Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chemical King Tribute Thursday!

I had mentioned many posts back that Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes had a great run from about #197 to #250, and as I went through these again, I owe you a retraction.

Superboy & LSH was really, really good for about half that long. Right about the time Wildfire was elected Legion leader, things started to tank. More specifically:

The arrival of Dawnstar is about the time to quit reading. Or, as she was called by many, "Yawnstar." Despite the relative hotness of the character, her power was tracking. Yes, tracking. You can imagine how exciting it was to read.

But Tyroc had already faded into the background, so she was pushed hard (although I don't recall ever reading that she was actually Native American) to promote diversity. And that's fine, but if you're going to promote anything, make it interesting (which they didn't). Besides, the Legion already had green, purple and orange-skinned characters, so it wasn't like you were reading a Friends episode every month.

And I do find it funny that a navigational system (that does what Dawnstar supposedly did) invented many years later was called "Onstar." Was someone at Ford a Legion fan with a boring character fetish?

But aside from the fact that she dulled up pages that could otherwise have been devoted to Timber Wolf, I mostly resent Dawnstar for this:

Yup. Someone's gonna die, and unlike other comics, death in the Legion was permanent more often than not. Now, let's see if we can guess who.

Superboy? No, that would be awesome, but his name's on the marquee and that would cause some major Superman retcons, so not likely.

Chameleon Boy? Nope - way too popular and easy to write. When in doubt, disguise Chameleon Boy as the intended murder victim or as a piece of furniture to pop up out of nowhere and thwart whatever hole the writers dug themselves into. He's an instant out from a plot device perspective, and they weren't giving that up!

Saturn Girl? Not in that outfit! She was safer than Superboy at that point.

Colossal Boy? Possible. But he was very easy to write and had a steady gig getting his ass kicked every time he tried to go mano-a-mano with Validus. Probably safe.

That just leaves.....

Oh, crap on a cracker! Not Chemical King!

Yup. The hardest Legionnaire to work into a story (other than a seemingly never-ending stint on monitor duty, dispatching Superboy and Mon-El to do something easy to write like "bust stuff up") met his maker in Superboy & LSH v. 1 #228:

But, as was Legion tradition, even though you hardly ever saw the guy actually do anything worthwhile, he got a great send-off:

Fare thee well, Chemical King! At least you didn't have to put up with Dawnstar!

The title would both suck and blow for about the next two years (especially the artwork), which I will largely skip over to spare you the pain. I'm a cool cat that way.

I've got to go do something boring-but-work-related tomorrow, so I can't promise a post. So, just in case I don't make it, allow me to share this awesome bitch-slap between Wolverine and Jean Grey from Uncanny X-Men #111:

Wolverine smacking the always-annoying Jean Grey? That's good stuff!

But then seeing Wolverine getting bitch-slapped right back? Well, that's three spoons of gravy and it's allllll butttah!

See you Monday!


De said...

Ah the days when even Wolverine would say, "Oh crap." beats the hell out of the two-dimensional caricature he's become.

Thanks for showing some Chemical King love. He was the heroes that gave us science nerds hope.

Robert Gillis said...

What's interesting is the way Superboy is holding the dead body of Chemical King is almost identical to how Superman held the body of Supergirl when she died -- from that iconic "Crisis on Infinite Earths" cover.

Adam Barnett said...

I never noticed that before, Robert, but you're right. And that ish preceded Crisis by a decade!

ratchet said...

No post tomorrow?!? Man, I love this blog so much! Oh well, then see you on Monday.

Aaron Carine said...

I remember X-Men 111. Even as a kid,I wasn't convinced that the "only way"
to bring Jean around was to slap her silly. I think Wolverine just liked to hit the object of his affection. He should have stayed with that ninja woman he was with in the 1980s,she seemed to like the rough stuff.

RAILBUS said...

I'll be damned if Chemical King doesn't appear to transform from caucasian to black between pages. A last ditch effort by the artist to inject some diversity into the Legion ranks?

Anonymous said...

" (although I don't recall ever reading that she was actually Native American)"..

IIRC, Dawnstar was called "Amerindian". Which was like, either a planet that just happened to be peopled with a striking resemblance to (positive!) Native American stereotypes- like the Land O'Lakes girl, but with wings...or just Native American.

As a kid I assumed it was a hokey themed planet.

Adam Barnett said...

railbus - I hate to be morbid, but I think Chemical King was "cooked" in his attempt to control the radiation. We miss ya, Chem!

Adam Barnett said...

aaron - there may have been *another* way, but could we honestly say it was a *better* way if it didn't involve Jean getting smacked?

Anonymous said...

By Grathar's Hammer...You will be Avenged!

Anonymous said...

Someday it will turn out that it was really Cham they were going to knock off, but somebody made a typo and it was never corrected. Actually I was there for the plotting session and I deliberately added the typo to the script-- behind everyone's back. I wasn't going to let anyone get rid of the coolest hair-challenged smart guy in comics. Well, the coolest in a cross-corporate draw with The Vision, anyway.*

I always liked Dawnstar, apart from the giant wings. It's not the tracking powers that are goofy and useless. It's the damn giant wings. I don't care how damn cool they are to draw.

Never gone for the argument that it's okay not to have real-life racial-ethnic minorities in a story if you have fictitious ones. Sorta' ruins the ambience, sends weird mixed signals, if you get my drift.

This is a cool blog and I will be back to check it out again. Thanks for the nostalgia trip.

*Oh, and just kidding about having been there when they decided who to kill. Like you couldn't tell.