Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #240

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So Howard Chaykin doing layouts of a teen superhero book without being pervy. All the dudes look about forty-five. It’s hilarious. It’s not good, but it’s hilarious. There’s only one female Legionnaire in the story—Phantom Girl—who’s not as scantily clad as Cosmic Boy, so not the salacious Chaykin one might expect. Also, he’s just doing layouts (over Alan Kupperberg’s layouts, according to Kupperberg), with Bob Wiacek finishing. And maybe Al Milgrom, who’s got editor credit, doing more inks (according to Milgrom, not the credits).

Not good art. Like. There are some cool ideas for visuals—Colossal Boy holding up a bridge and various future stuff—but it’s a patriarchal decorum story set in a cool-looking sci-fi future. The patriarchal decorum thing is the subtext; the main plot is about a bad guy named “Grimbor the Chainsman” hunting down the Legion because they locked up his lady love, Charma (whose power was to charm men), and she died in prison. Because they put her in a lady jail and ladies hate Charma; the power she had over men worked in reverse over ladies. Everyone’s really boringly straight in the future.

Including Cosmic Boy, who’s bummed out because he misses the Legionnaires who just got married and left. He’ll never get married and leave, though, he assures Superboy, who’s all up in his business; Legion over ladies.

Superboy and Phantom Girl have that patriarchal decorum thing going; he wants to make sure Cosmic Boy’s not lollygagging over missed friends and failed romances. If you’re going to be a Legionnaire, your head’s got to be in the game. Meanwhile, Phantom Girl’s made at Colossal Boy about something he did last issue, and her subplot is about not being allowed to have feelings if they go against the boys.

Cool.

Jack C. Harris scripts from Paul Levitz’s plot. The plot’s better than the script, though only slightly. After spending the issue setting up a second part, they wrap it up in a few pages anyway, so there’s at least a wasted page forecasting a future adventure. They’ve also got the problem the bad guy’s got a real motive–shame it was too early for them to call the story The Wrath of Grimbor. The “chainsman” stuff is weird, though maybe it’s all a metaphor for a bunch of vanilla straights bullying bondage enthusiasts.

And the story comments on how Legionnaires are cast based on how their powers will combine to resolve plot points, which is a little on the nose.

The backup, however, is a visual delight. James Sherman on pencils, Bob McLeod on inks, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The art sustains for the whole story, all twelve pages, with some standouts even on the last page. It’s great-looking superhero art, just phenomenal.

The story’s about how Dawnstar’s a stuck-up b-word who needs to learn to play well with others. She’s one of those uppity Native American descendants gone to space who became navigational mercenaries, and she’s only in the Legion because she gets paid. She’s not some nerd who wants to be a superhero.

She and three other trainees need to go on a real mission, only she’s pissed everyone off, and no one wants to work with her. Will she survive on her own? Will she learn a valuable lesson about teamwork?

What’s funny is how the setup for Dawnstar being the focus is team leader and trainee trainer Wildfire asking her out on a date. Mind you, he’s a complete asshole in addition to not having a physical form outside his super-suit. So there’s a considerable power dynamic thing going on, but, obviously, the comic will not acknowledge it. Please.

Again, truly great art, so it doesn’t matter. Levitz plots, Paul Kupperberg scripts. The dialogue’s much better than the feature. Not great—it’s also not a great dramatic arc—but much better.

That Sherman and McLeod art, however, is divine.

One Comment

  1. Vernon wiley

    Yes, James Sherman’s art was excellent. Nice compositions, good figure work, attractive younger people…he was perfect for the book, but they went with “fan favorite” Mike Grell, who couldn’t draw a convincing human if he traced photos. Whatever happened to Jim Shermin?, some of us moan.

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