Here is a fun private commission that was totally up my alley! This commission was for a Silver Age style cover of Adventure Comics featuring the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Legion of Super Pets, two of my favorite aspects of the Legion Of Super Heroes mythology.
One of my earliest avenues into the Superman Universe were the old 1960’s Filmation Superboy cartoons which were sometimes aired weekday afternoons in the New York area where I grew up. I’d known Superman, of course, mostly from the 1950’s George Reeves show and from the Superfriends cartoon but it was Superboy that really hooked me. This was largely due to Krypto, the Boy of Steel’s super powered Kryptonian canine, who was featured regularly in those Filmation episodes! As a kid, I loved dogs and the idea of a super powered sidekick dog who could follow me and aide me on adventures was an irresistible concept. Incidentally, Superboy in those Filmation cartoons was voiced by the great Bob Hastings. Hastings was a very versatile character actor, voiceover and radio star. You may not know his name but he’s one of those guys who’s face you’d recognize from a ton of TV appearances. Most baby boomers would recognize him most as Lt. Elroy “Carpy” Carpenter on the great 1960’s TV sitcom, McHale’s Navy or later as Kelsey the bartender on All In The Family and Archie Bunker’s Place. Hastings comic book roots go deeper than Superboy though. In the 90’s, he voiced Commissioner Gordon on Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series. In the 1940’s and 50’s, Hastings did A TON of radio work including playing America’s favorite teen-ager, Archie Andrews, on the Archie radio show! See? We come full circle!
The Filmation cartoons led me to The New Adventures Of Superboy comic book series which I started reading from issue #8. I was a very young collector of comic books at the time, but my compulsion for completion was already ignited. I needed those earlier issues of TNAOSB which I’d missed fresh off the stands. Believe it or not, I naively wrote to DC Comics and asked them to send me those first seven issues I was missing. I’m not even sure if I offered to pay for them. I think I may have impudently demanded the books for free! DC responded by sending me a subscription form and a polite letter informing me that they don’t keep back issues in stock. Eventually, I would complete the series on my own. My quest for back issues would go a long way to expanding my thirst for comic books and introduce me to many, many other titles and characters. It was in looking for old appearances of Superboy and shortly afterwards, Superman that I would discover old Silver Age DC Comics.
Growing up when I did, there was definitely a robust competition between Marvel and DC. At the time, Marvel was considered my sophisticated that DC which was regarded as too conservative to the point of being stale. You knew in DC’s books that Superman and Batman would never die or really change in any significant way but over at Marvel, Gwen Stacy had died. Jean Grey was about to die. Tony Stark had developed a drinking problem. The stakes in their books just seemed more real. Despite this, I remained more of a DC guy. I loved both Marvel and DC but DC always had a slight edge with me. (I credit Krypto!) Regardless, Marvel was edging out DC with the “cool kids” and thusly, DC back issues were shockingly affordable especially many, many DC Silver Age books. Many of these books would skyrocket within a few years but at this time… and we’re talking the very late 70’s and very early 80’s… a lot of collectors and readers viewed the Silver Age DC’s… with their stories about the Bizarro World, mermaid sweethearts, the red-headed Beatle of 10000 BC… as corny and infantile. Nobody wanted ’em! Well, except for ME! At this time, I scooped up a lot of DC Silver Age comics pretty cheap. I scored a lot of them for between one and three bucks!
Another Silver Age source would be reprints. At the time, DC had a number of digest titles that were packed with reprints including stories from the Silver Age. I’ve mentioned before how I eased into the Legion of Super Heroes. As I got deeper into the Superman mythos, the Legion became an unavoidable presence. With their large colorful cast, they were wildly appealing but their rich history and that same large cast also proved intimidating. I was reluctant to jump into the Legion’s own book. I was afraid I wouldn’t understand their large, cosmic scale stories and I also feared multi-part stories. After all, at the time, I was mostly dependent on the ever-unreliable newsstand for my comic books. I was very afraid of getting a book that continued into the next issue when I had no guarantee of ever finding that issue! I held off from giving into my curiosity about the Legion. Then, DC turned its venerable anthology series Adventure Comics into a digest title full of reprints. Among the series it reprinted, it started reprinting Legion stories in chronological order starting with their very first appearance. Best of all, the inside cover of these little books contained articles written by Legion writer and longtime Legion fan, Paul Levitz. In these articles, Levitz discussed the historical relevance of each Legion reprint and pointed out significant trivia. It was like getting classic Legion stories with “dvd commentary.” This was a golden opportunity to jump into the Legion. I started reading about the LSH right from their first appearance! It wasn’t long before I discovered the ancillary Legions like the Subs and the Super-Pets seen above!
This piece is going out to a very special couple who’ve been very big supporters. I’m very happy to see this one go out to them. I hope they will feel the extra love I put into this one.
Long Live The Legion!