Countdown to Age of Ultron: Guardians of the Galaxy Revisited

We have made it through the (infinity?) gauntlet and watched all ten Marvel movies leading up to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which we will be seeing TONIGHT!!!! TONIGHT, GUYS!!!!

This decalogue ends on a weird note with Guardians of the Galaxy. Where the Thor movies gave us a taste of the Marvel cosmic universe, this movie blows it wide open. Fortunately for the audience, and for the bank accounts of everyone involved with the movie, it does so in the funnest way possible. I didn't have time to grab interview quotes for this post, but this movie is so new who cares?

Let’s watch Chris Pratt get ripped!

I can't wait for Captain America to meet this guy.

I can't wait for Captain America to meet this guy.

RG: I always forget what a bummer of an opening scene this movie has. It’s an unexpected beginning to such a fun summer romp. I love how simple and vague it is, though, as far as an origin story goes. And it full-on shows the audience a spaceship, which is nice.

This movie is a lesson in how to do a superhero team movie. It shows that you can effectively bring together a team of characters who have never been on screen before and have the audience invested in all of them very quickly. I’m very glad that Marvel took the time to “assemble” their Avengers before making the team movie, but I think this is a great blueprint for superhero teams where each character maybe isn’t solo film worthy. DC should take notes from Guardians. I think they could create a fantastic Teen Titans movie that has a similar tone if they wanted to. Although, honestly, they would probably just make them all heroin addicts and beat at least one of them to death with a crowbar.

DH: “Damaged” tattoos for everybody!

RG: So the first scene after the sad mom dying scene is just great. It lets the audience know that we are done with the sad stuff and this movie is going to be FUN. We see Chris Pratt in full Starlord get-up, we hear the very excellent song “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, and we see the Guardians of the Galaxy title card FILL THE WHOLE SCREEN.

Seriously great.

Seriously great.

RG: We get some Indiana Jones style action, a few jokes, and a narrow escape. They let the audience know through Quill’s dialogue with Ronan’s goons that it’s fine that we don’t know who the hell Starlord is because no one in this movie does either.

Hey kids, it's that hero you like!

Hey kids, it's that hero you like!

DH: It’s a little like Up in that regard--they get the downer stuff out of the way in the first few minutes and then get on with the fun. I like how, even when Peter Quill lands on Morag, the tone is very dour and dark, with ominous music and the remnants of a dead civilization all around him...and then he turns on his Walkman and it turns into a dance number.

"Behold! I've lost weight!"

"Behold! I've lost weight!"

DH: Speaking of Up, it occurred to me recently that Marvel right now is very much like Pixar was for a number of years--just a brand that you can pretty much trust. I think the integrity of that brand, combined with a really fun ad campaign, helped make this movie into a giant hit. I was honestly expecting it to be the studio’s first big financial flop. Shows what I know!

RG: My favourite Peter Quill moment is when he introduces himself to Gamora: “If there's one thing I hate, it's a man without integrity. Peter Quill. People call me Star-Lord.”

DH: I also love when John C. Reilly shows up and calls him “Star-Prince”, and then is like, “A lot of people have code-names, it’s not that weird.” Also, I love John C. Reilly.

I would watch a lot more movies with these two in them.

I would watch a lot more movies with these two in them.

RG: Making this movie a comedy, where part of the joke is that no one has heard of these minor league characters, was a brilliant move. Can you imagine if this movie hadn’t been a comedy? I think it would have been boring as hell.

I'll take a bag of Chris Pratt.

I'll take a bag of Chris Pratt.

DH: Yes, for sure. All the non-Guardians stuff is pretty dull. The Ronan scenes feel like something out of The Chronicles Of Riddick--just really pompous and self-important.

RG: It’s interesting that the Marvel movie that seemed like the biggest risk, and had the least accessible and least familiar characters, quickly became the most beloved. I feel like everyone who worked on The Winter Soldier must secretly kind of hate Guardians because it REALLY stole their thunder. Guardians was all over the non-major film awards, leaving Winter Soldier mostly forgotten.

DH: Yeah, but Winter Soldier is still better, in my opinion (and, I’m pretty sure, in yours!).

RG: Uh, yeah. But I think Winter Soldier is better than Citizen Kane.

Sexiest Man Alive.

Sexiest Man Alive.

RG: Rocket is a perfectly realized character that shouldn’t work at all on screen. He looks amazing, and Bradley Cooper voices the hell out of him. So funny. And, of course, everyone fell in love with Groot. It seems nuts to me that Interstellar won the special effects Oscar when this movie had TWO completely CGI characters that audiences loved this much. And besides that, the whole movie was incredible to look at.

This CGI tree gives better face than like 80% of Hollywood actors.

This CGI tree gives better face than like 80% of Hollywood actors.

DH: I always forget that Bradley Cooper provides Rocket’s voice! He really disappears into the character, with his Brooklyn accent. I love his drunken rant midway through the movie--it’s a pretty raw, emotional scene, which is a weird thing to say about a CGI space raccoon having a drunken breakdown.

RG: Watching this movie makes me really bummed that we can’t get a really good Ninja Turtle movie off the ground. You see how great Rocket looks in this and you think about how popular a really high quality Ninja Turtles movie would be with at least two generations and it just seems crazy to be cranking out this Michael Bay nonsense. I was a giant Ninja Turtles fan as a kid, but I am not going to be seeing those movies. Sorry, Stephen Amell. Congrats on the Casey Jones gig! Still love you!

Get in that sandwich, Rocket? I dunno. That's weird. Never mind.

Get in that sandwich, Rocket? I dunno. That's weird. Never mind.

RG: I like Zoe Saldana as Gamora. I feel like she maybe could have had more to do, but it’s an ensemble movie so whatever. I’ll tell you this: I am done with super hero team movies with only one female member.

DH: Yeah, that’s bullshit. There are several female characters they could introduce in the sequel--Moondragon, Quasar (the Phylla-Vell version), Mantis, to name a few--and I hope they go for it. These movies are real sausage fests. There are lots of shirtless dudes, but considering these movies are primarily marketed towards teenaged boys, why aren’t there more ladies for them to crush on (if ladies are what they happen to be into)? Seems a bit weird.

Gamora, you are way too good for him.

Gamora, you are way too good for him.

RG: I think Dave Bautista actually steals the movie for me as Drax. I absolutely love him. His comedic timing is fantastic. In particular, his delivery of the line: “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are excellent and I would catch it” and in the scene where they are sitting in a circle trying to figure out a plan and he has that “I wasn’t listening. I was thinking of something else” line.

DH: Yes! I know nothing of him beyond this movie--is he a wrestler? A UFC guy?--but he is really, really funny. I love his “Finger to the throat means death!” line, followed by “Metaphor!” to Star-Lord, who shrugs and says, “Eh, sorta.”

RG: He was a wrestler. Is a wrestler? I dunno. Wrestler for sure.

Pratt worked so hard to get in shape and then had to do a whole movie with this shirtless Atlas.

Pratt worked so hard to get in shape and then had to do a whole movie with this shirtless Atlas.

RG: One of the big stories about this movie was the de-fattening of Chris Pratt. Good job, Pratt. You got real hot. And it was all for pretty much one scene where they remove his shirt and just spray him with a hose. Who says these movies aren’t for women?

DH: See my earlier comments re: shirtless dudes.

I hope all of the Avengers end up in a space prison in a future movie. Hose-downs for everyone!

I hope all of the Avengers end up in a space prison in a future movie. Hose-downs for everyone!

There are a few problematic things with Guardians that have been talked about on the internet at length. Here are some of them, and here’s what we think:

1. Quill says to Ronan “You said it yourself, bitch. We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”

RG: I’ll be honest, it made me cringe a little. Or at least roll my eyes. I think it’s time for men to stop using that word. That is not a fun insult for men to use anymore. ‘Dick’ would have been better and more appropriate. It was probably ad-libbed. Whatever. There probably is a take where he said ‘dick’ instead. I’ll file this one under ‘unnecessary.’

DH: Especially because--and this is relevant to your next item--this is the first Marvel movie co-written by a woman, Nicole Perlman (who is now hard at work on the screenplay for Captain Marvel!).

2. Drax, who is always literal, refers to Gamora as “this green whore.”

RG: I’ll admit that this line made me laugh. Not as much as “this dumb tree,” but it still made me laugh. It was confusing, though, since Drax can’t understand metaphor and Gamora is not an actual whore. I’ve heard or read James Gunn defend the line, saying that Drax would have heard Gamora being called a whore in the prison. I don’t think I heard any prisoners refer to her as a whore, but whatever. The shock value was funny.

DH: It is confusing! She doesn’t even fall for Quill’s “pelvic sorcery”. How exactly is she a “whore”?

3. Quill’s blacklight joke

RG: I think people didn’t love having this in the movie because it was very much a joke for adults. I’m gonna go ahead and say that very little of this movie is for kids. The joke is funny.

DH: That line probably led to a LOT of very awkward conversations between parents and the kids they brought to see it. Good luck with that in a couple of years, Rachelle! At least Mitchell and Trevor will learn who Jackson Pollock is.

RG: I have a line prepared already: “Pollock was a very messy painter and blacklights highlight messes.” Pretty good, huh? Superman and Captain America have taught me how to lie without lying.

Oh yeah. Thanos is also in this movie.

Oh yeah. Thanos is also in this movie.

RG: Another risk Marvel took with this movie: it contains a LOT of important exposition that relates to what is, and what will, be going down in the Avengers movies. Having this long game that spreads across these twenty-or-so films, starting with the first Thor movie, is pretty ambitious. We know the movies are leading to a big showdown with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet (I am assuming we’ll see the gauntlet). To pull that off, you have to do a lot of work to get the non-comic-reading audience to both understand and care about the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. It’s bold.

So using this fun summer sci-fi comedy as a vessel for lots of information about this cosmic event is a genius move by Marvel. Really, I am seriously impressed.

He has a specific tool just for opening orbs full of Infinite Stones.

He has a specific tool just for opening orbs full of Infinite Stones.

DH: If nothing else, it gave us one of Jack Kirby’s Celestials on the big screen. And it looked INCREDIBLE. Definitely not something I expected to see in my lifetime. Now where’s that Devil Dinosaur movie?

RG: Oh man, now THERE’S a movie my son would be excited about.

All of the backstories of the Guardians are kept pretty vague. I like that. We probably learn the most about Gamora. We actually don’t learn much at all about Peter Quill, and that’s mostly because he doesn’t seem to know much about his own origin. Plenty to explore in Guardians 2.

DH: I really hope Adam Warlock is somehow his dad, even though it would be a huge departure from the comics. Mostly I just want to see Adam Warlock in a movie.

"Pay attention! Do not go to the bathroom! This is important!"

"Pay attention! Do not go to the bathroom! This is important!"

DH: I dig Benicio Del Toro’s performance here a lot. It’s a pretty weird performance, but he really goes for it in a way that someone like, say, Anthony Hopkins sure doesn’t. At least he seems to give a shit. And that scene has a lot of cool Easter Eggs in it--Cosmo the spacedog from Abnett and Lanning’s GotG run (a sadly overlooked run that this movie owes an immeasurable debt to!), one of the Dark Elves from Thor: The Dark World, a Chitauri Footsoldier from Avengers...Adam Warlock’s cocoon is even there, so maybe…?

Look, I just think Pratt's arms look good in this picture, ok?

Look, I just think Pratt's arms look good in this picture, ok?

RG: The soundtrack, of course, was a huge hit. I wish they had highlighted a song other than “Hooked on a Feeling” just because it’s already been used pretty iconically in both Reservoir Dogs and Ally McBeal. And in commercials, and everywhere. I am completely sick of that song. And that Pina Colada song is just wretched and not even tolerable as a joke. I always skip that track.

DH: Agreed. As much as I love this soundtrack, most of the songs on it are already associated with other movies for me. “Cherry Bomb” is in Dazed And Confused, “Spirit In The Sky” is in Apollo 13, “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” is in Boogie’s almost as though the nostalgia they’re generating isn’t so much for ‘70s hits as it is ‘90s movies that used ‘70s hits! But this movie is easily the best vehicle for “The Pina Colada Song” (which, by the way, was also used in Mars Attacks! See what I mean?).

RG: Yeah, I think “Come and Get Your Love” that wasn’t already used famously in another movie. At least not one that I can think of. Again, great song.



I love those Nova ships so much, and the way they lock together to form a barrier around Ronan’s ship. I also love Ronan’s ship. I also love Ronan, though it was a real waste of sexy, sexy Lee Pace. Did you know that Lee Pace went to high school with Matt Bomer?! And they were FRIENDS?! Can you IMAGINE?!

DH: I did not, but I barely know who either of those guys are.

RG: DAVE! Do I have to give you Matt Bomer homework?

I seriously love the final showdown with Ronan when Quill starts dancing and singing along to "O-o-h Child" and Ronan says "What are you doing?" in a tone that is both baffled and terrified.

Such a waste of Lee Pace. Seriously.

Such a waste of Lee Pace. Seriously.

RG: It’s going to be very fun to see The Guardians interact with The Avengers in (I assume) the Infinity War movies. I can’t wait to see how that all goes down. But we still have like seventy-five Marvel movies before then.

DH: This movie is such an ‘80s throwback in a lot of ways--it’s been said that it’s not so much Marvel’s Star Wars as it is Marvel’s Battle Beyond The Stars or The Last Starfighter in that it’s much closer to those scruffier knockoffs of SW than the real thing. With that in mind, I would have loved to have seen this movie happen in the ‘80s, with tons of bluescreen and Muppets for Rocket and Groot instead of CGI. Can someone with a fortune to blow just go ahead and make that movie for me? Thanks in advance.

Best on screen moment between a raccoon and a wrestler.

Best on screen moment between a raccoon and a wrestler.

DH: I like this movie a lot, but I don’t know that I love it. I find myself smiling at jokes rather than laughing out loud at them, more often than not. I think it’s a cool, fun movie, but it didn’t blow me away like The Avengers or either Captain America movie did. It really did resonate with a lot of people, though, so that’s cool in a way that it never is when a really popular movie stinks. And this movie doesn’t stink by any stretch. It’s got a really good heart, it’s cool to look at, and it contains a great Footloose gag.

RG: Yes, agreed. Ain’t no Captain America. But I had nothing invested in these characters so I didn’t get that same feeling of satisfaction that I got watching the Avengers movies.

It’s going to be a ways off, but I am really looking forward to watching all of these movies with my sons eventually. I hope they appreciate how lucky they are to have this many great superhero movies available to watch immediately. Maybe I should keep these movies a secret and show them a bunch of shitty old ones for the next ten years. It builds character. “You kids like super heroes? Do you like Shaquille O’Neal? Have I got a movie for you!”

DH: Just make sure you distract them during that black light conversation when you get to this movie.

RG: I'll finish by saying it was weird to hear the theatre go absolutely nuts with excitement when Howard the Duck showed up in the end of credits scene. It's a crazy time to be alive.

Disney will not rest until all of George Lucas's wrongs are righted.

Disney will not rest until all of George Lucas's wrongs are righted.

Alright! Done! We’ll be back with our thoughts on Age of Ultron as soon as we come down from the high we will surely both be riding as we watch it an obscene number of times.

And after that, we can finally get back to writing about actual comic books on this comic book blog! Because comic books are still great!

Peoples of the Solar System: The Oceans of Venus

This was supposed to go up last week, but my uploading skills failed.

Mysterious Venus! Swathed in clouds and mists! What, oh what lurks underneath? Well, according to my research, approximately half of all mid Twentieth Century writers thought it was likely that there was a lot of water and thus fishy-looking aliens:


Click to expand! Next time, some land-dwellers! 

I'm Not Even Certain There's an Award For This...

... but I'd like to nominate a comic for the title of Most Tenuous Link Between Cover Image and Actual Story.

It's a much-bandied-about fact that the covers for Silver Age comics, and especially Silver Age DC comics, were occasionally drawn long before the story that they were connected to was even written - that the cover was essentially used as the seed idea that the story was later grown around. I've certainly encountered plenty of olde tyme comics that were probably put together in that way but this is the one time that I am absolutely confident in pointing my gnarled finger and screeching like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

First, the cover:

Within, the number one story (Mystery in Space being an anthology comic) is entitled

The hero: a brown-haired, strong-jawed dude, but not the same brown-haired, strong-jawed dude.

Whoops, I guess that image doesn't really show his hair colour. In any case, it's not the same guy and he has to run around getting the titular seven wonders for those evidently lazy aliens. And the wonder on Mercury is:

And that's about it for the jewel-folks, which probably means that this  is the only Silver Age comic that I can think of that features the (implicit) death of the standard-issue leggy dame/ chiseled-featured dude duo.

I'll bet that the Jewel Full of Murder was a big attraction at the Seven Wonders museum they end up putting together at the end of the story.

Gone Fishin'.

This one goes out to Car Pool Keith, my twice-a-day friend, who has been talking about going fishing since January, who is probably fishing right now and who will likely be talking about fishing until next January. The man knows how to stick with a hobby.

So: we're all familiar with the concept of the comic book character who has hunted all there is to hunt and so must move on to hunting people, or super-heroes, or super-villains. Manhunter, Kraven the Hunter, the Hunter - all of them have a little of the ol' General Zaroff in them. But hunting isn't alone, no sir. The fine sport of fishing has made its impression on the funny books as well.

Now part of me wants to dismiss this as the comic book equivalent of the tendency for comic strips to feature lots of golf jokes. A sort of "write what you know and you'd rather be doing" kind of thing, I guess. But then the part of me that wants this post to have a cohesive theme speaks up and reminds me to say that I now think that it's more like fishing is the stunted little brother of hunting, that it may not have pith helmets and charging rhinos but, by god, it's going to make do with hip waders and wide-legged stances and lots of puns involving the  word hook! Fishing can matter, dammit!

Sometimes, fishing is just a means to an end. Here we have "Crusher" Crock, the Sportsmaster, dressing up like a fisherman in order to steal things. This is his schtick, though - heck, that mask is his only real costume. The next time he appears, he might be a baseball player or a water-skier or a dartsman.

Still, Sportsmaster's bewadered magnificence is imposing enough to dissuade folks from trying to interfere as he hooks him a big one. I think that the potential of fishing is evident:

Here's some fishing froom DC Special No. 13:

The Fishermen of Space are a trio of spectacularly dumb aliens who are gathering specimens of terrestrial life to take back home. They use weird claws for hooks and, because they are big dudes, fish for great big things. Things like buses, or ships:

Or airplanes!

The Fishermen of Space don't even know  that they are fishing for humans, really. They just scoop up the biggest moving things that they can find, and I guess the whales were all astute enough to submerge once the giant claws started dropping from the sky. It is likely that these big dumb alien bozos are representing the sporting nature of the comic book fisherperson, though, if only because I have to assume that if they were scientists they might use a more efficient means of gathering their specimens. No, these guys are almost certainly cracking open a few giant brewskis and telling stories about the Miscellaneous Moving Object That Got Away once they get back to their mothership.

Sometimes, fishing for people becomes a lesson in cruel irony, as in this tale from Strange Adventures No. 21, wherein a young scientist and his wife set out with rod and reel to prove that there are living things of some sort at the bottom of a toxic volcanic lake. In a shocking twist ending, however:

The fisher becomes the fishee! Don't worry, though, he gets away. The poor fish-man is left to live his days in a haze of constant regret:

Note, however, that the fish monster is careful to use a rod and hook when attempting to catch a human. This is very important, and is a bit of a mistake. Humans aren't quite as dumb as fish, after all, and you just can't be certain that they'll manage to impale themselves on any barb that you toss out there, even if you put a hamburger on the end. The Fishermen of Space had the right idea there, what with their claws and all.

No, this fish monster is strictly an amateur, the equivalent of a kid with a bent paperclip tied to a stick with a length of twine. If you want to see some human-fishing fish monsters who have it all figured out, man, you just take a gander at Flash v1 No. 119, wherein the Flash and Elongated Man both get to take a shot at figuring out whatever became of some vanished scuba divers:

In an overly-complicated scheme, the fish-monsters capture the divers, put them in a tank in their underwater city, and fish for them with pieces of meat. As I recall, the one who caught a diver got to use him as slave labour.

Note, however, the specialized human-fishing equipment. You reach for the steak and a noose slips over your wrist - seems a bit more plausible than expecting the ol' hook to work. My main question is where they got that steak. Also, how was the diver going to eat that steak? His whole head is encased in diving apparatus, after all - shouldn't he be trying to get out of the water so that he can beat up the fish-guy and take the meat? Not even the Flash thinks to try that though, or even the radical strategy of reaching around the noose to grab the steak.

But this is all pointless exploration of a very tenuously tied-together bunch of examples without an examination of the pinnacle of the fishing-in-comics characters; fishing's equivalent of Kraven the Hunter and Aquaman's most logical nemesis:

The Fisherman!

The Fisherman just takes his theme and runs with it. He's got the waders and the suspenders and he does everything with his hook. He makes his entrances on giant sea monsters! Heck, when he first appeared he was even more into the whole thing:

He had a cape made out of a net! His little hat (since revealed to be an alien parasite of some kind, which kills one of my jokes) is the same colour as the rest of his costume and makes him look a bit like a lobster! Hell, even the caption-voice calls him "bizarre", which is a pretty tough distinction to achieve as a villain in a 60s DC comic.

Clearly, this is a man who has tasted all that life on the sea has to offer. He has fished everything from the gentle sardine too the majestic basking shark. He has tracked the elusive king krill to its lair and emerged the victor. He has ridden the mighty manta ray and feasted on anenome and scorpion fish and sea squirt. Truely he is the ultimate fisherman. But where to go once you reach the top? What do you fish for once you have fished all of the fish that there are to fish?

Yep, you start fishing for people. Remember how I was talking about how people won't just grab onto a hook, even if you put a something delicious on it? Well that's just the kind of challenge that the Fisherman likes. And if getting to fish for people means that he runs the risk of getting shot four times in the back and killed?

Well, I guess that that's just the final proof that the most dangerous fish of all... is Man.

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!