A LEGION OF STORIES AT YOUR FINGERTIPS!


KC Carlson back when he edited the Legion

KC Carlson back when he edited the Legion


a KC COLUMN by KC Carlson

Adventure Comics #247

Adventure Comics #247


Out today (2 Aug 17) in comic stores from DC Comics is the new Legion of Super-Heroes Silver Age Omnibus Volume 1, a 688-page collection of the earliest Legion of Super-Heroes stories, starting with their first appearance in a Superboy story from Adventure Comics #247. That issue was cover-dated April 1958. I was 2 years old. For some reason, I did not read that story when it was first published.

For those of you keeping score at home, this new LSH Omnibus is exactly equivalent (story-wise) to the first three volumes of The Legion of Super-Hero Archives from 1991, 1992, and 1993, respectively.

For the record: This volume collects stories (and material) from these issues (not necessarily in this order):

  • Adventure Comics #247, #267, #282, #290, #293, and #300-328
  • Action Comics #267, #276, #287, and #289
  • Superman #147
  • Superman Annual #4
  • Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #72 and #76
  • and Superboy #86, #89, #98, and #117.

Plus, Mike Gold’s introduction from Legion Archives #1 is also included. It’s a must-read as the main theme is the beginning of “The Time the Fans Took Over” as well as “If One Hero Is Good, More Would Be Better”. What the Omnibus doesn’t have (that the Archives did) are the introductions by “Mr. Legionnaire” Paul Levitz (from volume 2) and uber LSH fan Harry Broertjes (from volume 3). I’m pretty sure that they’ll both be somewhere on the internet before you finish reading this (if not already there…)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (EVEN IF YOU DON’T WANT TO…)

Adventure Comics #300

Adventure Comics #300


Historically, the Legion was invented (as opposed to “created”) to have some super-powered pals ’n’ gals around to make Superboy (and later Supergirl) less lonely. Such was the nature of both of those characters at the time, and the (mostly) lighthearted Legion characters took some major steps in making both of those series a lot less melancholy.

The first thing you’ll notice in the front matter of the Omnibus is that the creators of Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl are prominent on the title page. Because legally they have to be. The creation of the Legion of Super-Heroes concept and all of these millions and millions of characters (I’m only slightly exaggerating) is a bit more murky and needs to be discussed in depth (by somebody else). Sharp-eyed readers of this volume will note that the graphic designers have taken a vote (gotta love larger, bolder type) to showcase Otto Binder and Al Plastino. Those are good folks that certainly deserve the shout out, although Jerry Seigel also wrote a lot of the more interesting early LSH stories. In fact, he created 23 out of the 45 stories in this volume — slightly over half of them. Artist Curt Swan’s work is in this volume as well, but his best LSH stuff will be in the (hopefully soon) Volume Two.

INTERNAL LEGION MATTERS

Adventure Comics #317

Adventure Comics #317


In addition to the 45 (!) Legion stories included, there are also a couple of important fan-directed features which helped the LSH achieve colossal cult status. The Origin and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes was an irregularly scheduled feature updated every few years with both visual and textual information about all the then-current Legionnaires. The version in this book incorporates its first two appearances. Plus (although it didn’t make the book’s Table of Contents), there’s the first appearance of The Legion Constitution. The version here is a rudimentary one from the early years, probably cribbed together from mentions in the comics stories themselves. I think I remember seeing a much more elaborate version which ran as an extension to the regular LSH lettercol (maybe in the 80s… I can’t access my back issues right now). That one was so detailed it ran over several issues. Yikes. Legion fans love their Constitutions. Mort Weisinger would be so proud.

WHY WE LOVE (?) THE LEGION

The stories themselves are simultaneously timeless and amusingly dated. Writers in the 1950s could only speculate so much on things 1,000 years in the future. (Making for a lot of amusing re-writes over the decades to update ongoing tech.) Its amazing to think how everyday things we loved from the ‘50s have either become dated or disappeared completely since then. (Like soda fountains.) Not the Legion, tho — which is one of the reasons why the concept and characters are still so beloved by a select audience.

It's Proty!

It’s Proty!


Another category of LSH stories are also represented (perhaps overly represented) in this volume, those I call “lovingly dumb”. Like Supergirl being denied admission into the teen-centric LSH because Red Kryptonite temporally turned her into an adult. Or Bouncing Boy’s origin. (He accidentally drank something…) Or how the Legion voting (for anything) could be so easily messed up. (Like Dream Girl’s initial membership.) And you might think Proty was dumb. He wasn’t. He’s awesome. You’ll find out…

Adventure Comics #312

Adventure Comics #312


No other DC feature from the era veers so wildly from crazy humor to shock, drama, and death than the Legion of Super-Heroes. (And some of those deaths actually stuck!) Other DC series of the era, such as Doom Patrol and Challengers of the Unknown, also had their share of mysterious death, but most were undone later. And yes, Mr. Smarty Pants, most of the Metal Men “bought it” pretty much every issue, but of course they got better after Doc Magnus rebuilt them. Over and over and over again…. No wonder he went crazy…

Legion of Super-Heroes Silver Age Omnibus Volume 1

Legion of Super-Heroes Silver Age Omnibus Volume 1


Finally, lets talk about the first thing you will see — the book’s cover. I’m slightly disappointed that the Legion Omnibus wasn’t one of the covers that Darwyn Cooke was able to illustrate before his untimely passing. His pal J. Bone stepped up and provides a simultaneously fresh, yet old-school, take on these most retro of characters. if you want a real culture shock, slip the dust jacket off the book and flatten it out for a juxtaposition of modern retro (Bone) with retro retro (Al Plastino, John Forte, Curt Swan, and others) from the back cover and flaps.

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KC CARLSON: Proud member of the Legion of Super-Heroes Editors. Still have my Flight Ring — which will be pretty handy this fall when it’s time to clear the leaves out of the gutters.

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. . . . Please take a moment (and remove your hats) for a moment of silence for all of the LSH creators represented in this volume who are all now sadly deceased. Writers Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Edmund Hamilton, and Robert Bernstein… artists Al Plastino, George Papp, Jim Mooney, Curt Swan, John Forte, Sheldon Moldoff, and George Klein… and editor Mort Weisinger.

(E. Nelson Bridwell’s work will be in the next LSH Omnibus (Rao willing), as will work by some kid named Shooter.)