmic Boy's costume (the infamous corset look). “Some guys never forgave me for it,” he said.
    “I had a funny conversation with Mike Flynn, who had been one of the key people with the fanzine The Legion Outpost, and who despised the costume.
    “He went to work for DC Comics and used his power and influence to get it changed to the way it looked before. And then he quit.
    “I asked him about that and he said, 'Hey, my job here is done.'”
    Like Dave, Mike bemoans editor Murray's conservatism and lack of humor.
    “There was one story (SUPERBOY 204) that had Brainiac 5 saying, 'I'm looking for the girl in the red and blue costume'.
    “I said, 'Murray, shouldn't that be 'I'm looking for the girl with the big S'. Murray, not getting it all, said 'Let me see if that works'.”
    Fans also remember Mike's other famous encounter with Murray over character design.
    “When I drew a Science Police officer in SUPERBOY 207, I made him a black guy. Murray said 'You can't do that because we'll get a lot of negative mail from our black readers',” Mike said.
    “But there are no black characters in the Legion. Why not use one?”
    Reluctantly, Mike changed the character slightly, leaving enough characteristics for readers to realize he had NOT been intended to be pink.
    When the opportunity did come up to draw a black hero with Tyroc, Mike was disgusted.  “One, he had the stupidest power of all; and two, his people had gone to live on an island, which sounds like the most racist concept I had heard,” he said.
    “So I cobbled up a costume that was a combination of Elvis Presley Las Vegas shows and old blaxpoitation movies.”
    Dave tells of coming up with several story concepts for the Legion, which Murray would inevitably shoot down.
    This included a team-up with the Blackhawks, which were Dave's favorite comic book group, and the inclusion of Nightcrawler as a Legionnaire.
    “Murray said he was too funny-looking,” Dave said.
    Another Marvel character that developed from potential Legionnaires was Storm, an amalgam of a wind-powered heroine named Typhoon and a bird-girl named Quetzal.




    Dave also put up a Legion villain concept featuring a group named the Devastators, and whose members comprised Foxglove, Tyr, Wolverine, Sidewinder and Manta. Only Tyr appeared in print, but it's interesting that Cockrum created a character named Wolverine a few years before Marvel's version. The design for this version of Wolverine was used by Dave for Fang, the Timber Wolf analog in the Legion-inspired Imperial Guard which Dave helped co-create when he revitalised the X-Men.
    This narrow-minded approach at the editorial office was one reason which prompted Dave's departure from DC, a decision which was boosted by an argument over the return of his original art.
    “When I did the wedding of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel, DC wasn't returning artwork even though Marvel was,” he said.
    “I asked Murray, 'could I have the double page wedding scene spread back?'”
    Although Murray agreed, publisher Carmine Infantino refused, citing company policy.
    Furious, Dave quit the book, which paved the way for Mike to follow in his footsteps.
“I did eventually get the artowork back, but not any more. Somebody quoted me such a price on it that I couldn't refuse,” Dave said.
    He remembers being asked several years later to draw a story for LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 300, which featured creators from the Legion's past.
    Surprisingly, Mike was not asked to participate in the project, probably due to his busy schedule with the launch of Jon Sable.
    “I would've done it if I had the time,” he said.
    Both artists in fact expressed a desire to return to the Legion, even if for one-shots.
    “It's like somebody asking you, 'Remember that sports car you used to drive in the 70s? How'd you like to take it or one more turn round the track?” Mike said.
    “I have always thought I'd like to come back,” Dave said. “I did six pages for that anniversary issue but they haven't asked me back.”
    Dave notes that Alex Ross sent him a copy of his famous lithograph, signed as a personal tribute.
    While the artwork featured the Legionnaires in the costumes that Dave and Mike designed, the layout was based on a panel that Mike drew in the tabloid that featured the wedding of Imra and Garth.
    At the time of this interview, Mike said he had not seen the piece.
    Remarking on the fact that his Cosmic Boy costume was featured, Mike said: “Somewhere Mike Flynn is having a conniption right now.”
    While Dave is recognised by both fans and Mike himself as the more accomplished illustrator, it is Mike's humbleness that certainly reinforces his reputation as one of the industry's nice guys.
    Acknowledging that he based his early atwork from the likes of Neal Adams, Mike said his art paled in comparison to the work of Dave, who he believed was the best artist the Legion ever had.




    “Legion fans are absolutely the most loyal in comics,” he said. “If they take you to their heart, they will stand by you no matter what you perpetrate.
    “I could be sitting at a convention table somewhere in the world, and some guy will come up to me, obviously a fan from that era, and ask me to sign one of those early books where I drew all the people too many heads high, arms too short to reach their pockets, you know, tiny little feet, really awful anatomy, and they'll sit down and say, 'I sure wish you'd go back to the Legion. This is the best work you ever did.'”
    The entire interview features much more interesting insight from the two men, and this issue is worth acquiring for this excellent article alone.
    But read further and there's also an interesting piece on the parallel worlds of the Imperial Guard and the Legion, which compares the members of both groups.
    It's written by Ted Latner, who incidentally owns another original spread that Dave Cockrum drew that's just as gorgeous as the wedding piece: the meeting of the X-Men with the Legion dopplegangers.

The Legion analogs the Imperial Guard meet the X-Men, by Dave Cockrum. 

Dave Cockrum's wedding spread, re-colored by Brian Philbin.



MORE ON BACK ISSUE! TO COME!




Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.








Sunday, December 23, 2018

CHRISTMAS WITH THE LEGION


Art by Gary Frank.

It's that time of the year again! As has been chronicled in the comics, Christmas is still celebrated in the Legion's time. Which, arguably, is a hard sell because with the known galaxy consisting of so many different lifeforms and races, it's odd that this observance of the holiday period should continue to hold such prominence, secular or otherwise. 
    But let's not let that spoil our festive fun. In this special yuletide edition of the blog, we feature several pieces of art and commissions commemorating Christmas with the Legionnaires!


Here's a great piece by former Legion artist Chris Batista. When it snows during Christmas, Polar Boy is course the Legionnaire most associated with the weather. And note little Proty in the picture!


Chris did actually draw an official Legion story with a Christmas holiday theme. it appeared in the DCUniverse Holiday Special of 2010. Here's the last panel of the story!




Here's a lovely whimsical look at how Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel would celebrate Christmas, drawn by artist Colin Fawcett. As the couple kiss under the mistletoe, they are surrounded by their son who has inherited Luornu's original triplicate powers, and some of his dad's bouncing potion.




Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar were the names of the three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus. In this homage to the cover of ADVENTURE COMICS #247, Daniel Maine shows the the Legion of Super-Kings refuse membership to Santa. 



In 1980, Christmas wrapping paper licensed from DC Comics was released, featuring artwork by Dick Giordano. An assortment of characters were shown celebrating Christmas, including members of the Legion.




Fred Hembeck LOVES Christmas. Between the covers he's done for COMIC SHOP NEWS and plenty of sketches he's drawn over the years, he's illustrated many Legionnaires enjoying the holiday season. Here are a few:









Fred is always happy to accept commissions, and his rates are extremely cheap! You can contact him here




Another prolific artist is Gene Gonzales. He's probably drawn more Legion-related sketches than any other of his peers. In this piece, he uses Antennae Boy to illustrate the carol "Do You Hear What I Hear?"



Inspired by the Christmas covers of the Saturday Evening Post, Gene Gonzales drew this beautiful rendering of Ivy receiving a tree from her mentor Kent Shakespeare. Ivy was one of the children on the world of Quarantine and had the power to communicate with plant forms. At one stage she was destined to be a bona fide Legionnaire, even being included on a Legion poster.


Meet Kid Christmas! If Santa was a super-Hero, would he qualify for Legion membership? Gene Gonzales thinks he would.




This piece originally ran in the now defunct WIZARD magazine. It's a great take on the FINAL CRISIS series by Brian Douglas Ahern, in a clever play on the 12 Days of Christmas. "Legionnaires" shown include Milking Maid, leaping Lord, Prince Piper and Dancing Damsel.



The 1978 DC Comics Calendar featured the Legion for the month of December.  A glorious Jim Sherman spread detailed the Legion's battle against the Toyman, disguised as Santa,  amid Christmas decorations in the city.



Jeff Moy is best known for his long run on the Legion series. Here he draws two fan favorites enjoying the festive season: Monstress and Kinetix.



Laura Duffie draws the speedster XS having a grand time on the ice. The character has of course appeared on the CW show The Flash recently.


And here's XS again, representing the Legion in this montage of carolling heroes by Sergio Aragones.



Speaking of the CW shows, here's Luca Fantasia's sketch of Supergirl giving Mon-El a Christmas gift. The show has so far featured several Legionnaires and there is reason to believe the whole team will show up in a future season.



Steve Lightle is fondly considered one of the Legion's best pencillers. This whimsical piece shows Bouncing Boy dressed up as Santa while evading pointy Christmas stars.


Boop boop be doop! Steve Lightle also helped create Quislet, the energy being which could animate objects. Here, Violet Tanganelli shows the character putting some life into a snowman.





Former Legion scribes Tom and Mary Bierbaum used to send out personal Christmas cards in the form of illustrated Legion tales with a Christmas theme. This one (above and below) shows how Christmas is spent on Matter-Eater Lad's home of Bismoll.

The Bierbaums sent another Legion card in 1990, spanning four pages. It was based on the 5YL Legion and you can see them here.



The piece above is by talented artist Agnes Garbowska. She gives the seasonal scene a charm that has become the trademark of her work. Click on it to view it in greater detail.



Have you checked out Greg Fox's Legion blog? Best known for the syndicated comic strip Kyle's Bed and Breakfast, Greg also includes amusing strips about Legion life on the site. He drew Ultra Boy in a yuletide greeting because his costume bore the colors of Christmas.

And that's it for this year. I hope you enjoyed that visual look at Christmas and the Legion, which is a timely opportunity for me to wish all blog readers Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays. I'll be back in 2019 with more musings and articles of interest to the Legion collector, and I hope to have you with me.

I'll leave you with another gorgeous Christmas gift from Gene Gonzales.






Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.