Saturday, December 31, 2016

THE WRITE STUFF: COMICS BUYERS GUIDE



Comics Buyer's Guide, published from 1971 to 2013, was the longest-running English-language periodical reporting on the American comic book industry.
    It was probably my favorite comics magazine, featuring well-written and researched articles that fell between the fanboy gushings of Wizard and the verbose, opinionated and sometimes pretentious offerings in Comics Journal.
    The CBG ran several articles on the Legion through the years, and today's blog takes a look at those issues.



CBG #999 (1993)



Although the magazine had been around for two decades prior, it wasn't till almost 1000 issues later that it ran a cover feature on the Legion. The impetus was the launch of the LEGIONNAIRES title, with editor KC Carlson interviewed on the title and his plans for the group.
    Three years after the launch of the 5YL era, and with the departure of Keith Giffen, Carlson informed readers that the book would switch to involve more traditional story-telling, with fans being able to identify with the characters, actually see who's speaking and generally understand the stories more easily. “We're also eliminating the nine-panel grid that had evolved into a look for the series under Keith's reign,” he said.
    Interestingly, Carlson outlined plans to reveal what happened during the five-year gap, saying he was committed to exploring the topic, if not in LEGION #50, then in a Special edition.
    "We've only seen bits and pieces and clues that turned the 30
th century from the bright and shiny future that it was into the dark and grim vision of Giffen,” he said. “We will see a lot of what happened during that time. We will finally see the fates of some of the Legionnaires – and particularly Wildfire, whom many fans have been clamoring for. It should answer all the questions Legion fans have been asking regarding that mysterious period in the Legion's history.”
    *Twenty-four years later, we're still waiting for the story.*

KC Carlson on the left with staff from the CBG.
 



CBG #1306 (1998)





Speaking of five-year gaps, the next cover story on the Legion appeared five years later, with Carlson interviewed again.
    By this time he had moved on, with Mike McAvennie at the editor's helm. But Carlson was able to reflect on his time in charge, during which he oversaw the many changes that took place as a result of the Zero Hour reset.
    He reminded readers he came in at a time when there was growing unrest among Legion fans. Because of the five-year gap, fans had little idea of what was happening, as Giffen and the Bierbaums took their time “getting round to everybody”. The book had more than 1000 characters to contend with, he said, including the Legion proper, the SW6 batch members, the Subs, the Academy, other groups such as the Wanderers, and dozens of Legion foes. There was also the confusion caused by John Byrne's re-telling of the Superman mythos, which eradicated Superboy from continuity.
    According to Carlson, DC offered him the editor's job but only if he agreed to stay on for at least three years to provide stability to the series. In the article, Carlson reminisces about the highlights of his tenure, which included meeting his wife at a Legion fan gathering, and his regrets, which included not finishing JLA: THE NAIL with Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, a series which featured Legion cameos.
    Carlson also outlines his idea for Fortress Lad, and how it came about from nothing more than a tongue-in-cheek suggestion. Overall, it's an entertaining read, but he never explains why the projected 5YL saga he touched on in CBG #999 did not come to fruition.





    Elsewhere in the journal, there is an article on the current LEGION series at the time, and what the creators planned for the future. Co-writer Roger Stern relates an amusing story about Mordru's first appearance.
    “Jim Shooter gave me fits collecting as a teenager when he wrote the first Mordru story and made a reference as to how difficult their first encounter with the villain was,” he said. “I spent years looking for that back issue with the first battle in it, and finally Jim told me he just made it up, and there never was a first battle (shown).”
    Stern wanted to add more “gee whizz science fiction concepts” into the series, such as the Legion Omnicoms, which he decribed as “little handheld things about the size of a paperback book; a little communication device, a computer, a library uplink and it fits in your hand”.
    “But we'll probably have something like that in 100 years, let alone 1000,” he said. Try 10 years, Roger.
     Meanwhile, a short sidebar on Legion fandom amusingly mentions the Cosmic Boy Death League, whose aim was the destruction of the Braalian because of all his “offenses” since the reboot. 

    And finally, to round of a nice Legion-filled issue, the regular Bumpkin Buzz strip, drawn by Brian Douglas Ahern, also had a Legion flavor, inspired by Brian's visit to a convention which he attended with a group of Legion fans in cosplay.




CBG #1646 (2008)




Adorned by a glorious Mark Sparacio Legion cover (see here for the original), this issue shines the spotlight on LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, and speaks to creators Geoff Johns and George Perez.
    Johns doesn't hide his love for the original Legion, but diplomatically sidesteps criticizing John Byrne for creating chaos with his Superman revamp, which resulted in the pocket universe Legion. This, together with the threebooted group, forced DC's hand into straightening out the Legion's continuity once and for all, with Johns already having laid out the groundwork in ACTION #858-863.
    “I wanted to introduce such characters as Dawnstar and Wildfire to a generation of readers that don't know much about the Legion, and at the same time celebrate the great history and diversity of the members, no matter where they're from,” he said. Indeed, it feels strange to recall that Dawny and Wildfire were practically non-existent in the two Legion reboots .. which covered a period of about seven years.
Perez, meanwhile, was ecstatic at being given his dream assignment of drawing the Legion.     “I just want to draw as many of them in one story as I can,” he said.
    “I do have several characters that I love to draw: Dream Girl, Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy, Dawnstar, and believe it or not, Bouncing Boy. There are some versions of characters I don't really care for, but there's really none I'm antagonistic about.”




    Backing up the interviews is an article on the first of the three versions of the Legion brought together by the series, as explained by Batman in ACTION #864: the original Legion, the Zero Hour group, and the threeboot.
    Compiler Andrew “Captain Comics” Smith does a sterling job of listing every Legion member, and then some, in his roll call. His roundup of the original Legion cites the regular members, plus the Legion of Super-Pets, the original Subs, the honorary members and reservists. And that's far from all. He also includes “Some Guy in a Yellow Jumpsuit” (False Pretenses Lad from ADV 327), Command Kid, Dynamo Boy, Saturn Queen, Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, Blackout Boy, Magnetic Kid, Size Lad, Kid Psycho, Power Boy, Shadow Kid, Lamprey, Nightwind, Crystal Kid, Porcupine Pete, Infectious Lass, Double-Header, Antennae boy and Mentalla, while mentioning allies such as the Wanderers, the Heroes from Lallor and Dev-Em.








    The listing for the 5YL version is just as comprehensive. Apart from the usual cast, Smith adds characters such as Andromeda, Atmos, Bloodclaw, Firefist, Flederweb, Veilmist, Calamity King, Catspaw, Computo II, Dragonmage, Crystal Kid, Echo, Furball, Rond Vidar (GL), Impulse, Karate Kid II, Kid Quantum, Kono, Neon, Reflecto, Reflex, Spider Girl, Storm Boy, Visi-Lad … and curiously, The Westerner. The fact that the temporary Black Dawn members are included, plus the mention of little-used codenames such as Impulse and Reflex, show that Smith did indeed carry out some thorough research on the group (albeit with some help from fans).
    Roll calls for the next two versions of the Legion appear in the next issue of CBG.



CBG #1647 (2008)




How do you tell Mon-El, M'onel, Valor and Legionnaire Lemon apart? Just refer to the Legion Roll Calls provided by Andrew Smith, as he continues his look at Legion membership in this issue.
    After analyzing the original incarnation in the previous issue of CBG, this time round Smith attempts to list the characters associated with the two other Legions.
    The Zero Hour Legion details the members with their updated names, such as Apparition, Leviathan, and Spark. It includes the “new” Legionnaires such as Ferro, Kinetix, Gates, Umbra, Sensor, Magno, Monstress and Thunder.
    Splitter, Inferno, Shikari and Dreamer get a mention, as do Atom'x and Blast-Off, whose sentient energies would later merge into ERG-1, renamed Wildfire. Tomb, Cannus and Brawler are listed as members of the Legion Academy, while the Cadet Program is represented by Amp Girl, Babbage, Comet Queen and Retro.




    The third and final Legion featured (at the time the current version) was Mark Waid's threeboot, which Smith reminds readers is about 250,000 strong. He goes on to sensibly only list the core members, which of course include freshened-up members such as Atom Girl, Micro Lad, a black Star Boy, a mute Saturn Girl and a Chameleon with Annie Oakley eyes.
    Along the way Smith adds the likes of Theena, Reflecto, Dav Huntr (Dev-Em), Seiss and Radiation Roy.




    This issue also includes an extensive artilcle on Pete Ross (who would believe one could fill nine full pages on him), by Craig Shutt, which of course includes Pete's admission as an *choke* honorary Legion member.





CBG #1668 (2010)




Paul Levitz's return to Legion scripting chores was considered newsworthy enough to warrant another cover story. Quite correctly, the magazine states “there is simply no way to overestimate the importance” of this occasion,
    “It demonstrates DC's ambition to restore the franchise to its former glory as a best-seller, by restoring the writer who first took it to those heights,” it explains. Sadly, current fans can only hope for that sort of philosophy to be entrenched within the present DC heirarchy.
    The article looks at Levitz's previous run and talks to the man about his future plans for the book. As it outlines, things got “pretty messy” with the 5YL series, the Zero hour Legion, and the threeboot version … all continuities which Paul said he would ignore. “Only the pre-1990 series and the first two Johns stories – and whatever still unwritten bits that happened in-between – still count,” he said.




    The article asks some pertinent questions (that were unexplained at the time). For example, Triplicate Girl became Duo Damsel after she lost a body to Computo, and then lost another body when Una got killed in the Lightning Saga. At the end of FINAL CRISIS, Luornu found the ability to replicate endlessly. So which one would turn up in Levitz's Legion? (As we found out, it was the latter. But in the final issue of the LEGION's last series, a couple more of Luornu's bodies were killed. What would happen if the REAL Luornu got killed? Or is there such an entity when she duplicates?)
    The current Supergirl only knew the Threeboot Legion. The Matrix Supergirl never met any Legion, and the original Silver Age Supergirl died during Crisis. So was there ever a Supergirl in Levitz's Legion continuity?
    Johns left two Zero Hour Legionnaires for use: Gates and XS, but Paul declined to say whether he would use them. As it turned out, XS was shunted off to some alien world while Gates became part of the Legion Lost team.
    According to ACTION #862, Earth-Man killed Double-Header, blinded Color Kid and threw Infectious Lass through time. None of this has yet been elaborated on, although it did explain how Infectious Lass turned up to combine with Dr Thirteen in TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED.
    The article finished with Paul indicating the return of former artists to the book, such as Giffen, and more intriguingly, Jim Sherman, who “has expressed interest”. “I haven't spoken to Steve Lightle or Greg LaRocque in a while, but that would be fun too,” he said.
    *And as all Legion fans know, there is now doubt as to which Legion was actually featured by Levitz, with Bouncing Boy's “Steppenwolf” reference in the final issue.*
    

    Also in the magazine, Carl Shutt looks at the history of the Legion of Super-Pets.




That's it for this time round. More comic magazine articles in blogs to come!

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

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