Marvel Premiere #30: the Liberty Legion (1976)

This is such a damn typical Roy Thomas comic book. The story takes place in World War II, which is one of Roy the Boy’s recurring obsessions. Again and again his work returned to that era. The Liberty Legion was envisioned as a spin-off of Roy’s Invaders comic, which had premiered about a year earlier and apparently had some pretty decent sales, if Marvel was willing to consider a spin-off so quickly.
Or maybe the issue is that Roy was obsessed with World War II heroes. He’s well known for being one of the world’s biggest fans of the Justice Society, that sterling group of heroic figures who represented many of the finest DC heroes of the ’40s. Even in his fan days, Roy obsessed over the JSA, writing long articles about the heroes and talking up their comics every chance he got. In fact, I think I have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction against the golden age JSA due to Thomas’s continual brow-beating about the series. How can the comics possibly measure up to Thomas’s high regard for them?
But as you might have guessed from the title of this comic, it was for Marvel and not at DC. At Marvel, Roy created his own golden age group called the Invaders. This is a fondly-remembered but quite odd series, featuring the front-line heroes of Marvel’s predecessor Timely Comics as they fought Nazis and Japanese during World War II. It was an odd comic in part because though the Invaders actually did fight in the European Theatre during the war, they never actually affected the outcome of any major battles. How super were Captain America and Bucky, the Human Torch and Toro, or the Sub-Mariner if Hitler and Tojo’s war plans weren’t even dented?
It was also an odd comic due to the very strange art by Frank Robbins and Frank Springer, which I promise to talk about in the future. It’s fascinatingly weird.
But I’m here to talk about the Liberty Legion instead of the Invaders. The Legion was meant to encompass some of Timely’s second-rate heroes of World War II, including crappy Cap rip-off the Patriot, speedster the Whizzer (most embarassing hero name ever) and a bunch of even more obscure second-raters: Red Raven (who had the virtue of being Jack Kirby’s least successful creation ever, lasting exactly one issue), a stretchy hero called the Thin Man, a heroine with the truly odd name Miss America, and a really cold dude who called him Jack Frost. Yeah, Jack Frost. I wonder if he liked chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
In other words, these characters were amazingly obscure and hokey, by definition a group of second-raters who barely rated appearances even in the ’40s. Perfect fodder for Thomas.
Sometimes these sorts of revivals can be fun. It’s become a cliche of the post-modern comics to have obscure characters reappear in order to call out bizarre plot threads and provide fanboys a glimmer of excitement. But this comic is actually kind of stupid. The highlight of it is the Legion standing along the first base line at Yankee Stadium while waiting for hypnotized Invaders to fly down and attack them, because they’re under the control of who else but the Red Skull.
The team only appeared one other time, later that year in another story by Roy Thomas. It shouldn’t be surprising that this team failed: there’s nothing seperating this group of fifth-raters from any others, no reason to really care about these empty costimes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: