Saturday, December 29, 2012

Long live the Legion!—diversity

Spotlight on: TYROC
As I graduated out of kiddie comics such as Charlton's editions of Speed Buggy and the random Batman issues my dad bought me, I started scooping up Whitman 3-packs whenever I could, especially when I could see Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes included. I love love loved the Legion.

The Legion was ideal kid-reading. Team of teenagers whose massive roster was determined by having a unique super-power: no dups! Some of my earliest super-hero art is of the Legion (follow the tags for the vintage stuff).

Recently, Xavier said I would be great on the Legion, and I thought, "would I?" "what would I do?" Sure, ideas came to my head, but here's the rub: in order to fix problems, update, and Tim Fish-ize, would it be the same Legion I (and others) loved?

Nope. But it did get my sketchpad full of ink identifying my biggest complaints of the original comics. Enjoy.


For a series that takes place 1,000 years in the future, with a membership consisting of mostly alien races, there are sure a lot of white teens on the team. Maybe it was creative, maybe it was editorial, maybe it was the publisher's decision, or maybe it was thought that only white kids read comics. Who knows. 

Karate Kid (who should have been at least stereotypically Asian), only looked Asian once in a while, thanks to certain artists. Even characters where race didn't matter—such as Wildfire, a disembodied teen living in a containment suit—were white. Enter Tyroc, whose powers were complicated, whose backstory was pretty racist, and whose persona was separitist/angry...he made maybe 3 appearances before being written out of the series. Enter Dawnstar, whose species descended from American Indians. Enter the second Invisible Kid, who was depicted as French black and a reluctant hero.

The roster was nearly 30 members, ex members, honoraries...but the 10% rule 3 should have been some variety of homo. Of course, these comics were written in an era that none of them would have been out, but about an era that they surely would have been free to express themselves? Or was that a future far too frightening for the imagination?

So, we have the first Invisible Kid, described as "an incredibly lonely Legionnaire." Later he befriends a ghostly gal who turns out to be a figment of his imagination of something. Maybe a demon. Sounds closet gay, yes? Element Lad was suspected to be gay, too, because he never had a girlfriend and seemed shy around the ladies. In one of the re-boots, I understand Element Lad was gay for a time. And I seem to recall some hints at lesbo action in the mid-80s as I stopped reading the series, between Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass. Probably went nowhere.


GeorgiaUnity said...

Yeah, diversity was long in coming; they did blue, green, and all the rest of the rainbow before getting around to actual races! D'oh!

(But I still loves my Legion...and some Tyroc; one of my faves! A great story was a 3-parter with Dawny, Shady and Tyroc in the lead!)

I just take it for granted that Lyle (Invisible Kid I) and Condo (Chemical King) were queer..and with each other. Most of Legion fandom seems to feel the same.

Vi and Ayla were indeed involved (beyond suggestion) in the 5-year gap series, as was it revealed that Jan (E-Lad) was involved with a transgendered woman..which didn't phaze him (yay!)

Mekt (Lightning Lord) was revealed to be gay and had a lover.

Seems I'm missing some, but one would hope that 1,000 years in the future we would have gotten pasty gay-hate a tiny bit!?

Tim Fish said...

RE: Invisible Kid and Chemical! are there context clues? I think I have all CK's appearances in ADVENTURE, SUPERBOY, S/LSH...I'll scour them! Either way, I suppose I have a launching pad for my ideas now. :-)

Javier said...

As regards diversity, both Ferro Lad and Shadow Lass were intended to originally be African American characters.

In Post Zero Hour, Condo is a reporter and there are hints to an attraction between him and Invisible Kid. But its not really the same character. He is black.

Tim Fish said...

See, this is all way too confusing for me, who hasn't read the Legion since 1986-ish...

Ferro Lad would have fallen into the same category as Wildfire...behind that mask, no one would have even had seen that he was black...and yet, he was white. :-\

Xavier Lancel (SCARCE) said...

Okay, so I'll try to contain my enthousiasm.... :)
So happy to see you trying your pencil on the Legion.

Ok, let's make some clear points first:
- this french invisible kid was SOOO lame and his french so awful, I think he rates n°1 of my Top annoying Legionnaires.
- Did I already say Dawnstar sucked too? I mean, her only power is to find people and everytime, she has an excuse to not find them. And when indeed she was used to find people, it really looked like the cheapest writer device ever.

What really annoyed me was, more than a lot of legionnaires being black, that a lot of them looked human!
It was fixed a little with Tellus (the yellow amphibian fellow), Quislet (the energy being in a small ship), with Shikari (the new version of Dawnstar), with the new Princess Projectra (a snake!).

And yeas, the post 1986 Legion was one of the most gay friendly mainstream title! :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fish, did you see the Secret Origins issue that featured Chemical King? Chris Spruce (sp?) did the art, and it was SOOOOO clear that they were gay. The spirit demon wasn't mentioned, but Invisible Kid's death was the start of his downfall. Great story. Oh, and in current (as of this week, one supposes) LSH, Violet and Lighting Lass are still a lesbionic couple.

Tim Fish said...

Anon: no, I didn't...I'll have to look for it! I really haven't read any of Legion comics since 1987 or so...