Friday, August 19, 2016

There Came a Time When the Brain Globes of Rambat Died!

There's a parallel world out there I'm curious about.

The Legion of Super-Heroes became famous, of course, during their long run in Adventure Comics in the 1960s. But this run ended with #380, cover dated May 1969. After that the Legion spent about a year (June '69-Sept '70) as backups in Action Comics. And then they didn't appear for about half a year, only reappearing as a backup in Superboy in spring of 1971. (So, you know, it was about like now, only not as bad.) The point of which is, between the summer of 1969 and, arguably, the spring of 1972 (when Dave Cockrum took over the art) there was a period during which DC wasn't really putting much effort into Legion comics.

You know what else happened during that period?

Jack Kirby moved from Marvel to DC and created the Fourth World. The first issue of these stories was Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #133, cover dated October 1970; apparently Kirby took over that title because there was no incumbent creative team on it.

(The Fourth World stuff was not a huge commercial success. Its titles (Jimmy Olsen, plus Mister Miracle, The Forever People, and The New Gods) lasted for a couple of years before Kirby turned his attention to other things, but DC has been using the characters and ideas ever since.)

What I want to know is this.

What if, instead of fitting the Fourth World stuff into the Jimmy Olsen comic, Kirby had scooped up a different Superman-adjacent franchise and done a Legion of Super-Heroes comic instead? It's a natural: nobody was really using the Legion, and their spacefaring future-adventures were a more natural fit for Kirby's imagination than Jimmy Olsen and his bow tie. I honestly have no idea why this didn't happen.

And if it had happened, how would it have changed things? I actually think it would have made things worse for the Legion, counterintuitive as that may seem. Consider:

- it's not like the Fourth World led to any kind of Jimmy Olsen renaissance
- Darkseid and Mr. Miracle have been enduring characters, but despite DC's fascination with the various properties, there really haven't been that many Fourth World-related comics, post-Kirby, that have been any good
- Kirby would have been taking over the Legion before Cockrum's costumes, before Wildfire and Dawnstar, before Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl married, before Invisible Kid and Chemical King died. Would subsequent writers have felt compelled to keep the Legion the same as it was when Kirby was working on it?
- what would have happened to the Legion when Kirby was done with it? Would they have found a home in the Superboy title, or not? Given a different chain of events, would Bates and Cockrum and Grell and Levitz have found their way to the LSH?

So I'm not saying I wish it had happened. (For one thing, and I know this is heresy, but Kirby is one of those great comic-book creators whose style doesn't really appeal to me, along with Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, and Don Heck.) But I would like to know what it would have been like.

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Blogger Dougie said...

I've blogged about Imaginary Stories of Batman and Robin by Kirby, circa Omac and Dingbats but I never considered LSH! At first I couldn't picture Kirby handling a cast of that size-until I recalled the Action and Superboy stories usually only featured four or five Legionnaires at a time anyway. Kirby employed large-ish casts in mid-60s FF and JO, as you say. I imagine he might use the more visually dramatic and vibrant Legionnaires: Brainy, Cham, Bouncing Boy, Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Vi, Sun Boy. Lightning Lad-possibly Superboy.

The more I think about it, the more I like it! Plenty of "groovy" dialogue, a lot of goofiness and some of the Fourth World ideas like the Parademons, the Deep Six - maybe Big Bear or Barda as Legionnaires?
Subsequent writers would definitely use his concepts. They've been doing it since 1977.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

I honestly wonder why it didn't happen.

10:44 AM  

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