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DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest: Legion of Super-Heroes #8
posted August 13, 2007
Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, George Klein, Dave Cockrum, Jerry Serpe, Bob LeRose, Mike Grell, Cary Bates
DC Comics, Digest, 98 pages, April 1981, 95 cents
This is a book from an extended effort in the early 1980s by DC Comics to put out digest-sized comics, the sort of thing that Archie has done so well over the years -- impulse buys for young readers at the grocery or drug store that can be racked in a variety of ways close to the check-out line. The book reprints a trio of classic Jim Shooter/Curt Swan efforts from the late 1960s and a couple of Dave Cockrum-drawn comics from about a half-decade later. They are perfectly fine and serviceable comic books. The Legion of Super-Heroes and Superboy get into a certain amount of trouble, with huge world-at-risk stakes but nothing that manifests itself in a way that's dire or unpleasant, and then they work their way back, but employing some sort of mechanism introduced within the story or re-aiming one of their own powers in a way that makes the problem go away.
The late 1960s through about the period that the Dave Cockrum efforts encompass was a good period for the future teen super-team, who have one of the most passionate fan bases in comics. Except for a period of comics done by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen using this era's stories as a sort of springboard that proved to be the most popular period for the series overall, subsequent events to match the a more general audience with the concept have been doomed to failure. Reading these old stories, what might strike the reader is how the entire presentational style is different. While many scenes are shown, and Shooter has fun with the fearsome Validus design, others are both shown and told. It's a kind of lead-by-the-hand storytelling style that's no longer in vogue, and with the inundation of more sophisticated styles I'm not sure it can
come back, but it must have been a great boon for the kids for whom this was a first comics reading experience.
Like many comics of its era, the Legion
work trades in both showing something viscerally and through dialog but also by explaining and hinting and unpacking what you're really seeing. Whatever concept is grafted onto the Legion, I'm not sure we can ever go back to the sunny appeal of having someone sit down and explain the future to you.