Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Legionnaires / Continuity Notes: Calamity King

I didn’t expect to have another post up this fast, but, hey, let’s all enjoy it.

Calamity King, aka E. Davis Ester of Touston. Created by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan.

Calamity King has appeared in comics only once, as far as I can tell. (Which makes it pretty easy to pick out his signature moment.) He applied for Legion membership and was rejected. He had the power of bringing bad luck to people around him, and the Legion figured (rightly) that he would be just as much a danger to the Legion as he would be to their opponents, especially since he had only limited control over this power.

And that was it for Calamity King, as far as Legion storytelling was concerned. He never appeared in any further Legion adventures and didn't surface in the reboot or threeboot.


I mentioned in a previous Continuity Note that a lot of what we know about the Five Year Gap (between Paul Levitz's LSH3 Baxter series and Keith Giffen's and the Bierbaums' LSH4 Five-Years-Later series) comes from a supplement that the Bierbaums wrote for Mayfair Games's DC-superheroes role-playing game, 2995: The Legion of Super-Heroes Sourcebook. Much of the information about the Five Year Gap is in this book only and never appeared in a DC comic book, but since the Bierbaums wrote it one can assume with some confidence that it was... how shall we put it? A hidden part of the backstory of the Five Years Later Legion? Certainly, if there's anything in the Sourcebook that's not consistent with the Five Years Later Legion, I haven't heard about it.

Now, since this book is, after all, not a comic book and not even published by DC, we can't really consider it part of the 'official canon', to the extent that such a thing even exists. It's the next best thing to it, though, since a) it was written by the then-current Legion writers, b) Mayfair had a relationship with DC, c) there's nothing to contradict it and d) it's consistent where it did overlap with the comic books. Call it part of the Legion apocrypha, then, if you like; I have no qualms about accepting it as part of Legion history.

One of the things mentioned in the Sourcebook was the brief Legion career of Calamity King. According to the Sourcebook, the Legion was down to only a few members and was constantly being harassed by Earthgov, and they'd accept almost anybody who applied to them. The last applicant to be accepted into the Legion before it finally disbanded was Calamity King, taking this opportunity to reapply. His Legion tenure was only a little over a month, none of which was chronicled in comic books. (It's natural to wonder whether Calamity King's presence on the team was a contributing factor behind the Legion disbanding.)

Now, here's the twist: in the letter column of Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #5, Johnny DC (the lettercol persona) lists, for the benefit of young kids who are new to the Legion and presumably came to the comic book from the cartoon, some "lesser-known Legionnaires", saying, "some you've met, some you'll see soon, and some just may remain a legend..." Among the Legionnaires he lists are Shadow Lass, Chameleon Boy and Dream Girl, none of whom are lesser-known to anyone who's read the comic for any length of time, but that's okay if you consider the intended audience for this book. But he also lists three Legionnaires whose membership was entirely during the Five Year Gap, and whose Legion tenure was only chronicled in the 2995 Sourcebook: Fire Lad, Reflecto and Calamity King.


DC must be acknowledging, after all this time, that the 2995 Sourcebook is 'canonical'!

Okay, not really. We're not in court and this isn't a smoking gun. I'm pretty sure that what happened was, whoever's in charge of the LSH31C lettercol wanted to list some fun Legionnaires for the readers, and selected a bunch of names out of wikipedia or whatever. I'm pretty sure that this doesn't reflect any kind of editorial policy on the part of DC, and I have no doubt that they wouldn't hesitate before contradicting it if that's what they wanted to do. But it's interesting.

It's interesting because it comes on the heels of the introduction of the 2x+unboot Legion in the JLA and JSA comics. This is a version of the Legion that resembles the Levitz-era Legion in most respects, but whose history seems to diverge from the original Legion's at some point prior to the Five Year Gap. DC is trying in an inconsistent way to present this Legion to us as the original Legion... and then Johnny DC undercuts them by apparently putting DC's imprimatur on some obscure and never-before-acknowledged bits of lore from the very period that the 2x+unboot Legion stories are shouldering aside! It is, as Lord John Aversin would say, gey beautiful.

We shouldn't make too much of this. It doesn't ‘invalidate’ the 2x+unboot Legion or anything. It's just another example of how messy comic-book continuity can get. But, as I say, it's interesting. Did you stumble just a little, there, DC? That’s what happens when you meet… the Calamity King!

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Blogger Michael said...

The Lightning Saga Legion's history appears to diverge from the Pre-Crisis Legion's history at the Crisis (so roughly from v3 #18 to Zero Hour might be wiped out), since Superman did meet the Post-Crisis Legion a number of times (like when he helped blow up the moon).

Calamity King was given some back story in the "Who's Who in the LSH" miniseries, including a name. This is another of those near-canonical book like the Sourcebook, in which material was made up completely, some of which appeared in one form or another elsewhere.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

The Lightning Saga Legion's history appears to diverge from the Pre-Crisis Legion's history at the Crisis

That's the theory that makes the most sense, but it's all in how you come at the question. Some of the differences introduced by Johns and Meltzer reach back much further into the timeline than that--Dream Girl's powers, Wildfire's relationship with Red Tornado... I wouldn't care to commit myself to a definitive point of divergence.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

Matthew, I thought you would be interested in this:

Jim Shooter Back on Legion.

Sounds pretty cool! And I dig the promo art as well.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Oh, I'm on it. Thanks.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Calamity King appeared in the "Karate Kid" episode of the Legion cartoon,auditioning for membership.As usual,it didn't go well.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

So noted! Thanks.

1:39 PM  

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