AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: The Legion of Monsters plus The Creature Commandos
In the ’70s, Marvel had several “monster” characters that were fairly popular. I talked yesterday about Werewolf by Night, but there was also Man-Thing, Morbius the Living Vampire and Ghost Rider. They decided to team these guys up to see if a super team of monsters would be popular with readers. The team up would happen in 1976.
In Marvel Premiere #28 (Feb 1976), Werewolf by Night would join forces with the aforementioned Morbius the Living Vampire, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider to form the first Legion of Monsters.
At the time, all four of these characters were very popular, so this was an interesting exercise by Marvel. However, the story, doesn’t really live up to the idea. In this horribly zany story a giant mountain appears in the middle of LA on the same day that Morbius, Werewolf, Man-Thing and Ghost Rider all happen to be passing through. Ghost Rider and Man-Thing are somehow drawn to the mountain while Morbius and Werewolf also make their way to the mountain, but not before they get into a fight because Morbius tries to drink Werewolf’s blood. While investigating the mountain, some giant golden guy on a horse shows up. This guy.
He calls himself StarSeed (I am not kidding, he seriously calls himself that) and in the middle of a long convoluted story about his origin, Morbius attacks and tries to drink his blood (you sense a pattern here?). Ghost Rider is hypnotized by the golden StarSeed’s beauty so he tries to fight off Morbius. Man-Thing tries to help but Ghost Rider thinks he’s also attacking. Goldie and all the monsters get in a fight, Ghost Rider freaks out at Man-Thing and totally runs away on his motorcycle and Werewolf is given a vicious back hand across the face. While trying to help, Man-Thing takes the giant dude down with his “touch of fear” and after conceding defeat, StarSeed uses his cosmic powers to transform everyone back to their alter egos thereby giving Morbius, Werewolf and Man-Thing a brief respite from their curses… only to change them back again 30 seconds later (what a dick). The monsters head out of town sad because they’ve killed their only chance at curing themselves and we never see anyone resolve the giant f’n mountain in the middle of LA. So, like I said, ZANY.
Despite that ridiculous debut, The Legion would continue to make appearances throughout the ’70s. However, the membership would change regularly, usually dropping Ghost Rider for another monster. They got their own magazine in 1975 but would replace Ghost Rider with The Monster of Frankenstein, The Living Mummy and Manphibian (really, really dumb name).
In 2007 the Legion was resurrected in four new one-shot titles, one for each member. Again, Ghost Rider was excluded from the group. The four one shots included Werewolf by Night, Morbius the Living Vampire, Man-Thing and Satana the Devil’s Daughter.
These one shots were an interesting bunch. They weren’t full stories, they were more like vignettes. They reminded me of Image’s Dracula Meets The Wolfman comic. Some were better than others and they all had a backup story of a different monster. The Werewolf by Night comic had great story and art but a weird Monster of Frankenstein backup story. The Morbius comic was disjointed and odd, but had fully painted artwork and a backup story with Dracula and his daughter Lilith. That Dracula/Lilith backup story was miles better than the Morbius story. The Man-Thing story was so-so but it had a Simon Garth: The Zombie backup story. You don’t see too much of The Zombie anymore, but unfortunately that story was weak also. I was excited to read the Satana book, and it was good with nice artwork, but not great. The backup for that was The Living Mummy. Like I said, the stories were short and felt like the beginning of a larger story. It would have been nice if these one-shots led to a big anthology Legion of Monsters title that played out two or three stories a month in the vein of something like Marvel Comics Presents. While I was underwhelmed with these titles, I would definitely read more.
Bonus!! Let’s take a quick look at another monster super group, this time from DC Comics.
DC Comics really doesn’t have a stand alone werewolf character. The most notable werewolf in DC continuity would have to be the character of Warren Griffith, a small town farm boy who fought in WWII and was transformed by a shady government project called Project M into a werewolf. He would join a group of similar Project M subjects called The Creature Commandos.
DC’s Creature Commandos were first introduced in Weird War Tales #93 (1980). Like Mr Griffith above, the Commandos were originally regular soldiers but were biologically enhanced by Project M during World War II into supernatural creatures. On the original team was Griffith’s wolf man, a vampire, a medusa and a Frankenstein monster. They would go on many covert missions throughout the second World War, but after one perilous mission, the team was lost in space after taking control of a runaway rocket. They would not return until 2000.
In 2000, DC revisited the Creature Commandos with a mini-series. In it, the original team members return to Earth after being lost in the aforementioned rocket in space and are joined by several new members including a mummy-like communications officer, an amphibious man creature much like The Creature from the Black Lagoon and a few cyborgs.
The Commandos are still considered “active” characters and continue to make small appearances in DC Comics from time to time.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.