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gnaw on fence

It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

"2995" Mayfair Legion Sourcebook: Tyroc Through the White Witch
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          Let's pick up on my notes on our “2995” Mayfair Soucebook, starting with our little section on Tyroc, which starts with a “Meet the Legionnaires” entry through a pretentious era of “The Legion Groupie,” then going by the moniker “TLG.” To me, it fits pretty well with the ambitious but misguided original intent of the Tyroc character (when instead of just seamlessly integrating the U.P. universe, the creators tried to use the Legion’s first African-descended character to comment on prejudice and bigotry).



          From there we jump to the five-year gap and get a chilling Earthgov memo where they discuss slaughtering the population of Marzal as a means to boost Earthgov’s polling numbers through the creation of a “victory” over “Khund conspirators.”  The plan is to use recordings of Tyroc’s sonic yell to bring Marzal into this dimension, then ambush the population and leave Khund bodies and technology strewn within the carnage to create the impression the island was materializing as a sneak attack on Earth.



          And finally we get a journal entry where Troy decides to join Jacques Foccart’s resistance movement and oppose the genocidal thugs of Earthgov with every breath Troy has left.
          DAWNSTAR: Interestingly, we gave an abbreviated background for Dawnstar from a trading card rather than the detailed bios the earlier members had received from The Legion Groupie. I’m  not sure if we were just trying to save space or figured that the fan magazine had faded away by this point in Legion history.
          There’s a note from Laurel to Saturn Girl shortly after Black Dawn where Laurel expresses concern for what’s going on with Dawnstar, whose aloofness has morphed into a virtual catatonic state. Laurel wonders if Dawnstar isn’t to some degree “under the influence,” but Laurel isn’t guessing about anything like the Bounty entity that’s apparently already taken over.



         Journal entries from Brainy demonstrate that he figured out that Bounty was Dawnstar and that other Legionnaires were also speculating along those lines, but that Brainy figured she was choosing to keep her identity hidden.  Thus, Brainy was alarmed to later realize Dawnstar was enduring major traumas during her possession by the Bounty entity, while Brainy was assuming she was simply choosing to keep her identity a secret.
          BLOK: We find out Blok quit during the five-year gap because he was itching to continue his quest to learn more about the Dryad race, and had lost patience with Earthgov actions that had rendered the Legion virtually impotent.
          It’s a very quick entry, though we learn that Rokk eulogized Blok as keeping alive the original spirit of the Legion through his innocence and earnestness.



          INVISIBLE KID II: Our “Meet the Legionnaire” entry reveals a young Jacques who felt the burden of responsibility keenly and hoped to learn how to enjoy life more. We certainly saw the weight of Jacques’ responsibilities during the 5YL Legion wearing him down, especially when the Presidency of Earth was thrust upon him after his grueling years heading up the underground resistance to Earthgov.
          The Sourcebook entry also includes a letter to Danielle at the time of Jacques’ resignation from the Legion during the five-year gap, as he describes how wrenching it is to watch the Legion torn apart by Earthgov pressure. Most heart-rending is hearing his description of Dirk as “one of the great Legionnaires of all time…walking the streets destitute, desperate for a way to contribute but too proud to return to the shell of the Legion that remains.” You get the sense that Jacques doesn’t know what he’s going to do next but that he knows his fight against Earthgov hasn’t ended.



          WHITE WITCH: This section opens with a journal entry from Mordru where we see how he’s at once attracted to Mysa and wary of her great powers. He suspects she needs to die if he’s to realize all his ambitions but he prefers to take the considerable risk of attempting to control and conquer the enchanting sorceress rather than kill her.
          A vexing typo in this entry causes a reference to “another such enchantress of 1000 years past” to come out as “100 years,” messing up our reference to Amethyst, who’d conquered Mordru in the 20h century and left him buried alive for 10 centuries.
          We get a journal entry from 9-year-old Mysa where we can sense how abusively Mordru was treating her even at that young age, causing terrifying nightmares.



          From the five-year gap there’s a somewhat chilling letter from sister Nura, ostensibly congratulating Mysa on her planned wedding to Mordru, but Nura is wisely counseling Mysa to give it time and see if Mordru’s seeming rehabilitation will survive the stresses of his new duties as Lord Emperor of the Sorcerers World and the intoxication of the power that comes with it. Nura pledges not to look into Mysa’s future – “I respect your right to privacy and self-determination too much to start traipsing through your future.”  Family relations sure can get
complicated among precognitives.

          I hope our depiction of a battered woman is insightful and sensitive enough to do justice to what was a very heavyweight storyline. It’s pretty powerful to read Brainy’s journal entry after Mysa’s been rescued from her traumatic marriage to Mordru and hear that she blames herself and talks about returning to her abusive husband  to try and repair the relationship. Our extremely perceptive Brainy writes a haiku about Mysa (penned for us by the brilliant Elizabeth Holden) that includes the profound line “You know love too well.”

Laurel Gand / Andromeda
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Here are some thoughts on Laurel Gand / Andromeda from a couple years back when she was the topic of the mailing in Apa-LSH.

Back in probably late 1989, Mary and I were visiting friends Arnie Starky and James Ricklef on a Saturday evening and this was about the time we were coming up on the publication of Legion #4 and #5 and we told Arnie and James in strictest confidence about the changes that were going to occur in the Legion timeline.




As a big fan of Supergirl, Arnie immediately observed that the new timeline would need someone to fill that historical role, something that I think had not at all occurred to any of us (heaven knows we were juggling plenty of monumental concepts already, trying to improvise this storyline literally between one page and another of issue #4). 

With that Arnie, James, Mary and I started kicking around ideas for who this new Supergirl might be. I don’t remember if we came up with it that evening or in the next day or two, but since Laurel Kent was going to be absent from our new timeline (all Kryptonian elements were not to be used in future “Legion” issues), the use of the “Laurel” name seemed logical. And we wanted the character to have some familial bond with the hero taking over the Superboy role in the new timeline, Mon-El / Lar Gand / Valor, and thus Laurel Gand was created.

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Recollections of The Heckler #3
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This very well may have been the best issue of The Heckler, certainly one of them. Keith came up with a really great adversary that’s both conceptually and visually a barrel of laughs -- the Cosmic Clown, a robotic assassin from outer space in the guise of a clown, who’s managed to get reprogrammed and is now reformed and determined to end the bloodthirsty ways of his former assassin colleagues.



The title page features one of our trademark meandering monologues, this time ruminating about the signs of the Zodiac, purporting that there’s a little known 13th sign, Hecklelarius the Hecker (for those whose birthdays land between Pisces and Aries on leap years), and in this story we’ll see the ethereal serenity of the Heckelarius constellation disrupted by a celestial rogue – the Cosmic Clown.

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Recollections of The Heckler #5
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Continuing on with my memories of working on the Heckler, and now we're up to the penultimate issue of its all-too-brief run...



Keith conceived this issue as kind of a split-story. For the one half he'd dreamed up on his own, it was a set-up for a huge event / villain that would arrive next issue, presaged in this issue by a Silver Surfer-like assemblage who'd hearld the approach of the awesome threat, though in this case, the heralding function is handled by a ragtag version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the “Four Mopeds of the Apocalypse.”

As for the other half of the issue, Keith tossed that ball into our court and told us to think up a villain. Probably because of my affection for Disney’s “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” (starring my all-time favorite actor, Patrick McGoohan), I’ve always liked scarecrow-based characters, and once the idea of a living scarecrow as a foe for the Heckler popped into mymind, it didn’t take long for a pun to occur to me, “C’est Hay” (“Say Hey,” a popular phrase in earlier decades, especially regarding legendary baseball player Willie Mays, know as the “Say Hey Kid”).



The issue opens with what would turn out to be, alas, our final meandering title page featuring our wacko, rambling narrator.  In this case, he’s rhapsodizing about the awesome portentous threat of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and says, boy, that would sure make for a great story, but that’s not what we’re going to get today. Instead, it’s “The Coming of the Four Mopeds of the Apocalypse.”
We open at the “Still Alive Retirement Village,” where the decrepit, elderly Mr. Plagueboy is watching on TV a news update from Eyecarumba News that mentions six exploding pigeons in Droolers’ Park. Mr. Plagueboy recognizes the bizarre event as a portent – “the first six” – and knows he must go. A bossy nurse tries to stand in his way, but Plagueboy disables her by mentally giving her a migraine and Mr. Plagueboy is off on some sort of ominous mission.

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"2995" Mayfair Sourcebook: Karate Kid Through Timber Wolf
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Continuing our reminiscences of the “Legion: 2995” Mayfair Sourcebook Mary and I wrote back in about 1992...

KARATE KID: A very brief entry for a hero who didn’t play much of a role during our run. We get a brief obituary of the original Val’s demise and a quick sense of his exploits (nearly defeating Valor [in place of Superboy] when applying for membership).  The highlight of this little section is Elizabeth Holden’s haiku in Brainy’s voice, speculating that Val continues to probe for the “fatal flaw” that will allow him to defeat his “endless sleep.”



SHADOW LASS: Again an abbreviated entry for a hero who didn’t have a big role in our run. And unfortunately for Tasmia, her “Legion Groupie” entry was written during the “cool cat” phase of that magazine, though we do learn through the hip lingo of that era that her highest priority is Talok VIII’s safety, she sees herself as a Zuunese Black Tiger and enjoys “showing off” boyfriend Valor but feels she falls in love “too easily” (no doubt a reference to what was back then the fairly recent development of her initially falling for Brainy when she first teamed up with the Legion).Read more...Collapse )

Recollections of The Heckler #4
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Again, perhaps our best issue, certainly one of them, and the one that most directly pays tribute to Warner Brothers cartoons with the introduction of a villain named Bushwack’r, who, Wile E. Coyote-style, spends the issue setting traps for the Heckler that have a way of backfiring.

The cover sets this up nicely with the Heckler considering an obvious trap that tries to snag him with the tantalizing warning “Do Not Press This Button,” when clearly doing so will drop three huge bolders on his noggin.



The title page includes another trademark narrator rant, this time relating to an apparent complaint somebody lodged about the Heckler not appearing on the title page of a past issue.  This sets the narrator off on a diatribe about how when the old Mrs. Kravitz dies, you fan-boys out there just have to accept the new Mrs. Kravitz. By this point, the narrator is in no mood to think of a fitting title for the story so the official title of #4 is “Let ’em Make Up Their OWN Stupid Title!”

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2995 Sourcebook: Element Lad Through Ferro Lad
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Here are some notes on our "2995" Legion Mayfair Sourcebook. We're currently in the section covering Legionnaires, who are listed in the order they joined...



ELEMENT LAD : Picking up in our “2995” Mayfair Sourcebook in the member sections with Jan Arrah / Element Lad, which includes some insightful entries, one of Jan explaining to Shvaughn why he went off alone during the Five-Year Gap to meditate on Trom (largely because he was so shaken by the decline of the Legion and the failure of the Earth population to stand up for the team.
Then Jan’s journal entry after he’s rejoined the Legion shows him perhaps feeling a little guilty that he felt he had to physically remove himself to Trom to work out issues that were happening entirely in his head when there was so much actual physical catastophe occuring. And he now views the enormous challenges being thrown at the Legion as no longer  impediments to his spiritual journey but the reason for his journey and the means of his enlightenment.

LIGHTNING LASS: The section on Ayla / Lightning Lass  includes a clue to what I see as her primary hidden conflict, which is a strong desire to pull together in harmony her pretty dysfunctional family, which had included through her younger years the butthead version of Garth (pre-Proty) and the damaged Mekt, who would become the villain Lightning Lord. Though it took some strange twists to get there, by the 2995 Legion, Ayla was living her impossible dream, with Garth having been upgraded with Proty’s noble personality and Mekt truly reformed thanks to the very effective rehabilitation techniques of the 30th century. Interesting, too, that Ayla perceived the incident on Korbal that gave them their lightning powers as the catalyst that messed up Garth and Mekt, though my feeling is that our Garth’s jerkiness predated any impact the lightning attack and subsequent powers may have had on his psyche. I do more sense Mekt’s journey to villainy may have been hastened by the great powers he was granted, or by damaging side effects of those powers.
Ayla writes to Vi explaining how idyllic life has been since Ayla left the Legion and joined Garth and Imra on Winath. What a contrast to the war-is-hell existence of Violet during the gap. But Ayla promises that a little bit of heaven awaits Vi when the war is over and they can be united on Winath.

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Recollections of The Heckler #2
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Regular readers will recall that I’m currently alternating recollections of our “Legion 2995” Mayfair Sourcebook with issues of “The Hcckler,” and this time, “The Heckler #2” is up.



The cover introduces our villain of the issue, the Generic Man, and there’s a cover blurb that appropriately declares “Cover Blurb!”

The title page continues in that spirit with “Logo” and captions reading things like “a catchy opening sentence asking a provocative question that doesn’t really have much to do with the story you’re about to read…” and “Title.”

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"2995" Mayfair Sourcebook: Valor Through Matter-Eater Lad
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Regular readers may recall that I’m currently alternating in these “Lore” entries between issues of “The Heckler” and sections of our dense “2995” Legion Mayfair Soucebook, so this issue, we’ve got a second chunk of “2995” to cover, and I’m currently in the character section, still covering some of the early Legion inductees.

I'm pulling these from my apa zines of a couple years ago and for some reason, all the early Legionnares prior to Valor do not seem to have made it into any of my zines. I feel certain I drafted comments on that section of the sourcebook and will keep an eye out for them, but for now, I'll pick up the Sourcebook where I picked it up in the apas...




VALOR: A good retelling here of what Valor accomplished in the 20th century that has made him such a legend (the creation of the “Sentinel Worlds” or “Gandian Worlds” that account for most of the Legion’s humanoid races whose members all possess a common super-power), of how his personality got taken over and weakened by his descendent Eltro Gand (the clue that clearly hinted at the Proty personality that had taken over Garth) and the basic personality of Lar Gand / Valor – truly noble and quite uncomfortable with his quasi-god-like status in the 30th century.



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Heckler #1
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Here's a change of pace for this blog. Since I've covered most of our Legion issues, I'll occasionally post memories of work on other projects, in this case, the short-lived but beloved series "The Heckler."

If you’ve never read the series, you might be interested if you enjoy humorous takes on super-heroes, though this is not a spoof of a super-hero, nor is it camp or a series of fan-boy comic-book in-jokes (I believe there's one, and only one, very minor Legion reference throughout the six issues). Rather, it’s an off-beat, humorous romp that is more of a Warner Bros. Cartoon in tights than any sort of satirical take on super-heroes.
       
(And if you’re at all tempted to try “The Heckler,” track down some copies. Believe me, they’re very cheap.)




I suspect the origin of the project was that Keith Giffen knew our status on the Legion wasn’t all that secure and wanted to give us an alternative project in case we got bounced from that title. And if that was the case, we mucked up his strategy completely by choosing that exact time for me to quit my staff position at Variety and take the plunge and try to make comic scripting our primary income (though the actual trigger was when I told Mary I was going to miss the San Diego Con for about the fourth year in a row due to Variety work commitments and she just said at that point enough was enough and we needed to make a stronger commitment to the comic-book business).  Keith had repeatedly told us the comic industry was too challenged and crazy to voluntarily enter it when you had other well-paying options, but we ignored that sage advise – we were just having too much fun writing comics to keep doing it as something we squeezed into our spare time.

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