Chameleon Boy

 

The Die Kitty Die Hollywood Or Bust Kickstarter reward sketches continue! This time we’ve got the Legion Of Super Heroes’ Durlan shape shifter, Reep Daggle aka Chameleon Boy. On his shoulder is his loyal pet, the telepathic antarean shape shifter, Proty (or if you want, Proty II!)

I’m really enjoying Kickstarter reward sketch season. I get to draw a lot of different characters and sometimes I even get to draw a personal favorite like Reep here.

I think I’ve talked about the Legion before, but as a kid I used to find the Legion Of Super Heroes intimidating. They seemed to have a huge cast, a pretty involved and rich history and the stories in their regular book seemed to continue through multiple issues. Back when I was a kid, growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, most of my regular comic buying was done at the newsstand. Pull lists and reserve boxes were not yet a common institution. When you were at the mercy of unpredictable newsstand distribution, you never knew what you were going to get! If you bought an issue of a series there was no guarantee you’d be able to get the next issue. Stories that continued from one issue to the next were a nerve-wracking gamble! Who knew if you were ever going to find Part 2 of an on-going story you were reading? Not only might the newsstand sell out of it, they might actually just never get it! It was a horrible anxiety-inducing situation so I stuck to simple books where the stories were done in one issue and I knew for my thirty-five cents I was going to get a complete story! This meant I stuck it out with Harvey Comics like the massive Richie Rich line, the equally ubiquitous Archie line, and several DC books like Superman and my personal favorite, The New Adventures Of Superboy.

It may have been their connection to the Superboy mythology, but the Legion of Super Heroes remained a big temptation for me. Maybe it was the attractive, eye-catching designs of its large cast. At the time, the Legion was sporting the fan-favorite costumes conceived by Mike Grell and Dave Cockrum. Lightning Lad’s outfit would become one of my all-time favorite DC costumes. Maybe it was the large colorful cast featuring cool looking characters like Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, and Chameleon Boy himself! Whatever the reason, the Legion remained a book I wanted to read.

I forget the year… and I’m not googling it now… but it must’ve been between 1980 and 1982 when I saw my opportunity to enter Legion fandom. This happened in two strokes. First, I discovered one of the very first comic book mini-series ever, DC’s The Secrets Of The Legion Of Super-Heroes. I saw the first issue on my newsstand and immediately I thought, “It’s a first issue! It’s GOT to be easy to understand! After all, its not like there was an issue before this one!” It was a mini-series so I understood I was gambling on being able to find issues 2 and 3, but I still went for it. Hey! It was a first issue! That meant it was going to be a collector’s item worth millions one day, right? Regardless, SOTLOSH proved a perfect entry point to the Legion. The whole series, and eventually I did get #’s 2 and 3, was an origin story for the Legion and all of its members. I ate it up and I loved it! In those early days of the mini-series format, minis were only three issues. I don’t remember when they jumped up to four, but in the early days, it was three. (If I remember right, Camelot 3000 was the first twelve part mini…which was then called a MAXI-series! Remember that one?)

Another thing about the minis of that time is that DC (Marvel didn’t jump on the mini train full force just yet although they would very soon) definitely intended those limited series to be easily accessible introductions for new readers. Many of those early minis offered a detailed origin story in the first issue or in the case of  The Secrets Of The Legion Of Super Heroes, the entire mini was a mystery framing a three issue origin story. The classic The Untold Legend Of Batman followed a similar framework where Batman and Robin discovered someone had broken into the Batcave and then for the three issues of the series, they went over their entire history trying to figure out who could’ve done it. It sounds pretty thin describing it in this way, but trust me, it was a good story and probably the best retelling of the origin of the Silver Age/ Bronze Age Batman out there.

Spoiler alert! This was the series where it was revealed that Chameleon Boy’s father was the ultra-rich financier of the Legion, R.J. Brande, secretly a durlan somehow stuck in human form. Don’t ask me how. Its been a while. This probably would’ve meant more to me if I’d ever read anything about these characters before but even then I knew it was a big deal. Has this series ever been collected into a trade? If it has, let me recommend it. I haven’t read it since I was a kid, but based on my recollections, I think this probably still holds up as a good primer for someone looking to get introduced to the Legion. In fact, if this is in a trade, I’d like to get it for my own shelf.

My second entry into the Legion came during a family vacation in Florida when I discovered a couple of issues of DC’s Adventure Comics in a super market. By that point, the long-running Adventure Comics was turned into a reprint-packed digest book. One of the features it was reprinting was the Legion of Super-Heroes. Best of all, Adventure was reprinting all of the Legion’s appearances chronologically starting with their very first appearance in Adventure Comics #247. As an added bonus, long time Legion writer and fan, Paul Levitz used to write little articles on the inside cover of these digests discussing the historical relevance of the Legion stories being reprinted in each issue. Even then, I was a bit of an armchair comic book historian. I found that stuff fascinating. My status as a Legion fan would be cemented forever.

I don’t remember the chronology exactly, but now I was ready to read the Legion’s monthly adventures and soon I was a regular reader of their on-going monthly series and even going out scooping up back issues with their appearances. A proud jewel in the Fernando Ruiz Sacred Comic Book Collection is a nice copy of Adventure Comics #247.

Who are your favorite Legionnaires? Who should I draw next? Please let me know in the comments below!

Thanks, Everybody!

 

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2 comments on “Chameleon Boy”

  1. Gene Cahill Reply

    My favorite modern Legionnaire was always ERG-1 aka Wildfire; I’d love to see you tackle him!

    • fernando Reply

      That’s a good one, Gene Lantern! If I remember correctly, you were a big fan of Wildfire’s original look as designed by Dave Cockrum with the larger fishbowl face. I always preferred the more streamlined look that he got later with the flatter faceplate. I don’t know who gave him that one. Was it Keith Giffen?

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