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legion of charlies 1st
excellent writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 9
The Legion of Charlies
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1st Printing / 1971 / 36 pages / Last Gasp Eco-Funnies
On March 29, 1971 in Los Angeles, Charles Manson and three members of the "Manson Family" were sentenced to death for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and four others in Benedict Canyon. That same day in Georgia, William Calley was convicted for the 1969 murders of 22 women and children in Vietnam. Two days later, Calley was sentenced to life in Leavenworth prison, but President Nixon ordered him released from prison and placed under house arrest at his former quarters in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Within weeks of these events, Tom Veitch and Greg Irons began working on The Legion of Charlies, a comic book that incorporates Manson's power to control the minds of others into a story about Calley coming to San Francisco after his release from prison. In the story, Calley is named Rusty Kali, and he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, promptly killing a prostitute he has bedded on his first day in the city. After returning to the streets, Kali drops some acid and has a vision about Manson, which changes him into a mindless puppet and "dedicated follower of the word of Charlie!"

Simultaneously, hundreds of other Vietnam veterans across the country undergo the same transformation, inciting a mass migration of Charlie-zombies to a remote retreat in the mountains of Utah. The Legion of Charlies is born on this mountain and they celebrate with a frenzied riot that includes cannibalism as spiritual communion. According to the gospel of Charlie as espoused by Kali, members of the legion can acquire another person's power just by eating them. Led by Kali, the Legion of Charlies begin a trek around the world, devouring political leaders (such as Spiro Agnew and Chairman Mao) and assuming their powers.

This lethal turn of events does not go unnoticed by President Nixon, who invites the Legion of Charlies to New York for a meeting. But Nixon's secret purpose for meeting the Charlies is to seize them and take control of the powers they've ingested. Unfortunately for Tricky Dick, the spirit of Charlie possesses more celestial power than he ever expected!

The Legion of Charlies is one of Tom Veitch's and Greg Irons' finest comic book achievements, which is saying a lot given the exceptional quality of most of their comics. It's a gruesome parable of violence in America and how the government's endorsement of ruthless killing parallels the vile madness of an incorrigible murderer. William Calley was certainly not the same type of monster that Charles Manson was, but the U.S. government turned him into an equally deranged mercenary capable of murdering innocent people for immoral purposes. And Calley was just one of the millions of young men whose minds have been (and continue to be) corrupted for the purpose of carrying out government agendas.

The U.S. government is hardly alone in this illness, of course. It is easily proposed that its agenda is often in response to agendas from other nations that care even less about freedom and diversity than America. But that doesn't make the tragedy of the reality any less important to expose. And more than anyone else in comic books, Veitch and Irons did their best to expose that tragedy with unrelenting honesty.
There are two printings of this comic book, both by Last Gasp and both with 50-cent cover prices. Though Kennedy's Price Guide states the 2nd printing features distinctly different
hair colors for the two figures on the front cover (the woman on the right has gray hair instead of black), I believe Kennedy may have been looking at some bootleg or other form of printing of the book when he came up with that statement. Although we don't know the exact quantities that Last Gasp produced during the two printings of The Legion of Charlies, it's safe to assume it was 10,000 copies or more. And it seems clear to me that the "different hair colors" printing is far too elusive to have actually been inherent to the 2nd printing.

We do know that the 1st printing has a small, angled line appearing after the words "so don't bother suing!" in the indicia on the inside front cover (which may have been a shadow cast from the pasted-up pieces on the camera-ready artwork). The 2nd printing does not have this angled line on the inside front cover. This is the only way currently known to distinguish the two printings. Kennedy also identifies the "angled line" method of differentiating the two printings (along with the "different hair colors" method), but it is known that the "all black hair" of the 1st printing (with the angled line) ALSO appears on copies of the book without the angled line.

The back cover advertises five different comic book titles from Last Gasp, Rip Off Press, The Print Mint and San Francisco Comic Book Company. All of the books were available from Last Gasp, but can you imagine any Marvel or DC comic that would advertise books from its competitors? Only in the underground, my friend.

Ron Turner - (editor)
Greg Irons - 1, 3-30 (art), 35-36 (ads)
Tom Veitch - 2-30 (story), 35 (ad)
Dave Sheridan - 31-34 (lettering and story), 36 (ad)
Britt Wilkie - 35 (ad)