January 1st, 2021

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish each and every one of my LiveJournal and WordPress friends, and all my friends in other media who might be reading this, a safe, healthy, and Happy New Year. May the Goddess bless you with health, prosperity, safety, and good cheer for the coming year.

And may 2021 be one heck of a better year than 2020.

Happy New Year, one and all! :)

A Thought for the New Year

January 1st, 2021. A new month. The start of a new year. Also a time for contemplation, a time for New Year's resolutions and thoughts, and a time when we discard the destructive, old habits for healthy, new ones. Supposedly. Back when, a good friend of mine, Janet Wilson, suggested that I journal today the New Year's resolutions that she makes every year, based on her time in Alcoholics Anonymous. She got this list from the column that Dear Abby wrote way back when. So here's some thoughts for folks to think about as we get ready to head into a New Year...

Just for today: I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.

Just for today: I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

Just for today: I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct, and accept those I cannot.

Just for today: I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.

Just for today: I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I'll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking.

Just for today: I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.

Just for today: I will do something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. If I am overweight, I will eat healthfully - if only just for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.

Just for today: I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

The Year That Was

A new year. A time for reflection. A time for memories.

Up until a few years ago, I always did a Year in Review entry about things in a lot of detail. Six years ago, I changed it up and didn't do that, only something along the lines of a year's perspective. I've come to realise that the year is done. Life has wound its course for 2020, and there's no point dwelling on it too much. That's not to say that I won't remember 2020. I am, I do, and I will. But I can't live in the past, though I can certainly learn from what happened last year. At least I hope so.

I'll start by saying that the year 2020 will be remembered for the COVID-19 virus and the pandemic that has raged across the world, and continues to do so in a second wave as we start the new year. The sheer scale of the pandemic, the staggering number of dead, the effect on the economy and on people's lives, and the toll on mental health will all be something that we don't forget. While there are now several vaccines rolling out to the world's population, the hope is that everyone in Canada (myself included) will be vaccinated by the end of September of this year. That doesn't mean the coronavirus pandemic will end in 2021, though that is the hope. But the sheer rising number of cases and rising number of deaths in the second wave (as I write this blog entry) is a good indicator that the coronavirus is not done with us yet. And I suspect the hope that the vaccines bring will make many people more complacent. Thus, I'm afraid that the worst is yet to come over the course of January and February.

For me personally, the year was epitomized for the most part by two things. First, the loneliness and isolation that the coronavirus brought on due to not wanting or being able to go out and even socialize this year. While I am something of a loner and don't mind my own company, this isolation this past 10 months has been very bad for me, both mentally and physically.

Second, the situation on the world stage. I mean look at this mess: the COVID-19 pandemic and the way that various world governments and their people have badly handled it; the messy situations in both Canadian and U.S. politics (though who knows what changes Joe Biden's presidency will have south of us); how Canadian relations with China continue to be in a hellish handbasket; the situation in Britain with Brexit and politics over there; the extent to which terrorism ruled the headlines; the way in which Mother Earth fought back against what we've done to the planet and climate change, in addition to the pandemic; the manner in which racism exploded all over the world, and the generally poor way in which people and governments have handled it; how environmentalism/climate change became key issues for people around the world because of one young girl's bringing the matter into the spotlight; and the various deaths in both the entertainment, music and science industries, notably of individuals my own age or younger. Is it any wonder that people are feeling even more depressed and hopeless, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic?

While my health was relatively stable at the beginning of 2020, it has declined over the course of the year, even though my blood sugar is better controlled. There have been various health issues that arose for me this past year, stuff that I (and the doctors) haven't been able to get a handle on (mainly because I've not been able to get face-to-face appointments with the doctors because of the pandemic), culminating in some serious stuff the last two months of 2020. The issue of pain in my left leg and foot has been eclipsed by by abdominal, lower back, and hip pain, and some internal stuff that I'm still waiting to have tested. Definitely going to have to deal with things this year, assuming the coronavirus permits some doctor time, but for now one day at a time. As they say, we'll see what we shall see. And we won't even talk about my experience with bed bugs in September and my mom being in an old age home now with moderately severe dementia.

Gaming-wise, 2020 was a pretty disastrous year. I managed to run five (5) sessions of the Coriolis - The Third Horizon RPG back in January and February, and I also ran seven (7) sessions of the relatively new Zorro: The Roleplaying Game in very late August and into September (even two sessions in the hotel where I stayed while the bed bugs were being dealt with). And that was pretty much my entirety of gaming for 2020. CanGames was cancelled for the year (announced on April 2nd), so I didn't get to run anything at the convention or socialize with friends and acquaintances. I'm not one to play games on-line using Discord, Zoom, Roll20 or other sites, though if the pandemic situation continues, I may seriously have to consider it. The one game that I really wanted to run again in 2020 was Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked, but the pandemic threw a serious spanner in the works on that one. There are several games that I'm looking forward to running (and perhaps playing) this year of 2021, but we'll see how things shake out.

And there's also CanGames 2021 to think about... if that happens this year...

I can't honestly say there were a lot of highlights in 2020, but there were a lot of lowlights, none of which I really want to look back at with any fondness or annoyance. I like to think that I'm a bit of a better person for what happened in 2020, but there's (a lot of) room for improvement, and I hope to be a better person yet again in 2021.

That's really all I have to say about 2020.

Now? It's time to look forward. And all the good/great stuff that's hopefully going to happen this year.

In the meantime, to everyone reading this blog entry... Stay safe, and stay healthy.

The Story That Started It All: Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247

As promised, here's the New Year's Day treat for Legion of Super-Heroes fans... The story that started it all! Enjoy! :)

Adventure Comics Vol 1 #247
April, 1958
“The Legion of Super-Heroes!”
Writer: Otto Binder
Penciller: Al Plastino
Inker: Al Plastino
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Curt Swan (pencils) and Stan Kay (inks)
Editor: Mort Weisinger

Superboy (joins)

Mission Monitor Board:
Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy (later Lightning Lad), Saturn Girl (all first appearances); cameos by other members (Brainiac 5 and Triplicate Girl might be identified from backs of heads)

Guest Star:
Jonathan Kent (cameo)

The Legionnaires themselves

One day in Smallville, Superboy is startled to run across several teenagers who apparently know his secret identity. A red-headed boy greets Clark as Superboy even though Clark is dressed in his civilian clothes. Later, as Superboy flies over Smallville in costume, a dark-haired boy addresses him as Clark Kent. And while he is still dressed as Superboy, a teenage blonde girl asks him to say hello to his parents, mentioning Jonathan and Martha Kent by name. With growing concern, Clark begins to wonder if everyone in town knows his secret identity.

Coming together, the three teenagers reveal that they also have secret identities, changing into their colourful costumes as Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Boy (known in later issues as Lightning Lad). They have travelled through time from the 30th Century and want to invite Superboy to visit them in the future and join their super-hero club. Intrigued, Superboy joins his new-found friends in their time bubble, which takes them to 30th Century Smallville. He gets a quick tour of contemporary highlights, including a futuristic ice cream shop, a shrine preserving Superboy's Smallville home, and a history class demonstrating one of Superboy's own robots. Arriving at the super-hero clubhouse, which is a building that is shaped like a an upside down rocketship yellow in structure with red fins, they are joined by other members of the club, and a meeting of the Legion of Super-Heroes is called to order.

The first item of business: Superboy's application for membership. According to club rules, Superboy must prove that he is a super-hero in order to be admitted. To do so, a series of three competitions are arranged in which Superboy will take on his three new friends individually in tests of super-skill. Using the Legionnaires' television trouble-finder, the contestants are to respond to super-jobs, with the first one to successfully solve the problem winning the round. Superboy thinks this will be easy, but each time his super senses detect another emergency that needs his immediate attention, allowing his opponent to win the round. He and Saturn Girl are charged with recovering the priceless Unknown Spaceman statue that has sunk beneath the sea, but en route there, Superboy notices the Superboy robot seen earlier at the history class running dangerously out of control. Superboy leads the out of control robot to the school laboratory, where the science professor there is able to stop it, which he does with a nuclear ray. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl uses her mental powers to command a sea creature at the ocean's bottom to swim up and bring the statue with it, thus allowing her to complete the mission.

The next mission and test, Superboy competes against Cosmic Boy to prevent a crashed around-the-world rocket liner that is burning from causing a forest fire. However Superboy spies a falling satellite and must prevent it from crashing to earth below, endangering people. It turns out the satellite is an old, 20th Century Project Vanguard satellite commonly called a "basketball." Superboy tosses the useless satellite into the remains of a volcanic crater. Meanwhile, Cosmic Boy uses his magnetic powers to attract a flock of iron meteors from space, filling a lake near the fire, thus overflowing, flooding the forest, and putting out the flames. So Cosmic Boy wins that contest.

The third test and mission pits Superboy against Lightning Boy (Lad). The Nova Express spaceship has left Earth for Mars with a leaking fuel tank, and they must be notified of this and told to return to Earth for repairs. However, Superboy spots that the invisible eagle of Neptune has escaped the Interplanetary Zoo, and must be recaptued before it causes and damage or harms anyone accidentally due to its invisible nature. Unable to see the creature, Superboy uses an iceberg from the sea, and is able to spot the invisible eagle when frost appears on its body rendering it somewhat visible. He is easily able to capture the bird and return it to the zoo. Meanwhile, Lightning Boy (Lad) uses his powers to create lightning flashes in letter form that don't fade, and warns the Nova Express to return for repairs Lightning Boy (Lad) wins the third contest.

Each time, Superboy accepts his defeat without mentioning the emergency that prevented him from winning, feeling that this would look like he was making excuses for his failures. Having lost all three contests, the three Legionnaires tell him that his membership is rejected. True to form, the Boy of Steel takes it with a brave smile, even when he is teased by the Legionnaires for losing. Secretly broken-hearted, he turns to leave, but at the last moment, the Legionnaires call Superboy back. They tell him that the real initiation test was in his ability to accept defeat and still be a good sport. In each test, he was deliberately decoyed away from completing his mission. Saturn Girl used a mental command to control the Superboy robot, Cosmic Boy made the satellite fall from the sky and Lightning Boy (Lad) used his power to free the invisible eagle. Having passed their real test, Superboy is accepted for membership, and he basks in the cheers of his fellow Legionnaires.

Suddenly, the television trouble-finder alerts them to another emergency at South Pole City. The giant cosmic lamp is burnt out and the tower that supports it is collapsing. The Legionnaires can't get there in time, using their jetpacks, but Superboy can. Rushing to the scene, Superboy uses a magnetic meteor to right the toppling tower. He follows this up by seeding clouds to create lightning that will heat the city while its cosmic lamp is fixed. Finally, on returning to the Legion clubhouse, he plays a simple "mind-reading" trick on Saturn Girl. Saturn Girl gets his joke - he has used magnetism, lightning and mind-reading all on one job, duplicating each of his competitors' powers and earning him their highest award. Upon his return to 20th Century Smallville, Clark proudly displays the medal he earned to Pa Kent, amazed that he will still be honoured a thousand years in the future.

This is the very first story of the Legion of Super-Heroes, in which three Legionnaires (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Boy (his name changed later to Lightning Lad)) go back to the past and invite Superboy to join them in the future and become the newest member of the Legion. The story is a fun tale, and is basically an initiation and hazing of the Boy of Steel, as he's inducted as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Superboy does get his revenge, so to speak, at the end of the story with a little joke he plays on them, but in many ways the hazing is kind of cruel to be honest, and I don't know whether I could see the Legion in 2991 (I'm writing this in 1991) doing the same thing to any potential new members, including Superboy. That said, the Legionnaires will continue the hazing practice sort of in future stories, Action Comics Vol 1 #267 and Adventure Comics Vol 1 #293 to name a couple. Still, on this re-read it came across as cruel. It's a nice introduction for the Legion, but a lot will change about the team as the stories progress. Oh, and Lightning Lad is called Lightning Boy in this story.

One of the fun parts of this story is that the Legionnaires seated at the table have the classic Silver Age name plates/tags. Even more interesting and unique is that the three Legionnaires introduced properly in this story have their names written on the front of their costumes! Given the colours used for Saturn Girl's costume, I have to wonder whether someone riffed that design when they created Mentalla, as seen in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 3 #14. The colour profile is pretty similar.

This story is everything that one of the Silver Age stories should be. It was goofy, weird, somewhat dated in its plot twists and tropes, but genuinely fun. The Legion is also the first super-team introduced in the DC universe since the Justice Society of America, as they pre-date the Justice League by several years. The other thing I liked about this story is the art by Al Plastino. It's sharp, has some dynamic page layouts and there's a good plot progression that a lot of the standard 6 panels per page format that DC used makes work. Besides, the story was so good that they retold it again for Supergirl's joining the Legion in Action Comics Vol 1 #267 (which actually happened in Legion time before this tale)!

Final Notes:
This is the very first tale about the Legion of Super-Heroes. It introduces the three founding members (though we don't know this at the time), their original rocketship Clubhouse, the 30th Century setting, and time bubbles...

Lightning Lad is called Lightning Boy in this story...

The Legionnaires never again wear the exact costumes featured in this story...

On page 5, in the third panel, there are four shadowy figures of Legionnaires sitting opposite Saturn Girl, Lightning Boy and Cosmic Boy. This means that the Legion at the time of this story must have at least seven members...

On page 11, in the last panel, three other Legionnaires can be seen. The first, facing towards Superboy and Cosmic Boy, might be Lyle Norg's Invisible Kid, except for the hair colour. One appears to be Brainiac 5, but his hair colour, skin colour, and costume colour are wrong. The third figure, behind Brainiac 5, cannot be identified properly at all.