Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Super-Stalag of Space!” (Adventure Comics #344, May, 1966)

Edmond Hamilton’s final Legion tale is an adaptation of Stalag 17, a Broadway play which became a film, about prisoners of war in a Nazi prison camp. Word comes to the Legionnaires that Brainiac 5 is a prisoner of war. A team goes to free him, and winds up being captured themselves by Nardo, the commandant, who has nuclear energy in his veins. They’re separated by gender, the boys awakening in a barracks already inhabited by other super-powered heroes from other worlds, including Plant Lad, Blockade Boy, Weight Wizard and Shadow Kid.

The film Stalag 17 opens with two Allied inmates escaping through a tunnel, only to be shot by guards. In the Legion story, a hapless Durlan who is locked by exposure to a chemical weapon in the form of Superboy, tries the same escape and dies on the wrong end of a blast of kryptonite force rings.

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Farpoint Weekend Break

So there will be no blogs this weekend, because I’m attending and working the 25th annual Farpoint convention. In case you’re the one person I haven’t told the story to, I co-founded Farpoint with my family back in 1993, and, though I don’t have to write the checks any longer, it’s still a going concern and I’m still working on it.

Back in 2002, we introduced something called the Volker/McChesney Award to recognize fans who had made significant contributions to local fandom. My stipulation when we created the award was that no member of the Farpoint committee would be eligible—in particular, *I* would not be eligible, because I didn’t want to create an award and then appear to be giving it to myself.

But the committee pulled a fast one on me, and this year’s award was presented to both my wife Renee and me. Yes, we were given the opportunity to decline; but we thought that might hurt the feelings of some very nice people. So, last night, we received our award and the following words were read by a young blond man whom I’m told bears more than a passing resemblance to me. (That would be my son, Ethan, who was emceeing with his brother.)

Very kind words, so I share them here.

The Farpoint Committee is awarding the 2018 Volker/McChesney Award for Service to Fandom to Steven H. and Renee Wilson. As the founders of Farpoint Convention, and still serving on its committee, they have provided a long-lasting gift to fandom, a convention by fans, for fans.

Steve and Renee are the second in a 3-generation chain that started with Beverly Volker and Nancy Kippax and now includes Beverly’s grandchildren Ethan and Christian Wilson. The Volker and Kippax families attended the first Star Trek conventions in New York City, which inspired them and others to bring the Star Trek convention scene to Baltimore. Their families all participated in the first ShoreLeave, ClipperCon and OktoberTrek conventions. They also created the Contact fanzine, which provided writing opportunities for many to share and explore their desire for continuing adventures based on Star Trek and the beloved characters. One of those writers being a young man by the name of Steven H. Wilson….(Note from Steve-I never actually wrote for Contact, but Renee did!)

When the final OktoberTrek finished, Steve and Renee were inspired to continue to keep a fandom-centered convention alive in our area. Over the years, they have seen Farpoint grow and evolve, moving to embrace the full of science fiction and fantastic media and all the new technologies that let fans participate in the things they love and also create their own new stories and art. The Wilson family’s participation in today’s Farpoint Convention is a reminder of fandom’s roots, reaching from small groups of fans keeping Star Trek alive to the current mainstream fandom incarnation. Today’s high-profile fan culture would not be possible without the inspiration and dedication of people like the Volker and Kippax families, represented here by their children Steven and Renee and grandchildren Ethan and Christian.

Karen Armstrong and the Charter for Compassion

I love rationality. Seriously, for me, it’s like a nice, warm shower on a bitter, cold day; or a snow cone at the beach when it’s a hundred degrees outside. Rationality cuts through the oppressive wrongness and makes me believe that everything just might be okay. When things go wrong, rationality helps us process why they went wrong and how we can fix them. Sometimes it takes it some time to jumpstart—a few minutes, a couple of days—while we take out the emotional garbage and moan about how unfair life is. But, if we’re trained to make use of it, rationality always does jumpstart our competence, and helps us make things better.

IF we’re trained to make use of it.

If we’re not? Well, we tend to panic, to get angry, to make stupid decisions and, generally, to make things a whole lot worse.

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William Shatner Is My Hero

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Yep, William Shatner Is My Hero

Why? Because he never gives up.

In GalaxyQuest, the parody of Star Trek that’s so wonderful that most people place it high on their list of “Best Star Trek Films,” Tim Allen’s character has the motto “Never give up, Never Surrender.” He says it over and over, and it resonates as something James T. Kirk might have said, although he never did. Trust someone who’s watched James T. Kirk enough to have memorized his dialogue.

You know that song from Disney’s Hercules? The one about going the distance? “I have often dreamed of a far off place, where a hero’s welcome would be waiting for me… I’ll be there some day, I can go the distance… when I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong.”

I’ve been going the distance for fifty-two years. I don’t feel like I’m where I belong. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll never feel that way.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: Revenge of the Knave from Krypton (Adventure Comics #320, May, 1964)

Dev-Em is back! Who? What’s a Dev-Em?

Superboy readers in 1964 would have remembered “The Knave from Krypton” from about three years earlier, when he taunted Superboy in Adventure Comics #287 and #288. He’s the juvenile delinquent who lived next door to Jor-El and Lara on Krypton, and who, when his attempts to steal Jor-El’s rocket plans were foiled by baby Kal-El, placed himself and his parents in suspended animation in a lead-coated bomb shelter. They all survived the destruction of Krypton and landed on Earth 15 years later.

What is Dev-Em doing in the 30th Century? Um… we’re never actually told.

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Night Off

I’m taking the night off. I actually have a review prepared, but I like to have one ahead, and I’ve had no time to prepare tomorrow’s. My beloved Jeep Wrangler has had a bad few days. Its heat went out, which I thought I had figured out. Then its rear window abruptly shattered in the cold. And just minutes after I had scheduled an appointment to have that replaced, I walked out to find it had leaked a quart or so of oil all over the parking lot.

Not a good day. They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but sometimes the small stuff comes on top of so much big stuff that you can’t do anything else. So I’m just gonna sit here and… sweat… TTYL.

Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Menace of Dream Girl” (Adventure Comics 317 – February, 1964)

Saturn Girl, clearly in charge of the team for once, summons several Legionnaires back from missions in space so that they can have a quorum for their regular meeting. Two of the recalled Legionnaires have been absent from the book for a long time. Star Boy hasn’t been seen him since his first appearance in Adventure Comics #282 in March, 1961—an almost-three-year absence. Matter-Eater Lad has been gone for over a year, last appearing in Adventure Comics #304, January, 1963.

The two are clad in radiation suits on a devastated world—the result of atomic warfare. It’s the bleakest image to appear in the Legion stories to date, and shows that John Forte, as he continued to work on the book, was coming a long way from the “Main Street, USA” feel of his pencils.

Superboy and Mon-El are trying to break through an “Iron Curtain of Time,” so-named by Superboy, who has probably only just witnessed the USSR’s establishment of the original Iron Curtain in his own time. Winston Churchill coined the term around 1945. Superboy has been given as being roughly 20 years in the current Superman’s past.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Legion of Substitute Heroes” (Adventure Comics #306, March, 1963)

Edmond Hamilton’s first Legion Adventure adds a very important element to the franchise: The Legion of Substitute Heroes. Not only do Hamilton and Forte create five new heroes out of the gate on their first team-up, but they create the idea that there’s a backup team for the Legion. That’s something no other team up till now really had—Not the Justice League, The Justice Society, or the Fantastic Four. Oh, a lot of Golden Age heroes had squads of sidekicks and admirers who would step in to help when their idols were indisposed, but no one had a formal team of super-powered substitutes… not until the Legion did. It not only expanded the simple number of super-heroes in the Legion’s universe, it added to the richness of their history.

It all begins with Polar Boy, Brek Bannin of the planet Tharr. Tharr is a desert world, and its inhabitants have developed the power to generate cold in order to protect themselves from extreme heat by “neutralizing heat vibrations.” Vibrations? Well, yeah, but I had to stop and think about it, and re-read some basic physics. Thermal energy is the energy of molecules moving—vibrating. Hamilton, as I’ve mentioned before, was a real science fiction author. He’s including real science here, where Jerry Siegel generally did not. I wonder, though, if less educated readers noticed the difference.

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El Goes to Elle

Okay, I guess I’m really back, because I’m delving into morality, philosophy and politics. With the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s staggering abuse of his phenomenal power to coerce his employees into undesired sexual situations, Hollywood’s floodgates have opened. It seems everyone being accused, from Louis C.K. to George Takei. And one question that keeps coming up for the public to munch on is, “Are these people, alone, to blame?” After all, along with the accusations almost always comes the statement, “And everybody knew all about it.”

So, when behavior that’s been accepted, even encouraged, for decades is suddenly revealed, and finally recognized as the problem it always was, who’s to blame?

Mara Wilson, former child star and current left-wing social activist (her Twitter presence is self-dubbed “Mara ‘Get Rid of Nazis’ Wilson”) has an answer:

We all are.

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I Just Finished – Stranger Things 2

There aren’t many TV shows that I have to watch anymore. I like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. I enjoy Supergirl overall. I tend to fall way behind on them, though. I’m still finishing Iron Fist and thus haven’t started The Defenders. Beyond those, I’m a little behind on This Is Us and a lot of the shows friends are watching I’m just giving a pass to. I don’t need The Orville. They made 79 real episodes of Star Trek, and enough Next Gen that I’ve never seen them all. I gave Star Trek: Discovery what I feel was a fair chance, and it didn’t impress me any more than any other non-Enterprise Trek has.

But Stranger Things I must see. It’s too gripping, too engaging, too much plain fun not to. It’s such a great piece of 80s nostalgia, not just in costumes, music and décor, but in the feel of 1980s films about young people.

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