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by: Max Burbank

Three years before Dave Cockrum penciled "Giant Size X-Men #1", putting a stamp so distinctive on the X-Men's basic look that his influence is still felt thirty years later, he did something I think was even more important. He brought jiggly to comics.

Before any of Charlie's Angels went undercover as an underwear model to bust a drug ring, before Chrissy ever reached up to get something off a really high shelf on "Three's Company", Dave Cockrum did this:

I really wanted to find a better picture to illustrate what I'm talking about, but if you check out Saturn Girl's new togs (Front row, far right, PINK) I think you'll get the idea. Especially when you compare it to her previous costume...

And just because the web is the most wonderful invention of all time, look what I found!

This is what the Dave Cockrum Saturn Girl costume would look like if some lonely, virginal fanboy Photoshopped it onto a picture of Teutonic Supermodel Heidi Klum! Anyway, I think its Heidi Klum. How the hell should I know? I'm not some furtive twelve-year-old Internet masturbator. It takes way more to get my motor running.

The point is, Cockrum realized the Legion was out of date. How do you do a book about the future when all the uniforms look like they came from the past? Or the past's version of what the future would look like. I guess Mr. Cockrum thought the future would look a lot like a Bob Mackey design for the "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour"

Okay, that's a female impersonator, but you get the idea. Women in the future were going to dress like transvestites on a glamour binge. At least Dave Cockrum thought so, and I was about ten when his issues first hit the stands, and I assure you, I was not the only kid to whom Saturn Girl gave a boner that grew up to be straight.

Okay, so catch up with me here. The Legion still had the Hardy Boys thing going on, still had the chess club in space attitude, but now all the girls were dressing like prostitutes. Is it any wonder the book was popular?

Cockrum only drew about a dozen issues, and then Mike Grell took over. I think Carey Bates was writing, but I don't remember the stories. Honestly? I'm not entirely sure I even read them in much the same way that three years later I did not "read" Playboy. Cockrum had updated about half the costumes, mostly the women, and Grell continued the trend. More members got groovy new threads; Cockrum's costumes got cut down to show more skin or tighter to show more… contour, I guess. Let's just say the Legion girls made the Wonder Woman and Black Canary of their day look dowdy. And Black Canary was wearing leather and fishnets!

Grell was an equal opportunity employer, though, and he went on to give Cosmic Boy a costume I nominate as the stupidest superhero costume ever. He also gave colorists nightmares because no one was entirely sure where the flesh tone of skin was supposed to leave off and the pink of his costume was supposed to start. Cosmic Boy had favored pink for most of his career, so you can't blame that on Grell and I guess he took that as a challenge. "Hmmm. What can I do to a teen who's worn a pink body stocking for his entire career to make him look more faggy?" Here's the original medium gay Cosmic Boy:

And here's Mike Grell's design:

Cos is the one directly behind Superboy. The nearly naked one. The one in the costume the Village People would have rejected as being ‘too flamboyant'. Grell liked nearly naked muscle boys. Here's a legionnaire he invented, Tyroc.

Nearly naked, black, his costume has chains and elf booties, and get this, he's FRENCH! Actually I'm not sure he was French. One of the Legion's black guys was French. It may have been the new Invisible Kid they brought in after the White Invisible Kid got crushed to death by Validus, this giant retarded guy with an exposed brain.

Please also note the backup story featuring the bizarre sexual implications of lard ass Legionnaire Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel's relationship. I'm telling you, this was a good time to be reading the Legion, If, you know, you planned on growing up to be a pervert. Check this out.

Make up your own transgressive bisexual fan fiction. I'll wait.

All done? Great! In 1976 Grell may have stopped using poppers while drawing, because he slowly began making the Legionnaires put their clothes back on. Or maybe it was just the colorists. Sometimes Cosmic Boy was wearing a pink bodysuit under the black bathing suit, sometimes Colossal Boy had blue leggings instead of bare-naked hairless legs. Oops! No, I spoke too soon. Here's Cos all nakey again on the cover of "Superboy and the Legion" 250,

And that's after Grell left the book.

So for a few years LSH is a pretty standard utility book, still pretty naked but not as well drawn and at this point we're all sort of used to it. Remember though, last installment I said the Legion was the home of the ridiculous and the sublime.

Skip ahead ahead few years to 1982 and meet Keith Giffen. He's an artist who patterns his work on Jack Kirby. Like Kirby he's got a bold graphic style, he crafts a plot like nobody's business, he works very, very quickly, and he's not that hot at actual scripting. He's about to pencil something called "The Great Darkness Saga" for writer Paul Levitz that's going to blow everybody away and make the brilliant Jack Kirby creation, Darkseid, DC's number one Villain, a spot he'll hold on to unequivocally for the next twenty years.

It was the first comic I recall reading where all the clues were there for you, like a good murder mystery. If you paid attention, really thought it through and best of all knew your Legion and DC comics history, you could figure out who the villain was! And man, this guy was bad ass! Remember last column I told you about Mordru, and how cool it was that he scared the Legion? Well, Levitz and Giffen built on that by making Mordru terrified of this guy! If you've only read it as a trade paperback, you just don't get it. Of course you know the villain is Darkseid, because first of all his big stone mug is on the cover, and second, it's ALWAYS Darkseid! Whenever a really badass villain is behind the scenes it turns out to be Darkseid. Hell, a decade later Giffen himself made fun of it in his Ambush Bug mini-series where every single issue ended with a splash page of the bug discovering Darkseid was behind it all!

When "The Great Darkness Saga" was coming out, Darkseid had never been used that way. It was the invention of a cliché.

Giffen left the book in '84 and would be gone for the next several years. During that time the legendary "Crisis on Infinite Earths" began what turned out to be a very lengthy total re-write of DC's continuity. The only books and characters fucked with more than Hawkman were the LSH. Some would argue that Superboy and Supergirl, who first got killed and then erased from continuity, had it worse...

Superboy and the original 1940's Superman and Lois say bye-bye to continuity

...but they were both members of the LSH so I see it as part of the whole messy package. The most major change brought about by Crisis was to meld all of DC's multiple earths into one earth. I've written about this already. The second most major change enshrined in DC reality by John Byrne's media grabbing reboot of the Superman mythos, was the decision that Clark Kent didn't start being Super as a boy. Also, his Kryptonian forbears stopped looking like shitty fifties sci-fi extras like this:

And started looking like shitty eighties sci-fi extras like this:

I think on the whole it was a good decision. I never liked Superboy. If there's anything worse than a goody two shoes highschooler, it's a goody two shoes highschooler who can fly and has a flying dog and robots. But here's the problem. Superboy had some seriously deep roots. Along with Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonderwoman and for no damn reason at all Aquaman, he survived the great comic hero drought between the end of WWII and Showcase # 4, 1956 which introduced the Silver Age Flash, Police Scientist Barry Allen. Superboy first appeared in "More Fun Comics"...

...(I friggin' love that title. Why don't they call comic books stuff like that anymore? I would totally buy a comic book call "More Fun".) 101 in 1945. "Crisis" didn't end until 1986. Forty-one years is a LOT of continuity.

The central premise of the LSH was that it was a future age of heroes inspired by Superboy. If he never existed, how the HELL do you explain the Legion? I guess you could say SuperMAN was the inspiration, but here's the problem. Superboy didn't just inspire the Legion, through time travel he was like, the 4th friggin' member initiated!

So, in 1986, we begin a rollercoaster of attempts to squeeze the poor old LSH into DC's revamped continuity. In true Legion tradition, the ride offered up some of the best and worst comics ever.

Paul Levitz and John Byrne applied a temporary spare tire to Legion Continuity that I rather liked. It was called the "Pocket Universe".

To understand the Pocket Universe, you have to understand the Time Trapper.

He's this dude in a hooded, ratty purple bathrobe and he hangs out at the end of time, which he rules. He's one of the Legion's earliest villains, first mentioned in 1964, where he prevents the Legion from travelling in time. Not too shabby, considering the LSH depend on time travel not only for about half their stories and members both powerhouse (Superboy and Supergirl) and absurd (Jimmy Olsen in his Elastic lad identity and Lana Lang in her Insect Queen identity)...

...but for their whole deal.

See, it turns out every time the LSH hooked up with Superboy in Smallville the Time Trapper was steering them to a pocket universe of his creation where Clark Kent started doing the superthing in his early teens. Their whole stupid/glorious Superhero club was based on a lie created by the Time Trapper, who also happens to be responsible for setting their ultra rich benefactor R.J. Brande, in place! The Time Trapper, the legion's greatest foe, created the Legion! NOOOOOO!!! WHYYYYY????

Now, I'm not a huge fan of continuity shake-ups, but this is the kind I can stand. It's linear. None of the past is negated. In its own way even "Crisis" is that kind of story. There was an event that changed the old continuity and replaced it with a new one. So. It turns out the Legion had been living a lie, but the Superboy of that lie did exist. Not only that, but in truly noble fashion he sacrifices himself to save the LSH from… the Time Trapper.

Mon-el is NOT being gay here. He is sad. And a little gay. And unsettlingly necrophiliac.

How does this Death of Superboy allow for the scene of Superboy winking out of existence along with Earth Two Superman and Lois. Fucked if I know. I can't remember, and the Internet research I've done has made me confused and cranky. And it gets worse.

A bunch of Legionnaires make a secret pact to go to the end of time and whack the Time Trapper for killing Superboy. Deliberate, premeditated vengeance murders are strictly prohibited in the Legion charter, so this is a hush-hush big deal against the rules mission. They get there, beat the crap out of him, taking ferocious losses along the way and in the end it's just Mon-el and the Time Trapper. Keep in mind, Mon-el is as powerful as Superboy. ‘Cause he's a what? A Daxamite. If you knew that, you're as sad a sack of fanboy as I am. And then TT spills his secret: why he created the LSH. They were his pawns to keep Mordru (remember Mordru from last column?) from dominating the universe, which left TT free to dominate the universe. If Mon-el kills TT the universe where TT rules time will be replaced by one where Mordru rules time. OH! HOBSON'S CHOICE, BABY! Bad as TT is, he did basically create the Legion, and killing him for spite and for messing with your head when you know someone much, much worse will take his place… NO superhero worth their salt would do that.

So, anyway, Mon-el Kills the Time Trapper thereby REBOOTING LEGION CONTINUITY AGAIN!!

[click to enlarge]

Mordru controls the world, the Time Trapper doesn't exist. A bunch of rebels, many of whom were legionnaires in the previous timeline make a pact with Mordru's ex-wife Glorith...

...(one of the Time Trapper's hench chicks in the previous timeline) she does a magic spell allowing her to take the Time Trapper's place in continuity THEREBY REBOOTING LEGION CONTINUITY A-FUCKING-GAIN!

Now Glorith, not TT manipulates the Legion into being formed, and since she doesn't need the whole pocket universe scenario, her Legion is based on the exploits of Lar Gand, a Daxamite, who never got named Mon-el by Superboy because Superboy never existed. ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME HERE?! CAUSE IT WAS COSTING ME MORE THAN A BUCK AN ISSUE TO FOLLOW IT THEN SO I THINK YOU OWE ME! Lar Gand, during a brief stint in the 20th century adopted the name Valor...

...(a truly Rob Liefeldish superhero name) had his own comic book and developed enough of a rep that the Legion now was inspired by his legend, not the legend of a Superboy that never existed so there was never a legend about him.

Then Glorith decided to recreate the pocket universe, and Superboy (who the LSH now doesn't know from shinola) shows up and dies battling a purple robed figure we all assume is, in this reality, Glorith. Why did she do this? No one knows.

Plus, Mordru (who isn't dead, he's just in a new continuity where instead of fighting the Time Trapper he's fighting Glorith ARE YOU GETTING THIS DOWN?!) has risen to power and is in a bloody stalemate with Glorith and the whole Galaxy is falling to shit while they duke it out.

Oh, also? When Glorith restored the pocket universe for no reason, she accidentally restored the Time Trapper as well, and that's who really killed the Superboy nobody knows.

The restored Time Trapper plucks a version of the Legion from the Jim Shooter glory days complete with a still alive Ferro Lad and Triplicate Girl (not Due Damsel) and places them in suspended animation for future use, and calls them Batch SW6. Why SW6? I haven't a clue.

The Legion eventually defeats Glorith, but Mordru is on the rise and the United Planets, the governmental structure of the Legion's future, collapses under the strain of war. In the ensuing anarchy and with no one left to pay the bills, the Legion disbands.

Keith Giffen picks up the plot five years after the Magic Wars and writes some damn good very dark stuff. The former Legionnaires are scattered all over hell and gone. Shrinking Violet is a battle-scarred dyke. Element lad's girlfriend is really a guy taking a chemical to make him a woman...

...and when E-Lad finds out, he's okay with it. And then, after multiple invasions and centuries of ecologic depredations, Earth blows up. No shit.

Meanwhile SW6 are running around loose, and while this sounds like a plot as dumb as the Spider Clone, it's really pretty cool seeing the most boyscoutiest version of the LSH interacting with the filthy, dirty, depressed post Magic Wars version. If memory serves correctly, the SW6 version of Ultra Boy meets the older version for the first time in a men's room.

There are a lot of questions about who's the real LSH and who's the copy, and there's some mixing and matching as various version of various heroes die or leave. Plus some old stupid hero names are updated to more modern stupid hero names. Lightning Lad becomes Live Wire. Get it?

Glorith and Mordru form an alliance. Much fighting ensues. Time goes wacky as part of a major DC clusterfuck called "Zero Hour" which was supposed to patch up all the continuity fuckups left in the wake of "Crisis" such as the fact that it's now impossible to describe the Legion's history (as I think I've demonstrated quite nicely). I'm totally confused, I don't know what's happened and what hasn't, I don't know anybody's name anymore, but unbelievably I AM STILL ON BOARD!

And then Cosmic Boy goes up against the Time Trapper who takes off his hood to reveal he's Cosmic Boy, only not so much of a Boy, and TT Cosmic boy… erases time?

And when all the various LSH books start publishing again they start from scratch. ALL previous continuity is junked.

And the worst of it is, even though I was there, I read the issues as they came out, I in no way can tell you this is the way it went. I researched on the Internet until I got Carpal Tunnel, and I maintain that you cannot get a coherent picture of how the continuity ran during the period between "Crisis" and "Zero Hour".

So that was it for me. Screw it. Thirty years of following the most ass-backwards stories comicbookdom ever offered up, and they flush it. As Mr. Krabbs memorably stated, "That's a spirit-breaker".

I hear this latest version of the LSH is quite good sometimes. But you can only ask so much from me. I feel like the Legion and I got divorced after a long marriage, and the fact is, I don't want to know how she's doing these days, what she's done with her hair, who she's screwing. And yes, I now that analogy reveals a rather unsettling pathology.

I loved the Legion once though. Through sickness and health, warts and all, till death did us part. That's my story. I'm sticking with it. Now I'm depressed. Maybe I should have done a column about Prez.


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