Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Legion Of Super-Heroes #294

During the late 1970s the comic book industry was struggling.  Newsstand sales were down, distribution was limited and coupled with lackluster stories and art and missed deadlines the 'Big 2' (Marvel and DC Comics) found themselves struggling to survive.

While it was true there were bright spots of unprecedented creativity within each company, generally speaking comic books were not very exciting and were loosing an audience.

Fortunately the Direct Sales Market changed all that.  By selling directly to retailers the comic book companies eliminated the newsstand distribution middleman, did away with the return policy and were able to streamline their  production by producing only the amount of comic books that would sell.

Comic book fans embraced the Direct Market, comic book companies saved money and as the businesses flourished and improved so too did the quality of art and stories of the comic books.

During the late 1970s and into the early 1980s DC Comics successfully recreated itself.  No long considered 'the establishment' comic book publisher, DC Comics' editorial staff began to take chances and completely transformed the company.

Artists and writers were encouraged to 'rock the boat' and create stories that were more complex and 'outside the box'.

One title underwent a complete transformation under the creative reigns of artist/writer Keith Giffen, writer Paul Levitz and inker Larry Mahlstedt.

In the past the Legion of super-Heroes (while popular) consisted of stories set in the 31st Century that usually guest-starred Superboy, tackling would-be world conquerors and other super-powered or magically enhanced foes.

Granted some good solid stories were produced but it wasn't until the aforementioned creative team took the reigns that the LSH really shone.

In fact, the LSH became so popular that it consistently ranked number two behind DC Comics' best seller: The New Teen Titans.

The LSH really hit its stride when its creative team introduced the five-part Darkness Saga, climaxing with issue #294.

In a nutshell the LSH encountered beings calling themselves the Servants of Darkness.  They scour the known populated sector of space stealing powerful artifacts of energy, freeing beings who yield great power and transporting away to an unknown location and master.

In issue #294 it was discovered that Darkseid, the dastardly god of destruction is siphoning off the accumulated power in his bid to take over the universe.

Only the combined might of the LSH and other heroes (and two unexpected allies) managed to stop Darkseid.

What made this issue so important is that it reinstated Darkseid as a powerful and viable force of evil not seen since Jack Kirby's Fourth World Saga.

It proved the immortality of Darkseid and how despite the efforts of heroes in the past attempts to stop him or destroy him, he survived.

The Darkness Saga established Darkseid as ever present danger and as one of (if not the premiere) villains of the DC Universe.