itsokimasenator (itsokimasenator) wrote,
itsokimasenator
itsokimasenator

Recollections of Legion #33

This was one of the fill-in issues Mary and I plotted, an origin story for Kid Quantum.  Probably most readers at the time were pretty confused as to just who this Kid Quantum was supposed to be and why we were devoting an issue to him, because up to this point he was nothing more than an extra statue drawn into the grove dedicated to deceased Legionnaires.
 
But I think when this fill-in was conceived, the plan was for the “Legionnaires” spin-off comic to tell a revised history of the Legion that emerged after the timeline shift back in the “Mordru Universe” story in Legion #5, and we were going to make Kid Quantum a key member of that Legion.
   
What we came up with as a story for the character, his power and his background probably wasn’t all that inspired and it certainly proved to be pretty complicated to explain, so ultimately, it probably wasn’t a great success.  It did reflect a few things we always tried to do back then, which was to build on existing Legion lore/address open threads, and make any new character that appeared in the revised timeline have a logical reason to exist in this timeline and a logical reason to not exist in the prior timeline.
   
The open plot thread our Kid Quantum story helped address is the unexplained meetings R.J. Brande had with a group of Protys back during Paul Levitz’s years on the book and then the disappearance of Brande, which I think also started during Paul’s time on the book.  And the reason why Kid Quantum emerged in this timeline rather than the original Legion timeline had to do with an obsession that Glorith (the villain who replaced the Time Trapper in the new timeline) had with the Protean creatures of Antares II, hoping to enslave them into becoming her race of brainwashed shape-shifting slaves.  As revealed in this issue, the Proteans channeled their sentience into a single creature who was smuggled off-planet in secrecy and who then disappeared into the universe carrying “The Soul of Antares.”  That left the Protean race without sentience and they became untrainable by Glorith and her armies.  Seven Proteans secretly retained their sentience and are now searching for the missing Soul now that the threat to the race being posed by Glorith has passed (after the Legion marooned her in the distant future at the end of the Khund Wars story in Legion #15-17).
   
As a setting for this story on, we chose Yal, a planet that had made a cameo appearance back in the 1960s Adventure days in some sort of depiction of law enforcement customs from around the United Planets.  Yal was identified as a world with robot lawmen.  That struck me as an interesting idea that could add something to the backdrop of this story.  I think we took it upon ourselves to make Yal a world that didn’t rotate in relationship to its sun, so there was an impossibly hot half of the planet and an ice half of the planet and a habitable twilight zone between the two.  Same thing that was depicted in the Bates-Cockrum back story “War Between the Nights and the Days” except with greater extremes being depicted on this world.  I guess we probably thought this seemed compatible with robot lawmen, who’d be better suited to venturing into the inhospitable zones than would be biological lawmen.
   
We tried a layout experiment with this issue, dividing it into sections of pages that were all interior scenes and pages that were all exterior scenes and giving all the interior pages the cramped nine panel grid and all the exterior pages six horizontal panels that run the width of the page to communicate the wide-open, desolate nature of this frontier world.  The story was penciled by an artist named David Williams, who had an interesting and very different style.  His Kid Quantum was great, as was a sexy bar owner named Xandi, who’s flirting with KQ throughout the story.
   
We eventually meet Kid Quantum (and find that he’s operating under the name Rouvin), as he cashes in a week’s worth of prospecting and uses part of the proceeds to buy the continued silence of the local Robot Lawman so that KQ’s existence on this planet is kept secret.
   
For a villain, we brought back the Hunter, or rather the second Hunter, the one Dave Cockrum depicted in a story where he’s hunting down Bouncing Boy (I believe Otto Orion was the original from the Shooter story and the son is Adam Orion).  With the bizarre pony-tail look Cockrum gave the son, I thought of him as kind of a loud, egotistical, tantrum-throwing rock star who, instead of trashing hotel rooms for kicks, got his jollies by hunting down and killing sentient beings.  We catch up with the Hunter in this story back on his private planet, hunting down one of his own servants, a blue-skinned eyeless Probe.  The Hunter tricks the telepathic Probe by sending out false thoughts that lure the Probe right into the Hunter’s sights.  Not a very nice guy.
   
We then find Rouvin/Kid Quantum back in his isolated shack typing out a “Plan for Peace and Prosperity in Our Galaxy.”  A Legion flag and Kid Quantum costume hang on the bare wood walls of the shack.  Unfortunately, the captions on this page are misplaced in panels four and five and the brilliant insights of KQ are rendered somewhat less understandable than they’d have been if read in the proper order.  KQ’s thoughts are meant to show that he’s a brilliant and highly principled advocate of peace and intercultural understanding — kind of a Jimmy Carter of his era.  On this page, KQ is addressing how much the past actions of the United Planets have brought about the animosity the Khunds are currently showing toward the U.P., and how identifying and addressing this responsibility will allow the U.P. to start resolving its conflicts with the Khunds.
   
Meanwhile, we’ve been following Cham, who’s taken off on a mission to track down his long-missing father, the eccentric Legion financier R.J. Brande, who dropped out of sight years ago and left Cham to run Brande Industries.  Cham finally finds Brande on Yal, consuming mass quantities in a restaurant on the frontier world.  Brande reveals that he’s there to locate the Soul of Antares, so Brande and Cham join forces to complete that search.  
But as they draw close to the legendary Soul, they run into a major pair of obstacles -- the Hunter and a compromised Robot Lawman.  Cham’s attempts to dispose of the Hunter go awry due to Cham’s injuries (suffered during the big fight with Roxxas early in the Giffen run) and Cham and Brande are captured.  The Hunter makes Cham the subject of one of his sadistic hunting games and will kill the wounded LSHer if Brande doesn’t reveal the location of the Soul of Antares.
   
Before Brande can spill anything he knows, though, Rouvin/Kid Quantum shows up and surrenders himself to the Hunter.  We find out that KQ is in fact the Soul of Antares.  KQ in this continuity is a Legionnaire who seemingly died in the early days of the Legion, but we find out that his death was staged — Glorith was closing in and if she captured the soul, she’d be able to turn the Protys into that race of blindly obedient shape-shifters she desired.  KQ got Glorith off his trail by staging his own death.
   
We find out the compromised Robot Lawman is cooperating with the Hunter because accepting bribes has become the only way the Law Corps can maintain its funding and remain in operation.  The programming of the robots puts a higher priority on self-preservation than on service to the population.   But there was a small group of sheep Brande and Cham had been traveling with (they disguised themselves as Yal shepherds) and the sheep turn out to be the other sentient Protys, who spring into action and quickly dispose of the crooked robot.   They then move on and attack the Hunter, giving Cham an opening to clobber the villain. 

The Soul of Antares is safe and Cham and Brande take off for Antares to restore the sentience of the Protean race.  At the last second, though, we see their pilot being controlled by the Emerald Eye and being instructed to take Cham, Brande and Kid Quantum not to Antares but a planet called Gallan.  In later issues and in the Legionnaires series, we’ll find out that Leland McCauley IV is living on Gallan and maintaining a macabre collection of living souvenirs being kept in stasis, but that’s a story for another day.
   
In the final art pages of Legion #33, Chris Sprouse steps in and gives us a few pages back on Earth, where the young SW6 Legionnaires are desperately searching for any remains of their killed-off comrades Princess Projectra, Karate Kid and the young Chameleon Boy.  Instead, they come across some escapees from one of the Dominators’ experimental chambers and we get the first appearances of future Legionnaires Catspaw and Dragonmage as well as the first modern appearance of Danielle Foccart, the younger sister to Jacques (Invisible Kid II) Foccart and the hero who takes the name Computo.  The Legion trainee from the Levitz years, Crystal Kid, is also in this group.  We give a good idea of the personalities of these characters right from the start, Catspaw’s animalistic behavior toward both her opponents and attractive males, Dragonmage’s inexperience and insecurity, and Computo’s role as sparring partner and ego-deflator for anyone around her who gets a little carried away with themselves.
   
The text page re-tells the story of the Soul of Antares, filling in a few more specifics, and giving a more detailed history of Kid Quantum’s short, tragic tenure in the Legion of this timeline.  At this point, we establish that KQ’s power was artificial Llorn technology hidden in his belt.  And the idea that I think editor Michael Eury had was that KQ’s death was what caused the Legion to outlaw artificial powers.  I think we forgot that it was established at this time as an artificial power, since KQ later joined the team in the Legionnaires book and I don’t recall us ever addressing that his power wasn’t as natural as anyone else’s.
   
One other interesting aspect of the issue is that it includes a house ad for “The Heckler #1,” which promises a “Return to Rrreally Fun Comics.”

   
One decades-old gripe I have that Kid Qunatum reminds me of is that I’d suggested early on in our time on the Legion that we make Ferro Lad dark-skinned, which is something we did in our home-made Legion comics back in the early 1970s.  It gave the Legion instant diversity but was a subtle change that didn’t significantly alter the character involved (we also made Chemical King black and introduced an American Indian Green Lantern to our version of the Legion). Everyone scoffed at the idea because it seemed like an insult to start integrating the Legion with a black character whose face you couldn’t even see. 
   
Probably forgetting I was the origin of the idea, Keith even made fun of the suggestion during a panel with us at the San Diego Con.
   
A little indignant, I made the point that once you make that change, you retroactively integrate Legion history, and, most importantly, when you then add Kid Quantum, Computo and Catspaw, you have four darker-skinned characters, not just three.
   
I didn’t mind that my suggestion wasn’t taken.  Ferro Lad is one of my all-time favorite characters and the less he’s changed from his initial appearances the better as far as I’m concerned.  But I thought it was goofy and over-sensitive for people to say this masked character CAN’T be non-Caucasian without insulting non-Caucasians. 
   
Oh well, it was definitely a positive to be able to so significantly integrate the Legionnaires through our time on the book.  And for those who don't know some of the background, the lily-white nature of the early Legion's human memership largely reflected the fact that back then, if you so much as depicted an African-American character in a comic, you could lose distribution throughout the South.  I doubt the Legion could have survived as a viable feature through the 1960s had they lost distribution to a major portion of the country.  Fortunately, things changed within a few years and the Legion has gradually started to reflect a bit more of the diversity of the Earth's population over the years. 
Tags: cham, ferro lad, kid quantum, legion of super-heroes, protys, r.j. brande, tom & mary bierbaum
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