Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Legionnaires: The Detectives

I recently wrote an article that explored all the different things that superheroes do. Originally I was going to include that as part of this article, but decided it deserved its own separate existence. Anyway, it turns out that one of the jobs a superhero might expect to have to perform is that of detective. Here are two of the Legion's best detectives.

Chameleon Boy, aka Reep Daggle of Durla, aka Chameleon. Created by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney.
Celeste Rockfish, aka Celeste McCauley of Earth, aka Neon. Created by Keith Giffen, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and Al Gordon.

In preparation for writing this article, I checked the famous 2994 Sourcebook to see how many ranks the various characters had in the Detective skill. Cham was an 8, which is very good indeed, and Celeste was a 7, which is exactly half as good. The only other Legionnaires to have the skill at that level were Brainiac 5 with an 11 (understandable, in that you need to be able to simulate 12th-level intelligence in as many ways as possible) and Colossal Boy with another 8 (which, I don't know, must be a combination of his experience and his Science Police training).

Cham is one of the longest-tenured Legionnaires, of course, and under Paul Levitz he became (after some growing up!) an excellent character. Likable, relaxed, intelligent... Cham seemed like he had it all figured out. (Reboot Cham was much the same, once he learned the language, but threeboot Cham was a vastly different character. Animated Cham was a young-loose-cannon type; not sure why they decided to go that way with him.) He has, of course, the Durlan power of shapeshifting; Paul Levitz in Adventure Comics #516 was kind enough to set out the current rules for just how Durlan shapeshifting works, and it's admirably nonrestrictive.

You could say that Cham is the closest thing to Batman that the Legion has. He's a detective, for one thing, and he comes from a rich family, for another. (His dad was Legion sponsor R.J. Brande, if you're joining us in progress; it's a long story.) Like Batman, he had to grow up without his father, but unlike Batman, his father didn't die until Cham was a long-established superhero. (Let's imagine Cham, instead of a young Bruce Wayne, saying, "A bat! That's it! I shall become a bat!" And then a minute later, "That was fun. Now I shall become a raspberry bush!")

As a detective, Cham's technique isn't so much deductive as infiltrative. He works by using his superpowers to go undercover, and find the truth out that way. Here, he solves the Arctoraan Jewel Case (S&LSH #249) using just this method:

After some efforts at conventionally investigating fail...

Celeste was... well, she never really got her chance at the spotlight. In fact, I would say that exactly zero percent of her potential as a character has ever been touched.

Celeste was a Five Years Later character. She was a private detective (and estranged cousin of sleazy zillionaire Leland McCauley) hired by Earthgov (through Sun Boy) to investigate Roxxas's murder of Blok, and this brought her into contact with the Legionnaires. Then she got caught in the crossfire when Roxxas attacked the team, and was badly hurt, but was healed when she was unexpectedly invaded by what was probably some Green Lantern energy. And then it was sort of assumed that she was part of the Legion, although just how or why this happened was never addressed. For one thing, she didn't have any actual superpowers for quite a while after that; it took years before she was converted into some kind of energy being. Maybe that's what they had in mind for her all along, but even when she had powers she seemed suspiciously generic.

Anyway, I think she was a lot more interesting as a PI than as a green glowing humanoid who can fly and shoot energy blasts, so as her signature moment I pick the little hint of detective work she was allowed before she got caught in the Mangle of Generic Superhero Neglect. That's Celeste with the auburn hair.

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