The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1.
DC Comics.
“Monster in a Little Girl’s Mind.”
Writer: Paul Levitz. Penciller/Co-Plotter: Keith Giffen. Inks: Bruce Patterson. Editor: Laurie Sutton.

Longtime Legion fans know what I’m talking about here. From 1978 to 1981 the Legion was in a funk. Nothing, not even a thoughtful but convoluted “Who is Reflecto?” storyline seemed to help the title. Then Paul Levitz returned as writer after a three-year absence and Keith Giffen eased into a co-plotter/penciller role. The quality of the series began to pick up. Then the first Legion Annual was released and suddenly everything clicked into place. There was the return of an old but memorable foe, Computo. There was the introduction of a black, French character who acquired the powers of a beloved deceased character, Invisible Kid. The story took place almost entirely within Legion headquarters, yet read like an epic. There was worthy characterization of all Legion members and supporting cast, even those regulated to a one-panel cameo appearance. And there were clever hints sprinkled throughout of the tale of darkness to come. I had been a frustrated Legion fan for months, and now everything was being handled right. Humor, something sorely lacking in the series, was being utilized to great effect. With the beginning of “The Great Darkness Saga” one week later in Legion of Super-Heroes #290, the Legion would only get better. But the magic truly surfaced here. It practically overshadowed DC’s return to an Annual tradition, a tradition gone for almost two decades!

The Legion of Super-Heroes #294.
December, 1982.
DC Comics.
Writer/Co-plotter: Paul Levitz. Penciller/Co-plotter: Keith Giffen. Inker: Larry Mahlstedt. Editors: Laurie Sutton and Karen Berger.

In 1982, writer Paul Levitz and artist Keith Giffen made the Legion of Super-Heroes worth reading again. In issue #290, the “Great Darkness” saga began, wherein many of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World concepts were utilized to play a major role in the Legion’s Thirtieth Century history. In issue #293, the mysterious menace that was threatening the universe had been revealed, and it was none other than Darkseid himself. Longtime DC readers had sufficient clues to guess who the villain was early on, but that mystery really didn’t matter, it was the excitement of the epic itself that brought delight to Legion fans who had been frustrated by the team’s lackluster and convoluted adventures over the past three years. Issue 294 illustrates the breathtaking and universe-spanning war between the Legion and Darkseid and his forces (including the entire super-powered population of the planet Daxam). Legion Reserves, Legion Substitutes, Legion affiliates, Highfather and Orion, Superboy and Supergirl, it seems like everybody is called into battle. It climaxes with Darkseid’s foreboding curse on the Legion (because he simply couldn’t handle being bested by this perseverant young team), and concludes with two touching yet humorous epilogues. Legion fans could hardly wait a month to see what was going to happen next.

Justice League of America #40.
November, 1965.
DC Comics.
“The Indestructible Creatures of Nightmare Island.”
Writer: Gardner Fox. Artists: Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs. Editor: Julius Schwartz.

This story deals with the ability to enforce conscience on any individual. Sounds too good to be true, right? For a brief time, it actually works. Super-villains instantly develop moral character, world leaders refrain from dropping the bomb, and those in the midst of war become good neighbors instead of enemies. But trapped in astral form, Andrew Helm is unable to turn his corti-conscience machine off. The results are horrific; everyone overdoses on conscience then loses it, no one can tell right from wrong, and mankind is on the brink of self-annihilation. The affected JLAers get their act together and diffuse man’s deadly actions. Then they locate Andrew Helm’s hidden island in the Pacific Ocean and, after defeating the obligatory menaces, turn off the machine. The Leaguers’ sermon of peace, understanding and tolerance is a little heavy-handed, but the world might be a better place if it was applied. One of Fox’s more thoughtful scripts, full of action and surprising humor (not one of his strong points).

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #77.
June, 1970.
DC Comics.
“Journey to Desolation.”
Writer: Denny O’Neil. Artists: Neal Adams and Frank Giacoia. Editor: Julius Schwartz.

I first read this story in a black and white Green Lantern/Green Arrow paperback published by Coronet Communications Paperback Library edition in 1972 that also reprinted “No Evil Shall My Sight” from Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76. I missed the original “hoopla” that was GL/GA, but read about it in magazine articles available in the local public library. I’ve always liked this story a little more than “No Evil…” That tale set the stage for the beginning of Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen’s journey to find America, but “Journey to Desolation” had us arriving there, and violently at that. GL had that “world’s best cop” credential sticking to him, and he still leaned towards respecting the authority figure. But circumstances here had him not only questioning authority, but also himself, at a moment when his life was seriously threatened. O’Neil’s relevant script and Adams’ incomparable, realistic, and gritty art captured the complex struggles within this very good but naive man. Nothing quite like this had been done in a DC superhero comic book before.

About The Author

Jim Kingman

Jim Kingman is a writer for Comics Bulletin