HERO HISTORY: Timber Wolf

by

Or – “The Man To Whom James Howlett Should Be Paying Royalties…”

One of the most common reasons I’ve heard for not reading the Legion (after “Too Many Members!” and “Too Much Continuity!”) is the assertion that their future is too bright and shiny, and all the various Lads and Kids and Lasses too well-adjusted and clean-scrubbed. While I can admit that there is a grain of truth to that, the Legion has it’s share of darker types as well, none moreso than the man originally known as The Lone Wolf. Originally a supporting cast member, Timber Wolf was one of the first graduates of the Legion Academy, and after four long years, made his way into the Legion itself. As with many of the later period Legionnaires, his path has been a long and difficult one (in fact, he didn’t appear in the first version of the “rebooted” Legion for almost seven years) and his look has changed more often than Madonna, but through it all, he’s retained his strong sense of integrity, a fierce independence, and an unconscious ability to find trouble that otherwise should have left him alone. This is your Major Spoilers Hero History of the troubled-yet-noble Brin Londo of Zuun… Timber Wolf!

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The story of the man who would be Timber Wolf begins early in the saga of the Legion, during their first run in Adventure Comics. The Legion was well established by this point, already numbering 21 members (though Star Boy and Dream Girl were ejected from the team at the time) when a routine mission comes up: a series of thefts on planet Zoon has the local authorities puzzled. At the same time, a mysterious hero shows up on Earth, stopping a rampaging group of camelephants at the Galactic Circus from trampling everyone. Even though the new kid has stolen their thunder, the Legionnaires take the time to introduce themselves, and Light Lass is immediately smitten…

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And don’t you just love Ayla’s pseudo-beehive hairdo? It’s futuriffic! Brainiac 5 points out that the mention of the robberies on Zoon threw him, and being a genius, he wonders if the superhuman strength and agility that Lone Wolf exhibited is at all related to the superhuman strength and agility that the thief exhibited. A wise lad, that Brainy… A team of Legionnaires heads for Zoon, and find Lone Wolf flying in a cruiser of his own. A mysterious blue beam lances out from the planet at his ship, but Wolf recognizes it as a portal to another dimension. He quickly uses his reflexes to yank his ship out of the way, but the Legionnaires don’t have a pilot with his speed. When he sees that the Legionnaires are in peril, Lone Wolf does the noblest thing he can think of: he RAMS their ship to knock it out of the vortex.

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Lone Wolf reveals that he’s really Karth Arn, an android created by Dr. Mar Londo as a servant. They find and interview Londo’s son Brin about Lone Wolf, and Brin tells them that Lone Wolf must be the thief! But wait, you say… Isn’t Brin Londo Timber Wolf’s name? It’s like a weird alternate universe where Peter did something to keep Lois from falling in love with him, forcing the timeline into a different configuration where we have a chalkboard in the living room! Lone Wolf quickly arrives, claiming that Brin is the one who created the dimensional beam that nearly killed them all, but Ultra Boy takes Wolf into custody.

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Karth Arn admits to stealing the jewels, and to wiping Brin’s memory to make him think that HE, not Karth was the android (which Brin’s new superpowers made believable.) You have to love plotting in the 1960′s, folks, especially the part where the android has no fingerprints and the special ray that can suck spaceships into another dimension. With the truth revealed, Brin realizes that maybe teams aren’t so bad after all.

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The Legion of this time was full of romances (as virtually any grouping of late-teen to early-twenties kids would be, superpowers or no) and Ayla’s crush on Brin persisted. Lone Wolf gave up his name (even going so far as to give his monogrammed jacket to Lenny Kosnowski) and instead started calling himself Timber Wolf. He even joined the Legion Academy, training to become a full-fledged Legionnaire himself. Some time later, when Tarik the Mute framed Colossal Boy, got him expelled from the Legion, and forced him to train the first incarnation of the Legion of Super-Villains, Superboy had the brilliant idea to use Academy trainees to infiltrate the LSV. Timber Wolf and Chemical King were falsely thrown out of the academy, and posed as criminals to gain entrance.

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They successfully make their way in, but Colossal Boy recognizes them, and they’re thrown in prison (though it takes approximately eight men to overcome Timber Wolf.) Colossal Boy, being blackmailed by a threat to his parents, is finally overcome by his heroic instincts, and the Villainous Legion is overthrown. Legion leader Ultra Boy is so happy with the results that he not only reinstates C.B., he goes a step further, and rewards Chemical King and Timber Wolf as well.

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Once a member, Timber Wolf continued his romance with Light Lass (the former Lightning Lass, twin sister of Lightning Lad.) As with any young romance, they find roadblocks here and there: She’s gregarious, he’s solitary. Her powers are targeted, his are up-close and personal. He’s been irradiated with alien Zuunium, she was shot with electricity by Winathian lightning beasts. He’s an only child, she’s a twin with a murderous psycho big brother…

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This fight ends with Lightning Lad and Light Lass overpowering big brother and returning him to prison (though not before a lightning attack leeches all the red out of his hair, leaving Lightning Lord with his trademark shock of white hair.) Soon afterwards, Dave Cockrum took over the Legion, and being Dave, redesigned pretty much the Legion’s entire world, giving some members their first new costumes ever, and streamlining T-Wolf’s uniform. More importantly, he changed his features to a more feral, animal face to reflect his Timber Wolf name, including pointy hair similar to a character Cockrum would draw later… a character called Logan.

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Apparently, between appearances, Timber Wolf was thought to have been killed, but he returned with a new face and a more animal attitude. When the Legion welcomes him back into the fold, bad things begin to happen, and Timber Wolf finds himself compelled to do things against his will. Things like kill Earth’s president… The team finds that during the six months he was missing, T-Wolf has been brainwashed by Tyr, a mysterious overlord from another dimension. It is he who has been controlling Brin, but when Saturn Girl gets involved to try and save him, Tyr uses his cyborg gun arm to try and shoot her. The shot bounces high and strikes Timber Wolf instead, leaving him seemingly dead again. Tyr menacingly approaches Saturn Girl, ready to kill her, but he’s counted Brin Londo out a little too Zoon. See what I did there?

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Back in the Legion fold, Brin rekindles his romance with Light Lass, and returns to duty. When Princess Projectra is injured in combat, a strange and desperate plan is designed to save her life: a special machine is designed to transfer her pain to another Legionnaire, hoping that she’ll be able to heal. Karate Kid heroically tries to take on all the pain himself, but even his great discipline fails in the face of such wilting agony. With the Kid out of action, his good friend Timber Wolf steps in to help…

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Brin’s animal side comes out, and he very nearly loses control of himself. (The Princess is later saved when Duo Damsel uses the machine, then separates, splitting the near-fatal pain between her two bodies.) Timber Wolf is one of the most physically powerful Legionnaires, perhaps not as strong as Mon-El or Superboy, but considered to be on a par with Ultra Boy (who can only use his classic Kryptonian abilities one at a time) and is the most agile of the team members. Known primarily for his physical skills, Timber Wolf is not without wits, as he shows when the space pirate Black Mace overpowers him and tries to use his Legion cruiser to escape from an interplanetary prison.

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Note that Black Mace is wearing his flight ring… Brin sets off the defensive systems of the Legion cruiser, and while Black Mace is distracted, attacks as only a man whose body is filled with Zuunium can.

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A better show of his abilities, you may never see. He overpowers Black Mace, and returns him to prison. The wits shown here aren’t always in evidence, and as the series progresses, it actually seems that Timber Wolf becomes less sophisticated and resourceful. He relies more and more on his purely physical powers, and less on his prowess, and his tendency to revert to animal emotion gets him in trouble.

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His relationship with Light Lass also changes as his mind does, becoming more protective, possibly even a bit possessive of her. When a problem arises with her incarcerated brother Mekt, (aka Lightning Lord) Timber Wolf accompanies her. The Legionnaires find their welcome a bit less than warm (the warden screams that he wanted MAJOR heroes, not two losers) and eventually imprisons Timber Wolf for a minor infraction. When Light Lass is kidnapped, Timber Wolf finds his patience for hardcase by-the-book police officers is even more limited than Arm-Fall-Off Boy’s combat repertoire…

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It’s easy to underestimate him comparatively to Mon-El, Superboy, or Ultra Boy, but Timber Wolf’s superspeed and strength make him extremely formidable and his unpredictable nature often makes him more dangerous than the most powerful Legionnaires. His romance with Light Lass weathers a great many storms, and it is she who finally convinces him to take a step back towards his humanity (though I’m certain that the sudden popularity of a certain Canadian mutant on the other side of the spinner rack may have had some input into this decision from an editorial viewpoint…)

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Ayla’s words here are eerily prophetic, actually, as not long afterwards, Chameleon Boy talks Shrinking Violet and Timber Wolf into an absolutely bone-headed mission infiltrating Khundian space. The mission goes bad, and Colossal Boy and Saturn Girl come looking for them at the behest of Light Lass, but all five Legionnaires are shot down. In a terribly funny bit, both Saturn Girl and Timber Wolf’s costumes are destroyed between issues, and a terribly fun explanation for another new costume ensues.

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I like the silly spikey belt (a terribly useful accessory, I’m sure, for a man who leaps and dodges a lot) but the steel Timber Wolf symbol really sells it for me. Sadly, Saturn Girl’s pink bikini costume is gone for good with this issue, but even though she’s not PHYSICALLY naked, Timber Wolf still gets to see more of her than he probably should, considering that she’s married to his girlfriend’s twin brother, and all, when he asks why she felt the need to come and rescue them.

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Uh oh… I think Imra is having some trouble separating her OWN emotions from the ones she telepathically got from Ayla. The planet upon which they’ve crashed is freezing, so she and Brin huddle together for warmth (and the miniscule ice crystals debilitate their flight rings) and things ALMOST go too far. Thankfully, Dawnstar is on the case, and her tracking powers make quick work of finding her lost teammates, but her timing couldn’t be more condemning for Timber Wolf and Saturn Milf…

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There’s no time to talk about it, though, as immediately afterwards, the Legion is attacked by the servants of Darkness, and finds themselves faced with Darkseid himself. The brutality of the conflict serves to make Light Lass even more emotionally distraught, and afterwards, she asks Timber Wolf to think about their relationship, asking him to make a fateful decision: a life with her, or his life with the Legion. After an afternoon watching the holo-histories of the Legion, (helping to kick off his friendship with Blok) Timber Wolf remembers what brought him here, and tries to explain to Ayla how unfair her ultimatum is…

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The sad irony of the once-Lone Wolf forced to be a loner again is not lost on him, and Brin tries to lose himself in his work. He gets yet-another new uniform, just in time for the war with the new incarnation of the Legion of Super-Villains, (this one much more dangerous, causing the death of his old friend Karate Kid) but T-Wolf still can’t get Ayla off his mind. His obsession, his change in personality and intellect, even his casual abuse of Blok start to combine into a realization that something is very wrong with Brin. When Light Lass regains her electrical powers, she returns to her Lightning Lass guise and Legion service, but cannot forgive him for choosing the team over her.

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It comes as a lucky break for Brin when Karate Kid’s last will and testament contains a passage specifically for him. KK had one last request, a specific wish that he felt only Timber Wolf could successfully finish, even with friends like Mon-El, Wildfire, and company. Wolf travels to Lythyl, the world where Karate Kid’s father became the villainous Black Dragon, leaving a note behind so Blok wouldn’t worry. For all the abuse he heaps on “Pebble-brain,” moments like this prove that he really does value the friendship of the silicon Legionnaire.

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The legends say that Lythyl’s soil is so hard and barren that no plant can ever grow there, and thus the hearts of the criminals, thugs, and killers bred there remain equally stony. Karate Kid has requested that Timber Wolf strike a symbolic blow for himself and his long-lost father by planting a seed. His faith in T-Wolf is proven out, as most of the other Legionnaires would lack either the power or the sheer tenacity to pull off this mission. Not our Brin, who rips open the rocks of Lythyl with his bare hands to fulfill the request.

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The degradation of Brin’s mind continued, unnoticed by most of his teammates. As the Magic Wars rage across the galaxy, the Legion is too busy to worry about his mental state, but it becomes obvious that Brin is slowly re-enacting Flowers for Algernon. When the team switches to their strange and short lived “pockets” uniforms, it seems as though his mind has reverted to almost childlike levels…

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The Legion’s volume three is cancelled soon after, and when volume four commences, five years have passed. While Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy and others return to prominence, no sign of Timber Wolf is seen. But when Cos and Cham arrive on Rimbor to recruit Jo Nah, the once and future Ultra Boy, they find that one member of his gang has a strange attraction for them…

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The creature, known as Furball, is something of a mascot for Jo’s smuggling ring, acting as muscle, but operating on a mostly feral intellect. Fiercely protective of Kono, a young Sklarian, Furball joins the Legion by attrition, accompanying her and Jo when the team regroups. As the details of the team’s breakup become known, we find that the Black Dawn crisis that temporarily cost Wildfire his life had other casualties, including Timber Wolf. Brin took a burst of some strange radiation, which combined with the Zuunium already in his system to mutate his body further. Furball, the team discovers to their horror, IS Timber Wolf. Even later in the series, when the effects are reversed, rather than leaving Brin healed the combined poisons overwhelm his system. Science and sorcery are useless to help him, and the Legion grudgingly accepts Brin’s mortality. Enter Aria…

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“I never told anyone about the pain… Wouldn’t have been a man if I had…” Suddenly, some of the strange changes make perfect sense. Aria’s reference to the “step between man and God” are a reference to the incredible power housed in her form, (and I can’t for the life of me remember who gave them to her) but she doesn’t have great control. When she tries to change the timestream to remove the Zuunium, she accidentally transports Brin to the 20th century, changing the nature of his powers and creating a new, more animalistic Timber Wolf form. His intellect is mostly returned, but his feral urges are stronger than ever before…

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Ironically, though Brin’s Cockrum-drawn form predated Wolverine, it is in this incarnation that he most resembles Wolverine (or, more honestly, Wolverine’s third-rate knockoff, Sabretooth.) After a mini-series where he never quite caught on, Brin is returned to the 30th century. Legion history resets for the first time soon after, and Timber Wolf goes out as a Legionnaire (though he doesn’t really distinguish himself during the enormous clusterschmozz that is Zero Hour.) Strangely, though the Legion reboot takes place in 1994, no sign of Timber Wolf is seen until 2001, after the cancellation of Legion V.4 and Legionnaires. In the new continuity, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl (Apparition is a terrible name) have not only married, but reproduced. They are separated due to events beyond anyone’s control, and PG winds up relying on a new friend, a member of the Lone Wolves gang (rivals of Ultra Boy’s Green Dragon posse.)

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Helping her survive on the mean streets of Rimbor, Brin even accompanies her back to Earth when interstellar travel becomes possible again (the Stargate system was destroyed at the end of Legion V.4) thanks to new Legionnaire Shikari. Brin is, as always, well versed in the way of hand-to-hand combat…

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…but he shows a new side of him when it comes to the Ultra/Phantom offspring, named ‘Cub’ in a show of extreme cutesiness. Unfortunately, absentee father Ultra Boy both recognizes him as a rival gangbanger, AND isn’t entirely thrilled with how close he is to U-Boy’s wife and son.

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Once again, timing is everything, as the Legion’s history gets completely reset AGAIN shortly after, and the new reality’s Legion has many major changes to either of the two realities. One thing that hasn’t changed, though? Brin Londo is still very much the same: sardonic, super-strong, and more likely to beg forgiveness than to ever ask permission.

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Initially, as in his first incarnation, Brin is a loner, and even goes so far as to clearly state that he doesn’t even WANT to join the Legion. Later events have him working covertly for Brainiac 5, and when the menace that is Lemnos comes to a head, Londo comes out of hiding, and joins the Legion proper as Timber Wolf. Currently involved in a relationship with Princess Projectra (who married Karate Kid, the man he often called his best friend in the original continuity.) As for the original Brin, readers of my JLA reviews may recall that he is among the seven Legionnaires sent back in time on their suicide mission, and was involved in the awesome spectacle of RACING DINOSAURS against TALKING GORILLAS. That, my friends, is pure comics.

Timber Wolf may not have gotten the headlines in his Legion days, always overpowered by Daxamites and Kryptonians, outfought by mere humans, at the mercy of his animal natures and emotions. Timber Wolf chose the life of heroism over the woman who meant more to him than life itself, and while you’d often hear him complain, you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have changed that decision regardless of the consequences. Timber Wolf’s entire life seemed to come down to split-second decisions, running on instinct rather than intellect, but even in the shadows, he was never completely eclipsed. The original Dave Cockrum design is one of the best superhero designs in Legion history, perhaps in the entire DC Universe, and it’s good to have him back, even if it’s temporary…