It was another one of those nights where I felt like I was breathing through a soda straw so at 2:00 AM I finally surrendered and left bed for the studio where I spent an hour or so reading a trade paperback collection of THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. Reprints of comics I’d read in the mid-1960s, the Legion stories are set in the 30th century and feature the wonderfully clunky art of John Forte. In my youthful estimation the Legion ran a close second to Batman because:
- The stories drew in both the superhero and science fiction genre
- The stories were about kids that I could readily identify with
- There was such a wide variety of both good and evil characters
However, in some respects that large number of characters could be a liability as well as an asset. Not only could it be difficult for an eleven-year old mind to keep up with all of the interweaving plot lines, I think that in the beginning the rush to pad out the roster gave us some fairly one-dimensional characters.
A prime example is Star Boy, born Thom Kallor to parents living on an orbital platform about the planet Xanthu. While the character was eventually fleshed out and linked to several other notable DC heroes, in the earlier Legion stories his sole super power was the ability to make things heavy, and I’m not talking mother-in-law poundage: Heavy as in up to the weight of a planet.
Hmmm. A superhero that can make things heavy, as in:
- Helping construction workers by making foundation blocks sink into the ground
- Hiding valuable objects by making them so heavy they’d sink into the ground
- Stop fleeing villains by making them so heavy they’d sink into the ground
…and at this point I run out of ideas…Other than the “sinking into the ground” bit the main benefit to Star Boy’s power would be helping Kate Moss to get across the street on a windy day. Even as a kid I couldn’t figure out how he’s managed to stay on the Legion roster with such limitations, but as I drove past a city maintenance crew the other day I finally figured it all out.
It was the stereotypical nine-guys-standing-around-one-guy-with-a-shovel scenario, but that mob was not what caught my interest. It was the older guy sitting sideways out of the passenger seat in the truck, doing absolutely nothing but drinking coffee. That’s when it hit me: The Legion of Super Heroes is a union shop! Star Boy was hired early on and has so much seniority he can’t be “downsized” no matter how limited his powers may be.