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It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

Recollections of Legionnaires #11
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Our story picks up on the Proty planet, where Matter-Eater Lad, Catspaw, Dragonmage and Shrinking Violet have crash-landed.  They’ve helped the Protys invade another crash-landed ship, in which we find the long-lost (and presumed dead) Legionnaire Kid Quantum.



The issue sports a nice cover by Chris Sprouse, showing Kid Quantum and those other Legionnaires triumphantly flying out into space with a beautiful multi-colored planet in the background.  My objection to the cover is that it shows a hale and hearty Kid Quantum in a Legionnaires uniform, serving as a pretty major spoiler that the character not only survives the major challenges he faces in this issue but becomes a Legionnaire. And to compound the spoil, they featured the cover artwork at the end of the previous issue, so on the very page after we reveal KQ’s existence, we essentially tell the readers he’s going to become a member. I’m sure our guys felt they could boost orders a little if they promised readers that they were going to see the arrival of a new team member but it’s certainly frustrating as a writer to have future developments tipped so far in advance.


At any rate the story takes us back to that moment the Legionnaires discover Kid Quantum in that mystery second ship, with the kid hooked up to an assortment of alien equipment.  It looks like the very life is being drawn out of him.

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Recollections of Legionnaires #10
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We pick up the story from where it left off last time, with Legionnaires Matter-Eater Lad, Shrinking Violet, Catspaw and Dragonmage crash-landed on a strange world where Catspaw and Dragonmage are finding people from their pasts mysteriously showing up in the present and M-E Lad is finding, to his delight, that Shrinking Violet is behaving amorously toward him.  But at the end of #9, Tenzil stumbles across a second Shrinking Violet out in the weeds, dazed and regaining consciousness.


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Recollections of Legionnaires #9
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With this issue we move into a stretch where Chris Sprouse and Adam Hughes are teaming up on the penciling, splitting up the pages of the issue, and we coincidentally start weaving multiple storylines through the next few issues It’s a bit of a change of pace after a tight opening six issues versus the Fatal Five and then a couple standalone fill-in issues.



This was about at the point we were finding out sales had dropped quickly enough after #1 (a pretty typical pattern) that our outside chance of staying on the book beyond our contract was disappearing and our mandate if we wanted to stick around was to create some highly promotable storylines to try and juice sales.

In retrospect, we should have really made a dramatic move to introduce twist after twist to the series, which is probably the only way we could have kept ourselves around, but there’d been some emphasis on introducing new members and we asked if we should tell those stories before taking off in any other dramatically new directions and was told that sounded like a good idea so in our minds, that’s what we did. And you folks can decide for yourselves if in the seven remaining issues we did a reasonable job of giving them the kind of promoteable twists and turns they were looking for.

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Dirk Morgna / Sun Boy
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When I was a kid, Sun Boy was kind of a middle-of-the-pack member for me, which seems odd given his brilliant red-and-yellow costume, the kind of thing I’d normally be drawn to, but I suppose it may have been a little “too flashy” for my tastes.



But one thing I’ll say is that he was as endemic to my vision of what the Legion should be as anyone, in part because I really liked the symmetry of there being a Sun Boy and a Star Boy and partly because he was the quintessential Legion member who was immediately identifiable with a self-explanatory name and power.

“My” Sun Boy was a really good guy, kind of modeled on the teens I knew who were “big men on campus” but very principled, honorable guys. They may have been the sports stars and gotten the girls, but they were also good guys you admired.

By the time we were dialoguing Keith’s Legion, the character had evolved a little bit and was becoming a bit of a cad. We could have tried to take a stand and pulled Sun Boy back toward what I’d once envisioned him as, but it wasn’t one of our top priorities and at some point we were going to have to accept that some of Keith’s storylines were going to be darker and less uplifting than what we might have done ourselves. So very early on in our sketching out the series with Keith, when he asked what I thought of Sun Boy essentially being the corrupt collaborator with Earthgov, I didn’t see a big reason to object.  If somebody was going to fill that role, I’m not sure I could have suggested a better candidate.

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Recollections of Legionnaires #8
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We got to work on another very enjoyable fill-in issue, this time with Colleen Doran, who we’d come to know pretty well through our mutual membership in Interlac and then subsequent meetings at cons over the years. As was the case with Chris Sprouse and Adam Hughes, Colleen was a joy to work with, very much in synch with the spirit of the series and willing to go above and beyond the call to illustrate our complicated tale filled with exotic settings and scores of characters.


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Chemical King
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Here are recollections from a discussion in a recent issue of Apa-LSH:  I didn’t ever think a lot about Chemical King one way or another, not finding much to catch my interest in his name, visuals or power.  I never took chemistry in school, so didn’t have the background to really know what could be done with his abilities or to get especially interested in the general topic. 



I did like the look of the character as Cockrum drew him in the ERG-1 story (the guy in green above) and was starting to get into him a little bit at that point, but Cockrum left and the very few CK depictions after that didn’t do much for me.

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Recollections of Legionnaires #7
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I’ve been looking forward to discussing this issue, the Legionnaires Atlantis story, which was a real favorite and is certainly an issue that has some interesting anecdotes behind it.



It was great to work with Adam Hughes, though let me make it clear that we also couldn’t have been more thrilled throughou all our other "Legionnaires" issues benefiting from the brilliant pencils of Chris Sprouse. We certainly enjoyed the best of both worlds having Chris as our regular artist and Adam doing some fill-in work.

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Shrinking Violet
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I didn’t give much thought to Violet in the early days. Her power wasn’t very exciting and she may have had the single least interesting costume among the early Legionnaires. And while a couple of the female members caught my eye, as a rule, I wasn’t as interested in the girls as the boys back then.

I had mixed feelings about the Cockrum makeover, which certainly converted her into a much more eye-catching, sexy Legionnaire, but for me it was hard to think of this as the same character. I was wowed during the 1976 Winter Olympics by Dorothy Hamill and realized her short dark hair and short skating skirt were reminiscent of Violet’s early look.  I came up with a version of Violet with Hamill’s fashionable short haircut and a light green dress with a skating cut that I really liked.




And I think I probably influenced the 1980s return of Violet to that kind of look because in the same letter to Keith in which I sent the Element Lad costume that became Jan’s new look in the 1980s (the magenta and black costume with the white Interlac "E"), I included a couple other suggestions, including my Hamill-esque Violet. I don’t think it was too much later that Keith designed a short hair / short skirt look for Violet that was certainly a lot different than what I suggested, but I’d guess was influenced at least subconsciously by my suggestion.
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Recollections of Legionnaires #6
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Our six-issue Fatal Five arc comes to a climax with the re-constituted Five attacking the capitol of New Earth, while the villainous team’s patron, Leland McCauley IV, off at his estate on the planet Gallàn, discovers to his dismay that there are two Emerald Eyes and two Emerald Empresses.



Issue 5 ended with the Cera Kesh version becoming enraged by the incompetence of McCauley’s trophy-girlfriend Empress, so Cera invades Gallàn and incinerates the rival Empress.

Cera says she’s the true Empress, somebody with the kind of dreams and emotional fury that the Emerald Eye feeds on. She dismisses McCauley as someone who thinks he can simply purchase the power of the Eye. But McCauley is able to grab mental control of “his” eye and uses it to mount a counter-attack against Cera.

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Gary Owens
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I was sorry to hear of the passing of Gary Owens ("Laugh-In's" on-screen announcer, voice of "Space Ghost"), a genuinely nice guy who befriended me when I was the new reporter at Daily Variety in the early 1980s, insisted that I send him one of my (admittedly amateurish) cartoons because he wanted to add it to his collection, considered me a colleague because I'd worked a bit in radio and kept me on his Christmas card list for years. One of the really nice guys in the entertainment business.

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