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Robert Greenberger

by Robert Greenberger

The 1950s and 1960s were the era of the teenager, as they forced their way into earning a designation of their own and with it, music, movies, and television programs that were aimed at them. Comics were slower to embrace them as conventional wisdom held the average reader was eight and turnover was every few years.

With the first stirrings of the Silver Age of heroes, editors felt emboldened to experiment. among them was Mort Weisinger, who cut his teeth on science fiction; first as a fan, then as an agent, and finally as an editor. As chief steward of the Superman family of titles, he felt creatively freed with the cancellation of The Adventures of Superman, and swung into action, adding new energy to the books, including, for the first time, title to title continuity. He’s now well-known for his introducing a new twist or addition to the mythos, coming with startling regularity and immediately being felt across the line.

Among those additions was a trio of teens from the 30th Century who showed up for a one-off story in adventure Comics #247 but managed to capture the imagination of readers. No fool, Weisinger brought them back, expanded their ranks, and had them interact with the other members of the extended universe. In a fairly brief time, this organic group of heroes earned their own berth in Adventure, solidifying a fan base whose influence would be felt for decades.

For reasons left to others to debate, the radiance has faded from the legion of Super-Heroes but of late, DC has begun seeding them into the renewal universe, creating new mysteries and setting the stage for a revival.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

As part of that, DC is releasing a pair of hardcovers letting you discover, or rediscover, the science fiction adventures of the heroes representing worlds from throughout the United Planets. The first, The legion of Super-Heroes: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1, collects all those scattered stories from the early days through their first two years as their own series. presented here are adventure Comics #247, #267, #282, #290, #293 and #300-328; action Comics #267, #276, #287 and #289; Superman #147; Superman annual #4 and Superman’s buddy Jimmy Olsen #72, #76; and Superboy #86, #89, #98 and #117.

Adventure Comics #311

These stories come courtesy of Weisinger’s stable of SF veterans including Otto Binder, Edmond Hamilton, and Jerry Siegel. Illustrating the tales are Al Plastino, John Forte, and Curt Swan presenting them with a fairly consistent look as the characters and settings fell into place. At first, Weisinger used them in the 20th Century as a deus ex machina but increasingly let them be heroes in their own right. modern day heroes Supergirl and elastic Lad (Jimmy Olsen) were eventually given membership and you could thrill to seeing the teens of Steel interact out of time. You meet new members, and their recurring foes, explore strange, new worlds and view the teens fall in and out of love. There’s action, romance, and sacrifice, laying the foundations for what follows.

The legion lost their home in Adventure, first disposed in action before getting occasional backups in Superboy. In time, the loud, demanding legion fans made their case to editor Murray Boltinoff who increasingly showcased the teens until finally the book was renamed Superboy and the legion of Super-Heroes. The providing picks up with issue #234, carrying through to #240 and includes all-new Collectors’ edition #C-55.

Superboy and the legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1 HC

We pick up in 1977 with the title at an experimental 34-page size, under the guiding hand of writer Gerry Conway. By now, the Legionnaires and their home worlds were ripe for exploration and the opening tale focuses on the team trying to save shrinking Violet’s people on Imsk. With the very next issue comes the arrival of Paul Levitz, legion fan extraordinaire turned assistant editor. His debut story, illustrated by fan favorite Mike Grell, addresses the conundrum of how the Legionnaires have retained their youth with the revelation of a life-extension serum and the team choosing to erase Superboy’s knowledge of the truth. Levitz offers team adventure and solo spotlight stories, expanding the characterization and universe.

Visually, the series retained Grell’s look and feel although stories came from Ric Estrada and George Tuska before making way for James Sherman to become the “regular” artist. That said, there were fill-ins including Walter Simonson. Jim Starlin co-plotted and drew a strong Ultra young boy story that threw some needed shade onto the bright, optimistic future. The constant turnover of artists and the need for the tyro writer to get help from Paul Kupperberg and Jack C. Harris was emblematic of the company during this time, but also forced a reprint issue (under a Starlin) cover. Still, there was a sense of something fresh from all these new creators.

All of this gave Levitz a deal with on the team which set the stage for his first epic, “Earthwar”, which has been saved for the next volume. This one, though, does include the tabloid story, drawn by Grell, that featured the long overdue wedding of Saturn girl and Lightning Lad.

Superboy and the legion of Super-Heroes #236

Reading these as a kid, I wanted to have friends from other worlds and powers that felt distinct and particular to the alien races that have banded together for justice. The sense of friendship, loyalty, and teamwork helped make the legion a very appealing series. That they were in their own reality only enhanced their uniqueness and while you could see the DC heroes in each other’s titles with enhancing regularity, you could only find the legion (usually) in one place, adding to that feeling of being a special place to visit.

These stories may look or feel dated but in context, they were vibrant, fresh, and different for a company better known for their conformity than their diversity. These are both well worth a read, especially so you better understand their role in the current continuity.


Legion of Super-Heroes: Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

Superboy and the legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1 HC

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database

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