Thinking Hypothetically: The Silver Age Doom Patrol

It's a lazy Saturday here at the John pad, so I'm going to engage in some thought-exercise. Specifically, I'm going to try to figure out just what kind of chance the members of the 1960s version of the Doom Patrol would have had if they'd applied for membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I've changed things up a bit since the last time I did this: instead of arbitrarily deciding whether someone gets in or not I'm going to give everyone a hundred points, then subtract a varying amount based on any ways in which they don't qualify for Legion membership (being 25 might lose you 5 points, while being as old as time itself would bump it up to 20) However many points are left at the end of my brutal evaluation process will be the likelihood of their admittance into the LSH, percentage-style. And  then, being a well-rounded nerd, I'm going to roll 2d10 to see if they get in.

Today we'll be doing things in reverse alphabetical order!


Cliff Steele, former racecar driver, had his brain placed in a powerful robotic shell following a terrible accident. He's been the Martian Manhunter of the Doom Patrol, having been a member of every incarnation so far. And noone has yet stabbed him fatally with a fire spear!


Over 18: -5 points

No powers/duplicate powers/device-based powers: -15 points (no matter how he swings it he's going to get dinged here. He's either an ordinary guy, a guy whose power is being made of metal [which is Ferro Lad's schtick] or is reliant on a robot body. No way someone isn't going to bring that up).

Likely to mouth off during the interview: -10 points

Not too bad, actually. The simplicity of Cliff's position is his strength here - he's a brain in a jar in a robot. If he applied post Sun Eater then there could hardly be any arguments against the usefulness of having a metal guy around. Plus, Robotman's cavalier attitude toward his body comes in handy with surprising frequency. I've seen him rip off his limbs to use as missiles or hurl himself into machinery to gum up the works with surprising frequency - he'd be worth having around for the novelty factor of seeing Mordru get a robo-leg upside the head during one of his soliloquies, if nothing else. And Brainiac 5 would have the fun of replacing his various parts. Try to tell me that he wouldn't enjoy that.

The only real problem is that Mr Steele here is a bit of a big mouth, with a penchant for insulting people at the slightest provocation. I reckon that there's a pretty good chance of him calling someone "something-puss" or "something-snoot" during the interview, with the "something" being replaced by physical idiosyncrasy. Chameleon Boy, for example, would be "pumpkin-snoot".

Still, he stands at an astonishing 70%. Let's get out the old dice and see... hooray! He's in!

Negative Man

Larry Trainor was a test pilot who flew too high one day and was filled with radiation. Now he himself is radioactive, necessitating that he wear specially-treated bandages in order to keep the people around him safe. On the plus side, he can release the super-fast energy being Negative Man from his body in order to do his bidding. On the minus: if Negative  Man is away for more than sixty seconds, Larry will die.


Over 18: -5 points

Drawback ("If your bandages were to slip off during a mission, you could irradiate and kill your teammates!"): -10 points

Another drawback ("What if Negative Man were away too long and you died? We'd never finish a mission that way."): -10 points

Very likely to mouth off during the interview: -20 points

Larry's got more bankable powers than Robotman but on the other hand has a heck of a lot more negative (ha!) traits. Barring the super-generalists like Superboy and Ultra Boy, the Legion is traditionally low on speddy types, so he's doing all right there, as well as with the radio energy that he is usually described as crackling with. A little fancy talk to downplay the inherent downsides to the Negative Man condition, maybe a bit of a mention of the whole pilot thing along with a hint that he'd only be too happy to fly the Legion Cruiser on missions (I'm sure that they need more pilots -  half the damn team flies outside of the spaceship) and he's in.

Problem is, Larry's got a bigger mouth than Robotman. He starts more of their many fights and definitely starts the name-calling more than his share of the time. There's no way he gets through the judging process without calling someone a "tin-plated gavel jockey" or something equally nonsensical. There might even be a fist-fight.

It's an even fifty-fifty chance for Larry Trainor, folks. And... he doesn't get in! Larry ends up joining the Legion of Substitute Heroes for about two weeks before he punches out Stone Boy during an argument over a sandwich and is asked to leave.


Steve Dayton! Billionaire industrialist, philanthropist, inventor, super-hero! Steve Dayton, AKA Mento! Not really a member of the Doom Patrol, but associated heavily-enough with them that I include him here.


Over 18: -5 points

Uses a device (the 'Mento helmet') to achieve his powers: -15 points (I knocked off 5 points because there's some indication that the helmet just amplifies some powers that he already possesses)

Somewhat likely to mouth off during the interview: -10 points

More than a little creepy: -10 points

Possible criminal record: -20 points

Mento is an interesting character but only occasionally a likeable one. Yes, he has telekinetic powers in addition to being in top athletic condition, but he's also a bit of an arrogant dick. Since he only really associated with the Doom Patrol in order to get into Elasti-Girl's pants I have to assume that that would be his motivation for applying for Legion Membership as well. The only question would be: who is he stalking? Shrinking Violet? Triplicate Girl? Princess Projectra? Whoever it was, it'd likely come up at the interview. Steve is a little more cool-headed than Larry or Robotman but is more than ready to rise to any baiting that he might encounter. Throw in the fact that he uses a device to gain his powers and the fact that he might have a record either for insider trading or for this sort of thing:

and his score is down to a measly 40 percent. Did he get in? Nope! Bitter, Steve takes to the drink, slowly losing his holdings to RJ Brande's corporate takeovers and racking up an impressive number of restraning orders from female super-heroes.


Rita Farr was a movie star and (I think) an Olympic swimmer before she was exposed to strange gases and gained the power to grow or shrink at will. Later, she refined the ability so that she could grow only a part of herself at a time.


Over 18: -5 points

Duplicate powers (Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy): -20 points

Bit of a pushover: -5 points

Now Rita, she's a good fit for the Legion. She's got a fairly straightforward power, no major personality flaws and is quite good at the actual mechanics of super-heroing. As noted above, though, she can be pretty passive at times - two to four men at a time were usually squabbling over her in the old Doom Patrol comics and she was not terrific at doing much more than going with the flow. I reckon that if Superboy or someone started claiming that "If you suddenly expanded while we were all in an elevator or something then you could seriously harm all of us. Except me. Unless you're magic." then she might not do more than agree with him and  slink out of the room. Or maybe not - she did show some spine from time to time.

Okay, assuming that she emphasized the usefulness of being able to grow parts of herself instead of the part where she has powers that are already represented on the Legion... 75 percent chance. Go, Elasti-Girl! She didn't make it. Reverting to her sex-object roots, Rita went on to date Sun Boy, Matter-Eater Lad and Chemical King in quick succession before settling down with Kid Psycho in a little split-level Moon Dome.

The Chief

Niles Caulder is the genius behind the Doom Patrol: the man who placed Cliff Steele's brain into the Robotman body, who coordinates the Patrol's activities and who creates all of the scientific devices that they require to fight monsters and other weirdies.


Over 50: -10 points

Duplicate powers (Brainiac 5, Rond Vidar): -15 points

Drawback ("Dude, you're an old man in a wheelchair."): -20 points

Aloof: -5 points

The Chief is going to have a hard time winning over the Legion. Put aside the fact that he's older than most of their parents or that he's used to being in charge of a team and is likely to put people off with his attitude - the guy's in a wheelchair due to supervillain misadventure. It's highly likely that Wildfire is going to walk over and tip him onto the floor as an illustration of why they're going to reject him. Of course, Niles Caulder doesn't roll around in just any old wheelchair, and is likely to pull what I like to call a Val Armorr Manouvre: beating up a Legionnaire to prove that you can cut it in the Legion. In Niles' case, there's a giant mechanical arm in the back of the thing for smacking people around, plus a machine gun in the arm.

Of course, the Legion already has a couple of guys whose claims to fame are their big brains. Do they want someone who specializes in Sixties-style mad science cluttering up their lab? Let's see: another no. Well, don't worry about old Niles. He gathers together a rag-tag team of heroes like The Mess and Arm Fall-Off Boy and sets out to prove that they're more than their freakish deformities. Then, years later, Grant Morrison writes their adventures. The Mess becomes a hermaphroditic comet with some pretty interesting theories about popular radio!

Beast Boy

Look everyone, it's Garfield "Gar" Logan! Given an experimental serum when dying of a rare illness, he turned green and gained the ability to turn into various animals! If you grew up during the Eighties or Nineties, you might know him better as Changeling!


Kind of likely to mouth off during interview: -15 points

Power duplication (Chameleon Boy): -10 points

Same name as a dead guy: -5 points


Great hair: +5 points

Beast Boy is a bit of a troubled lad as a result of being orphaned at a young age and then entrusted to a scheming uncle who was interested in his inheritance and nothing else, but the structure of a group like the Legion might be just what he needs. It has to be better than him hanging around with the Doom Patrol, for heavens' sake - two grown men yelling at him and calling him names in Sixties lingo can't help his self-esteem. As long as he doesn't antagonize the Legion members like he did the original Teen Titans, he'll be fine. His powers are only kind of like Chameleon Boy's, after all (especially if Reep can grow an imagination) and I'm sure that Brainiac 5 would like to see another green face around the Clubhouse. After all, it's not like he's a token or anything - surely the Legion can have more than one guy of a certain colour at a time. Right?

Beast Boy has the same name as the deceased semi-villainous former member of the Heroes of Lallor, but the creepiness of that is offset by his great hair, and by the fact that he retained that hair, well...

... that's right. He kept his wicked mop-top while he was in animal form. How could the Legion resist that? 75 percent chance of getting in and... he gets in!

Robotman and Beast Boy are our newest members of Johnathan's Possible Legion of Maybe Super-Heroes, who need a better name! Feel free to suggest one!

Until next time, mes amis.

Johnathan Munroe's John Buys Comics

Oracle: The Cure No. 2

Hmm. I'm not too sure about this series. I mean, it's basically Oracle vs Calculator, which was among the best subplots of Birds of Prey, but this Oracle isn't quite as interesting. Maybe it's the fact that this is a distinct series - some of the character that was built up over the course of n issues had to be discarded in order to keep people who didn't read those issues but are following Battle for the Cowl in the loop. So Oracle spends some time being stoic about her paralysis and gets mugged and kicks the muggers asses and gets mistaken for an agent of the real/male Oracle. It makes me wish that this were just a crossover sneaking into a series that I read, much as I normally dislike that.

Eh, it's an okay book. Honestly, the whole Battle for the Cowl thing has been okay so far: better than the average crossover if not as good as a well-written regular series. Cons: lots of cheesecakery (yes yes: some of you will consider this a pro, but if I want that I'll go looking for it) and the whole thing seems like it was written by someone who doesn't know as much about the Internet as prior Oracle scribes. Babs Gordon having to look up who Charles Babbage is? Not knowing what the DCU equivalent of Second Life is? Ha.

The Phantom: Generations No. 1

The Phantom appeals to me in theory: line of adventurers stretching back hundreds of years and doling out justice in a purple union suit, whoopee! So much to read, so little time, though: the only time that I've ever read the Phantom was as a part of a 1980s team called Defenders of the Earth, with Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician, I think. Their battle cry wasn't "Liscenced Properties Assemble!" but it should have been.

Anyway, this series looks intriguing - actually, a lot of Moonstone's upcoming stuff does (okay, not all of it. MILF Magnet?). The first issue takes the form of entries from the very first Phantom's journal with accompanying pictures. The art (let's see... Pat Quinn) is good stuff - it'll be interesting to see it in a panel-based format, if that's the way they go with later issues. The writing (Ben Raab) turned out to be good. I wasn't sure at first, as the early pages are slightly drowned in archaicisms. Also, there's a big Norseman with a halberd and no attempt was made to de-bright-purple the Phantom's suit, which I appreciate. I'll be picking up No. 2, if that means anything. (huh. Turns out that there is a whole Phantom series out already by Moonstone. How'd I miss that?)

American McGee's Grimm No. 1

I know next to nothing about American McGee. I don't, for example, know whether he is the one that sticks his name in front of the titles of his projects. Heck, I haven't even played any of his games. Well, we had a copy of American McGee's Alice when I was in university but nobody had a computer that would play it unless we turned the graphics down to Virtua Fighter levels, which detracted from the dark reimagining. Anyway, it's a shame that all I have to judge him by is this comic. Heck, he didn't even write it (unless he is also this "Dwight L. MacPherson", possibly for tax reasons). Bah. I know that it's a tie-in to a video game (to the extent that the Grimm character gets what look to be in-game hints throughout the comic) but that's no excuse. From what I gather, American McGee's Grimm is about taking the happy-go-lucky fairy tales of today back to their gross and violent roots. This is an interesting concept, I admit. BUT! It is neither interesting nor clever to then try to do the same thing to comic books by essentially ignoring anything that has happened artistically or naratively in the last forty years. Grimm drops into a meeting of Sixties-esque villains and makes them dark and spikey and then takes them off to kill super-heroes. That is not subversive, Grimm - that is what we call The Early Nineties. Bah.

Johnny Monster No. 3 (of 3)

Speaking of The Early Nineties, remember Image Comics back then? Home of spikey violence and questionable plotting? How happy am I that it eventually became this neato home for creator-owned comicing (and they still have a little spikey violence if you like that sort of thing, don't worry). Now you got stuff like Invincible and Killer of Demons and Johnny Monster, which is a fun tale about a guy who fights creatures that resemble Sixties Marvel monsters and who secretly was raised by them and works to keep them safe rather than killing them like his fellow monster hunters. You got monsters and fighting and tentacle beasts and a little moral about communication. I'd check out a second series.

The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft, Chapter 1

There's an interesting trend in recent years toward writing tales where those who write about the fantastic end up in fantastic adventures themselves. I have a novel somewhere in which Arthur Conan Doyle battles secret cults and Lovecraftian horrors and a few years ago I read a decent little comic about Charles Fort... battling Lovecraftian horrors. Well, now it's Lovecraft's turn to battle his own horrors, which should please Doyle and Fort. And it's good! H.P. is written (by Mac Carter) super-well: he's properly awkward and verbose, he has trouble with women and his aunts are creepy. The art is fantastic - check out the crazy-good, hyper-kinetic scene in the jazz club! Tony Salmans draws the Twenties astonishingly well - he both conveys why flappers are so appealing and that they weren't all ephemeral waifs.

This is a damn good comic, folks. There's plenty for a Lovecraft nerd like me to get all geeky about but it stands up on its own as well - I think that "tentacle monsters vs socially awkward writer in the Twenties" is a pretty universal plot by now, right? There hasn't been too much creepy craziness yet but I'm certain that both the art and the writing are up to the task. And I'm pretty damn pleased that they didn't go the easy route of making Lovecraft a gun-totin' Teddy Roosevelt-esque he-man, as amusing as that might be. Save it for the Robert E Howard comic, guys! Highly recommended - and hey, it's another Image Comic!

Green Lantern Corps No. 35

More Green Lantern fun. I'm pretty fond of the Corps and now of the Corps-es (and in this series, there are plenty of corpses) - having a superteam where everyone has the same abilities and thus cannot be defined solely by their powers leaves a lot more room for neato personalities. Or for countless weird aliens to bump off in an indiscriminate manner, true, but I think that this series manages to fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. The whole buildup to Blackest Night is being handled pretty damn well, I reckon, even though Dan Didio and others have been flinging spoilers to the winds for more than a year (oh look, an ad for Blackest Night toys! And there's a character that hasn't appeared in the comic yet! I sense... a spoiled dramatic reveal!) so it's more like when you watch The Sixth Sense again - you spend a lot of time admiring the mechanics of the storytelling process rather than the story itself. Not that the story isn't great - there's a giant snake in this one! And a dramatic reveal!

R.E.B.E.L.S. No. 3

Another story dealing with craziness in DC Outer Space. Vril Dox (aka Brainiac 2) has been ousted from L.E.G.I.O.N. again and is hopping around the universe gathering a team in order to reclaim his robot space police force. He's got a brainfull of information sent into the past by Querl Dox (aka Brainiac 5) in order to ensure that his ancestor lives long enough to spawn a little Brainiac 3 and continue the bloodline, though I thought that that was already taken care of back in the L.E.G.I.O.N '9X days with his dictatorial kid Lyrl Dox. Eh, what do I know. As usual, there are plenty of links to Legion of Super-Heroes future-continuity, now with more justificacation than ever thanks to the aforementioned brainfull of information. And of course he's acting like a total bastard, being Vril Dox. A magnificent bastard!

Plus: Omega Men, gratuitous robot head smooshing and a dramatic reveal!

Mysterius the Unfathomable No. 4

Speaking of bastards, though Mysterius has a more endearing sort of bastardry than Dox does, this series continues to be great. This issue: a really cool new character with a neato history and a smart plan! And not necessarily 100% evil! There's lotsa delicious moral ambiguity in Mysterius - Jeff Parker ain't no Objectivist, that's for sure. Also: "tall and paunchy" and "short and curvy" are underused body types in the funny books. Aw, I won't go on and on about this one - there's a relevant interview just a few posts away, after all. The writing is great, the art is great... definitely a series to check out.

Mini-review: Action Comics No. 876 - good times, still a solid comic. Nightwing and Flamebird were a neat little part of the Silver Age Superman Family and I've been glad to see them return.

Good night.


Let's talk Legion: Adventure Comics No. 315

I have returned, ladies and gentlemen and all who are neither, and how surprised are you that I have a Legion of Super-Heroes tale from the 60s to discuss with you? Not very? Full points!

Now, originally I had planned to take a look at some far out Sixties future-tech or maybe an unusual alien creature or two but once I started reading this particular issue again I got all delighted and felt compelled to talk about the whole damn story. It's like trying to eat only one item at a buffet, I swear.

We find the Legionnaires checking yet another collection of monitor screens...

I maybe have a problem with the universality of this Universal Monitor, hinging on whether those labels are permanent or not. I mean, i can see some borders on this thing, so it's not fantastically huge... is the implication that the 30th Century DCU contains six or seven inhabited planets? I think that I might have seen more than that in the last issue of Green Lantern, so maybe there's a chance that the Legion hasn't been doing as good a job as they've been leading us to believe. Also, Tree World?

"Legionnaires, our planet is named Arboriax. My people are proud and call for war at the slightest insult... please stop calling us Tree World."

At first I thought that maybe Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl were bored or late for a date or something, but it turns out that those watches connect them to the kinda-Universal Monitor so that they can all sneak off to a conference, probably on Planet Ventura (Dice World). I figure that most of 'em will be knee-deep in human depravity by lunch time. What happens on Ventura, after all.

Of course, as soon as the Legionnaires turn their backs, some asshole aliens show up - these ones seem to have evolved from replilian beavers. Maybe they're from Tree World!

An aside about the reason for this invasion: the "aliens coming to Earth to steal something - often gold or twinkies - that does not exist on their planet" plot is basically as old as superheroes themselves, or at least would be if the Forties weren't all about the Nazis. Once the Fifties rolled around, though, this kind of thing was happening about once a week. Batman and the Flash probably have weekly get-togethers where the one who dealt with the fewest armoured-car-robbing extraterrestrials has to buy the beer. HOWEVER: glass? These guys come from a planet that doesn't have glass? Maybe... maybe they think that something else is called glass, like einsteinium or something. After all, glass must be hard to make poison out of, and I reckon that any race bright enough to figure out space travel must have the capacity to put together the old "sand + heat" equation. Right?

Well, at least they had the forethought necessary to keep the Legion from swooping in as soon as they cleared the ionosphere and... HEY! That is clearly a piece of glass on the side of that thing! And (scroll, scroll) they have glass cockpits on their space ships! I am so damn confused by these guys.

Well, maybe that's a good sign. Maybe they do have their words mixed up and they're going to start stealing poodles or Hostess Fruit Pies in a minute.

No, no. No, they're stealing glass. They're  putting a lot of effort into stealing glass.

They built special ships with special weapons to steal glass with. Those special ships have glass in them. Argh!

It's just as well that we're done with them, because another few minutes of thinking about this might have a detrimental effect on my well-being. In a few panels that I'm not putting up for space reasons the Legion of Substitute Heroes trounces these orange-clad bozos and that's the last that's ever been seen of them, as far as I know and barring a surprise appearance of three of them in a cloak as the real identity of the Time Trapper at the end of Legion of Three Worlds.

Superboy shows up just after the Subs finish mopping up, and the two Legions finally meet! The Substitute Heroes, despite having just stopped a fleet of technologically-advanced-if dumb aliens with the super-powers equivalent of a bag of firecrackers, are riddled with low self-esteem and all worried that the Legion will make them stop hanging around in a cave and picking up after them. Instead, the Legionnaires are so impressed that they offer to make one member of the Substitute Legion a super-duper official Legion member.

A contest is organized! Each Sub gets a Legion sponsor and has to complete aan assignment all by themselves! Scores will be awarded!

But of course, the sponsors have to be selected. How do you figure they do that, folks? Pick a number? Names from a hat, Planetary Chance Machine? Nah.

It's time for a brand-new selector machine! There have been variants on this sort of device throughout the Legion's history that making new ones has to be someone's hobby. My theory about this particular device is that is was designed as a backup in case the big computer ever broke down and nobody could think up another way to randomly assign kissing partners. I was going to put in the next panel, featuring the results, but it doesn't really matter for the purpose of this. Just note that poor Night Girl didn't get teamed up with Cosmic Boy, who she loves, in a way that probably would be treated as dismayingly stalkerish today but was reasonably endearing in the 60s.

Polar Boy gets the first assignment and it's a bit of a doozy. The Legion sure isn't slacking on the "challenging" aspect of these tests.

Meanwhile, "the Human Guinea Pigs" is a great name both for a scientific group and for a band. It doesn''t really come up later on in the comic but I bet that they're young mavericks, flouting the established conventions of Thirtieth Century scientific research and testing strange formulas on each other because they can't get the funding to purchase convicts and wearing their hair in unconventional

ways. Accidently freezing themselves is probably just a normal Saturday afternoon thing for the Human Guinea Pigs - they probably freeze themselves instead of sleeping.

Polar Boy's game to try, though, which is one reason that I like him so much. If you put me in a room with cold powers and orders to thaw some frozen guys the best I'd come up with would probably be something along the lines of "Well, they're frozen all right. I wonder what will happen if I cool them down even more? Maybe they'll loop around to being warm

again!" Granted, I've probably played more video games than Polar Boy and so have no concept of real-world logic, but still: hauling them off to the Earth's core is quite a bit more productive no matter how you look at it. I'm not so sure about those harnesses though - I have to believe that dropping one of these guys into a pool of molten cesium (or whatever - I was an English major. As far as I know the Earth's interior was accurately described by Milton) would result in some pretty serious negative scoring. Maybe one or two knots, or even a four-point harness?

Safety considerations aside, he does it and does it in style, using his power to protect himself from the blazing heat while baking the scientists to a crisp golden brown, if my youthful experiments with the noble frozen meat pie are applicable here.

A good first showing for  the Substitute Heroes, even if it set back cryogenic research by decades ("the freezing works okay, but we just can't get the thawing oven hot enough" "Try the self-cleaning setting!") and made that one scientist quite a bit tubbier somehow.

The question now is whether the Legion are panicking or not. Did they actually expect Polar Boy to finish this challenge? If they let him in, what are they going to talk about? Will he want to let more of his loser friends into the club? Or am I being cynical? Let's see what they whip up for the next challenger, Night Girl:

Consider this panel the intermission to this very long post. Isn't it pretty?

Hmm. Still no real indication of how the Legion feels about this process. Sure it's going to be rough on Night Girl to operate on a planet swathed in perpetual sunshine but she's proven herself to be a pretty canny customer on a number of occasions. Also, the selection committee looks to be composed entirely of male Legionnaires, not that I want to imply anything about their commitment to fairness being compromised by the presence of a hot babe in a bouffant hairdo. Okay, I kind of do.

 Sun Woman is basically the perfect enemy for Night Girl - she has the same super strength, only hers is solar powered, so that one of them will always be able to grind the other into powder depending on ambient lighting conditions. She also shares Night Girl's excellent costume sense - look at that thing! Shoulder antennae, sunburst on the stomach, good colour scheme and a sun-ray halo. Good heavens, that's a great costume element - why the heck it hasn't that been lifted for some other fire-themed villain in the decades since I'll never know. Some negative points for the stiletto heels, but big bonus for knowing how to dress a henchman properly (see intermission picture). I'm going to throw out a JOHN APPROVED for her.

HOWEVER, for someone who has such super-costume design savvy, Sun Woman fails to apply her skills properly here. When confronting an unknown champion of justice you have to look for telltale thematic signs, SW, and the black costume, star-shaped cape-pin and owl insignia simply scream "night-themed super-hero, try to keep in a brightly-lit area." Night Girl gets thrown into the decidedly non-brightly-lit dungeons and proceeds to use her restored super-strength to tunnel around the city and set up a resistance.

Night Girl's plan is to have the Vannar citizenry burn huge piles of coal around the city in order to block out the sun and thus deprive Sun Woman of the source of her powers.

Now, I'm going to ignore any question of environmental impact. I'm not going to question the fact that these people have seemingly never thought of burning coal, even though it apparantly lies around in giant heaps, free for the gathering (although I guess it's reasonable to assume that this is a largely solar-powered planet). No, I'd just like to point out that Vannar is one of the few 30th Century planets that I've ever seen get future-clothing right.

Not that those jumpsuits are exactly high fashion, mind, but look! They're all different colours! Take note, Lizard-Beavers! Look, Coluans! Not everyone looks good in mauve - remember that.

Anyway, that's that for Sun Woman, except for one more panel where she's looking super pissed-off as Night Girl flies  her off to jail. Note that Night Girl, in addition to being well-dressed, knows how to make an entrance. The only thing that would have made this whole thing better is if she had done it a few feet to the left and turned it into a double uppercut. Violence solves everything, kids!

Okay, so Night Girl is in the running! Who's up next? Why, it's the Chlorophyll Kid! Let's see what crazy task they think up for this little scamp!


This is where I start to get suspicious, kids. Splitting a mountain is Superboy-level stuff - poor Chlorophyll Kid, I think, has just gotten a very unsubtle message to the effect that his leafy presence is not required in the Clubhouse. Still, the little guy is game and flies up the mountain to check things out.

HA HA HA! He does it! The Legionnaires are all doing that thing where they tug at their collars and go "Ai yi yi!" Plant power!

The Legion is getting desperate! They don't know what to do! Chlorophyll Kid split a damn mountain! They start to reach, and send Fire Lad to a world where it rains all the time, tasking him to give the tribes that live there a permenant source of fire. A fairly unremarkable event - he does it, of course, making use of a convenient oil well. There are only really two things to take note of: Fire Lad's sponsor is Bouncing Boy, who I normally don't mind but who is completely insufferable throughout this issue. Also, the tribesmen are really quite remarkable. I encourage you to enlarge yonder picture and take a good look at them.

Huge blond afros!

I think that this is the point tthat the Legion Task Selection Squad gives up. Despite all of their efforts, those damn Subbies just keep finishing their tasks. Besides, the next challenger is Stone Boy - no carefully tailored task for him, no sir, just some big generic monster with a huge ass.

Stone Boy, of course, doesn't give up. That's the defining feature of the Legion of Substitute heroes, after all, through all of their various incarnations. They may be a bit weak on the power front, and they might be somewhat incompetent but they persevere and ultimately triumph. Stone Boy's plan is actually fairly elegant: dig a pit and then lure the monster into it with his own damn body, turning to stone as necessary to avoid chomping.

A while back (I'd link to it but I can't find the damn post), Rachelle pointed out that various Green Lanterns occasionally use their rings to facilitate extreme laziness, to do something like picking up a piece of paper off of the floor. Saturn Girl seems to have fallen into that same habit here. Did she really need to read Stone Boy's mind to figure out what he was doing, or is there something else going on here? Did she lose sight of him and want to avoid using her neck and/or eye muscles to look around (overly-developed eyes are a real turn-off, ladies)? Or is it that she has only ever seen a hole being dug by a swarm of tiny DTCH-DGGR class robots and that the concept of manual labour was so alien to her that she had to violate someone's consciousness before she could reconcile what her eyes were telling her with reality? maybe there's a reason that the time-mirror showed her as so hippy.

As I said, Stone Boy has a pretty good plan. Sadly, some curious villagers spoil it all - I think that maybe there's a reason that the Rantak is so fat, if this is the average intelligence level on this planet. So according to the rules, Stone Boy is the only Substitute Legionnaire to fail the test. Now: back to the Clubhouse to tabulate the scores!

Stone Boy is the winner! He was all selfless and so forth! Yay! Somehow this is more impressive than flying to the core of the planet!

By the way, check out how surprised he is. Now look at the same scene, five seconds earlier:

That's right, the scores were plainly visible. Evidently, nobody was paying attention to the giant display in the centre of the room.

So Stone Boy wins, and everyone else is too polite to point out that they kind of completely refuted the Legion's original reasons for rejecting them (Polar Boy, for example, was rejected for his lack of control). I don't know if they let him in because he legitimately did the best job or because they figured that he would be the most unobtrusive. In any case, he chose to go off with the Substitute Legion, claiming that they were his Legion and making me go "Awwww..." but likely earning him a few smacks upside the head once everyone got back to the cave.

It's probably for the best, really. I will bet a hundred dollars that if you can dig up a comic from an alternate universe in which Stone Boy joined the Legion Ferro Lad will be alive and well and there will be a monument out front of Legion HQ depicting what appears to be a statue in an orange jumpsuit being fired into a Sun-Eater with a bomb strapped to it and a terrified expression.

Very long post.... done!

Twelve Days of Christmas Special Review Series, Part One, By Johnathan

Hallo hallo! It's me, Johnathan, back from the far-away land of Offline and fat with turkey and buttered vegetables. As promised, I'm going to rock the twelve days of Christmas with twelve reviews highlighting various modes of holiday celebration in the comical booklets that I so love. And since we're already on Day 3 (French hens!) I'm going to be playing catchup.

What are we going to look at for Partridge/Pear Tree Day? Who else but the Legion! From Adventure Comics No. 289, as recently looked at over at Super Future Friends, we have this:

Supergirl has a plot to get a little action for her cousin, so she hauls him into the 30th Century to hang with the adult Legion for Christmas. More on the action-getting plot later - today we're looking at the Legion's decorations.

Not too sure why there isn't ever any snow around the Legion Clubhouse, as it's located just outside of either Smallville or Metropolis and I'm pretty sure that at this point those estimable towns are both located in Kansas. Isn't Kansas snowy? Maybe the poles flipped in 2567 or something like that. No matter. I'm sure it's Brainiac 5's doing.

I sure do like the Santa dummy in the space ship. Some of my favourite things about the Legion's future are its intersections with our past - rather than playing some crazy game where you simulate nuclear fusion with electronic beans they play holographic Dungeons and Dragons or Spaceopoly (which I hope is all about capturing the Boardwalk Nebula early in the game). Likewise, rather than having a robot out front with a special time portal that loops images of history's greatest Nativity scenes, including the original, they have a crappy Santa dummy that someone thought would look cute in their rocket car. My Dad's neighbours would do that!


As for their tree: fantastic! This is the solution for my irrational aversion to even the most convincing fake Christmas tree - make 'em weird abstract treeoid forms. I haven't had a tree in my own place for upwards of ten years but I sure would set up that cone-stack. Especially if I could arrange to have planets revolving around it. Or possibly something else, I don't know. Towns I've lived in? Snack foods I have known and loved (oh, Punkys. I miss ye). The important thing is the revolution.


"Twelve beasts of lightning,"

High-Tech Tomorrow: Review of The Concentrator, the Exciting Conclusion, by Johnathan

Oof. I meant to write this senses-shattering finale to the sizzling, stunning, uh, saturnine review of the Concentrator earlier this week, but ran up against a couple of stumbling blocks: firstly, I’ve been pretty danged busy at work, so those occasional slow half-hours that were good for a paragraph or two about Saturn Girl’s costume have gone the way of the dodo. Secondly, my evenings have been taken up with Hallowe’en preparation – super-hero boots require a fair amount of sewing, it turns out. If I ever develop fantastic powers you can bet that my costume is going to be off-the-rack. (I wrote this before the previous post, but am too lazy to edit out the redundant information. Instead, I use up more of your neurons with useless info! Ho ho ho! A similar principle applies to the slight overlap between this and Part 3 of the Concentrator saga)

 Home stretch!

 We find the Legion relaxing after a hard day’s being tortured. Tensions, it turns out, are high:

Actually, they probably aren’t. The Sixties Legion, as I’ve mentioned before, weren’t exactly paragons of camaraderie and trust. I’ll bet that if Chameleon Boy lost his wallet and Phantom Girl was walking up to him to give it back he’d have punched her out and had her up in front of the Legion Supreme Court before she could get two words out, though admittedly it might have been a ruse to expose Universo’s crooked law practice or something like that.

“Hey, how does Superboy know that it’s a trick? I’ll bet that he planned all this with the Chief! Get him, everyone – use the kryptonite stilettos!”

Oh, poo, he referenced one of basically three or four panels in this story that I haven’t posted here. In brief, Chameleon Boy was frozen or something, but his hand was still free and he shapeshifted it into something and got away. So, you know, there’s no way that Lightning Lad could ever escape as Chameleon Boy did, if the Chief means “in a similar way” when he says “as”. Fear my pedantry, Science Police Chief! It transcends time, space and relative states of fictitiousness to blast you with the full might of my withering scorn! Your wife shall sleep alone tonight, whilst you cower behind a wall composed of your crystallized tears!

I really wish that this comic had some sort of audio component. I want to hear the voice that does this to people who routinely fight electrically-charged giants with exposed brains and jaundiced Eddie Munsters and so forth. Is it super-menacing, or is it the repetition that breaks the spirit? Is the Legion’s greatest weakness its collective low boredom threshold? 

The Concentrator sounds kind of… lame. Not that I wouldn’t want to have one in my apartment, mind you – I assume that it can concentrate matter into a decent batch of chicken wings – but I can’t really see it as life-imprisonment-worthy. I mean, wouldn’t you have to know how to make a weapon in the first place to make it in the Concentrator? So... doesn’t that really just make it a faster way to get things? Not so good in the hands of a villain, I know, but I can think of half a dozen DC baddies who can do stuff like that without even trying hard. Pre-computer nerd Calculator, for instance, or the entire Sinestro Corps, even that one guy who's a hermit crab.

 The smart thing to do would be to wait until the Chief opened the door and then *WHAMMO!* Lightning to the breadbasket! I mean, the idea is that the Chief is treating them as if he were a super-villain trying to pry info out of their wee brains, so why not respond accordingly?

When she said that, it hurt Chameleon Boy’s feelings.
I can’t say it enough: disproportionate punishment. Also: isn’t there a huge abandoned fortress just going to waste on that planet? Why have the Legion locked poor Lightning Lad in a cage smaller than most bathroom stalls?* I’m pretty sure that I’d go nuts with a great quickness if I were placed in a similar situation, no matter how good the books were.

 *Speaking of bathrooms, where are the facilities in that thing? Is he sitting on the toilet whilst they scold him?

So, the Police Chief (or is he a Commissioner? It's been so long since I read the beginning of this story...), having tortured a teenager into revealing information that he and his friends said was important, orders that same teenager locked in a tiny cage on a deserted planet for the rest of his life. Satisfied after a good honest day's work, he leaves for home.
Damn, it is the Commissioner. How long have I been calling him Chief? No matter, I'll retcon it later on. 
Man, this is a good issue for facial expressions - check out the look of desperation on Lightning Lad. Good job, John Forte.
So, could it be true? Could the man who I have known and referred to as the Commissioner for lo, these many years be some sort of traitorous impostor?
Yes, it turns out. There's the real Commissioner, looking surprisingly comfortable for someone who has spent the last few days tied up in or next to a time bubble. In fact, being kidnapped and impersonated seems to have... mildly irritated him, at the most. I am now concocting a theory about the Commissioner being a worlds-weary, tough-as-nails Slam Bradley of the future, and that if the Legion hadn't caught on to the fake Commissioner's scheme then the real one would have shortly cut his space-ropes on a space-nail and administered a flurry of fistic fury on the felonious face-filcher. And also, his descriptive text is full of alliteration.
But the Legion is watching, and it turns out that the impostor is the *yawn* Time Trapper. 
Actually, this is one of the *y*TT appearances that I'm okay with - it's not really until the Seventies that the Trapper jumps the shark, or interferes with history to cause the shark to become extinct and more swiftly bring about the victory of entropy over Creation, or whatever. Plus, this panel has given me a whole new theory of who the Trapper is. Check out how he has that rubber mask crammed down over his cowl: the Time Trapper is really Batman!

Just what are you going to make, Time Trapper? Does that pistol do anything better than letting you travel through time and preventing others from doing the same? Or does it make a rubber mask realistic enough that it can be worn over a hood and still fool, like, twenty people for a couple of days? Or...

... does it possess the capability to fling what I think are possibly neutron stars around? Man, what more do you need? Dr Doom would quite literally kill for something like that! Does the pistol shoot little stars, so you can use this power on individuals instead of whole planets? Because regular guns work okay for stuff like that. Greedy, greedy boring villain.
So, finally, we get to see the awesome might of the Concentrator. I mean, the narrative practically demands it - I think that if a Silver Age reader had reached the end of this story without seeing it they'd have spontaneously combusted (whereas a modern reader in a similar situation would use all of that energy to write a really scathing blog post).
I like that the Concentrator is visually unimpressive. Oh, it's big, I'll grant that, but stramlined and futuristic it ain't. The Legion's ultimate weapon is far too secret to have the boys down in R&D gin up a really impressive outer casing for it, after all - this is the bare-bones mechanism. But what does it do?

Jeepers? All the power in the Universe? Really? But it's safe, right, due to the fact that you're going to turn it off in a second. But, uh, but what about the electrical impulses in your brain (or whatever - the closest I've come to being a doctor is dating one, and she's long gone)? Don't they count as power, for the purposes of your super weapon? This could interfere with your plan, really.

"And all of the heat energy in the air, and the chemical energy  that powers our bodies, and," *horrible moment as every lifeform in the Universe dies*
But if it was just things like suns and cars and such, extended use of the Concentrator would be pretty amusing: whole planets and galaxies flickering on and off like a city in a movie blackout and entire planets of ticked-off citizenry and the like.

I'm betting that Brainiac 5 invented this thing, as he just can't bear to stop mentioning the "all power from everywhere" thing, possibly as practice so that he can brag about it the next time he tries to pick up Supergirl. 
Now, as much as I'm not fond of the Time Trapper, I've always been partial to the Iron Curtain of Time, especially as the Legion never actually got past it - it just wasn't there, eventually, as far as I remember. Of course I may be wrong, but even if I am I like to think of that Iron Curtain hanging out somewhere with the Source Wall (as depicted in Ambush Bug, Year None), having a drink and talking over old, good times.
Man, the Concentrator... it's possibly the most powerful sci-fi weapon ever conceived-of, really. No contest on a Concentrator/Death Star fight, and the Enterprise would be cinders. But that's the problem - realistically, the Legion should from this point forward be unstoppable. There appear to be no consequences to the use of this thing other than the chance that it'll fall into the wrong hands, so why not bust it out every time the fate of the known everything falls into question? 
Great Darkness Saga: "Oh, shit, it's Darkseid!" *building sounds* ZAPPO!
The Magic Wars: "The disturbances seem to be stemming from that planet." ZAPPO!
The Infinite Man, Mordru, Glorith, Dr Mayavale, etc: "I will rule/destroy creation in mere seconds!" ZAPPO!
The Legion is too big and competent an organization to fall prey to minor threats, and when the Concentrator is there to solve the really big ones that give them the dramatic trouble that we love so much then the whole concept is broken. Legion + Concentrator = no fun, unless the plot involves Brainiac 5 going insane and using the thing to hold the Universe hostage.
This story is JOHN APPROVED, though - it's pretty damn delicious.
Post script!
When the Legion gets back to Earth, they find:
Oh, lord. I love Superboy's lack of impulse control. Big green Iresa simply horrifies him, unless it's his inexplicable resistance to the idea of getting some that's flaring up here. Either way, the Man of a Million Super-Powers has not one iota of tact in his blue-clad body. Man, that Iresa does have a square head, doesn't she?
The only better end to this comic would be Bouncing Boy revealing that he picked Iresa up by impressing her with tales about Legion stuff and asking if he could show her the Concentrator, because he's told her so much about it.

SARLSH, Part 7 (The End), By Johnathan

Hooray!It's the end of the Supplement to the Addendum to the Review of the Legion of Super-Heroes! Let's do it!


As might be becoming apparent, I quite liked these late additions to the Legion. They represented a conscious effort on various writer's parts to inject some new life into a group that had become fairly static, member-wise, at about the time Jim Shooter stopped writing stories. I mean, this is a team that had 24 members within its first ten years and then admitted 13 more in the next two decades or so - and four of those new members (White Witch, Timber Wolf, Chemical King, Polar Boy) had appeared in that first decade, while a fifth - Invisible Kid - was basically a sequel to one of the original 24. Tellus and Quislet were pretty much the only non-humanoids in the first iteration of the Legion. I mean, Tellus is still pretty humanoid, but at least he has a fish face and a tail and little stunted legs instead of being a Klingon-style "guy with some sort of extra crap on his head" alien. I always figured that he was based on this one ocean-dwelling telepathic mutant that teamed up with the Legion to fight excessively Mod aliens this one time, which is nice because I liked that story.

Sadly for people like me who like the new members, they've suffered significant attrition as a result of 'New Writer's Syndrome' which is a condition that I made up to describe the tendency of someone taking over the writing chores on a comic book to gleefully slaughter any members of the supporting cast that were introduced by the old writer (this is why I am so concerned for the Head now that Gail Simone has left The All-New Atom), whether for cheap dramatic effect or because the new writer just doesn't like 'em. The Legion is especially vulnerable on this front, for a couple of reasons: firstly, because that 'original 24' I mentioned has been established as the canon Legion and are basically there to stay (barring the occasional dramatic event), and secondly because in a team book - especially one in which the team members don't have solo super-careers - everyone is supporting cast. In essence, this means that everyone who joined the Legion after Princess Projectra and Karate Kid (non-inclusive, I guess) is fair game for ignoble death, mutilation and non-inclusion in reboots. I haven't read the Legion comic in which Tellus was killed off - heck, I don't know for sure that he does die - but I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, aside from making the Legion seem less like a Humans and Humanoids Only Club, Tellus filled much the same role as Blok: philosophical outsider who didn't quite "get" what was up with those crazy humans. Nothing new, really, though Tellus has the added element of attracting a fairly incessant stream of racist commentary from Wildfire on the subject of Tellus being a useless fish-asshole. The Legion does not, it seems, have much concern for cultural or species-related sensitivity, or perhaps were reluctant to embark on the logistically nightmarish task of trying to throw a guy made of antimatter out of a building. Tellus' powers (not shown, boo) of sub-Saturn Girl-level telepathy and telekinesis were useful, plus it was always fun to see him zoom through the air with is little legs trailing behind him. I also liked the fact that his given name (Ganglios) would be a great moniker for a brain-based super-villain (as opposed to fish-based super-hero) to sport, though this name-related joy is dampened by the fact that his super-hero name is one letter away from being shared by a most irritating telephone company.

Bah. Over all, I like Tellus, but for me he's kind of become symbolic of misused Legion characters, and so I get grumpy when I think about him too much.



The White Witch is a venerable character - she first appeared way back in (issue), during that whole escapade with Evillo and his mythic crew. She was there as the Hag, a cackly old witch of the Hansel and Grethel sort, and eventually her dear sister Dream Girl arranged to change her back. Subsequently, she turned up now and then when the Legion had some sort of magical trouble and Brainiac 5 was going into a Batman-as-willful-idiot fugue state ("Nope, I categorically deny the existence of magic. It's completely impossible that it exists. Laughable, really, why... hold on, Zauriel, I have the Spectre on the other line."). Eventually, she got mixed in with the whole Mordru/Sorcerer's World shebaz and I think that it was as a result of one of the LSH's interminable battles with The Poorly-Dressed Sorcerer that Mysa finally joined up, some twenty-odd years after her introduction. She was originally a sultry redhead, but I'm pretty fond of the pale n' wispy redesign, shown here, and especially of the eyelash-antennae, which are tied in to this neat theme of magic in Legion continuity - the better you are at it, the weirder-looking you get. There are all these wizards and witches on Sorcerer's world made of water and plants and such, Mysa's all pale and antennaed and Mordru's outfit is magically awful (seriously, I think that there are flashbacks to when he was less evil/powerful in which his helmet isn't as gaudy and the wings are smaller).

The White Witch was a fun addition to a team of bickering egoists, which was kind of what the Legion was at the time. She was thoughtful and spiritual rather than argumentative and moody, plus she palled around with Blok a lot. She also added a lot of power and versatility to the team: though her magic operated under D&D rules (lots of studying, only so many spells in her head at one time, once a spell is cast it's gone) she was pretty good at improvising with what she had on hand spell-wise to keep her more hapless teammates alive.

As for the picture: it's a very good rendering of the White Witch costume, though I don't know what the hell she's doing. This is further evidence, though, that Polar Boy should be making a snowflake in his picture - together with Element Lad and the White Witch, they'd have a theme going!


(and just because she's not a comic nerd and thus it's noteworthy, she's also JOHN'S GIRLFRIEND ANN APPROVED)