Thursday, May 26, 2011

DP09-AP(c) Retro Stories During The Giffen Period

.....There are several kinds of period pieces in comics. Some are written to offer explanations for glitches in continuity or unresolved questions about a character's background. Some are pastiches or satires that are more about the period itself than the characters. In DC, where the Silver Age stories occur in an entirely different timeline from the post-Crisis stories, a period piece might be a way to operate outside the constraints of modern continuity, such as the Silver Age one-shots from about a decade ago. Last year we got a period piece that seemed to hope that we would become nostalgic for the future.

.....The Brave And The Bold #34(07/10)- #35(08/10) The story "Out Of Time" brings together four teams from the 1960's in what could only be a post-Crisis account of pre-Crisis events. This two-issue story arc is part of a larger thematic arc called "Lost Stories Of Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow" on the covers. The previous Straczynski issues (#'s 27-33) in this arc have been solicited as a trade paperback Team-Ups Of The Brave And The Bold to be released on August 24, 2011. These two issues were the last in the series; coincidentally (?) the last issue of the most recent Doom Patrol series was also omitted from the solicitation for the trade Fire Away, also scheduled for August 24. Of course, that's a bit more bizarre than the case of "Out Of Time" because the last issue of Doom Patrol was the conclusion of a story, not self contained. First, the credits:
  • Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
  • Artist: Jesus Saiz (including covers)
  • Letterer: Rob Leigh
  • Colorist: Tom Chu
  • Assistant Editor: Chris Conroy
  • Editor: Joey Cavalieri
.....The four teams make up nearly the entire cast. Except for two pages, there are no 'innocent bystanders' anywhere in the 44 page story. The selection of team members doesn't necessarily fix each team in a particular time, but strongly implies a certain era. First, the three founding members of the Legion of Super-Heroes [LSH]:
  • Cosmic Boy (Rokk Krinn)
  • Saturn Girl (Imra Ardeen)
  • Lightning Lad (Garth Ranzz)
.....Their contemporaries in the 30th century are the Legion of Substitute Heroes [Subs]:
  • Chlorophyll Kid (Ral Benem)
  • Fire Lad (Staq Mavlen)
  • Night Girl (Lydda Jath)
  • Polar Boy (Brek Bannin)
  • Stone Boy (Dag Wentim)
.....The LSH first appeared in comics in 1958 and were introduced as coming from the 30th century. From the beginning it was always implied that these three weren't the only members and subsequent appearances would add new members, so many in fact that early on it became impractical to include them all on each mission. Ergo, this line-up could have been active throughout most of the feature's history with a few glaring exceptions. For a long time Lightning Lad was missing an arm and appeared with or without a metal prosthetic. Also, each of the three have worn a variety of costumes, including Cosmic Boy's very daring 1970's mostly-skin outfit. If pressed, I'm guessing most fans would place these uniforms in the early to mid 1960's. The Subs, on the other hand, were a smaller, closer-knit organization whose line-up stayed close to the list above from their 1963 debut until the introduction of Color Kid in 1966. The incarnation of the Doom Patrol also seems to come from a 1963-1965 time frame, since Caulder is not using his "Action Chair", introduced in Doom Patrol #94(03/65). Their line-up [DP] is:
  • The Chief (Niles Caulder)
  • Robotman (Cliff Steele)
  • Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr)
  • Negative Man (Larry Trainor)
.....Last (and it could be argued, least) is The Inferior Five [I5]:
  • Merry Man (Myron Victor)
  • Awkwardman (Leander Brent)
  • The Blimp (Herman Cramer)
  • Dumb Bunny (Athena Tremor)
  • White Feather (William King)
.....The I5 were introduced in Show case #62 (05-06/66)- #63 (07-08/66) and 65 (11-12/66). The other three issues with 1966 cover dates featured The Spectre and both features moved on to their own titles in 1967. Both titles lasted ten issues, as well. The Spectre, of course, continued to find a variety of outlets for years after that. Not so, the I5. After two reprint issues in 1972, their only appearances tended to be 'summary' or 'taking inventory' type stories:
  1. Showcase #100 (05/78)- A single story incorporating as many characters as possible from the first 93 issues of the series.
  2. Ambush Bug #3 (08/85)- While COIE and Who's Who were being published, Irwin naturally provided his own guide to the DCU.
  3. Who's Who...#11 (01/86)- Speaking of which...; they're on page 3.
  4. Crisis on Infinite Earths #12(03/86)- Yes, incredibly they survived the 'event' in issue #10. They can be seen running behind Lois Lane while she makes a television news report from New York City (on page 15).
  5. Oz-Wonderland War #3 (03/86)- I'll have to reread this carefully, but this might be an alternate Earth version of the group.
  6. Animal Man #25 (07/90)- In the final Grant Morrison arc, Animal Man finds that the characters killed in COIE are materializing from Psycho Pirate's memory. I don't want to give away too much more, but I would highly recommend that any comics fan (well, mid-teens and older) read the three trade paperbacks compiling #'s 1-26 (plus the Secret Origins story). This story obviously implies that the I5 didn't make it, but since this issue and COIE #12 are both canon, let's just assume that this I5 is the one from Oz-Wonderland War.
  7. Angel And The Ape #1(03/91)- #4 (06/91)- We learn Angel and Dumb Bunny are sisters. We also learn Sam Simeon is related to Gorilla Grodd. This Phil Foglio story (and his other from two years later, Stanley And His Monster), are long overdue for compilation.
.....Since then it's been Elseworlds cameos and Crisis event crowd scenes and other appearances that can be argued as taking place outside regular continuity, such as Dumb Bunny and Ambush Bug waking up after their Las Vegas wedding in Ambush Bug: Year None in 2008.

.....For DP fans not familiar with the abundant continuity issues plaguing the Legion Of Super-Heroes, there's good news. By using a c.1964-ish version of the team many of those problems become irrelevant. However, since this is unlikely the only place you'll be reading about/discussing this story, I should mention that the basic problem was that the LSH were created pre-Crisis and said to be inspired by Superboy, who traveled through time to join them. After COIE, DC went back to the basics of the Golden Age when constructing a new origin and history for Superman; i.e., he started his costumed career as an adult when he left the family farm and there never was a Superboy. Rather than cancel the immensely popular LSH title(s) or pretend their Gordian Knot of a history just didn't happen, a succession of mutually contradicting explications mounted until Zero Hour in 1994 and around the time of their Fiftieth Anniversary in 2008 it started getting unnecessarily freaky all over again. When this story gets discussed elsewhere any number of contentious plot points from the last three decades may surface in the conversation. To better grasp what these problems are and how to comprehend how Legion chronology works I'll have to refer you to Get-A-Life Boy's LSH Blog, specifically the following page:

.....I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the excellent blog The Legion Omnicom at
.....and the LSH area of Cosmic Teams at

.....In the next post I'll take you through the two parallel time travel stories page by page and event by event, both in real time and as they are experienced by the cast.