Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Fatal Five design drawings, 1966


More Strange Tales – Read ‘em and Weep


Writer/Editors – Part 1


  1. Tenzil Kem

    Dear Jim:
    I was informed that you had this blog back in November and because of the limited amount of time I have to read and the wealth of information contained both within your blogs and in the responses of your readers it has taken me until today to reach the end of August in your 2011 blogs.
    I am really loving what you are doing here, and especially loved seeing your early sketches of the Fatal Five (what were you – 14?) as the Legion was one of my two favourite comic book teams of all time (thus my nom du guerre) along with the X-Men.
    I feel privileged to be able to read about your thoughts and look forward to catching up on the next several months. I will have much more to add to these blogs in the future but for now let me just say thank you. Peace.
    Kevin McKay

  2. KintounKal

    As JediJones points, a large Validus toy can be created via Build A Figure pieces. Based on that, I have a feeling Eaglemoss Publications will release a Special Edition Validus hand painted lead figurine with magazine someday.

  3. Bah, humbug. As my Grandma Elsie was wont to say, "'To each his own,' said the man as he kissed the cow."

  4. Validus as their kid worked, in the context of what it was intended to do – put Garth and Imra through hell.

    Yes, it basically meant that every time they'd fought him all those years, they were attacking their own kid. And when they found that out, it'd shatter them. Which is EXACTLY what Darkseid wanted.

    The only weakness to the idea is it rendered the character unusable moving forward, save for the story where they cure him.

    They'd already toyed with the idea that he was only a child – there was a story where he was apparently wielding a huge mace, only to be revrealed it was a rattle. Of course, he then SPOKE when it was broken, so that needed some expaining

  5. Dear Marc,

    It's important to be unlimited while freewheeling and write everything down, no matter how inane or insane. Then it's important to turn your judgment on….

  6. It's in the queue. Thanks.

  7. "Many editors these days are clueless, disaffected or wouldn't dare risk offending a creator. Therefore, the first thing that occurs to the creator flies. Usually, it's the cliche, standard thing."

    Jim, thanks for your continued insights on your blog. They are incredibly valuable! You said the above in this blog and I wonder if you plan to address the idea that many editors are untrained and clueless. In my mind, this is an issue that–until addressed–will continue to negatively affect the industry we all so dearly love. I mean, there are no real requirements to "be" an editor. I would love your take on it.

  8. Anonymous

    "I wasn't hugely fond of, say, the marriage of Peter Parker, but I'd rather see it continue than see it retconned out of existence."

    Marvel mined that marriage for good story material for quite a while. One of my favorite subplots was MJ's being stalked by a deranged fan. I would argue that MJ made a much better wife/partner/foil to Spider-Man than Lois Lane ever did to Superman — sometimes comics should just flat ignore what goes on in alternate forms of entertainment (e.g., "Lois & Clark").

    I was totally prepared for MJ to die during Civil War (although my personal preference at the time was that Aunt May would catch the bullet *and die from it* — I swear, if the Ultimate moniker hadn't been taken, Civil War could have been called "Ultimate Cop-Out"). If Marvel really wanted MJ out of the picture, that's how it should have been done. Instead, we got the retcon of the century. "One More Day" and "Brand New Day" generated a humongous "Say what???" among readers that wouldn't be successfully resolved until Quesada's brilliant "One Moment in Time" that (perhaps too late) gave readers the explanations and, more importantly, the emotional catharsis they needed to finally let go of the PP/MJ pairing. Before OMIT, MJ was Peter's one true love and always would be, but after OMIT, the plausibility of Peter's needing to find true love elsewhere was finally on the table. –MikeAnon

  9. Dear Mark,

    The Bierbaum/Giffen era of LSH is probably a good example of how an editor can benefit a book. It is one of my favorite Legion runs, but I think it would have benefited from a stronger editorial presence. The writers had a ton of novel ideas and weren't afraid of making serious changes, challenging the readers issue after issue. Unfortunately, they also couldn't keep their own fannish enthusiasm in check, and pursued many bad ideas that not only made little sense on their own but damaged the overall storyline. I don't remember who was editor at the time, but he or she should have insisted (around issues 40-50) that when you put heroes in a depressing and bleak situation, it is to allow them to prove they're bigger than circumstances, to allow them to grow and to do their darndest to make things better. They may not succeed (although they usually do in comics!) but to let them sit down and act depressed issue after issue is just going to turn readers off.

    The D&A and Coipel Legion, a few years later, did a bang-up job of showing the LSH facing dauntless odds without depressing readers. (Of course, THAT Legion didn't have to face the dreaded recedinh hairline)!

  10. Just last year Validus became a spiffy comic-book-style action figure produced by Mattel, linked below. It appears there was a Happy Meal animation-style figurine of him some years before as well.


    Jim's Parasite has also been immortalized in action figure plastic several times, although none resemble the original design very closely. This 6" one by Mattel is from the same series as the Validus figure:


  11. Dear Jim,

    Thanks for describing your reaction to the "revelation" about Validus.

    In your article on writing Solar, you wrote,

    "I start out by 'freewheeling.' Just thinking about Doctor Solar and all things related. Even unrelated. No rules."

    The "any idea" approach you criticize could result from freewheeling without weeding out. I'd appreciate reading about how you filter the results of a brainstorm. What stays? What goes? What rules apply after the initial "no rules" phase?

    Dear Benoît,

    I had forgotten about that later retcon! Can you blame me? If that timeline had continued, Saturn Girl would turn out to be a Durlan. Imagine a Durlan version of Secret Invasion. Shudder.

    Dear MikeAnon,

    I wasn't hugely fond of, say, the marriage of Peter Parker, but I'd rather see it continue than see it retconned out of existence.

    I like Chris Tolworthy's formula:

    "Radical + continuity = good

    "These are the radical ideas that Shooter put into place while he was still at Marvel: Someone else found Thor's Hammer, Captain America was replaced by someone else, someone else wore Iron Man's armor, the Fantastic Four lineup changed, and Spider-Man changed his costume. All of these things were done in such a way that they appeared natural and did not harm continuity."

    I strongly recommend the entire comics section of that site.

  12. Jim

    Well, Proty's soul in Lightning Lad's body. It's not like Proty did a body replacement as well as sacrificing himself.

  13. Well, Validus wasn't really Lightning Lad's and Saturn Girl's son, since he was later revealed to be **Proty's** and Saturn Girl's son!

    (Because bad ideas can always get worse!)

  14. Anonymous

    Dear Jim,
    I loved all those alien names that sprung from LSH — Rond Vidar, Tasmia Mallor, Brin Londo — friends of yours? Were those names yours or E. Nelson Bridwell's? I understand he came up with some of those.
    Cheers, all.
    –Rick Dee

  15. Anonymous

    Validus as Saturn Girl & Lightning Lad's son is probably the point at which I felt LSH had become Knotts Landing.

    In defense of weak ideas, I absolutely loved the Spider-Clone Ben Reilly saga at the time, particularly when the "who's the clone?" scandal flipped the whole world on its head. I was SO stoked about the Spider-titles when they did that because of all the new opportunities that opened up, plus all the baggage they'd shed by replacing Peter with Ben. And then, not two months into the flip, they starting pulling back and ruined the whole deal. THAT is my main beef with comics today: not that they go out on a limb with weak ideas, but that no matter whether the ideas are weak or strong, they inevitably break off those limbs and come back to the character's "roots," as if characters aren't ever allowed to grow or change beyond their initial molds. Doesn't matter whether it's DC or Marvel, it has become pointless to read either company's books because they are always going to hit the reset button and send their characters back to square one. And if a story is basically, "What things were, what happened, and how did it turn out," then by sending everything back to "what things were," these companies are basically telling us, "Nothing of importance is ever going to happen." So why read? –MikeAnon

  16. RE: Validus being the son of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad: I don't like it. It's an absurd reach. It's emblematic of the any-idea-is-a-good-idea syndrome. Sometimes I think some creators embrace every lame idea they have because they fear they'll never have another idea of any sort.

    Many editors these days are clueless, disaffected or wouldn't dare risk offending a creator. Therefore, the first thing that occurs to the creator flies. Usually, it's the cliche, standard thing.

    Therefore, any weak connection imaginable must be true. If there was a clone, it must have replaced the hero. Everything that conceivably, by any tortuous logic, could possibly develop malevolent intelligence and become an enemy will do so. Every power that has anything to do with shadows, other dimensions or souls will inevitably corrupt the character with a vampire-style lust. Etc.


  17. Dear GePop,

    I never heard of the film. Mano is Spanish for hand. That scribbly mess inside Validus's transparent skull was supposed to be brain.

  18. Dear Marc,

    Si, senor.

  19. I'm not Jim, but I have to say I'm not at all a fan of the concept of Validus being retconned as the child of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. To me that's far too bleak and cynical a notion for the Legion.

    I think part of the reason the Legion faded from popularity is that Paul Levitz aged them too much, taking them too far from their original core concept. This ushered in a confusing series of retcons unsuccessfully trying to get them back to what was originally appealing.

  20. Dear Jim,

    Did you take Latin in school?

    The word "valid" is derived from "validus." I'll never look at that adjective the same way again.

    What do you think of the later revelation that Validus was actually the son of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl?

    Dear Teresa,

    Thank you for sharing your very moving story and your view of the LSH.

    Star Trek, like the LSH, "was outside the normal […] universe." Yet Trek is huge and the LSH hasn't attained a similar level of popularity, though it has endured for five decades. I wonder why.

  21. Teresa

    Anonymous said…I got hooked on comic books at 8yrs old. The LSH in the mid 70s were my gateway drug. The LSH was so far ahead of the standard DC fare and we didn't get much Marvel out in my rural area. I was totally transfixed on the Fatal Five as characters, so original and different. I loved the mountain of minutia that was the LSH back story and I ate up all the tidbits that would be revealed as the comic went on. I eventually figured out the history and characters. The LSH made no apologies for their complicated setting. It wasn't for the weak. The LSH itself was outside the normal DC universe and that gave the writers more freedoms. It was different, because the Future was the entire setting, not just a place for time travel stories.

    On a personal note: Comic books came along at just the perfect time in my life. They gave me a safe place to go in an otherwise unbelievably nightmarish abusive childhood. Because of that safe place I was able to salvage my core self. I overcame tremendous odds and have always lead a normal, productive and good life.
    The positive influence that you writers and artists had on my life cannot be credited strongly enough. You literally save my Life.

    Thank you.

  22. GePop

    Thanks for sharing these, Jim…what a boon it would be if all creators still had their original notes and sketches!

    I guess I had assumed for a long time that you took the name for Mano from the 1966 B-film "Manos, the Hands of Fate", or was that just a coincidence?

    And, looking at your drawing for Validus, for the first time I'm wondering if the mass inside of his head was supposed to be a black storm cloud, rather than the pink brain depicted in the comics?

  23. Anonymous

    That looks good for a fourteen year old.

  24. Dear Duke,

    Tharok I don't remember. I guess I just thought it sounded cool and futuristic. Validus is latin. It means "mighty, powerful, strong…."

  25. Dear Jim,

    Thank you for finding and posting these! It's a shame that most of your early work was lost. But I'm glad some of it has survived.

    Was the name "Mano" taken from Spanish? I've long wondered if you were taking Spanish in school when you created him.

  26. Do you remember how you came up with names like Tharok and Validus?

  27. Ideas for names I was playing with.

  28. What does "Jarra Mora Arna" refer to?

  29. No. Like most original artwork, though mine certainly doesn't merit mention in the same breath as artwork by the real artists, it was thrown away by DC after it was used.

  30. I love seeing this stuff! I hope that you'll sgare more of your early artwork with us, Jim. It's fun to see what your characters looked like drawn by your own hand before they were published. Did you retain most of the early stuff you did?

  31. FLD

    How mindblowing was this stuff to DC creative in 1966?

  32. Michael

    I love that "Mano" has a picture of his power hand on his chest 🙂

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