LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
Comics Feature #15
January 1981 (pp. 15-35)
I have scanned this story in from the original. I did not scan the third article "Super-Team Spirit by Murray R. Ward (pp. 35), which is a publishing history of the team.
The stories were illustrated mostly with historical art, but there were three pieces which appeared to be commissioned specially — one of which accompanies the second article here.
"Comics Feature Interviews Paul Levitz" (pp. 15-21)
Comics Feature editors Richard Howell and Carol Kalish interviewed Levitz at the DC offices in the Warner Communications Building in late Summer, 1981, shortly after it was announced that Levitz would be returning to The Legion. This interview was edited by Richard Howell and then by Paul Levitz. It was approved by Levitz. It was transcribed by Kurt Busiek.
HOWELL: What sort of commitment do you have to The Legion? It must be fairly powerful to draw you out of all your other responsibilities, for a monthly book.
LEVITZ: Well, I loved it as a kid. It's always been a book that I enjoy. I enjoyed writing it the two years I did it. It's something I had wanted to do very much. I gave it up in 1978 because my workload was just too high as a freelancer. At that point I was writing The Legion, and "The Justice Society," and "The Huntress," and something else too, I don't even remember what else anymore. But it was pages upon pages upon pages. I was averaging writing about sixty pages a month, on top of my staff work, and it was just too much for me. So I cut back, relaxed a bit, not out of dislike for The Legion, but it was too big a piece to keep in the schedule, if I was really going to cut back. Now, with having given up The World's Greatest Super-Heroes newspaper strip some months back, have time to take something on. "The Legion" came open. It's a much easier book for me to write than it is for most of the staff, because having written it already, I know the characters. I know the four thousand stupid worlds we've established across the galaxy, which ones have three-toed people, which one has the men, and which one is the unexplored planet where they have super-technology and weapons no one's ever seen before. I have it all in a notebook, so all I have to do is flip it open, and I don't have to do all that research all over again. So it's not as tough as it seems. Should be fun.
HOWELL: Have you been keeping track of the series since you left it in
LEVITZ: Not too closely. What I did when I decided to take it over again, or actually just before I decided to take it over again, was sat down, and I re-read the series, skimming through everything of the earlier material in Adventure Comics and Action Comics, a
nd up until I wrote it, then re-reading my own material, and then re-reading everything that followed it, and updating my notebook for those three years—because of course I hadn't bothered to keep any of that up to date. I didn't who the hell Blok was, or where he came from, or what he was doing there. And that resulted in about four pages of notes to Mike Barr of things I'd like to do with the strip: loose plot threads, characters I want to see come back, questions I want to ask about the characters and where they can go. And that became the outline for what we're going to do.
HOWELL: Did you and Mike discuss at all what groundwork Roy Thomas had laid during his short tenure on The Legion?
LEVITZ: Well, I read all of Roy's material, and what he had done there. Roy also sent in a couple of pages of ideas which he had had that he hadn't had a chance to do, one or two of which are the sort of thing I'd like to do. Usually the case in comics is that you tend to take the ideas that you see in what another writer wrote, rather than what those other writers actually had in mind. Very rarely when you take over a strip do you bother sitting down with the previous writer and talking about what he had in mind when he did something. You look and see what it is that he did that struck you as something. It's more fun that way. The best example of that outside our field is a book that came out last year, after having been written I think about fifty years ago, The Floating Admiral. The Mystery Writers of Britain Club, whatever their correct name was, had gotten together, and done a detective story a chapter at a time, without ever telling each other what they were leading up to or where it was. And each one was required not only to write the next chapter, but to propose a solution based on their chapter, plus all that had gone before. Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie were two of the writers. The others I don't even remember the names of, but there were about eight or ten people. And it was a fascinating little exercise, of course. Very jumpy from style to style, but interesting to see how each one interpreted the mysteries differently. They did it originally for fun, but it was re-issued as a mass-market paperback because, of course, of all the interest in both Christie's and Sayers' work. The detective in us all likes to solve all those riddles, and say, "Now why was that there, how can you put those pieces together into a universe that fits?"
HOWELL: Is there any financial disadvantage to using ideas that the previous writer came up with? That is, do you forfeit your plotting fee?
LEVITZ: Well, it depends on the deal you make. In many instances, if you just take from whatever was printed and published, no. That's material he's already sold the company. If I pick up the phone and say "Roy, what did you plan to do in the next issue? Can use your plot?" then I'd have to make a deal with Roy. And sometimes—most frequently in this business—it's given away in trade for some day when you'll give them something. The classic of that was that Giant-Size Defenders that [Steve] Gerber wrote with fourteen plotters listed, because everyone did it around the coffee house that night. But we're all kibitzing with each other all the time, and we're all giving ideas away. They're both the most able things a writer has, and the cheapest things a writer has. A good writer always has more ideas than he can possibly fit in his stories. And you never have enough good ideas for the story you're doing at the time. So it balances out. I think Roy had offered some suggestions free, I had always offered suggestions on The Legion, when I wasn't working on it, free. I've also bought ideas from people in my time, and once or twice plotted stories for other people to dialogue—that last relatively rarely.
HOWELL: What sort of ideas have you got coming up?
LEVITZ: It's hard to say yet, completely, because I'm starting into the series. I've just plotted my first story, and nothing beyond that. What I like about The Legion, that I want to get back to, that I think it's been missing for the past couple of years; is the science fiction of it. We haven't seen enough alien worlds. We haven't seen enough of how the Thirtieth Century is different from our century, visually, sociologically, psychologically, scientifically, whatever level you want to take it on. I want to get more idea content into the book. I don't know if you're familiar with 2000 A.D., the British comic weekly. I think it's a magnificent comic, because you read that comic, and in a four-or-five page story, they get in four new ideas. All right, maybe three of the ideas are as brilliant as a man stuffing bananas in his ear. But that density of ideas in one weekly comic means that you come out with 2 or 3 ideas that are really intriguing. Not all of them are unique to 2000 A.D., but usually that's the first place you've seen them in a comic. They're exploring. Some work, some don't. I want to get some more of that back into The Legion. I think that was always one of the most interesting things to me as a kid, in the Ed Hamilton or Jerry Siegel stories for the book. Maybe a fusion power sphere wouldn't work, and isn't the way a civilization would do it in the Thirtieth it sure as hell was interesting to a fourth grader, who learned what fusion was in response to seeing that long before most fourth graders normally knew what fusion or fission was. I love toying around with the stuff, and with a 25-page book, certainly you can do that. The Legion is a book that needs the space.
HOWELL: With the number of characters it has, it could use a lot more, especially since the book can obviously be very trying on the artists at DC.
LEVITZ: Oh, I think it's our hardest book to draw, because not only do you have so many characters, but they are not as distinctive as characters as the Justice League characters are. Probably we have as many characters in the JLA and JSA combined. Also, if you want to see Superman, you've got forty years of Curt Swan's work, right up there on a shelf for reference. If you want to see Batman, you've got plenty of stuff. You know what the characters are supposed to look like, you can get an of how they move. They mean something to you, and they stick in your mind. On the other hand, not too many people remember off-hand what Element Lad looks like. After you draw The Legion for a couple of years, you'll remember it ...
KALISH: Painfully, but you'll remember it.
LEVITZ: Yeah, but it takes a while. You certainly don't remember any distinctive actions of his. I mean, with Superman, you know the "flying up in the sky," you know him "smashing through the wall." You know the "intense look staring down with the X-ray vision or microscopic vision into something." With Batman, you've got the "swinging across the city." What do you have for Element Lad? Add to that the fact that have to create new worlds all the time. Perforce, everything is entirely new. All right, if you're drawing a Superman story, and you've got to draw Metropolis, it's city buildings. All right, if the writer's being real tough and setting it in Paris, you've got to open your National Geographic, and get out the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and the Sacre Coeur, and the Arc de Triomphe. If the writer's being a real pain in the ass, you might have to get up and go to the library, and get "swipe" on a city you haven't got material on, or a particular building, or a plane, if it calls for a Boeing 727. With The Legion, it's all whole cloth. Every single thing has to be created out of your imagination, and it's "All right, now envision a society in which everybody has one leg, three arms, antennae, and their city is composed of tightropes strung across a sea." Okay, you can get a visual picture in your head after a couple of minutes, and maybe you can translate that to art. We'll leave aside whether it's stupid or not, because the artist has to try to make that stupid idea into something merely plausible, so the editor won't giggle him out of his office. But it's all whole cloth. Issue after issue, month after month. There's almost nothing you can pick up from a previous Legion , because you're dealing with a whole universe. The book's been around a few years with modern style art, but most of the material for it was created before the current wave of science fiction came in. Therefore most of the stuff you can't swipe. Look at a Legion cruiser circa 1966—you can't put that in a comic today.
HOWELL: With the steering wheel and the gas pedal? (laughter)
LEVITZ: I don't think they had gas pedals, but they did have steering wheels.
KALISH: They had brakes.
KALISH: They had pedals ... you braked ... (laughter)
LEVITZ: Missed that.
KALISH: They might have even had hot-rod ships. I can see it now, y'know, in your V-8 rocket ship.
HOWELL: Raccoon tails ... (laughter)
LEVITZ: Yeah, you know, you're right. I remember "The Evil Hand of The Luck Lords" one. That's the one with the brakes. Yup. You can't really get too many of your ideas from there. And I mean, it's enough work for an artist, on any strip, to create a way to tell a story visually, imaginatively, and get dynamics, get excitement into the material. That's hard work—to portray faces with character, to invent a new villain or two every couple of months, to invent a new supporting character, to make them realistic people, to get real character into the five or six people you have in a scene. Here we've got thirty people in the average issue, a whole new planet, a race of aliens, and of course we want the distinctive alien, who's going to be the master villain, four super-scientific devices, and by the way, just between all of this, let's make sure that we invent a new Legion headquarters at least once every two years, so you don't have any swipe material on that either. God, I don't blame any artist who doesn't want to do that book!
KALISH: And you have to change the Legion outfits.
LEVITZ: Oh, sure. Sure. Stupider every time, please. (laughter) Oh God, I wouldn't want to draw that book, if I was an artist. I mean, if I was any other writer, I wouldn't want to write it, either. I suffered the pleasant accident of growing up on the book, so I knew a. lot about it from that time; it was the first comic I collected. I had finished my Adventure Comics set about the time they got out of Adventure Comics, so that tells you how far back that interest goes. And from having written it the first time, towards the beginning of my writing career — when I had more time and more energy than I have today—I have this nifty notebook of all these facts, figures, planets, and how things can work. If I had to take over the book for the first time today ... "No thank you. No point whatsoever."
HOWELL: You can't find any artist with the same affliction?
LEVITZ: had that problem (laughter), but he got smart. To date, we have not found anyone else quite as foolish. Generally speaking, since Swan left the book, in ...
HOWELL: ... long ago ...
LEVITZ: '67? '66? 
KALISH: And swore never to return.
LEVITZ: The book has either been drawn by artists who could not get other regular series work, or who were doing their first assignments. It was Cockrum's first real assignment. It was, I think, Grell's first real assignment. It was Sherman's first real assignment. It was first real assignment. It was, I think, Staton's second assignment. It was Jimmy Janes' first assignment.
It's a real bitch of an assignment. I don't blame anyone for not wanting it. I'm not at all surprised we have problems talking people into it. And it's not a matter of money. If you invented a special Legion of Super-Heroes page rate, it wouldn't cure anything anyhow, because the book's still a pain. And even if you pay for the extra time the pain consumes, you have to put all that energy into doing things that artists don't enjoy doing. Good artists enjoy being creative, returning to the beginning of our discussion. They want to put a little of themselves into the work, they want to do something new, they want their approaches, their ideas. They don't want to spend all their time figuring out how to do footed, three-armed people with antennae who live on a planet of tightropes suspended over water.
HOWELL: That's certainly creative (chuckle) in its own way.
LEVITZ: To quote an old Marty Pasko line, so is putting bananas in your ear, but it doesn't make a good story. (laughter) It's a very tough book. I have no idea who's drawing the book. I think Pat Broderick's doing one of my stories, I think Ernie Colon may do some, I think Jose Delbo may do some of the back-ups. I don't know.
KALISH: Sounds like the burn-out rate on The Legion is getting shorter and shorter and shorter—down from several issues to just one. Fill-ins.
LEVITZ: I hope not. I'd really like to work with one artist for a lengthy period of time, but I don't blame anybody ...
HOWELL: You had some trouble with that last time, didn't you?
LEVITZ: Oh, I had a lot of trouble with that last time. I wrote The Legion for two years, and I worked with Sherman, Nasser, and in that time also, Estrada and Tuska drew it, but I didn't work with them. There were Chaykin, Simonson, Starlin, Arv Jones ...
HOWELL: All in two years? That's about one per book.
LEVITZ: No, that's an average of about two issues each. (* This statistic is somewhat misleading in that it fails to specify that most of the Levitz "Legion" issues featured more than one story per issue.) I apologize if I didn't hit everyone. I may have forgotten one of the guys actually liked working with. But you can't really write terribly well when you've got different artists every issue, because, under normal circumstances, you write to what your artist does best. mean, you're not going to write the same story for Curt Swan that you are for Jim Starlin. They do very different things very well. think they're both brilliant artists, but ...
KALISH: ... they're different.
LEVITZ: Yeah. And hopefully you can eventually settle down with an artist. I mean, another reason I'll probably write "The Huntress" forever is that Joe Staton will probably draw it forever, and I can write [for] Joe Staton's artwork very quickly — and plot for Joe very quickly, because we've done over fifty stories together. And by that time, you know exactly what the other person needs, to do their job, and you get comfy with it. And that helps. A "Huntress" story is a smooth process for me. Sitting down to do a job with an artist I've never worked with before is a much more complicated one.
HOWELL: Do you feel that there's any atypical constraint — or lack of constraint, actually — on you as a scripter and as a plotter, because you're operating out of the management end, also?
LEVITZ: I've worried about that occasionally over the years. As a writer, and as an editor, I've always believed that writers desperately need editors — if for nothing else than to tell them when they're being stupid, because we are all stupid on a fairly regular basis. Your question wouldn't be valid necessarily because I'm in the business end — it's simply, I think, people working for companies in any capacity of any responsibility, whether it's as editors, assistant editors, executives in other areas, tend to get less editing than they would if they were the exact same person outside. I think that's usually a mistake in every single case.
KALISH: Is that because your peers, the other editors in the company, assume that you should know what you're doing and expect you to do it ...
LEVITZ: Sometimes. Sometimes it's because someone doesn't want to say, "Oh, God, take the whole thing home and rewrite it," because they're going to have to see you again the next day, and every day after that. You have to be kinder towards people you have to live with than to people you're going to see once every couple of months. Even once every couple of weeks. If you're dealing with a freelance writer whose work you don't like, you can tell him, "Go away and don't come back again." If you're dealing with a freelance writer who happens to work in the office next to yours, you're still going to have to stare at that not-so-cheery face every morning, saying to you, "Ngarhllrghlarrmorning," and that's a problem of an essentially incestuous business. There have certainly been occasions when I have thought something I did was edited perhaps less than perhaps would have had benefited the work — because of things like that — but by and large, I have been pleased that we have a lot of people with a lot of editorial integrity in this business who will fight for what they believe in, regardless of anything else. I mean, Julie has always been my archetype about that. Julie absolutely would not bother to talk to me about a script, much less ever ask me to do one, unless he liked my work. Nothing else has ever mattered to him over the years, and I've seen him tell person after person after person in one position of authority after another, "No, I don't like your stuff. Go away, don't bother me." You develop a capacity for editorial integrity by doing the same thing for that many years, that solidly. That makes you a rock. And I always feel more comfortable about being a fairly lightly-edited writer in general, by the fact that Julie edits me fairly lightly. If he thinks I don't need that much, I can accept that as being as objective as anyone is, and therefore it probably isn't that much of a problem. It does worry me, but it's an ongoing problem of this business. I mean, right up and down the line, almost everybody freelances for somebody else, and that part of it is not healthy, no matter which way you measure it. There's a lovely tradition in book publishing: you cannot be published by the company you're working for. If you write a novel, it doesn't matter how great your publisher thinks it is, he will not publish that book. You must take it to another house, even if your employer says, "I'll lose out on a fortune." There's a tremendous common-sense in that in avoiding the kind of problem you're talking about. But comics can't afford that because it's too small a business. There aren't fifteen different publishing companies doing the same thing, and it's so hard to get good people you want to get every page you can out of anybody you've got, and you don't want them anywhere else. At one point, I think 30% of our line was being written by people who also collected a staff salary. I think that's way down now, with Roy [Thomas] and Gerry [Conway] and Marv [Wolfman] as the volume workhorses of the company. But it's a problem.
HOWELL: You have always had a very good handle on fan tastes and the fan marketplace, and it seems from indicators we've seen that DC's fan profile is going up fairly rapidly.
LEVITZ: I hope so. We're trying.
HOWELL: What have you got to say about the whole business about a fan profile in the first place, and consequently, what DC in general and you in particular are doing about it?
LEVITZ: Well, I think a fan profile consists of what a portion of your audience thinks of your books. Fundamentally that's the root of it. If you're publishing great comic books, from the subjective point of view of any market you've got, they're going to think you're a great company, providing you don't take out advertisements saying, "We burn babies for breakfast."
HOWELL: And maybe even then.
LEVITZ: Maybe even then. You still have a fighting chance. If you publish bad comic books, again in that same subjective point view, even if you hand out gold bars on the street to everyone who reads one, they're not going to think you're a great company. They're going to think you're a very stupid company, but a great sucker. Five years ago, by my count, I think we were publishing three books a month I could read. And I don't think my taste is incredibly dissimilar from the average member of the fan market.
KALISH: What were those books, by the way?
LEVITZ: I was prejudiced. I liked myself on what David Michelinie was doing on Unknown Soldier, and what Mike Fleisher was doing on Jonah Hex . There wasn't really much of anything else that I cared about circa 1976, just before Jenette came in, and Sol was promoted. The rest of the line ... some were professional, competent, solid; some were a real big yawn; some really should have been burned — preferably before they ever saw the light of day. I think the proportion is almost the reverse now. think all of our books ore at least professional and competent, and I think a fairly high number of them are worth reading. I think that's the root of why the fan perception of DC changed. Now, obviously, there's ways we accomplished that. I mean, having, in rough chronological order, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Roy Thomas come over to write comic books for us has a lot to do with that. Those are all people whose comics I liked reading, think most of the fans liked reading, therefore it improves the odds that they're going to enjoy the stuff. Having more exciting artists come to work for us again; Gene Colan, George Perez, George Tuska, Carmine Infantino. Having new artists come to the fore; whether it's Mike Grell or whoever. (I'm slighting lots of people by doing it this way, and I can't apologize enough, but I'm answering this in It's more material people care about. There's also changing the magazines. One less book like Secrets of Haunted House that you do, that intrinsically has never been very interesting to this market, that means you can do one more book like All-Star Squadron. That makes the big difference. None of it would help if the books were stupid. If the books are good, it almost doesn't matter how many times we show up at comics conventions and what we say and how we do so. If the books are good, and then we back that up, by saying, "Hey! Collectors' stores are a really good thing! Comics conventions are a good thing! Let's do some promotion work for it! Let's have a Roger Slifer and a Paul Kupperberg hired on for the direct sale market alone! Let's think about what we can do to be supportive of this end of our business!" Well, sure that's going to help more. But Archie Comics and Harvey Comics could do all of that there is to do in the universe, and no one would really care, because the average comics fan doesn't care about an Archie comic or a Harvey comic. It all is rooted in the editorial content. We-the-business-people-at-DC cannot sell comic book material that comes out of the editorial department if it isn't already sellable. No matter what I do, I cannot take Sgt. Rock and sell it to a fan market. I can sell the hell out of it to Warner Publisher Services on newsstands. I can sell it in every PX across the globe, but I can't make you care. That doesn't mean you're right, or you're wrong, or the other part of the market is right or wrong. But if I want to sell to you, I have to produce comics you like. And I think we've gone an awful long way towards producing a lot more titles that the fan market cares about. We produce a lot more titles I enjoy reading, and I'm fairly representative of that market, or at least I'm fairly representative of a portion of that market. I'm less representative of the whole today than I was a few years ago, the market's changed a lot, and I have to be aware of that.
"The Once and Future Lord of the Legion" (pp. 22-29)
With about thirty stories of the series to his credit, Paul Levitz has written fewer tales than any other ostensibly-regular writer of The legion of Super-Heroes. Legion fans were disappointed to see Roy Thomas leave so quickly. Fortunately, however, Levitz is familiar not only with "The Legion" but also with its fandom, and, if the past is any indication, the series' future is in good hands.
Six years ago, though, when news was just spreading that Levitz would be assuming writing chores on the strip, reaction was exactly the opposite. Fans had agreed that Cary Bates was not doing outstanding work on the series (Bates thought so, too) and they were not very sorry to see him leave. But the fans were also hesitant about Levitz, who at the time for the most part was an unknown quantity.
Levitz tested the waters carefully before he entered. He sent a letter to Interlac member (and Legion Outpost staffer) Jay Zilber, who published it in his apazine. The letter was essentially a few paragraphs of gossip about his plans for the strip, with a note at the end mentioning that he would be very interested in seeing those apazines which commented on his "Legion" work. This alone scored him brownie points with "Legion" fandom; most old-timers in Interlac remembered fondly the reader participation of the super-teens' Adventure Comics run, and this was a step toward re-establishing that bond.
A few months later, Levitz's first issue of Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes was released. It won approval with some reservations, and the consensus was that it was a good start.
"And Who Shall Lead Them" was the lead story in that issue (#225) and it featured Wildfire's assumption of leadership of the Legion. The plot which Levitz used had a long history in the strip (member X is to become Leader, and member Y tries to stop member X, since great danger is going to befall the Leader). It was generally agreed that Levitz's mistakes were choosing Superboy for member Y (understandable given that, back then, it was still Superboy's comic, but the result was a mischaracterized Kal-El) and his decision to have Mon-El stop Superboy early in the story with a roundhouse punch (Levitz explained that he viewed Mon-El as Superboy's big brother in relationship if not in lineage). Those were fairly forgivable errors, and since it was Levitz's first story, relative unfamiliarity with the characters could be rationalized.
And there were facets of the story which fans appreciated. Besides featuring appearances by the ubiquitous Superboy, Wildfire, and Lightning Lad, the story's cast was primarily Legionnaires who were less frequently seen: Dream Girl, Shadow Lass, and Ultra Boy. A new group of villains was introduced (the Resource Raiders) who would play a role in future issues. While there were conflicts among the Legionnaires, they were capable of acting as a team when required, something not frequently shown since their series left Adventure Comics.
The back-up tale, "A Matter of Priorities," shared some of its immediate predecessor's virtues. The featured characters were Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, and Timber Wolf, and their mission was again one that would play a role in future stories — to get an ambassador to another world safely, so that he might try to avoid an imminent war with the Dominion Worlds. Both Ambassador Relnic and the Dominators would show up again. Other than that, though, the story was trivial, a simple human interest piece. Unfortunately for its immediate quality, the story was drawn by Mike Nasser, who was incapable of drawing teenagers (the characters tended to look like younger children), and for the most part the story was not given much attention.
Levitz's second issue also introduced a change to the Legion; Dawnstar, an American Indian mutant whose powers included tracking ability and limited invulnerability, was introduced and invited to join the group. star was designed and co-created by former "Legion" artist Mike Grell, and, although Grell had been replaced on the book by Jim Sherman, the character — being owned by DC itself — appeared as projected. The change in artists was a particular improvement in this story, for a visual display of Dawnstar's powers required a sense of design much stronger than Grell's.
The story again featured the Resource Raiders, this time following them back and forth across the space sector as the Legion tried to destroy their organization. The leader of the Raiders was shown to be a disembodied brain, yet another character who would figure in future stories.
The back-up tale in that issue (#226) tied up some loose ends (and confused some others) from an unconcluded Jim Shooter story published shortly before the Levitz takeover. Those plotlines were finally resolved in a Gerry Conway — written story in the next issue.
Issues #228-229 featured a two-part story in which Levitz instituted yet another change in the membership — a member died. "That a World Might Live … A Legionnaire Must Die!" featured the events preceding World War VII. To anyone with a passing familiarity with the famous "Adult Legion" story of Adventure #354-355, it was obvious that Legionnaire Chemical King was the member who was to buy the farm. Even if a reader didn't know that, however, it became obvious from reading the story. Chemical King's sole function in it was to run around the universe whining about how useless he was. (A typical line of CK's dialogue was, "Tell me again how we make equal contributions to the Legion, Superboy — only don't ask me to believe it!")
Eventually, the Legion caught up with Deregon, the madman who was starting the war, in Australia, and all the Legionnaires save Chemical King were fairly useless in stopping him. Needless to say, in stopping Deregon, Chemical King died a Heroic Death, thus demonstrating that he wasn't so useless after all. Would that the character had been developed further than a few eleventh-hour whines, the story could have been as powerful as "The Death of Ferro Lad" some eleven years earlier. But after the Chemical King character was introduced, he was immediately ignored, and that situation was only reversed by this final farewell appearance.
"Hunt for a Hero-Killer" was the sequel, and appeared in the following issue. Deregon had disappeared at the end of the previous story (since it was revealed that he was an agent of the Dark Circle — an interplanetary conspiracy out to conquer and enslave the universe — it was assumed that the Circle had summoned him back to explain his failure at starting the World War), and a search of the planet by the most powerful Legionnaires yielded nothing. A member of the Circle was eventually found and he professed ignorance of Deregon's whereabouts.
In the meantime, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Night Girl (a member of the Substitute Legion) were taking time off, trying to cheer up at an amusement park in 30th-century Smallville. Of course, Deregon just happened to be holed up there, and the three charter members of the Legion (Night Girl having left, respecting the Legion's obligation to bring the murderer to justice themselves) finished the case.
The two-part "Death of Chemical King" story earned more criticism than Levitz's earlier offerings. Aside from the aforementioned lack of subtlety in Chemical King's characterization, the pacing was not terribly good, and Levitz showed a tendency to over-dramatize situations which did not really demand such treatment (as with Saturn Girl's rather unmotivated — and purple — speech of self-justification to the Science Police officer in When the five members tracking Deregon broke into the Dark Circle's citadel, they mysteriously vanished, and it was not until a rushed panel at the end of the story that the readers discovered that Light Lass had brought them back via their Warp Transport mechanism (since Deregon had already been caught). This broken structure made the already-fragmented plot even harder to follow.
"The Creature Who Conned the Legion" in Superboy & the Legion #230 was the first Levitz lead feature in which no major event occurred. In Levitz's first three issues, the Legion dealt with a new Leader, a new member, and a death. This time, they only had to deal with a cosmic Hagar the Horrible.
Sden was a tentacled creature in a horned helmet who appeared on Remor, a planet whose inhabitants were being aided by the Legion as the planet underwent massive shocks. Sden tells the Legionnaires that he can stop the damage if only he is given a crystal which would be found buried deep in the heart of the planet. The Legion obliges, albeit suspiciously, but when Superboy hands Sden the chest in which the Legionnaires found the crystal, Sden grabs it and laughs mockingly. He shouts, "I caused the quakes that wracked Remor, and now that I have the crystal, I shall summon them again!" Unfortunately, Sden can't resist opening the chest — and when he does, it bursts into flame. Since the story had to be approved by the Comics Code, Sden couldn't be turned into ashes a la Raiders of the Lost Ark; he was simply captured and brought to the local gendarmes.
The back-up story in that issue was even more trivial, as Bouncing Boy regained his powers (lost in Superboy & the Legion #200). The story was widely ignored then, and some four-and-a-half years later, there seems to be no reason to start giving it any attention.
With issue #231, Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes was given that title officially (it had appeared that way on the cover logo, but the official indicia continued to read only Superboy), and the magazine was made a 48-page monthly with 34 pages of story and art, twice what a 32-page comic then contained. To celebrate, Levitz brought back the Fatal Five, among the series' more heinous villains, in a full-length story.
Levitz's plot this time was reasonable, if a bit unlikely: The Fatal Five had discovered that the chemical composition of the planet Mordan was such that, if the sun nova-ed, the heat would turn the planet into Energite, the universe's most valuable substance. The Five planned to use the Energite to "buy a place in this galaxy!" (The only specific plan mentioned was the Emerald Empress', who planned to buy back her throne.)
Levitz unfortunately went a little too far in trying to make the Fatal Five villainous: according to leader Tharok, the nova would also turn the citizens of Mordan to Energite. A better move, for credibility's sake, would perhaps have been for Levitz to make the Five simply unconcerned with the fate of the Mordanites. Not only would that have avoided the stretching of science in the plot he used, but it would have emphasized the lack of conscience the Five had consistently displayed in previous stories.
Levitz's next few tales, for the most part, marked time. Issue #233 featured "The Infinite Man Who Conquered the Legion," and it was one of the better Levitz efforts, featuring the first really powerful villain in some time. Also, the Infinite Man was a new foe, so he had not lost effectiveness through over-exposure, as had the Fatal Five, Mordru, and one or two other villains. Jason Rugarth blamed the Legion's honorary member, Rond Vidar, for the trip that sent him beyond time, past infinity, and into madness. The Legionnaires visited different worlds whose inhabitants had a better perspective on infinity that they, in hopes of stopping curing Rugarth, but to not avail. Finally, Vidar sent the Infinite Man back into time, where he would (hopefully) be lost forever in infinity. Again, Jim Sherman's sense of design contributed a great deal to the effectiveness of the story, as he was given a chance to draw the Earth's past, present (within the context of the story), and future.
The back-up story, "The Final Illusion," was far less effective. Princess Projectra had been acting stranger and stranger, and here she succumbs to a psychic disease. Saturn Girl telepaths a bad dream to "Jeckie," and that doesn't wake her up. Saturn Girl then telepaths a good dream to the fallen Legionnaire, who decides she wants more and wakes up. The art was by Mike Nasser (who conceived the story), and was unfortunate. For instance, the splash page depicts Saturn Girl and Dream Girl standing in the exact same pose, with the exact same expression, and hairdos that vary only slightly; the rest of the art displays as little imagination.
Levitz's next story, in #235, came with the return of Mike Grell, for a fill-in. The artwork also featured characters who had the exact same poses and expressions, and the addition of Vince Colletta as inker only worsened the situation.
The story was yet another addition to the fore of the Legion. Here was a strip which had been around for some two decades, and the lead characters were still being called "boy," "girl," "lad," and what-have-youth. Here was the explanation: a youth serum kept 30th-century people young. Superboy could not be told this, because "what human could resist the desire to let his loved ones live on for centuries?"
This addition was, sadly, apocryphal (and one that has since been contradicted only lately), simply because there are plenty of good reasons for the post-hypnotic suggestion which the Legionnaires gave Superboy: the death of his parents, the existence of Supergirl, every detail of his future life. And the question of the Legionnaires' aging was better left unasked — just as few other DC comics characters age at a normal rate, neither do the Legionnaires. Big deal.
And the next issue, was a pace issue in which the Legionnaires went on vacation. The first story, "A World Born Anew," featured Nixon a look-alike who contracted with folks around the universe to do some cosmic landscaping to improve the view in the neighborhood. After a fight scene, Worldsmith (the Nixon doppelganger) pops off into thin air, and it turns out that the area he has remodeled is similar to Easter Island. According to Levitz, Jim Sherman did not use Levitz's plot's original ending. That helps explain the suddenness of the ending, but one wonders why then-editor Al Milgrom did not use the original ending.
The second story, "Mon-El's One-Man War," was a fairly trivial tale to all appearances. While Mon-El is exploring deep space, he happens upon a Khund invasion of an energy mine. Mon incapacitates the ship's power supply, and once that is done, he flits off to enjoy his interstellar cruising, muttering that eventually he'll get Wildfire to arrange a United Planets session to consider whether the Khunds are a threat. This story also featured more of Mike Nasser's hilarious ideas of anatomy and design.
The final tale, "Words Never Spoken," features Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl undergoing psychic danger tests to see if they are more committed to the Legion or each other. (The Legion, remember, did not allow married members.) Each other won out, and that led into the big wedding the following month.
All-New Collectors' Edition #C-55 provided us with "The Millennium Massacre." The story was nearly unanimously judged a flop, with some fans referring to the story only as "That [expletive deleted] Tabloid." The gist of the story is that the Time Trapper had changed history, making Earth into a world constantly torn by war, so that he could rule all the dimensions. Just why he needs to change the Earth's history to rule all dimensions isn't explained, unfortunately. The wedding scene takes place in the first few pages of the first chapter, and after that it is mentioned only in passing. Mike Grell obviously was influenced by Dave Cockrum's depiction of the wedding of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel (in S/LSH #200) when he drew the scene, as he included himself and Paul Levitz in the scene. It was, however, much less subtle than Cockrum's staging, as both Levitz and Grell were in the foreground and staring out at the reader instead of watching the wedding, as Cockrum's characters were. Saturn Girl can only fit one leg inside her tubular wedding gown, so the other one vanished mysteriously, etc. Most fans decided that it wasn't worth the effort to rationalize the story, and put it on a parallel world, with "our" Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl having been married in between issues of the regular comic.
In issue #237, Walt Simonson filled in on the penciling chores in another full-length story. "No Price Too High" starts as R. J. Brande, the Legion's founder, hosts a away party for Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad — who, now that they are married, cannot remain in the singles — only Legion.
Suddenly, a man in a green costume pops up and takes Brande and a few Legionnaires hostage, shouting that he demands revenge. The villain — with the silly name of Arma Getten — states that he could indeed blow everyone to bits, which Brainiac 5 confirms. He then commands the Legionnaires to run various errands for him, ostensibly to bring him the riches denied his family when Brande's company drove father out of business.
Sun Boy, Mon-El, Dawnstar, and Superboy, go after the star at which Mon-El had defeated the Khunds in the previous issue, to procure for Getten the core of the star. Of course, that is the experiment the United Planets is conducting there, and the Khunds are there as well, trying to get the star core. Mon-El and Superboy defeat the Khunds by each picking up a corner of their spaceship and flinging it away.
After various other groupings of Legionnaires complete their various missions, all but the hostages return to the asteroid to decide on the best course through which to bamboozle Getten. In their absence, however, Star Boy, one of the hostages, has made one side of the asteroid heavier than the other. The returning Legionnaires detect this and realize that something is going on. Getten reminds them that he could kill Brande with his energy bubble, and the Legionnaires retreat — but Brande takes down Getten in a flying tackle. The bubble explodes, and it turns out that — Brainiac 5's verification notwithstanding — Getten has lied. Getten eventually decides then that if the Legion isn't going to let him play the game his way, they can't use his bat, and pulls himself to atoms.
Is it any wonder that some people don't understand why the Legion has such a fandom?
Levitz's next story was a dialogue job over a Jim Starlin plot. Ultra Boy returns to his home world, Rimbor, to visit a former lover in a seedy hotel. Suddenly, the former lover is dead, and Ultra Boy is the only suspect. The Most Obvious Suspect is Marla, the Legion's "adult advisor," who claims that United Planets factions already dislike the Legion and that one of their members being a murderer would only add fuel to the fire. The Butler turns out to be Wildfire — or, more accurately, a Wildfire robot. The story leaves no doubt that the person who framed Ultra Boy was a Legionnaire.
This was the first story in some time that fans praised both for story and art. The story featured strong continuity with older stories, and emphasized Chameleon Boy in his role as leader of the Legion Espionage Squad (while the Squad itself was uninvolved, Chameleon Boy used Squad techniques to prove Ultra Boy's innocence). The pacing of the 34-page story was fairly good, with the story dragging only when characters stood around and argued about Ultra Boy's guilt.
In issue #240, Levitz plotted a story which Jack C. Harris dialogued, "The Man Who Manacled the Legion." This featured the return of Grimbor, the chainsman who, along with his girlfriend Charma, had been defeated by the Legion a couple of years earlier. Charma had had the power to drive men mad with lust and women mad with hatred. The Legion women defeated her, and of course Charma was killed in prison. Grimbor blames the Legion for Charma's untimely demise.
By kidnapping the President and holding him prisoner, Grimbor attracts the Legion to his hide-out, where he binds them with special chains that defeat their individual powers. They escape (Phantom Girl's chains only held her when she was in her phantom form — she becomes solid and frees the others), track down Grimbor, and free the President.
The story was a good one — not spectacular, but better than could be expected of a tale with Grimbor in a major role. Although it was somewhat similar to "No Price Too High," with the President substituting for Brande and the errands removed, there were interesting bits of 30th-century life added for atmosphere (such as a trans-Atlantic bridge). It was refreshing to see the Legionnaires working on something relatively mundane after so "cosmic" tales.
"Dawnstar Rising," the origin of the newest Legionnaire, was the back-feature in that issue. It was insubstantial as most origin stories are, with the origin taking up so much room that there was little left for a plot. Jim Sherman got — and took — his chance to create many visually wonderful types of aliens and robots, but the story itself would not have been missed had DC decided not to print it.
This was emphatically not true of the next story, though, as many of the hints and dangling plot threads which Levitz had been dropping for the previous year-and-a-half culminated in "Earthwar."
As part one, "Prologue to Earthwar" begins in #241, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Ultra Boy, and Mon-El are flying off from Legion headquarters. Explanatory dialogue gives the reader the necessary information immediately: the threat of war has caused the U.P. to ask the Legion to go to Weber's World, where the Dominators are visiting to negotiate. On another front, an alert from space informs another group of Legionnaires that the Resource Raiders have struck again. Superboy, Sun Boy, Element Lad, and a few others defeat them easily.
When the initial group of Legionnaires reach Weber's World (on artificial world created for civil servants and diplomats) they encounter Ambassador Relnic, who explains that the Legionnaires are there as security guards, so that the negotiations between the U.P. and the Dominators can be carried out in safety. The scene then switches bock to Earth. Antarctica is being invaded as the Resource Raiders' attempt to steal rare-earth metals. Chameleon Boy manages to sneak aboard the Raiders' ship, but is discovered.
Back on Weber's World, the Legionnaires hove just saved a group of citizens from a bomb. Suspicion is cost on Ontiir, security chief for Weber's World, and on Relnic, as possible saboteurs.
Superboy, meanwhile, rescues Chameleon Boy from the Raiders' leader, and the other Legionnaires arrive as reinforcements. Brainiac 5 investigates and discovers that the Resource Raiders "weren't just an unusual group of criminals — they're actually the advance guard of an invasion — the Khunds are about to attack Earth — in order to destroy it totally!"
Continued next month.
After thirty days' wait, we find that the people on Weber's World have just heard that war has broken out on Earth — but it is not the Dominators attacking the seat of the U.P. It is the Khunds. The Legionnaires on Earth know this all too well." Element Lad takes the initiative to bring the war back to the Khunds' world, in the meantime dispatching Brainiac 5 to Weber's World to solicit help.
Unfortunately, E-Lad's plan is inconclusive, as it is revealed that the Khund warlord is really a telepathically-controlled drone. The Legionnaires track the signals that controlled the warlord and discover that the signals' source is somewhere on Weber's World.
Continued next month.
At this point, Levitz had managed to build a plot that was intricate, building not one but many levels which all affected each other. As the diplomats attempted to ovoid war against one faction, another faction declared war — only to be revealed as an advance guard for another faction. And that faction appeared to be centered on the world where the diplomats were meeting.
Levitz admitted that the series was influenced somewhat by the "Lensman" series (by E.E. "Doc" Smith), primarily in the structure of the plot. The complicated structure was a risk, but it appeared to be paying off. Levitz was borrowing elements from "Legion" stories that had appeared a decade-and-a-half ago, seeding his own stories with these elements for over a year, and bringing it all to a grandiose climax.
It is also appropriate at this point to mention Jim Sherman's artwork on the first two parts of the "Earthwar" series. It seems safe to say that the art on these two stories is the standard which current and future artists will have to meet. Sherman went out of his way to design the stories carefully, using everything from costumes to architecture to help set the proper mood and tell the story. He was careful to ensure that characters' expressions matched what they were saying and feeling. The layout was a bit confusing in one or two spots, but with a tale this complex, it was a necessary evil.
The back features in both of these issues were plotted by Levitz and written by Paul Kupperberg, penciled by Arvell Jones, and inked by Danny Bulanadi. "My Brother's Keeper," in #241, explained that Timber Wolf and Light Lass were not involved in the proceedings because they were on Winath (the home world of both Lightning Lad and Light Loss) tracking down Lightning Lord. "Girls' Night Out" in the next issue explained that Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass, Dream Girl, and Light Lass (again) were uninvolved because they took the night off to go to dinner. Right ... (Actually, in the letter column in #247, Levitz explained that the lead-to-back feature correlation had gotten scrambled when the series had been pushed back several months due to deadlines.)
In "Earth's last Stand" in #243, the Legionnaires who had defeated the Khunds in #242 finally arrived at Weber's World and exchanged information with those acting as security there.
Meanwhile, those Legionnaires still on Earth had taken an active part in fending off the Khund attack, but they are quickly defeated. Then we cut to Brainiac 5, who has just arrived at Weber's World. He was in touch with Wildfire long enough to be informed that Earth was in dire trouble — and then was swallowed by a space warp.
The conference between Relnic and the Dominators finally started, and the Legionnaires tracked the Khunds' hyper-beam to the conference room they are using. The Legion broke into that room, only to find it empty.
Back on Earth, the Substitute Legion made an appearance to help fight the Khunds, but they fall quickly. Finally, the only Legionnaires who were on Earth were the four former members, Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl.
The next month, "The Circle That Crushed the Earth" opened with all the Legionnaires still in space returning to Earth to fight in the war there. Exactly halfway between Weber's World and Earth, they discover a new space station, containing the Dominators. In the second chapter, the four former Legionnaires are joined by a Science Police officer and Karate Kid (returning from the 20th century). In chapter three, Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Dawnstar, Superboy, Mon-El, Sun Boy, and Element Lad finally reach the Lords of the Dark Circle, only to find that the rest of the Legion and the reservists are being held prisoner. After a final attack, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl show up (Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel having been knocked out by a concussion bomb) and those assembled members discover that their opponent is really Mordru, an immensely powerful sorcerer who is probably the Legion's single most formidable foe.
"Mordru, Master of Earth" has the Legionnaires escaping from Mordru at its outset. Only Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Karate Kid remain free. After a short breather to plan strategy (during which Mordru demonstrates his powers for the reader), the Legionnaires attack directly. Instead of fighting, however, they scoop up the other Legionnaires and head out into outer space. Of course, Mordru follows, and he is weakened by being in space. When Element Lad seals Mordru in a globe of "special soil," he, and the Dark Circle, are defeated. (This was one of Levitz's few continuity flaws. Mordru's weakness is not any "special soil." It is simply lack of air. The fight should have been over a page earlier.)
In the epilogue, the Legion's constitution is amended to allow married members. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel refuse the honor, but Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl eagerly rejoin. The thousand-year galactic treaty is announced, and the rest of the story's loose ends are tied up.
The major flaw of the series is that we are never really shown the effect that the war has had on Earth. We are told in captions that the planet has been devastated, but without visuals it is hard to imagine the scale of destruction. For the next year or so, fairly constant reference is made to the rebuilding of the planet, and the readers are shown bits and pieces of this rebuilding, but it should have been shown during the war itself to give it a frame of reference.
Other than that, though, the series deserved the term "epic." The structure was complex, and the heroes were fighting for the defense of a world, with the entire galaxy in danger. With the series, Levitz gave "Legion" fans a lasting contribution, one that can be pointed to when people ask, "Why are you a 'Legion' fan?"
His timing was fortunate, too. for at that point he left the writing of the book. Time pressure and increased responsibilities on business end forced him away from any regular assignment for a while. He did manage a few more fill-in and special stories, however.
The first was in #246, directly after the end of the series. Over Paul Levitz's plot, Len Wein scripted "Will the Last One to leave Mercury Please Close the Planet?" The plot was rather superficial. Iris Jacobs (Karate Kid's 20th-century girlfriend from his own series) was taken by K.K. to Mercury to be changed back to her human form (from the diamond form in which she was trapped at the close of the Karate Kid series). Some Legionnaires followed, and after K.K. and Iris left, those who remained (Cosmic Boy, Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lad, and Sun Boy) were invited to solve a locked-room mystery: Patients had been vanishing from the Mercury hospital. Save for the hospital, the planet was an inferno, so the patients could not have left the building. Where did they go? This was something new for the "Legion" series — a locked-room mystery (in a science-fiction setting), it was quite welcome as such.
After a suitably comic-y unfolding of the plot, the secret is revealed: The planet is populated by "heat beings — sentient balls of agitated molecules!" Whenever one of these so-called Thermoids passed through a patient's body, the patient was inadvertently disintegrated by the "overwhelming temperatures." Why the Thermoids didn't disintegrate the building's walls as they entered is not explained.
The very basic idea — that there are forms in the universe that humanoids cannot perceive or even detect through normal means — was a good one. Sadly, the plot holes of the presentation of this concept dwarf the Lincoln Tunnel. Besides the mentioned non-disintegrating walls, there is the question of how the Thermoids took the Legionnaires away from the solar valley and rescued them. All but Sun Boy were unconscious on page 13, but at the top of the next page, everyone except Shadow Lass is just fine. Simply put, the execution killed the story.
"Celebration" in #247 was the story in which the year's Legion Leader was chosen. It was ostensibly an "anniversary" story because the Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared in Adventure #247, and also, according to Levitz's reckoning, "Celebration" was the feature's 247th story (not counting cameos). The surprise ending-Lightning Lad winning the election-was rather spoiled for some readers by Levitz's announcement of the winner on the letters page just before the story. During the course of the story, boy flitted around and played tricks on the Legionnaires, since — within the context of the story — he was celebrating his anniversary with the Legion. An insubstantial but harmless tale.
Jim Starlin returned to provide the plot and layouts for issues #250-251, tying up the loose ends from #237 in a piece originally planned for a Legion Spectacular. (Starlin used the pseudonym "Steve Apollo" in the credits, but for those few who couldn't detect Starlin's layouts, DC obligingly mentioned Starlin in the letter column.)
As the story began, Chameleon Boy was waiting for Wildfire to show up, so he could deliver evidence to the then-Leader. Cham is surprised by the hooded villain who had killed the woman from Ultra Boy's past in #237. Of course, the hooded villain only knocks Cham out, so when Wildfire finds him hours later, the evidence is still in Chameleon Boy's flight ring.
Wildfire calls a general meeting and discloses that the only evidence he found stated that the villain was a Legionnaire. The hooded villain chooses that convenient point to make a holographic appearance (although all he does is gloat). Within a couple of seconds, the "Deep Space Alarm" starts blasting. When Superboy checks, sure enough, millions of light-years away, there's hate incarnate, in the person of Omega (a creature who has decided that it hates the Legion more than anything else and is going to give them the proverbial one-two).
To make a long story short, the hooded figure (revealed as Brainiac 5) doesn't like the Legionnaires any more, because they don't let him go on vacation, and so when he catches a rare disease, it intensifies his feelings into insanity.
The Legionnaires realize that they need the Miracle Machine to get out of this one. In the meantime, Omega reaches Legion headquarters; Princess Projectra creates an illusion of a second Omega so that the two can fight and buy time, but that doesn't work. Wildfire opens his faceplate and unleashes his energy at Omega. That just blows up the clubhouse.
Finally, Omega encounters Brainiac 5, who tells Omega that any second now, he's going to die, because even as they speak, the Miracle Machine is being destroyed. Sure enough, Omega fades into nothingness in a final burst of light. How did it happen?
Matter-Eater Lad ate the Miracle Machine.
Of course, now Matter-Eater Lad has gone 'round the bend as well, so he and Brainiac 5 were taken to their friendly local Psychomedic, and the story closes with boy and Wildfire sitting on what would be the front steps of the HQ (if it still stood), talking about the ramifications of the case. These two pages were the best of the lot, portraying the quiet reflection that people do when their lives have been changed with uncertain effect.
One plot hole jumps up and down, waving its hand: Why didn't the Legionnaires just project Omega into the Phantom Zone? They did try zapping Omega into another dimension, but Omega just slapped the dimensional bomb aside. But with the Phantom Zone plan, all the Legion would have to do would be to aim the Zone ray projector at Omega for a couple of seconds. The story could still have been just as long, and probably more dramatic without the silliness of having Matter-Eater Lad eat the Miracle Machine. (Some critics have noted that the Legion could simply have used the Miracle Machine to destroy itself.)
To be fair, the plot holes were not Levitz's fault, and his script was good, with the occasional exception (when Wildfire faces down Omega, there's a schlocky caption about how the Legionnaire "has given up the right to be called a man … and earned the name Wildfire!")
Levitz's last "Legion" story to date was in the Super-Star Holiday Special released in late 1979. As may be inferred from the title, it was DC's annual Christmas package. In the "Legion" story, "Star Light, Star Bright — Far-Star I See Tonight," the Legionnaires who seemingly have nothing better to do on Christmas Eve go looking for the Star of Bethlehem. This brings them to a lonely little planet which is undergoing the beginning of an ice age. (Since there is no sun in the area, one wonders why it wasn't barren long ago.) The Legionnaires get the three intelligent species on the planet (who were all previously incapable of communicating with one another) to work together, thanks to standard Legionnaire telepathic plugs. This will allow them to live together and protect each other until they can be evacuated.
It was not a bad story; at least, it had the sentimentality one accepts in Christmas stories. And there were some nice bits of Legionnaire business, such as showing the way different members from different countries or planets celebrated the holiday. But it was not particularly memorable otherwise. Had it been a back-up in an issue of Superboy & the Legion, it would have been forgotten.
Fortunately, thanks to the "Earthwar" series and a few other less spectacular bits and pieces, the rest of Levitz's first tenure on "The Legion" was memorable. His achievements in his past, more formative, tenure on the series comprise one of the high points in "The Legion's" long history, and through them, we readers can project a good deal of optimism towards The Legion of Super-Heroes in the coming months.
©1981 New Media Publishing, Inc.