Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “The Army of Living Kryptonite Men” (Superboy #86, January, 1961)

Another Jerry Siegel/George Papp adventure begins with Superboy discussing Lex Luthor with his parents, and reflecting how important the initials “L.L.” are in his life. We’re still at the point in history where every Legion story must begin with Superboy or Supergirl. They were still supporting characters only as they make their fourth appearance in four years.

Superboy points out that not only Lana Lang and Lex Luthor carry the initials “L.L.,” but that Lightning Lad does too. He shows Ma and Pa the Legion statuettes the team gave him after the (lamentable) affair on the Superboy planet. From here on out, if the Legion statues who up, you know there’s going to be an actual Legionnaire somewhere in the story. This was the device for reminding readers that the Legion existed. (Actually, I believe there was one time when the statues did not herald a Legion appearance, and that was when they were instrumental in the creation of the Composite Superman in World’s Finest Comics #164.)

And speaking of Lex Luthor, at that exact moment his teen self is plotting a new way to destroy Superboy, his arch nemesis who cost him his hair. Lex comes up with a way to control rocks as though they were alive, and, as you do, uses that power to conduct a “man” made entirely out of Kryptonite. After luring Superboy to an asteroid, he sics his Kryptonite man on the teen hero. Superboy is dying of Kryptonite blood poisoning when his faithful hound Krypto flies by. Krypto, not knowing there’s no air in space, tries to blow Superboy away from the threat with super breath. It doesn’t work. Nice nod to science, although, if Krypto had air in his lungs, it would have done something. Krypto winds up trapped as well, and he and Superboy silently bid each other goodbye.

Have you noticed that people don’t choke in comics like they used to? Back in the day, pretty much everyone in the Superman family of titles was choked up at least once an issue.

Lightning Lad arrives, deus ex machina, to save Superboy and Superdog. And, for those readers who might have been thinking, “Did this kid from the 30th Century just change history?” the story explains that, no, Superboy and Krypto would have been saved anyway by a meteor collision. So Lightning Lad, just… um… Hey! Is that a Super Squirrel over there?

Lightning Lad then destroys Luthor’s rock-controlling apparatus, which can never be rebuilt because Luthor can’t find another source for the rare minerals it used. So… Lightning Lad just… changed history.

But, never mind, now that Luthor knows there’s a Legion of Super-Heroes in the future, it stands to reason that there must be a Legion of Super-Villains. And, by golly, he’s gonna find them!

So… Once again… Lightning Lad just… changed history.

Note to Robert Heinlein’s Time Corps: Do not induct the writer who co-created Superman. He doesn’t grasp the rules. He does, however, lay plans for an organic and tantalizing story development—an anti-Legion, which would be sadly underused in the years to come. It did happen, though, as the closing text promised it would “in the near future.”

That near future would be about a dozen years for Luthor, before he found the LSV, but only seven months for readers. They would appear (with Luthor) in Superman #147, cover-dated August, 1961, where they would face Superman and (for the first time in comics) an adult Legion of Super-Heroes.

Firsts: Superboy’s Legion trophies

Membership steady at 7 revealed, 10 shown.

 

 

One thought on “Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “The Army of Living Kryptonite Men” (Superboy #86, January, 1961)

  1. Pingback: Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – "The Legion of Super-Villains!" (Superman #147, August, 1961) - Steven H. WilsonSteven H. Wilson

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