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gnaw on fence

It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

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Legion #9 Recollections
gnaw on fence

            In our previous entry, I gave a pretty detailed discussion of how this "Origin of Laurel Gand" issue came about.  They were going to stretch our fill-in for #8, a re-telling the Legion's origin, so that it would provide two issue's worth of fill-in.  For a variety of reasons, we didn't like that plan and talked them into letting us do a separate story, telling Laurel Gand's origin.

            It was well-timed in that Laurel had just been introduced in #6 and was creating quite a bit of interest.  And while it now seems like ancient history, remember that we'd just altered the timeline in #5 and at this point people could mostly only guess what had transpired in the Legion's past in this new timeline.

            We tried to give Laurel an origin that contained elements of the Supergirl history but that were clearly her own.  While this seemed like the obvious way to go, we probably would have done ourselves a big favor by just doing a completely new story.  Editor Michael Eury and Keith weren't very pleased when our script included countless references to the early Supergirl appearances as reference for the artist.  Michael and Keith didn't want the story to look like a juvenile comic of the late '50s/early '60s, nor did Michael relish xeroxing countless panels out of old issues.  In retrospect, I really understand their perspective, but at the time I wasn't very pleased and I remember I actually got a little annoyed with Keith when he told me he'd given Michael the OK to just skip sending the references to the artist.  I think it's the only time I ever had even mildly heated words with Keith and in retrospect I have to say I was probably in the wrong.

            I was hopeful this story could deliver an impressive new vision that took the original visuals and gave them new life.  Something both nostalgic and contemporary in a glossy new way.  This is something I've always wanted comics to be, a celebration of what went before, something that built respectfully on the foundation of what went before, rather than replacing it with something "better."  Of course, it all depends on what you're trying to preserve and what you're trying to replace.  I initiated several plotlines during our years that can be regarded as eliminating or replacing elements of Legion lore that other people no doubt thought should have been "built  upon" rather than "replaced."

            And I guess that was one of the reasons we were pretty unpopular in some corners at DC.  I was far more interested in being true to the comics of 30 years earlier that laid the foundation for what the Legion will always be than I was in being true to the particular continuity DC had created since Crisis.  It didn't make a lot of sense to me that people would wipe out decades and decades of continuity themselves and then expect everyone to follow their new continuity to the letter.  My point of view probably makes more and more sense as the years go by and everything gets wiped out again and then restored again and then wiped out again, but at the time, a lot of people I think genuinely thought that the pre-Crisis continuity would be adhered to and consistent forever and you did yourself no favors by tying what you were doing to the DC Comics continuity of two and three decades earlier.

            At any rate, I have the feeling that including art references from the early Legion wouldn't have made much difference one way or the other in this issue.  Paris Cullins did a pretty good job pencilling our flashback sequence and seemed to give it his own style, which was neither too 1960s nor too 1990s.

            We placed Laurel's childhood on a Daxamite outpost to give it a little of the feel of Supergirl's Argo City roots. That gave us the opportunity to name the asteroid outpost Ricklef II, after Interlacker James Ricklef, who together with Arnie Starkey, had helped us come up with the idea for Laurel.  Arnie had already gotten one or two acknowledgements somewhere during our Legion run so James got this mention.

            I made "Electro-Towers" pivotal to the early part of Laurel's story as a salute to the Electro-Towers from one of my favorite stories, Adventure 346-347, the story that introduced Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Ferro Lad and Nemesis Kid.  The term is pretty clunky and Paris' realization of the device (it kind of looked like a big search light) didn't really capture the feel of something that could have wiped out a fleet of invading ships, but he did what he could with a concept that stretches credibility to begin with.

            One of our earlier changes in classic Legion continuity that this issue reinforced was that Zaryan the Conqueror, the guy who led the invasion of Earth that cost Lightning Lad his life back in the Legion's early days in Adventure comics  was retroactively identified as a member of the warrior Khund race (an alien race introduced by coincidence in that favorite Adventure 346-347 two-parter).  Making Zaryan a Khund was probably an unnecessary bit of tinkering in the Legion past, but somehow I wanted to make Lightning Lad's death  -- a truly pivotal event in Legion history -- relate to something more than just a run-of-the-mill invasion of Earth by some two-bit wanna-be conqueror.  Through the course of our stories, we built up Zaryan as perhaps the greatest of the Khund warlords and someone who, within the Khund society, actually represented some degree of honor, as opposed to some of the cut-throats, sleazebags and cowards that populated Khundish society in our depictions.  With this change, then, Lightning Lad's death came when Earth was threatened by one of the greatest leaders of the galaxy's most fearsome warrior race.

            Our story in this issue was pretty simple, telling how Laurel joined the Legion and helped them capture Doyle Brande after he'd attempted to assassinate Legion patron R.J. Brande during the flashback in the previous issue.

            In Keith's framing sequences we have a moment I particularly like where the villain Roxxas (who killed Blok in #3) finds out the crooks in Earthgov -- the very people who hired Roxxas to kill Legionnaires -- have tried to cover their tracks by hiring a detective (Celeste) to bring Roxxas to justice.  In his insanity, Roxxas actually gets his feelings hurt by this betrayal and goes running out of the library holding his head and sputtering "I-They-But-It-They!" before finally exclaiming "And I thought those freaks were my FRIENDS!"  Roxxas may have been a psychotic killer, but he had feelings.