Tuesday, July 28, 2015

THE FUTURE'S IN THE CARDS

Most Legion fans will own Legion-related trading cards in their collection. But these products have been around longer than one might think.

   The first Legion-related trading card was the Topps foldee that featured Saturn Girl, released as part of a 44-card DC Comics set in 1966. The novelty of the card was that it could be folded into different permutations, which offered a variety of looks for each character.




It wasn’t until 1987 that we next saw Legion characters on cards in the US. But before that, interestingly enough, the Legion appeared on cards in various other countries.
   In 1969, a card of some members was released in South America, possibly given away with the country’s Legion reprint comics, published by Ebal.


A Brazilian comic book featuring the Legion.

Meanwhile, in 1970, Mexican residents were able to collect a set of Superman family sticker cards issued with local confectionery, which they could place in an album. Legionnaires were among the characters featured in this set.

The album which contained pages for stickers (see below).







The United Kingdom was not to be outdone. The company Weetabix had long been including collectible strips in its cereal boxes, and in 1978 produced a set of 18 which featured some bizarrely-chosen Legion characters: Worldsmith, the Brain (un-named in the actual comic book), the Galactic Coordinator, and a Resource Raider. It’s likely that licensing prohibitions prevented the use of the Legionnaires themselves, but what’s interesting is that the cards provided new information on the featured characters.

 



The cards were stand-up cards included in packs of Weetabix cereal in the UK. They were meant to be used by kids to stick into slots on various adventure settings printed on the Weetabix boxes. There were four different scenes to play against: Kryptonopolis, Scarlet Forest, Fortress of Solitude, and the Town of Kan. 
   Weetabix customers could also find mini-cutout model kits to build their own Krtyptonian Flyer or Kal-El Rocket, while there were random “picture puzzlers” on the inside of the boxes (three featured the Legion characters Worldsmith, a Resource Raider and afore-mentioned The Brain). Way cool!


Three of the picture puzzlers, featuring Legion characters.

The four adventure settings for the cards

In 1987, DC Comics decided to test the waters for trading card demand in the US market, but chose to release the product in a unique fashion: as part of backing boards for comics sold in three-packs at large retailers. The first set came in six different sheets of eight, with cut-out lines for the cards and a header for hanging the item. A second series with nine sheets was produced in 1989. There are some Legion-related cards in the sets:

A typiccl backing board with hanger and eight uncut cards.




In the 90s, of course, the non-sports trading card phenomenon came into full swing, in all manner of style: ordinary card sets, chase cards, oversized ones, foils, extended art rares, stackers, promotional items, one-off sketch cards, and the like. The Legion formed the basis or part of many a card set, and we’ll cover these separately in a future blog.

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

SECRET SOCIETY




It was a poorly-designed house advertisement that ran in DC Comics’ December 1977 issues. Looking like a statement of ownership and circulation more than a major announcement, the memo-style document outlined the formation of The DC Super-Stars Society fan club, in type so small you could forgive readers for accidentally ignoring it.
     But if they took a second look, their hearts would have surely skipped a beat, as did mine, when the fine print was fully digested. DC Comics were offering an avalanche of goodies for fans, and best of all, so it seemed, designed specifically for their characters of choice. Four months later, the ad was repeated in various titles, but in bigger type, perhaps to ensure that this time, readers took more notice.
The original announcement for the fan club.

The second house ad for the club.

The ad mysteriously asked for applications for 12 chapters of the Society, of which the Legion was one.  After sending in an expression of interest, readers received detailed application forms for each chapter they asked for. I duly posted self-addressed envelopes for all of the chapters save the Battle Stars (later renamed War Heroes) one, because like most fans, I was only keen on the super-powered heroes.

The application kits for various chapters.


Each application form consisted of the same format: four pages comprising an introductory page, 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, which I just had to get because, surely, it would include some Legion members.






The Legion kit was the only one I ended up sending away for. It was just as well, because as history has recorded, a series of unfortunate events forced DC’s planned expansion of 1978 to  spectacularly implode upon itself, resulting in a reduced number of titles, loss of jobs, severe economic cutbacks, and termination of various projects, including the Super-Stars Society. I never got my $4 refunded; had I applied for all the other kits, I could have lost $44, a lot of money at the time, when comics only cost 40-60c each.
       But DC did send me a copy of the poster, if not the entire kit, maybe as recompense for the collapse of the club, but possibly also because DC wanted to keep the loyalty of their subscribers, of which I was one. In any case, I loved the poster, not just for the gorgeous Jose Garcia-Lopez art, but also because it did, as I had hoped, feature some Legionnaires! My only complaint was that it came flat-folded into quarters, so it showed ugly crease lines.


The lovely Jose Garcia-Lopez poster.

Apart from the membership card which would have printed the chapter the fan had applied for, all the other paraphernalia, including promised regular updates and bulletins, were essentially the same for all chapters. In effect, someone who had applied to join multiple chapters would  simply receive the same items each time, and would have every right to feel aggrieved.
     Two years later, after a period of consolidation, DC felt on safe enough ground to launch a similar project: the Superman Club, fashioned after the club of 1960, and offering pretty much the same items – a full color envelope, a gold foil charter member sticker, secret code, and membership certificate, among others.  But this time they once again threw in the same Garcia-Lopez poster, presumably because they had so many leftover copies from the axing of the Super-Stars Society club.


The advertisement for the Superman Club.

Various items from the Superman Club. Thanks to Kevin Gould.

The Superman club didn’t last for very long; it folded in 1982, after sending out four updates. Perhaps the best deal it offered was a saving on the Superman phone ($124 instead of $149)!

The phone released to tie in with the movie.
The Garcia-Lopez poster remains a sought-after collectible by Legion fans today. There have been facsimiles of the poster offered for sale via ebay, but they are easily identifiable because they’re smaller, and also clearly show up as digital scans of the original, crease-lined item. You will not find a copy of the original poster without fold marks because of the way it was packed flat for mailing purposes .. obviously no-one at DC had thought of using tubes. 
   The art for the poster was later repurposed for a Super-Powers advertisement, and is not difficult to find. It offers an easier and cheaper way of obtaining this gorgeous piece than having to wait around for the original to appear somewhere, and then having to bid a high price for it. However, note that in this poster, Cosmic Boy's costume is cleverly re-colored to resemble his current outfit at the time.
The poster for Super Powers.

For me, the item I want most from the ill-fated Super-Stars Society is actually the glossy insignia that was part of the deal. The one shown at the top of the blog is reproduced from the application kit. It is particularly significant for Legion fans because Chameleon Boy features right in the middle of it.  I have never seen the fully-colored version that was promised to members, and I wonder if any exist today. Naturally, if you find one, I will be most happy to hear from you!

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

TAYLOR-MADE



Well-known comics content creator, veteran and past Legion of Super-Heroes penciller Christopher Taylor has embarked on an unorthodox pitch to DC Comics.
  
  
The project is unsolicited. The project is unapologetically diverse.
   The project invites hardcore Legion fans throughout social media to weigh in, and more importantly, to write in to DC Comics directly. It’s an exercise that intentionally breaks the rules. It’s an exercise in galvanizing fans in a unique way.
    From the onset, this was a experiment. The aim was to develop a long form single story focusing on the Legion, a comic book franchise that’s more than 40 years old and retains some of the most passionate and critical fans in all of fandom.
    This presentation was unique, utilizing the social media platforms Tumblr and DeviantArt, to visually - almost organically - present story ideas along with corresponding character designs while simultaneously engaging fans on various Facebook Legion fan sites (including this blog’s complementary page).
    At two years and counting without a monthly published Legion title from DC, hardcore fans are voracious for new Legion-centric content. So this almost-daily new content, although not official canon, released over a two-month period by a professional past Legion creator, was met with an overwhelmingly favorable response.
    This culminated with a presentation that was well-designed and took full advantage of past Legion, Wildstorm and current New 52 DC multiverse continuity. It also invited fans, both old and new, to Tweet, use Tumblr and message DC Comics directly to let their voices be heard.
    The question remains … in a environment where unsolicited pitches are frowned upon by the editorial status quo, as in “don’t come to us… we’ll come to you,” can creators use new social media tools to win over fans, and petition the legitimacy of their projects? Or does this path remain a delusional quixotic pursuit?
    Whether you like his concepts or not, Christopher Taylor is the only comic book professional around who gives a damn enough about the Legion to devote his time and energies to rejuvenating the title. It’s more than can be said of the writers of recent Legion tie-ins, who clearly did not give any thought to Legion continuity. Mr Taylor deserves the support of all Legion fans.
    See more of the pitch here:
    http://alphacmt.tumblr.com
    http://alphacmt.deviantart.com
    #alphacmt4legion

 

Friday, July 3, 2015

THE MAGICAL MR MOY



The Archie Legion owes its fan nickname as much to the simpler tone of its rebooted stories as the cartoonish, seemingly manga-inspired artwork of Jeffrey Moy.  Some fans loathed the style, but more than enough loved it to help sustain the title more than five years after the Zero Hour restart … and Jeff practically drew every one of those issues.
     But he wasn’t just a Legion artist. Jeff was also a big Legion fan from a young age, and together with editor KC Carlson and inker Cory (WC) Carani, helped maintain fan interest in the title by constantly plugging the book at conventions and via forums, offering Legion prints, posters, tee-shirts and stickers, and generally spreading the good word every chance he got. Arguably, he did more to promote the book than any other Legion penciller. Today's blog entry pays tribute to Jeff's work.
      
Jeff got his big break when inker Karl Story asked him if he would like to try out for the LEGIONNAIRES book, which Karl and penciller Chris Sprouse were about to depart from. To get the green light for the assignment, Jeff had to provide some samples to Carlson for approval.


Jeff described the combination of Brainy and Andromeda as "Beauty, brawn and brains".

Another sample of Jeff's work shown to KC Carlson. I would've given him the job simply because he included lesser used members like ME Lad and Catspaw.

Needless to say, Jeff was given the green light for the fill-in issue (LEGIONNAIRES #15), and a few other Legion stories after that. Eventually he impressed enough to be chosen as the regular penciller for the rebooted LEGIONNAIRES title.
      Over the next few years, Jeff contributed much to the overall look of the Legion, with his designs, concepts and imagination. Not many people know he created XS’ symbol .. nor that he designed her features on actress Halle Berry.


He also came up with the looks for the likes of Magno, Sneckie, Karate Kid, Spider-Girl, Inferno, Lori Morning, Morlo, the Golden Age Legionnaires (issue #45) and different uniforms for male and female Science Police officers. With Lee Moder, he helped develop Kinetix, Monstress, and the Emerald Legion. Jeff  cleverly inserted an “M” over a starfield for M’Onel’s costume, which he felt could also be interpreted as a “V” for Valor, his previous codename.




A trademark of Jeff’s drawings was the use of tongues on character faces. As Jeff explains: “They’re fun and an easy way to give the characters a little more personality.”
      “Some fans loved them and kept a list of appearances. Others found it another reason to dislike my art,” he said. “KC even tried to dissuade me from using them, but I like to think he came around to my side.”
      In a little homage to the quirky fetish, Tom Peyer later came up with a French-speaking Legion reject named Ze Tongue, who boasted a prehensile tongue with a tip that could change into the shape of any weapon.

Tongues a-plenty! From a piece Jeff did for the APA Klordny.
Ze Tongue attacks Umbra.

Carani and Jeff produced a series of three Legionnaires prints that they handed out at conventions or later sold, one each for 1996, 97 and 98, as a reward for the fans' loyalty and support. The second print was in fact a rejected tee-shirt design. A different piece was used for the shirt, officially released by DC in 1996.

The 1996 print.

The 1997 print.

The 1998 print.

The tee-shirt and the original sketch (inset)
There was to have been a fourth official print, featuring Legionnaires in their bathing costumes, but the idea was canned after the book got cancelled. Interestingly, a sketch with Legionnaire beach boys and bunnies was used on the cover of COMBO MAGAZINE (1996).


But wait, that’s not all. Carlson and Jeff next decided to create a massive flowchart detailing the relationships connecting all the Legionnaires, which was done, according to Carlson, as much for the writers’ benefit as well a a general promotion. 
     Carlson said “somebody in marketing - not a LSH fan” mentioned that it was impossible to understand the Legion without a "road map". “I countered with "or a flow chart”. We should do that for a poster!" he said. 
     "Marketing thought that was a good idea. Tom McCraw was the real hero behind the scenes of that poster, as he not only colored it, but also did all the basic layout and design, occasionally hunkered down with LSH assistant Mike MacAvennie.
     “Since the poster was meant mainly for retail promotion, the original print run of this was not much more than the number of comic book stores at that time (probably less than 4000).
    “Most of them ended up with fans, rather than put up in the stores (failing the original intent of the posters), but there were just not enough for all the fans who wanted one,” he said.  “I had suggested that DC do a retail version of the poster, due to the demand, but it was thought that the project wasn't that commercial enough. (And besides, it seemed like 4000 people had them already).  I disagreed, but had no authority in that area.” 
      Jeff's contribution cannot be underestimated. He made each individual headshot look unique and distinguishable from each other. The poster is bigger than the Giffen mega-character piece, and because of the limited numbers, copies today can fetch a handsome price. Click on the image below to see a bigger version.


To complement the poster, a set of stickers was also issued, but to the general public and in much greater quantities. These are therefore easier to acquire, and feature all but three of the headshots from the poster. The missing ones are Kid Quantum I, Leviathan and Atom'x. 

Along the way, Jeff was commissioned to create pieces for a collectible trading card series named Overpower 3: Universal Forces. Unfortunately, just as the project looked like getting off the ground, the Overpower owners Fleer Corporation (principally involved with baseball cards) sold the product to Marvel Interactive, thereby rendering any DC Comics involvement impossible. But there’s no doubt that Jeff’s art for the project looked very nice.






In 2000, the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotional Board launched its well-known “Got Milk” promotion. DC Comics produced a giveaway comic as part of this program, called ADVENTURES WITH DC SUPER-HEROES, which was a mixture of comics, puzzles, and games. A page featuring the Legion was illustrated by, you guessed it, our man Moy. But to get a copy of the comic, you had to buy two gallons of milk!


The uncolored art for the milk giveaway. This was actually a second version as Jeff was asked to make the piece look more cartoon-ish.

Jeff’s other big passion growing up was Star Trek, so it must have been a fanboy’s dream for him when he was given the plum assignment of drawing the STAR TREK/LEGION crossover series for IDW. Published in 2011, the books reunited Jeff with the Legion more than a decade after he stopped drawing the group for DC. Once again, Jeff’s creative talents were to the fore, exemplified best by his merging of the Fatal Five with Star Trek influences.
 

Alien races from Star Trek make up this Fatal Five.

An unusual art style for Jeff in this cover to STAR TREK/LEGION #6.

Jeff's pencils for a spread that appeared in STAR TREK/LEGION #3.

These days, Jeff is still active on the convention circuit, and is often asked by fans for Legion-inspired commissions. His ubiquitous sketches and prolific output can be found all over the net and various social media, and he shows no signs of losing interest in drawing characters from his favourite comic book title.
     Perhaps the final words should go to KC Carlson, who by chance lived in the same town as Jeff for several years:  “Jeff had exactly the skills I was looking for in a Legion artist.”
     “He could draw cute kids. Really cute kids. That was a really big plus for the book!
     “His style was light and open, a plus for a series that I was deliberately trying to steer away from the grim’n’gritty style that was overwhelming comics at the time.
      “My favourite artistic trait of his was his ability to come up with great character designs for anything we threw at him. “Jeff, we need a new costume for Kinetix … and by the way, she now has a tail!” “Jeff, what would three different Triads look like?” “Jeff, Morlo is one of the lamest characters in Legion history … can you make him look cool?” And my personal favourite: “Jeff, we’re bringing back Princess Projectra .. except now she’s a snake!!!”
        “Jeff had to come up with dozens of wannabe Legionnaires (see issue #43), designs for characters at different ages, out-of-uniform clothes for the entire cast (many times over), and Jeff’s favourite, stylish swimwear for everybody!
        “I was proud to give him his first professional job at DC. And now I’m one of his biggest fans.”

A 2002 Jeff Moy commission.

A 1997 Jeff Moy commission of Kinetix.

A 2005 Jeff Moy commission.

A 2007 Jeff Moy commission.

Jeff's incredible spread of characters for LEGIONNAIRES #43.
Many of Jeff's Legion sketches have been compiled in his series of sketchbooks. To purchase them, visit his store.

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