High-Tech Tomorrow: Review of the Planetary Chance Machine, By Johnathan

A quick one:

This is from Adventure Comics No. 319, in which the Legion has a very dangerous mission against what turns out to be a couple of very old men. Before they can get the ageism train a-chuggin' off to Beat-the-Elderly Town, they have to be divided into teams for some reason - possibly because of drama.

This being the Thirtieth Century, those crazy kids don't just go 'eeny-meeny, etc' to choose folk, nor do they (god forbid) make logical team choices based on the skills, powers and personalities of various Legionnaires. No, they turn to the Planetary Chance Machine, because if the Legion has an unofficial motto, it's "Over-complicating everything through technology."

I'd just like to note that the Legion is attacking a planet. An eighth person on your team isn't going to make you much more noticeable, Sun Boy.

And that's the Planetary Chance Machine: better than, say, pulling names out of a hat because there's no way that the hat is going to pick a team consisting of Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Proty II, Bouncing Boy's chair, two walls of the Legion Clubhouse and Brainiac 5 again.

The really sad part is that this was the simplest thing that they could come up with. I happen to know that by the Thirtieth Century Paper, Rock, Scissors has become a months-long strategy game involving thousands of tiny robots that are made out of the game's three elements, while the 'straws' involved in drawing straws are carbon nanotubes, each a light-second long, that must be drawn with a small space-tug and subjected to microscopic analysis to determine which is the shortest. Hot Potato is still pretty fast but humans aren't allowed to play it any more due to a poorly-worded treaty with the Dominion.

The Planetary Chance Machine made one more appearance in the Legion of Substitute Heroes special:

Did anyone else think that Fire Lad looked creepy in this one?

Poor Subbies. The don't get no breaks.

Planetary Chance Machine, for disrespectin' the Substitute Heroes you are:


Not actually from the future, but still high-tech and from Dev-Em's appearance in Adventure Comics No. 320. Presenting Krypton's favourite game, Interplanetary Scramble!

I seriously wish that Earth had cannon-based party games - maybe then alien races would give us props like they do the Kryptonians, who didn't even know the difference between Interplanetary and Intraplanetary, for Rao's sake (and, uh, who didn't listen to their top scientist when he said the planet was going to blow up and then got blown up)! I bet it would bring families together like no-one's business, plus every once in a while someone's brother would get mad at them and they'd have to come to school with a bunch of Cyrillic characters printed across their forehead.

Intraplanetary Scramble is completely JOHN APPROVED.

Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the 30th Century, Part 10, By Johnathan

This one's a follow-up issue of the old Super Detritus series. Since there's all kinds of Legion of Super-Heroes comics out there, with all kinds of crazy nerdlingers writing them, there's a pretty good chance that any goofy Legion reject will show up more than once if you read for long enough. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love that kind of stuff. I'm just warning you all so that you don't complain when I start writing about *sigh* Crystal Kid again.

See how long it takes you to guess who I'm dredging up today!

The setup: Legion of Super-Heroes No. 305. For the last few issues Colossal Boy has been dating Shrinking Violet. People start getting suspicious, because Colossal Boy is creepy around women and Violet had a much cooler boyfriend in Duplicate Boy. Turns out that SV'd been replaced by a Durlan actress by some sort of underground movement back on Imsk, so an infiltration is arranged:

Spooky dark rebel headquarters, complete with shapeshifter-containment bag? Check. Turns out that there's a faction on Imsk that wants to secede from the United Planets and they've kidnapped Violet to pump her for information.

Ah! Literally! Dude, that's a pretty creepy info-extraction setup right there. This underground faction is pretty serious, I guess. The Legion'd better watch out and... wait. Who is that?

Dude! It's Micro Lad! Possibly the lamest of the so-called Legion of Super-Rejects! This, my friends, is why Imsk is still in the UP. Seriously, Micro Lad?

That Micro Lad? He's who you've chosen to lead your conspiracy? First off, he's a jerk. An unoriginal jerk with a glass jaw and bad hair. Secondly, he was born, raised and lives on a planet populated entirely by people who can shrink at will, yet still goes by the name Micro Lad on a day-to-day basis. It's be like me calling myself Able To Breathe Guy or the Has a Spine Kid. The guy's trying really hard to have delusions of grandeur but can't quite get it right.

See? He installed spooky mood lighting for when he talks to prisoners but he ruins it by making piggy faces. (For those of you keeping track, Durlan actress posing as Shrinking Violet turned out to be Chameleon Boy posing as Durlan actress posing as Shrinking Violet. And he's pissed.)
Take a good look at this panel because it's the high point of Micro Lad's life. Immediately after his little gloat Chameleon Boy busts out and Legionnaires start popping up everywhere.

Micro Lad shows off his mad thinking skills by deciding that a hostage would be a good thing to have:


Gets completely taken down by Braniac 5. The rebellion on Imsk lasts roughly five minutes after the Legionnaires pull their heads out of their asses long enough to notice that something's up. In the parlance of my video game playing chums: they got owned.

I used to feel slightly sorry for Micro Lad. He was obviously a sheep, blindly following Phantom Lad and Esper Lass until he got his clock cleaned by Phantom Girl. He just had bad advice and judgment and friends, I said to myself. Turns out I was wrong. Micro Lad is a genuine, Grade A jerkwad. Boo to you, sir. Booooooooooooooooo.


Review of Braniac 5, By Johnathan

Not really. As with all of the core Legion members, Braniac 5 would be wicked hard to review, just because there have been so many versions of all of them. This is a review of a specific iteration of Braniac 5, circa 1982 (or 2982), Legion of Super-Heroes #284, just about when Paul Levitz started writing the series. It's a pretty good yarn, featuring plenty of fight scenes, more than a few meetings of the Legion council or whatever and a bit of plastic surgery. All of this is immaterial, however. The really important part of the issue happens about halfway through. Let's watch:
Hey, Dungeons and Dragons! The Legion is composed of nerds! Now I'm pretty sure that TSR was doing one of its rounds of advertising in DC comics at the time, so this might just be some blatant product placement. I'm also pretty sure that I don't care: there's only so much character development that can be done with troubled romances and familial turmoil - after a while it all just runs together in the memory. This, though, this did more to humanize these guys in one panel than, like, the previous twelve issues. Check it out, they're doing basically what my friends and I used to do! Plus, character classes have gotten cooler over the course of a thousand years - that Four-Armed Cyclopean Barbarian would kick the ass off of my Half-Elven Bard. Wonder who's playing the Wee-Legged Lizard Man?

The reason that this post is focusing on Braniac 5 is that he's clearly more into it that everyone else, which makes sense. He's right about them not finishing, too. They get called away to fight this guy:
Who doesn't look so much like a giant teddy bear in the rest of the comic, more's the pity. Then, after they're done:

Haw! That's all he wants to do! I love it so. Braniac 5 as the Legion Nerdboy is to me far preferable to all the times that he was a Spock- or Data-clone. Or that time that he went insane. Hell, I like it better than I do the version on the cartoon, and he's the best Brainy there's been in years. From now on my mental image of Braniac 5 in his off hours is going to be him in a wizard hat, rolling up NPCs.


Review of Comic Book Weirdness Toward Women, By Johnathan

As some of you might have heard, the traditional comic book is not the most enlightened place when it comes to the 50% plus of our species that has breasts... but not the ones that have man-breasts - those are dudes. Female superheros are thin on the ground, they have lousy costumes, they get murdered and raped and so on and so on (see Living Between Wednesdays for some excellent writing on the subject as it applies to today's comics, by an actual girl who reads comics and is funny). Me, I'm still stuck in the past, so you get to hear about how women got the short end of the stick in the comics of the Sixties and Seventies.

There's a lot to cover here, so let's break it down:

1. Female Characters' Costumes.

Heading into the Seventies, the costumes that the ladies of the comics world were wearing got pretty ridiculous (the guys also had stupid outfits, but that's a tale for another time). A good example comes to us from the Legion of Superheroes, as is so often the case. Let's look at Saturn Girl, who was a tough customer from the get-go, a founding member of the Legion, two times Legion leader and had a decent costume:

As I said: nice. Kind of like the Canadian flag, if Canada was in outer space. Which I assume is the case, a thousand years hence. And look at her unmask that fraudulent Legion applicant! Smart as a whip, I tells ya.

Then, all of a sudden, this happens:

Eep and jeepers. She's got no nose, she's wearing a bathing suit and posing like a porn star. It happened to basically every female member of the Legion (except Phantom Girl - she just got some bellbottoms, bless her). Look, here's Night Girl before:

She's seven feet tall and kicks ass. Even though her powers only work in the darkness she was pretty consistently awesome. After:

Pointlessly skimpy costume, loss of distinctive hair, considerably shorter, etc. The story that this is taken from mostly consists of her getting beaten up by the bad guys over and over until her boyfriend comes to bail her out. Blarg.

2. Career Heroines Not Wanted

This is possibly the worst bit of cheering-up that I've ever seen. "Don't worry your pretty little head. You've lost your duplicate self and you no longer have super powers, but now you can be a devoted wife! Awesome, right?" Getting married was always the cue for super-heroines to retire, though this specific case might have just been a way for the writers to get Duo Damsel out of the way so they could relax and stop trying to find ways to make her power seem useful.

3. This One Panel, Like, Creeps Me Out.

This one's not really a trend, but here seems as good a place as any to bring it up. The panel is from a story where Colossal Boy is dealing with his feelings for Shrinking Violet, who he can't woo because she's in love with Duplicate Boy, who could totally kick his ass. Colossal Boy's doing okay with the urge-controlling, too - right up until this panel, where he gets incredibly creepy. She's your "flower girl", huh? I'm guessing that she put in a request not to be sent on any more missions with him for a while pretty soon after this little uncomfortable moment. Additional creepy element: this is during the period where Colossal Boy's costume didn't really include pants.

4. General Background Misogyny.

Here are a few of my favourite bits of casual contempt:

Mordru kicked Mon-el and Superboy all to hell for a couple of issues, while these three tricked him with about five minutes work. That's not ironic, Mon-el. That's you being a fucking idiot.

I just like this one because Superboy thinks that someone having an ape-man as a counterpart in an alternate reality is *way* more likely than them being a woman.

Female androids are also pretty unlikely. Also: can you really not hit a lady, Superboy, or are you just copping a feel?

Last up, here's Timber Wolf acting like a tool. His teammate just crashed her spaceship and he takes the opportunity to make a joke about women drivers. Ass.

Unsurprisingly, this is all NOT APPROVED. However, there is one upside to all of this: every once in a while it gets turned around. Every time the girls get a leg up the guys are just totally emasculated. Look:

They're very sad, poor things. They've been outclassed by the ladies and have to pout and it's hilarious and