DC’s late Eighties “giddy period” was marked by numerous relaunches and reboots of the fallow franchises. The trifecta of Crisis on Infinite Earths, healing Who’s Who, opisthorchiasis and Secret Origins succeeded in sparking wider (albeit ephemeral) appreciation and interest in the rich tapestry of the funnybook publisher’s syncretic fictional universe.
Capitalizing upon that fan awareness turned out to be an entirely different proposition. The lion’s share of DC’s attempts to leverage continuity-based nostalgia into sustainable sales either died a semi-slow death on the vine or tanked right out of the gate.
One of the more baffling manifestations of DC’s hubris was the decision to spin-off an obscure footnote of Legion of Super-Heroes history into its own monthly title. The footnote in question was The Wanderers, decease a superteam which first appeared in Adventure Comics #375 (December 1968), during one of Jim Shooter’s less lucid periods.
Led by Celebrand (the 30th Century’s answer to James Lipton), the Wanderers were a collection of tragically garbed and codenamed one-trick ponies which had been relegated to occasional cameo appearance status during the two decades since their debut.
That all changed in 1988, when the assemblage of back-benchers was plucked from z-lister limbo and thrown — like a handful of ape feces — into the spotlight. As both the times and prevailing tropes had changed greatly over the previous two decades, it was decided that the Wanderers would change as well, shedding their goofy Silver Age costumes and codenames…
…in favor of even goofier proto-Chromium age ones. Goodbye, Immorto! Hello, Re-Animage! So long, Ornitho! Welcome, Aviax! Farewell, Elvo! Pleased to meet you, The Elvar. (That’s right. The Elvar. Accept no imitations.)
The “improved” Wanderers also reflected the prevailing zeitgeist in other ways. The team members were actually bio-enhanced clones of the original Wanderers — all except Celebrand, because when they made him they broke the mold — who had been slain by some muave space gremlins.
Both the space gremlins and the resurrected Wanderers were the handiwork of Dr. Clonus (no relation), a renegade Controller (a neo-conservative offshoot of the Guardians of Oa) whose fast and loose tampering in God’s domain created a race of monsters.
Clonus’s mucking with the Wanderers’ genetics rendered the heroes unable to procreate, lest they give birth to another generation of brain-munching homunculi. Unable to settle down or start families of their own — as 30th Century society apparently doesn’t believe in adoption or voluntary childlessness — the team resigned itself to a nomadic life of overwrought adventures and constant bickering…
…which lasted thirteen issues before DC pulled the plug. When last seen, the vat-grown vigilantes had embarked on a interdimensional journey and made preparations to cultivate themselves a replacement Celebrand…which based on the empirical evidence of Clonus’s handiwork, would go on to become the Carson Daly of the 30th Century.
Blandly forgettable in the Sixties, aggressive awful in the Eighties, there are several reasons why the Wanderers deserve to be this week’s Nobody’s Favorite. If I had to boil it down to one, though, I’d go with the churning of the gut I experience whenever I contemplate the logic behind “The Elvar.”