Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Back to Reading

Boy, it’s been a long time since I updated my reading. The main reason for this, unfortunately, is that I haven’t been reading much for the last couple of months, as I’ve been caught up in other pursuits. So a couple of weeks ago, I started carving out a bit more time for reading.

  • Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb
    This is a book that people in fandom either adore or despise, depending on how comfortable they are with being poked fun at. While McCrumb’s caricatures are, in most cases, over the top, and in a few cases unfair, this is still an amusing romp. And I still love the moment when touring Scottish folksinger Donnie McRory discovers the filkers, starts to play “Wild Rover” for them, and after hearing the first line they belt out, stops and exclaims with outrage, “What’s all that rubbish, then? Have ye been monkeying about with the words??”

    I read this book when it first came out back in 1986 or so, and still enjoy revisiting it from time to time. It has a sequel, Zombies Of The Gene Pool, but unfortunately there are further books about Jay Omega after that one that I am aware of.

  • The Legion Of Super-Heroes Archive Volume 1 (DC Comics)
    The Legion Of Super-Heroes Archive Volume 2 (DC Comics)
    The Legion Of Super-Heroes Archive Volume 3 (DC Comics)
    The Legion Of Super-Heroes Archive Volume 4 (DC Comics)

    When I was a kid, Legion of Super Heroes was one of my favourite comics. Of course, this was in the early 80s during the Levitz/Giffen period when I started reading the title, and it was only through the occasional reprints that I ever saw any of the early days of the group.

    Recently, while I was over at khaosworks apartment to bring him to Atlanta in preparation for his flight home for the summer, I asked him if I could borrow some of his Legion collections, and he loaned me the first six volumes of DC’s Archive editions. These contain all the Legion stories from their introduction in Superboy back in 1958 up through about 1968-69 or so, i believe. And I’ve slowly been working my through them.

    To be honest….as much as I love what the Legion became, and as much as I can see the flashes of that future here and there…a lot of these stories are terrible. Maybe I’d have felt differently if I was a kid in 1963 reading them for the first time, and maybe my adult taste for the sort of thing that Vertigo comics publishes have spoiled me from more innocent Mort Weisinger fare, but gosh…

    Most early Legion stories fall into one of four broad plots:

    1) Someone attempts to join the legion but is rejected, so they vow horrible revenge for being spurned.
    2) Someone attempts to join the Legion and his accepted, but is secretly working to destroy the group.
    3) A member of the Legion behaves in a totally out-of-character manner for some reason (often inadequately explained), leading to conflict within the group.
    or
    4) A mysterious villain appears, possessing just the right sort of powers to counter and disable every single member of the group, even though each of them has a distinctly different power.

    Sometimes, just for fun, 2 or more of these 4 basic plots were combined together.

    To be fair, these were written over 40 years ago for an entirely different sensibility (and for a much younger prospective reader). Some of it is just typical Weisingerian melodramatic nonsense that grates on my nerves in large doses. And of course, these stories were backup features in Adventure comics and spread across several months originally, and suffer a bit for being read in large chunks anyway.

    And even though I pick them apart, and shake my head over them as I read them, they’re still a lot of fun, because I know that about 15 years from the time these were written, they will turn into the comics I read and loved when I was 10.

    Very enjoyable if you’re especially interested in the early history of the LSH, or just like reading Silver Age comics.

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6 Comments

  1. To be fair, these were written over 40 years ago for an entirely different sensibility (and for a much younger prospective reader).

    *and* under the Comic Code Authority, which really did limit the heck out of what they could do…

    • Yep, that’s part of the different sensibility I was talking about. 🙂

      • Just a few points:

        1) The CCA wasn’t really responsible for the blandness of the stores. National (later to become DC, but I believe they were still National Periodical Publications at this point) had always been pretty vanilla, and the CCA only ensured that it was more of the same. The biggest effect the CCA had was on the non-superhero comics.

        2) Pulp SF stories were also repetitive in their nature -- the word is probably “formulaic”. Remember who was writing the early Legion: Pulp SF stalwarts like Otto Binder and Edmond “Captain Future” Hamilton. Not exactly your Heinlein or Asimov or Sturgeon. Heck, they weren’t even Gardner Fox, or Doc Smith.

        3) What Binder and Hamilton made up for in their lack of plotting originality they more than made up for in their sheer inventiveness of the idea of the 30th Century and what it brought to the tapestry of the evolving DCU. The background details are amazing -- and amusing. The multi-stylus that allows Legionnaires to sign dozens of autographs at the same time. The speed learning machines. Scanners that can detect guilt by means of a scientific formula. And oh God, the Planetary Chance Machine. Every Legion fan loves the Planetary Chance Machine. The Legion of Substitute Heroes was another great (and logical) idea, and as I pointed out on IRC, the idea of a story arc like the Death of Lightning Lad story was extremely novel for that time.

        • *grin* Like I said, I’m enjoying the heck out of reading these stories — some of them for the very first time. But this *is* my honest reaction to them. (Have any of the Levitz/Giffen books been collected?)

          • Oh, sure. Just pointing out a few things in context. The Levitz/Giffen era hasn’t been reached yet. If they continue reprinting, it should be in about three more volumes. The only Levitz/Giffen storyline in TPB form at the moment is the Great Darkness Saga.

  2. Maybe I’d have felt differently if I was a kid in 1963 reading them for the first time,

    When I was ten, they were brilliant. I even sent in a design for a new costume for Light Lass but they never used it. I still have a couple of the Superboy’s and about two years of early LSH.

    Back in the late 80’s when Mark Hamill was in Toronto for some reason or the other, I ended up standing at the the cash desk at the Silver Snail discussing LSH with him. It was one of the titles he collected and he’d never actually met anyone before who knew about the early Superboy appearences. Duh. Clearly, he was hanging with the wrong crowd. *g*

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