Sunday, April 29, 2007

long live the legion

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It's no secret that I love comics.

The very first I ever owned was an issue of Omega the Unknown (Marvel), which wasn't very good but regardless is branded into my memory.

When I was 12 years old, one of wildest comic dreams came true when I arrived home from school. Waiting for me were a pair of huge balikbayan boxes stuffed with comics - X-Men, Sgt. Rock, Legion, Superman, Spiderman, House of Mystery, Incredible Hulk, Donald Duck, Avengers, Justice League, Thor and many others. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.

Growing up, I spent my allowance on comic books in Greenhills: back issues at Crishareth, current issues at ComicQuest and Filbar's. These four-color books were like a godsend, providing trapdoors into other worlds, expanding my vocabulary ("Forsooth!"), teaching me writing subconsciously, entertaining me endlessly.

And I wrote back to the comics I loved, praising or critiquing the authors and artists.

During that time, comics had letter columns, and my letterhack idol was TM Maple who wrote long insightful missives.

I wrote dozens of letters, hoping to be published (see? even then I wanted to be published). And miraculously, I saw my letters printed in the pages of the very comic books I loved: Doom Patrol, Strikeforce: Morituri, Batman, Teen Titans, Elfquest, and others.

I stopped writing to comic books when real life had to be lived, and began restricting my comic book purchases over the years. It has been difficult - I'm still an addict but the financial cost of maintaining a current collection is extreme. Nowadays, I buy a trade paperback (which collects a comic book storyline in one volume) or two once in a while. But if I had all the money in the world, I'd be buying the monthlies.

A few weeks ago, my friend Alex surprised me by lending me a box of comics. "It's Legion and others," he told me. I lugged the box up the condo intending to start reading that very night but other deadlines - work and writing - took precedence.

I had almost forgotten that I had a box of comics to read until last night, when, after completing a short story, I decided to stretch my legs and almost tripped over the box.

I opened it and found myself in mylar and backing board heaven. With trembling hands, I got around three inches of comics and began to read.

It was the "5 Years Later" run of the Legion of Superheroes, written by Tom and Mary Bierbaum with art and plot by Keith Giffen. I remember being in the minority of fans who actually loved this incarnation so I began to read.

I was shocked by the cover year: 1989. I first read this comic book 18 years ago.

Soon, immersed in the narrative, I lost track of time. It was around issue #9 that I began to read the letters pages, and it was a bit like coming home reading the names of the letter writers then: TM Maple (of course), Elizabeth Holden, Jim Kelly, Malcolm Bourne.

In issue #11, the author of a particularly long letter was Dean Alfar. Me!

Shocked, because I had forgotten I had a letter printed there, I could only smile and relive my youth. I didn't remember writing that letter but it smacked of me, which suggests that the core tone of my writing voice has not changed dramatically.

It was an odd moment as I tried to remember what I was like then, what possessed me to composed such an analytical letter and send it off to New York (there was no email then, you young whippersnappers). I could not have known how my life would have turned out. I remember being more callous than caring, more horny than careful, more lazy than ambitious.

It was like looking at an old photograph and remembering, suddenly, bits and pieces of that year.

I am 20 again, even if only a moment, even if only for the space of a page.

Long live the Legion!

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All images are the property of DC Comics and their respective artists.



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