Yes, it’s time to take a break from theology and discuss the strictly frivolous.
I was a big fan of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes way back in the late-1960s – Adventure Comics #350 (November 1966) to #372 (September 1968) to be precise – and I casually followed the various permutations of the 30th-then-31st century superhero team from a distance over the years until DC pulled the plug on the 55-year-old franchise in 2013.
Last month, I had heard that the LSH was making an appearance on the January 15th episode of the popular “Supergirl” television show on the CW cable channel, so I decided to give it a whirl last night via on-demand.
“Legion of Super-Heroes”
Supergirl, Season Three, Episode # 10
January 15th, 2018
Directed by Glen Winter and featuring Melissa Benoist, Chris Wood, Amy Jackson, and Jesse Rath
Kara Zor-El aka Kara Danvers aka Supergirl (Benoist), Superman’s cousin, is in a near-death coma after battling Reign, another Kryptonian with similar powers, who is creating havoc in National City with her merciless brand of vigilante justice. Members of the Legion – Mon-El (Wood), Saturn Girl (Jackson), and Brainiac 5 (Rath) – had journeyed back to the 21st century to assist in Supergirl’s recovery with the help of their 31st century medical technology, but Mon-El is reluctant to intervene directly against Reign for fear of adversely affecting the future course of history. The Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) – Supergirl’s crime fighting allies – develops a plan to defeat Reign, but needs Supergirl’s participation. Brainiac 5, a half-human, half-computer life form, slowly helps Kara regain consciousness. Could a romance be developing? Brainiac 5 and Supergirl were a couple in the old comic book series. Mon-El finally changes his mind and volunteers the Legion in the fight against Reign, but just when all appears lost, the semi-recovered Supergirl arrives, forcing Reign to retreat. Ah, a syringe of liquid Kryptonite to the jugular will do it every time!
It was fun to see some of the old LSH characters on the small screen. Will DC now consider bringing the team back in a monthly book? Mon-El didn’t get a chance to strut his Superman-like powers in his appearance, and Saturn Girl, a telepath in the comic series, is incorrectly portrayed as having the power of telekinesis. We’re talking CW here, so the special effects weren’t exactly top notch but, all in all, it wasn’t an unpleasant hour. Kudos to Melissa Benoist who does a very good job in the role of Supergirl.
Was there enough substance to get me to tune in again? Hmm.
It’s time to take a little detour from theological discussions and briefly review…
The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga – Deluxe Edition
Written by Paul Levitz, penciled by Keith Giffen, inked by Larry Mahlstedt
DC Comics, 2010, 416 pages
I was a fan of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes way back during the Silver Age of comics (specifically, 1966-1968), but I regularly checked in on the 30th then 31st-century team of young crime-fighters with unusual powers from various planets until DC pulled the plug on the franchise in 2013.
Most long-time Legion followers say the team’s finest era just so happened to be during that 1966-1968 span, when the stories were written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan. Some of the greatest stories from that period included:
The Sun-eater saga featuring the Fatal Five and the death of Ferro Lad (Adventure Comics #352-353)
The Adult Legion (Adventure Comics #354-355)
Mordru the Merciless (Adventure Comics #369-370)
But I had also always heard “The Great Darkness Saga” from 1982 ranked right up there with the best of Shooter & Swan’s classic stories, so I recently got my hands on this deluxe edition graphic novel in order to check it out.
In this edition, the reader must wade through a thick prequel (LSH #284 -289, Annual #1) before they finally get to “The Great Darkness Saga” (LSH #290-294). Pat Broderick’s and Bruce Patterson’s subpar artwork in this prequel material is a distraction. Plot? I’ll keep this very brief.
A mysterious evil character awakens from a one-thousand-year slumber. He sends out his minions to gather powers from various sources, but they encounter teams of Legionnaires, who eventually track them back to their master, Darkseid, who bares a striking resemblance to Satan of the Bible. Darkseid sets about to destroy the Universe aided by three-billion Daxamites under his control. The wizards of Sorcerers’ World conjure up a humanoid infant, who, it is foretold, will play a messiah-like part in Darkseid’s eventual defeat. The humanoid eventually morphs into Izaya, a benevolent god-like figure who empowers Superboy and Supergirl to weaken Darkseid to the point that he must withdraw in defeat.
“The Great Darkness Saga” was written by long-time (1977–1979 and 1981–1989) Legion writer, Paul Levitz, and Keith Giffen handled the artwork, which is average at best. In contrast, the pages contributed by Howard Bender in the early portion of the epilogue material (LSH #295 & 296) were a wonderful homage to Curt Swan’s style. The story includes many references to Legion lore from the Silver Age as well as significant new events such as the introduction of two additional members and the resignation of another. Even the obscure Legion of Substitute Heroes is pressed into service against the powerful Darkseid.
Once I got past the early filler (LSH #284-289), “The Great Darkness Saga” turned out to be a decent story, but I wouldn’t put it in the category of the classic Shooter-Swan epics.
Additional thoughts from a believer
The thinly-veiled allusions to Biblical “characters” was an “interesting” fictional explanation of the spiritual realm from the mind of an unbeliever. Most people in this world recognize that there is a “greater power” that exists. Believers shouldn’t be upset or surprised that the lost flail around in ignorance by using symbolism from the Bible in their entertainment. We must point out to them that the God of the Bible is very real.
It’s time to take a respite from theological discussions, so let’s review…
Atomic Batteries to Power, Flight Rings to Speed:
Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes
Created by Lee, Michael, and Laura Allred
DC Comics, September 2017
This one-off, crossover features the Batman and Robin characters as they were presented on the hokey “Batman” ABC television series (1966-1968) featuring Adam West (d. June 9, 2017) and Burt Ward, and the DC Silver Age version of the Legion of Super-Heroes as they were written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan.
Six members of the 30th century’s Legion of Super-Heroes track one of their arch-enemies, Universo, back in time to Gotham City in the year, 1966. The villainous super-hypnotist believes that by intervening in the past, he will be able to prevent the formation of the Legion in the future. The Legionnaires make a surprise visit to the top secret Bat Cave, hoping to enlist Robin into their club and to seek his help in apprehending Universo. When it’s discovered that one of the Legion’s time bubbles has been stolen, Batman deduces the culprit to be the criminal genius, Egghead. The team splits up with Batman traveling with three Legionnaires to 2966 to find Egghead, while the Boy Wonder teams with the three remaining LSH members to search for Universo in Gotham City.
Robin and his team find Universo but are no match for the combined police and military forces who are compelled to do the bidding of their mind-controlling master, and must retreat. Meanwhile, Egghead searches 30th-century science museums hoping to find some technology or information that will give him an advantage back in the 20th century, but comes up empty and returns to 1966. A meeting between Egghead and Universo reveals the former to be the ancestor of the latter.
Robin’s team engages Universo once again but is thwarted by the super-hypnotist’s powers. Just when all appears lost, Batman’s team shows up from the future and joins in the fracas. The battle appears to be a standoff until Batman suggests it’s time for the Legion to unleash its “secret weapon.” Universo is defeated and Saturn Girl once again invites Robin to join the Legion, but Batman insists the Boy Wonder is indispensable in the fight against crime in the 20th-century.
This is as absolutely hokey as it gets folks with no redeeming value other than lots of laughs for fans of the old Batman television show and the Silver Age Legion. There are plenty of “insider” jokes and miscues that will resonate with aging baby boomers like myself who were glued to the family television set on Wednesday and Thursday evenings back in 1966 watching the Dynamic Duo. Many of the villains and “good guys” featured in the TV series make cameo appearances in this story. If you can remember the campy, tongue-in-cheek dialogue of the show and some of the outrageously complicated deductions West’s Batman would extrapolate from some ridiculously minuscule and vague clues, then you’ll enjoy this book. The Allreds capture Adam West’s Batman to a tee.
A believer contemplates the Lord God in even the most “secular” of circumstances. The “legendary star” of the Batman television show, Adam West, died a couple of months ago at the age of 88 of leukemia. Out of curiosity, I googled “Adam West” along with “God,” “Jesus,” “Christian,” “faith,” and “religion” and came up empty. We won’t know if West accepted Christ this side of eternity, but we do know that fame, fortune, and good health do not last.
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1
No, I haven’t gone entirely “looney tunes.” With this post, I’m taking a short respite from theology, but I’ll be putting my “serious cap” back on very shortly.
When I was a little guy, my Dad used to bring home comic books for me every so often. “Sad Sack” and “Hot Stuff” were my favorites. As I got a little older, I began buying comics on my own at the local drug stores. They were only 12 cents back in the day (compared to $4.99 today!) so a loose quarter from my parents’ bedroom dresser* could buy me two. Oh joy! One title that I became a particularly big fan of was Adventure Comics featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of teenagers living in the 30th-century who hailed from different planets and had various super powers. Superboy and sometimes Supergirl traveled to the future to join the Legion on their planet-saving missions.
My first issue of Adventure was #350, “The Outcast Super-Heroes!,” published in November, 1966 (see photo below) and I eagerly bought each of the following issues up to and including #372, “School for Super-Villains!,” published in September, 1968. It was a coincidence that I just happened to pick up the Legion at the beginning of what many consider was its finest run, with the writing of Jim Shooter and the artwork of Curt Swan. The Legion and I drifted apart after that but every once in awhile I would check in just to see the latest team permutation. The franchise went dormant and was revived several times, but DC Comics finally pulled the plug on the Legion in August 2013 because of low readership. The main drawback of the Legion is its dizzying number of characters, names, powers, planets of origin, etc. However, the team continues to pop up in other titles every now and then.
Fellow blogger, Slim Jim, often posts about comics, which fueled my nostalgia and curiosity for the Legion, and whaddayaknow, the team had a new book recently published, sharing paper and ink with a rather improbable ally.
“The Imposter Superboy”
Featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and…(gulp)…Bugs Bunny???
Written by Sam Humphries and pencilled by Tom Grummett
DC Comics, August 2017
The Legion’s resident genius, Brainiac 5, desperately struggles to save the sick and dying Supergirl. His robotic assistant, Computo 2, determines the only cure is Illudium Phosdex, an element that went extinct back in the 24.5th century. Brainiac orders Computo 2 to travel back in time to the 21st century and enlist the help of Superboy in acquiring the element, but rather than summoning the Boy of Steel, the robot inexplicably transports Bugs Bunny, yes, THAT Bugs Bunny, back to the future. The Legion is flabbergasted by Bugs’ appearance as is the rascally rabbit. Computo 2 blames the goof up on a mysterious “malfunction.” Brainiac attempts to convince Bugs to submit to a medical examination in the hope that he can provide the needed element, but the strong-willed and feisty hare refuses to cooperate and demonstrates that he has a few super powers of his own thanks to his special batch of super carrots. The tussle is interrupted with a BOOM! as one of the Legion’s most feared enemies, the gigantic Validus, crashes through the walls of the team’s compound. One by one, the Legion’s members succumb to the powerful and merciless blows of their legendary foe. All hope seems lost as Validus looms menacingly over the comatose Supergirl. But just in the nick of time, Bugs appears, clad in a Superboy-style outfit and with a half-eaten super carrot clasped in his hand…er, foot…er, paw. Super-Bugs predictably makes short work of the impressive villain. As the dust settles, Computo 2 admits it orchestrated the entire fiasco because it was jealous of Brainiac’s love for Supergirl and wished to eliminate its Kryptonian rival. Bugs’s super carrots prove to be an abundant source of the needed element. Supergirl is cured and Bugs is delivered back to the 21st century, a new hero in Legion lore.
As improbably looney as this crossover story was, it had its fun moments and that was the point. There are many, many comical allusions to Legion history, which fans will enjoy. For instance, the cover is a spoof of Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), the very first appearance of the Legion. Bugs is his delightfully sarcastic and rascally self that I remember from the 1960s. Bugs Bunny made his animated film debut in 1940 and his first comic book followed the same year.
The artwork from penciller, Tom Grummett, is actually pretty good and a big improvement over the disappointingly amateurish penciling in most of the Legion’s incarnations. But, of course, I was spoiled by the classic artwork of Curt Swan. A shorter version of the story, done in a faux Shooter/Swan style, is tacked on at the end of the book.
Coming up in a couple of weeks, the Legionnaires drop in on the Dynamic Duo in the year 1966. Ah, what a great year that was!
Thanks, Jim, for the fun!!!
Final thoughts from a Christian believer: People are strongly attracted to fictional (and non-fictional) stories in which “good” overcomes “evil,” and where “justice is served,” but they fail to acknowledge their own evil thoughts and actions, e.g., like *stealing money to support a comics habit. Jesus Christ is the ultimate victory over sin and evil. Won’t you repent of your sins and trust in Him as your Savior by faith alone?