Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Superman and the Legion of Super - Heroes

So. Post number 145. I wanted to post something concerning Superman before I go to Spain next month to immerse myself in a comic culture that makes sense. This blog is called TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN after all.

And what better topic for such an occasion than the adventures of Superman and the Legion of Super - Heroes ? That´s the title of the new storyline that starts in ACTION COMICS 858 and wraps up in ACTION COMICS 863.

Now I have one thing to comment : Am I the only one who thinks it´s cool that this series has reached issue 862 ? I know today´s teens are all obsessed with coming onboard a new series with the first issue because they need to know EVERYTHING. They don´t start reading a new series if it´s already issue 2 because by then they have already missed so much. Well, back in the day when I started reading comics ( and I know I´m sounding like an old fart right now but what do you expect from an 40 year old comic geek - which will be the title of my next blog ) you never had the chance to get into a series at issue 1. So that never was a question. You wanted to read comics ? You had to read what you could get. Comics weren´t sold in special shops and you almost never got consecutive issues. Who cared which number it was ? We were lucky to get any comics to read whatsoever. Of course back in the day most comics writers were masters in the art of telling single issue stories. And of course the main focus was the story.

Who cared how Lex turned the Justice League into little kids and killed them all ? The important thing was how crazy and weird that would be. Of course it wasn´t beneath Luthor to beat up little kids.

Anyway, like I said in this day and age with constant re - re - re - launches and multiple number one issues it´s nice to know that a book has the endurance and stamina to last 862 issues. People used to see that as a sign of strength. Strength of the franchise and strength of the publishing company. I know that to restart from scratch every two years is all the rage these days. To keep a character fresh and to allow new readers to come into the title.

Which sometimes can eff up the whole franchise and ruin whole decades of continuity as seen with the CLONE SAGA and the more recent ONE MORE DAY. But hey, at least it´s good for new readers. Never mind that we lost all of our old readers. I guess Marvel never heard the old business rule that´s is much easier to satisfy the old customers than it is to get new customers.

Well, I think it can also be nice to know that when I started to read comics I could read about Superman in Action Comics. And it wasn´t a new book back then. Superman already had a rich history and many adventures under his belt.

Now I´m 40 years old and Superman is still around. A bit different and with another focus but it´s still the Man of Steel I grew up with. His history has become richer and much more diverse but some of my favorite stories when I was young are still some of the best Superman stories. And they are discovered by new readers every day. FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW ? are still up there as examples how good Superman stories are done. By the way, I have to see if there is a reprint of Neal Adam´s incredible SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMED ALI available since I found my old battered issue of it ( the German version ) a few weeks ago and it is in a really bad shape. I had lent it to my sister because her husband didn´t believe that there is a comic where Superman goes up against Muhammed Ali.

And of course my kids ( if I ever find my Power Girl ) will be able to read new adventures of Superman in Action Comics as well as discovering the ones I already know in various compilations.

So it´s right in my comfort zone to open up issue 862 and read about Superman´s new new adventures with the Legion of Super - Heroes.....who have finally returned to the Superman universe. And it´s about damn time.

The secret history of Superman and the Legion

Now the reason why I wrote " Superman´s NEW new adventures " is that this is not the first time that Superman was in an adventure with the Legion. I don´t know how many times the adult Superman was involved in an case of the Legion before 1980 or if they visited him besides the story WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW ? but I know that there were a few occasions after John Byrne´s revamping of THE MAN OF STEEL. In fact the first one was in Superman 8.

When John Byrne restarted Superman he changed his origin story so that his superpowers evolved a whole heck later when he was almost an adult and his parents were still alive. Now some people say that by having his parents alive and healthy John Byrne took away one of the big motivations for Superman´s altruistic nature.

One reason that Superman used his powers for the betterment of mankind had always been that Superman felt guilty because he was helpless concerning the death of his parents despite his various superpowers. Okay, that may be. Maybe that weakened his motivation. But in my opinion the decision lead to a lot of good stories.

Another change was that they got rid of all the other Kryptonian stuff. It´s really kind of strange if you think about it. There´s this guy who is the last survivor of Krypton. Except his cousin, a whole city of people in a bottle and even his damn dog.

You ask me that smells of a set up. That superguy was clearly yanking everone´s chain. Last of his race my ass. So they got rid of Kandor, Krypto, no more timetravels back to Krypton, no more Supergirl

no more Superboy......of course. If we don´t have Superman with superpowers as a boy we have no Superboy. But if we have no Superboy how can we have a Legion ? After all they formed to emulate their big idol Superboy. So how can you have the Legion without Superboy ? See part two in ACTION COMICS 591.

The next time Superman and the Legion met was during the TIME AND TIME AGAIN story which had Superman bouncing all over the timestream. In the story he made two stops in the Legion era, the first one with a new incarnation of the Legion, the second one many years later when they were all adults. Now one of the problems with the Legion was always that every writer who was new to the book felt the need to start from scratch. So of course they all had different codenames than the last Legion Superman encountered and Blok wasn´t even on the team anymore.

The older version could have been the Giffen Legion but I´m not sure since I don´t have much issues of the run. I know that my brother had started to read it regularly but he wanted to drop the book since it was scheduled to restart with ZERO HOUR. But I liked the story and the art by some unknown upstart called Stuart Immomen. I wonder what became of him ? But I think that was after Giffen had left the title.

Anyway the new Legion series that started after ZERO HOUR was one of the best I ever read and of course they had a cross over with Superman. In a story that had the Legion of Super - Heroes stranded in our time they met up and right before the FINAL NIGHT storyarc in which the Legion played a big part a future Legion member from our time period appeared in an issue of ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN : Ferro Lad - who was now simply Ferro.

Ferro Lad ( or like he was called in Germany Eisengesicht which means Ironface ) was always one of my favorite Legionnaires even if he died very soon. Thankfully he didn´t share the fate of his pre - zero hour precedessor and became the heart and soul of the new Legion. A short tip on the side : if you ever want to read a Ferro FUCK YEAH ! moment I recommend SUPERBOY´S LEGION an elseworld two parter by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer who provides a fantastic story besides his always stellar inks.

Back to the history of Superman / Legion encounters. After FINAL NIGHT Superman´s powers were fading and in POWER STRUGGLE he tried to jumpstart them looking for help all over the DC universe. Which meant that he also enlisted the aid of the still timestranded Legion which didn´t work out in the end.

Which brings us to the more recent interactions of Superman and the Legion. Of course the seeds were sown in the JLA / JSA crossover THE LIGHTNING SAGA and in the pages of COUNTDOWN. But I will write about that in the next part. Which will be full of spoilers about the story so I decided to end this part since it´s spoiler free so far. Next on this blog : spoilers, the subs and the possible return of the Silver Age.

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