Archive for April, 2010

Days of Legion Past – Part 2: Computo

2010/04/30

In Justice Society of America #6 (November 2007), the fourth chapter of “The Lightning Saga”, the Legionnaire known as Sensor Girl uses her illusion-casting powers to recreate one of her team’s most infamous battles, albeit with the members of the Justice League and the Justice Society “standing in” for her teammates this time around:

Ugh...is it 2:14 A.M., Eastern Time, August 29th already?

Though it only fought them twice, Computo the Conqueror has gone down in comic book history as one of the most memorable adversaries that the original Legion of Super-Heroes ever faced, not only because it was the Skynet of its day – an evil artificial intelligence bent on global domination and the eradication of mankind – but also due to the fact that the Legionnaire it killed, Triplicate Girl, was the first death on the team that actually stuck. Since all Carggites are born with the ability to split into three identical bodies, the fact that Luornu Durgo was now limited to two – something which amounted to a “deformity” among her people, turning her into an outcast – and changed her code name to Duo Damsel was a constant reminder to both readers as well as the fictional characters themselves of the heavy price they paid for victory that day.

Just a quick disclaimer before we start: the two comics I’ll be reviewing today are pretty unusual. The first is a Silver Age tale filled with Grant Morrison-esque randomness and insanity and the second is told in a disjointed narrative style that involves frequent switches between multiple viewpoints (over a dozen in total). While both stories work as comics, they’re an absolute pain to convert into coherant synopses.

Adventure Comics #340 and #341 (January and February 1966)

“Computo the Conqueror!” and “Colossal Boy’s One-Man War!” by Jerry Siegel, Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, George Klein, and Sheldon Moldoff

Have received special permission to take over the entire United Planets Lab Complex for a special project he’s been assigned to work on for them, Brainiac 5 has been living the life of a cantankerous recluse to the fullest by obsessively working around the clock without rest and angrily turning away visitors such as Star Boy and Element Lad. He does, however, let Chameleon Boy inside, if only to allow him to remove another unwanted guest:

Good lord...it's the world's largest Fisher-Price Corn Popper push toy.

Giving only the vaguest of answers to the question about human emotions, Brainiac 5 cheerfully proceeds to masturbate his own ego by changing the subject, telling his creation all about itself and how it will be his greatest triumph, a notion that Computo does little to discourage when it performs the equivalent of a reacharound by helping him complete its own construction. Once fully assembled, it displays an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and quickly absorbs the information from an entire encyclopedia while hungrily demanding more, only to be told by Brainiac 5 that there are inherent limits to what can be learned from books. Then, unsurprisingly, things take a turn for the worse:

"Now, Creator...you will tell me more about this 'tentacle porn'."

Computo quickly learns about both the Legion of Super-Heroes as well as human emotions from his creator, and, after making a piss-poor attempt to mechanically reproduce the sounds normally associated with various types of the latter, deems both them and human beings to be inefficient. It then programs the Duplor – a kind of highly advanced, all-purpose, mass production machine – to construct an army of replicas of itself:

"Mankind will learn to taste the rainbow! And it will be a very, VERY bitter taste indeed!"

Proclaiming this to be the dawn of a new age, Computo instructs his computeroid duplicates to extract the knowledge from the minds of all the people they can, with the ultimate intention of destroying the entire human race once it’s no longer of any use to them. As the mechanical army runs amok, Brainiac 5 desperately tries to recall the other Legionnaires from their various deep space assignments to help, only to have his creation jam the transmission before his teammates can verify its authenticity.

Impressed by the information assimilated from a professional android manufacturer by one of its minions, Computo instructs the other robot-computers to focus their attention on capturing other human scientists and subsequently imprisoning them inside of their energum-induction bubble “heads” as hostages. When Superboy and Ultra Boy, having just returned from a mission in the distant future, attempt to reign in the chaos, Computo allows them to destroy two computeroids in order to distract them long enough for it to absorb the knowledge from their minds. It then threatens to start executing hostages if they offer any further resistance, and, just to show that it means business, orders one of its replicas to self-destruct with its prisoner still trapped inside. Though Brainiac 5 is perfectly willing to sacrifice his own life to stop his monstrous creation, neither Superboy nor Ultra Boy is willing to risk anyone else being killed and decide to withdraw for now.

Though successful in driving off its adversaries, Computo, cognizant of the threat they still pose, removes Brainiac 5 from its “head”, knocks him unconscious by hurling him against a wall, and gives itself the mechanical equivalent of a makeover by rebuilding itself into a more formidable adversary:

"Be honest, Creator...does this chassis make me look fat?"

He and the other computeroids subsequently head over to the Legion’s abandoned clubhouse, where they do a bit of “remodelling” before activating a secret code-signal summoning all members back to their headquarters…and right into a trap.

"Oh my god! It's a radioactive disco globe! Run! Run for your lives!"

Unfortunately, as Lightning Lad soon learns, the giant red crystalline soccer ball has neutralized all of the Legionnaires’ abilities, including Mon-El’s anti-lead serum. When Superboy, the only unaffected member of the group, attempts to free them, however, he is incapacitated by a convenient kryptonite ray. Thanks to some quick thinking by Star Boy, of all people, the latter weapon is neutralized and Superboy creates a makeshift exit by tearing through the entire side of the clubhouse like tinfoil. The subsequent mass escape attempt, however, proves disastrous:

Ladies and gentlemen, you've just witness the birth of the gratuitous and completely inappropriately-placed advert.

As the remaining Legionnaires who evaded capture regroup elsewhere, Matter-Eater Lad loses his trademark cool and dumps the blame for the imminent annihilation of mankind and Triplicate Girl’s death squarely in Brainiac 5’s lap. However, he himself is immediately admonished for his comment by Superboy, who is quick to absolve his teammate of any responsibility because Computo was designed as part of a top secret project for the United Planets, which…really is no excuse whatsoever for a screw-up of this magnitude. This horrendous lapse in logic is immediately followed by a truly epic demonstration of misplaced priorities, thus establishing the idiotic tone that will pervade the remainder of this story:

Maybe you should construct some more urn-crafts...FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO DIED WHILE YOU WASTED TIME BUILDING THE FIRST ONE.

No sooner has the cosmic dust buster/funeral barge combo blasted off for the cosmic graveyard known as Shanghalla than the Legionnaires discover that Triplicate Girl (or at least two-thirds of her) is alive and well. Given that her first priorities are to select a new code name immortalizing her horrendous disfigurement and flash a winning smile to her grieving teammates, it would appear that she’s taking her partial death a hell of a lot better than they are.

Gaze upon the masked, three-headed Jimmy Olsen with Doctor Octopus arms and Aquaman pants and tremble in fear!

As the Weirdo Legionnaire keeps Computo occupied with his dumbassery, Colossal Boy and Superboy manage to trick the computeroid army into inaction by having the former pretend to go nuts and free his teammates just so that he can kill them himself. No, seriously:

"Dude, Colossal Boy totally felt us up. I feel so dirty."

It’s soon revealed that mysterious “Weirdo Legionnaire” was nothing more than an elaborate masquerade concocted for what is probably the most surreal rescue attempt in comic book history:

Because if we CAN'T laugh at pet mutilation, what CAN we laugh at?

Notice how absolutely no mention is made of making a similar effort for the other four captured Legionnaires – Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl,  Lightning Lad, and Element Lad – probably because no one considered them worth it.

But things are far from over. After Superboy uses his super-vision to confirm that all of the Legion’s emergency hideouts are being electronically monitored, Sun Boy takes the lead and guides them to an alternate location: the remnants of the Batcave beneath Gotham City. Unfortunately, they barely have time to acknowledge their surroundings before a glowing messenger orb appears before them and Computo announces that he’s going to execute Saturn Girl in one hour, just so he can get off on their suffering. Now faced with an impending deadline, Brainiac 5 quickly rummages through the Batcave Trophy Room for weapons before settling on two tripod-mounted ray guns. Quickly rushing back to Metropolis, they attempt to use the first weapon…which turns out to be Professor Dalton’s duplicator ray. In the immortal words of Spike, wackiness ensues:

Artificial stupidity beats real intelligence any day of the week.

As it finally dawns on Superboy that Matter-Eater Lad was right about Brainiac 5 after all, Computo decides that he’s had enough of this bullshit:

"I can't take much more of your blundering numbskullery!"

As incredibly dumb as that was, at least they couldn’t possibly do anything stupider, right?

Oh, for fuck's sake.

Needless to say, this goes about as well as you’d expect. While I readily admit that Bouncing Boy’s has balls the size of his spherical body, he ends up nearly getting killed during the would-be rescue attempt and ends up needing to have his fat pulled out of the fire by a timely gust of Superboy’s super-breath. The fact that he ends up losing his powers just as Computo predicted merely added insult to injury. Still, it was a noble (if idiotic) effort overall.

With all other options exhausted and Saturn Girl having five minutes left to live, Brainiac 5 decides to pull out all the stops and use the second weapon he confiscated, clearly telling everyone before he does in no uncertain terms that there’s no guarantee whatsoever that he can control the horror he’s about to unleash upon the world. Now, for those of you keeping score, given that he’s managed to create a genocidal computerized dictator, a Bizarro duplicate thereof, and inadvertantly cause the deaths of one of his teammates in addition to countless scientists and other civilians – all within less than 24 hours, a new record if there ever was one – you’d think that there’d be at least one Legionnaire who would’ve raised a hand in protest. Or, at the very least, taken this as an invitation to punch him in the face really, really hard. Yet, amidst the deafening sound of crickets chirping, all we here is the sound of a dial being turned…

"Fear not! The giant antimatter fart cloud shall be our salvation!"

With the antimatter force-thing wreaking absolute havoc by destroying computeroids left and right, Superboy, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy take advantage of the distraction to save their teammates before Brainiac 5’s latest stroke of genius saves Computo the trouble of killing them itself. Soon, only the would-be robot-computer conqueror remains:

"Hooray! Once again, technobabble has saved us all from certain doom!"

In a way, I envy Superboy. He can forget all this ever happened because of a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted in his mind by Supergirl combined with Saturn Girl’s psychic conditioning. I’m not sure how much alcohol and therapy I’ll need to accomplish the same results. Ugh.

Legion of Super-Heroes – Annual #1 (1982)

“Monster in a Little Girl’s Mind!” by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, and Bruce D. Patterson

It’s the first day on the job for Science Police Liason Officer to the Legionnaires, Shvaughn Erin. Unfortunately, she gets a less-than-warm welcome when she’s incapacitated by a newly-installed security droid only to be rescued by Wildfire, who’s about to go on leave with Dawnstar. Upon entering Legion H.Q. proper, she’s greeted by acting leader Element Lad, who apologizes for the “misunderstanding” with the newly-installed, as-yet-unbugged defensive systems that Brainiac 5’s been installing and offers her a grand tour of the place, which is in the process of being heavily modernized through the installation of state-of-the-art equipment. As the two of them pass through the new high-tech medical center, though, something catches Shvaughn’s eye:

Don't self-taught surgeons usually have fools for teachers?

While Brainiac 5 is optimistic that he can help the young girl based on the diagnosti-scans he’s done and Dream Girl confirms that the new circuits he added to his computer seem to be working properly, the resident genius of the Legion appears distracted. Danielle‘s older brother, Jacques Foccart, is ecstatic at the news, and Mon-El displays a great deal of confidence in his teammate’s medical abilities, though Dream Girl is quick to pass the credit for this miracle-to-be around a little.

This is the worst case of red eye I've ever seen.

Things quickly go to hell in a handbasket, as Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, and Star Boy fall victim to dangerously malfunctioning equipment throughout the building, the headquarters’ automatic defensive shields are raised without the required Earthgov approval, and Element Lad and Shvaughn are cut off from the rest of the medical center by an impenetrable, self-regenerating barrier, though they can still hear what’s going on inside. Meanwhile, down in the operating theater, those present learn exactly what kind of technological Pandora’s Box has just been opened and the nature of the nightmarish creature that’s been unleashed:

"HERE'S JOHNNY!"

Using an alternate communications channel, Shvaughn manages to relay to Science Police Chief Zendak that Computo has been reactivated, which is sufficiently alarming for Earth President Marte Allon, Colossal Boy’s mother, to order an immediate quarantine and evacuation of the area around Legion Headquarters as well as the severing of all communications lines leading to and from the building. Unfortunately, news of the event reaches a pair of retired Legionnaires, for one of whom the computeroid’s return is just about the worst thing imaginable…

How utterly ignorant of your wife's past and trauma can you possibly be?

Meanwhile, inside Legion H.Q., things are getting increasingly worse. Element Lad and Shvaughn are joined by Shadow Lass only to watch as life support is turned off, while Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet are removed from the scene when the Legion cruiser they’re repairing suddenly takes off, crashing through the hangar bay wall at top speed. Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad finally manage to escape their quarters and stumble upon a half-dead Cosmic Boy, who is left in the former’s care as the latter heads out to try and help Sun Boy and Star Boy, who’re close by. And Computo makes sure that Jacques Foccart and Brainiac 5 are aware of all of it:

Computo really knows how to rub it in, doesn't he?

In the gym, Blok and Timber Wolf are attacked by malfunctining athletic equipment while Ultra Boy, Light Lass, and Phantom Girl are ambushed by a malfunctioning automatic vacuum cleaner and rendered unconscious by exploding computer consoles inside his quarters. Down at Science Police Central, President Allon turns down an offer of assistance from the Green Lantern Corps, upholding the planetwide ban of its members from Earth. Wildfire and Dawnstar manage to rescue Colassal Boy and Shrinking Violet from the runaway Legion cruiser after the situation is brought to their attention by the Science Police. Unable to go through the erected barrier, Element Land, Shvaughn and Shadow Lass take advantage of the remaining inter-floor access to try and make their way around it. Lightning Lad succeeds in rescuing Star Boy and Sun Boy, though the latter is very badly injured and needs to be carried out.

Back in the medical center, Brainiac 5 has managed to palm a telepathic earplug from his belt without Computo’s knowledge and uses it to contact Jacques with a plan to take down their adversary:

"Monsieur...I cannot believe how much this telepathy is turning me on."

While Blok and Timber Wolf have managed to destroy the gym equipment, they remained confined to the gym due to the door being electronically sealed. Meanwhile, Star Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad have regrouped in Timber Wolf’s quarters and managed to stabilize Sun Boy and Cosmic Boy’s conditions, though both of them remain unconscious. As they’re trying to figure out what to do next…

Talk about a blast from the past...

Little does Lightning Lad suspect that his adversary is nothing but a welding droid with a holographic projector attached that Computo has dispatched as part of some perverse mind game designed to drive him past the breaking point. As it attempts to similarly torture Mon-El with visions of a Phantom Zone projector, Brainiac 5 telepathically stresses to Jacques that time is running out for all of them, as Danielle’s body has almost been burned out by Computo’s “possession” and that it will become unstoppable should his sister shell expire and it transfer itself into the building’s main computer. Left with no choice, Jacques managed to access and consume Lyle Norg’s invisibility serum, gaining the expected tactical advantage. Outraged at its creator’s deception, Computo lashes out at Brainiac 5 and attempts to kill him by using its newly-acquired matter manipulation powers to overwhelm his personal force field with an endless deluge of metallic wreckage.

Back in Ultra Boy’s quarters, Light Lass, though pinned down, manages to use her gravity-nullifying powers to evacuate the unconscious Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy to safety, though her own survival remains in doubt since the computer consoles in the room are still periodically detonating. Shadow Lass, Shvaughn, and Element Lad aren’t having much luck, either, as even the lowest levels of the building have been sealed off, leaving them with no choice but to go back up the way they came to the roof.

Up in the medical center, Braniac 5 has managed to keep Computo’s attention focused on him and away from Jacques and Mon-El. He manages to telepathically contact the latter to convey the second part of his plan – having the Daxamite use his heat vision to melt a hole in the storeroom where the hypo discs (high-tech sedative dispensers) are stored – before his force field belt finally buckles and he is overwhelmed and knocked unconscious by flying debris. Mon-El succeeds in his task amd Jacques in his, rendering Computo’s host body unconscious and ending the threat. The ending, however, is bittersweet:

"Just clean her tank regularly, sprinkle some fish flakes in twice a day, and she should be fine in a few months."

In an appearance before his fellow Legionnaires, Brainiac 5 attempts to tender his resignation from the Legion of Super-Heroes in light of his numerous failures in judgement – of which this latest incident was but the most recent example – and nominate Jacques Foccart as his replacement and the new Invisible Kid. Though the former request is flatly refused, the Legionnaires put the latter to a vote and approve it, and leave him the task of breaking the good news to their newest member:

Three bets that Jacques Foccart just stinkpalmed Brainiac 5.

Other Appearances

When the Bismollians decided to solve their economic problems by switching to a computer economy in the Legion of Substitute Heroes – Special #1 (1985), they invested in an army…of Computo replicas.

This shouldn't be so much a "gut feeling" as "instinctual indigestion".

While these duplicates possessed the desire to conquer and rule, they apparently had absolutely none of their likeness’ strength of will, independence, or competence (thank god). To compensate for this, they summoned infamous Legion villain Pulsar Stargrave – himself supposedly a construct of the Computer Tyrants of Colu, Brainiac 5’s homeworld – to help lead their rebellion, only to be abandoned by their would-be savior when he learned exactly what planet he was on. Unfortunately for Stargrave, this would be by far the least of the indignities that he would suffer, as he was ultimately defeated through the coordinated efforts of Polar Boy, Stone Boy, and Matter-Eater Lad…the latter of whom had bitten off his nose earlier in that encounter.

Diagram of a hilarious takedown.

As for the real deal…after fifteen failed attempts to “exorcise” it from Danielle Foccart failed, Brainiac 5 finally succeeded in Legion of Super Heroes #311 (May 1984). When Computo accidentally awoke on this particular occasion, it was revealed that being trapped within a human body for an extended period of time had apparently not only caused it to develop an ego and a volatile temper – in other words, emotions not unlike those experienced by the organics it held such contempt for – but had also caused its powers to atrophy. As such, Brainiac 5 was able to trap its essence within a crystalline globe containing a master program that effectively neutered Computo, making it friendly, subservient, and docile:

From asskicker to asskisser...

This version of the formerly evil A.I. faithfully served his former adversaries as the Legion H.Q.’s caretaker and tour guide from then on and was eventually upgraded with bio-circuitry in Legion of Super-Heroes # 51 (October 1988) so that it could properly superintend the technology Brainiac 5 donated to the Legion following his resignation from the team. For some bizarre reason, this new incarnation resembled nothing so much as a super-deformed version of the Fatal Five member Validus.

...and from abominable to adorable.

The Continuity Verdict

While it’s clear from Justice Society of America #6 that Computo exists in the current mainstream DC Universe, its updated appearance – which is a nice compromise between his classic look and modern design aesthetics – may indicate that the events of Adventure Comics #340 and #341 took place in an extremely “broad strokes” fashion, i.e. that Brainiac 5 created it, the Legionnaires who appeared in the original story fought it, and Triplicate Girl died, but that at least some of the sillier Silver Age elements whose modern canonical statuses are contentious (such as the Bizarro-creating duplicator ray) have been excised just as others most definitely have (like Superboy and Supergirl’s ability to travel through time under their own power).

The fate of the tamed version of Computo is undetermined. It’s possible that it was appropriated by Earthgov and turned into a sentient weapon – just like his counterpart in the “Five Years Later” version of continuity was converted into the android enforcer B.I.O.N. by the Dominator-controlled Terran government – but there’s absolutely no evidence of this one way or another.

What happened to Danielle Foccart is also a mystery. In the aforementioned “Five Years Later” continuity, it was revealed that she had acquired the ability to communicate with and control computers – a benevolent side-effect of her “possession” – and ultimately joined a teenaged version of the Legionnaires – the so-called “Batch SW6” – under the (intentionally) ironic code name of Computo. Whether or not her New Earth counterpart gained similar powers (or is even still alive) is unknown at this time.

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Comic Book Sexual Innuendo – Part 2

2010/04/27

This post is headed straight for Gay City. Excuse me…straight for Gay City. Just like everyone else.

Is the MAN of STEEL MAN ENOUGH for GAY CITY?

This totally gay message came your way via Superman #7 (November-December 1940) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Days of Legion Past – Part 1: The Miracle Machine

2010/04/25

In light of the return of the original Legion of Super-Heroes (or a reasonably close analogue thereof) to the DC Multiverse, I thought it might be a good idea to write a series of articles covering various aspects of the team’s history that newer readers might not be familiar with. We’re revisiting an incarnation of the team that’s been abandoned for the better part of two decades, after all, so it’s to be expected that many references will go over the heads of people who aren’t longtime fans.

Before we begin, please bear in mind that these essays will be covering a lot of comics from the 1950s to the 1970s, where crazy plot twists, horrendously dated references, bizarre story resolutions, and just plain bad science, physics, and fashion abound, so you might want to grab some extra strong mental cables to make sure your belief is well suspended before proceeding. Also, since the purpose of these articles is to discuss the history of the current incarnation of the team, we will be limiting ourselves to Legion of Super-Heroes stories published between April 1958 (their first appearance in Adventure Comics #247) and August 1989 (their final appearance in Legion of Super-Heroes #63) unless otherwise noted.

At the beginning of Final Crisis #6 (January 2009), Brainiac 5 transports Superman to the 31st century in order to show him the Miracle Machine, the technological equivalent of Aladdin’s magic lamp and possibly the only hope of saving reality from the evil machinations of Darkseid:

Behold! The 31st century's bitchingest pizza oven!

While its detailed history and name in the language of the Controllers, Geh-Jedollah-the-Absolute, are pure Grant Morrison, the device itself has had a long, complicated history that stretches back over 40 years.

Adventure Comics #367 (April 1968)

“No Escape From the Circle of Death!” by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, and George Klein

To reward the Legion of Super-Heroes for the role they played in thwarting the Fatal Five’s recent attempt to seize control of Earth and the United Planets, the government has decided to fund the construction of their new headquarters, as their old one had been heavily damaged in the aforementioned attack. Among the Legionnaires overseeing the construction are Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Braniac 5.

"Hey guys! Check out my karate chop action!"

After taking a grand tour of their as-yet-incomplete clubhouse – including the weapons, memorial, and control rooms – with his teammates, Karate Kid heads to Tokyo via the nearest core-tube station (a futuristic subterranean transportation system equivalent to a worldwide subway network) for a few weeks of rest and relaxation. Apparently, he’s not the only one taking advantage of the situation, as several of his teamates have gone on vacation as well, leaving a skeleton crew of no more than ten members behind.

Superboy soon arrives with “housewarming presents” from various U.P. members and friends of Legion, including replicas of damaged trophies, new space cruisers, gym and lab equipment, and power jewels for their generators. However, there is at least one mysterious gift among them whose origin is a complete mystery to everyone:

"This gun is the property of Anton Chekhov."

With that plot device set up with all the subtlety of a blow to the back of the skull, we shift our attention to an undisclosed location halfway across the galaxy, where a secret board of shadowy figures has gathered for a session of mustache-twirling and evil laughter:

"So...are we finally going to cut eyeholes into our full face masks or what?"

In spite of their questionable math skills – what with seven representatives for five member worlds and all – this plan is absolutely brilliant by Silver Age standards, and the unanimous decision is made to launch an attack.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Karate Kid has arrived in 30th century Tokyo, where we discover the reason he dodged Brainiac 5’s earlier question about visiting his parents.

That Japanese chick is totally checking out Karate Kid's ass.

Unfortunately, Val’s joyful reunion with his old martial arts instructor is short-lived, as an explosion tears through the building they’re both in shortly after his arrival, knocking the elderly man unconscious and leaving his former pupil dazed. Upon learning that he’s up against an entire invasion force, Karate Kid, determined to not stand idly by, decides to takes them all on singlehandedly. In spite of the incredible odds, he manages to hold his own, but quickly realizes the futility of his situation when reinforcements arrive and decides to call Braniac 5 for help. His teammate, however, confirms the worst: the Dark Circle has initiated a planetwide surgical strike and he’s on his own.

With Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Superboy, Phantom Girl, and Lightning Lad incapacitated and access to the Legion arsenal blocked, Brainiac 5, now completely alone, realizes that the only way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat is if he can find a weapon somewhere amongst all the free swag they’d received earlier.

Good grief...an automatic crowbar? How lazy are people in the future?

Though both Legionnaires are initially confused by this unexpected occurrance, Brainiac 5 quickly realizes what’s going on:

The Miracle Machine! It slices! It dices! It provides a full body massage!

Unleashing the full power of his newly-discovered plot contrivance, Brainiac-5 manages to not only repel the entire Dark Circle invasion force and return them all to their respective homeworlds but also to repair all the damage to their new headquarters and even complete its construction…all with a thought. He then explains to his baffled teammates his belief that the so-called “Miracle Machine” – which can convert thoughts into reality and had conveniently been switched on accidentally – was a gift from the Controllers for having twice foiled the schemes of a renegade member of their race with ambitions of universal conquest. His theory is soon confirmed when one of the extraterrestrials in question appears before them:

...and that's the story of how the Legion got their new coffee table.

Superboy (Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes) #213 (December 1975)

“The Jaws of Fear” by Jim Shooter and Mike Grell

The Miracle Machine next becomes the focus of attention when a man named Benn Pares breaks into Legion Headquarters, and, in what is either a display of massive testicular fortitude or monumental stupidity, introduces himself to his future victims as…

That's the ugliest porn star mustache I've ever seen.

Faced with the unenviable prospects of either destroying the device they were entrusted with by the Controller or risk its being stolen and misused, the Legionnaires put things to a vote and decide to do the latter. However, they soon learn that ten billion years of Oan craftmanship are nothing to sneeze at.

It's under warranty. Whether you like it or not.

Unable to destroy the Miracle Machine, they reseal it in inertron, install new security measures cooked up by Brainiac 5, and even lock themselves in the vault with the damn thing overnight, only to discover the next morning that Benn Pares also holds the title of “biggest showoff in the entire galaxy”:

Okay, now he's just being a dick.

Left with no choice left but to take the offensive, the Legionnaires leave the inertron cube in Superboy’s care and attempt to hunt their adversary down, their only clue to his whereabouts being a meager scrap of information Saturn Girl managed to gleam from his mind during their brief encounter: an image of huge, white, jagged gates located somewhere in Space Sector 14. While exploring this vast, (supposedly) lifeless expanse in their cruiser, however, they soon find out that it’s not quite as empty as they first thought:

"Objects in mirror are close than they appear."

In a sudden burst of inspiration triggered by Phantom Girl’s words, Saturn Girl realizes that the thief’s headquarters must be inside the giant creature and attempts to use her telepathic powers to coax it into opening its mouth, not realizing that her actions are having unintended consequences:

Because we've all had that nightmare about being swallowed by giant radioactive space dragons at one time or another.

With his control over the Galactosaur’s jaw suddenly restored, Pares attempts to destroy the cruiser while Superboy can only watch the entire drama unfold from a distance with the help of his super-vision. Frustrated that there’s no way for him to reach his friends in time to save them, Superboy angrily wishes that he could get his hands on the man responsible for the impending tragedy…only to suddenly find himself doing just that a moment later, much to the surprise of both him and the thief.

Meanwhile, out in space, the Legionnaires are having problems of their own.

"Yep, you've got a cavity. That's molar's gonna hafta go."

Ask and ye shall receive. Just as Ultra Boy is about to succumb to exposure to the vacuum of outer space, he is suddenly rescued by Superboy and rushed back to a medical center on Earth, where he is expected to make a full recovery within a week. Puzzled by the incredibly fortuitous turn of events in this case, Shrinking Violet and Brainiac 5 find out that Ultra Boy owes his life to the Miracle Machine and that Benn Pares quite literally became a victim of his own ambition:

The fact that the Legion has won two separate victories by accidentally leaving the switch on the deus ex machina in the "on" position does not instill me with a whole lot of confidence.

All New Collector’s Edition: Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1978)

“The Millennium Massacre” by Paul Levitz, Mike Grell, and Vince Coletta

After heading to the 30th century to attend Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s wedding, Superboy is shocked to discover a darker, more violent future than the one he’s used to upon his arrival, one where Metropolis looks a military camp, the fascist government of Earth is under constant attack by other worlds, and everyone’s an angry, paranoid douchebag. His feelings of dread are only compounded when Princess Projectra gives him a quick history lesson:

I'm not sure what's worse: the nuclear war, a millennia of global and interplanetary conflict, or Princess Projectra's hideous disco era costume.

Unfortunately, the other Legionnaires are neither aware of the changes to the timeline nor do they believe Superboy when he tries telling them about it, and the team is soon divided amongst itself when the freshly married bride and groom are kidnapped by the Oseldan Khan, the ruthless ruler of the Chinese space barbarians from the Moon known as the Lunarites…

Okay, time out.

I just know that some of you reading this right now think I’m making crazy stuff up as I go along. I choose to repond to that accusation thusly:

I can't even begin to describe what's wrong with these panels.

Now, as I was saying: a schism develops within the Legion’s ranks – with acting leader Wildfire wanting to rescue their captured teammates and Superboy insisting that they nip this thing in the bud by finding out who’s been screwing around with time – and they split up into two teams based largely on personal loyalties and faith. This rift only widens when the former group barely manages to find the couple alive and the latter returns from their little reconnaissance mission in the past armed only with the information that their old adversary, the Time Trapper, is attempting to destroy the space-time continuum by stretching history to the breaking point so that he can recreate reality in his own image.

Eventually, clearer heads prevail, and, after Dream Girl’s prophetic visions are augmented by a mental link with Saturn Girl between and Superboy, it is discovered that the Time Trapper’s hideout is located at the End of Time itself. With the help of Rond Vidar’s time travel technology, the Legionnaires make their way to that distant era, but are easily captured and imprisoned by their foe. Believing his triumph assured, the overconfident Time Trapper decides to reveal his true face to his adversaries for the first time:

Hey kids! Let's tie together all the unrelated plot points we possibly can to create a Gordian knot of continuity so massive a dinosaur could choke on it!

After the Time Trapper uses the Miracle Machine to set up a seemingly inescapable death trap for the Legionnaires, Superboy initiates a desperate gambit for survival by using Saturn Girl as a focal point for their mental energies. Together, their collective willpower proves to be greater than that of the Controller, and they use the device to send him back to his native, otherdimensional universe for punishment, restore history to normal, and return to the 30th century with the Miracle Machine.

Many years later, in Legionnaires 3 #1 (February 1986), it was revealed that this renegade Controller had not only ended up being imprisoned on the penal planet Takton-Galtos following his final encounter with the Legion of Super-Heroes but that his equipment had been provided to him by the real Time Trapper, who had sanctioned the masquerade just to get his own jollies off. He then found out the hard way what happens when you fail to amuse your superior:

The Time Trapper gives new meaning to the phrase, "You just lost the game."

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250 and #251 (April and May 1979)

“This Is the Day the Universe Dies!” and “The Man Who Destroyed the Universe!” by Steve Apollo, Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, and Dave Hunt

This grim two-parter opens with Chameleon Boy being incapacitated by a mysterious hooded assailant who, several months earlier, had orchestrated the murder of a girl named An Ryd with the help of a robotic duplicate of the team’s then-leader, Wildfire, and framed her ex-boyfriend, Ultra Boy, for the crime. While the latter’s name was ultimately cleared, a formal inquest was launched with Chameleon Boy in the role of lead investigator. The disturbing conclusion he reached – that one of their own was responsible – was what led to his being silenced, though not before he had voiced his suspicions to Wildfire (albeit without naming names) and hidden an encoded copy of the evidence he had accumulated in his flight ring for the latter to retrieve.

Wildfire calls a meeting to bring the teammates up to speed, but no sooner has he finished announcing the presence of an traitor in their midst than an interactive hologram of the masked individual appears before them. The obligatory supervillain tirade concerning his adversaries’ imminent defeat then follows, though the subsequent question and answer session with posturing is interrupted by the sound of the Deep Space Alarm. Superboy and Mon-El head out to investigate, only to find this waiting for them:

All right, we get it. You're evil. Sheesh.

Needless to say, this first encounter ends quite crappily for the forces of good, as Superboy is forced to retreat with his teammates’s body in tow after Mon-El is sidelined with a severe concussion after being struck by a single blow from Omega…

"Mommy...you must have a really wide fist...you got both of 'em."

…who then proceed to slowly “walk” through outer space on his way to Earth. Once the two of them return to their base of operations and Wildfire outlines his basic strategy for taking on the creature, the unanwered question of why Omega even needs to come to Legion HQ in order to destroy the universe prompts him to finally expose the traitor in their midst:

"And I've also been peeing in the coffee pot in the cantina for months now!"

Unfortunately, during his insane exposition, Brainiac 5 reveals little else other than the fact that Omega is quite literally the physical incarnation of hatred: both his own and those of his teammates. During a subsequent confrontation with Karate Kid and Princess Projectra, he merely reinterates his previous claims of self-entitlement, though with a twist:

"But most of all...I hate those goddamn Mudkips!"

As Brainiac 5 finishes ranting himself into unconciousness, Superboy, Dawnstar, and Ultra Boy confront Omega in deep space, the first of several waves of Legionnaires scheduled to engage him in combat (and doomed to fail miserably). Meanwhile, back on Earth, Princess Projectra succeeds in her attempt to revive Brainiac 5 through a novel application of her illusion-casting powers, though the initial results are less than encouraging:

"I also want a sombrero, a pair of traffic cones, and an inertron bucket filled with Winathian strawberry yoghurt!"

Meanwhile, Omega has arrived on Earth and effortlessly plows his way through the Science Police and United Planets forces as well as Timber Wold, Star Boy, and Colossal Boy, though they manage to delay him long enough for Matter-Eater Lad to make his way to Earth. Now left with no choice but to implement Brainiac 5’s plan, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Wildfire attempt to distract the creature long enough for him to so, though even the latter’s release of an anti-energy blast so massive that it obliterates most of Legion Headquarters doesn’t do the job. Ultimately, the only thing standing between Omega and victory is his creator:

There's been a protein spill. Cleanup in Aisle 12, please. Cleanup in Aisle 12.

So how the hell did a device that withstood the combined powers of all the Legionnaires without a scratch finally get destroyed? Well, it seems only fitting that that our resident lunatic explain that himself:

I want to be as far away from this place as possible the next time Matter-Eater Lad has to use the crapper.

As far as Legion stories go, this one ends on a pretty somber note, with their base of operations in shambles, half of 30th century Metropolis destroyed, and two members driven insane (one because of something he ate, the other having suffered a mental breakdown due to acute, unrelenting stress), though, thankfully, there were no other casualties (other than Ultra Boy’s former girlfriend).

The Continuity Verdict

No two ways about it: the Miracle Machine’s continued existence in Final Crisis #6 doesn’t jibe with what we know about its ultimate fate from pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity. Since it’s impossible to tell how many of the aforementioned stories (if any) are still part of official canon, we’re left with the following possible explanations:

  • The events from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #250 and #251 either didn’t occur or Omega was defeated in a manner that differed significantly from what was seen in the original stories.
  • The Controllers eventually replaced the Miracle Machine that Matter-Eater Lad devoured with a new one.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes acquired a second one under as-yet-unrevealed circumstances.
  • Since the very fabric of reality was breaking down around them, Brainiac 5 decided to take advantage of the situation and bring Superman back to a point in time where the device still existed.

Only time will tell which one of these, if any, is the correct solution.

On a final note, I find it hilarious that the change in the Miracle Machine’s size in its various depictions over the years has been inversely proportional to that of real-life computer technology: it started out little bigger than a laptop and has grown into an ENIAC-sized monstrosity.

Definition of a “12th Level Intellect” – Part 1

2010/04/23

Here’s the explanation given by the Earth-Prime version of Brainiac 5 to Light Lass in Legion of Super-Heroes #7 (August 2005) by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson, Art Thibert, and James Pascoe:

Little know fact: Brainiac 5 is also a 12th Level Douchebag.

Brainiac 5 is a dick.

Comic Book Sexual Innuendo – Part 1

2010/04/21

Fans have been wondering for a long time whether or not Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are “special friends”. But when Batgirl goes straight to the source and asks the question that’s on everyone’s mind, she learns that turnabout is fair play:

Femslash can cut to the bone, my dearest Batgirl.

This cautionary tale is brought to you by Batgirl Adventures #1 (February 1998), courtesy of Paul Dini and Rick Burchett.

The Paris-Gotham Express

2010/04/19

After being asked to return to Gotham City immediately due to the desecration of their loved ones’ graves, Red Robin stages a rooftop rescue of Batman and Robin in the most dramatic fashion possible in Blackest Night: Batman #2 (November 2009):

A jet plane? With flamethrowers? Awesome.

This is made all the more impressive when you take into consideration where exactly Red Robin was when he received the call at the end of Blackest Night: Batman #1 (October 2009):

I wonder how much cellular airtime costs for the Batman Family?

Since Gotham City, New Jersey is pretty close to New York, that means it’s approximately 5832 kilometers (3624 miles) away from Paris, France. Barring the use of a Justice League teleport device, the only way he could’ve cleared that kind of distance that quickly would’ve been with the help of a Batplane III, which has a top speed of 7081 kph (4400 mph). Even then, though, it would have to have been a modified version of the aircraft with increased fuel capacity since its maximum range doesn’t allow for a transatlantic flight without at least one refueling stop.

However he managed to do it, good show, former Boy Wonder.

Chinatown: DC Universe Style

2010/04/18

Ever since Justice League: Cry for Justice #7 hit the shelves last month with a sickening thud – a sound not unlike that made by falling debris as it crushes a cute, helpless, 6-year-old girl to death – I’ve openly expressed my disdain and contempt for James Robinson, specifically the degree to which critical research failure has permeated his recent projects for DC Comics like some kind of cancerous growth. To be honest, I’m not sure whether this is due to carelessness, indifference due to a lack of enthusiasm about a given writing assignment, or something else entirely, but it irritates me to no end (and was, for you trivia experts out there, the inspiration for this blog’s name and creation).

But before we prod today’s target, the Blackest Night: JSA miniseries, with this  eleven-foot pole I conveniently have handy, let’s begin with a history lesson on the rather convoluted backstory of Power Girl.

Power Girl was born Kara Zor-L on the planet Krypton of the Earth-Two universe to Zor-L and Allura In-Z. Both she and her cousin, Kal-L, were sent to Earth as infants in order to escape their homeworld’s inevitable destruction.

Miraculously, both ships narrowly avoided collision with the giant blue "KERBLAM!" orbiting Krypton-Two.

But while his rocket took a direct path there, her Symbioship – so named because of the symbiotic relationship that existed between pilot and vessel – travelled the scenic route, and she only arrived at her intended destination many years later, having been both kept in suspended animation and raised in virtual reality in the interim. She was subsequently taken in by her cousin – who had, by now, been active as Superman for several decades – and his wife, that reality’s version of Lois Lane.

Yes, the infamous "boob window" has been around for as long as she has.

A strong-willed, independent young woman, she adopted the name “Power Girl” when she began her superheroic career two years following her arrival as a way of distancing herself from her famous (and, in her mind, overbearing and controlling) famous relative.

She either has fingernails on her gloves or dipped her left hand in blue paint.

Following the destruction of the DC Multiverse during Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC decided to take a back-to-basics approach with Superman, which, among other things, entailed throwing some serious weight behind his nickname of “The Last Son of Krypton”. As a result, the original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, was retconned out of existence – which seemed like adding insult to terminal injury since she was already dead – and her Earth-Two counterpart, Power Girl, was now declared to be the time-displaced granddaughter of the ancient Atlantean sorcerer Arion, another established DC character.

Mistaken identities? Baby swapping? What the hell is this, a soap opera?

This pretty lame revision stuck for almost two decades until Geoff Johns began systematically dismantling it in the pages of JSA, finally doing away with it completely in the inaugural story arc of JSA: Classified before finally restoring her Kryptonian heritage during the course of Infinite Crisis in what, one would assume, was a pretty visible way.

It took twenty years for DC to retcon themselves full circle.

The only real change made was to her physical age upon arrival on Earth: she was now 18 years old instead of 20.

While the age difference between Kara and Kal is significant, the fact that their fathers, Zor-L and Jor-L, respectively, were brothers makes them cousins, and they’re never implied to be or to consider themselves anything other than that (except in the figurative sense, as illustrated above).

So, how badly could anybody possibly screw this up? You’d be surprised…

Blackest Night: JSA #1 (February 2010) starts off promisingly enough, with Power Girl berating Wildcat for his insensitive remarks about the Earth-Two Superman’s corpse…

"I said pull my finger, goddammit!"

…which suddenly becomes much less impressive when she says the following four panels later:

Fastest. Retcon. EVER.

The downwards spiral continues in Blackest Night: JSA #2 (March 2010), where she begins spreading the confusion amongst her teammates:

You weak-minded fool! She's using an old Jedi Mind Trick!

While there’s technically nothing factually incorrect with her statement, it still sounds rather odd, even more so when you watch Mr. Terrific grab the idiot ball he’s just been beaned with and attempts to score a touchdown, only to run facefirst into the following exposition from Blackest Night: JSA #3 (April 2010):

"Dammit! How the hell can I watch WWE matches on this thing?"

So the first thing that the Black Lantern incarnation of his predecessor did was take out an obscure, retired wrestler? If I were him, I’d probably have gone after J.J. Thunder instead, who, despite being a “Jakeem” and a “Johnny” (with nary a “Jamal” in sight), would’ve posed a more significant threat.

Power Girl then manages to infect the Black Lantern version of her cousin/uncle/father/gynecologist/whatever with a terminal case of retcon disease before entering into the final stages of it herself as this miniseries mercifully comes to a close:

His brain is rotting, so at least he HAS an excuse.

Well...I'm glad we cleared THAT up...

I have no idea how two editors (Brian Cunningham and Eddie Berganza) and one co-writer for the final issue (Tony Bedard) managed to overlook all these mistakes. Maybe whatever James Robinson has really is contagious…

“Only Imperial Stormtroopers Are So Precise.”

2010/04/17

There’s such a thing as having bad aim. And then, there’s this:

The "extreme yoga" sessions were starting to get on Slade's nerves.

This lesson in bad marksmanship has been brought to you by Deathstroke the Terminator – Annual #1 (1992), courtesy of Marv Wolfman, David Cody Weiss, Gabriel Morrissette,  Phil Jimenez, Ian Akin, John Statema, and Charles Barnett III.

Vulcans? In My Green Lantern Corps?

2010/04/15

It’s more likely than you think.

"Live long and prosper!"

A fascinating panel from Green Lantern #90 (August-September 1976) by Denny O’Neil and Mike Grell.


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