Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Legionnaires / Continuity Notes: Phantom Girl

Public service announcement: this week's review of Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century will be delayed until Thursday. The management apologizes for any inconvenience.

Phantom Girl, aka Tinya Wazzo of Bgtzl*, aka Apparition, Phase (but see below!). Created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney.

Phantom Girl was one of the first Legionnaires.

In almost every version of the team, she's been shown as a Legionnaire pretty much right from the get-go. Tinya is unusual in that her superpower is basically just the power to go home: she's from, not a distant planet, but another dimension altogether, and when she becomes a phantom she's just shifting her centre of reality into her home dimension, leaving only her image and her attention behind. This makes her not only handy for walking through walls but also for remaining unscathed in the face of unimaginable possible personal harm, as long as she has a second to get ready for it.

Tinya was famous for the classic white-bellbottoms costume she wore in the 70s and 80s, but her costume has always been white and really hasn't changed that much over the years.

One of the most notable things in her history is her romantic relationship with Ultra Boy, which always seemed to me to be one of the great romances of superhero comics. Mary Jane Watson and Carol Ferris may come and go, but Jo and Tinya will always find a way to make it work. They did in the original Legion, they did in the reboot Legion, there were hints of it in the animated Legion, and, well, we haven't seen any signs of it in the threeboot yet, but it's still early.

It developed in the DnA era of the reboot Legion that the rest of the Legionnaires viewed Tinya as a confidante, someone they were comfortable pouring out their troubles to. This is true of threeboot Phantom Girl also. In the threeboot, she's also a history buff and is more obviously physically energetic than in the past.

In the 1990s, DC's continuity shufflings produced an insane scramble of revisions around Phantom Girl that we still don't know everything about. It happened like this:

When the Five Years Later era started, Ultra Boy was revealed to be back on Rimbor, living as an outlaw and keeping company with various non-Tinya women. Eventually we found out that she had been lost, presumed killed, in some kind of teleport gate accident during the Five Year Gap. At about the same time, the new comic L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 introduced a new character named Phase: an amnesiac black-haired woman in a white outfit with the power to walk through walls. It soon became pretty clear what had happened: the Time Trapper (or Glorith, depending on just when in Legion continuity you're asking the question) fingerflicked Tinya back to the present day and wiped out her memory. In fact, I think the implication was that Tinya got switched with the 20th-century Durlan who renamed himself R.J. Brande and helped found the Legion (although Brande obviously popped up earlier in the future than the Five Year Gap).

So that was fine, but it didn't stop there. As Zero Hour approached, someone decided to give Jo and Tinya a happy ending by revealing that Tinya had actually been stowed elsewhere in time and space, but could be reunited with Ultra Boy just before the universe winked out. Phase wasn't Tinya, but was really Tinya's never-seen-before cousin Enya, who found the time to jump onto the charts and into our hearts with 'Orinoco Flow' in between her adventures with L.E.G.I.O.N.

But then: Zero Hour happened, and the Legion was rebooted. Enya Wazzo, as a character, no longer existed... yet Phase remained in the pages of L.E.G.I.O.N. How?

The new answer was, Apparition (which is what Tinya called herself in the reboot) was half Carggite, which meant that she had three bodies, and coincidentally the three of them were separated in infancy. One of them grew to become Apparition. Another was sent back in time and became Phase. We don't know what happened to the third one. Anyway, Apparition got kind of killed and only survived as a spirit for a while, but when she met Phase the two of them were eventually merged into one person with both sets of memories (this kind of thing isn't traumatic for a Carggite). L.E.G.I.O.N. had been canceled by that time (I'm pretty sure. Wasn't it?) so it's not like there was still a big need for Phase in that comic.

Got that straight? L.E.G.I.O.N. ran for over half a decade, and one of its main characters was revealed in a separate comic to have been three different people in that time. It's a heck of a way to run a railroad.

Apparition and Ultra Boy got married and had a kid, Cub, who had some kind of weird deal going on with him that DnA never got to tell us about. They were the only Legionnaires to reproduce in the reboot.

I've been racking my brain for years (oh yes I have. Literally) to come up with a good signature moment for Tinya for this feature. It's hard. There are any number of times when she's useful or has a strong moment of this kind or that, but nothing that really jumps out. Then just recently Jack Briglio and Adam Archer helped me out in the pages of Legion of Super Heroes in the 31st Century #14. In it, Phantom Girl has to defend her mother, the president of the United Planets, from some mysterious ghostly assailants:

The moral of this story is, for most situations you only need one Legionnaire, and it doesn't always matter who it is. Phantom Girl's nobody's idea of a world-beater, brave and useful though she is, but she's got one trump card that means she'll have the advantage in any fight she's in: she's a Legionnaire. Perhaps one of the truest Legionnaires, if the tombstone they put up for her in the Five Years Later era when they thought she was dead is any indication:

*or possibly Bgztl. I used to be sure about which one; I'm not anymore.

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Blogger Richard said...

I missed out on all that L.E.G.I.O.N. stuff so I'm learning it here for the first time. Blimey! That sounds completely awful!

12:50 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Actually I've only read a few issues of L.E.G.I.O.N. (so far). All this stuff was established in the Legion's own titles. Which, as I pointed out, makes it worse.

7:13 AM  
Blogger snell said...

Here's the poser: If Tinya (and by extension her family) is from another dimension, how did her mom ever become President of the U.P.? They alow membership and citizenship to unreachable other-dimensional planets? How many? If we discovered an other-dimensional planet today, would we let someone from there run for president??

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.E.G.I.O.N. (as well as its sequel, R.E.B.E.L.S.) had been cancelled and its characters were living quietly in obscurity when they were dug up for the Apparition-Phase Carggite moment.

I've got every issue from both series. I liked the idea, but it was never carried out as well as I had hoped.

1:39 PM  
Blogger CDR said...

L.E.G.I.O.N. was a great book and the whole Tinya/Phase thing was initially pretty clear and uncomplicated.

Zero Hour caused them a problem, since the Legion was rebooting and they wanted to keep Phase around in the followup series, R.E.B.E.L.S. They also wanted to resolve Jo's search for Tinya, so they went the 'Patty Duke' route of identical cousins. Later on, the whole Enya reveal was forgotten by the 20th century team. They stated outright that Phase had never learned her real name.

Since the L.E.G.I.O.N. cast had gone off to limbo and DNA needed a body for the reboot Tinya, they just used the one that was now available. Of course, it ignored that Phase had always been portrayed a bit older, since she was originally a 30ish Tinya.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

snell: The tricky thing is, I'm not sure just how unreachable Bgtzl is. Tinya wasn't the only one running around the U.P. in original or (I think) reboot continuity. I think it's only in the threeboot that she's unique. But if it's not unreachable, then how do people go back and forth? Just by the powers of Bgtzlns? This needs clearing up.

infinityl3307: Thanks. Slowly but surely I'm going to track down those two series.

crood: I hadn't thought of the age discrepancy between Apparition and Phase, but of course you're right. Not that it doesn't make sense that they're different ages, but they ought to have had some trouble 'remerging' because of it.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pre-Crisis, it was established that space ships equipped with a certain drive could shift the dimensions in order to travel back and forth from Bgtzl (which occupied the same space as Earth). For Reboot, I don't think they ever established anything outright, but it's obvious that traveling between Bgtzl and the rest of the UP was no big deal.

Also, I like Tinya, but the Phase connection always made me cringe. The first explanation (Phase = time displaced Tinya) was alright, though "Enya" was an extreme cop-out. But the Carggite thing with Reboot Tinya and Phase never made any sense. For one thing, the age discrepancy bothered me a lot, and for another thing, Phase's personality was completely dropped after that. The merged person was Reboot Tinya with a few extra memories. Considering Phase was older, hers should reasonably have been the dominant personality, but instead it never emerged again. And I liked Phase, too...

10:46 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I guess they figured that, with L.E.G.I.O.N. and R.E.B.E.L.S. not around, there was nothing to keep Phase around for, and the Apparition side of her was the only part that was useful for anything.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phantom Girl is by far my favourite DC hero and I loved Phase too! I am still hopeful that the writers of the current L.E.G.I.O.N. series about to come out will ignore what happened with Apparition and bring back Phase for the series (plus Stealth too)!

4:42 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I have no opinion on that one. I haven't read enough L.E.G.I.O.N. Really, I'm not sure what's going to happen in that new series; seems like a weird candidate for publication to me.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous peter vandeneneg said...

and just a trivia point, IIRC, for years, they never explicitly stated in L.E.G.I.O.N. that phase was tinya... the implication was unavoidable, but they kept a level of plausible deniability.

but there were the (dah-DUM!) ancillary materials... trading cards and index pages and slurpee cups and the like, that stated clearly "real name: tinya wazzo".

the reboot 'death' was unconvincing, solely because i knew it couldn't possibly stick; i went and got myself roundly flamed when i innocently asked if i could please have a 'tinya's smoldering corpse' T-shirt...

"oh, boy. right. again."

and the reboot remake of 'ghost' was beyond appalling.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

but there were the (dah-DUM!) ancillary materials... trading cards and index pages and slurpee cups and the like, that stated clearly "real name: tinya wazzo".

Time out.

There were L.E.G.I.O.N. slurpee cups?

With all due respect to L.E.G.I.O.N., that sounds like one of the least popular promotions ever.

4:24 PM  

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