REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES CHAMELEON BOY
As I've related in some of my previous Legion reviews, I've been a longtime fan of DC Comics' legendary LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, like since the late 1960's. Granted, the comics have had their ups and downs -- and even a few sideways -- but I've always been a fan of the basic concept and characters.
However, the Legion has never really had a major presence in the action figure world. I've tended to believe that one of the reasons for this is because, hailing as they did from a thousand years in the future, despite the periodic presence of Superboy and Supergirl, they were always somewhat isolated from the present-day DC Universe. Mego never did anything with them. Neither did Kenner or Hasbro. There was a line of them from DC Direct, but it wasn't really one of their high points, and the figures were in their very original costumes, which weren't my personal favorites.
A while back, there was a special Justice League Unlimited four-pack featuring the Legion, but that seemed to be about it. Until, at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, Mattel announced that the Legion of Super-Heroes would be joining the line-up in their flagship line -- DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS. As if there hadn't been tons of campaigning on the part of Legion fans for this to happen.
It would be, explained Mattel, a very special set. Not a two-pack, not a three-pack, not a five-pack. No -- it would be a TWELVE-pack. And even at that, the speculation as to who would be included from a membership that over the years had consisted of several dozen characters ran wild for some time until Mattel introduced the line-up.
The final dozen would include Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl -- the three founders of the team; Superboy, mostly so Mattel could turn out a classic Superboy figure; Brainiac 5, one of the most popular non-founding members; joined by Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Karate Kid, Chameleon Boy, and Matter-Eater Lad, in part for a little comic relief there at the end. The set also includes a figure of Proty, a semi-sentient protoplasm pet once belonging to Chameleon Boy, and a Legion flight ring.
I knew even before Mattel announced the line-up that this was a set I had to have, but then they had to go and include some of my most favorite characters. The set, after a few delays, was finally released in October 2010, as an exclusive to MattyCollector.Com.
The package is superb. It is a seven-sided stylized version of the Legion's original headquaters, a yellow rocket-like building with red fins at the top. The twelve figures are displayed within in what are designed to look like teleportation tubes, two to a section. The central section features the far larger Colossal Boy figure, and a smaller space for Proty and the ring. This does leave one empty space among the other six sections, however. This has been labeled for Legion member Invisible Kid. Little joke on Mattel's part...
Now -- there is no way that I can fairly review the entire set in one review and maintain my usual style of presenting a decent amount of backstory on the given character before reviewing the specific figure. Not without this review running the length of a doctoral thesis. And I'm not going to compromise my usual style by shortening this to a brief look at each figure and leaving it at that. There will be other such reviews elsewhere on the Internet, I'm sure.
As such, I am going to give each Legionnaire an individual review. I feel that to do less would be to do an injustice to this very cool concept, and this extremely cool set of figures. This review will take a look at CHAMELEON BOY. But first, an overview of the Legion itself.
The Legion of Super-Heroes is a fictional superhero team in the 30th and 31st centuries of the DC Comics Universe. The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.
Initially, the team was closely associated with the original Superboy, and was first portrayed as a group of time travelers who frequently visited him. In later years, the Legion's origin and backstory were fleshed out, and the group replaced Superboy as the focus of their stories; eventually Superboy was removed altogether, except as an occasional guest star.
The team has undergone several major reboots during its publication. The original version was replaced with a new rebooted version following the events of Zero Hour and another rebooted team was introduced in 2004. A fourth version of the team, nearly identical to the original version, was introduced in 2007. As a result, Superman (both as an adult and a teenager) and the current version of Supergirl have been reincorporated into Legion history.
Superboy was the featured series in Adventure Comics in the late 1950s. In Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), he was met by three teenagers from the 30th century: Lightning Boy, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy, who were members of a "super-hero club" called the Legion of Super-Heroes. Their club had been formed with Superboy as an inspiration, and they had time travelled to recruit Superboy as a member. After a series of tests, Superboy was awarded membership and returned to his own time.
Although intended as a one-off story focusing on Superboy, the Legion proved so popular that it returned for an encore in Adventure Comics #267 (December 1959). Lightning Boy had been renamed Lightning Lad, and their costumes were very close to those they wore throughout the Silver Age of Comic Books. The Legion's popularity grew, and they appeared in further stories in Adventure Comics and Action Comics over the next few years. The ranks of the Legion, only hinted at in those first two stories, were filled with new heroes, such as Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Triplicate Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, Phantom Girl, and Ultra Boy. Even Supergirl was recruited as a member.
In Adventure Comics #300 (September 1962), the Legion received their own regular feature, cover-billed "Superboy in 'Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes'". While they would share space with Superboy solo stories for a couple of years, they eventually displaced Superboy entirely as their popularity grew.
It was this run which established the Legion's general workings and environment. A club of teenagers, they operated out of a clubhouse in the shape of a yellow rocket ship inverted as if it had been driven into the ground. The position of Legion leader rotated among the membership, sometimes through election, and sometimes by more arcane methods. Each Legionnaire had to possess at least one natural superpower, in particular a power which no other member possessed. Despite this, several members had overlapping powers, particularly Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy. The Legion was based on Earth, and protected an organization of humans and aliens called the United Planets. The regular police force in the UP was the Science Police. The setting for each story was almost always 1000 years from the date of publication.
In 1973, the Legion returned to cover billing on a book when Superboy became Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes with #197 (August 1973). Crafted by Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum, the feature proved highly popular. Cockrum was later replaced on art by Mike Grell. With #231 (September 1977), the book's title officially changed to Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Following a wide range of epic storylines, and several rather confusing reboots, largely tied in with certain "crises" of the time, a far more familiar Legion returned on the heels of Infinite Crisis. The "Lightning Saga" crossover in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America features the return of the original versions of Star Boy (now called Starman), Dream Girl, Wildfire, Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Dawnstar, and Brainiac 5. Though several differences between the original and Lightning Saga Legions exist, Geoff Johns has stated that this incarnation of the Legion shares the same history as the original Legion up to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Clark Kent having joined the team as the teenage Superboy prior to the start of his career as Superman.
This version of the Legion next appeared in the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" storyline in Action Comics #858-863, and next appeared in the 2008 Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds limited series, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by George Pérez. The mini-series features the post-Infinite Crisis Legion and Superman teaming up with the "Reboot" and "Threeboot" incarnations of the Legion to fight Superboy-Prime, the Legion of Super-Villains, and the Time Trapper. Geoff Johns stated that the intent of the mini-series was to validate the existence of all three versions of the team while simultaneously restoring the pre-Crisis Legion's continuity as well. This Legion would then go on to star in its own title, which, although renumbered following the repugnant "DC Relaunch", is proving to be one of the titles least affected, although mention of the "Flashpoint event" closing off time travel to Superman's era has been made. Be nice if it turned into some sort of loophole at some point to put things right.
As for the character of CHAMELEON BOY, he's tended to be one of my personal favorites. He was one of the more alien-looking Legion members in the early days before they added some more alien-looking members. Most of the Legion were pretty human-looking, with the notable exceptions of Chameleon Boy and Brainiac 5, who were still very much humanoid, but Brainiac 5 had the green skin of his people, whereas Chameleon Boy had yellow-orange skin, large pointed ears, and antennae. Let's consider the background of this character.
Chameleon Boy's real name is Reep Daggle. He first appeared in Action Comics #267 (August 1960).
Reep Daggle is from the planet Durla, where everyone has the power to change their physical form. He has orange skin, pointed ears and antennae, and has no hair in his usual humanoid form, although both his name and usual shape were both forced on him by Earthgov's immigrations officers. In pre-Zero Hour continuity, he was the son of Legion financer R. J. Brande who was revealed to be a Durlan who had become frozen in human form after contracting a disease, and a female Durlan named Zhay.
Reep did not learn that Brande was his father for many years (Brande's name was originally revealed to be Ren Daggle, but later altered after the Crisis storyline). Reep and his twin sibling Liggt were raised by their maternal aunt Ji, until he and his brother were forced to battle to the death for the Durlan Right of Survival, which Reep won. Chameleon Boy was also an exceptional detective; his deductive prowess coupled with his shapeshifting abilities led to his being named the permanent head of the Legion's Espionage Squad.
Chameleon Boy was sentenced to incarceration on the prison world Takron-Galtos for his espionage activities against the Khunds, which almost led to war. He was released after his heroics against rogue Daxamite Ol-Vir in the Great Darkness Saga. During his incarceration, he was forced to wear binders on his antennae that canceled his shape-shifting powers, although he regained them a few months later when father and son reconciled in a pilgrimage to Durla to visit a sacred temple which regenerated lost shape-shifting abilities. Following the dissolution of the Legion after volume 3, bored by running Brande Industries, (for his wandering father) "Cham" became the primary force behind the reassembly of the Legion in volume 4.
Following several continuity reboots, Chameleon Boy is once again a member in good standing with the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the son of the late R.J. Brande.
As to his powers and abilities, Chameleon Boy's abilities are derived strictly from the fact that he is a Durlan. Durlans are mainly featured in the 30th century time of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but are occasionally found in the present day, as in the Invasion! mini-series in which they take part in the invasion of earth.
Because their shapeshifting ability allows them to mimic other races, most of the galaxy fears and mistrusts the Durlans. It has been shown that their mimicking powers can be destroyed by disease (as in the case of R.J. Brande), and extreme doses of radiation, which happened to Chameleon Boy while on Takron Galtos, but he later had them restored by immersing himself in the energies of an ancient Durlan shrine. Two appearances tend to dominate -- yellow-orange humanoids with antennae and purple-cloaked masses of green tentacles. They typically return to one of these two forms when caught. It's believed that the Durlans have practiced shape-shifting across so much of their history that their original form has been long forgotten.
Once an advanced technological society, they destroyed their civilization in a war that lasted six minutes (the "six minute war"). Since this time, Durla has been a wasteland, and its people live in a near-barbaric state, using their shapeshifting ability to survive.
As of this writing, Chameleon Boy is also appearing in the DC-IDW crossover "Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes." I can't wait to see what happens when Cham encounters Spock. Somebody's going to have a serious case of ear envy...
So, how's the figure? Extremely cool. One of the things I especially like about this Legion set is that some of their best costumes are used. There was a series of Legion of Super-Heroes produced by DC Direct some years back, but most of these used their earliest uniforms, some of which were all right, but others -- well, the word "hokey" comes to mind. Additionally, the articulation of the DC Direct figures was not all it could have been.
Conversely, I'll have to say that there are a number of modern Legion costumes that I'm not all that fond of. I'm not going to name names in this instance.
Fortunately, the fine people at Mattel chose to use many of the costumes from the popular Legion era as designed by Dave Cockrum, in the 1970's. The Chameleon Boy figure uses the immediate successor to this costume, which retained many of its predecessor's properties, but in a somewhat different color scheme.
The Cockrum-era costume for Chameleon Boy was mostly a dark orange, with purple gloves, boots, and a vest with slightly flared shoulders. It also included a headpiece that covered most of Cham's head, except for the face, including the forehead and antennae, and the pointed ears.
The subsequent costume dropped the headpiece, but kept the basic design of the costume, except for the fact that the costume was now mostly purple, with yellow gloves, boots, and vest. This is the costume used by the Chameleon Boy figure.
The headsculpt is excellent, and it can't have been all that easy. Although Chameleon Boy is bald, so the talented folks among the Four Horsemen weren't requires to sculpt hair, there was still the matter of those large ears, as well as the antennae. This was probably more of a nightmare for the molders than for the sculptors. Extremely close inspection of the head reveals several well-trimmed seam lines, but it does appear as though there are at least three parts to the head mold in order to accommodate the antennae. The last DC Universe Classics figure to have antennae on his head was Killer Moth, and they were molded separately and attached during assembly. This worked well for him, since that was a helmet. That's not the case with Cham, and I'm pleased to see that Mattel found a way to do the head without "separate" antennae.
Cham has large and quite pointed ears, but they're not quite as pointed as they appear in the comics. This might simply have not been entirely possible, or it might have looked too odd in the prototype. Some things don't always translate well from the printed page to three dimensions. The ears are more than adequate, however.
Cham has rather arched black eyebrows, and they're so neatly done that I am inclined to think that they are some sort of imprint, rather than painted on. Something along the same lines that allows emblems, like the Cobra symbol on G.I. Joe figures, to be done with such precision. I've noticed this process being used here and there on other toy lines for facial details recently.
Cham's eyes are nicely done, with bright green irises, giving him that much more of an alien appearance.
The body molds are excellent. Most of the Legion figures use a set of body molds that I would call "teen male hero". They're not quite as tall as an adult male, but the musculature is still well-defined. Portions of these molds have seen use on other figures prior to the Legion, such as Kamandi, and the Connor Kent Superboy figure.
Chameleon Boy is unusual in that he has a unique upper torso. This is in order to accommodate the flared shoulders of the yellow vest portion of his costume. The bulk of Chameleon Boy's costume is a fairly deep purple, with the vest, gloves, and boots being yellow.
From the look of the figure, the lower arms, lower legs, hands, and feet, were molded in yellow, with portions painted in purple, while the rest of the body was molded in purple, with the vest painted yellow. I can see a slight indication of a white undercoat underneath the yellow. This doesn't surprise me all that much. One of the toughest things to do paint-wise is yellow over black. I've seen this on any number of action figures. Cham's uniform isn't black, but it is a very deep purple, and so doubtless the white undercoat was still needed.
All of the painted detail is superbly done, including the Legion ring on his right hand. And of course, Chameleon Boy is just as superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper-arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
I would like to use this review to address a couple of additional items that come in the Legion set, since I feel this is the most appropriate review in which to do them. One of these additional items is a very nicely made gold chrome Legion Flight Ring. The other is a small figure of a character known as Proty. Let's consider a bit of background on this individual.
The origin of the Proty's race is given in Adventure Comics #334. Many centuries ago a race called the Llorn colonized a planet in the Antares system that was inhabited by race of peaceful creatures. The two races managed to live in harmony until a passing star upset the ecological balance of the planet. The Llorn were forced to evacuate the planet. Before leaving, they used their advanced technology to alter the planet's natives into protoplasmic blobs that could change their shape to suit the environment.
Proty I was rescued from an alien menagerie by the Legion of Super-Heroes, and adopted as a pet by Chameleon Boy. The affectionate alien proves useful to the Legion, and becomes quite close to Saturn Girl, as her telepathic abilities allow her to read its thoughts.
Proty I later sacrifies his life to save a member of the Legion, and is replaced by Proty II, another member of their race. Proty II later becomes a member of the Legion of Super-Pets. After a misunderstanding between the two Legions led to the Super-Pets leaving the solar system, Proty II infiltrated the Legion disguised as Blockade Boy. The misunderstanding is soon cleared up, and Proty II returns to Earth.
In a story published in the early 1980s, it was learned that Proty II had launched a career as a professional photographer, in which capacity the Legion hired him to do their official portrait. At this point, it seems as if he was no longer considered a pet, but rather an independent sentient being
Proty I and II are shapeless masses of protoplasm capable of taking on any shape or form. While they can make their bodies look like any object, they cannot take on all its properties. For example, while they can take on the form of Superboy, they will not have his superpowers. The Protys have low-level telepathic abilities, which allow them to read someone's thoughts and take on the form of what they see in that person's mind. Proty II eventually learned how to develop a working tongue and voice box, which allows him to talk. Neither of the Protys requires air to breathe, and can exist in a vacuum.
The Proty figure is -- pretty much as described -- a near shapeless blob of protoplasm. He's about two inches in height, vaguely humanoid, off-white in color, and appears to be waving an appendage resembling an arm. He has no articulation of his own. It's a cool addition to the set, especially for those well-versed in Legion history.
So, what's my final word? Obviously, I'm hugely impressed with the entire set, and certainly, Chameleon Boy deserves to be a part of it. He's been a vital and popular part of the Legion almost since its inception, and I've always enjoyed the character.
And certainly, this Legion of Super-Heroes set is one of the most astounding masterpieces of action figures that I've ever encountered. Now, I must say that there's still plenty of Legionnaires out there. I realize that in 2012, the DC Universe Classics line will move to an online subscription service, which will also limit the number of figures being produced. But I also sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of the Legion. If I were to list my top five of additional Legionnaires that I would like to see, that list would likely feature Mon-El, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Shadow Lass, and Blok. Let's hope that someday we may see these superb characters as figures.
In the meantime, I am profoundly grateful for this amazing twelve-pack, and certainly for Chameleon Boy. I can't imagine any longtime Legion fan or DC Universe fan not wanting to add this set to their collection.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of CHAMELEON BOY (and Proty), part of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 12-pack, most definitely has my highest recommendation! Long live the Legion!