Zero Hour Strikes! Legion Zeroes

Bass and Siskoid's coverage of the Zero issues continues with a quartet of Legion-related books! The Legion is rebooted in Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires; the L.E.G.I.O.N. gets rebranded as R.E.B.E.L.S.; and Lobo, well, Lobo continues to be Lobo...

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.22 Supplemental

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17 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Legion Zeroes

  1. These 0 issues of Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires were my jumping on point for the Legion, and I enjoyed your coverage of them. REBELS and Lobo were never really my cup of tea, but it was entertaining to hear you talk about them, nonetheless.

    Thanks for another remarkable episode.

  2. Hi, guys. I jut finished catching up with all your episodes. Back in the 90s I readed only the four main issues and the green lantern ones.
    Now (call it luck or fate) as I discovered your podcast, an Argentinean editorial came up with a “Hora Cero” book that included some of the zero issues and tie ins. So, I could read them; Some are good, others not so but in general they helped me to apreciate more the whole event.
    On the Batgirl/Time trapper issue: this book includes an interview with Dan Jungens that says: ” I’m not going to reveal it, but if you suspect that long hair makes her a woman, maybe one with red hair, maybe one who once wore a black suit with a yellow bat symbol, well … you’d be correct.”
    Zero Hour is still the best book ever (Nostalgia?) and you are still great.
    Nice story of your trip to Comic book shops. Hope to hit the States soon just to do that, back issues are heavy priced here in Argentina.
    Hear you in next episode.

  3. I had two jumping on points for the Legion in my youth. The first was the 5YL era. Didn’t know squat about the Legion, but loved it. I was dark, man, mature! Like this book.

    And then zero hour let me start it up again with brilliant art and story. This was MY Legion era. And damn, was it great. i held on through the end, loving the DnA era probably the most.

    As for REBELS, well, it was a comic. And the less said about Lobo, the better. Never got the appear, never will.

    My condolences in advance for Xenobrood. Be well, brothers. Ye may not ever recover!!

  4. Great episode as usual, Bass and Siskoid, but this was not a true test of your skills. You had good material to work with (Lobo withstanding). Now next month.– that’s a different story. That lineup sounded like you were threatening the listener (or yourselves), and I don’t mean with violence.

    If you want a true story about a heroic archivist fighting oppression by preserving the truth, I recommend looking up Vasili Mitrokhin and the Mitrokhin Archive, or reading the book The Sword and the Shield. Mitrokhin had a great vantage point to tell the truth about the Soviet Union — from inside the KGB.

  5. I don’t know why I didn’t jump in on the Legion books with this reboot. I remember liking what I saw from afar, and I had even bought the first several issues of Legionaires, just because I liked the idea of the classic, younger Legion in modern stories. So, I guess I can only blame my slavish devotion to the Superman and Batman books as the reason I didn’t try this one. Obviously I gave Starman a try and was hooked.

    LEGION/REBELS never appealed to me in the least, although I thought Barry Kitson’s art was nice (still do). Lobo…yeah, I liked Lobo fine on his own, but in the DCU…no thanks. As related on JLUCast, his very presence in the DCU makes the rest of the heroes, especially Superman, whom he has frequently interacted with, seem neutered and and ineffectual. The guy wiped out a whole planet for fun and no one is going to consider him a major threat to the universe and bring him in? It’s a fun satire, but it has no business being in the DCU when they take the character to those extremes, in my opinion. If the worst parts of Lobo from his solo series were myth in the DCU, that would be a bit different.


    1. Lobo was probably the first “it” character that lost me. Then it was Deadpool. And then it was Harley Quinn. Never got the appeal.

  6. After a lifelong love of the Legion, this was my jumping off point.

    Once Rokk was the Time Trapper in the Zero Hour issues, I felt I had seen it all. Jumping onto a new reality seemed too crazy. And so, I was out.

    I liked the REBELS book from the 2010s quite a bit and reviewed it extensively on my site. Well worth it.

    1. Anj, Anj, how long is it now since you said you were thinking of trying the series on my recommendation?

      Hmm, maybe that was me misremembering. All those reality reboots!

    1. Thanks, but we’re being very sober about it this year (cancelled celebrations etc.) in the wake of mass graves found under and around “Native-brainwashing” schools in the past couple months. Canada has to face up to its history of cultural and actual genocide right now.

      The fact that such religious-but-state-sponsored schools (whether children were at that point dying from abuse or not) existed into the 1990s was a shock to me when I found out about them a few years ago. Now turns out the enterprise was even more sinister we imagined.

      1. I understand, and I hope my well wishes didn’t hit a sour note. I recognize that each of our countries has a shameful history when it comes to how we have treated Native/First Nations people. I know it’s important for each generation to acknowledge that and learn.

        I also think it’s important to reinforce what’s right as well as correct what’s wrong. There is much to celebrate in Canada’s history, culture, and values — even to me, as an interested outsider — and I hope it will feel right to do so again soon.

  7. Thanks for another splendid episode. I was wary of the Zero Hour Legion reboot but it worked out brilliantly, there was a freshness and familiarity to proceedings. We got lots of the old favourite characters and some great new ones, such as Kinetix and Monstress. And crap ones, like Sneckie, but you have to have SOME crap Legionnaires.

    Basing the team’s basic costume on Dave Cockrum’s brilliant Lightning Lad Seventies design was a great idea, and some of the name changes were good… Triad is the worst, it sounds like she comes from the planet Tong.

    Speaking of Gigi Cusimano, did you know she was named after the wife of Paul Levitz?

    REBELS never clicked for me, I liked LEGION, but the continuation just felt flat by comparison.

    Lobo should have been retired after the Grant/Bisley books, the joke had long since worn so thin it had snapped. Although the dangly Superman Lobo cover was, obviously, awesome.

  8. I got paragraphs into an admittedly redundant comment about how I had wanted to read Legion comics for most of my life, and how DC Comics seemed intent on preventing that from ever happening. So many house ads of sexy teens in snazzy costumes by slick artists with essentially no newsstand distribution and a move to higher priced direct market status at their thwarted commercial peak. It was like an ice cream truck only driving on heavily trafficked main roads stopping exclusively at lights. Jeez, these references date me almost as much as talking about comic books without a significant media presence in excruciating detail, so probably best that the internet ate that comment.

    The X-Men were my baseline for “good” mainstream comics throughout the 1980s, but Claremont had done a bit of a Wolfman from about the end of the Mutant Massacre in 1986 until Jim Lee revitalized the book in 1990. While I blamed Bob Harras for killing my love of the title by driving Claremont out, in retrospect and factoring in the writer’s post-Exodus output, it was ultimately the right call. It’s just that guys like Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza recycling plots and hewing to heavy-handed editorial direction was never going to replace the very unique and shambolic quality the book had in its prime. X-Men was “the” book of the ’80s, but the ’80s were over. So much of the hatred directed at the 1990s comes down to a grudging acknowledgement that we spent the first half of it chasing the dragon of highs delivered by the likes of Claremont, Moore, and Miller that they themselves could never match outside the coke-fueled manic-depressive extremes of the Reagan/Thatcher years. Anything was possible but also we were living in dystopia and constantly congratulating the macromedia voice of white Christian male heterosexual hegemony. It’s like the narrative of Disco Demolition Night where “we” took back music from “them,” meaning dismissing a movement that centered marginalized voices in favor of hair metal that argued for a return to “rock n’ roll” that was aggressively male-centered and appropriated from richer, Afrocentric voices of decades earlier. There was a huge explosion of truly alternative comics in the early 1990s, giving rise to new and expanded voices, while the speculator boom allowed for greater creative control and an overall larger marketplace that survives to this day. Yet, all the graying fanboys want to talk about is how pissed they are that the hawt artists left the plantation and the writers fucked off to Vertigo instead of grinding through rehashes of adolescent power fantasy corporate IP management as the default career goal.

    Anyway, my late ’80s beachhead at DC was Justice League International, and while I never fully took to the title, it was a funny break from mutant angst. My reading of JLI was very patchy, as I at least skipped #15 and probably only got #16 as a back issue. I thought I sat out until #22, but I have a feeling I may have bought #20-21 off the newsstand and just not enjoyed them very much. That late in an extended story arc, I wouldn’t have understood much of what was going on, but I also specifically associate the period of Invasion! as a point when the local comic shop suddenly closed and I was picking up books at a local Safeway or my standby 7-11. I quite probably might have been driven back to JLI by a limited selection. Regardless, if I bought the issues with Lobo, he made no impression, as I did not recognize him in the house ads for the Simon Bisley mini-series. I just wanted to read it for the sweet art and the 99¢ cover price. It was inaccessible, but my brother bought issues of The Demon and L.E.G.I.O.N. featuring the Main Man, which were… not great. It was the Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special that served as my proper introduction, when I could still buy antiheroes unironically, but I appreciated its dark humor. I believe I got an issue of the mini from a dude I was friendly with, but it was something like #3 or 4, so I lacked any context. I was also getting the JLI “Breakdowns” arc, which was… not great. This all led to Lobo’s Back, which was much delayed but amusing, and got me to buy Blazing Chain of Love with Denys Cowan, Lobo Convention Special with Kev O’Neill, Infanticide with squiggly proto-Trencher Keith Giffen, and Lobo’s Big Babe Spring Break Special with Jim Balent. I recognized immediately that I could dip in and out of Lobo fare at my choosing, so I just skipped anything that wasn’t appealing, one of healthiest collecting relationships at the time. I never felt strongly enough to go back and buy trade paperbacks, though I had heard of the gag where one came in a slipcase with a copy of The Wisdom of Lobo, all interior pages blank.

    The first Lobo Annual had wicked Christian Alamy art and launched Bloodlines, but it was also something of a trial balloon for DC finally committing to an ongoing series. I had already developed a hatred for both Alan Grant and Val Semeiks dating back to those Demon issues, so it was easy to pass on their re-teaming. I only got the zero issue as a completist, though I did dip in for #20 due to a period obsession with Phil Jimenez, #37 on the allure of a censored Brian Bolland cover, and #50 for the JLA in a “Special All-Murder Issue.” I have gone back and read more, mostly owing to since-past concerns with the DC Universe, typically begrudgingly. The joke had long worn out its welcome, especially on anything lacking that Giffen touch, and I almost exclusively picked books based on featured artists. God help me, but I did collect Lobo Unbound with Giffen and Alex Horley almost twenty years ago, and I figure to maybe actually read them someday, owing to the inclusion of Ambush Bug.

    The argument has been made that pornography of any stripe is exploitative of women. I try to be sex-positive, and I know a lot of that line of thought comes from moral crusaders and extremist feminism. I also reckon that based on a variety of factors, most women who participate in porn are made to regret it. I never liked Hustler magazine, because it was so overtly misogynistic and utterly debasing that I only ever felt grossed out rather than titillated. Likewise, Playboy was too tame, and I really did read it for the articles. Penthouse was more my lane, but their Pets were always more compromised and nowhere near as supported as Hef’s Bunnies. Penthouse wasn’t as ugly as Hustler, but I’m not at all sure it left the women featured in its pages in any better place. At least Hustler was honest in its intentions, where Penthouse was always rubbing Vaseline on the camera lens to pretend its fantasies weren’t harmful. I feel like Lobo was maybe the Hustler of anti-heroes, so vulgar and marinated in toxic masculinity. His series was really about being the biggest bully in the galaxy, and even the “good stuff” relishes in sadism. Loathsome, bereft of craft, and paltry of humor as the ongoing was, it still lasted five years, and I had a customer or two that came in to my shop solely for Lobo. I think a lot of people who despise the character do so because he holds up a mirror to the worst impulses of fandom. That’s why I refuse to dismiss Lobo, even though I generally avoid him while continuing to indulge in other hyper-violent comics that have a flair that better suits my tastes and doesn’t make me feel badly about them. You know, like Penthouse.

    That said, I think by 1994 I was about done with deconstruction. I’d seen the assembly line break down, and tried to follow writers, artists, and established properties as they drifted away from one another and were found wanting in isolation. Most of my best experiences in that period were works in opposition to my foundation as a reader devoted to titles like X-Men. Books that mercilessly skewered the mainstream, like Marshal Law, or abandoned it for grungy real life sarcasm, like Hate, or embraced a literate fantasy that looked beyond comics, like The Sandman. Yet, after all that experimentation, there was a part of me that wanted a comforting, unchallenging “home” that scratched that itch of X-Men-likeness. The Titans books did that for a while, and it could be strongly argued that particular strain was derived from Legion, which is where I rediscovered it through Zero Month.

    The Legion definitely were not sexy anymore, despite the Moys post-comics career of porn commissions. These were now teen heroes as envisioned by middle-aged parents who had grown up reading the original ’50s & ’60s material. They no longer rated hot artists, or even the Gaijin Studios crowd. We were now wallowing in nostalgia with the genteel “Experience the Majesty” art of Lee Moder that got washed out on Wonder Woman (of all titles) by Mike Deodato Jr. There’s the Moys, who by all rights should have actually been drawing Archie Comics, but they were a tad too stiff and super-hero “realistic.” Sure, I’d have rather had a Jim Lee, but he was busy making Todd McFarlane’s writing look good by comparison to Divine Right. I wasn’t going to try replicating any of the Legion artists styles in a notebook, but it was pleasant. A lot of DC’s lane in the ’90s was attracting solid writers to established characters and getting decent non-flashy art to sort of recreate the boilerplate Bronze Age Marvel comics for disaffected Boomers and Gen-X. Hewing to that formula, even the rare colorist-turned-writer like Tom McCraw could make a go of it.

    The thing about the Legion was that I’d always wanted in, but whether through distribution logistics or dense continuity or Keith Giffen’s hostile storytelling obfuscation, the franchise has an historic lack of accessibility. What was remarkable about Mark Waid’s early reboot issues was that he knew to set all that stuff aside and focus on welcoming. The first issue is three likable kids and the bare bones of the premise. It takes your hand and walks you through the basics, which sounds patronizing, but it’s also extremely important to take the time to make readers care about Imra and Garth and Rokk and R.J. Brande and the need for a United Planets. You have to explain why it’s worth the trouble to maintain a franchise set 1,000 years from the rest of the DC Universe. Watch a Star Trek pilot and tell me that’s an easy thing to pull off. If anything, for me a failing of Legionnaires #0 was that they rushed out a slew of additional members instead of keeping the focus on the core trio for at least a few more issues. Blame having to justify two zero issues in a month, I suppose.

    I had to hustle a bit to fill the gap on series not typically found on shelves, but I immediately committed to buying both Legion titles for the foreseeable future. It didn’t take long before I was all-in. I loved Interlac and flight rings and mining decades of continuity to serve as guideposts to revisit and revise voluminous lore. I’d be surprised if it didn’t inspire Marvel’s Ultimate line in some fashion, which served the same purpose for the eventual Marvel Cinematic Universe. This run finally let me into the clubhouse, with all the high school melodrama, but also explorations of diversity and intolerance. There was so much lore, but with a clear starting point, I was educated to it on a bi-weekly basis for over half a decade. The creative teams were uncommonly stable, and I longed for that after all the upheavals of the decade.

    That said, I would have gotten bored if it was all Scholastic Super-Heroes. Mark Waid is one of the best regarded writers in the history of mainstream comics, and this was my favorite run of his career. For that first year, he was essential in balancing out the need to give weary post-5YL readers a respite of positivity while still having enough edge and intrigue to lock down new readers such as myself. It probably helped that Waid’s popularity was sharply on the rise, forcing him to tell as many of the Legion stories as he had in him as quickly as possible before having to move on to more lucrative assignments. There was also the secret weapon of “Tennessee” Tom Peyer, one of the most criminally underutilized and overlooked writers in comics, finally receiving a small measure of notoriety at AHOY Comics. Like Waid, Peyer was extraordinarily deft at taking classic comics storytelling and reinvigorating it with modern twists and thrills. I liked both Legion books, but Peyer/Moder were essential and McCraw/Moy were supplemental. The books never reached the highs of the Waid year again, but Peyer came the closest.

    Peyer also had a dark streak that served him well on R.E.B.E.L.S. ’94. I got the zero issue, which was done a major disservice through the wretched art of Arnie Jorgensen. I was too turned off by it to continue, but a few years later my interest in the Legion titles saw me go back to related material, including L.E.G.I.O.N. I slowly put together a set of R.E.B.E.L.S., and was delighted by this twisted Oedipal tale. Derec Aucoin (later Donovan) took over art chores a few issues too late, but I was pleased to discover his talents after the fact. It’s rather a shame that he didn’t come on to one of the proper Legion books after R.E.B.E.L.S.’ paltry year-and-a-half. I feel like the density, scope, and daring of this tale is the closest anything that I’ve read has come to the classic Starlin of Warlock and Dreadstar, both dear to my heart, so I was grateful for a taste of that quality again in an unexpected venue. I would not hesitate to recommend R.E.B.E.L.S., which I figure factored into Peyer’s being offered the poisoned chalice of filling-in for Mark Millar on The Authority. That’s exactly the sort of move that undercut Peyer’s potential, since he was never going to be the sensationalist required for that project.

    While Peter & McCraw spent years doing their take on Superman triangle numbers, closely plotting both books together, I feel like maybe McCraw was most in the drivers seat for the last couple of years. Roger Stern took over Legionnaires early into 1996, with McCraw typically still plotting, and the flavors of the books flattened. One of the titles stayed too long on a team stuck in the 20th century, and when they returned to the 30th the flow between the titles never quite recovered. By the final year or so, it felt like they were spinning wheels, stuck in a pseudo ’60s and unwilling to make the leaps beyond the basics of the Silver Age premise. At one point I actively considered buying an official if non-functioning Legion ring despite hating the constrained feeling of jewelry, but by the end I was ready to jump off. Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, and Olivier Coipel were given an “audition” arc before the books were cancelled and relaunched, but I didn’t feel a desire to join them for… sigh… a dark deconstruction of the Archie Legion.

    I was excited for Mark Waid’s return to the Legion for the threeboot, and felt like Barry Kitson would be a swell choice to join him. Unfortunately, Waid was not set to repeat. This was a bold new direction of too many characters altered too much from previous incarnations and Brainiac-5 seemingly going full Vril Dox. This felt more like an extension of the creator-owned Empire, taking the darkness of Peyer’s L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S. and misapplying it to the core book. I quit early, but came back toward the end of that title’s four-year run for the return of Jim Shooter. I don’t think Shooter got a full year, and arrived pre-hated, but I actually enjoyed that much maligned run. I think Shooter did a better job at what Waid had tried to do while still hearkening back to more classic runs. Then Paul Levitz came back for the de-boot, which I thought was a smart move in theory, but in practice was drab and satisfied no one. Everybody got New 52’d, and that only exacerbated the problems while negating the benefits of a direct connection to one of the Legion’s most beloved periods. And finally, permanent cancellation, now twice over with the rejected Bendis/Sook reboot of the reboot of the deboot.

    More than a quarter-century on from Zero Hour, it occurs to me– did Legion ever get a proper deconstruction? Grimdark bold new direction, sure, but I mean one of those ’80s or turn-of-the-century proper critical reappraisals? There isn’t much future in connecting to mainstream continuity that itself keeps getting rebooted, rendering a distant non-future irrelevant. Why wouldn’t you render this existential crisis as text? Personally, if I were a filmmaker approached by Warner Brothers, I’d pitch for the Legion. There’s so much value and resonance to the property, and with the DCEU such a mess, you could solidify a foundation for the Legion by not having it closely tied to modern goings-on. It’s so sisyphean to do Legion comics at this point, when the best place to make the Legion “real” and matter again is through media adaptation. It’s the best chance of their ever being the dog rather than the crap-encrusted tail.

    Meanwhile, they spent so much effort adapting Lobo outside comics, and he’s an utterly unimportant property anywhere else. It’s like when they kept trying to make Punisher happen by making him exactly like the extra-comics influences he had ripped off. What’s interesting about a hulking brute who kills indiscriminately and is the most obnoxious meathead imaginable? Not only does Lobo belong in comics, but I think that’s how you indict him. Looking at the zero issue, they’re giving an accurate account of his key comics appearances while offering unsubstantiated and incredulous supplementation without acknowledging embarrassments like the Omega Men years. Obviously, Lobo can’t be all of these things the comics claim for him to be, so the story is in attacking the unreliable narrator to expose embarrassing truths. Bully the bully, as it were…

    1. I think you should give the Abnett/Lanning run another chance. Legion Lost was really damn good! And their rebuilding of the group was really something else.

  9. It was really fun to hear about this Legion of issues together. Well done, Strikers!

    Loved the reboot Legion. I followed it for years, and only stopped when I made a hard cut of lots of comics for financial reasons. It’s on my list of books to finish reading on DCU Infinite.

    L.E.G.I.O.N. was pretty great. I started it as an Invasion! spin-off plus Giffen writing, and got the whole run. R.E.B.E.L.S. wasn’t bad, but didn’t hold me the same way. Still, It’s another that my completionist obsession will finish eventually.

    Lobo. Met him in JLI, then L.E.G.I.O.N., and I solely got his mini-serieses (mini-serii? series of minis?) because again, completionist. But this was my short-lived period of digging ultraviolence, so sure, I enjoyed it at the time. It’s just not my deal anymore. I did try the ongoing, but I stopped somewhere around issue #0, although I made a point of buying #0 specifically. It’s been ages since I reread any Lobo, and the wheels started turning about the Unauthorized Biography. I checked and sure enough, that was a big part of his first mini. Maybe you guys mentioned this and I missed it, but the descriptions of Czarnia, Lobo’s violent nature at birth, bio-engineering the bugs that killed the population, and getting the radio receiver surgically implanted? All established in that mini, and I was shocked that I remembered those points. About that receiver, that shouldn’t exist in the clone, right? So that should prove if the post Zero Hour Lobo is the clone or not? Unless you know, SCIENCE!

    Thanks guys!

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