Friday, July 06, 2007

The Legionnaires: Quislet

Quislet, aka
of Teall. Created by Paul Levitz and Steve Lightle.

Quislet is one of the more unusual Legionnaires we've seen. He's basically a little point of energy from another dimension, and he stole an exploratory... vehicle... from his people and used it to come to Earth and join the Legion. His power is that he can jump out of this little white spaceship (LWS) of his and into an inanimate object, which he could then shape and control however he wanted. Only two problems: once he left the inanimate object, it'd fall apart and collapse, and he couldn't survive in the Legion's reality for long outside his spaceship. He was a Legionnaire for a few dozen issues of the Baxter series of the mid-'80s.

Quislet was a thrillseeker and explorer. The other Legionnaires often thought he didn't take things seriously enough, but this was just a reflection of his radically alien nature; Quislet's relationship with reality was radically different from that of anybody else, and therefore his perspective was also radically different.

At one point Quislet had trained Wildfire to knit his anti-energy together into humanoid form without using one of his container suits. Wildfire never quite perfected this, though, and eventually went back to the container suits. Wildfire once accompanied Quislet back to Teall, where they wanted to punish him for stealing the LWS by taking away his individuality. They got away that time, but a happy ending wasn't in the cards for Quislet: in a later storyline, he tried to 'possess' the Emerald Eye. It didn't work, and the Emerald Empress responded by destroying the LWS. To save his life, Quislet returned forever to Teall, where one must imagine the authorities there extinguished his self. His last words to the Legion before he left were "Never stop having fun."

I liked Quislet; he was a lot of fun. But I have to admit that he wasn't a great character:
1. He was basically invulnerable to everything, which means you can't really worry about him that much. And the one or two things he is vulnerable to, he's so vulnerable to them that you can't use them in a story without getting rid of Quislet altogether.
2. He was just a little point of energy. How can a reader identify with a point of energy? How can a writer really get inside his head? I mean, we as readers and writers can pull off some startling feats of imagination. We can identify, or make sympathetic, people from the past, present and future, aliens, animals, good and evil characters... but I think Quislet might have been too different for us to really make that leap.
3. He didn't have a face, so the artist couldn't convey his emotions to us through his expressions. The only ways to get Quislet to convey emotion were through his word balloons (full of his twisted alien syntax) or the shapes he made of other objects (which is, at best, indirect).

So he was a cool idea, but was limited in so many ways from a storytelling point of view that there really wasn't much that you could do with him. Quislet hasn't appeared in either reboot or threeboot continuity, and I kind of miss him, but I understand.

Oddly enough, I'm going to choose LSH5 #15 as his signature moment, because not only does he get to do something useful, and make wisecracks (both of which he was always pretty good at), but his alien nature lets him deliver some metatextual commentary on what's going on. It's an excellent use for Quislet, something DC might want to keep in mind if they ever want to bring him back again.

(The story is a campfire tale being told by one legionnaire to a bunch of other legionnaires. It’s about Sensor Girl, the White Witch, Blok and Quislet showing up to save the Flash as he sacrifices his life in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8. Sensor Girl directs traffic, Quislet disrupts the Anti-Monitor’s machines...

...the White Witch causes a reaction between the anti-matter and matter in the core of the device, and Blok smashes up what’s left. The four Legionnaires then leave as quickly as they came, but not before the White Witch casts a protection spell over Barry Allen…)

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Blogger Bryan-Mitchell said...

I was always a fan of Quislet and Tellus too. I think it was good to try to get away from human Legionnaires. Unfortunately it seems that these characters have been forgotten in subsequent reboots.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Yeah, I think the nonhumanoid Legionnaires always get the smelly end of the plunger. I think that the DC creators, as a group, think that we can't identify enough with them, and so they get killed off more often and brought back less often. Or something else happens with them.

Blok, Monstress, Sensor, Tellus, Quislet, Gates...

9:03 AM  
Blogger Yankee Jones said...

Quislet was a cool character but one that could only work in a comic book with as many characters as the Legion.

He didn't really work on a number of levels (as you said) but he was a fun counterpoint to say, Cosmic Boy.

He also a good contribution to the Legion's futuristic sci-fi setting which came across as too American/Anglo-Saxon/Judeo-Christian at times.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Quislet and Tellus were the epitome of diversity in the Legion's Earth- and humanoid-centered roster. The Legion should have many more characters like them.

No one questions the idea of relating to a nonhuman character when it's Snoopy, the Ninja Turtles, or SpongeBob SquarePants. Assuming you write them well, truly alien characters will work as well as any others.

Or as Quislet would say, "Go, go, go!"

5:58 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I'd like to see more alien characters too. Unfortunately a) we seem to be stuck with a roster full of Silver Age nostalgia, leaving little room for newness, and b) DC may perceive previous experiments along these lines to be failures.

And Levitz may have been a bit too ambitious with Quislet. I mean, he's really alien.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another problem with really alien Legionnaires like Quislet,Blok,or Tellus,is that they usually serve as a Greek chorus to their more human-type colleagues.They would often be off to the side,commenting on how strange humans seemed to them-which was redundant when the humans were saying the same thing about themselves and each other.This tends to limit the interaction of the human and non-humanoid members(for which we must blame the writers who can't think ouside that particular box)

2:25 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I can see that, now that you mention it. Doesn't have to be like that, of course; they can just as easily make comments about what's normal to them, which gives us some science fiction for a change.

2:50 PM  

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