Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Secret of the Seventh Super-Hero!” (Adventure Comics #290, November, 1961)

At the outset of this story, the reader might be fooled into thinking, “Finally! A Legion story with full participation by seven members!” The splash page, after all, shows Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Brainiac 5 and the three founders all flying into action to hide pieces of a dread weapon.

But it’s not to be. This is a Sun Boy solo story—and really not even that—in which the other Legionnaires make only cameos. They hid the weapon pieces a while back. It all begins with Tom Tanner, Clark Kent’s unknown doppelganger, escaping from reform school and hopping a train to freedom. “Freedom,” in this case, is Smallville, where he learns that he looks exactly like somebody named Clark Kent, whom everyone likes. Apparently, they like him so much that they don’t feel comfortable asking, “Clark, why are you wearing an orange suit like a prisoner would wear?” Hey, maybe they thought it was one of those crazy new fashion trends the kids were into those days.

Robert Bernstein turns out a fairly clever plot here, albeit with a few mistakes. Sun Boy, who has just been selected as this year’s new Legion member, arrives in a time bubble and shakes hands with Superboy, introducing himself, as he’s only met Supergirl thus far. (And here’s the first two mistakes in one panel. In Sun Boy’s first appearance, it’s established that the Legion now recruits one male and one female member each year. No female member is introduced. I suppose the already-introduced Shrinking Violet might have been inducted with him. Time will tell. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve read these stories, and I’ve forgotten! I’ll explain the second mistake below.)

Sun Boy’s time bubble emits radiation that kills electrical power in the vicinity. A nice science fiction touch, as the possibility of UFOs damping electrical circuits was very “in” at the time. It was also used in The Day the Earth Stood Still and the almost-contemporary Lost in Space episode, “Visit to a Hostile Planet.” Superboy’s robots are brought down by the radiation, so he cannot send a robot Clark Kent to school to cover for him.

Fortuitously, Tom Tanner has found the Kent home while Superboy was out, and has taken Clark’s place. Superboy discover the ruse and lets it stand. It will help cover his absence from school, and Tom will be gone until 3 PM, plenty of time to keep Ma Kent from blurting out Superboy’s secret to the impostor. So Superboy’s best course of action is just to fly away and say nothing.

OR…

Y’know, Supes, ya could, having super speed and everything, real quick fly to your mom and say, “Hey, Ma, that kid who just left here wasn’t me. I know nothing about him, so don’t tell him I’m Superboy, and maybe go hang with Pa at the store so you don’t get raped and murdered.

But, yeah… it’s probably okay not to tell her. Sure. You’re a super-genius, so I won’t question you.

Of course, Tom does get out of school early, and Ma Kent does blurt out Superboy’s secret to him, asking him to use his super breath to put out a grease fire on the stove. (I’ll forgive Ma Kent, because she was panicking, and may have not known that blowing on a grease fire just gives you a bigger grease fire. She would have been better off to use her super power to pick up a lid and put it on the pan.)

Fortunately, the clever side of this plot involves Sun Boy not being Sun Boy, but a nameless criminal who’s trying to rule the universe by turning Superboy evil and making him his cohort. (Although an evil Superboy might have just as easily murdered the nameless villain, but I digress.) Cyclops the Robot (heh), the weapon evil Sun Boy intends to use on Superboy, blasts Tom Tanner with his “change good to evil and vise versa” ray, and Tom, who was going to blackmail the Kents, forgets Superboy’s identity and becomes a model citizen.

So here’s the second mistake: After Superboy has reclaimed all the pieces of the weapon (Cyclops the Robot—heh), Sun Boy says goodbye and shakes his hand. In doing so, he fails to use the “Super Hero Club Secret Handshake,” and Superboy realizes that this is an impostor. Clever! Except… that… they shook hands at the beginning of the story, and Superboy would have realized then that… Oh, never mind.

It’s an amusing story, anyway, and it’s always fun to see meek Clark Kent stand up for himself and not be the wallflower—even if he’s not really Clark Kent.

Firsts: Sun Boy joins

Lasts: Super Hero Club Secret Handshake (At least I don’t think they ever spoke of it again!)

Members: 13 (14 if Shrinking Violet joined off-panel. Bouncing Boy also waiting in the wings.)

One thought on “Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Secret of the Seventh Super-Hero!” (Adventure Comics #290, November, 1961)

  1. Pingback: Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Sun-Boy’s Lost Power!” (Adventure Comics #302, November, 1962) - Steven H. WilsonSteven H. Wilson

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