Or – “Living Proof That Some Questions DO NOT Need To Be Asked. Ever…”

One of the side-effects of writing a series in the future is having to fake it. Legion writers not only have to come up with a decent superhero plot; not only have to utilize 16 to 25 superheroes with varying levels of power; not only have to explain why Mon-El and Tom Welling don’t tear off the villains arms, cauterize the wounds with heat vision, and beat them insensate with their stumps; they have to create an entire culture out of whole cloth. Future fashion, architecture, technology, even hairstyles must be guessed at, and 0ver the 50 years of Legion the creators have done a pretty good job showing us a utopian future, and barring the occasional Phantom Girl bell-bottom pants, Dawnstar’s hippie headband or early 80’s Sun Boy Tom Selleck hair, they’ve done a credible job of it. Unfortunately, the prevailing wisdom (and I use the term loosely) of the 50’s and 60’s comic books made the appearance of black skin a no-no. When the time finally came to unveil the Legion’s first black member, somebody in DC’s offices felt the need to explain why we had never seen someone of that skin-tone in the (presumably) color-blind utopian future. Their response, while probably good-intentioned, was arguably more racist than the policies that kept dark skins out of the stories in the first place. My intent with our Hero Histories has always been to explain what makes each of the Legionnaires heroes, to dissect what makes them tick and give you a glimpse into what makes them awesome. Though I chose today’s entry because of his shorter tenure, I accidentally gave myself the biggest challenge of my Hero History career… But, fortune favors the bold (and also the ridiculously stupid) so it’s time to touch upon one of the Legion’s lesser-known members. This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Troy Stewart of Marzal Island… Tyroc!



The year was 1976. Jimmy Carter was in the White House, the nation was in recession, and America was celebrating it’s Bicentennial year. The tumult of the sixties had turned into a general sense of malaise, as the sixties mantra of ‘Save The World’ began to change into the eighties battle cry of ‘What’s In It For Me?’ Television and movies were finally dealing with issues of race and alienation, coming to terms with the knowledge that black was beautiful. The Black Panther was a decade old at this point, and Luke Cage had been anchoring his own title for a couple of years, but for the most part, superheroics were still far from racially integrated. Even Black Lightning’s debut was a year or so away when Tyroc hit the scene, and if memory serves, he’s the first black hero to join a major super-team. The first appearance of Tyroc is interesting, as the Legion tracks a legendary lost satellite, the repository of a stolen fortune in jewels that has recently crashed to Earth…


Well, then…We’re off to a bad start already, with Tyroc living in the 30th century equivalent of a bad neighborhood, one that even the Legionnaires (including the nearly naked Cosmic Boy) are a little intimidated by. Unfortunately, the Legion isn’t the only group aware of the treasure, as they’re beaten to the punch by a group of notorious bandits called The Betas, also after the legendary fortune. But even the Betas aren’t ready for what occurs next, as a loud screaming noise is heard, causing their ship to blow up, and a new hero breaks onto the scene…


Tyroc’s vocal prowess isn’t nearly as impressive as his dress sense, amalgamizing Elvis, Peter Pan and Shaft into one white leather package with short pants. Actually, as Legion costumes go, it’s not the most ridiculous one on record, and really kind of works for me. Even his enormous afro and sideburns don’t bother me…After all, it’s the 30th century, you figure that old fads come back into fashion all the time. As for the Legionnaires, they congratulate the big T on his impressive showing, only to get the cold shoulder as Tyroc teleports away with a disdainful “OYUUUUU!” The team can’t figure out why he’s being so harsh, until a nearby viewscreen comes to life…


Another notch in the stereotype column, as young Troy comes across as the oh so very common “Loud Angry Black Man” so often seen in the ’70’s.Karate Kid, the Silver Age Tom Welling, Shadow Lass and Brainiac leap into action against the other cells of Betas attacking Marzal Island, but find the other islanders as unhappy with them as Tyroc is. As the prerecorded message ends, one of the fallen Betas reappears mysteriously (he said significantly) and the entire party tracks down the fallen satellite. But the years in space have affected the jewels, infecting them with a deadly radiation. The new Beta purses his mouth as if to whistle, and suddenly, Mr. Welling leaps into action, pulling the fallen Betas clear, and directing Shadow Lass to surround the gems in a cloud of darkness… How’d he pull it off?



It’s always difficult to balance fantasy elements with elements of reality, and to try and defend the lack of black skin with the inclusion of green and blue (as well as referring to the half-Japanese Karate Kid as having ‘yellow skin’) comes across as a little naive to me. Sure it’s a happy, shiny future, but the facts of the situation are clear. The comics industry had an unspoken policy about black characters for decades, and to try and brush it aside with a bit of sophistry on the part of the imaginary superheroes is disingenuous at best. You have to love his handshake, though. Even as awkward as this debut might have been, it was a step in the right direction, and you can’t tell me Power Man’s sorties against Cockroach Hamilton or Black Lightning’s constant utterances of “Jive Turkey” were any less embarrassing. Tyroc reappeared just two issues later, having successfully made it through Legion tryouts with flying colors.


Oh, no is right! It’s old Legion nemesis Zoraz, and he’s come back to attack them again! Dum dum DAAAAH! Wait…you say you’ve never heard of Zoraz? There’s a very good reason for that, actually.Nobody has heard of Zoraz. He doesn’t exist. He’s the equivalent of a fraternity hazing prank, a made-up villain that every new Legionnaire gets to face, with ever-changing powers due to the suit being passed from hero to hero. Tyroc defeats the “villain,” but Brainiac reveals the truth, showing Zoraz to be first Sun Boy, then Tom Welling himself. But the real surprise comes when Zoraz enters the room and attacks again, revealing himself to be Absorbancy Boy, a rejected Legion applicant who can absorb the powers of superheroes from wearing their clothing. I wonder how he DISCOVERED this ability, just out of curiosity? Either way, he quickly drops the experienced Legionnaires, but Tyroc remains elusive, using his smarts to figure that A-Boy won’t have Tom Welling’s ability to focus his powers…powers that include super-hearing.


With his anger at the Legion nullified, Tyroc’s true personality slowly emerges, and he shows himself to be brave, thoughtful, and clever, easily the equal of his Legion comrades. Even so, his boldness can easily be turned into anger, and he is occasionally prone to fits of pique. The undercurrent of mistrust that this causes is seen clearly when the Science Police confront the Legion with evidence that strange superhuman screams have been causing mayhem across the city…


Tom Welling, Ultra Boy and Shadow Lass engage Tyroc and bring him down, but he escapes (because they LET him) and returns to his rampage, bringing rain and reality warping powers to bear on the unsuspecting populace. Tyroc finally finds what he’d been looking for: a hidden bomb in the city. Seems the mastermind behind the explosives had the temerity to TELL them what he’d done, even warning them about the consequences of searching for the bomb.


Tyroc may be a proud hero, but he was perfectly willing to sacrifice his own public standing for the greater good of the city, even becoming known as a rampaging menace to save the day. His initial anger having faded, he found himself happy within the Legion, as a calming and supportive presence on the team, as when Shadow Lass finds that her mother is missing from her home on Talok VIII.


His status on Marzal (as well as a writing staff with no idea what to do with the character) kept Tyroc out of most of the action for many issues at a time. Even when he arrives for duty (as in the crisis around the wedding of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl in ‘All-New Collector’s Edition C-55’ aka ‘That Damned Tabloid‘) he sometimes gets sidelined by the worst enemy of all: random chance.


Poor guy didn’t even get any dialogue. For many long months, there was no sign of the Legionnaire from Marzal, but he arrived to help with the battle against Omega (secretly a creation of Brainiac 5) and a few issues later, found himself facing the one foe he cannot defeat: his own secret past. Shadow Lass’ missing mother was found (along with other Legion parents) in the clutches of a villain called Dagon the Avenger, a real piece of work with a stupid costume and a theory that he could undermine the universe’s greatest fighting team with parental blackmail.


While most of the Legion seeks out the villain, Dawnstar (for her tracking powers) and Shadow Lass (the Legionnaire who is closest to Tyroc) trail Troy home to Marzal Island, where he reveals the secret of his people…Marzal Island, like the fictional city of Brigadoon, cycles in and out of the Earth dimension, explaining why Tyroc’s people were so invisible to the Legion for so long. Worst of all, the constant use of his vocal powers is causing the dimensional rift to close earlier than expected, and Shady & Dawny are on the WRONG SIDE!


This is the point where things get a little bit… strange. I usually try to write these pieces “in-universe,” that is, from the point of view that the people and events actually existed and occurred as told. Tyroc’s story is one of the places where I have to deal with BOTH the reality of the Legion, and the reality of the Legion comic book, written by 20th century men and women who probably weren’t aware of how their work would be perceived in retrospect. Dawnstar and Shadow Lass quickly take to the air, trying to fly home, but find a view worthy of a Steve Ditko ‘Dr. Strange’ issue.


Troy quickly grabs both his teammates, and gently deposits them back on Marzal, telling them again that they’d better get used to the island, as (much like the Hotel California) even if they check out, they can never leave. Dawnstar angrily interrupts his soliloquy, practically ordering him to explain the whats and whys before she puts her Victoria’s Secret boot up his Sigfried and Roy Vegas review @$$.The T-man finally gets down to the point, but in order to explain the dilemma of the present, he has to go back and review the sins of the past…


Okay. The slavery card is now in play. It’s going to be a fine line between cringe-worthy and uplifting, so buckle up. Tyroc’s distant ancestor, a man named St’balla, chieftain of his people, has been taken, but is not willing to accept his fate so simply. Biding his time, he watches as the tribesmen who die are thrown overboard, finally settling on a plan. Playing dead himself, St’balla leads the other slaves in a revolution, overthrowing the cruel pirate captain as a huge storm overcomes the ship. The crew is lost, but Tyroc’s ancestors, the people who would land on Marzal Island, endured…


The new Marzallians find that their strange new home phases in and out of our dimension, spending 30 years in this dimension and 200 in another. Young Troy Stewart discovered his powers soon after the last dimensional transference, using them to grow into the defender of the island. Unfortunately, he now believes that his powers are fueled by the dimensional transference, and that using so much energy on Earth has caused the shift to occur early. Worse than that, he suspects that trying to return to Earth will doom his people to spend eternity in the other dimension. Even so, his esteem for his teammates drives him to try and create a small warp, one that Dawnstar can use her tracking skills to navigate back home…


And, honestly, when I first read this story, a million years ago, I wasn’t that upset. The whole “black people have their own island” conceit was questionable enough, but having the entire populace be descended from a group of escaped slaves just comes across as overkill. I’m sure that writer Gerry Conway had an anti-discriminatory message in mind, but the effect of the story doesn’t quite get it across. And that will be the end of the editorial context, as we return to the in-universe analysis. Troy was missing from the world for many years, and the Legion fought through the Great Darkness Saga, the war with the Legion of Super-Villains, Universo’s successful attempt at capturing the minds of the galaxy, as well as the Magic Wars. But during the Five-Year-Gap, Earthgov was secretly overtaken by the forces of the Dominators, who wanted all legionnaires out of the picture, and just being in another dimension wasn’t enough. Tyroc MIGHT return, they theorized, and so a terrible plan was hatched.


With his people killed by the Dominators, Troy hooked up with an underground cell run by Jacques Foccart (formerly the second Invisible Kid) consisting mostly of former members of the Legion of Substitute Heroes. His experience and tactical skills proved invaluable to the SUBS, allowing them to discover and overthrow the Dominators, and fight off an invasion by the Khunds. As Jacques’ second-in-command, Tyroc also provided a strong leadership presence, and both men found themselves in a unique position once the various menaces were stopped.


With Jacques as president, he turned to his right-hand man to act as Veep, and Troy took to the job like he was born to it, handling the paperwork and government fooferaw with much more aplomb than the President himself. Foccart, for his part, found the job to be stultifying, preferring his old job coordinating the Substitute heroes to this. At the same time, Reep (Chameleon Boy) Daggle found the coordination part of running the reinstated LSH to be a drag. It’s Troy’s no-nonsense nature that provides the catalyst for the next big change…


The first item of business on President Stewart’s agenda: renew the support for the Legion of Super-Heroes. Ironically, the man who initially didn’t even WANT Legion leadership found himself in the position to bring the team back to full-strength after years of Earthgov harassment…


Unfortunately for Troy (and for millions of inhabitants of the planet) the damage done by the Dominators was irreversible, and the planet was destroyed. The special plans put in place for just such a disaster included retractable domes and rocket engines, allowing the cities of Earth to rocket into space, then reconfigure themselves into a floating space station, dubbed New Earth. With his job going from overseer of a slowly reviving planet to overseer of hundreds of individual little fiefdoms, each with it’s own customs forces Troy to change his tactics, but thankfully, he was still able to rely on his old Legion pals…


President Stewart remained in power for some time, but there’s no situation so dire that it can’t get even worse. A time distortion caused by the duplication of the Legion members (the creation of the SW6 batch of Legionnaires) has caused a disturbance in the timestream, that is worsened by the Zero Hour crisis in the 20th century. The Legionnaires find time and space changing around them, but R.J. Brande, the man who bankrolled the creation of the Legion back in the day, has returned with a plan. Since the Legion’s version of Tom Welling was revealed to have come from a pocket dimension created by the Time Trapper(LOOONG story, which I’ll get to later) R.J. wants to retrieve THAT Earth and terraform it back to habitability.


In order to enact this plan, he enlists the power of Mon-El, Laurel Gand, and Dev-Em to actually DRAG THE ENTIRE PLANET through a dimensional warp. Of course, they’ll need a pretty huge warp to get there, and that will require incredible amounts of power combined with pin-point precision. Did somebody say Tyroc?


The sheer power necessary to create a dimensional rift large enough to shift a WORLD through ought to answer any questions about which Legionnaire actually commands the most power, hmm? Troy’s screams hold the warp stable, and the terraforming project commences, but Ulu Vakk (the former Color Kid) remarks how the whole situation feels wrong, feels like the end of an era. Ulu’s words are prophetic, as the time distortions begin claiming various Legionnaires from the timestream, and the time distortions are apparently fans of Rod Serling, grabbing the heroes at the moments where they are most needed. Case in point: reality catches up with the last son of Marzal.


The plan to reclaim Earth fails, and the Legionnaires are forced to sacrifice themselves, down to the last Lad, Kid, and Lass, to save the world. Reality resets itself, and the Legion is reborn in a new form. Though characters as far-reaching as Polar Boy and Shvaughn Erin were brought back, Tyroc never returned. When even that reality was revamped, the new Threeboot Legion only name-checked Tyroc in a special issue where groups of young Legion supporters shared “urban legends” about the team’s history, including Tyroc, Bouncing Boy and Blok. The reasons behind Tyroc’s non-inclusion are relatively clear: his origin is a bit dated, and unlike many of the “Blaxplotation” characters (including recent Avengers leader Luke Cage) nobody ever successfully got him past it. Still, even in his short Legion stint, Tyroc showed patience, power, and tactical skill, regardless of his occasionally short fuse. Tyroc is, once again, proof that everyone has something to contribute, no matter how unusual their background. Part of the appeal of the Legion comes from the huge array of characters, allowing you to find echoes of yourself in the heroes, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t include everyone. Some would say he’s embarrassing, some would say his origins are dated, or that his costume doesn’t scream “Bad Mofo,” but Tyroc is every bit as much the hero as any of his teammates. (And say what you will, under the right pen, that costume absolutely rocks!)


**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It‘ at your Local Major Spoilers! Our previous Major Spoilers Hero Histories include:

Bouncing Boy
Brainiac 5
Dream Girl
Karate Kid
Lightning Lass
Matter-Eater Lad
Sensor Girl
Star Boy
Timber Wolf

Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! Next week: the Legion’s stalwart pillar of strength, that Hebraic Hammer, the background against which the other team members pose in all group shots…Colossal Boy!


About Author

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.


  1. Matthew Peterson on

    His costume makes him uncomfortable to look at. :-(

    Maybe, but you’ve got to be a real manly man to pull off a leather leotard, fairy boots and gold chains.

    Who’s is the man, who can move a planet with his voice?
    Who’s the cat who won’t cop out, unless Dan Jurgens wipes him out?
    I hear he’s one bad motha-
    Jus’ talkin’ ’bout Tyroc…

  2. …if someone else besides me were to remember Tyroc, it had to be you…

    …although I’ll admit he was but just a vague memory, but I remember thinking his powers were strange (miracles with his screams???) and never liking his costume…but I was so young at the time…what did I know???

    …by the way, congrats on your histories of the Legion members…you sir, are a veritable fountain of Legion lore…they are all worthy of praise…

    …you have gained my respect…

    …and I thought I was good at comic history…shows how much I still know!!!

  3. I’m just glad they didn’t call him “Black-something or other”. They made his voice his power like the other “Black” (Bolt), but it could have been worse…his power could have been super-dancing or some other stereotypical attribute.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.