Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy͟ (Adventure Comics #301 – October, 1962)

 

It’s recruitment time again for the Legion—which, we’re told, is a once-a-year day. Pretty funny, then, that in the four years since they first appeared, we’ve seen them recruit Superboy, Supergirl, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Bouncing Boy, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Shrinking Violet and Ultra Boy—nine members, and mostly male, so the one-time one boy/one girl rule doesn’t explain it away. Plus we’re told it’s been some years since Bouncing Boy joined. Once again, the “one per year” rule defies belief if the kids are all supposed to be under 18.

So We’ve seen many recruitment days already, but this is the first time we see what would become a Legion tradition—the rejects. So far, all the applicants we’ve seen have eventually made the cut. Here we start to see the likes of Lester Spiffany, whose super-power is that he’s rich (hey, it works for Batman!) and Storm Boy. These unworthies are soundly dismissed by the Legion: “It hasn’t been nice meeting you!” Cosmic Boy tells Lester. “We don’t want your ilk in our club!” the Triplicate Girls tell Storm Boy as they manhandle him away from the clubhouse.

Storm Boy’s crime was that he used a mechanical device to generate storms. “No one can join the Legion unless they have a genuine super-power of their own which works without the aid of mechanical devices!” says Cosmic Boy, followed by “Triplicate Girl, get rid of this faker!”

Yeah, ya know, Cos, this is the first your readers have heard of this “no mechanical devices” clause, so maybe Storm Boy didn’t know about it either? Maybe you could be, I dunno, a little less of a dick to the poor kid? I mean, you’re already on the splash page telling Bouncing Boy, “Bouncing around like a rubber ball may amuse you, but Legion members must have might powers…” Seriously, dude you sound like one of Louis Winthorpe’s friends from trading places. Have you, Lightning Lad and Sun Boy found a fourth for squash yet? We know you can’t ask Chameleon Boy, because he’s one of those. I won’t even get started on Triplicate Girl’s abusive behavior. I mean, maybe it’s not her fault that as soon as she gets mad at someone, she’s ganging up on them.

All of this serves as a framing sequence to the tale of how Bouncing Boy joined the Legion, which is cool, because he became a member off-panel a few months earlier. It’s a fun story about being an underdog, and about how a plus-sized messenger boy (who isn’t very attentive to his job) became a hero after mistaking an experimental serum for a bottle of soda. At first, the Legionnaires aren’t impressed by his bouncing power. (Although, in the story, Cosmic Boy is a lot less arrogant when he rejects BB, and Saturn Girl is downright a apologetic! It’s Lightning Lad who says, “You can bounce… so what?”) When he later stops an electrically powered villain because his bouncing power keeps him from being grounded, he wins membership. There’s a bit of a continuity glitch here. None of the Legionnaires in the story can fly, because, it’s explained, “the Legion” had not yet invented flight belts. Except that the Legionnaires were able to fly using jets from their first appearance. And they didn’t invent the flight belts, Superman did. And he didn’t do it for another ten years on their timeline. But we’ll just decide to find all those inconsistencies charming.

Less charming, sad to say, is the artwork of veteran penciler John Forte on his first Legion assignment. Or maybe it’s too charming, and that’s the problem. It’s not streamlined and futuristic enough to meet the needs of a story set 1000 years in the future. Multiple characters, including the unfortunate Storm Boy, are shown wearing eyeglasses. Shops are shown to be brick structures with glass windows, fronted by concrete sidewalks. Costumes on extras are unimaginative. In short, it looks like the artist is drawing a story set in 1962, which just doesn’t fit. Indeed, the only futuristic aspect of the story—aside from trappings already present in all Legion stories—are the scripto-plates presented by fans for Lightning Lad to sign with his dupli-writing stylus. And this is just a terrible idea. He signs one autograph and it shows up on hundreds of pads? Who wants a mass-produced autograph?

Not a strong entry, but a Bouncing Boy story is always going to be fun.

Firsts: Rejected applicants, Legion Story without Superboy or Supergirl

Bastard People Count – three —or is it five? Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Triplicate Girl

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