Monday, 19 September 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes: A Brief Guide for New Readers

Last week saw the release of Legion Lost #1, a comic featuring members of the Legion of Superheroes trapped in the present. This week sees the release of the first issue of the Legion's main title, Legion of Super-Heroes #1. These should be the perfect jumping on point for anyone who wants to check out the Legion for the first time.  I can't help but feel however that new readers might have felt a little overwhelmed by all the strangely named characters featured in Legion Lost #1.  With that in mind I thought I'd write a post answering a few frequently asked Legion questions. The Legion's vast history can seem daunting and so this post is designed to bring any new readers up to speed with the Legion in the most succinct manner possible, more succinct even than Wikipedia.  I'm by no means an expert and there are many people on the 'Net who are much better versed in Legion Lore than I am. Check out the Legion Omni-Con blog for one such expert.  Hopefully though the fact that I'm still discovering so many aspects of the Legion's rich history will help me just to focus on the bare essentials.

1) Who are the Legion?


Basically they're like the X-Men but better, in the future, with spaceships.



Inspired by legends of Superman, several super-powered teenagers in the 31st Century joined together to form a great, big super-team.  Some of them gained their super-powers by accident, others are aliens whose powers are a natural attribute of their race.  They all defend Earth and the rest of the United Planets (it's a bit like Star Trek) from evil.  All members are given a ring that enables them to fly (even the ones who can fly already) and some of the younger members have to train in the Legion Academy before they can join.

2) Weren't there several continuity reboots?


Yes, but pretty much everything from 1958 to 1989 happened with a few minor revisions.  Everything else happened on parallel Earths.


Keith Giffen & Al Gorden

In 1989 the series jumped forward in time five years. In 1994 it was rebooted and everything started from scratch. In 2004 the exact same thing happened again and the stories were once more started from scratch!  In 2007, believe it or not DC Comics went back to the original continuity!

3) Is there an official timeline that sums it all up?


Yes! This year Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 featured a board game that doubled as a timeline.  


Art by Brian Douglas Ahern

While it's obviously tongue-in-cheek it does actually tell you everything you need to know about the Legion in a succinct and fun way.

4) Who are the members?

There's loads of them!!!!!

Here are a few of the most prominent members.


Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz) A hotheaded character from the planet Winath where everyone has a twin.  He gained electric powers when he, his twin sister Ayla and his evil, twinless older brother Mekt were struck by a Lightning Monster from the planet Korbal! His sister later became Lightning Lass and his brother became the villainous Lightning Lord.


Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen) Saturn Girl actually comes from Saturn's moon, Titan, home of a whole race of telepaths.  She's the wife of Lightning Lad and together they have two infant, twin sons, Graym and Garridan.  Saturn Girl is a bit like the X-Men's Jean Grey but she doesn't die as much.


Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn) A natural leader type who has magnetic powers.  Everyone from his home planet of Braal has the same powers but he's really good at using them.  He founded the Legion, along with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.


Brainiac 5 (Querl Dox) As his name would suggest Brainy is descended from the Superman villain Brainiac.  He's the team's resident inventor/scientist and he designed and built most of their gadgets.  He acts like an arsehole to everyone, but he loves the Legion really.


Mon-El (Lar Gand) A resident of the planet Daxam, Mon-El has all of Superman's powers.  He is however, the unluckiest guy in the Universe! After an encounter with a young Superman in the present day he was accidentally poisoned by lead (which is fatal to Daxamites) and placed in the Phantom Zone to stop him from dying.  He remained stuck in the Zone for 1000 years until he was rescued and cured by the Legion.  He's just been dumped by his long-time girlfriend, our next Legionnaire....


Shadow Lass (Tasmia Mallor) Shady comes from the planet Talok VIII where she inherited the powers of her ancestors, a long line of shadow champions with the power to spread and control darkness.  She is currently mourning the death of Earth Man, a former villain for whom she left Mon-El.


Chameleon Boy (Reep Daggle) Reep is from Durla, a planet of shape-shifters.  Thanks to his crafty powers, Reep is leader of the Legion Espionage Squad.  He is the son of R.J. Brande, the Legion's financier and a Durlan trapped in human form.


Ultra Boy (Jo Nah) Jo has most of Superman's powers but he can only use them one at a time.  He gained these powers after being eaten by a space whale (Best. Origin. Ever.)  He comes from the planet Rimbor and is something of a working class tough guy.


Superman & Supergirl Thanks to time travel the team's two biggest historic inspirations are also members, although how they fit into Legion continuity after their recent reboots is anyone's guess.  In my opinion it's enough for us to know that Superman and Supergirl are members and then leave it at that.  In the past the writers have tied themselves in knots trying to reconcile Super-continuity with Legion continuity.  I honestly think they're better off leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves.

5) Who are Legion Lost? (CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR LEGION LOST #1)

A group of Legionnaires are currently trapped in the present day after attempting unsuccessfully to retrieve a super-villain who had escaped from the 31st Century carrying a mysterious virus.  Gates and Chameleon Girl seem to have been killed in issue 1.  Here's who's left.


Timber Wolf (Brin Londo) Brin is from the planet Zoon and gained his powers after being experimented on by his mad scientist father.  He is like Wolverine but better! That's right, you heard me!


Tyroc (Troy Stewart) Tyroc has sonic powers. His origin is frankly embarrassing and is summed up nicely in this brilliant cartoon strip from ComicsCritics.com.  Judging by the first issue of Legion Lost Tyroc is currently developing into a pretty good team leader.


Wildfire (Drake Burroughs) Wildfire is a normal human from Earth transformed into a ball of energy by a lab accident.  He has to wear his special costume to maintain humanoid form and stop himself from dispersing.  He's a bit of a loudmouth who can rub his teammates up the wrong way (a bit like Green arrow or Hawkeye) and he has a complicated romantic relationship with our next member....


Dawnstar is from a planet called Starhaven, home to a race of super-powered people descended from Earth's Native Americans.  She has wings, can fly at light speed through space and can track down anything.


Tellus (Ganglios) A native of the planet Hykraius, Tellus is telepathic and telekinetic like all his race.  So basically he's also a bit like Jean Grey, except he's a giant fish (and therefore better than her).

6) What Legion stories could I check out to get me started?


Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.  This story tells you everything you need to know about the Legion without bogging you down with continuity.  It's just a really fun story that gives quite a few of the Legionnaires a chance to shine and showcase their personalities.  Even if you never see yourself becoming a Legion fan, if you love super-hero comics you'll love this story, trust me!

Showcase Presents: The Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1-4 Four thick, affordable black and white books containing the Legion's classic Silver Age stories in all their wonderful, lovably daft glory! Loads of fun!

The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen.  Probably the most famous Legion story, it features the team going up against the biggest, baddest DC Comics villain, Darkseid! At one point Darkseid gets an entire planet full of people to carve their home-world into the shape of his face.  He is one evil dude!

Eye for an Eye by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. The Legion are attacked by the Legion of Super-Villains, who have all taken a blood oath to kill one hero each!  This story contains some great moments between Lightning Lord and his sister, Lightning Lass and also features Karate Kid's final showdown with the evil Nemesis Kid.  Like The Great Darkness saga it can initially be a bit confusing with all the different characters running around but both stories are so good that your patience will be thoroughly rewarded.

The Choice Consequences collect some of Paul Levitz' recent run on the title.  These two volumes feature the Legion having to let former villain Earth-Man join and Mon-El being chosen as the 31st Century's only Green Lantern.  Very enjoyable stuff.

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Hopefully this blog post has been useful to anyone interested in checking out the Legion for the first time.  If it has, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.  If it hasn't, then write a comment anyway, leave me some abuse, it's all welcome.  After you've done that why not follow this link to another of my Legion based blog posts, where I explain how I became a Legion fan in the first place.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

How Wonder Woman Should Have Been Rebooted

Cliff Chiang

Next week, on the 21st of September Wonder Woman #1 will be released.  Brian Azzarello will become the latest in a long line of talented writers to attempt to reinvent Wonder Woman and make her accessible to a wider audience.  Over the years many gifted writers, including Robert Kanigher, Denny O' Neil, George Perez, Len Wein, William Messner-Loebs, Greg Rucka, Allan Heinberg and Gail Simone have all presented us with their vision of Wonder Woman, and each writer has had their own unique take on her.  Azzarello apparently intends the book to be a horror thriller!  Sadly these many different interpretations often seem less a result of the versatility of the character and more due to the difficulty writers seem to have in pinning down the true core of Wonder Woman. She's simultaneously a feminist icon and fetishistic fantasy, a fierce warrior and an ambassador for peace, a noble and serious figure who fights giant eggs with invisible jets, a global hero dressed in the Stars and Stripes.  She's a walking bundle of contradictions and this makes her both fascinating and alienating to the average reader.  No doubt about it, she's a bloody difficult character.

Many have argued that the character is riddled with unavoidable flaws and a list of some of these perceived flaws can be found here on Topless Robot.  Likewise a strong case can be made for the many strengths inherent in Wonder Woman.  For example a rebuttal to the Topless Robot article can be found here on The New Wonder Woman.

With an arrogance that can only be displayed by comic fans, fellow blogger and best pal Gareth Madeley and I have decided that we know better than seventy years worth of DC Comics writers!  We have decided we can fix Wonder Woman once and for all.  We now present to you our take on the character, the definitive take on the Amazing Amazon!

BEHOLD THE TIMELINE OF THE NEW WONDER WOMAN.....

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The Past - Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, prays to the Greek gods for a daughter.  She creates a baby out of clay and the child is granted life by the gods!  Princess Diana grows to womanhood on Paradise Island.  She has been granted amazing powers by the gods however these powers have yet to develop. These magical gifts must be earned!


1941 - Steve Trevor crash lands his plane on Paradise Island. He tells the Amazons that he is a pilot in the U.S Airforce and explains that his country is currently battling the Axis threat .  The Amazons recognise the potential threat and great evil of Hitler and agree to send an Amazon to man's world with Trevor to aid the Allies in their War.  A contest is held to determine who will accompany Trevor. Diana is forbidden by her mother to take part but she dons a mask and does so anyway.  Of course, she wins.  It is important to remember that at this point Diana has no special powers and therefore has no particular advantage over her fellow Amazons.  She wins by skill, courage and determination.  Hippolyta is angry and rashly tells Diana that she may accompany Trevor, but is banished from the Island for all time.  Hippolyta swiftly regrets her hasty words but the damage is done and Diana is gone.


World War Two - Diana is taken to the U.S. Government by Trevor.  She is given a costume with the colours of the flag to better serve as a propaganda tool.  The government agents who design Diana's classic bathing suit uniform are leering perverts who intend to make her a figure of titillation, but Diana wears the costume anyway and on her it becomes a symbol of empowerment and nobility.  While her existence is never officially acknowledged by the U.S, Diana becomes a legend of the War. To the people of the Allied countries she is a character from propaganda posters, comic books and movie serials.  To the enemy soldiers she becomes a myth of the battlefield.  Wounded, rambling, shell shocked Nazis describe a fearsome female warrior racing towards them on horseback, leading American soldiers up the beach, deflecting machine gun bullets with her bracelets and cutting down their fellow soldiers with her sword.  Diana is particularly active in the Mediterranean theatre of War, that is after all her part of the world.


The End of The War - Throughout the War, Trevor is by Diana's side. This version of Steve Trevor is a much more thoughtful, intelligent and serious man than we've seen in the past. Diana and Steve fall in love and begin to make plans for after the War. Then, tragedy strikes! Trevor is killed in one of the final battles of the War.  Shortly afterwards the bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.  Diana sees the death and suffering of the innocent women and children of Hiroshima and the War ceases to be black and white for her. Shades of grey enter her view of man's world for the first time and she is disillusioned.  She leaves the United States. Her costume, invisible jet, magic lasso, purple ray gun and various weapons and gadgets are consigned to Area 51.  Diana does not know that Hippolyta regrets her decision and so she proceeds to roam the Earth.


1950s-1960s (The Lost Years) -  Diana cuts through the 20th Century like a knife through hot butter, leaving her mark everywhere.  Along the way she finds friends, enemies and lovers, many of whom will later come back into her life at inopportune times.  She steers clear of the United States but keeps meeting and getting involved with various family members and descendants of Steve Trevor, almost as if her fate and the fate of Trevor's lineage had been linked by the gods!  As the years pass Diana notices she is becoming stronger, faster and more resistant to injury.  She does not age.

Late 1960s-1970s - Diana returns to the States with her new-found companion and mentor, I Ching.  She opens a fashion boutique and has many groovy, Kung-Fu based adventures.  Eventually I Ching dies of old age and Diana is once again alone.


1980s-1990s - Diana's fashion boutique has grown into a vast business empire.  Diana is still combating evil, but this time as a corporate raider, taking over and gutting corrupt businesses and using their resources for good.  She opens a string of women's shelters.  During the '90s she feels her latest role as business leader has left her out of touch with the rest of the world and she feels more alone than she ever has before.  She leaves her company in what she believes are safe hands and resumes her wandering.  Years later she will find that her company has fallen into the hands of the ruthless and evil Veronica Cale!  Diana's long life leaves a lot of room for villains to be faces from her past seeking vengeance.  It also leaves room for Donna Troy.  Is Donna a young girl that Diana rescued and adopted during the nineties? Is she a girl created by Hippolyta to replace Diana?  Either way, there's plenty of room for her to be slotted easily into continuity.


NOW! - By the time we reach the modern day Diana has gradually become so powerful that she is now invulnerable, she can fly and she has super speed and strength.  Diana meets the latest of Steve Trevor's descendants (Steve Howard perhaps?).  Howard and his female friend (Etta Candy? Cassie Sandsmark? Vanessa Kapatelis?) become Diana's firm friends.  They are like Xander and Willow to her Buffy.  There might even be a potential for some sort of Buffy-esque love triangle here. Her new friends help her to set up a new secret identity as Diana Prince.  Although this is a name she has used occasionally throughout her life (particularly during her boutique/business days) this is the first time the name has been anything more than something to sign on documents.  Diana is now trying to discover who is Diana Prince?  Through her new friends Diana rediscovers her humanity and with their help and encouragement she finds a new role for herself in the modern world.  A SUPER-HERO!  Before she can do this of course Diana and her friends must break into Area 51 to get her stuff!  She makes a new costume (the silver lined reboot costume), and eventually joins the Justice League as WONDER WOMAN!


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So there we have it.  Our take on Wonder Woman.  What do you think?  A work of genius that DC Comics simply must make happen or the usual wrong-headed ravings of deluded fanboys?  Drop us a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Action Comics #1: My Review (SPOILERS)

WARNING: This post contains spoilers and half baked opinions on Action Comics #1 (2011)


I usually refrain from writing reviews of new comics on this blog but I couldn't resist dashing out a few of my initial thoughts on Grant Morrison and Rag Morales' Action Comics #1. It is after all the biggest Superman reboot since 1986 and the first 'Number One' issue of Action Comics since 1938.

My initial reaction to Action Comics #1 was 'Why have they turned Superman into Spider-Man?'  There are plenty of familiar Spidey themes to be found here. A misunderstood young super-hero is hounded by the police until he finds refuge by swiftly changing out of his home made costume on the rooftop of his cheap, rented apartment. Sound familiar?  The other major influence on this issue is of course the original Action Comics #1. Just like his Golden Age counterpart this Superman is a hot headed crusader for social justice who likes nothing more than to throw wife beaters through windows and dangle corrupt rich guys from rooftops.

What we seem to have here then is a Golden Age Superman informed by the Marvel Age of comics, specifically Spider-Man.  But the Morrison and Morales' Superman is more than that.  Strip away the superficial resemblances to Peter Parker and we still have Superman at his core.  Parker is very much a hero motivated by guilt and the feeling that he can help so he should help. This Superman however is a man who's motivated by outrage at the injustice he sees and is blessed with the ability to actually do something about it.  This isn't a hero who thinks "With great power must come great responsibility" this is a hero who thinks "With great power comes a chance to stick up for the little guy."  Morrison and Morales convey Superman's joy at being able to help with every panel.  And that's what Superman is, a friend who wants to help. Action Comics #1 is an interpretation of this core truth that is very different from recent interpretations of the character but that core truth is still there.

Action Comics #1 manages to be just as fast paced as last week's Justice League #1 but is much more successful than that comic because it manages to cram so much into one issue while never sacrificing its momentum.  Other highlights of the issue include a Clark Kent who is just as much of a crusader for justice while in reporter mode as he is in hero mode, and a Jimmy Olsen who is more of a peer to Clark than a kid sidekick.  Lex Luthor is fantastic.  Once again Luthor sees himself as the only man who can save the Earth from this alien invader.  Luthor sees Superman as an foreign threat to Earth's delicate natural balance and is just as ruthless and manipulative as he's always been.

While Action Comics #1 may seem like a radical departure then, it's still recognisably Superman.  Luthor is still an evil genius who's the hero in his own head and Superman is still a friend who wants to help.  And Lois is still the one who named Superman!  Fresh, new and exciting but not so different at it's heart. Check it out!


UPDATE: (MORE SPOILERS) Look out for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to the Legion of Super-Heroes! I missed it on my first and second reading and then saw it pointed out on a message board. Looks like DCNu Clark still knows the Legion. Whether Grant Morrison or Legion writer Paul Levitz will expand on this hint remains to be seen.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Justice League #1, it could have been worse!

I absolutely loved Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League #1.  I love that it was fast paced and that Johns focused on the interactions of two of DC's most currently prominent heroes to establish the status quo, rather than rely on lengthy exposition.  And Jim Lee's art was superb, some of his best work ever.  However a common criticism of the issue has been it's dialogue.  Many of my comic loving pals have found lines such as "How else are we going to get there? Talk in a deep voice" and "I don't handle easy" somewhat laughable.  All I can say is, it could have been worse.......


Now check out what one fan thinks Superman should have said.

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