I’ve Got Some More Issues No. 7 –
Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #1-3
Long Live the Legion!!! For old-school comic readers that tag-line is as iconic as Avengers Assemble, It’s Clobberin’ Time, or (dare I say it) Make Mine Marvel. The Legion of Super-Heroes is and always has been my second favorite DC team behind the Justice Society of America. Being a teenager myself when most of their greatest stories were told, this team of young supers spoke to me in a way that most “Teen” hero comics didn’t. Maybe it was the sci-fi aspect, maybe it was the huge amount of heroes in the group sporting so many different powers, or maybe it was my huge crush on Dream Girl (Va-va-voom!), one will never know. Buckle up, buttercups! We’re taking a rocket ship into space as we look at 1981’s Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Complete Arc: (#1- ) “The Past…Seen Darkly”, (#2 – ) “R.J. Brande is Dying!!!, (#3-) “Revelation!”
Year Released: 1981
Creative Team: E. Nelson Bridwell, Paul Kupperberg (Writers), Jim Janes (Artist)
Heroes: Legion of Super-Heroes (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy, Brainiac 5, Superboy, Ultra Boy, Star Boy, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Tyroc, Bouncing Boy, Mon-El, Matter Eating Lad, Element Lad, Light Lass, Dream Girl, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Shadow Lass, Timberwolf, Wildfire, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Chemical King, Dawnstar, Super Girl, Proty), Legion of Substitute Heroes (Polar Boy, Night Girl, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid, Stone Boy, Color Kid), Elastic Lad (Jimmy Olsen), Kid Psycho, White Witch, Shadow Kid.
Villains: Universo, Lucifer Seven, Lightning Lord, Fatal Five (Mano, Emerald Empress. Validus, Tharok, Persuader), Black Dragon, Karth Arn, Evillo, Roxxas, Dr. Regulus,
Notable Quotable: Narration: “But they are Legionnaires…and when all is said and done, that is enough.”
This titanic tale finds the Legion gathered about a figure in a domed, hermetically sealed hospital bed. Their long-time friend and financier, R.J. Brande, is dying from Yorrgian Fever, a disease that is almost always fatal. Meanwhile, as the entire bunch is away, two furtive figures finagle their way passed the team’s HQ’s security and begin poking through their computer files, specifically the ones pertaining to the LSH’s history. The bungling info burglars are quickly busted and it’s revealed that one of them is R.J. Brande’s old friend, Marla Latham. HE (Yes, Marla is a dude) claims that within the Legion’s historical files lies the only way to save R.J., but he won’t tell them what he is looking for. Trusting the cryptic character, they allow him to continue his search and even help him to fill in some of the gaps. Will they find the answers their looking for in time, or will R. J. Brande die a horrible death?
E. Nelson Bridwell (Mad Magazine, Inferior Five) started at Mad and moved over to DC comics in 1965 to take the job of assistant to Mort Weisinger. Being a huge continuity nut, Bridwell was a natural to be tasked to co-write Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Paul Kupperberg (The Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern) is a legend in the field, having reportedly written over 1,000 comic book stories. For years he was DC’s go-to guy when it came to writing fresh and exciting stories. These two literary powerhouses certainly deliver in this mini-series, which proves to be both a historical look at each of the Legionnaires and sets up new Legion lore with its reveal in the third and final issue titled, aptly enough, “Revelation!” Their look at the past of this amazing team was (and still is) a great jumping on point for new readers, and while the story does have some early 80’s hoakieness to it and a few “What?” moments, they do not take away from the book’s shear fun in the least.
Jim Janes (Legion of Super-Heroes, World’s Finest, Unexpected) got his start in underground comics in 1972. His following work for Warren Magazines (Eerie, Rook) and Marvel (Marvel Team-up) made him a shoe-in for DC, where he drew the Legion of Super-Heroes’ monthly title. His work on this particular mini is fantastic. His solid lines and character art really bring these books to life, and his panel layouts, while not ground breaking, are simple and flow easily.
In 1981, the mini-series was a still a new idea. DC had conceived the concept with World of Krypton (1979) followed by The Untold Legend of Batman (1980). Realizing that they had two hot sellers on their hands where they could tell finite stories, they came out with a third, Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which they used to iron out the sometimes confusing history of this long-lived team (A process they would repeat later on a large scale – called a maxi-series – with Crisis on Infinite Earths). Once again, they had a hit on their hands, and soon Marvel followed suit with what they dubbed the limited series. Now that I have that explanation out of the way….If you’re a Legion fan, curious about the Legion, or interested in a truly fun story with a great twist ending, BUT THIS BOOK! It’s cheap, historic, and a hugely entertaining ride.
That’s all the time I have before I roll out of here to do some Christmas shopping! folks! Thanks for stopping by and listening to an old man ramble about the glory days of comicdom! I will see you again next month! LONG LIVE THE LEGION!!!!
Chris Swartzlander is the author of the Tripping Over Reality Sci-Fi series.