Friday, January 11, 2013

BAB Classic: Superboy 197: The All-New, All-Savage Timber Wolf

Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes
(Sept 1973)
"Timber Wolf -Dead Hero, Live Executioner"
script: Cary Bates
art: Dave Cockrum

Note: This post was originally run on February 15, 2010.

Karen: We're back with another Legion review. This time we're stepping further back to the glory of the Legion rebirth at the hands of Dave Cockrum. As most of you probably know, when Cockrum started working on the Legion, he revamped their costumes, and gave the series a much more stylish, futuristic look. His work on the title brought renewed interest in the Legion.

Doug: I've always wondered why Julie Schwartz and Carmine Infantino got so much credit for the "New Look" Batman --
what Cockrum did in the Legion some eight years later was much more revolutionary!

Doug: I loved the scene early in the story where Lana tries to get Clark to kiss her -- funny stuff. And hey -- no one notices that Clark Kent wears a yellow belt, just like Superboy's??

Karen: This particular issue focuses on Timber W
olf, a character who always seemed almost unnecessary given the presence of not only Superboy, but Mon-El and Ultra-Boy as well. Timber Wolf was super-strong, fast, and agile, but not nearly as tough as any of those three. Like most early silver age DC characters, he had a personality that was interchangeable with anyone else in the Legion too.

Doug: Yeah, and I'm not a fan of the edgy, irritable characters -- Timber Wolf was essentially Wolverine before Wolverine was Wolverine (if that makes any sense)! I didn't care for Superboy's comment to Mon-el that Timber Wolf was almost as strong as they were. It always seemed to me, like you said, that Superboy, Mon-el, and Ultra Boy should be the muscle and that everyone else should rely on their specific powers.

Karen: Here, we not only get a hip update on his costume but on his facial features as well, to make him look more animalistic. The pointy-tip hairstyle is something we'd see again on Marvel's Beast and later Wolverine.

Karen: The plot revolves around Timber Wolf's re-appearance - h
e'd been thought killed in a planetary explosion months before. Just as he's about to receive a medal from the president of Earth, he goes nuts and tries to kill him. He's subdued but he's clearly out of his mind.

Doug: Almost like, I don't know -- a berserker rage?

Karen: The Legionnaires realize he's been brainwashed and Brainiac 5 begins treatments to cure him. But who has brainwashed him?

Karen: They soon find out, as the dreaded T
yr attacks Legion headquarters. This was the first appearance of the villain with a gun for a hand. However, Timber Wolf easily stops Tyr and all is right with the Legion again.

Doug: Tyr's hand deal was somewhat reminiscent of Marvel's Klaw. Wasn't there a Super Powers figure of Tyr? I'm thinking there was.

Karen: This was a fairly simple, and to be honest, uninteresting story. The saving grace is the fantastic Cockrum art. Although no inker is credi
ted I think he might have inked himself; the art is similar to work he did on Giant-Size Avengers. I love the detail Cockrum puts into each scene. For instance, in Timber Wolf's quarters we see blueprints for the USS Enterprise, as well as a model of a Klingon cruiser! Tyr's spaceship looks something like a Klingon ship, come to think of it.
Doug: The space element of the Legion was often a pleaser. It just opened up a lot more story possibilities. And you are so right about Cockrum's art -- whereas John Forte and later Curt Swan certainly gave the Legion it's "look" at different stages of its life, it was Cockrum and shortly thereafter Mike Grell who typified my Legion. I can unashamedly say that as a young adolescent boy, the Legion was a fave title for several reasons.

Karen: These old Legion tales may not have much meat to them, but the framework for what was to come later is definitely being built here.


Anonymous said...

hey, i really liked this blog, about Timber Wolf. I was always interested in ther Legion, but more for the team concept and the cool costumes than the actual stories. The cosmic/future/outerspace stuff was less relative to me as a kid, compared to the Avengers living in New York (and on Letterman), for example. But Timber Wolf always stuck out (i even picked up the DC Direct figure). This blog drew my attention to the similarity of TW's costume to Starfox's. They even have similar powers (except for Eros' "love" power). Any opinions on the similarities between Marvel's Fox and DC's Wolf?
The TW costume from Superboy #197 looks alot like Starfox's look from IM #55, and just a few months later.

great blog, starfoxxx

Karen said...

Thanks for the kind words Starfoxx! You are dead-on about the similarities in costumes between Timber Wolf and Starfox. I am surprised at myself for not seeing it before. The chest symbol, hairstyles, general style of the costumes - the same. Perhaps just a coincidence? I'm inclined to think so, but who knows.

Stay tuned -we have a three-part review of the Avengers vs Count Nefaria coming next week!


MaGnUs said...

Timber Wolf has always been one of the worst legionnaires. Not even in Reboot when they made him more feral, or in Threeboot, when they focused on his stealth and tracking abilities, have they ever been able to separate him from Wolverine; even if Wolverine came later.

Cockrum obviously based his re-interpretation of Wolverine (showing him without his mask, etc) on Timber Wolf, as he did with Storm and Nightcrawler (who were created by him as characters for Legion stories but rejected by DC).

dbutler69 said...

I've always liked Timber Wolf. I know his powers don't set him apart, but I identified with the fact that he was a bit of a loner and not terribly outgoing. I also remember an issue where he was at a celebration for the election of eatrh's president, and he was unformfortable with the dense crowds of people. That made him ore human and more identifiable, for me.

mykalel said...

Was there a story published in which Timber Wolf's "death" was shown? I've never seen it, and I've always assumed that it happened in an "off-camera" adventure.

dbutler16 said...

I remember enjoying this story quite a bit but that probably had more to do with the art than the writing.

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, I missed out on this Cockrum stuff - my earliest issues of Superboy and the Legion usually had art by Grell, which was also quite nice. Anyway, as for Timberwolf, while he had a really cool look, he really did seem out of place in the Legion. His power-set seemed more suited to street-level crime-fighting or low-tech espionage/black ops type stuff that really wasn't what the Legion did.
And Karen, Tyr's spaceship indeed resembles a Klingon battle cruiser. In fact, as I recall, the Legion's own ship looked a lot like the various Federation starships, like the Enterprise.

david_b said...

As mentioned on previous posts, I was lucky enough to grab this back in the day when my parents took me on a 2wk cross country trip (it was their surest way to keep me quiet in the back seat...). I got it along with the iconic Batman 251, so MAN it was lucky timing.

Never a big Supes follower (either man or boy) at that time (or since), so this was new to me. Both the Timber Wolf story and the backup Superboy story were both innocent, delightful and well-told. Much like the GL/GA return issue (#90) a few years later, those DC folks really liked their Trek references and weren't afraid to show it (the GL ish referenced even showed a Vulcan Lantern..).

Anyhow, I really liked Timber Wolf. Great character, showing a welcomed amount of angst and individualism than the others in the Legion. I will agree with slight coloring changes, he essentially becomes Starfox, a character I always HATED as an Avenger.

Great art really saves what story shortcomings actually exist. Excellent mag.

Karen said...

The visuals are really the best thing going for this story. Cockrum's redesign of Timber Wolf is just a huge improvement on his old look (checkboard shoulder thingys??) and of course the overall Star Trek influence doesn't hurt.

It's funny, I love Cockrum as an artist, but my husband finds him just so-so. He does think, however, that Cockrum is one of the very best costume designers around. He loves Cockrum's Ms. Marvel costume, and many of his Legion designs. But I can't get him to come around and see what an excellent artist he was.

Garett said...

This art by Cockrum looks great, and I agree that Timber Wolf is a cool character. I remember drawing him once as a kid, even though I was not a big legion fan and had only seen a few of their comics. I'd like to get this issue.

humanbelly said...

Here's something I didn't realize until I looked the title up on MileHigh's site-- this is the first issue where it's officially Superboy starring The Legion of Superheroes. I never bought either title, so I was only vaguely aware of how they were connected or who spawned what, exactly. Oddly enough, I have the next issue in my own collection (and NO MEMORY OF IT WHATSOEVER!!).

I know they have a fiercely loyal fan-base- included many of you folks right here- but. . . I'm still not sure I get what the attraction is. Is there a particular Prime Era for this group that defines it at its best-- like the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans?


Edo Bosnar said...

HB, I'm far from being an expert on all things Legion, but I think there are three "Prime Eras" for the Legion, depending on your age, which are viewed with great fondness by fans: either those stories from the mid-/late 1960s written by the teenage Jim Shooter, the early/mid-1970s period mostly associated with Cockrum's art and costume redesigns, followed immediately thereafter by Mike Grell on art chores, and the Levitz/Giffen/Mahlstedt era of the early 1980s. For me, the last one is what I consider "my" Legion, although I did actually have a few (non-consecutive) mid-1970s issues drawn by Grell, but that was when I was just a really little kid.

humanbelly said...

Thank you kindly, Edo-- that gives me something to quietly hunt for. Hunh-- I wonder if Mike Grell was on the book before or during his WARLORD gig? His art at that point struck me as about two notches above what I was casually seeing in other DC books (although I wasn't buying them) during that time.


Dougie said...

Timber Wolf became my favourite Legionnaire when I first saw the Cockrum version in SLSH 203 (second only to Karate Kid).
mykalel, as far as I am aware, TW's "death" is only mentioned in this very issue.

When he was first introduced as Lone Wolf, his power was primarily acrobatic: tumbling and jumping a la Daredevil or Nightcrawler. The super-strength was somewhat secondary. He was renamed when he was re-introduced by young Shooter in the Adult Legion two-parter as the husband of Ayla( Light Lady)Ranzz.

Nowadays he really is an ersatz Wolverine, with enhanced senses and claws- which I rather resent. At least, however, he's not portrayed as dense like he used to be in the 80s or as a Wookie or a trenchcoated 90s Bad Boy.

I am shocked that I never saw the semblance to Starfox before. He is my Number One Avenger-most-in-need-of-rehabilitation.

Dougie said...

My mistake: I meant SLSH 202: "The Wrath of Devil-Fish"

Anonymous said...

Oh, this takes me back. I recently commented (anonymously) on being a fan of Cockrum's art in discussing X-Men 95. Dave did, indeed, ink his own pencils during his short run on the Legion (which began as a backup series in Superboy before becoming a co-feature). Dave's first story was inked by Murphy Anderson -- though it was mistakenly credited as Anderson's pencils with Cockrum inks. Anyone familiar with both artists' styles can pick out the Anderson inks.

And, yes, Timber Wolf's "death" was not from a previous story -- it just happened some time after the previous issue and before the current one.

I didn't mind that T Wolf had not quite super strength, as his other power was his agility, and I think speed played a role there as well -- just not the speed level of Supes and company.

I thought Bates did an okay job on these stories -- kinda simple -- and aimed at a younger audience with a bit of melodrama. The draw here (no pun intended), however, was definitely Cockrum's art and designs.

Also, Nick Cardy could sure draw the Hell out of a cover!

Goldenrulecomics said...

Thanks for reminding me of this issue. The Legion of that era was one of the few D.C. superhero comics I looked forward to each month, and it was mainly for the art. Characterization was never its strength back then, and I seem to remember Timber Wolf as being a bit of a loner -- which at least gave his personality something distinct. So I did like him a bit more than some of the other characters!

dbutler16 said...

When Cockrum took over the Legion, it rose from goodness to greatness. Luckily, Mike Grell was more or less capable of filling his shoes once Dave left. I thought the story good, though not great, but the art really raised it up.

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