Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Legionnaires: Bouncing Boy

Bouncing Boy, aka Chuck Taine of Earth, aka Charles Foster Taine. Created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney.

Quick synopsis: Chuck Taine, while slacking off from work one day, accidentally drank an experimental formula that allowed him to turn himself into a giant bouncing ball whenever he wanted. He parlayed this dubious blessing into a Legion membership that was interrupted by the loss of his powers several times, and eventually married and retired to run the Legion Academy. In the reboot he didn't have any powers but became a full-fledged Legionnaire anyway as the team's resident engineer.

Mark Waid gets Bouncing Boy. He once said something like, "I think a big fat 250 lb. guy hurtling at you at a hundred miles an hour is a damn cool superpower." Of course it is! You don't want to fight Bouncing Boy; he'll clean you right up. Not much compared to Mon-El and the White Witch, maybe, but it's a perfectly effective street-level superpower.

It has been said many times that the great thing about Bouncing Boy is that he got to marry Triplicate Girl (well, Duo Damsel, anyway). I don't have anything interesting to say about that, but I know that if I didn't mention it, somebody else would.

What I like about him is that he's got one of the few superpowers that would actually be fun to use. Most superpowers, you could do fun things with them, maybe, but they aren't fun themselves. (Flight would be another one.) Seriously. Wouldn't you like to ricochet all over the place if you knew you couldn't get hurt? Sure you would.

Bouncing Boy became an instructor at the Legion Academy after retiring from the Legion early in the Levitz run. Consider these two scenes. In the first one, from LSHv2 #304, Bouncing Boy is leading three Academy students plus new Legionnaires Invisible Kid and the White Witch to capture some escaped zoo animals.





In the second one (my pick as Chuck's signature moment), from deep in 5YL territory (LSHv4 #17), Bouncing Boy and some others are trying to survive the Khundish invasion of Xolnar.







This is what's so great about comic book continuity. The second scene works just fine by itself, but you get a lot more from it if you've read the first scene too. I don't even know for sure if Giffen and the Bierbaums had the first scene in mind when they came up with the second scene (but I figure they probably did), but I do when I read it, and it resonates.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Murray said...

Ahh, Chuck! He's certainly one of my faves. i'm glad that Levitz gave him some moments to shine in his stories (and I'd never made the connection between the two scenes that you linked) even while keeping him out of the Legion proper. It was a role that really worked for Chuck.

I wish that later creative teams had found a way to use Bouncing Boy in their stories. I know that the reboot team included Chuck in their stories... but that's not really the same thing.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

I like the fact that it enriches the history, interaction & friendship (even if it's not a "let's go out for a few beers and watch the game"-type one) between Chuck & Mysa to see them work together in various situations across the years.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I know that the reboot team included Chuck in their stories... but that's not really the same thing.

Ah, but how cool was that during the DnA run...

"Welcome aboard the Bouncing Boy."

I like the fact that it enriches the history, interaction & friendship between Chuck & Mysa to see them work together in various situations across the years.

It's not a pairing you usually think of, is it?

8:52 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

Ah, but how cool was that during the DnA run...

"Welcome aboard the Bouncing Boy."


Not nearly as cool as it would have been if they had said instead, "Welcome aboard, Bouncing Boy."

A bouncing air boat just isn't half as cool as a bouncing kid. I gotta agree with you, though. Bouncing would be a wicked fun power. Right up there with flight. I think I'd probably be one of those lame forgettable Legionnaires, if I showed up at tryouts. Forget the power blasts and shape-changing. I'd just want the flight ring. :)


It's not a pairing you usually think of, is it?

Nope. But it really works. Enough that I would like to see a little more of it at some point.

7:59 AM  
Blogger L. L. said...

Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad were my favorites since their introductions. I remember a story featuring a powerless Chuck who subdued some hoodlums using rubber balls and his knowledge of vectors and angles. During the DnA run, I knew that eventually Chuck would (re)gain his powers and everything would once again be right with the world.

Loren

www.flightringvillage.blogspot.com

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to have your blog posted on our Facebook Wall...Have you see our group Interlac The Legion Online? Please take a look and join us. Paul Levitz AND Cildiray Cinar already members. Thanks

12:27 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Thanks, but I do not do the FaceBook. I used to be on there but then I quit and I have no plans to go back.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charles Foster Taine?! Genius name!
I go back and forth on characters like Bouncing Boy.Sometimes they seem anachronistic in today's comics.Then I think today's comics need characters like Bouncing Boy.
The second part of your choice shows how DC tries to have it both ways,taking a whimsical character like Chuck and putting them in a more "realistic"(i.e. bloodier)milieu.It doesn't work for me,but the scene shows Chuck's true purpose:Legion motivator.He inspires his team mates to transcend themselves.Just wish you had found a less grisly example.
My fave BB moment was from the TV toon,when the Legion was on Winath fighting lighting storms and Chuck took charge and ended up as Legion leader(and props to the actor playing the part).Whether as teacher,cheerleader,or projectile,Chuck should always have a place in the Legion.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous eddie blake said...

also liked him in alan davis' superboy's legion, where he saves the legion while karate kid, and ferro lad save the day...

3:58 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

He's had a few great moments, that's for sure. We could also look at the Hunter story, the first fight with the earthquake beast, or even the one where he calls out the reboot Legion for complaining about their lives.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Bill D. said...

It took me awhile to come around to liking Bouncy. I always thought he was just kind of silly, but his portrayal on the LSH cartoon as the likable lunk pilot helped me see him in a new light, similar to, say, Tiny from Battle of the Planets.

Damn shame we never got to see animated Chuck's tenure as Legion leader, though!

5:31 PM  
Blogger CATR's Chris said...

Bouncing Boy has always been such an inspirational character. I didn't like much how he got sidetracked in reboots 1 and 2, but now it looks like the Legion Academy is coming back and guess what this means? :)

Matt, too bad you don't have a fanpage in Facebook for the Legion Abstract. It would take you only to post your links over there and it would be so much easier to see your new stuff for us, the FaceBookers ;)

7:31 PM  
Blogger karl said...

Like "Chuckie" a lot..he and Duo Damsel made a good team back in the day. What dismayed me during the Archie-LSH was how he was relegated to bartender-cum-handyman..as if bouncing was a silly power[well ok it is but the above Giffen pics proved how useful it could be in the right circumstances. Why do i always think of Matt Parkman from the dreadful "Heroes" when i see Chuck?] Lets see lots more Bouncing Boy!!!!

7:45 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Bill: I was looking forward to seeing him as leader too. One thing I liked about animated Chuck is that he had the yellow goggles that covered his eyes when he was in inflated form. Perfectly sensible, and there was never anything like it in the comics. Why not?

Chris: I am leery of Facebook. Anyway, it's pretty easy to keep track of this thing through an RSS reader.

Karl: Look at it the other way: he was a full-fledged Legionnaire despite not having any combat abilities or superpowers of any kind. Nobody else has ever had that. Not Rond Vidar, not Theena, not anybody.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just once,I'd like to see Bouncing Boy stand up in front of the likes of Mordru or the Fatal 5,throw his head back,and shout,"I'm Charles Foster Taine!" Maybe finish with a Rosebud joke...

11:24 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Nah. It's only barely acceptable as a joke if no attention at all is drawn to it. Anything else would be too much.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Meerkatdon said...

One of the greatest things about Chuck is how he keeps (no pun intended) "bouncing back." He loses his powers, and that doesn't knock him out. His bride gets stolen by Starfinger, and that doesn't knock him out. The Khunds invade, and that doesn't knock him out. He's rebooted without any powers at all, and that doesn't knock him out.

My favorite Chuck moment was in Adventure 379, when Luornu was dejected about how useless her power was, and Chuck gave her a great speech -- the burden of which was that he had come to a similar place years ago, and had appointed himself the Legion's unofficial morale officer...and that Luornu gave the organization class, no matter what her power was.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The thing about the welcome-aboard-the-Bouncing-Boy thing for me is that it shows that, whatever permutations or revisions the Legion goes through, their innate Legionness will inevitably emerge. Chuck Taine isn't going to let a little thing like not being Bouncing Boy stop him from being Bouncing Boy. This is why the Time Trapper's efforts to wipe out the Legion can never succeed; it'll all end up happening anyway, in one form or another.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Cornacchia,the voice of Bouncing Boy on the LSH cartoon,makes an appearance in the movie"The People vs.George Lucas".The guy even looks like Bouncing Boy.

Had an idea:since DC was unable to have anyone in the Legion say the name Superboy,wouldn't it have been nice if they had called him Super Lad in the cartoon? It would've fit in with the Legion's Lad & Lass nomenclature.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yeah, well, the Legion has a Boy/Girl nomenclature just as much as they do a Lad/Lass one. Plus, if you're trying to put a new cartoon over, why would you avoid using the very recognizable name "Superman"?

8:27 AM  

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