DC Comics’ Legends #1

It was 1986, and DC Comics had delivered a game changer. Crisis on Infinite Earths had ushered in a new and exciting age, and as a comic book fan I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. You had John Byrne sign on exclusively with the brand to remake Superman. Likewise, George Perez and Len Wein were doing the same with Wonder Woman. Barry Allen was dead and Wally West was the new Flash. And DC wasn’t done.

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In the wake of Crisis, the company followed up with a mini-series that would itself have long term repercussions for the DC Universe. That series was Legends.

Whoa. “The Epic of the Century – – – – Starts Right Here!” is a pretty bold statement. Sounds to me like Ostrander, Wein, Byrne, and Kesel were pretty full of themselves. To be fair, Len Wein and John Byrne were by this point comic veterans (at least the equal of Crisis’ Marv Wolfman and George Perez), and John Ostrander had become an established writer in the indie circuit working for 1st Comics and co-creating the immortal Grimjack (a character I’d love to take a closer look at someday), and Karl Kesel had made his bones at DC a couple years earlier, so this crew might have a shot at topping Crisis. At the very least, it’ll be a fun ride.

We find ourselves on Apokolips, home of Darkseid and his minions. The Lord of Apokolips himself looks out upon his kingdom and notes how orderly everything is. “No mouse stirs, no head is raised”. And yet, Darkseid is uneasy. He turns to his chief toady DeSaad and asks him what’s harshin’ his mellow. DeSaad takes the opportunity to show off his awesome action figure collection.

Damn, DeSaad, don’t you know you’re supposed to leave them in their packaging? Now they’ll never be mint! Darkseid picks up Captain M—I mean, Shaz—I mean, the one with the white cape, and muses that maybe it’s time to not only wipe out the heroes, but the very concept of “such legends”. DeSaad, good little minion that he is, already has a plan in mind and has Glorious Godfrey and Bedlam on call.

Darkseid thinks that was a little too conveeeeenient, and while he approves the master plan, he snaps the action action figure into little pieces. Oh, that’s cold, man. You truly are the worst kind of evil, Darkseid.

We cut to New York City, Earth, where a bunch of scientists are working not just on a fusion generator, but a giant fusion generator. Because in New York, you go big or you go home! But unknown to these geeks, Darkseid drops a “techno seed” into the mix. That techno seed he’s planting evolves a mind of its own (and if you got that reference, you truly are a metal god) and out bursts…

Brimstone! Man, it’s like if you crossed Gozilla with pro wrestler Big Van Vader.

Fortunately among the science geeks is one Professor Martin Stein, one half of the nuclear super hero Firestorm. Unfortunately, the other half, Ronnie Raymond, is taking a shower at the time of the summoning. He’s yanked from his Pittsburgh college dorm to take on the new threat.

Brimstone is obviously a Super Team level threat, and the Nuclear man gets laid out. Thankfully, Brimstone ambles off, leaving Firestorm behind to collect his thoughts. Good thing there are two people in there to think them. Elsewhere, the new Flash, Wally West, finds himself up against an unfamiliar foe in Deadshot. Wally’s not nearly as fast as he used to be; I forget exactly why, but I think it was due to something that went down in Crisis. Despite the downshift in speed, Wally’s still pretty good at what he does, and Deadpool gets jobbed out in short order.

People crowd around Wally and immediately wonder why he didn’t do all the cool things the Flash is supposed to do, like vibrate or catch the bullets. Somebody even points out the Flash used to be taller. Man, harsh crowd. Wally picks up Deadshot and literally runs him to the nearest police station, then heads over to Titans Tower to chill. He finds his old team mate Garfield Logan, aka Changeling (formerly known as Beast Boy, who will eventually go back to being called Beast Boy. Personally, I like Changeling better). Garfield is watching teen news anchor Billy Batson (hey, it’s the DC Universe: a teenage anchorperson is the least weird thing about it) as he interviews one G. Gordon Godfrey about superheroes. Three guesses who Godfrey really is.

Turns out Godfrey is on TV talking about the menace that super heroes represent, how they’re negative role models, and they use violence to solve every problem, and they’re maladjusted loners. Man, I really wish this guy would stop beating around the bush and get to the point. While Godfrey is talking, Wally and Gar are having a heart-to-heart about West adopting the Flash name, and they talk about “legends”. I see they’re going to beat that word into the ground, aren’t they? I think the word “legacy” would have worked just as well, and I wonder if the blame for this is on Ostrander the plotter, writer Wein, or editor Mike Gold.

As the old friends are talking, the TV shuts off. It turns out there are shenanigans at the studio where the show is being taped. Billy Batson overhears that the building is under attack, and it’s time for a certain magic word to be uttered.

“Captain Marvel”. Well, that clears up that little bit of confusion. At this point, both DC and Marvel had the rights to use the name, and I won’t go into the history of that little legal battle. But if you’re curious about it, look up NerdSync on YouTube. I think he does a pretty clear and concise job of laying out the hows and whys of it all. But back to the story: The studio is being attacked by none other than the villainous Macro Man.

Yeah, not nearly as cool as Brimstone. (The best) Captain Marvel name drops Hercules, Zeus, and Solomon as he smacks “Macro Man” around. But things go sour for Cap on the next page over as he goes from kicking butt to getting his own ass handed to him. The “speed of Mercury” isn’t enough to prevent him from getting grabbed by the big guy. Mercury Speed really sucks; Cap should have gone with the original Hermes Speed instead of a cheap knock-off. Then again, does “Shazah!” sound like a better magic word than “Shazam!”? Hmm.

Even the “stamina of Atlas” isn’t enough to stand up to the big squeeze that Macro Man is laying down. I’m surprised Ostrander/Wein didn’t somehow sneak in the final name in SHAZAM (i.e. “Even with Achilles’ courage, Macro Man is testing my resolve!”). I mean if you’re going to go for a theme, then go all the way, right? Cap decides the only way out is to turn into Billy Batson and squirm free.

…Whut?

I mean, seriously, this is the best that Cap’s “wisdom of Solomon” could come up with? Switch from nigh-invulnerable Captain Marvel to ultra-squishy Billy Batson? Macro Man is just going to stop squeezing because… why, exactly? But okay, perhaps the wisdom of Solomon is too inscrutable for a mere mortal gentile such as myself to comprehend. Cap utters the word “Shazam!”, the lightning bolt comes crashing down, and…

Uh… whoops? Macro Man turns out to be the inferior of Brimstone, and is unable to handle singles competition. He is truly the Marty Jannety to Brimstone’s Sean Michaels.

Cut to the Pentagon, where a very uptight Colonel Rick Flag stalks these hallowed halls until he reaches the offices of a certain Task Force X. Inside, he meets a woman named Amanda Waller, who’s reactivated the organization Flag used to be a part of. Once introductions are complete, she waves her hand at the files on her desk, which are Task Force X’s first candidates. Flag takes a look and freaks out, and can’t believe what he’s reading. But Amanda Waller couldn’t be more serious. And who is Amanda Waller?

Only one of the greatest comic characters ever created. Bold, authoritative, ruthless almost to a fault, Amanda Waller walks God’s Earth for one purpose and one purpose only: to protect America. You’re either on Waller’s team, or you’re just an obstacle to get knocked down. Waller establishes who’s in charge early on and Flag is on board. They don’t like each other, but both have got a job to do. It’s time to assemble Task Force X, because they might be needed sooner than anybody thought.

Elsewhere, a man sits in a diner, marveling at the greasy hamburger and the way the ink of his newspaper rubs off on his gloves. It’s like he has the low expectations of a modern Marvel Comics fan. He talks about someone named Lydda, and remarks that for an “amateur historian”, he’s in heaven. He’s about to get a refill on his cup o’ Joe, but before he can satisfy his java craving, there’s a horrific crash and the wall of the diner caves in. It looks like a job for…

Hailing from the 30th century, one of the three founding members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Cosmic Boy springs into action. It sounds like Cos is hanging out in the 20th on some sort of vacation? Man, that sounds reckless. Like, what if he steps on the wrong butterfly or something? What if he’s not supposed to get involved in the upcoming fight? But heroes gotta hero, amirite? By the way, few men could pull off the black and pink look.

It turns out the attack on the diner is the work of Brimstone, still on his US tour of destruction. Cos shows he’s got some stones as he decides to take on the big guy without any backup. For those of you who don’t know, Cosmic Boy controls magnetism, and he wears a Legion Flight ring, so not exactly a great power set to take on a walking volcano. Cos gives it a go anyway, but as brave, smart and experienced as Cosmic Boy is, he just doesn’t have what it takes to defeat Brimstone solo. Cos lands hard, and things looks hopeless. But all is not lost; someone off-panel asks, “Need a helping hand, fella?” What hero has shown up to save the day? Let’s turn the page…

Oh. Oh no. Oh my God, no, please. I… I had forgotten what era this was, and what abomination had been published during this period. The team that shows up to fight Brimstone is…

Justice League Detroit.

How does this Justice League lineup fare against Brimstone? What other heroes will be drawn into Darkseid’s web? Join me next time as I take a look at Legends #2!

Tag: DC Legends

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  • danbreunig

    You had me at “from techno seeds we first planted, evolved a mind of its own”.

    All fear the Sentinel.

  • About the only thing I actually remember about the Justice League Detroit is the last couple of issues where the team…er…breaks up.

    • Thomas Stockel

      That’s a polite way of referring to the incident. :)

    • Michael Weyer

      Which does tie in to this very event!

    • Chefe O’Hara

      These, as well sone “Crisis” tie-ins, were the only Detroit-League ever published here in Brazil.

      (I respect the authors’ desire of making a League whose stories could have an impact on their members’ lives, but, from the issues I managed to read, the personal conflicts and emotional issues were too heavvy-handed.)

      • I think the idea of making a more “grounded” Justice League wasn’t bad by itself, but turning it into a melodrama with mid-1980s dramatic sensibilities was probably what turned people off. See also New Guardians.

  • GreenLuthor

    -Prior to Crisis, Wally West was losing his speed powers due to a degenerative disease of some kind, and so retired as Kid Flash. He felt it necessary, despite his reduced power, to return to duty during Crisis (especially when he saw a vision of Barry hopping through time from later in the series). Something, something, comic book mumbo-jumbo, his disease went into remission due to the events in Crisis, but he remained at the reduced power level, and took up Barry’s mantle as the Flash to honor his sacrifice. (Mostly, I think it was because the writers realized that Barry’s power level was *INSANE*, and tried to make Wally more “grounded”, much as they allowed Byrne to seriously lower Superman’s power levels post-Crisis.)

    -Technically, DC has the same rights to the name Captain Marvel now as they had back then. The issue is that Marvel owns the trademark, which means DC can’t (and has never been able to) use his name in any kind of advertisement or packaging or whatnot. So they can call him Captain Marvel in the comics themselves, but can’t use the name on the covers to the issues. (Or, obviously, as the name of the movie, and probably wouldn’t have gotten away with using the name in the trailers and commercials, but could have in the film itself. Probably.)

    (Basically, Fawcett was the original publisher of Captain Marvel, but DC sued them for being a rip-off of Superman. By the early 50s, sales on the comic were way down from the height of their popularity, so Fawcett settled the suit and stopped publishing comics altogether. Since they weren’t publishing the comics, they didn’t bother to renew the trademark, so MF Enterprises started publishing a comic with a new, lame character named Captain Marvel in 1966. By that point, Marvel Comics was going strong, and someone (probably Stan Lee) figured that if they were Marvel Comics, they should have Captain Marvel, so they were able to get the trademark off MF (and no one has missed their character since). DC then licensed the original Captain Marvel (and later bought him outright), but couldn’t register the trademark as Marvel already had it.) (So Marvel will pretty much make sure they always have a Captain Marvel character around, so they can make sure to publish a book with the name at least every few years, to ensure the trademark never lapses, because DC would grab it in a second if they could.)

    (Dammit, why do responses like this always end up so long? Sorry about the wall of text there.)

    • Marcus

      I recall a letter in the original run of the series noting that Wally could explain the situation to a limited degree, consistent with protecting secret IDs (“the original Flash is dead; I’m the guy who used to be Kid Flash”). That said, if the crowd was reacting like that after I saved their sorry butts, I wouldn’t be inclined to give them the time of day.

    • Chefe O’Hara

      Me, too, have the same problem: every time I want to answer someone, this answer gets bigger, and bigger, until it grows to encyclopedia-heights!

  • Michael Weyer

    A note on Cosmic Boy: This was going to be part of the explanation as to how Superboy could exist in the post-Crisis DC as Byrne now had it that Superman grew into powers slowly and never Superboy. A tie-in mini-series has Cos discovering the history of the 20th century is different than the one the Legion knows and Superman has no idea who he is.

    This sets up the Legion discovering the Superboy past was a “pocket Earth” created by Time Trapper and that Superboy sacrificed himself to save the Legion. And then three Kryptonians massacre that Earth so Superman has to execute them with Kryptonite before bringing over what would become the new Supergirl.

    Then DC basically erases all mention of Superboy and has Mon-El take his place until they use Zero Hour to restart Legion history from scratch.

    And then they once more have Superboy around with the Legion post Infinite Crisis.

    COMICS!