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The Comic Book Fools of April – Superman, Ambush Bug and the Legion of Substitute Heroes!

Every day in April I will be featuring a humorous comic (either an issue or a series of strips) that I found particularly amusing. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com the comic stories that are your favorites when it comes to hilarity, and I’ll see if I can’t feature some of them this month, as well!

Today is the first part of a two-part look at two funny comics featuring the Legion of Substitute Heroes. First up is 1983′s DC Comics Presents #59, starring Superman, Legion of Substitute Heroes and Ambush Bug!! Keith Griffen plotted it and did the layouts, classic Superman artist Kurt Schaffenberger did finishes and inks and Paul Levitz scripted the book.

This is the second appearance of Ambush Bug. He teleports on to Superman’s back, but what he doesn’t expect is that Superman was just about to travel in time!!

The problem was that the Substitute Heroes’ jail was broken. They were too embarrassed to tell Superman that, so they took an empty aquarium and told him that was their prison. So the rest of the issue is the Substitute ineptly attempting to recapture Ambush Bug.

There’s a great bit with Marlo (head of the Science Police) that reads a lot like Maxwell Lord in Giffen’s future Justice League International work.

Finally, here’s how Superman captures Ambush Bug. Cute stuff…

This is particularly amusing considering that Giffen and Levitz were still doing the main Legion of Super-Heroes book at the time. Giffen’s work with the Subs led to an awesome one-shot a couple of years later. I’ll feature that tomorrow!

17 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 24, 2011 at 5:45 am

The Giffen-ator returns!

And we all have been Giffen-ated!

The horror! ;-)

I loved this comic so damn much, and yet the government wouldn’t let me marry it.

The Horror indeed.

When I think of how fun some of Giffen’s stories were, and how much… not some others were, I can’t help but feel sad. See the first Ambush Bug miniseries vs the second one, for example.

This story was pretty funny, though I was very disappointed to see the way the Subs -characters who were NOT supposed to be stupid, just unlikely heroes- were used. Seriously, they couldn’t be honest and tell Supes the truth? And why is the Science Police officer acting like the Subs were the most pathetic thing in the 30th Century? The next time the Legion needs to be saved from the League of Super-Assassins we’ll let YOU to try to it, ass! (And note The SP didn’t exactly have a great track record themselves, being there mostly to fail and make the Legion look good.)

And yeah, I know this was all a big joke. Unfortunately they decided they liked the Subs as Dumb Losers idea and kept using it, and that image has stuck ever since. Seriously, even the Great Lakes Avengers get more cred that the Subs do. Sigh.

I don’t know that it really has stuck. Since then we’ve had stories that portrayed the Subs both as very competent heroes (Giffen’s Five Years Later, Johns’s Superman) and used them for humor (Azzarello’s Dr. 13, JMS’s Brave & the Bold). The fact is, they’ve been used for both light-hearted stories and “serious” comic-book adventures since their inception, and the fact that a couple of designated humor issues fell with both feet firmly on one side of that spectrum doesn’t really diminish that, for my money.

The Great Lakes Avengers, on the other hand, have always been a joke team.

This was my first Ambush bug story and I still love it.

I was a faithful DC Comics Presents reader at the time (I was 12), so my first Ambush Bug story was his first appearance, guest-starring the Doom Patrol. But there he was more of a straightforward bad guy, and this was really the first Ambush Bug story that read like an Ambush Bug story.

I’m surprised at how much Deadpool’s current voice resembles early Ambush Bug. (Can you imagine the team-up?)
I miss those early Ambush Bug stories. Can we see the 8-pager where he thinks he’s a P.I. and Clark tries to interview him? (“Hey Kent! You’re bib’s on backwards!”)

Buttler: I was a DCCP follower, too- waiting to see how Superman met the other DC heroes was a high point of my collecting days. Which is why this comic let me down so much- I expected maybe a story with the Subs feeling unworthy to help Superman only to be proven competent in the end. Instead I got the first of the these-guys-are-stupid-let’s-just-mock-them-from-now-on stories. Bleh.

At least the GLA were intended as a joke from the start; however later stories have redeemed them enough that I’d say they are at least halfway respectable heroes now (though still funny.) The original point of the Subs was that all of them would eventually be accepted into the main group; the only one who did “graduate” was Polar Boy (who admittedly had the best power… but then the Legion had MATTER EAT LAD as a full member already!)

On the other hand, The Superman/Ambush Bug issue of DCCP (with the two trading bodies) was one of my favorites.

And then they turned the Bug all whiny. Damn.

I guess I just don’t like mean-spirited humor.

PS: Oh and Deadpool is SO ripping off AB. Except the Bug never killed anybody.

Actually the Bug did kill someone in that issue of DC Comics Presents w/the Doom Patrol, I seem to remember. He’s a bit more menacing and Joker-like in that first appearance.

I’d love to see Ambush Bug: Year None featured here. He can be really hit or miss, but that series was a great way to poke fun at the grim-n-gritty thing DC’s been doing lately.

There is no “r” in “Giffen”, Bian.

And then they turned the Bug all whiny. Damn.

Are you dissing Son of Ambush Bug? For me that’s the best Ambush Bug stuff out there.

@ DanCJ- Good for you. To me however having the Bug go from happy-go-lucky lunatic to angsty loser was a big letdown. And YES I know it was meant as a parody of all the angst in comics back then. I still didn’t find it funny.

It was a jarring change in personality, but I found that series by far the funniest.

Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Kudos

Wow, that’s the best art I’ve ever seen Giffen do — he and Kurt should team up more often!

I’m not one to nitpick… well.. I am. :) You got the name of the SP chief wrong. It’s not Marlo, it’s Chief Kimbal Zendak. Great article, tho! Brings back lots of good memories.

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