Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes” (Adventure Comics #282, March, 1961)

Legion creator Otto Binder returns with George Papp on art for another solo-Legionnaire guestappearance, this time introducing a new Legionnaire, Star Boy. The title is a misnomer, because, while we do see six other Legionnaires in this story, in cameo during a flashback, Lana only interacts with the new kid.

As she often does, Lana begins this issue bemoaning the fact that Superboy really doesn’t notice her. She, on the other hand, sleeps with pictures of him plastered all over her room, and wants only to know the joy of being his steady girlfriend. Trying to take her mind off her woes, she goes to the movies, only to see a picture in which the female lead is plotting to make her man jealous by seeing another man. Lana likes the idea, if only there were a boy in the world that could be a believable rival to her ideal, Superboy.

If you get the sense that 1960s comics too often cast female characters in the role of having nothing better to do than try to win the attentions of some male, while the male thinks only about doing his job, you’ve sensed correctly. The good news is that, at least in the Legion’s world, the female characters grew to be powerful forces for good, with much more to think about than romance.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent, working in the alley behind his father’s store, is attacked by giant horseshoes. Changing to Superboy and flying to investigate, he finds the nearby dam overflowing. Diving to investigate that, he finds himself frozen in ice. As he breaks out of the ice, letters of baked clay form in the air, asking him for a meeting.

At the appointed place, Superboy meets Star Boy, the prankster who clearly thought sending a telegram was too cliché. He shares Superboy’s powers, and he explains he’s from the future. Flying through a comet’s tail made him his planet’s lone super-hero. That planet would be Xanthu, from whence Star Boy has trailed a criminal back through time to Earth. He’s caught him, but the criminal’s partner is still on Xanthu, hiding in a network of copper tunnels. His augmented vision can’t see through copper, and he knows Superboy’s can, as they’re both members of the Legion. He’s come to ask for help.

So here’s an anomaly: Star Boy tells Superboy that he must protect his secret identity as Thom Kallor at all costs. No Legionnaire that I can remember had a secret identity, unless you count Sir Prize and Miss Terious from Adventure #350-351. And Sir Prize was Star Boy. It’s an odd thing for a kid who wears neither mask in his super-hero identity nor any kind of facial covering as a civilian to say his identity is secret, but the story rides on it.

It’s a nice touch that Thom says her had to learn “your language” (Superboy’s) to join the Legion. That suggests that the LSH speak colloquial English. No one had thought of Interlac yet. At Star Boy’s interview, we see Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy, as well as a red-headed boy and a blonde girl. They don’t fit the description of any known Legionnaires of the time, though I suppose they could be a mis-colored Triplicate Girl and Brainiac 5.

Following Superboy because she just always does, Lana overhears the tale of Star Boy’s origin. Realizing that he is a believable rival, she pretends to know his secret identity and blackmails him into dating her. Turnabout being fair play, (and Lana never being allowed to outsmart the Boy of Steel) Superboy overhears her plan and vows to teach her a lesson. Along the way, we learn that Thom has “electric vision,” a power Superboy does not. He uses it to charge a car battery, reflecting that 1000 volts should charge it in seconds. Yeah, I’m pretty sure current doesn’t work that way. I would expect the battery to blow up in his face.

We also learn, as Superboy, Lana and Star Boy travel to Xanthu in the future, that Thom already has a girlfriend. He’s also clearly very much THE hero of Xanthu. Obviously, the Legion allows their members to spend significant time on their home worlds. That’s quite different from the later Legion stories, where the Legionnaires hang together and, indeed, live together on Earth.

Firsts: Star Boy

Membership: 8 revealed, up to 12 shown (counting the unidentified pair at the interview)

 

 

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