Or – “More Than Just Warren Worthington’s Dream Date…”

The initial instinct when writing the Hero Histories was to show you the hidden awesome in even the most maligned members of comics’ galaxy of stars. With Karate Kid’s sudden resurgence, (No Ralph Macchio jokes, as they mean something different in comics) we had to touch on Val, and then I felt the need to defend a couple of my boys, Blok and Matter-Eater Lad. But now there’s almost a full-scale revival, with the return of seven Legionnaires, and references to continuity that we never saw, and I feel it’s necessary to touch on those Legionnaires back in the spotlight after twenty years of inactivity. I’m sorry, Bouncing Boy, but you and Triplicate Girl will have to wait… Today’s subject has been described as arrogant, likeable, spiritual, selfish, hot-headed, reserved, and by one of our loyal Spoilerites as “a stripper, except with angel wings.” She’s all that, and more. Along with last week’s entrant, she comprised the most angst-ridden and doomed of the Legion’s myriad romances, her powers are essentially unique in comics, and she was deemed important enough by the original Monitor (Stinky’s uncle Junior) to play a key role in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. A study in contrasts, and one of the Legionnaires whose character arc is the most satisfying, she embodies the point of the Legion. In the end, it’s all about people. This is your Major Spoilers Hero History of the peerless tracker from Starhaven… Dawnstar!

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Dawnstar’s debut in the Legion comes not long after Wildfire was elected Legion leader. The entire team was baffled by a string of attacks by an alien conclave known only as the Resource Raiders, who would pop in, strip a planet of its treasures, and disappear. As the Legion was unable to find any leads to the Raiders, Wildfire took advantage of one of the LSH’s many concepts that were ahead of their time: The Legion Academy. The Academy was where young heroes with aspirations of Legion membership went to learn their craft, shaping heroes like Timber Wolf and Chemical King into hero material. Since there was no conventional way of tracking the raiders, Wildfire went with the UNCONVENTIONAL…

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“Even *I* can’t fly a computer course in space, Wildfire, and I’m the gold standard to which all you loser wannabee geeks aspire to be!” Sometimes, Superb– excuse me, Tom Welling’s narcissism gets on my last nerve. Once again, the Legion isn’t about having the MOST powers, it’s about the fact that every power, and by extension, every hero has something that he or she can do better than anyone else, even if you do have your underpants on the outside and your initial on your shirt so you don’t forget it, TOM. Wildfire explains (somewhat bluntly, as is his custom) that Dawny is exactly what the Doctor Gym’ll ordered…

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I hesitate to use the word “freak” in this context, unless you mean it in the Judd Apatow sense. Dawnstar’s tracking abilities are able to do what even the most sophisticated computer cannot, tracking the Raiders even outside our universe. The Legion engages the Raiders, but fails to contain the thieves. Lightning Lad, ever thoughtful and sensitive, knows exactly the reason for their loss…

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It’s interesting to note that even in her very first appearance, Wildfire has taken a shine to her. You have to wonder if he was just waiting for his chance to induct the hot girl with the wings, scanning the monitor board for a mission that would allow him to get close to her. Probably not, as that’s just creepy and wrong, but I’m certain that she stuck in his mind for more than just her powers. The team follows her lead, planning ahead this time, and stops the Resource Raiders in their tracks, receiving an honor that only a few Legionnaires (Shadow Lass & White Witch come to mind) have ever achieved…

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…a battlefield commission. Notice how elated she seems in that last panel? If you read the issues straight through, you start to wonder if Star Boy is the only one in the Legion with a chemical imbalance. In her earliest appearances, Dawnstar vacillated between the poles of “Overly Emotional” and “Cold Fish.” The thing that was hardest to watch (especially from the perspective of the average fan, who you may recall voted rookie sensation Wildfire to an unprecedented term as leader a mere 13 issues after he joined up) was the way that she dealt with Drake’s crush on her.

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Ouch. That kind of dis will bruise YOUR ego in sympathy for helmet-head. In a later issue, we see a flashback to Dawnstar’s days in the academy, where she’s stand-0ffish with everyone but her roommate Laurel Kent (originally meant to be a 30th Century descendant of Lois and Clark, later retconned as a Manhunter robot, and later used as part of the template for Laurel GAND, who was herself retconned into Andromeda. My head hurts…) Doing the Wolverine ‘tortured loner’ bit before he himself did it, Dawnstar finally spills her guts to her friend about why she’s such a rhymes-with-witch.

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One of the things that I don’t care for about Dawny’s back-story is the somewhat stereotypical “Native American” nature of her planet and people. The whole “spiritually superior” gimmick sticks in my craw, for some reason, but I know that it’s probably (once again) just me. And I’m not entirely certain that “inbreeding” is what they mean here, but it’s comic book genetics in the 70’s, so I just roll with the punches. Dawnstar’s term in the Academy was marred only by her superior attitude, as she tried to protect herself from rejection by rejecting them first. It’s only when the other students band together and use their powers to save her that she realizes she really does care…

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The arrogance that marked her earliest appearances slowly tempered itself into a much more palatable confidence in herself and her abilities, but also in the abilities of her teammates and the Legion itself. She acquitted herself well in battle, even going so far as to engage Omega (the physical embodiment of hate, and a creature well out of the league of even the most powerful of Legionnaires) in physical combat to buy the team some time…

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Her injuries were, thankfully, minor, and Omega was finally defeated by the efforts of none other than Matter-Eater Lad (see his Hero History for details.) For several years, Dawnstar and Wildfire shared a platonic romance, serving the team in good standing. Dawnstar fought in the Earthwar, stood alongside her companions during the Great Darkness Saga, wherein a resurrected Darkseid came within moments of destroying them all. But one of Dawnstar’s greatest tests came when, while searching for five of her comrades, (lost in another dimension after the war with the Legion of Super-Villains) she tracked their signal to a strange, primitive planet…

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That art is by a young Dan Jurgens, and it’s very well done, actually. And cruel irony has the Native American woman from the future world shot down by primitive bows and arrows. Turns out this planet is weirdly fundamentalist (she finds she can’t walk even a few yards without finding a temple or altar to their deity Kol) and Dawnstar is captured by the leaders of one of the sects and used as proof of the devil is among us, regardless of her resemblance to a half-naked angel.

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Melodrama aside, that shot gets me every time. I think maybe it’s the injury to the wings combined with the expression on her face. Obviously in agony, impaled with what look like huge steel bolts, at least Dawnstar still has faith in her bodiless love. But, as they say, foreshadowing is an important literary technique, and more importantly, Kol is a harsh master. As Brainiac 5 bumbles through the wilderness (he never took the Legion survival course, thinking that he could rely on his devices and wits) looking for her, Dawnstar meets Jhodan, a young native only slightly less stupid than the average savage. Through his actions, she is freed, and though she has thought of nothing but escape since her capture, Dawnstar’s feelings for him (remember, she was 16 when she joined, so she can’t be a day over 20 at this point) are strong enough to change her mind.

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She finds her friend being held for apostasy, and steps in to save him. They both fall hard, and barely escape with their lives. Reunited with Brainiac, Dawnstar returned home to find that not only had the lost Legionnaires gotten home without her help (something that I’m sure stuck in her craw, no bird puns intended) but her newfound affection for Jhodan has eclipsed what she felt for Wildfire. Apparently, college-age hormones are still the strongest force in the universe, even for a spiritually superior winged woman in the 30th century.

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Further proof that long-distance relationships don’t work, Jhodan is never mentioned again. Dawnstar tossed away the true love of Wildfire for a pipe dream with a nearly imaginary boyfriend. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, but it no longer fits so my wife stole it. Not long afterwards, the events known as the Crisis on Infinite Earths struck the 30th century. Dawnstar was the first Legionnaire to be swept up in the madness, as the Monitor’s lackey Harbinger (pronounced ‘Harr-Bin-jurr”) arrives at Weisinger Plaza, the site of Legion headquarters in search of her.

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There’s that confidence again. She’s right, though, as she quickly finds Harbinger and is teleported to the Monitor’s satellite, fighting alongside such luminaries as the original Superman, Solovar the king of Gorilla City, and Cyborg of the Teen Titans. In an interesting reversal, the entire Legion becomes embroiled in the Crisis after initially trying to find HER. The story of how the heroes overcame the Crisis would take another fifteen pages, suffice to say that they did it, and returned home. Wildfire learned (from new recruit Quislet) how to manipulate his body to give solid form to his anti-energy. Dawnstar, still young and capricious, finds this situation to be worse than just longing for the man she cannot touch, believing his new form unnatural…

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It’s the “I love you, now go the hell away” school of dating. Feeling rejected by the woman he loves most, Wildfire becomes estranged from her, just as the universe starts to get seriously weird. The Legion’s bright and shiny future becomes a little darker as the forces of magic start to return and interfere with the technology that makes the world go around. The Legion responds with new gadget-augmented costumes, and Dawnstar’s not only covers her cleavage, it has a much stronger Native American feel to it. But she, too, is affected by the encroaching of unsavory forces, falling back on her old standoffish and sarcastic behavior to get by.

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When the Magic Wars finally erupt, the world is completely changed (and the Legion’s book cancelled.) During the time period known as the Five-Year-Gap, Wildfire sacrifices himself to reignite Earth’s sun, and Dawnstar resigns from the Legion immediately afterwards, blaming Sun Boy’s leadership for their losses. By the time the Legion starts to reform a few years later, Dawnstar is nowhere to be found. Legion associate Celeste Rockfish (actually the mega-rich Celeste McCauley) hires the best tracker and bounty hunter in the galaxy as her bodyguard…

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Her name is Bounty, and she’s an unparalleled hunter with a vicious streak. At this point in the series, codenames and costumes were persona non grata, so the Legionnaires each had an identifying mark to let you know who was who (Jo [Ultra Boy] had a ponytail, Rokk [Cosmic Boy]had stubble, Reep [Chameleon Boy] was bright orange, etc) and Bounty had a little facial tattoo of a skull. The Legionnaires made references through the early run that Bounty looked familiar, but the writer kept it secret from us who she was meant to be, save for a couple of important little hints…

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There’s an ominous little hint for you… The “caretaker” in question is former Legionnaire Jan Arrah, (Element Lad) and he’s being sought because of the actions of Roxxas the Butcher. Having once eliminated Jan’s entire RACE, Roxxas has been tasked by the Dominator-controlled Earthgov to kill the reforming Legion in the shell, but they didn’t count on them having allies. Bounty, Celeste, and Devlin O’Ryan among others end up joining the Legionnaires in their quest, and Bounty continues to have little moments that indicate she knows more than she is letting on about the LSH.

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The lass seems mighty protective of the Legion’s legacy, hmm? The interesting revamp goes horribly awry when a group of clone Legionnaires arrive (duplicates of the whole team circa their run in Adventure Comics) and double the cast. A number of new characters also arise, including one Monica Sade, a teleporting mercenary who embodies the influence of the grim and gritty 90’s on the shiny, shiny future of the Legion. When Sade identifies Bounty (and remembers the price on her head) she immediately attacks, and both women are gravely wounded in the ensuing scuffle. Then, something truly bizarre happens…

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“Bounty” turns out to be a disembodied consciousness who somehow invaded Dawnstar’s mind. For years, it did whatever it wanted (including amputating her wings) and Dawnstar’s consciousness was forced to ride along in horror. Brainiac 5 and Brainiac 5 (remember: double your Legion, double your continuity headaches!) manage to save her life, and she returns home to Starhaven, a nearly broken woman. But one thing Legionnaires are known for is tenacity. Dawny takes it upon herself to once again go through the dangerous vision quest ritual, to try and regain her soul. Her father warns her not to go, but when he sees she is intent upon the harrowing process, he gives her a fetish to protect her. The first spectre she sees is the one that she hurt the most…

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Wildfire changes into Bounty, and the image of the creature who tortured her for so long nearly crushes Dawny’s spirit. She suddenly remembers that she’s a Legionnaire (“What are you, retarded? I’m the GODDAMN DAWNSTAR!”) and also recalls the fetish that her father gave her. The broken little creature is gone, suddenly replaced by the woman who navigated stellar distances by eye and outflew the swiftest starcruiser by sheer force of will. Dawnstar is back, and she’s pissed…

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Knowing that her Legion pals are in dire straits (once again on the run from Earthgov, they’ve had to change their aliases, and an attack by Glorith, wife of Mordru, has left them all changed physically and mentally) she takes off to help. The heroes of Lallor are being mentally controlled, and Duplicate Boy (the man who can potentially have ANY power he can think of) is ready to kill NRG (the artist formerly known as Wildfire.) Dupe Boy is many things, but smart ain’t one of them, so while he has the strength of Mon-El, he forgot invulnerability.

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Having regained herself, finally, and even after the loss of her beloved wings, Dawnstar is finally together. She knows she should be a hero, but more than that, she knows that Wildfire is the man she should have kept, and that her flightiness (pun intended this time) and Jhodan were just immaturity. She tries to tell him so, even trying to get the taciturn Mr. Burroughs to talk to her about his feelings, making every effort to get back together, but Drake has a secret

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My word but that’s a pretty Dawnstar. Wildfire must be made of stern stuff, indeed, to resist that face. The Legion’s troubles multiple as the Time Trapper gets involved as well as Mordru the Merciless, sporting his new Village People ensemble by Glrtzplk of Bgtzl. As the timeline begins to unravel, (thanks to Hal Jordan, Hank Hall, and the Zero Hour crisis) the Legion finds their history being rewritten, as members disappear, reappear, and revert to previous forms as their history is altered. When the original version of Cosmic Boy is stolen from the timestream by the Time Trapper, both Legions mobilize to find him. As more of their fellows disappear, they find that time is actually reversing itself, erasing each Legionnaire, the newest first… With the teams needing to find Cosmic Boy, Dawnstar is the key to saving the universe.

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And thus, was a universe lost. The few remaining Legionnaires disappeared, until only the two Lightning Lads, Saturn Girls, and Cosmic Boys remained. With the unlikely help of the Time Trapper, they were able to reset their reality into a new one, the first ‘reboot’ of Legion continuity. Unlike most Legionnaires, this fadeout was the very last we saw of Dawnstar until her recent reappearance in JLA, barring the occasional cameo or flashback appearance. Another winged tracker (though this one with insectoid wings rather than avian) named Shikari appeared post-reboot, but the recent reboot of THAT reboot has apparently written Shikari out of continuity (although Infinite Crisis has her version of the Legion existing on Earth 247.) Never the most powerful of Legionnaires, Dawnstar would nonetheless leap into action at full speed with the powerhouses, ready to do whatever she could in any crisis. They say Ginger Rogers was a better dancer, as she did everything Fred Astaire did backwards, in heels. Dawnstar did her heroics in a fringed leotard with a neckline that actually showed off her belly button. Let’s see YOU save the universe in that. Heck, let’s see you CROSS the street in that and remain decent. Far more than just a stripper with wings, Dawnstar evolved over the years from arrogant teenage know-it-all, to seasoned veteran hero, and came back up from the very nadir of existence to save the man she loved and try to make right her mistakes. Hell, most of us could learn from her example.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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13 Comments

  1. Baal
    June 4, 2007 at 12:29 pm — Reply

    If I told you Dawnstar was part of my MySpace name would that tell you how much I enjoyed the piece? In a perfect world you’d be doing these daily and Ultra Boy would be next…

  2. June 4, 2007 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    In a world where I had no other job, and Stately Spoilers Manor paid by the syllable, I’d be all over that. :) Glad you enjoyed it.

    Ultra Boy is one of those Legionnaires who I think will take much more effort. I have a complete run of Legion now, counting the Archives, and he’s in every third panel of every incarnation of the book. :)

  3. Brent F.
    June 4, 2007 at 1:06 pm — Reply

    Dawnstar was my first exposure to a comic book character that was a Native American like me.

  4. June 4, 2007 at 1:16 pm — Reply

    Dawnstar was my first exposure to a comic book character that was a Native American like me.

    That’s another reason why the Legion was cool. They had Dawnstar, they had Tyroc, (who, as awkward a character as he may have been, was an active black superhero in 1976, well before most teams were integrated) they even had Bouncing Boy for those of us who were gravitationally enhanced… Diversity was invented by the Legion! :)

  5. June 7, 2007 at 5:23 pm — Reply

    I’ll do a riff on a comment above: If I told you that the name of Dawnstar’s younger brother is my own Net moniker, would that tell you how much I enjoyed the piece? ;) (One of two. See “Who’s Who in the LSH” 1.)

    Thank you for a lively, inclusive, superbly illustrated page, beautifully supportive of Dawnstar’s legend. I’m copper-skin-toned with envy (the positive kind) over your having made this so vivid and comprehensive. I’ll recommend this with enthusiasm to others. You, or someone, did very well to link to it at Dawny’s article on Wikipedia.

    Your host of pages show every essential element of her characterization over 13 story years, from origins to disappearance. The scans from the TMK-to-Zero-Hour period are especially helpful, as I find it hard to even haul out the few issues I bought — and those solely for seeing her. It was a hard period to endure, after her mutilation, which I perceived immediately when “Bounty” first appeared.

    I’d have also included a panel or two from “A Shared Destiny,” the end of her galactic self-tour and the centerpiece of her relationship with Wildfire, in “LSH” v2 n311. Yet you hit nearly every other high point in their intricate pas-de-deux of the heart.

    I cheered outright at these lines:

    ~ Her “powers are essentially unique in comics.” That they are! The tracking aspect also was meant as a tribute to Native Americans, however much echoing a stereotype. Mike Grell (creating her look) wouldn’t have had it any other way, nor would Paul Levitz.

    ~ “[…] a spiritually superior winged woman in the 30th century.” Yessss!

    ~ She “navigated stellar distances by eye and outflew the swiftest starcruiser by sheer force of will. Dawnstar is back, and she’s pissed …” You pull up enough value to redeem the whole “Bounty” story arc with this. … Almost.

    ~ “Wildfire must be made of stern stuff, indeed, to resist that face.” They all must be. (Why they didn’t recognize that face earlier is a storytelling mystery. But we’ll skip that.)

    ~ She “came back up from the very nadir of existence to save the man she loved and try to make right her mistakes.” You cite this as being the conclusion of a far broader character arc over her whole Legion career. I must admit, even after being a fan of this character for over 25 years, I never quite saw it that way. It takes a lot of perspective-building to take TMK’s lemons and make some Absolut Citrus, but I have to give you props for that.

    In any event, Dawnstar is now back in a continuity story, not a memory or a hallucination or a temporal crossover, but vibrant and, most of all, whole, with all six limbs. An event to celebrate, indeed.

    I have been trying for most of this decade to get my hundreds of MBs of art and writing about Dawny into an effective Webspace. I know now what will have a prominent place on my links page, though, and that’s this splendid essay of yours. Thank you again!

  6. June 7, 2007 at 10:25 pm — Reply

    You, or someone, did very well to link to it at Dawny’s article on Wikipedia.

    Well, apparently, that was done by someone named KingCobra53… That vaguely rings a bell. :)

    I’d have also included a panel or two from “A Shared Destiny,” the end of her galactic self-tour and the centerpiece of her relationship with Wildfire, in “LSH” v2 n311. Yet you hit nearly every other high point in their intricate pas-de-deux of the heart.

    That’s the one I missed! Crud. I used part of the same issue for the Wildfire piece the week before, but forgot it here. :/

    You pull up enough value to redeem the whole “Bounty” story arc with this. … Almost.

    I appreciate a lot of volume 4, but the abuse heaped upon all the Legionnaires post-Adventure Comics confused me. Wildfire, Dawnstar, Blok, The White Witch, Tellus… All were sidelined for little or no reason other than the writers apparently loved the Legion THEY grew up with.

    (Why they didn’t recognize that face earlier is a storytelling mystery. But we’ll skip that.)

    There were a couple of panels from the Bounty run that I had to leave out in order to keep the whole shebang under thirty pages. :) One of them was Rokk asking, regarding Bounty, “Is she–?” and having Brainiac respond with a yes. The other was Brainy reading her medical scan and wondering to himself what sort of game “Bounty” was playing. They were some very subtle clues, but they were there, especially with the panel where she essentially looks at the reader and flat out says “Legionnaires have been known to crack up.”

    I’m glad that I did well enough to please a huge Dawnstar fan. Hopefully, I can do the others justice (I may have to stretch a bit for Tellus, Chemical King and Tyroc, but at this juncture, the plan is to do all the Legionnaires. If and when it comes to it, I have plans to also cover characters like Gates, Thunder, Kinetix, XS, Shikari, and even Gear, thought that’ll be a short one. “Gear was yellow and said Superboy smelled funny. The end.” :)

    Tune in next time for Timber Wolf, and thanks for the compliments!

  7. Soul Hunter
    August 5, 2007 at 7:59 pm — Reply

    Whoo. Dawnstar. Luscious Dawnstar. My comic book first love (I used to be Wildfire before my energy form settled down to flesh and lard). I love this piece! Thank you for writing this ;)

  8. Peter R
    August 16, 2007 at 9:49 am — Reply

    Thanks for the great info.

    I really wish you would have listed the actual issues that you referenced, because I’d like to go back and read those books.

    Especially the ones after she lost her wings, because I never had those books –

    Specifically, the JPGs that are numbered 15, 18, and 22.

    I would greatly appreciate this info.

    thanks,

    Peter

  9. Nettiebaby45
    September 1, 2007 at 10:24 pm — Reply

    I have just discovered the Hero History on Dawnstar piece. LOVED IT!
    I wondered what happened to “my Dawny” after all these years. Thanks for the complete
    update. I read the “Five year Gap” episodes, but I didn’t have a clue( I’ve always been a bit
    clueless in my life) that Dawny was possessed by a demon! Perhaps because she didn’t have wings
    on, I didn’t get it. Now, to my joy, she is back. I just wish she didn’t have to wear that sexy, but
    OUTDATED costume. Oh well, I can’t have everything I want. Thanks again, Matthew Peterson!!!

  10. marvelboy74
    February 19, 2008 at 11:45 pm — Reply

    Wow. What a comprehensive history.

  11. Marvelbunny
    March 13, 2008 at 11:03 pm — Reply

    Ah Dawnstar my love.

    You really set my hormones a-raging when I first encountered you….

    I have always been a big fan of Dawnstar and the Legion.

    Just wishing that they can restore her to continuity and do her justice

  12. Superboymddjr
    May 7, 2009 at 4:47 pm — Reply

    At last, Dawnstar’s BBAAAAAACCCKKK!!!! and she is getting the cover to herself on L3W #5! Beautiful art! ah…and hope to see her after that. *finger crossing*

  13. Karl Disley
    September 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm — Reply

    Ive always liked Dawnstar, and have missed her for years now. Finally shes back where she belongs in the LSH.

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