REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES TIMBER WOLF
As I've related in some of my previous Legion reviews, I've been a longtime fan of DC Comics' legendary LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, like since the late 1960's. Granted, the comics have had their ups and downs -- and even a few sideways -- but I've always been a fan of the basic concept and characters.
However, the Legion has never really had a major presence in the action figure world. I've tended to believe that one of the reasons for this is because, hailing as they did from a thousand years in the future, despite the periodic presence of Superboy and Supergirl, they were always somewhat isolated from the present-day DC Universe. Mego never did anything with them. Neither did Kenner or Hasbro. There was a line of them from DC Direct, but it wasn't really one of their high points, and the figures were in their very original costumes, which weren't my personal favorites.
A while back, there was a special Justice League Unlimited four-pack featuring the Legion, but that seemed to be about it. Until, at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, Mattel announced that the Legion of Super-Heroes would be joining the line-up in their flagship line -- DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS. As if there hadn't been tons of campaigning on the part of Legion fans for this to happen.
It would be, explained Mattel, a very special set. Not a two-pack, not a three-pack, not a five-pack. No -- it would be a TWELVE-pack. And even at that, the speculation as to who would be included from a membership that over the years had consisted of several dozen characters ran wild for some time until Mattel introduced the line-up.
The final dozen would include Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl -- the three founders of the team; Superboy, mostly so Mattel could turn out a classic Superboy figure; Brainiac 5, one of the most popular non-founding members; joined by Ultra Boy, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Colossal Boy, Karate Kid, Chameleon Boy, and Matter-Eater Lad, in part for a little comic relief there at the end. The set also includes a figure of Proty, a semi-sentient protoplasm pet once belonging to Chameleon Boy, and a Legion flight ring.
I knew even before Mattel announced the line-up that this was a set I had to have, but then they had to go and include some of my most favorite characters. The set, after a few delays, was finally released in October 2010, as an exclusive to MattyCollector.Com.
The package is superb. It is a seven-sided stylized version of the Legion's original headquaters, a yellow rocket-like building with red fins at the top. The twelve figures are displayed within in what are designed to look like teleportation tubes, two to a section. The central section features the far larger Colossal Boy figure, and a smaller space for Proty and the ring. This does leave one empty space among the other six sections, however. This has been labeled for Legion member Invisible Kid. Little joke on Mattel's part...
Now -- there is no way that I can fairly review the entire set in one review and maintain my usual style of presenting a decent amount of backstory on the given character before reviewing the specific figure. Not without this review running the length of a doctoral thesis. And I'm not going to compromise my usual style by shortening this to a brief look at each figure and leaving it at that. There will be other such reviews elsewhere on the Internet, I'm sure.
As such, I am going to give each Legionnaire an individual review. I feel that to do less would be to do an injustice to this very cool concept, and this extremely cool set of figures. This review will take a look at TIMBER WOLF. But first, an overview of the Legion itself.
The Legion of Super-Heroes is a fictional superhero team in the 30th and 31st centuries of the DC Comics Universe. The team first appears in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), and was created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.
Initially, the team was closely associated with the original Superboy, and was first portrayed as a group of time travelers who frequently visited him. In later years, the Legion's origin and backstory were fleshed out, and the group replaced Superboy as the focus of their stories; eventually Superboy was removed altogether, except as an occasional guest star.
The team has undergone several major reboots during its publication. The original version was replaced with a new rebooted version following the events of Zero Hour and another rebooted team was introduced in 2004. A fourth version of the team, nearly identical to the original version, was introduced in 2007. As a result, Superman (both as an adult and a teenager) and the current version of Supergirl have been reincorporated into Legion history.
Superboy was the featured series in Adventure Comics in the late 1950s. In Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), he was met by three teenagers from the 30th century: Lightning Boy, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy, who were members of a "super-hero club" called the Legion of Super-Heroes. Their club had been formed with Superboy as an inspiration, and they had time travelled to recruit Superboy as a member. After a series of tests, Superboy was awarded membership and returned to his own time.
Although intended as a one-off story focusing on Superboy, the Legion proved so popular that it returned for an encore in Adventure Comics #267 (December 1959). Lightning Boy had been renamed Lightning Lad, and their costumes were very close to those they wore throughout the Silver Age of Comic Books. The Legion's popularity grew, and they appeared in further stories in Adventure Comics and Action Comics over the next few years. The ranks of the Legion, only hinted at in those first two stories, were filled with new heroes, such as Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Brainiac 5, Triplicate Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, Phantom Girl, and Ultra Boy. Even Supergirl was recruited as a member.
In Adventure Comics #300 (September 1962), the Legion received their own regular feature, cover-billed "Superboy in 'Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes'". While they would share space with Superboy solo stories for a couple of years, they eventually displaced Superboy entirely as their popularity grew.
It was this run which established the Legion's general workings and environment. A club of teenagers, they operated out of a clubhouse in the shape of a yellow rocket ship inverted as if it had been driven into the ground. The position of Legion leader rotated among the membership, sometimes through election, and sometimes by more arcane methods. Each Legionnaire had to possess at least one natural superpower, in particular a power which no other member possessed. Despite this, several members had overlapping powers, particularly Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy. The Legion was based on Earth, and protected an organization of humans and aliens called the United Planets. The regular police force in the UP was the Science Police. The setting for each story was almost always 1000 years from the date of publication.
In 1973, the Legion returned to cover billing on a book when Superboy became Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes with #197 (August 1973). Crafted by Cary Bates and Dave Cockrum, the feature proved highly popular. Cockrum was later replaced on art by Mike Grell. With #231 (September 1977), the book's title officially changed to Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Following a wide range of epic storylines, and several rather confusing reboots, largely tied in with certain "crises" of the time, a far more familiar Legion returned on the heels of Infinite Crisis. The "Lightning Saga" crossover in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America features the return of the original versions of Star Boy (now called Starman), Dream Girl, Wildfire, Karate Kid, Timber Wolf, Sensor Girl, Dawnstar, and Brainiac 5. Though several differences between the original and Lightning Saga Legions exist, Geoff Johns has stated that this incarnation of the Legion shares the same history as the original Legion up to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, with Clark Kent having joined the team as the teenage Superboy prior to the start of his career as Superman.
This version of the Legion next appeared in the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" storyline in Action Comics #858-863, and next appeared in the 2008 Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds limited series, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by George Pérez. The mini-series features the post-Infinite Crisis Legion and Superman teaming up with the "Reboot" and "Threeboot" incarnations of the Legion to fight Superboy-Prime, the Legion of Super-Villains, and the Time Trapper. Geoff Johns stated that the intent of the mini-series was to validate the existence of all three versions of the team while simultaneously restoring the pre-Crisis Legion's continuity as well. This Legion would then go on to star in its own title, which, although renumbered following the repugnant "DC Relaunch", is proving to be one of the titles least affected, although mention of the "Flashpoint event" closing off time travel to Superman's era has been made. Be nice if it turned into some sort of loophole at some point to put things right.
As for the character of TIMBER WOLF, let's consider come of his background. Timber Wolf's real name is Brin Londo, and he comes from the planet Zoon (spelled in later stories as Zuun). He first appeared in Adventure Comics #327 (1964) as Lone Wolf.
Brin gained his super powers from experiments conducted on the fictional element Zuunium by his father, Dr. Marr Londo. A jealous android assistant of his father, named Karth Arn, switched identities with Brin, but the plot was eventually revealed when "Lone Wolf" first meets the Legion. He was an initial graduate of the Legion Academy. Brin was thought dead for six months, but had actually been kidnapped by the villain Tyr (during his captivity he gained more lupine features).
He had a long standing romance with fellow Legionnaire Light Lass. They eventually broke up due to a misunderstanding when Light Lass found Timber Wolf embracing Saturn Girl on a frozen asteroid. In the Timber Wolf mini-series, he traveled back in time to the late 20th century, where he fought alien invaders before being returned to his home timeline.
In the fourth Legion of Super-Heroes series (known as V4 to fans), he had devolved into a large dog-like creature called Furball due to exposure to radiation during the five year gap in story time between the 3rd and 4th Legion series.
In the Post-Zero Hour reboot, Timber Wolf was introduced in the Legion Worlds miniseries. He appears to come from Rimbor, the home planet of Ultra Boy. He is a rival gang leader to Ultra Boy in this continuity. There is a love triangle between himself, Ultra Boy and Apparition, as he met Apparition while Ultra Boy was part of the team lost in the Second Galaxy, and formed a strong connection with her. Timber Wolf later realized his feelings for Apparition were only those of a friend, but Ultra Boy remained jealous.
This version of the character had a healing factor. Later, the serum that gave him his powers caused him to mutate into a feral werewolf.
The events of the Infinite Crisis miniseries have restored a close analogue of the Pre-Crisis Legion to continuity, as seen in "The Lightning Saga" story arc in Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, and in the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story arc in Action Comics. Timber Wolf is included in the Legion and seemingly reconciled with Lightning Lass.
In the Justice League of America and Justice Society of America crossover story "The Lightning Saga", Timber Wolf is revealed to be alive in the present, alongside six other members of the Legion. He was discovered in Gorilla City participating in a race riding velociraptors with no idea who he really is. Only the word "Lightning Lad" (spoken in Interlac) was able to snap his memory back. After completing their "secret" mission in the 21st century, he subsequently returns to his own time along with Dream Girl, Sensor Girl, Dawnstar and Wildfire.
As to his powers and abilities, originally, Timber Wolf was superhumanly fast and agile, but when the serum changed him into a wolf-like lycanthrope he gained claws, enhanced senses, the ability to heal quickly from injuries, and superhuman strength. As a byproduct of his wolfen form, he is often prone to outbursts of savage fury.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, and he happens to be one of my personal favorites. Somehow, Mattel knew who many of my favorite Legionnaires were, and managed to pick them for this set. There was no way I could pass it up.
However, Timber Wolf's likeness needs -- a certain amount of explanation. The original version of Timber Wolf was far more human in appearance, as were most of the Legionnaires in the early 1960's. Timber Wolf had conventional facial features, normal-looking brown hair, and wore a costume that was mostly a tan-orange in color, with black-and-white striped details. I think they were trying to mimic a zebra or something, thinking that this made Timber Wolf look a little more savage or primitive or some such. Looked more like he was wearing parts of a barber pole.
Technically, there is a figure of that Timber Wolf available. DC Direct made a series of Legion of Super-Heroes figures some years ago. Despite my enjoyment of the Legion, I never collected them, for two significant reasons. First of all, I considered them somewhat overpriced -- and not all that well articulated. Secondly, and really, more significantly, the line used the earliest Legion costumes possible for all characters. And quite frankly, some of those early costumes just weren't that great.
Fortunately, when Mattel decided to do their Legion of Super-Heroes set for DC Universe Classics, they chose what I believe most would regard as the most popular costumes of all -- those developed by Dave Cockrum in the 1970's.
And here we have quite a different-looking Timber Wolf, not just in costume, but in facial appearance, with blanked-out eyes, and a hairstyle that is combed back from a descending point at the top of the forehead, and tends to be rather upswept on either side.
Sound just a LITTLE familiar? For that matter, consider Timber Wolf's stated powers -- fast, agile, strong, superhuman senses, a healing factor -- sound like anybody we know? Especially if you throw in a periodic savagery. And then there's the character's name -- Timber Wolf.
Despite the fact that Timber Wolf as a character distinctly predated him, I think it's more than fair to say that Timber Wolf pretty much became the Legion's analogue to Marvel's most popular mutant, who was certainly becoming highly popular in the mid-1970's -- Wolverine! Granted, the two had similar abilities. Just somewhere along the way, it was decided to make Timber Wolf look faintly like Wolverine -- or at least they both apparently went to the same hairdresser...
This is the Timber Wolf that comes with the DC Universe Classics Legion set, and I'm glad of it, because the overall appearance of the character is certainly a vast improvement over the original, and certainly preferable to some of his more extreme later incarnations.
The headscupt is excellent. Timber Wolf's face is fairly straightforward and human-looking, although the blank eyes and rather prominent eyebrows do give him a certain unusual appearance. However, it's the hair that's really unusual. Upswept into points on either side, it's not quite as prominent as Wolverine, but unlike Wolvie, Timber Wolf's hair is somewhat longer in the back. It's interesting to see how the Four Horsemen have sculpted this rather difficult hairstyle, with a literal V-shaped ridge of hair in the back, where it has been styled to carry forth the upswept pointed look.
Honestly, the end result is a somewhat neater look than Wolverine tends to wear. If Wolvie chose to visit a barber once in a while, and use a comb and some styling gel, he'd probably get something close to Timber Wolf's look.
As always, the overall sculpting is excellent, including the detail in the hair. This one had to be a fair challenge for the Four Horsemen, and they came through superbly well.
Timber Wolf's body uses a series of molds that I would tend to call "male teen hero". The figure is about 6" in height, somewhat shorter than the 6-1/2 - 6-3/4" that are customary for adult males in the DC Universe Classics series. The teenage figures nevertheless maintain a consistent look relative to the line, and a good muscular physique. Some aspects of the mold set have seen use with previous figures, such as Kamandi and the Connor Kent Superboy, but both of those figures had unique element that didn't fit the typical super-hero costume, so the molds had to be "completed", as it were, for use in the Legion set.
Timber Wolf's costume, thankfully, contains no stripes. Most of the uniform is an orange-tan color, with black at the top, around the neck and shoulders, black gloves, black trunks, and black gloves. There is a gray, stylized wolf-head emblem on the chest, and a gray triangle at the top of the trunks, doubtless representing some sort of belt buckle, even though there is no apparent belt.
The costume does bear some resemblance to one of Wolverine's, the tan and brown costume that he first wore not long after the legendary "Phoenix Saga", but the designs aren't that close, and really, Timber Wolf's came first.
The degree to which Timber Wolf and Wolverine resemble each other is doubtless open to a lot of discussion. Neither character was created by the same individuals, and yet both benefited from the artwork of Dave Cockrum, who worked on both the Legion and the X-Men. Costume-wise, I'm fairly sure it was Cockrum who gave Timber Wolf his costume and appearance represented by this figure, and yet Wolverine's tan and brown costume was developed by John Byrne, not Cockrum. Certainly the two characters have similar powers, and even though Timber Wolf came first, Wolverine is certainly better known. You don't see Hugh Jackman playing Timber Wolf.
Ultimately, I'd be prepared to say that some of the similarities between the two characters are coincidental, others less so. And you'll not likely get anyone to openly admit to those "less so" aspects, so it's arguably a moot point anyway.
Paint detailing on the Timber Wolf figure is relatively minimal. Mostly just the black costume detailing, and the Legion Ring on his right hand, apart from the facial details. All of Timber Wolf's paint work is superbly done.
And of course, the figure is superbly articulated. Timber Wolf is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. I encountered no problems with the articulation on this figure whatsoever.
So, what's my final word? Obviously, I'm hugely impressed with the entire set, and I'm very pleased that Timber Wolf was included as part of it. His powers may not be as flashy as other Legionnaires, and the Wolverine comparisons are inevitable these days, but I've always liked the character, and was truly delighted that he was included here.
And assuredly, this Legion of Super-Heroes set is one of the most astounding masterpieces of action figures that I've ever encountered. Now, I must say that there's still plenty of Legionnaires out there. I realize that in 2012, the DC Universe Classics line will move to an online subscription service, which will also limit the number of figures being produced. But I also sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of the Legion. If I were to list my top five of additional Legionnaires that I would like to see, that list would likely feature Mon-El, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Shadow Lass, and Blok. Let's hope that someday we may see these superb characters as figures.
In the meantime, I am profoundly grateful for this truly remarkable twelve-pack, and certainly for Timber Wolf. I can't imagine any longtime Legion fan or DC Universe fan not wanting to add this set to their collection.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of TIMBER WOLF, part of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 12-pack, most definitely has my highest recommendation! Long live the Legion!