March 26, 2007

The Legion of Super-Heroes #268 [1980]

Since I'm a glutton for punishment sometimes, and since it only cost me 39 cents, I picked up another of the Ditko drawn LSH stories, the one with the worst reputation.

"Life after Life after Life" is a 25-page story written by J.M. DeMatteis and inked by Bob Wiacek, and it features a team of Legionnaires going up against Doctor Mayavale.

I will say this for Mayavale, he sure does have a lot of hands, which gives ample opportunity for Ditko to do some of that crazy hand-jive. That ends the entertaining part of the character. Other than that, he's a cosmic inventor who has decided, since his past lives were all good and noble, that he has to be evil in order to balance the cosmic scales. Sure, that makes sense, but how about the fact that three of the LSH members were acquaintances who had betrayed him in past lives, so he sets up robotic recreations of those betrayals (all in Earth's past) to reverse them. Search the interweb if you need a more detailed explanation.

All I can say is that I'm glad at age 10 I picked up the issue after this, or I might never have read an LSH story again. It's hard to believe from this that DeMatteis would turn out to be (a) a good writer (I highly recommend BROOKLYN DREAMS and MOONSHADOW and (b) able to explore themes of reincarnation and karmic balance in a thoughtful way. At this point his prose is just way too florid (which it often is in his later books, but he makes it work, unlike "a voice that resounds with stentorian sanity, and yet quivers in maundering madness") and the plot is just all over the place. Wiacek is also a much better inker than you'd guess from this.

Except for the hands, this is all sorts of bad. I'd say the hands are worth about the 39 cents I paid, if you paid the full 50 cent cover price you might want your money back.


  1. I'm sorry I made you read this.

    This was DeMatteis' first and only Legion story... but he's writing two or three for the animated series next fall. I shudder to think of him adapting this story for the small screen, but there's no way it can be worse.

  2. Not a high point on anyone's resume, although I thought the Wiacek inks worked better than others. One note of trivia: It appears the "I Like Ike" button was lettered in by Ditko.

    Nick Caputo

  3. Don't worry, guys—I wouldn't think of adapting this story for the Legion cartoon.

    Oh, how the errors of our youth follow us down through the decades!

    J.M. DeMatteis

  4. Hello Mr. DeMatteis,

    You certainly have a good attitude with resepect to this early effort of yours. Since you are the author I thought I'd ask you how closely Ditko followed your script (I assume this was full script). were there any changes you recall or did he pretty much put on paper what you scripted? Did Ditko ever pencil any of your other stories?

    Nick Caputo

  5. Man, I was kind of looking forward to the possibility of Doctor Mayavale animated.

    Thanks for the reply, JMD. To answer part of Nick's question, the only other DeMatteis/Ditko story I have on record is the 7-page "The Dimensions of Greed" in TIME WARP #3 [1980]. Look for a post on that later this week.

  6. I think Bob is right, Nick—the only other Ditko story I ever worked on was for TIME WARP. As for changes in the script...well, considering this story was written in (I think) l979, I have no recollection whatsoever!

    If only I could write a story for Ditko NOW...


  7. Come on, JMD, do it! You don't even have to do a straight adaptation. Just think: Doctor Mayavale+Eurotrash Starfinger+Legion of Subs=Greatest Cartoon Ever! Do it!

    Signed-The Internet's Foremost Authority on Doctor Mayavale

  8. JMD - nice to see you here, I tried to post something on your Amazon page but it wouldn't let me because I hadn't bought anything from them yet. I run the Legion Omnicom, a blog that chronicles the Legion of Super-Heroes - and hey, what a coincidence, you're writing some episodes of the animated series! I'd like to ask a few questions for a post over there, if I'm allowed to pry any information out of you.



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