Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read: “Supergirl’s Three Super Girl-Friends” (Action Comics #276, May, 1961)

So, wow, Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney once again significantly expand the Legion mythos in this story, bringing them from eight members to double digits, and introducing three prospective Legionnaires to boot. One wonders if, as the editorial staff planned the story lineup for 1961, they made a conscious decision to bring the Legion up to a fighting strength where it might rightly be called a “legion.” Action #276 introduces, not one, not two, not even three but six new or potential Legionnaires! Okay, we had seen Brainiac 5 way back in Adventure #247, but he was never named. And I think it’s safe to say that the black-haired boy next to him in that issue was fellow-applicant Bouncing Boy. In Star Boy’s intro, there was an unnamed redheaded boy that I think can be safely considered to be Sun Boy and an unnamed blonde girl who, again, was probably Duo Damsel. So, as of this issue, I believe there are no more “shadow” Legionnaires (or Legion applicants) in the membership status below.

It’s something unheard of in comics to that point in history: a team with more than a dozen members, a team with members that we know are there, but the reader has yet to meet, a team which grows (sometimes dramatically) as you read about it. This turned off some people. As I started posting these reviews, a Facebook friend who clearly had read the Legion adventures back in the day said that he’d lost interest when it became a “hero of the month” strip. I never saw it as that, but then I started reading 16 years in when the LSH had a very established membership. When new members did join (and it was rare by then), it added some excitement to the stories. To me, something like “Dial H for Hero” truly was “hero of the month.” The heroes appeared and then were not seen again. But the Legionnaires were not one-shots. (Not even Erg-1, “The One-Shot Hero!”) I guess I can see where a new reader at this point in history might feel that the new members were coming at a rate too fast and furious, but DC was building the team up to unprecedented numbers, so there’s almost no way to avoid that.

Speaking of limits on new members, this story chips away at the “only one new member a year” idea that was referenced in the last Supergirl adventure with the Legion. Now they take one boy and one girl each year. And this time, for the first time, we meet the competition. Supergirl is up against Bouncing Boy, Sun Boy and Shrinking Violet. Well, to be fair, she’s really only up against Shrinking Violet. But we don’t see Violet, Sun Boy or Bouncing Boy compete, only Supergirl and Brainy. And they’re the winners.

The title of this story, like “Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes,” is a bit misleading. Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl do indeed introduce themselves to Supergirl as her “three super girl-friends,” but only long enough to invite her to come to the future and apply once again for Legion membership. Indeed, after the trip to the 30th Century, Triplicate Girl and Phantom Girl appear only in passing and do not speak. While their appearance does serve to resolve Linda (Supergirl’s) longing for girl-friends who can understand her situation, both problem and resolution have little to do with the story. Indeed, the story meanders a bit—from super girl-friends, to a membership competition, to a new romance with Brainiac 5, to a quest to learn if Brainy’s force field belt has survived a trip through time. Very disjointed, really.

Brainiac 5’s stated origin also might throw more modern Legion fans. No mention is made of the fact that his “great-great-great-great grandfather” was an android. That’s because, as of this writing, the villain Brainiac had not been revealed as such. So, although those four “greats” would make this boy Brainiac 7 instead of Brainiac 5, there was nothing “off” for readers of the time about suggesting that the villainous Brainiac had a human offspring.

Finally, no mention is made this time of the Legion Supergirl meets being the children of Superboy’s Legion. I’m thinking that bit of business had already been forgotten.

Firsts: Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5

Membership: 12 (with three waiting in the wings)

 

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