Saturday, July 9, 2016

I love it when I can identify where a comic book image comes from. This is Starfinger, a villain in the Legion of Super-Heroes comics, about to torture his nemesis, Colossal Boy. The image is from Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4 (November 1988).

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The history here is that Gim Allon was a Science Police officer on Earth. Pursuing a criminal one day, a strange meteor crashed near him. He was irradiated with its strange rays, giving him a strange mutation that allowed him to grow to enormous size at will.

Starfinger was supervillain named Lars Hanscom who first challenged the Legion in 1965. He developed a glove powered by electricity that could emit five different powers: Neutralizer, lightning, repeller, radiation of any kind, and freeze-ray. Used together, they made super-powers function erratically. He captured Lightning Lad, fitted the glove on him, and hypnotized him -- so that Lightning Lad would do his bidding. His plot was foiled, but he later kidnapped one of Duo Damsel's selves and then kidnapped and hypnotized Lightning Lad again.

The meteor strike that gave Gim Allon his powers was retconned in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3, #29 (December 1986). Instead of an Earthling, Allon was a Martian -- albeit still a Science Police officer. The meteor strikes while Allon is chasing the petty criminal Char Burrane. Allon is knocked to the ground and gets irradiated. Burrane escapes, and in the Martian desert he discovers a ring in which are trapped two immensely powerful female beings. When he wears the ring, Starfinger II can call upon their powers. Burrance adopts the name Starfinger. He murders Lars Hanscom, wanting to be "the only" Starfinger.

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It's in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3, #29 that Starfinger sets in motion a long, long storyline that culminates in Colossal Boy's departure from the Legion.

Now, the Legion made its first appearance in a one-off story in 1958 in Adventure Comics. In August 1973, the Superboy comic changed its name to Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes (issue #197). This began the run of what is generally called Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 1.

Beginning with issue #259 (January 1980), the comic book droped the Superboy and becoming simply Legion of Super-Heroes. This generally is considered Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 2.

In 1984, DC Comics began printing its comics on much heavier paper, with high-resolution printing presses and bright new inks. The title Legion of Super-Heroes was shifted to a new book, beginning with #1 in August 1984. The old LSH title continued its old numbering, but now was called Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes -- and it began reprinting LSH stories. Tales ceased publication in in December 1989, ending Volume 2.

The new LSH title was considered Volume 3. Because of the DC Comics universe-wide reboot "Crisis on Infinite Earths" (published from 1984 to 1985), the Legion got a reboot as well. DC Comics had gotten rid of Superboy (the company was locked in a bitter battle with the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster over copyright to the character), but Superboy was critical to the Legion storyline. So DC Comics came up with a solution: The super-villain known as the Time Trapper created a "pocket universe Superboy" who interacted with the Legion. This allowed the Legion to retain its continuity and not piss off fans. This constituted the first reboot.

Worsening copyright battles over the Superboy character led DC Comics to completely remove the "pocket universe Superboy" from Legion continuinty. Superboy and the Legion finally uncover the Time Trapper's creation of the "pocket universe", which he had done to try to re-enter our universe. He needed Superboy's help, and so created a "pocket universe Superboy" to do so. Superboy rebelled against the Trapper's control, saving his "pocket universe" (which by now had become integral not just to Legion stories but to a wide range of DC Comics publications) but dying in the process (as told in Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 3, #37 [August 1987] and #38 [September 1987]). Thus began the second, or "Post-Pocket", reboot. During this period, continuity was basically ignored.

Fans weren't pleased. Sales plunged. Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 3 ceased publication with issue #63 (August 1989).

The Legion of Super-Heroes was fundamentally changed when a new publication, also titled Legion of Super-Heroes began in November 1989. This is generally known as Volume 4. Set five years after the events of Volume 3, this publication covers what is known as the "Five Year Gap" Legion. Shortly after the events of LSH #63, the Dominators conquered the United Planets and Earth. They now rule most of the galaxy, the UP is gone, and the Legion is long disbanded. After the collapse of the UP, Imsk invades Braal. The Braalians managed to fight back effectively, until the Imskians set off a genetic bomb that deprives all Braalians of their magnetic powers. (Cosmic Boy is one of those to lose his powers.) Braal plunges the planet into massive economic and cultural collapse as the Imskians begin raping the planet for its resources and enslave its population.

In 1990, the continuity problems created by the Post-Pocket universe were finally fixed. Now, the story goes, Superboy's rebellion meant that the Time Trapper, creator of the "pocket universe", was destroyed by his protegé, Glorith. This caused a third reboot of Legion continuity known as the "Glorithverse Legion" (as seen in Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 4, #4 to 6 [February to April 1990]). Early Glorithverse stories were written by Keith Giffen. Giffen introduced Batch SW6 -- a group of Legionnaires just like their 1960s incarnations, right down to the original costumes, silly language, and naive sexuality. They were thought to be clones of the real Legion. Giffen, however, intended to reveal that the "real" Legion was actually the clones -- while the orignals from 40 years ago had been kept in suspended animation while their clones had adventures and grew older and wiser. At some point, the older Legion would turn on the United Planets, having won their trust over the deaces. The younger Legion would emerge from hibernation, and after a battle royale only a handful of heroes from each team would survive. The remnants of the clone-team, now freed from their murderous impulses, would leave to protect the Vega System with a 30th-century version of the Omega Men, while remnants of the original, younger team would remain on Earth. Giffen's story line was jettisoned, however. Instead, the Batch SW6 Legion is said to be just as real as their older counterparts -- time-paradox identicals, with neither group being more or less "real" or "original" than the other. Batch SW6 was featured in a new comic book, Legionnaires. In this comic, Earth is eventually destroyed, leaving Metropolis (and a dozen other cities) floating in space under giant protective domes. In time, Batch SW6 would help guide the space-cities to a new planet and refound Earth.

But the Glorithverse didn't last long, either. Giffen quit after the destruction of Earth got very poor reviews. So YET ANOTHER retcon occurred in 1994. This retcon was again caused by problems within the entire DC Comics universe. It wasn't just the Legion continuity which had been fucked up by the 1984-1985 "Crisis on Infinite Earths". By 1994, a bunch of comics were having similar problems. The Legion had had THREE reboots during this time, but now a fourth occurred as DC Comics rebooted their entire universe in Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. The Glorithverse Legion was wiped out in Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 4, #61 (September 1994). Beginning with issue #62, the publication covered stories regarding what is known as the "Reboot Legion". Most of the group got new names (jettisoning the old kid/boy/girl/lass/lad naming convention), everyone got retro costumes, and a large number of new members were added. But because the Legion was starting out from scratch, basically, it had no history. So the Legion was not seen as a planet-saving superhero group but as a quasi-terrorist organization feared by EarthGov and having to earn the respect of the UP. During this period, the Legion fought an invasion by Daxam, intervened in a Braal-Titan war, exposed the Sun Eater as a hoax, witnessed the formation of a new Fatal Five, found Ferro Lad in the 20th century, and saw future Legionnaire Jan Arrah/Element Lad get brainwashed.

The Reboot Legion proved wildly unpopular, and the comic book was cancelled in 2000.

During the Threeboot Legion era, a story line involved some Legionnaires falling through a rift in space, becoming lost in the universe. Their adventures were chronicled in a 2000-2001 limited series, Legion Lost. The remaining Legionnaires on Earth have their adventures chronicled in

In 2005, DC Comics rebooted its entire comic book universe YET AGAIN!!!!! This Crisis on Infinite Earths was designed to restore the multiverse to the DC Comics universe, and undo all the awful things wrought by Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. This version of the team, the Threeboot Legion, existed in a universe much darker and vicious than any previously seen: Earth was a repressive, sex-phobic, totalitarian society. The Legion was seen as a sort of religion, with teenagers across the Galaxy worshipping the free-love, free-thinking, free-spirited Legionnaires. The kid/boy/girl/lass/lad naming convention returned, costumes were given a modern update, and some Legionnaires were given new origins. (Chameleon Boy was now simply the androgynous Chameleon; Star Boy was now African; Colossal Boy iscomes from a race of giants and has the ability to shrink to human size; Phantom Girl exists in two dimensions and talks to "ghosts".) Because the Legion was just forming, most Legionnaires struggled to control or use their powers.

The Threeboot Legion also proved wildly unpopular, and the comic book was cancelled in March 2009.

A new Legion of Super-Heroes began publication in July 2010. Known as the "Retroboot Legion", it ignored all previous reboots and basically tried to restart the 1958-to-1984 continuity. It cherry-picked some of the better characters, such as Gates, and kept some of the costumes, names, and other better aspects of the reboots. But it was too late: Fans never came back to the book, and it was cancelled in October 2011 as part of the DC Comics Flashpoint universe-wide reboot. (Yes, another goddamned fucking reboot.)

Flashpoint soft-booted all DC Comics books. A "Softboot Legion" appeared in a relaunched Legion of Super-Heroes, which appeaed in November 2011. DC Comics found it can't break fans hearts, and the comic was cancelled in October 2013. From September 2011 to January 2013, a new Legion Lost book, featuring Retroboot continuity characters, was also published. It ended on a cliffhanger, with half the Legion stuck in the 21st century. (They'd be retrieved in a story arc in Justice League United which appeared in issues JLU Annual #1 [December 2014], JLU #2 [January 2015], and JLU #4 [May 2015].)

After that, no more Legion of Super-Heroes.

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So, back to Colossal Boy. It's 1986, and we're in "pocket universe" continuity. The Legion learns that the original Starfinger is dead, and has been replaced by Char Burrane.

Starfinger II seriously injures Colossal Boy's right thigh, forcing the hero to spend most of the next year in rehab. This sets in motion the events of the next 18 months, as Gim struggles to deal with the fact that he can barely walk and sinks into a deep depression because of his inactivity.

However, unbeknownst to anyone, Gim has secretly adopted the identity of a "Dr. Hazeg" -- a badly injured super-scientist who must remain prone in a floating med-bed. "Dr. Hazeg" begins to work with Starfingers on plans to assassinate the Legion using energy impulses sent via Legion Flight Rings. Gim's real goal, however, is to find a way to defeat Starfinger. Chameleon Boy, fearing Starfinger has actually kidnapped Colossal Boy, begins his own secret investigation. But Cham is caught by Starfinger in Legion of Super-Heroes #48. Gim tries to use his "Dr. Hazeg" identity to bring down Starfinger, but his old injury prevents him from doing so and he, too, is captured.

Alongside this story line, it seems there's a conspiracy in the Legion, run by Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, and Mon-El.

The Starfinger II story line is completed in LSH Annual #4. The conspiracy story continues in LSH #49.

Unfortunately, Starfinger II undoes most of the rehab work Gim's undergone. Able to walk but not much else, Gim resigns from the Legion, and becomes a Science Police officer on Mars again. He married Yera, a shape-shifting Durlan who impersonated Shrinking Violet when the heroine was kidnapped by a politically radical Imskian sect. Colossal Boy had had a long-time crush on Violet, and now Yera began to reciprocate his feelings. Once exposed, Gim's love for Yera proved real and they married. Because Chameleon Boy had lost his shape-shifting powers, Yera became a Legionnaire under the name Chameleon Girl.

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