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Collecting the Legion 009: A Legion Sampler

This week: collecting the Legion means not only non-comic collectibles like posters and figures, but also in comics you might not expect.

In the mid-80's, life was good for DC and the Legion. Sales were sky-high, the Legion was going to be appearing in two monthly books soon, and it was one of DC's best sellers. But DC had a LOT of books then (circa 1983-85) and was bringing a bunch more in, miniseries with DCU characters (Amethyst) and without (Atari Force), ongoing series (Swamp Thing, featuring new writer Alan Moore) and new series (Booster Gold). How to publicize them all? Someone came up with the idea of free samplers. Thus from 1983-1985, there were three issues of "DC Sampler".

Issue 1, published in July 1983, featured one or two-page spreads by the current teams of ongoing books: All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc by Thomas and Ordway, Titans by Wolfman and Perez, Flash by Bates and Infantino, etc. It also had a 2-page Legion ad by Levitz, Giffen, and Mahlstedt. "What kind of sentient being devours every issue of The Legion?" the copy asks, as Matter-Eater Lad devours issues of The Legion (with Lamprey, Crystal Kid, and a couple of the non-humanoid members of the Legion Academy in the background). The Legion's computer responds "Insufficient data, but 50,000 more of them have turned on to the series in the last year, possibly for..." [An aside: Think about that for a minute -- the books gained 50,000 readers in the 1982-83-ish time frame. The Levitz/Giffen team started on the LSH in March 1982 (issue 285's backup story), and for the next 15 months produced some of the best storylines the LSH has ever seen.] There are about a dozen panels for the rest of the ad which display a (sometimes old) DC comic logo, along with a panel representing it: (House of) Secrets, (G. I.) Combat, Mystery in Space, Young Love, etc. They even worked in Funny Stuff and Plop.

Something must have worked, since in September 1984 (cover-dated) a second issue came out, featuring some of the newer or new-direction titles: Batman and the Outsiders, a Grell-less Warlord, Vigilante, Omega Men, Thriller, Blue Devil, etc. For this one, Levitz and Giffen cooked up a spot featuring Dr. Gym'll discussing the Legion in three hard-to-read typeface paragraphs. As a bit of backstory and tease, we find out a little about Darkseid, Durla, Exile, Flight Rings, Invisible Kid, Khunds, Leader (voting), the LSV, the Polymer Screen, the SPs, the UP, and Weber's World. This came out just as the LSH/LSV war in v3 started, so in retrospect we can see what else they had planned for the two books. Someone already beat me to transcribing the text, which you can see at http://www.geocities.com/chip_simpson/lsh.htm.

Shortly thereafter, cover-dated January 1985 was the third and final Sampler. Some interesting stuff in here: Swamp Thing by Moore, Bissette, and Totleben; the Hunger Dogs by Kirby; America vs. the JSA, Spanner's Galaxy, Superman: The Secret Years, DC Challenge, Jonni Thunder, something new called Crisis on Infinite Earths, and oh yeah, another Legion 2-pager. The Legion was one of only four features to be in all three issues (the others being the Outsiders, Amethyst, and the Titans). This one featured art by the then-current Tales of the LSH artist Dan Jurgens, telling us to "join the party twice a month" for the Legion and Titans titles, both of which were "hardcover/softcover" but already into the reprints in the softcover version. So for the party, the Legion and the Titans had a barbecue cookout, visiting Titans Tower in their Time Bubble. No, really. There's Blok eating a hamburger, with Wonder Girl sipping a soda, checking him out. Little did anyone realize the next time the groups would team up, it would be 15 years later and nobody would be worried about who's beating who at volleyball.

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