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gnaw on fence

It's OK, I'm a Senator

Legion Recollections by Tom Bierbaum

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"2995" Mayfair Sourcebook: Valor Through Matter-Eater Lad
gnaw on fence
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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ULTRA BOY: We get a good feel for Glorith’s great sense of chagrin as she lists Jo as perhaps her greatest enemy and the disbelief she feels that someone she still insists on viewing as a dunce was the one who managed to unravel her grand plan to conquer the galaxy (her scheme was to manipulate time to create the Legion, which was supposed to weaken Mordru enough that Glorith could crush the sorcerer and move on to galactic domination -- as explored in our first annual, Jo deduced her machinations and managed to secretly thwart them with nobody suspecting his role -- until Glorith stumbled onto the truth many years later).

In a Brainy medical entry, we get a good sense of what enormous trauma Jo has gone through with the seeming death of Tinya and other events, but also an indication that Jo is more than strong enough to endure these enormous challenges.

STAR BOY: A quick entry for a character that wasn’t central to the 5YL run, but for me, a pretty touching letter to Nura covering their breakup late in the prior run of the book. We wrote this material in such a blind rush, a lot of the passages are completely forgotten and take me by surprise, and the line in Thom’s letter to Nura that impressed me most as he was ending their relationship was “Wish me luck. Unlike you, I’ll need it” – no better explanation is needed that Nura is a force of nature that will prevail on whatever battlefields she chooses to tackle while Thom realizes he’s a more humble force who will always be a great team player, but who will rise and fall depending on the strength of the team he happens to be associated with.

The entry hints that Nura never regarded her relationship with Thom as exclusive and that Thom was OK with that, but just couldn’t live with things when he began to think Nura was sticking with him out of a sense of obligation rather than genuine desire.

SHRINKING VIOLET:  More detail than usual here, as we get a good sense of Violet’s transition during the five-year gap from an aggrieved Imskian, gung-ho for the war with Braal, into a defiant war protester, outraged at the atrocity she helped bring about when the Imskian “damper” weapon was used to slaughter thousands of Braalian troops at Venado Bay.

There are fairly strong hints regarding her lesbian relationship with Ayla, as the two of them clearly mean a lot to each other as they correspond during Vi’s time in the stockade, where she awaits her fate and longs to join Ayla on Winath.

SUN BOY: If you want to get some insight into how Sun Boy went from heroic Legionnaire to the traitor who meet a horrific, tragic fate, these entries do a pretty good job of it.

One of those moments where a piece of writing I’d totally forgotten about took me by surprise is Polar Boy’s report to the despicable Earthgov committee that oversees the Legion during the five-year gap In reporting Dirk’s resignation from the Legion, Polar Boy, though a pretty terrible writer incapable of communicating much in the way of subtle or complicated ideas, comes through loud and clear in this case, expressing his sense of indignation at having watched the heroic Dirk fall apart before his eyes under the relentless harassment of Earthgov.  Reflecting on how Sun Boy’s flawed leadership got them through the crisis of Black Dawn, Polar Boy writes, “He acted like a hero in a difficult situation and the only thanks he gets is people blaming him. Without him you would be ashes now. A fine man has been driven from a position he was well-qualified for, and I hold Earthgov completely responsible.” This passage actually brought a tear to my eye as I realized Polar Boy was sensing the turning point that was occurring – a great hero had been destroyed before his eyes and was now headed inexorably to a tragic end.

To me, this is a very genuine storyline that reflects the great tragedy of the Five-Year Gap and of contemporary America – where lives are being destroyed by corrupt, greedy, dishonest elites and their dishonest policies that cater to the powerful and are sold with phony ideological platitudes and shameless propagandistic campaigns of obfuscation and misinformation. It’s amazing to me that we crafted this overarching story arc 25 years ago and so accurately depicted the shameless perfidy of today (in part because we had Reagan-era perfidy to learn from).

That same letter included a line that had me laughing out loud, as the terrible wordsmith Polar Boy tells the Earthgov committee that struggling Legion leader Timber Wolf “was having trouble maintaining the strain of leadership.” An example of a poor writer not coming close to saying what he’s trying to say, but somehow communicating the thought anyway.

Once Dirk sells his soul and becomes the spokesman for the corrupt Earthgov we get a chilling exchange in which we find out Dirk investigated the frame-up that convicted Don and Dawn Allen of a terrorist bombing in Quebec and Dirk is fully aware that the innocent Tornado Twins have been falsely convicted. He earnestly advocates that Earth’s President intercede and free the innocent twins and still naively expects some modicum of justice but gets back a sneering missive from a Presidential assistance who makes it clear Dirk can either drop the matter or give up his life of luxury and end up in a rotting prison. Readers of the comic know that nothing was ever said by Dirk and the completely innocent Don and Dawn Allen were brutally executed. We now get the sense that Dirk’s soul was finally, irrevocably sold when he failed to take a stand to try and save the doomed twins. And again, amazing echoes of what we're seeing today as so many keep choosing self-interest over the principle as the U.S. skids toward authoritarian rule.

: Another brief entry for a character that wasn’t central to the 5YL run, but a quick bit of insight into Chuck’s personality as a fun-loving, morale-boosting team player, and how he grew into his role as leader (with wife Luornu) of the U.P. Militia Academy during the war to reclaim the U.P. worlds conquered by the Khunds.

MATTER-EATER LAD: Of course, we indulged ourselves quite a bit in this entry and gave a good sense of how Tenzil brought a Monty Python-esque sensibility to the Legion. Even in the early days, his “Meet the Legionnaires” entry in “The Legion Groupie” includes among his favorite music “any orchestral arrangement accompanied by cannon fire,” his favorite foods include “Savignano’s Molybdenite Concertos” and his Idea of a Dream Date is “A quiet dinner, a subtitled film, a vat of whipped cream and the Bismoll Bicuspids Cheerleaders.”

We get a transcipt of Tenzil’s farewell address to the Bismollian Parliament (after he’s lost his office having been declared dead during his brief hiatus in Evillo’s Realm of Darkness) and when offended politicians demand an apology for all of Tenzil’s irreverent silliness through his term in office, they get an apology for the ages (“…I further apologize if I ever gave anyone the impression the leadership of the esteemed opposition party is in any way a herd of back-stabbing, mud-slinging sows, suffering from an overabundance of bodily orifices and wallowing in the slop of their own contemptible lies...”).

It’s also interesting to read Reep’s candid evaluation of Tenzil’s value to the reforming Legion. Rokk thinks Tenzil has a lot to offer in terms of charisma, hard work, morale-boosting and general force of character, all of which the less-idealistic Reep finds debatable, but what impresses the Durlan is Tenzil’s connections and pull throughout U.P. political circles, something the erstwhile chairman of Brande Industries can appreciate and respect.