My plan to get the Nobody’s Favorite feature back on a regular schedule seems to have gone off the rails, but I’m feeling confident about serving up more frequent updates going forward. This being December, however, means that it’s the time of the year when the script gets flipped and I shine a little love on sub-stellar characters and comics I legitimately love.
So let’s start the season of goodwill off with the retconned roster of also-rans…
…known as the Liberty Legion.
The concept was the handiwork of (yep, you guessed it) Roy Thomas, who spun it out of his ongoing Invaders monthly for Marvel. While the Invaders included the most prominent characters — Captain America, Sub-Mariner, the original Human Torch — from the publisher’s formative years taking an axe directly to the Axis, the Liberty Legion had a homefront focus and members pulled from the back forty of Timely’s relatively anemic Golden Age stable of superheroes.
The team was cobbled together by Bucky Barnes during a four-part arc which ran back-and-forth between the Marvel Premiere “try out” anthology and the Invaders’ own monthly series. It was a pretty neat gimmick for the time — said “time” being when such interlocking events weren’t the norm and the cover price of a single issue was “still only 25 cents!” — even if any hopes the Rascally One might have harbored for a dedicated Liberty Legion ongoing came to naught. Thomas’s enthusiasm (which often drifted into the realm of trivia-oriented obsession) for forgotten bits of Golden Age flotsam may have been infectious, but it wasn’t infectious enough to carry a concept dedicated to characters who failed to generate enthusiasm even during the heady boom times of the early 1940s.
The overall obscurity of characters like Jack Frost, Blue Diamond and other Liberty Legionnaires didn’t help either, especially combined with Thomas’s particular writing tics. Every character conversation and action sequence featuring the team invariably assumed an expository tone aimed at edu-taining the end user in the finer points of characters involved.
“They don’t call me Blue Diamond because my skin isn’t imbued with the hardest substance known to man!”
“Well, I may not be Captain America, but I’m still a Patriot!”
“Hey, move over. This Red Raven needs room to spread his ‘light metal’ wings!”
“Look, I have boobs and I’m the only woman on the team, so I guess that makes me Miss America!”
I mock, but some forty years later Thomas’s style remains my default baseline for superheroic storytelling. It’s quaint, clunky, and too obvious in intent to my jaded adult eyes, but damn if it didn’t make for some exciting reading. This went double for the man’s retro-Golden Age work, which was jam-packed with colorful new-to-me characters presented as significant (if only in Roy Thomas’s eyes) pieces in the improvised jigsaw puzzle of “shared universe” continuity. Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man stories were thick on the ground when I was a kid (unlike today, right?), which meant the teams like the Liberty Legion and All-Star Squadron got a appreciation boost by virtue of their novelty value, both in terms of characters and setting.
Hell, it was enough to convince me to trade three issues of Batman to my buddy Brian in exchange for a copy of Marvel Premiere #30, which I read and re-read until it disintegrated. I’ve never done that for an X-Men comic, that’s for damn sure.