Or – “An Ocean Is A Desert With Life Underground, And The Perfect Disguise Above…”
Sometimes we set ourselves a challenge that we cannot easily overcome. With the heroes of the Legion, it’s generally a challenge of will, involving combat or the evil machinations of agents of chaos like the Fatal Five. In my case, it’s the realization that there are nearly 100 Legionnaires, and that some of them never actually got their defining moment in the spotlight. Some might consider this to be a liability and write off those particular LSHers as deadweight. Not on my watch, Faithful Spoilerites. Be it Chemical King’s isolationism, or the alien philosophies of Blok, or even a short-timer Legionnaire like Monstress (a long story which I’ll get to later) this is where every one of the Legion’s stalwarts (except the jack@$$ known as Atmos and the traitorous perverted worm they call Nemesis Kid) get their due. Today’s entrant joined during one of the Legion’s most prosperous and expansive periods, and as such, he wasn’t often front and center in Legion lore. Even so, he proved himself to be a worthy choice for the team, proving that even non-bipeds can take up arms against injustice. This, then, is your Major Spoiler Hero History of Ganglios of Hykraius… Tellus!
In previous H.H.’s we’ve touched upon one of the things that really separates the Legion of Superheroes from other teams: the far-flung fuuuuuturrrrrrre. This allows for all manner of science fiction peanut butter in our superhero chocolate, but occasionally two great tastes can taste WEIRD together. (I’m Doug, an’ you’re dad and I’m oooooutaaaheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere…) The entire superheroic genre started with a strange visitor from another planet (we’ll get to him, too, soon enough) but the 30th century’s aliens don’t all look like Kansas farm-kids. But even Blok and Chameleon Boy are essentially (roughly) humanoid. Tellus is cut from a whole new bolt of cloth. Our first glimpse at Ganglios came when a mysterious gunman shot down Legion Academy student Laurel Kent…
Laurel was only injured (the victim, I believe, of a plot to assassinate the 30th century descendants of the Justice League of America) but the kids of the Academy found themselves quickly enmeshed in another, more exciting situation: The Legion of Super-Heroes would be holding tryouts for the first time in YEARS! (Hey, people get shot all the time… Ya gotta have priorities.) Ganglios and his friends found themselves near to bursting with excitement over finally getting a shot at the big time…
Note, if you will, that Tellus seems to have fingers in that panel, something that he generally lacks. Laurel Kent is right about a couple of things, though… Most of them have powers that duplicate existing Legionnaires. Of course, even they couldn’t foretell a change in the Legion roster, as all three founding members left the team, leaving an opening for a telepath, a magnetism-wielder and an electricity-thrower. The return of Lightning Lass to active duty closed one of those slots, but Tellus and many of his schoolmates lined up with some of the ugliest costumes in the known universe to see if they can make it into the Legion.
With so many young heroes trying out at once, the Legionnaires take the unprecedented step of including the applicants on live missions. Two of the most seasoned and powerful Legionnaires, Mon-El and Brainiac 5 (the Brains and Brawn team) take Tellus, Comet Queen and Magnetic Kid out into the field to investigate a series of terrorist attacks. All three of the tyros make a good showing for themselves, but it’s Tellus who provides the evidence that breaks the case wide open…
Tellus and Magnetic Kid are voted into the Legion due to their showing on this mission, and along with another new kid and a couple of familiar faces (even if one of them IS under a mask) bringing the Legion back up the fighting strength.
You might want to get used to seeing that particular page. It’s probably going to be the new incarnation of “The Infamous Panel.” Ganglios joined the Legion under the codename “Tellus,” which I’ve never been sure of… Tellus is one of the mythological names for ‘Gaea,’ the Earth goddess, and also a historical personage, described by the ancient wise man Solon as “the happiest of men.” It was later revealed that the word “Tellus” means “people” in the language of the Hykraians. With that many new faces showing up all at once, somebody’s naturally going to take center stage, while others provide supporting roles. With a masked hero in the Legion for the first time since Ferro Lad (someone that Duo Damsel should probably have remembered when she remarked on the oddness of a LSHer with his/her face covered) speculation ran rampant as to who Sensor Girl really was. With a mystery like that on the table, the other new Legionnaires were somewhat sidelined, but never completely out of action…
At this point in his career, Tellus is very unsure of the human animal and the Legion experience in general. Tellus and his new teammates have to find their own place in the midst of the now 25-hero-strong LSH, many of whom have been hanging together since the late ’60s. Naturally, the five of them end up bonding as a sub-group within the team, and Tellus learns more of human ways from them (even though none of them are actually human, or even from Earth.)
Still, even though he has trouble understanding the ways of the bipeds, Tellus understand justice, the balance between good and evil, and most of all, honor. When a troop of criminals disguise themselves as officers of the Science Police, the LSH’s new recruits go into action, and an angry Tells gets well and truly physical with a couple of fake cops.
I gotta tell ya, those meathooks look like they weight a couple hundred pounds apiece (and note, no fingers to be seen) and I figure the big yellow Hykranian hits almost as hard as Blok. But when the smoke clears, and all the cops are downed, Tellus does something that even my much-vaunted Dryad hero couldn’t, reading the minds of their downed foes to get the team their next leads…
Indeed it won’t, Tellus. Indeed it won’t. The Teenage Fishman (just as an aside, my daughter loves the movie “A Bug’s Life,” which uses the Who’s famous “Baba O’Reilly” ((the “Teenage Wasteland” song)) as a recurring riff, and she spent a good portion of 2006 running around singing “Teenage FISHMAN!” to the tune of that song, so I’ve been calling Tellus that all week) slowly comes to terms with United Planets society, even the more sordid elements, like prison planet Takron-Galtos.
Indeed, more than any other Legionnaire, Tellus is in a constant learning process. It’s actually somewhat ironic that the truly alien alien is the one that reveals the most about the human experience. But, much like Blok before him, Tellus’ inhuman nature makes him somewhat hard to fathom, forcing him to question his more worldly teammates and risk seeming less intelligent…
Still, Tellus is, at heart, a sociologist, traveling among the bipeds of the Legion to investigate their culture and explain his own. Indeed, he paid for his travels to Earth and his Legion academy membership by taking a job on a freighter ship, putting his theories and study about humans to good use. But his first dramatic shot at Legion heroism came at a time when one of his teammates needed him most. Mon-El, his lead serum failing, is forced to return to the Phantom Zone to save his life, but is nearly driven mad by the experience. He uses his knowledge of the Zone to hide from Brainiac 5, blaming the Coluan for his return to imprisonment, forcing the Legion to turn to two of the unlikeliest LSHers for the save…
Swimming the void, he hears the words, he loses himself, but finds it all… Until Phantom Girl reminds the big guy of their mission to save the not-really-last son of Daxam. Tellus is chagrined by the reminder that his teammate needs help, and apologizes for his joy at once again swimming in a great sea. When Tellus and Tinya (also the name of a Vaudeville forgotten comedy team of the late 1920”s, ironically) find Mon-El, the mightiest Legionnaire is thirteen shades of bug-&*$# crazy, and refuses to come along. For the first time, we see the mind of Tellus unrestrained, and are stunned at the results.
Wrap your minds around that, no pun intended… Tellus overpowered Mon-El with only the power of his mind! That’s telekinesis, Kyle! Mon is returned to reality, and Tellus starts to come out of his shell (or whatever that weird purple mantle on his dorsal area is called) to his team, sharing more of his personal struggle with his teammates…
As they’ve found their own places on the team, Magnetic Kid, Polar Boy and Tellus have found more time to wonder about the mystery of the day: the identity of Sensor Girl. Brek and Pol have their own theories, while Tellus finds himself more interested in the IDEA of a mystery than in the actual answer to the question of the day. Polar Boy idly wishes that he had been able to attend the Academy back in the day, figuring it would have gotten him into the Legion earlier…
None of the Legionnaires know that the answer to their questions is right around the corner. The Fatal Five attacks the United Planets anew, and the Legion rushes to defend the galaxy, only to have THEIR ENTIRE SHIP blown to smithereens! Surely the heroes of the LSH are dead, right? Well, folks, you forgot to factor in the powers of the Legion’s yellow and purple new kid, didn’tcha?
“Monster?” This from the woman with pea-green hair who hangs out with a half-robot jerk, a guy with a marble for a head, and a two fingered purple telekinetic who’s really a toddler. What I’m saying here is, she’s got little to no room to cast aspersions. When new Fatal Fiver Mentalla uses her powers to blank out all the Legionnaires vision centers, Tellus doesn’t falter for even a second…
He doesn’t even flinch from being dehydrated by Flare’s pyrokinetic powers, and when they finally take their toll on his fish-like form, Tellus falls. Of course, knocking down a Legionnaire is not at all the same as taking him out, as Flare finds out the HARD way.
Half-dead from exhaustion, beaten down, dehydrated and wounded, Tellus still has the wherewithal to take out 40% of the Fatal Five single hand– err, single-finnedly. As Arthur Curry was once heard to remark, I’d like to see some of the other Legionnaires get by underwater as well as he does on the ground. Upon their triumphant return to the Legion, the not-so-very-new anymore kids redouble their efforts to be the next wave of great LSH heroes. Even Tellus rededicates himself to the goal of becoming a better teenage fishman (Oooh, Teeeenage FISHmaaan… WE’RE ALL FISHMEN!!!! Hello, Wisconsin!)
Speaking of getting by underwater, the Legion is forced to actually DO it not long after, as Tellus’ home planet of Hykraius becomes the site of a mystery: Science Police officers are disappearing, and no one knows how, why, or whom to blame. A special Legion team consisting of Tellus, Wildfire, Quislet, and The White Witch (who, in order, can breathe methane, don’t breathe anything, hasn’t got any lungs anyway, and can magically survive in their atmosphere) sets out for the ocean planet to investigate.
In his first run as team lead, Tellus finally gets up the courage to explain the truth of his planet to his Legion pals… It’s a place that’s as alien to them as the streets of Metropolis must be to him, a planet where there is no sky, no water, no real atmosphere to speak of, only the great mother ocean, home to the Hykraians, and a few other races.
Among those “others,” are a race of invaders known to the Legion, a hilariously malapropic race called the Gil’Dishpan, freakish coral-like creatures known for being obnoxious, stubby, and known for forcing their opinions on others. The one Gil’Dishpan we’ve seen so far, Z’ymyr, looks like a worm in a bubble, as silly to look at as their name is to say in our language. To the Hykraians, though, they became something even more horrific: the oppressors of their entire race.
Once again, I might point out that White Witch isn’t exactly human, instead hailing from the precognitive planet Naltor like her sister Dream Girl. Still and all, Tellus returns to his home, and finally gets to remove the breathing apparatus that has sustained him throughout his months with the Legion, and once again breathe the methane of his beloved Mother Ocean. More than that, he receives a hero’s welcome from his old friends, proving that Peter Tork spoke true when he said, “We all have loved ones, you know…”
Upon his return to the Legion, Tellus is rejuvenated, returning to his work with the Legion, and his attempts to understand the bipeds. As his old pal Polar Boy becomes Legion team leader, Tellus find a gulf growing between them, and realizes that even those to whom he has become the closest are truly alien to him…
Luckily for Tellus, he doesn’t pursue the art of romance by watching Sun Boy’s serial monogamy. Also lucky for the Hykraian, he doesn’t have to go it alone. Even when their battle is a simple fight with ennui, a Legionnaire doesn’t have to face their foe alone.
It’s interesting to see Tellus growing to accept Earth and it’s methane-free waters a little at a time, as he works to find his place in the Legion. His initial friend grouping of Polar Boy, Magnetic Kid, Sensor Girl and Tellus started to break apart, with Polar Boy’s ambition and the revelation of Sensor Girl as an existing Legionnaire taking them in different directions. Tellus found himself making new friends, interacting with Legionnaires outside of his usual comfort zone, even braving the occasionally casual cruelty of Timber Wolf.
It’s also interesting to compare Tellus’ response to T-Wolf’s vaguely xenophobic diminutives to Blok’s. Where “Pebble-brain” accepts Brin’s attitude, Tellus kindly and carefully takes a moment to explain how he would prefer to be addressed. It’s a telling moment, actually, one that underlies Tellus’ inherent dignity and respect for OTHERS. He expects others to treat him with the same level of concern that he would give them. And even though he “replaced” Saturn Girl as Legion telepath, his powers work somewhat differently, remaining in passive scanning mode where Imra would have to “turn on” her mental powers. This allowed him to single-handedly save the team’s bacon on several occasions.
A couple of good shots from that tail would knock the wind out of you pretty good, I expect. It’s also interesting to see Tellus in action alongside Brainiac 5 and Shadow Lass, who were, at one point, as alien as the Legion got. Tellus was central to the Legion during the battle against the Time Trapper, and was present for the funeral of Tom Welling that came immediately after. Soon after, as strange things began to happen, Tellus was recruited by the Legion’s leader for a very special and very secret mission…
Heh. I don’t know why, but the shock and dismay in his face there is just awesome (and a tiny bit funny) to me. Whether Polar Boy intended to or not, he chose the perfect investigator into the strange doings within the LSH. Even though he’s bright purple, ten feet long, and over 300 pounds… None of the Legionnaires expect the quiet observational mind of Tellus to be scanning them for odd thoughts. And in a feat of super-power equal to his handcuffing of Mon-El, Tellus manages to pull off an almost unthinkable (pun fully intended) coup: he penetrates the defenses of Saturn Girl.
Tellus is rocked to the core by his discovery, as the concept of a “conspiracy” is alien to his very nature. Faced with such a revelation, Tellus suddenly realizes that he can’t trust ANYONE, not even his old friends or the legion leader. Forced to regroup and figure out a stratagem, Tellus heads to the one place he believes he CAN go. If you can’t trust an active LSHer, but you have to trust someone, where do you go? An INACTIVE LSHer, of course.
Unfortunately, the strange and ever-shifting nature of the “walkers” once again eludes him, as Duo Damsel is part of the conspiracy as well. Still, Tellus maintains his presence within the Legion, and we find out a few more secrets about his life. The only Hykraian to leave the planet up to this point, Tellus left his home to learn about new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no fishy had gone before. Most importantly, Tellus has equal respect for ALL life forms, without the biases that occasionally enter the minds of the bipedal Legionnaires…
I don’t mean to say, mind you, that he doesn’t realize which creatures aren’t worthy of his respect. When a rogue Gil’Dishpan tries to use it’s alien technology to terrorize the United Planets, Tellus responds with alacrity, and even a tiny bit of anger. Most interestingly, he shows a promising human tendency towards sarcasm and a high-level utilization of irony.
Heh. Gotta love that moment. The later portion of Tellus’ Legion tenure was one of great upheaval, with the injuries to long-term Legionnaire Colossal Boy, the loss of Brainiac 5 and Mon-El, as well as sweeping change within the United Planets, the Legion found themselves at lower strength than ever before, and that situation was only exacerbated when the Emerald Empress destroyed the tiny ship that allowed Legionnaire Quislet to stay in the third dimension.
Poor Tellus… You have to feel for the big guy. I also find it hilarious that during this, the “big pockets” phase of Legion costuming, they added shoulder pads to his helmet, thereby giving him… uh… shoulder pads, I presume. Maybe they’re additional methane stores akin to the way Iron Man stores oxygen inside his armor? I don’t know. Still, no matter how upset he is at the loss of a member of his “graduating class” (with more exits, sadly, in the wings) Tellus doesn’t lose his focus on why he’s here: kicking butt and taking initials. (He doesn’t have time for whole names…)
In case Giffen’s art (already well into the nine-panel grid stage) isn’t clear,Tellus just ripped Timber Wolf out of the stomach of a creature who tried to eat him. It’s an ingenious, yet icky, use of telekinesis. But, as other faux-dinosaurs bear down on them, Tellus goes from offense to defense with ease, utilizing his OTHER power to put innocents (both sauropod and human) out of harm’s way.
In some ways, Tellus is the poster boy for the Volume Three Legion, joining at the very beginning of that series’ run and staying until the end. The transition between the “Tom Welling and the Legion of Super-Heroes” portion of the program and the Five-Year Gap was a hard time to be a Legionnaire, but Tellus’ tenacity and quiet heroism won the day. The entire team was devastated by the effects of the Magic Wars, as the planet Zerox was destroyed, unleashing the forced of mysticism on a world of rational thought and technological certainty. But Tellus and his Legion pals manage to stop the onslaught at great cost, but stood strong in the wake of a horrifying battle…
Sensor Girl puts it bluntly, but she’s basically got it right. It’s telling to me that the characters we can see in that shot are the ones who really define what makes the Legion different from other super-teams. The White Witch, with her strange antennae. Brainiac 5, whose green skin was for years the most alien Legionnaire. Wildfire, the character whose appearance signalled the real change of the guard between original and 1970’s Legion. Blok, who took over the spot of “Most Obviously From Another Planet.” Projectra, a character whose changes mirrored those of the Legion itself… And faithful Tellus, who started as a simple replacement, and became a seamless part of the fabric of the team throughout this portion of their history… This was the last appearance of the Legion before the timeline jumped forward half a decade, and Tellus was only tangentially referred to during that period. We did, however, see (sort of) the moment of his resignation…
Tellus’ dialogue in that scene, by the way, is courtesy of Sun Boy’s tortured psyche, and so doesn’t really sound so much like the quiet xenobiologist we’ve come to know. Tellus never returns to the Legion, instead joining the Dark Circle (which has gone from bizarre petty crime ring to a social movement/religion) whose theories of belonging, species equality, and destroying elitism are completely in keeping with his nature. Tellus is, notably, one of the Legionnaires who has yet to recur in the Reboot and W/KRP Legions (a grave injustice, if you ask me) Tellus nonetheless managed to maintain a quiet, thoughtful dignity in the midst of the madness that is the Legion of Super Heroes. Powerful enough to restrain a Daxamite, yet subtle enough pull the knowledge of the Time Trapper conspiracy from the mind of the most seasoned telepath in the United Planets, Tellus may be gone, but his Legionnaire tenure cannot be forgotten…
**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:
Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! Next time: Daxam’s greatest contribution to universal history, right after that astronaut kid who thought he was from Krypton and the bit where they all went nuts and tried to kill everything within a five parsec radius. She’s the Legion’s troubled and troublesome powerhouse… Andromeda!