Thursday, 9 June 2011

Jim Shooter. Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #210.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #210
Many are the legendary super-villains the world of the American comic has given us; from the senses-shattering menace of Dr Doom to the not so senses-shattering menace of Paste Pot Pete.

But above all other super-villains stands one so terrible, so ominous, the sun hides behind the clouds at the mere mention of his name, and one glance at his dread visage can reputedly reduce a man to dust.

I am of course referring to Jim Shooter.

Jim Shooter was, as we all know, for many years the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics who, with his ideas on man-management and story-telling methodology, cut a swathe of controversy throughout the industry. Anyone who reads James's blog will know he can cut a wilful and sometimes contradictory figure, one moment warming all our cockles with his heart-melting tales of his totally reciprocated love for his underlings, and the next sticking the boot into everyone in sight. He can also turn up on the blogs of people who criticise him, meaning I may be dicing with death just by mentioning him.

But, before he was The Most Controversial Man In Comics TM, he was of course a humble comic book writer and I'm pretty sure that Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #210 must've been the first comic I ever owned that was written by the man they probably don't know as Shooty.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #210, Mike Grell, Soljer
Soljer - a man with feet.
In Shooty's first tale of the issue, a 28th Century soldier, who was buried after throwing himself on a gamma grenade is, two hundred years later, accidentally resurrected by Lightning Lad and decides to complete his mission of destroying Metropolis. He KOs Superboy and almost kills Phantom Girl before Chameleon Boy and Princess Projectra convince him to drop dead on the spot. The tale's drawn by Iron Mike Grell who goes against one of Jim's prime directives by at no point establishing that Phantom Girl has feet. Personally, I don't hold it against him.

In the issue's second tale, Grell instantly establishes that Karate Kid has feet, as the Legionnaire goes to Japan and discovers his late father was a notorious criminal. KK then protects his father's killer from the revenge attack of his own father's lackeys. The tale's probably most notable for the fact that Karate Kid - who's never born any resemblance to the man before - is suddenly a dead ringer for Bruce Lee; a frankly terrible idea that somewhat undermines the story. In fact the outing doesn't really feel like a Legion tale at all, being devoid of other Legionnaires and lacking any super-heroics, while not having anything happen in it that couldn't have happened in a tale set in the present day.
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #210, Mike Grell, Karate Kid
Karate Kid - a man with hands.
So, what do I make of my first exposure to the words of the Shooty Man?

It's OK. I have to admit that until I recently re-read this comic for the first time since I was a kid, I couldn't remember anything of the lead story. Things came rushing back to me as I re-read it though, especially the near-fatal stabbing of Phantom Girl. The Karate Kid tale'd stuck in my mind a little better but mostly because of the hero-looking-like-Bruce-Lee thing. So, while it's all solid enough and both tales end with the sort of moral that was clearly designed to lift the spirit and impress the young at heart, I have to say, on first exposure to Shooter's Legion, that I do prefer the more expansive and dynamic world of Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum.


Mr-Zentai said...

Wow! The man of third pic like a Kung Fu star - 李小龙

dbutler16 said...

I liked this issue, but especially the first story. Yeah, they must have tried to capitalize on Bruce Lee's popularity, but I don't have a problem with some of the backup stories being low key like this. I think I agree with you in that I prefer the Carey Bates Legion to Shooter's Legion, though.

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