Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Maundering Madness of Doctor Mayavale: Legion of Superheroes #268

Aren’t you overcome with emotion at the very sight of … DOCTOR MAYAVALE?!

Doctor Mayavale made his first and only appearance in Legion of Super-Heroes #268. This is one of the wackiest Legion stories I’ve ever seen. Keep in mind, that includes stories involving the Planetary Chance Machine, Sir Prize And Miss Terious, The Bizarro Legion, Lester Spiffany, The Legion of Super Pets, and the Super Moby Dick of Space. So that’s pretty damn wacky.

J. M. DeMatteis and Steve Ditko are the creative team on this issue, and honestly: has any other comic ever been so egregiously mismatched with a creative team? DeMatteis is at his far-out-new-ageyist, and Ditko's competent, but very-old-school art style was never a good fit for the futuristic Legion. Let’s take a look at the setup here:

Click images to embiggen.

I love how this “phoenix from the ashes”, this “shining beacon of hope” for the 30th Century, the new Legion of Super-Heroes headquarters is…actually smaller than the text box describing it! It looks way more primitive and crappier than, say, the Justice League’s headquarters, and that’s a whole ONE THOUSAND years earlier. Stupid cheap Ditko future.

Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are wandering around the new headquarters, yapping about how great everything ‘s been since Earthwar ended, when Cosmic Boy chimes in via hologram, to report his team’s activities. Cosmic Boy describes an adventure shared by Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, and Dream Girl. The newer comic reader might well say at this point: Hey! Howcum they hadda innerdouce them other three fucks if they ain’t even inna story?!?" That, my malodorous friend, is pre-decompression comic book storytelling which mandated the inclusion of at least twelve completely unrelated footnotes, obscure references to previous adventures, and references to absent, irrelevant characters. And unnecessary framing sequences during fill-ins.
So now we get to the real stars of the story: Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, and Dream Girl. This opening sequence stars with Val and Cham just chillin:

Damn you, Fonzie Lad. Damn you to Hell.

There are tons of ellipses and wacky “futuristic’ words in this issue, and this scene just scratches the surface. You see, it’s so futuristic in the 30th century than they name things “Vxxniaraid”, “Klordny”, “Moopsball” and “Wvetghhyihclux”. It seems to me that marketing would change a lot in 1000 years, but I imagine they would still want their product’s name to be, y’know, pronounceable by humans. But maybe that’s just me.

The two pals are roused by Dream Girl’s cries, and run to find her awakened from a prophetic dream:

Why that’s hentai-riffic! Maybe Ditko was having a flashback to his days sharing a studio with Eric Stanton. The Legionnaires assemble on the bridge to find a genuine Star-Trek–esque cosmic anomaly:

The team goes to investigate. Since the Legionnaires are all futuristic, they of course have fantastically advanced space wear:

Stupid, STUPID Ditko future!

They board the cosmic A-Train, and are whisked away at seemingly impossible speeds! Eventually they reach a strange planet strewn with artifacts from “bits and pieces of every culture, every time period” I’m sure it will be awe-inspiring:

DAMN IT, DITKO! (sigh)
Anyway, this leads to the Big Pay Off: The introduction of the greatest villain in All Legion History, the most awesome thing IN THE HISTORY OF AWESOMENESS:

I don’t know about you, but my mind is officially blown.

Now this cat is simultaneously stylin’ and profilin’! I think the yo-yo just seals the deal. Doctor Mayavale explains that he began as an Acolyte in the divine search for Ultimate Reality in the temple of the soul, but inhaled mystic vapors that flooded him with fifty-thousand lifetimes of experiences all at once. As a result, he is fucking bonkers, and has now decided that Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, and Dream Girl are all the reincarnated souls of people who have wronged him in past lives! So he traps ‘em, gasses ‘em, and:

A. FULL. HOUR. Laughing for a whole hour isn’t easy – try it sometime. The man’s got dedication, and you have to admire that. Mayavale then puts the three Legionnaires through a series of past lives scenarios:

Doctor Mayavale once came to my door, and he was all like: “I was once Abraham Lincoln, and you were John Wilkes Booth, and you shot me!” And I was like: “No way, dude! That dude moved away! My name is Hector Alvarez!” He totally bought it.

The cowboys, romans, and gunsels turn out to be robots, and the Legionnaires prevail through ingenuity and willpower, but Mayavale gets away, promising to return. It was a promise that goes, to this day, tragically unfulfilled. Cosmic boy wraps up the report thusly:

I’m gonna go with the “TOTALLY INSANE” option there, crazy space eyed Cosmic Boy.
Doctor Mayavale raises some very troubling existential questions in this story: Who are we? Have our lives any meaning? What the Hell is J.M. DeMatteis smoking?

Obviously, Doctor Mayavale is AWESOME, and I can’t imagine how it is that Grant Morrison hasn’t brought him back yet. Clearly, now more than ever, the world needs Doctor Mayavale. Maybe in the next life, we will be worthy of his wisdom and love.



Michael said...

Of all the crappy Legion stories I've read (and I've read every one), this ranks up with the, well, rankest. Ditko was probably the worst possible artist for the Legion. Fortunately we were spared another appearance, probably because everyone came to their senses.

I can't believe you wrote this on my birthday.

Please don't review the Space Circus of Death, either.

Brian Hughes said...

Happy Birthday from Dr. Mayavale and Again With the Comics! Per your request, I won't be reviewing "the Space Circus of Death", since I've never read it.

Anonymous said...

Um... it's Dream Girl in the story, not Princess Projectra.

Brian Hughes said...

Sprocking grife! How did I miss that, and how did it take over two years for anyone else to notice it? Fixed now.

Rob said...

Oh that takes me back. I remember picking these issues up when I was a kid and more interested in the pictures than the words. So I never really read the stuff like "laughs for a full hour".

That observation alone made me chuckle - well worth the price of admission!

SteveAsat said...

Mayavale DID return, sort of, in another JMDM classic, "Willworld", which by sheerest coincidence was also totally bonkers. "Maya-vale" simply means "Valley of Illusion", so you'd expect any time the protagonists defeat him/her they'd be treated to a glimpse of the artist drawing them. Come to think of it, this story isn't half as bonkers as it might have turned out.