REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES COSMIC BOY
I've been a longtime fan of DC Conics' 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 founding member COSMIC 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 COSMIC BOY; His real name is Rokk Krinn, and he first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958). He is a founding member of the Legion. His character has been fairly consistent in past versions, with a serious demeanor and a strong sense of duty.
Cosmic Boy is a founding member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, along with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, and he has the superhuman ability to generate magnetic fields, as do all of his people, who hail from the planet Braal. Cosmic Boy's brother, Pol, eventually joined the Legion as Magnetic Kid, but died during the "Magic Wars". Cosmic Boy is one of the few Legionnaires ever to have his own miniseries, which ran for four issues in the mid-1980s as a spin-off of the Legends cross-over.
Writer Geoff Johns has said of Cosmic Boy: "Cosmic Boy is like the all-around leader who puts it all on his shoulders, but he's magnetic. His powers are all about magnetics, and so it carries over to his personality. And he struggles to bring all the Legion back together. He's like, 'We can do this. We can bring it together.' It comes naturally to him."
Cosmic Boy was featured in a four-part limited series, cover dated December 1986 through March 1987. A tie-in to the Legends limited series, it was written by Paul Levitz, with art by Keith Giffen, Ernie Colón, and Bob Smith. In the series, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl have traveled from the 30th century to enjoy a vacation in the 20th century.
They find themselves threatened by many citizens and residents of the United States, who have been manipulated by Glorious Godfrey as part of a scheme by Darkseid to discredit Earth's superhero community. Soon after arriving, Cosmic Boy encounters Superman, who does not recognize him -- even though Superboy was a member of the Legion for years. He and Night Girl review videotapes of recent history, including references to the bombing of Hiroshima, the explosion of the American space shuttle Challenger, and the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but no mention of Superman's early career as Superboy. Cosmic Boy, a 20th century Earth history buff, insists that none of these events are correct. As theirs is one of the first journeys through time since the Crisis, the couple fears that something is terribly wrong with history. The future could be in serious danger, since many of the worlds in the United Planets were colonized by settlers from Earth.
A space shuttle mission carrying a satellite crucial to Earth's future development of space travel goes awry, with the shuttle exploding. Cosmic Boy magnetically catches the payload and sends the debris harmlessly toward the ocean, but American soldiers assume that he is a foreign spy.
Seeking to protect the satellite, Cosmic Boy and Night Girl travel to NASA facilities in Houston where they meet Jason, one of the astronauts who designed the shuttle. They help to quell a riot that breaks out when demonstrators knock down the gates at NASA, and Cosmic Boy becomes convinced that some unseen enemy is deliberately trying to prevent the mission. As they depart, the couple notes that both of their families are from worlds settled during the Great Emigration from Earth. They are unaware that the last name of Jason — the astronaut they just met — is Krinnski... which implies that he may be a distant ancestor of Cosmic Boy, whose real name is Rokk Krinn.
Cosmic Boy and Night Girl decide to return to the 30th century, where time travel experts Brainiac 5 and Circadia Senius might be able to determine the problem. Upon entering the timestream, their Time Bubble encounters a storm and starts to shake violently. They are forced to return to the 20th century. They turn to Jason Krinnski for assistance, who does his best to help them repair the Time Bubble. However, their second attempt to leave fails, as if there was a barrier blocking them.
Realizing that they need a massive power source to propel the Bubble all the way to the 30th century, Cosmic Boy harnesses the electromagnetic energy from Earth's magnetic field. They breach the barrier, but are propelled past their own century, all the way to the End of Time, where they are confronted by one of the Legion's deadliest enemies: the Time Trapper.
The Trapper toys with the couple, giving them an hour to find their way back to the 30th century. They eventually make their way through the Trapper's Citadel to their Time Bubble, just as the last grains in the hourglass are about to fall. Cosmic Boy uses his power to warp the hourglass, closing it so that the last grain will never fall. Amused, the Trapper allows them to leave.
So, how's the figure? Really very impressive. But we do need to discuss the costume, because perhaps more than most Legionnaires, Cosmic Boy has had some interesting costume issues over the years.
His original costume was mostly pink, with white and a bit of black. Now, I have no idea what inspired the original designers to give a teenage boy a pink costume. I mean -- you thought Robin had it rough in green shorts and pixie boots. Seriously, even if pink was the ultimate macho color on his homeworld of Braal, there's probably no shortage of other planets where it's just going to get you laughed at.
Over the years, there have been attempts to modify the costume more agreeably. One of the more interesting attempts was by Mike Grell in the 1970's, who seemed to think that most people -- or at least super-heroes -- in the 30th century would be dressed fairly minimally. He gave Saturn Girl a swimsuit for a costume, and he cut Cosmic Boy's costume down to a pair of black gloves, boots, black shorts, and black side panels on either side of his torso. That's it. A lot of people wondered how the heck the torso panels stayed up. One of the best explanations I heard for that was that the fabric used had magnetic properties, and Cosmic Boy's own power enabled them to stay put.
Still, the costume was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. When Cosmic Boy finally got something a little more covering, the pink returned, but there was more black in it than before. This was during the 1980's, and it just about worked. It had something of the flavor of the original costume, and looked a little less laughable for the influx of black. Later on, the design largely maintained itself, but Cosmic Boy swapped out the pink for purple. The Justice League Unlimited figure of Cosmic Boy uses this design.
I believe that one of the objectives of this Legion of Super-Heroes set is to present the characters in their most quintessential costumes, their most popular or recognizable. Admittedly, many members of the Legion have been clothes-horses over the years, far more than the average super-heroes. It's all those clothing replicators in the 31st century, probably.
So, what we have for Cosmic Boy is the pink costume, but with the significant level of black trim. What the heck, WWE superstar Bret Hart got away with wearing pink and black for most of his career, and he's considered one of the legends of the business. If it works for him...
The costume has a black collar, and significant black panels on the sides that taper all the way up and include the shoulders. Cosmic boy also has black trunks, boots, and gloves. There are four silver circles on the black panels on the front of his costume. This has been a traditional part of Cosmic Boy's costume for most of his career. There is a four-square silver belt buckle (although no apparent belt), and Cosmic Boy also has raised, ridged cuffs around his gloves and boots, that are silver-gray in color. This impresses me, because these are not just painted on. They're actually distinct pieces. Distinct lower arms and legs had to be made for this figure.
The very front, back, arms, and legs of the costume are pink, and it's a fairly bright pink. I was going to say that this is admittedly not a color found all that often in the average action figure collection, and really, it's not. Neither is it entirely absent. Let's see, you've got Zarana, Arcee, a couple of pink-armored Halo Spartans (only one of which is female), several Gundam robotic mobile suits... Okay, maybe we'll cut Cosmic Boy a break here.
Cosmic Boy is one of a significant number of figures in this set to use a slightly smaller set of male body molds than those of the adult DC Universe action figures. It's a body designed to represent teenage heroes, and portions of it have seen use on the figures of Kamandi and the Connor Kent incarnation of Superboy. The end result is a figure that stands roughly 6" in height, for a line where the average male adult stands 6-1/2". As such, it works very well.
Cosmic Boy looks very human, and has black hair, fairly short and combed to one side, blue eyes, and a very determined expression on his face that shows an open mouth with closed teeth. Usually I'm not that fond of excessive expressiveness on the faces of my action figures, but this isn't that excessive, and the overall design is excellent.
Of course, the figure is extremely well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The legs feel a little stuck, but I am confident I can free them. And I have to say that out of a set of twelve figures, I was both delighted and relieved not to encounter any assembly problems or any significant articulation issues whatsoever. Nobody's that badly stuck, and nobody's floppy loose, either.
One additional detail. Cosmic Boy is wearing a Legion Flight Ring on his right hand. Actually, they all are. Nice touch -- and I can guarantee you that the fans would've been screaming if it hadn't been included. It bears the Legion emblem, if you look close enough, and has been painted in metallic gold.
So, what's my final word? Obviously, I'm hugely impressed with the entire set, and certainly, Cosmic Boy deserves to be a part of it. I've always been a little surprised at how as powerful a force as magnetism has been relatively minimized among super-beings in the DC Universe, especially when you consider a character like Magneto over at Marvel, one of their most powerful. I'd like to see somebody like Cosmic Boy show more of the potential to his power. In the meantime, I'm definitely impressed with his action figure.
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 will 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 it happens.
In the meantime, I am profoundly grateful for this amazing twelve-pack, and certainly for Cosmic 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 COSMIC BOY, part of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 12-pack, most definitely has my highest recommendation! Long live the Legion!