TEENAGERS FROM THE FUTURE: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes (Sequart, $26.95) Now here’s a terrific book, a bunch of fan essays on my favourite team. It’s a meaty read, taking in such subjects as architecture, the Legion rulebook and Paul Levitz’ debt to film-maker Robert Altman.
Most of the articles are plain fun, reminding us of the highs, lows and sheer nuttiness of the LSH back story. Occasionally things get a tad high-falutin’ for my taste . . . you can make a case for comics having cultural significance without overthinking – just look at film box offices, the widespread acceptance of such terms as ‘bizarro’ and the growth of graphic novel sections in bookshops.
Then again, the whole point of the Sequart organisation is to argue for the acceptance of comics as a legitimate art form, so a little intellectualising is par for the course. And there’s always a nice line of argument present, with readability to the fore.
My favourite essay is Martin A Perez’s Fashion from the future, or ‘I swear, Computo Forced Me To Wear This’. It’s written at the level of a great fanzine article – light, entertaining and insightful.
The editing of the book is a bit lax at times, particularly in Julian Darius’ Revisionism, Radical Experimentation, and Dystopia in Giffen’s Legion. From that unnecessary comma in the title onwards, it made me want to get out the proverbial blue pencil. Never mind the odd use of the term ‘revisionism’ – Giffen and the Bierbaums weren’t reinterpreting Legion history, they were telling a new story with a darker tone – there was a heck of a lot of repetition, with phrases and ideas repeated almost wholesale time and again. Perhaps that’s meant to reinforce an argument, but if the the reader is considered bright enough to allow an intellectual approach to the Legion, they should be credited with the ability to hang on to a thought for a paragraph or two.
There’s also the odd comment that makes it sound as if being gay is among the worst things that can ‘happen’ to a person, for example:
Perhaps most memorably, Shrinking Violet, a cute and innocent girl with the power to shrink, was shown to have been at the same battle [Venado Bay], which left her horribly psychologically and facially scarred. She further sported short hair, rather than her long and glamorous flowing hair of years past, and seemed to be a lesbian.
Oh my god, poor Vi! By the end of this commendably ambitious piece, it’s obvious that Julian Darius isn’t anti-gay, which makes such comments all the more puzzling. Hopefully tighter editing of any revised reprint will sort this out.
Overall, though, I can’t imagine any longtime Legion lover failing to appreciate this book. It’s written with affection and knowledge and is full of fascinating detail and intelligent observation. If you’re a Legion fan and haven’t already bought it, order it today.