Still drawing his own layouts, finished by Curt Swan and George Klein this time, Jim Shooter created an enduring Legion villain, Universo, and an important supporting character, Rond Vidar. (Although, surprisingly, Rond is not named in this story. He’s just, “The kid who invented the time cube.”)
Like the Dr. Regulus story last issue, this story opens more traditionally than Shooter’s “One of Us Is a Traitor,” with the Legionnaires visiting a science fair. It then uses the same device used last issue to pull the team away from a public appearance—an emergency at the clubhouse. Brainiac 5 informs them that someone is desperately trying to break in, though he never explains how he knows.
For his first Legion adventure written and drawn after being hired by DC, Jim Shooter fleshed out the origin of Sun Boy, a favorite character who had not been featured in a while. He appeared in #342’s “The Legionnaire Who Killed,” and the Computo Two-Parter, but in fairly minor roles, as compared to his early, take-charge appearances. His last real character moment was back during the Starfinger saga.
And Sun Boy’s origin is tied to that of Dr. Regulus, the villain of the piece.
The story begins, traditionally enough, with Superboy arriving at the clubhouse for a meeting—an election, in fact. Invisible Kid is the new Legion leader, a good thing for Lyle Norg, since he has played, up until now, a fairly small part in the Legion’s adventures. Most likely writers had a hard time figuring out what to do with his fairly limited powers.
So a while back, I reviewed “The Boy with the Ultra-Powers,” the first appearance of Jo Nah of Rimbor, later to be known as the Legionnaire called Ultra Boy. In that first appearance, in Superboy 98, Jo talked on and on about his Penetra-Vision, which allowed him to assist (and baffle) Superboy by seeing through lead. Superboy’s X-Ray vision couldn’t do that, so this was a pretty big deal.
The other Legionnaire who could out-see Superboy was Star Boy, who first appeared in “Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes” in Adventure Comics #282. In that story, Star Boy also had all of Superboy’s other powers.
Part two of Jim Shooter’s cold-submission Legion story has artwork finished by Curt Swan, and shows us the Legion’s first battle with Garlak and his Khund warriors, humanoid aliens from a galaxy at the edge of known space. It gives a great showcase to new Legionnaires Ferro Lad and Karate Kid, with perhaps a bit less action for their cohort, Princess Projectra.
This issue continues to show the bigger, hipper, more action-oriented Marvel style being brought to the Legion’s pages, particularly in a second splash page being devoted to the Legion meeting the Khund forces in battle. If ever before a DC comic had present a splash page in the middle of a story, I don’t know about it. It was very rare. And, indeed, even the primary splash pages in the Silver Age weren’t full page—they usually had two to three panels of the story at the bottom. This shows the evolution of the Legion to a more visually gripping storytelling style. Continue reading
Here is possibly the most ground-breaking story in Legion history—the one that changed the game forever. For the first eight years of its existence, the Legion had been written by seasoned pros—Otto Binder, Jerry Siegel, Edmond Hamilton. All experienced and capable, but all also years past their teen years. America invented the very concept of the teenager, and it was in the 1950s and 1960s—the era of the Legion’s birth—that teens began to be recognized as a distinct body of people. They weren’t children, they weren’t adults, and it was considered rather difficult to communicate with them, to “reach” them, because they had their own ideas and pretty much their own secret language. Adults who tried to speak that language inevitably came off sounding like oafs. And teen characters written by adult writers came off a little too stiff, a little too-good-to-be-true.
Continuing the story of Legionnaires in a prison camp, departing writer Edmond Hamilton reminds us that a Stalag is not a place for amusing hijinx, contrary to what Hogan’s Heroes would have us believe. Some modern readers may not even get that reference to a TV sitcom about Allied inmates in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. Today, many consider Hogan’s Heroes to be in bad taste, since Nazis and their atrocities aren’t funny in the slightest. I was recently told by a friend from Germany, however, that the show is still watched there, and very popular.
We wrapped last issue with Blockade Boy and Matter-Eater Lad, having just escaped, being caught by the villainous Nardo. Now they await death at his hands, but Blockade Boy, heroic to the end, uses his power to transform himself into a steel shield and saves Matter-Eater Lad’s life. Nardo vows to execute the Legionnaire later, to make an example of him.
Very near the end of Edmond Hamilton’s run, and touching on a lot of the bad luck the Legionnaires have had over the past many months that he’s guided them, this is probably his best Legion story of all time. I had reviewed it just a few months ago, as part of the GIANT Superboy #208. So I’ll share that link here, plus the usual accouterments.
With Brainy wounded, Saturn Girl acts as leader again in this story, and is named as “former leader,” when she’s thought to be dead. I always took that to mean that she was, in fact, leader, (i.e. “former” only because they thought she was dead) )when this was the first story I ever read from the Hamilton era. Brainy was listed as “newly elected leader” in #337–an apparently off-panel election making that easy to miss. But the references and interactions were so confusing it’s hard to know if the writers remembered. Maybe Imra was just having trouble letting go of the office. It wouldn’t matter soon, as Invisible Kid was about to take over.
Back in the Day, I Liked – Superboy #208 – “Evil Hand of the Luck Lords”
Roll Call: Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Invisible Kid, Saturn Girl, Lighting Lad, Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy, Light Lass, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Shrinking Violet, Matter-Eater Lad, Star Boy, Bouncing Boy
Here’s another story that proclaims readers didn’t believe DC would dare to print it. (What was the last one? Either one about renegades, or…?) Star Boy has killed, and the Legion wants to expel him.
It begins quietly enough, with Star Boy going to visit his parents at an observatory on a distant world. Before he leaves, he’s invited to join the other Legionnaires in a game—asking the big computer to pair the Legionnaires off to kiss each other. Invisible Kid, who never had an on-page romance until literally the day he died, observes that Star Boy has “no time for romance.” Romance? The girls involved in this game—Light Lass and Shrinking Violet—have declared their love for non-Legionnaires already. (And, as we know, would later declare their love for each other.) Seems more like just getting cheap thrills to me.
The second part of the Computo crisis seems to be a tale in search of a marketing ploy. On the cover is depicted “Colossal Boy’s One-Man War!”—a scene of CB apparently killing Sun Boy and Star Boy, and declaring that the entire Legion will die next. On the inside splash, we’re told it’s the tale of “The Weirdo Legionnaire!” although “Colossal Boy’s One Man War!” is again referenced.
I can hear the conversation now:
Element Lad and Star Boy stop by a top secret research facility to visit Brainiac 5, thinking how happy the reclusive young scientist will be to see his friends after what we presume must be weeks of hard work in the lab. Instead of being happy, however, Brainy is furious at the interruption. Wild-eyed, he tells his friends to go away and not come back. He’s not even moved that Proty II has disguised himself as a piece of lab equipment just because he likes being near Brainy. (I guess an ordered mind is soothing to a telepathic animal.) All Brainy cares about is his crucial project—an ambulatory super computer. Continue reading