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.

Labels: , ,