Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “Prisoner of the Super-Heroes” (Adventure Comics #267)

(In which I attack a legend)

After their first appearance in Adventure #247, readers had to wait 20 months for the Legion to return, and, well… they were dicks. Dicks in a really bad story, to boot.

Short version: Three of Superboy’s missions are interrupted in turn by members of the Legion, who show him up and then snub him. The people of Smallville turn on him, including his own parents. Tearfully, he packs up to leave, and receives an invitation to come to a place called Superboy World, a planet where everyone loves him. But it’s a dodge—the planet is run by the Legion, who now despise him, and Superboy is locked up in a Kryptonite prison for life.

No new Legionnaires are introduced, but there slight changes to the three we met last time. Lightning Boy is now Lightning Lad, except for one panel where he’s called by his old name. Cosmic Boy’s magnetism is still channeled through his eyes. The costumes are close to final, except for CB still wearing purple and pink, and Saturn Girl’s costume is magenta instead of red. I know modern interpretations of her classic costume like to use magenta, but the fact is that it was red for about 100 issue after this one. Her hair is still strawberry blonde. This time she’s shown projecting illusions, which would have stolen Princess Projectra’s thunder if she’d kept it up.

This issue inaugurates a time-honored tradition, in which the story turns on the fact that some or all Legionnaires, supporting characters or guest stars are bastard people. Last issue, they were a little bit bitchy when they hazed Superboy, but this time out…?

Quoting Corky St. Clair: “And I’ll tell you why I can’t put up with you people: because you’re BASTARD people! That’s what you are! You’re just bastard people! And I’m goin’ home and I’m gonna… I’m gonna BITE MY PILLOW, is what I’m gonna do!”

In Corky’s honor, as I begin this exploration of the Legion Chronology, I hearby inaugurate the Bastard People Count. It should help us get through the next fifty or so issues.

So the bastard people count in this one is the Legion (the three of them we see, anyway), Ma & Pa Kent, the Mayor of Smallville, pretty much all the people of Smallville, and even Krypto. Only everyone except the Legion gets a pass, because it was Saturn Girl who turned the others into BASTARD PEOPLE.  Final count, three.

And why were they bastards? Well, in real life, some people are just bastards. But this is DC Comics. Not only that, it’s 1960s DC Comics. Well, almost. It’s a December, 1959 DC Comic. If someone is a bastard in this universe, there’s usually a reason. And, in this case, it’s that Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl have seen via a Future Scope that Superboy, in the next five years, is going to destroy a factory, sink a ship and tear up an air strip.

Look, I said there was a reason, okay? I didn’t say it was gonna be a good reason!

You know that game we play on Facebook—”No Context for You?” Well, imagine you posted something without context one day, and three of your friends decided to ruin your career and lock you in a prison built with poison-coated walls. That’s pretty much what these three super-turds do, and, to garnish the sundae, they use telepathy to make everyone he knows hate the poor kid. They’re lucky he didn’t eat the kryptonite-coated bars to end his own suffering! Or drown in his own tears! In their last appearance, the Legion made him cry a little, but this time it’s full-on waterworks.

And how did they happen to look at Superboy’s future? Well, their records of part of his career were destroyed in… a fire. 30th Century records were destroyed by fire. (That kinda stings.) Okay, maybe the fired happened in the 20th Century. Okay. But this is the hero that they know everything about, who was their inspiration for founding a teen super-hero group. And they’re missing records? (Actually, it’s starting to hurt.) So they fly back to the past and use a… future scope… to see what’s going to happen. (Ow, ow, ow!) Yet they have a time-travel device. And they could have just gone back and seen—The stupid! It BURNS!

To top it all off, the future scope is broken. The events it “predicted” were actually things Superboy had already done, and he’d done them at the request of the President of the United States, who wanted military property destroyed that had been used in the production and transportation of a gas so toxic that the U.S. dare not let any trace of it continue to exist.

But rather than just, maybe, ask a few questions, the Legionnaires take these out-of-context events and use them a justification to ruin a boy’s life, and deprive the later 20th Century of one of its greatest heroes.

And that’s not all the bad-time-travel math that happens here. The whole reason the kids look at the Future Scope is that they’re preparing Superboy World, in tribute to the greatest hero of all time. They… (shudder)… flew back to the 20th Century… (cringe)… to build a tribute… (sob)… to a guy who’s career hadn’t finished happening yet!

I mean, the whole point of Superboy joining the Legion in their century was that nothing he was doing would muck up his own timeline. That’s why the Legion placed him under a mental block, so that he wouldn’t remember anything he had learned in the 30th Century and let it influence his life.

But they built a freakin’ planet in his honor in 1959?

Sadly, this travesty was penned by Superboy and Superman’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel. I guess Jerry wasn’t very skilled with the time travel tales. It’s amazing that the Legion came back for a third appearance. But they did, and the rest is history. Which we’ll talk more about next time.

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