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gnaw on fence

It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

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Recollections of Legionnaires #12
gnaw on fence
The issue starts with one of my favorite Chris Sprouse covers, a shot of five Legionnaires surrounded by an angry mob, trying to protect a little Dominator girl, with the phrase “Earth for Humans!” scrawled above the scene.  I don’t know if anyone used “Earth for Humans” ahead of us, but if so, I was unaware of it and in this case I came up with the phrase based on the right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric of the time, where some were saying America should be for “Americans,” and that translated well into the mob sentiment we were envisioning for this story.

The issue opens with Inferno under fire at the gates to the Paris dome, which have been mysteriously closed off by strange chains impervious to Inferno’s powers.

The Legionnaire is suddenly tackled and saved from a blast by a comely young Science Police officer, and Dirk wastes no time flirting with the attractive and heroic lass.

But when Inferno takes off, the SPE gets yanked into a dark alley and beaten-up off panel by Sadi, the girl that Inferno was dating before their night was interrupted by the unexpected gunfire. Our editors told us to work that attack by Sade into this scene because they felt we were taking too long to advance the Sadi storyline. I think we saw the next issue as the time when we would start to see the dark side of Sadi but were instructed to proceed this issue, which to me is a little forced, especially showing a civilian like Sadi roughing up a trained SPE officer (we had to improvise the action off the top of our head during a phone call and no doubt would have come up with a more credible way for Sadi to threaten a cop if we’d had a few minutes to work on the problem).  Not my preference, but there you are – it gave them something to promote in the solicitation blurb.

We then cut to Legion headquarters for the swearing in of new member Kid Quantum. The dignified ceremony is livened up by a Legion flag laced with the anti-grav material Element 152 by mischievous Matter-Eater Lad, causing the flag to go flying to the top of the Metropolis dome. 

In the next scene, M-E Lad and Shrinking Violet are wrangling the flag and we even get a reference to Arm-Fall-Off Boy. The others are losing patience with Tenzil’s antics and Cham decides to humble him, but good, by assigning him to team up with brash Sklarian girl Kono. She's teamed up with the Legionnaires to infiltrate a band of rogue Sklarian raiders, who are pirating much-needed food shipments headed for New Earth.

Meanwhile, at a somber meeting, Earth President Troy Stewart is briefing the Legionnaires on the anti-alien violence that’s erupting in the Paris dome. They learn that unsanctioned elections have been staged and a demagogue named Lothar St. Maixent has been installed as mayor of Paris, an interesting example of a mob using the trappings of democracy when convenient to advance discrimination and bigotry. True democracy balances the will of the majority with protection of the rights of minorities, but some authoritarians try to define democracy as the majority being empowered to discriminate against and persecute the minority.

In the Acapulco dome, Invisible Kid, shows up to try and figure out what’s going on with the Legionnaire team that has been consumed in a storm of mental energy. That psychic disturbance was released from the mind of a bystander kid who was struck by a stray lightning bolt from Live Wire. I-Kid himself gets sucked into the mental vortex and quickly comes upon the haunting form of Gossamer (Light Lass), who’s moaning “…I couldn’t’ save them, they’re gone forever…” I-Kid then feels his mind getting overwhelmed by the mysterious vortex of mental energy.

Back at the gates to the Paris dome, more Legionnaires have shown up to assist Inferno, but Leviathan can’t get the strange chains to budge. Triad then triplicates and the bad-girl Lu simply picks the lock (demonstrating her skills at extra-legal maneuvers), then sassily flirts with Leviathan to boot, getting a rise out of her more button-down “sisters.”  Poor Leviathan is clearly flustered and intrigued by the attention and the more responsible Triads realize there’s going to be complications with him in the future.

But the lock-picking has done the trick and the Legionnaires get access to the dome. Once inside, though, the gates slam shut behind them, eliminating the team’s Science Police backup, and the Legionnaires immediately find themselves under fire. The team quickly routs the Paris guards, and in the process we get the first good look at Kid Quantum’s power, a tranquilizing stasis field that robs the enemy of its hostility.

The Legionnaires move in to the city and start confronting atrocities being committed against aliens, including a slaughtered Hyrkaine (Tellus’s race) and the burning-at-the-stake of a Talokian (Shadow Lass’s race). 

Back in the Acapulco dome, we go to the hospital where we see Cosmic Boy on the brink of death (after being zapped by an errant lighting bolt from Live Wire), his heart stopping. Saturn Girl forms a mental link with Coz and manages to help the struggling patient start to rally and pull out of his plunge toward death. Imra is overjoyed that Rokk is pulling out of it, but we see her special link with Coz sparking more jealousy in Live Wire. Saturn Girl has finally had enough and tells Garth to get out of her life. At this point, he’s only too happy to oblige.

At Legionnaires HQ, Kono is on hand for her upcoming mission, but for now is entertaining the girls with tales of all the pranks she used to pull in her Legion days on poor Chameleon. Matter-Eater Lad steps in and takes some pleasure in telling Kono that he’s turned the tables on her, and proudly displays a holovid of her in the shower. At first the girls get a big laugh on Kono’s expense until they start wondering exactly how Tenzil got that shot. But before they can pound Tenzil too thoroughly, Computo interrupts the tussle and announces that Kono and Tenz have to stop this nonsense and learn to get along – they’re going to team up on the mission to infliltrate the Sklarian pirates. Kono is quite pleased with this development, instantly realizing how many indignities Tenzil is about to be subjected to and what a deserving recipient he’ll be.

Back in Paris, the Legionnaires team rescues the Talokian who was being burned at the stake and Kid Quantum uses his soothing stasis field to ease the poor girl’s pain.

They get the Talokian checked in at a hospital (after one doctor tries to refuse to treat the alien), but the mob has caught up with the Legionnaires and the heroes are once again being pummeled with debris.

This scene had what I think is one of the more frustrating edits we endured on this series. We had Alchemist (Element Lad) saying, “You see who’s acting like barbarians now?” and somebody editing the issue apparently decided since “barbarians” was plural, it had to read “You see who are acting like barbarians now?”  And while I think one could make the case that their version makes slightly more grammatical sense (while I think our version is completely fine), the edited version is really awkward to my ear and not something anyone in real life would actuall say.  In cases like these, if the alleged grammatical hiccup in our line of dialogue bothers you, you’re generally better off just re-working the whole thing so you still end up with words someone would actually say, like, “Lucky we’re surrounded by non-barbarian humans” or something like that. And I myself think comic-book editors should let dialogue sound like real dialogue independent of these kind of grammatical technicalities.

The issue wraps up when the Legionnaires see a mob about to attack a young female Dominator, and when the heroes leap in to try and defend her, she mistakes them for attackers and with a gesture, causes the Legionnaires to melt away into smoke.  With that the issue ends and readers have to wait a month to find out what’s become of our Legionnaire team.

As we moved toward the end of our “Legionnaires” run, the issues were getting tougher to write for various reasons. One was that things had gotten tense with our editor after he dropped us from the Legion “Mother book” and he’d pretty much stopped communicating with us, except through his assistant. So it was becoming more and more evident that we were unlikely to survive on Legionnaires past the rapidly approaching end of our contract. We really weren’t having a lot of fun at this point, feeling the stress of an uncertain future and the real financial insecurity that came with it, and it’s hard to do your best creative work under those circumstances. We were also starting to work with an increasing array of artists, and the promising young talents they were bringing in weren’t going to immediately give our stories the kind of brilliance and polish we were used to from the likes of Chris Sprouse and Adam Hughes.

One thing I find interesting about this issue is that each of the aliens we see being attacked by the Paris mobs was an established Legion U.P. race, once again showing the degree to which we felt more like stewards of the Legion universe than authors of it -- more interested in reinforcing what came before us than in adding a lot of new elements to the universe ourselves.

In the case of alien races, I always feel like the Legion universe gains credibility if the established alien races are given more and more of a role in the stories, so the U.P. isn’t made up of 95% humans with an infinite number of random alien races dividing up the remaining 5%. I at least like to see races like the Talokians, Hykraines, Dominators, Khunds, Coluans and Durlans got bigger and bigger percentages of that remaining 5% so there are other races that appear to play a substantial role in the United Planets and the broader Legion universe.


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That ongoing effort was definitely appreciated.

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