Monday, July 28, 2008

Vincent Bartilucci - 1977

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Vincent Bartilucci - Last year Brian Cronin over at Comics Should Be Good conducted a poll of the 50 greatest (read: most popular) comic book characters published by DC and Marvel or one of their imprints.

Readers were asked to send in two lists, one featuring their ten favorite DC characters, the other listing their ten favorite Marvel folks. Brian compiled the submissions and slowly counted down the results at CSBG. I'm a sucker for this sort of audience participation stuff and I quickly sent in my own carefully crafted lists.

The countdown was a lot of fun. So much fun, in fact, that Brian expanded the lists to include the top 100 characters from each company. Brian contacted several respondents and asked each to write a mini-essay about their favorite character. I was allowed to share a few words about the hero who topped my Marvel list, the Black Panther. Three guesses who my favorite DC hero was...

Reading the mini-essays was illuminating, if that's not too lofty a word. For example, while the essay on Mr. Fantastic mirrored my own feelings on the FF's brainy leader, the one about the original Captain Marvel pointed out facets to the character I hadn't considered before. And the essay on Wolverine allowed me to better understand the attraction Logan has for so many people. I'm still not partial to Wolvie, mind you, but I have to admit that his appeal was explained quite well.

The whole process got me thinking about my own favorite characters. Thoughts like, why did a relatively minor character like Thundra make my Marvel list instead of Nick Fury or Namor or the Vision? Or, why was Sunboy the only member of my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes to break my DC top ten? In short, why are my favorites my favorites--what originally drew me to them?

In at least one case, I can trace my fascination for a character back to a specific comic book. Heck, I can pinpoint the exact panel!

In 1977, I knew next to nothing about the All New, All Different X-Men. Truth be told, I didn't know all that much more about the All Old, All Similar X-Men, either. I had at the time exactly two issues of the X-Men in my ever-growing comic book collection. Those issues were #'s 83 and 90, both of which were reprints of earlier issues (#'s 35 and 42, respectively).

In addition to these comics, I may have read a reprint somewhere of the team's origin from X-Men #1. And I had a few issues of The Defenders where Professor X showed up and Magneto was one of the baddies. Last, but certainly not least, there was that absolutely awesome issue of Marvel Team-Up featuring Iceman first battling against and then alongside the Human Torch. That ish of MTU was really cool. The other stuff, not so much.

I mean, I thought Iceman was neat, primarily because of that MTU appearance, and Angel seemed cool, I suppose. And I liked the idea that the team wasn't a crew of world beaters with a Thor or a Superman or even a Thing, in their midst. But beyond that, the charm of Marvel's merry mutants was completely lost on me. The two issues of the X-Men's own title I had read made virtually no impression on me at all.

It makes me wonder now why I picked up X-Men #104. All I can come up with is that the cover looked really cool. Dave Cockrum drew the new line-up (most of them, at least) in combat with Magneto in a wonderful update of Jack Kirby's cover for X-Men #1.

I recall that I bought X-Men #104 at a stationary store next to the King Kullen supermarket that was a few blocks from my house. Generally, this stationary (if I ever knew its name I've since forgotten it) wasn't quite as well stocked as Clearview, where I normally got my comics fix. But every once in a while I stumbled onto a title there, like X-Men or Master of Kung Fu, that I didn't normally see at Clearview. I remember it was drizzling and I held the brown paper bag bearing my new acquisition close to my chest to prevent the rain from marring that beautiful cover as I ran to my dad's car.

Anyway, the cover to X-Men #104 looked really cool so I gave it a shot. Boy, am I glad I did. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on or who these new X-people were but that didn't bother me much. I had experienced the same confusion three years earlier when I read my first issue of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I was used to picking up the story as I went along. We all were. In the 1970's, there was no such thing as a "jumping on point." Kids today!

What did cause me some consternation was the dialogue. Everyone talked funny, even the innocent bystanders! The dialogue was wordy. Weird, phonetic wordy. Sprinkled with foreign words and phrases wordy. Darn hard for a 10 year-old to follow wordy. But once the action started, I got over it.

What sort of action? Well, due to the evil machinations of the enigmatic baddie, Eric the Red, Magneto, who had been de-aged to infancy in The Defenders #16, is back in his adult prime. Baby Magneto was being held at the Mutant Research Facility on Muir Island which is where the X-Men find themselves en route to at the beginning of the issue.

The once more adult Maggie puts the long-distance magnetic whammy on the hovercraft that the team is traveling in and, after a brief swim in the North Sea the X-Men, reach the island. Magneto attacks the team almost as soon as they make shore and tears through them like the world class super-villain he is. Colossus, he of the organic steel body, and the adamantium-clawed Wolverine pose no threat whatsoever to the mutant master of magnetism.

Storm and Night-crawler don't fare any better. Four X-Men incapacitated and Magneto hasn't even worked up a sweat. But the new team isn't down yet. In a confrontation that lasts a little over a page, Banshee launches an attack on Magneto that earns the villain's respect.

And there it is. That panel at the bottom of page 13, where Magneto says, "Excellent, Banshee! Of all the new X-Men you are the only one worth fighting."

He then encases poor Sean in a form-fitting coffin of ferrous particles. Cyclops, who had arrived at Muir Island by X-jet, bursts onto the scene, drives off Magneto, and saves Banshee from suffocation. He then hustles his battered team out of harm's way pronto.

In my opinion, this is writer Chris Claremont at his best--you can almost "hear" the fear in Scott's voice as he commands his new recruits. He knows that they are too green, too untested to stand against Magneto. I reread this issue recently and this scene--the X-Men running from Magneto--is just as tension-filled as it was when I first read it 30 plus years ago. That thar is good writin'!

Yep, Magneto is truly to be feared. And Banshee is the only member of the new X-Men who he thinks is worthy of fighting. That panel at the bottom of page 13 made a huge impression on me as a kid. I guess I figured that if Magneto thought so highly of Sean Cassidy, so should I. I was eager for more X-Men and more Banshee.

So, of course, I missed the next two issues. Now, these were the days when the X-Men was being published bi-monthly so two missed issues equaled four X-less months. I'm sure I wondered if I'd ever even see another issue of the X-Men.

While I waited and wondered, I dug out my two back issues featuring the old team and gave them another look. To my surprise, I discovered that Banshee appeared in one of them. I guess those issues really hadn't made an impression on me the first go 'round! Anyway, Banshee looked a little weird in X-Men #83, with pointy ears and a strange headband that shaded his eyes and gave him a rather sinister look. But it was him. I thought it was cool that he had a history with the team beyond the recent reorganization. It was another leg-up he had over the newer X-folks.

I bought X-Men #107 at Clearview Stationary, my regular comics haunt. I was lost again--a lot must have happened in issues 105 and 106--but I didn't care. Issue #107 features the X-Men's battle with the oddly familiar Imperial Guard. It was great.

Issue #108, the debut of the Byrne and Austin art team on the title, was even greater. In it, Banshee single-handedly destroyed Jahf, the first guardian of the M'Krann Crystal. Jahf was an incredibly powerful little robot that tore thru the X-Men even more effectively than Magneto did in issue #104. But Banshee clobbered him.

Around the same time, I found X-Men #103 in a drug store that my family didn't often frequent. It was sitting there in a wire basket amongst a whole bunch of other Marvel comics that I guess were all about six months to a year old. The basket was down at the bottom of an end-cap of one of the aisles and I have a very distinct memory of crouching down in the store and franticly rooting thru the basket looking for more issues of X-Men before my mom said it was time to go. I didn't find any other X-titles but I did pick up a couple of neat Power Man comics.

X-Men #103 was the second half of a two-parter that brought the team to Ireland and Cassidy Keep, Sean's ancestral home, so Banshee received a fair amount of air time. The villains of the story were Juggernaut and Black Tom Cassidy, Sean's cousin. Tom's seeming demise at the end of the tale was straight out of a swashbuckler movie.

By this point I was completely hooked. I'd only read four comic books starring the new team and already the world had a new X-fanatic. The characters were so cool--especially Banshee--and the artwork was just about the best around.

Banshee had another great moment in issue #109 when Vindicator showed up in an attempt to reclaim Wolverine for the Canadian government. Moira MacTaggart (X-associate and Banshee's girlfriend) was injured during the fight and Sean unleashed a rage-filled attack on "Major Maple Leaf" that was something to behold.

Back in Banshee's earliest appearances in the original run of the X-Men he was often depicted in an eerie, wraith-like form when he flew. That was the Banshee that Byrne drew in this sequence. A scary, otherworldly Banshee who was not to be messed with. When next the X-Men encountered Magneto, however, there was no mention of Sean's status as the only opponent worthy of Maggie. Y'see, the other X-Men were coming into their own. And, although I didn't know it at the time, Banshee's time was almost up.

The Savage Land adventure followed. Then the team wound up in Japan. While there, the X-Men and Sunfire took on Moses Magnum. And, in issue #119, Banshee burned his powers out preventing Magnum from making good on his threat to sink Japan. The panels showing Sean straining his mutant vocal chords beyond their limits are beautifully rendered by John Byrne and Terry Austin. The image of Sean's face, equal parts searing pain and sheer determination, is one of my most vivid comic book memories.

And that was pretty much it for my favorite X-Man.

Oh, Sean Cassidy continued as a supporting character for awhile. But without his powers he couldn't really participate in their adventures. When the Dark Phoenix saga culminated with that incredible battle on the moon, part of me was deeply disappointed that Banshee wasn't a part of such a seminal X-moment.

With each issue it became less and less likely that Sean was going to be back in costume, screaming his lungs out at some mutant menace. I still loved the X-Men. The book still had great stories to tell. But Banshee had been my focus. Whenever I picked up a new issue of the X-Men, or found a back issue, I'd always flip thru it looking for scenes featuring Sean. It wasn't the same without him.

I liked Nightcrawler and Colossus. And Cyclops had really grown on me. But they weren't Banshee. The de-powered Sean was seen less and less frequently. He had a final hurrah when he joined a team of former X-Men in a mission to rescue the current team from Arcade's Murderworld. And then he was gone.

A few years back, I read somewhere that Banshee was written out of the book at John Byrne's request. Apparently, Byrne felt that Sean's powers weren't visual enough, which is damn hard to argue with, I suppose. Eventually, his vocal chords healed, Banshee returned to the team. But I wasn't there to welcome him back to the fold. I had become increasingly dismayed with the direction that the X-Men were heading and I stopped reading the book altogether shortly after the Mutant Massacre crossover in 1986.

I did pick up the first couple of issues of Generation X because they featured Banshee as mentor to a new group of young mutants. But I'd been out of the X-loop for too long and I discovered that I really didn't want to get back in. Nope, you can't go home again, boyo.

I hear that Banshee was killed off recently in an heroic but ultimately doomed attempt to save lives. If so, I'm sad that Marvel felt the need to make his sacrifice so pointless. I'm not sure if Banshee will ever fly again or, if he does, whether or not I'll even bother to take a look.

Too much has changed in the world of the X-Men. I'm not particularly fond of any of those characters anymore. I'm annoyed that I have to put up with Storm in the pages of Black Panther. And a Wolverine guest shot is enough to make me drop a title altogether. I'm a big, crabby X-hating baby, I admit it. But, for awhile there, I loved the X-Men. And the X-Man I loved most was Banshee.

Looking back on those stories I think I can identify a number of reasons why I was drawn to Banshee. I liked the idea that he was older and more experienced than the rest of the new X-Men and yet was still new to actual team membership, the whole "cake and eat it too" factor. I liked that he had a history that existed, at least partially, in back issues and not just flashbacks, if you know what I mean. I liked that he could be serious without being grim. I liked the cool ways he could use his powers.

But most of all, I liked that he made Magneto sit up and take notice when the rest of the team hit the floor.

"Excellent, Banshee! Of all the new X-Men you are the only one worth fighting."

Saints, Laddy! If that isn't the God's honest truth.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hey Kids, Flash! - 1948

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Here's a cute shot of a bookish kid enjoying Flash Comics #102, along with some other comics. A nice way to spend the day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

George Rears - 1976

sg George Rears - This is a weird one.

In my family, collecting comics was a solitary activity. My brother was with me the first two years, but dropped off as he hit high school.

My other and brothers and sisters were even older, and had no interest whatsoever. My parents? Don't even get me started. My mother couldn't tell Spider-Man from the Spider, as I found out one fateful Halloween when I had to explain who the Spider was to everyone during the 4th grade Halloween party.

My dad, also was not a comic guy. Not that he disapproved of it. Just no interest. Except for one character.

Asterix.

Asterix is a French comic book (graphic novel) featuring a town of hold outs from the Roman invaders of Gaul (France) in the early years AD. The only thing separating them from Roman domination was a secret formula that gave an individual super strength for 24 hours. Asterix drinks the potion, beats up Romans, strength runs out, Asterix gets caught, Asterix takes more potion, and beats up more Romans. Hilarity ensues.

So why would this strip appeal to someone who has no affinity toward comics at all? Quite simply. The books were in French. At least the ones in our house were. Every word. French.

You see, my Dad was (is?) a Francophile. He loves the French. He speaks the language fluently, studied in Paris, and even taught French at the College level. I guess you could say that Asterix spoke to him.

Well needless to say, since my Dad liked Asterix, I was going to like Asterix too. One problem. I couldn't speak French. Now the good thing is, Asterixwas translated into many languages, so finding a copy of one of his books in other languages was not hard, in fact, I found a copy in the local books store. Except for one problem. In 1976, the local book store for me was German, so that didn't do me good either!

Luckily, we were near a British base that stocked them English, and I was able to pick up a few English books there. I got to be fond of this little Asterix guy, and although I never picked up all his books in English, I made it a habit while I was living in Europe to try and pick up his books in whatever language I could. Even today, I have a copy of Asterix in Belgian.

I hadn't though much about Asterix lately until a few weeks ago when I found out that Orion books was publishing the entire Asterix series in a collection of 11 omnibuses (omnibi? omniboo?).

So here I am, 32 years later, reading these stories again, many for the first time in English. It's good stuff, too. European history mixed in with humor, and strong characters, including sympathetic villains (The Romans) abound. So far I'm three stories in, and I'm loving it. Luckily they are spacing these collections out in books of 3 stories. Otherwise, I'm afraid the stories might be a bit too repetitive.

So there you go. Asterix. The one comic that allowed me to bond with my Dad. In French. Go figure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Russell Burbage - 1977

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Russell Burbage - 1977

As long as I've known of them I've always been a fan of the Teen Titans. I think this is partly because I have always liked Robin. When I watched the old Batman TV series my favorites were Burt Ward as Robin and Yvonne Craig as Batgirl. Even as a little kid I somehow knew that Adam West was not the "real" Batman.

Be that as it may, I first came upon the Teen Titans in the 100 Pages For
60c issue of Brave and the Bold #116. It reprinted "The Dimensional Caper" from Teen Titans #16. This is the story where Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl fight off an alien invasion from Dimension X. It had wonderful Nick Cardy art and a wacky story by Bob Haney, plus one of the all-time greatest comic-book covers ever. I liked how the Titans were all sidekicks, but they were not incompetent. And they were very obviously friends. They instantly became some of my favorites.

A few years later in 1977 the Teen Titans had their own book again. It featured Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and several other supporting characters slash members. Jose Delbo was doing what I considered beautiful art, and Bob Rozakis was doing the writing. Now I don't know about everybody, but I always found Rozakis' work entertaining. He created The Calculator in Detective Comics, he was doing great work on Freedom Fighters, and he wrote some great Robin and Batgirl stories in Batman Family. Plus he wrote some fun letter page columns.

In Teen Titans #48 Rozakis decided he wanted a better looking letter column heading for that book, so he announced a contest to get one. I guess contests were all the rage in those days, since he had done something similar over in Freedom Fighters already. Rozakis was promising an autographed script as the prize, and I thought that was well worth the effort. Something in my 12 year-old mind that that *I* could come up with something cool for this team I liked, so I set upon the task.

I reread that issue over and over again. I thought about the members. I thought about writing to the book. I thought about what you need when you write. Somehow, I came up with the idea to put the Titans themselves on stamps. Maybe I saw the Batman TV episode where the heroes are turned into stamps, who knows? I don't know how it happened, but somehow I managed to win the contest. My design had the six or seven main Titans grouped together on one large stamp, and somehow that design beat out everybody else's ideas.

A few months after I sent in my art I got the letter and the autographed script. To tell you the truth I had forgotten about the contest. As soon as I saw the return address and the size of the envelope, however, I think I had a spasmodic attack. It's really true what they say about letters from colleges and publishers: the bigger the better. I ripped open the envelope and found the script with the memo shown here. I couldn't believe it. Even now, I consider it one of the milestones in my life.
sg
The script is something I treasure to this day. I think that it had a direct effect on how I was able to better understand comics, movies, TV, and eventually plays. I read it and reread it, studying it so I could one day write my own comics.

The script was for Teen Titans #51, so I naturally assumed that that would be the issue where my design would make its debut. I couldn't wait for that issue to hit the stands! When I told my parents what I had done, they of course showed enthusiasm and excitement, too. They couldn't wait to drive me to the bookstore to find the issue. I think for close to four weeks every time I went to the book store my mother asked, "Not yet?"

And then one day it was finally there. I saw it on the stands and grabbed it. I actually dashed out of the store with it in my hand and shouted to my mother in the car, "It's here!" Suddenly realizing that I was, in fact, stealing it, I went back and tried to calm down. I flipped through to the letters page and...my heart sank. My design wasn't there! In my confusion I flipped through the issue for some explanation. By this point my mother had joined me, and she looked, too. "It's not there yet" was all I could say. We decided that even though I got the script for this
issue, the design would not appear until the next. Dejectedly I bought my comics and had to wait an additional two months.
sg
Finally I got the issue I was waiting for. Teen Titans #52 is nothing special as covers go. It doesn't feature any of my favorite characters besides Robin, and the story inside is nothing special. However...! A quick glance to the letters page will show that this issue is one of the most important in my entire collection.
sg
I quickly bought up half a dozen copies to send to my sisters in college and to various aunts and uncles. I was pretty proud of myself; still am, really. Sure, it wasn't my original artwork, and that sort of bummed me out. On the other hand, when I saw that Terry Austin had redesigned it, I couldn't very well complain. As designs go, I still think it's pretty cool.

Unfortunately, just one issue later "my" Teen Titans was cancelled. That means my letter column design appeared in a whopping two issues of the book (sigh). It was awesome while it lasted.

After the glow of the actual incident began to fade, I kept a little bit of pride burning inside me that served me pretty well for several more years. For example, I had a hellish junior high (who didn't?), but whenever things got really bad and I started to feel totally self-conscious and put-upon, I could always pull the script out of my desk and show myself my greatest accomplishment.

People criticizing my art because it looked too much like Hembeck's? Okay, but my design ability was good enough to win a nationwide contest, wasn't it? In an odd sort of way, I thought of myself as a Jim Shooter-type of Child Prodigy. My talent had been recognized, and that gave me the self-confidence I needed to pursue everything else in my life. And although my interest in writing eventually overwhelmed my artistic ambitions, I never lost my self-confidence. After all, I *had* won a nationwide design contest at 12, hadn't I?

Even now, 30 years and plenty of other accomplishments later, I still relish my little bit of connection to the Teen Titans, as obscure or trivial as it may seem. I keep these issues in my "don't sell" pile so my daughter and maybe even my grandchildren will someday know that I had an all-too brief brush with fame in the world of comics.

And if I ever meet Terry Austin, I want to ask him whatever happened to this piece of original art. And I want to get him to autograph my copy of this issue. I'll gladly autograph his in return.
sg

Monday, July 7, 2008

Superman on Superman

sg I had never seen this super(!)-cool photo before, until it was generously sent to me by my pal Tommy, of the The Bat-Blog.

This is the voice of Superman on radio (and cartoons), Bud Collyer, checking out a 1946 issue of Superman.

Awesome pic, thanks Tommy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Russell Burbage - 1975

sg 1975 - It happened during the summer of 1975. I was a ten year-old boy being dragged to some family reunion type get-together, probably my uncle's wedding in Vermont. I don't remember the destination at all, but the trip itself gave me something I still treasure to this day.

My brother and two sisters and I were allowed to wander around Lambert Fields Airport (St. Louis) because back then there were only one or two shops in the entire place, and my parents could station themselves in a central location to keep tabs on all four of us simultaneously.

I was the youngest. I always made a beeline to the biggest store there: what I considered The General Store of the airport, it sold books, magazines, toys, snacks, and drinks. I guess this was the precursor to the current Hudson News shops you find dotted all over airports all over the country, but because it was just the one place, it seemed bigger.

My parents always allowed us to get some books or magazines for our trips, so I guess I was handed a dollar and let loose. I don't remember the particulars. I don't really remember what other comics I bought or anything else about that day. I only remember buying Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes #212.

It wasn't in the comic book rack. I don't even think there *was* a comic-book rack. It was sitting on the floor-level of the magazine stand with various other comics and kiddie magazines, and my eye just naturally wandered over to it. On the cover, Superman (I mean, Superboy?) was the only character I recognized. But this wasn't Curt Swan's or Wayne Boring's or even Dick Dillin's Superman; this was some thin almost gangly yet still good-looking Super Youth.

Right away, I was intrigued. Then there was Calorie Queen and her group standing over the prone bodies of several characters I guessed to be Legionnaires. She is demanding the right to take their places! I think I may have recognized Mike Grell's style from his three-issue run on the recent Aquaman feature in Adventure Comics. Maybe I knew him from the recent Robin-Batgirl team-up in Batman Family. I don't know if I made the conscious connection or not, but his style definitely appealed to me.

Like I said, I was used to the somewhat more staid style of Swan, Boring, or Dillin art on the inside and Nick Cardy or John Romita on covers. So Mike Grell was definitely something different and eye-catching.

I don't think I could have asked for a better, kinder, gentler introduction to the complicated mythos of the Legion of Super-Heroes than this issue. Quick recap: six Legion Rejects get together to challenge the right of their fellow countrymen to represent their planets in the Legion. So right off the bat I get quick origins for Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Matter-Eater Lad, as well as important story points (each member has at least one unique super power, members are from different planets, teamwork is most important, nobody hogs the spotlight, etc).

This last point was especially awesome for a ten year-old boy used to Batman and Superman doing the majority of work over in Justice League. I was in hog heaven! And the characterizations were much stronger than what I was used to. When Chameleon Boy called Superboy "Super Buttinsky" my eyes nearly popped out of my head.

The story itself was well crafted; let's face it, First Come First Served is not always the best way to pick your super-hero. Why should Saturn Girl get to stay just because she was there first? Okay, maybe as a total newbie to all this the plot made more sense to me; but rereading it years later after I "knew" the characters, I still think it makes for a pretty good story. Besides, the Legionnaires prove it takes more than strength to be a hero, not only to themselves but to me, as well. I was convinced.

As I had never heard of any of these characters before, each of them was new and exciting. Yet, already I considered myself enough of a comics snob to think that this guy called Matter-Eater Lad was totally lame.

Perhaps another reason I liked this story was that it recognized ME Lad's failings and strengths, and then just as it reaffirmed him as a character, it shuffled him off stage to be a politician on his home planet. This was my kind of story! There was even an editor's note saying that this development had been predetermined back in some "Adult Legion" story!? Obviously, these characters had History. (I had no
idea....! Ha-ha!)

One last side-note about the main story: I always wondered why Calorie Queen didn't just take ME Lad's place in the Legion. Sure, the ability to eat anything was a stupid power, but Calorie Queen had the strength of three men, and her costume was hot. Why didn't she join? (She wouldn't have been any stupider than, say, Blok)

I guess I'm glad she didn't join, but at the time it seemed as if she should have. And although most of the other Legion Rejects reappeared years later as members of the Legion of Super-Villains, Calorie Queen was never shown among them. I always thought better of her for that. (I think she eventually did reappear during the Giffen "Ten Years Later" era) As for the others, if you go from "I want to join the Legion," to "I want to kill the Legion," I think maybe the Legion was right to reject them in the first place, with or without the duplication of powers rule, don't you?

The backup story featured Shadow Lass, Cosmic Boy, and some non-Legionnaire heroine called Night Girl in another finely written and drawn melodrama. This was another first for me because over in Justice League there were never backup stories, and when the stories were shorter, non-members were never featured.

Yet in this story I learned all about Night Girl and her group, the Legion of Substitute Heroes. Night Girl only has her super-strength when it is dark, but she insists on fighting the good fight (in a terrific costume I learned later had been designed by Grell). I think I fell in love with Shadow Lass and Night Girl during this story, and I think I had a man-crush on Cosmic Boy, too. He stuck by his girlfriend and supported her even though she wasn't "good enough" to be a Legionnaire. Talk about a nice guy! I think I wished my big brother was more like Cos.

With all the 30th Century architecture, alien bad guys, and drama, I was hooked. I've been a Legion fan ever since.

This issue represents the gate to a whole new world of heretofore unknown adventures. Before this I thought the (DC) universe revolved around Batman and Superman. After this, I knew that the Legion owned the future.

After I got back to St. Louis I started looking for Superboy at my regular comic-book haunts. I immediately found issue #213 and have never looked back. I spent my adolescence tracking down Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell back-issues; when I got S/LSH #197 in the mail I gave a little cheer. I even subscribed so I wouldn't miss any more issues. For nearly twenty years, I didn't.

Whenever I heard that the Legion mythos was hard for people to break into, I shrugged. I never had any problem picking the stuff up as I went along, but maybe that's because I started with an issue that was so accessible.

A few years ago I started buying the Legion Archives so I could have all their Silver Age appearances. I stopped at number ten because this is where my own collection starts. I read all their adventures in chronological order and fell in love with their world all over again. I hadn't been reading the new series (although I lingered, I basically gave up when Paul Levitz left the series in 1989). I decided to give them
another look.

Now I have all the Legion action figures that DC Direct has produced. I have most of the Legion Hero-Clix figures. I read their current series (by Jim Shooter again!!).

And it's all because I happened to be at the right place at the right time, flying to some family reunion I don't even remember. That's another reason I always keep a lookout at different places for different things, because you never know what you might find.

Long Live the Legion!!