The vultures are here. Lightning Lad is dead, and the first thought on the minds of the people of the 30th Century is apparently, “Can I have his job?” A number of teenagers show up at the Clubhouse to apply for his open membership in the Legion.
This is the second occurrence of “throwaway applicants,” and this one is more detailed than the last. We see Antennae Boy, who can pick up and share radio transmissions from the past. We hear that Kennedy was elected President again. That’s ADORABLE. And morbid, because, well, the creative team had no idea what was coming in just a few months. Kennedys being elected President was something of an in-joke in the science fiction community through the late Sixties. Even after JFK’s assassination, authors continued to list as “future history” that a Kennedy was in office for most of the rest of the 20th Century. Kinda shows the futility of being so certain in your knowledge of the future. Anyway, Cosmic Boy’s kind of a dick to AB, but, honestly, it’s not a useful power, now is it?
This is an important issue in Legion history, for a few reasons, yet you’d never know it to look at it. The Legion isn’t even on the cover, and the splash page makes it look like just another gimmicky, I-don’t-believe-they-would-really-do-that, Silver Age story from the Mort Weisginger stable.
So the opening blurb tells us that Saturn Girl is “sweet.” Mmmm… would we call her sweet? Actually, we wouldn’t call her anything other than “Saturn Girl,” at this point in history. The distinct personalities of the different Legionnaires had yet to emerge. The closest we’ve come to it is having them make the “Bastard People” list, and there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason to who winds up there. Although, if I’m honest, Cosmic Boy seems to make it more often. Maybe it’s the pink tights making him self-conscious. But here we’re told that Saturn Girl is “sweet,” and that it’s a surprise when she becomes Legion leader and transforms into a harsh taskmaster.
His Supreme Reverence and Benevolent Omniscience, Cosmic Boy the First, declares that “One of us Legionnaires is a—traitor!” And Saturn Girl is ordered to read everyone’s mind to find out who!
Wow. Don’t mess with this guy! Don’t let the pink tights fool you.
In a 21st Century hospital, Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 visit Lightning Lad and Sun Boy, who just crashed their rocket. The famous Martian fourth-dimensional surgeon, Dr. Landro will operate on them soon. The what now? He operates on time? He goes back in time and operates before the surgery happened? And why do these two happy, smiling, naked, redheaded boys need operations anyway? Something’s suspect here. (And, BTW, it’s almost impossible to tell Lightning Lad and Sun Boy apart without their costumes. I can only guess Sun Boy’s the one with the slight hair flip going on.)
This adventure is still labeled as “In the 21st Century.” I guess that lasted as long as Jerry Siegel wrote the book.
Sun Boy is honored by the Mayor of Metropolis with a statue. “<Gulp!>–I’m thrilled!” he says. Then he melts it.
To be fair, he melts it because it’s about to fall on a bunch of people. Still, you melt the metal statue in order to protect people, destroying months of work… when your teammate with magnetic powers is standing next to you. And everyone thinks it’s brilliant! Where is the bastard people streak now? Or, to paraphrase Ellen Ripley, “Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?”
It’s recruitment time again for the Legion—which, we’re told, is a once-a-year day. Pretty funny, then, that in the four years since they first appeared, we’ve seen them recruit Superboy, Supergirl, Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Bouncing Boy, Sun Boy, Star Boy, Shrinking Violet and Ultra Boy—nine members, and mostly male, so the one-time one boy/one girl rule doesn’t explain it away. Plus we’re told it’s been some years since Bouncing Boy joined. Once again, the “one per year” rule defies belief if the kids are all supposed to be under 18.
So We’ve seen many recruitment days already, but this is the first time we see what would become a Legion tradition—the rejects. So far, all the applicants we’ve seen have eventually made the cut. Here we start to see the likes of Lester Spiffany, whose super-power is that he’s rich (hey, it works for Batman!) and Storm Boy. These unworthies are soundly dismissed by the Legion: “It hasn’t been nice meeting you!” Cosmic Boy tells Lester. “We don’t want your ilk in our club!” the Triplicate Girls tell Storm Boy as they manhandle him away from the clubhouse.
Since I’ve reached the premiere of their own series, I feel it’s time to take a break and look at the events and appearance that led up to that premiere–to present a Legion Timeline for the four and a half years (almost) between their first appearance and their final arrival as their own property.
In that time, sixteen new heroes were introduced (counting Comet, the Super-Horse), plus a whole other team of arch villains, and a groundwork was laid for a team with rules and a recruitment policy–something few super teams had or have to this day. And, of course, they were all teenagers. We had had the Boy Commandoes and the Newsboy Legion, and Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, but not a whole Legion of teens who ran their own affairs.
This is the beginning. This is the day. After four years as guest-stars in other strips, the Legion of Super-Heroes begin their own regular series in Adventure Comics. This tri-centennial issue proudly proclaims on its cover, “Featuring Superboy in ‘Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes!'” Of course, there is only one such tale in this issue, and it’s the second feature. Ah well…
It doesn’t begin well: “Inside this Metropolis clubhouse, in the 21st Century…” Sigh… Jerry and Mort, once again couldn’t keep track of what time period these kids lived in. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Or maybe they were deliberately screwing with readers, just to see if anyone noticed. At any rate, this is the first Legion story that begins with the Legion, and in the 20th Century with Superman or Supergirl. Although, just as in Superboy and Supergirl stories, our first glimpse of the Legionnaires is of statues of them, not of the actual people. But the “Hall of Heroes” shows us, for the first time, that Shrinking Violet is now a member. She hasn’t been seen or mentioned since her first appearance as a candidate. Nor, ironically, does she appear in this story.
Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan create another new Legionnaire, like Mon-El, not billed as such at the outset, and, like Mon-El, slated to be one of the power-houses of the Legion. In this issue, however, he has only the power of “Pentetra-Vision,” a power broader in scope than Superboy’s X-Ray vision. Eventually, he would be shown to have all of Superboy’s powers, but only to be able to use one of them at a time. (Ironically, Star Boy, in his first appearance, had all of Superboy’s powers as well. He would trade those for a single power. As of this issue, however, Star Boy had not appeared again.)
Ultra Boy comes to Smallville with his elder friend, Marla. They wear the same red and green “action costumes” (why Marla wears a version of Ultra Boy’s costume is never explained) and report via a “cosmic scope” to a secret headquarters. Their mission: to find Superboy so that Ultra Boy can discover his secret identity. Marla reminds Ultra Boy that he’s in trouble if he fails in his mission. Oooh, these guys seem like bad news!
We begin with Linda Danvers crying over a sad movie with her parents. The power goes out, and she swiftly changes to Supergirl and rushes to repair a broken, underground cable. What the union for the local power company thinks of the resultant lost overtime is not mentioned, but people are thrilled that Supergirl can handle high voltage lines without being harmed. For her part, Linda is thinking only about how sad it is that the hero in the movie lost the love of his life by waiting too long to propose.
She decides that her cousin Superman is in danger of being along forever, because he won’t propose to either Lois Lane or Lana Lang. Despite her parents’ objections, Linda decides to play Cupid. She first attempts to set Superman up with Helen of Troy, oblivious to the fact that, if Helen is real, then she was a big part of history, and marrying Superman would change that history. And, indeed, though Superman doesn’t take the bait, Supergirl herself nearly takes Helen’s place in history.
At DC, Silver Age comic stories tended to be laid out differently than modern comics, in that the splash page was not a page of the story, but a representative piece of artwork and a text box that summarized what was about to happen, like jacket copy on a book. Marvel abandoned this style immediately—in the first issue of The Fantastic Four—but DC continued it up into the 1970s. The first Legion story to omit this representative splash was (I believe) in Superboy Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #220. Part of the reason for this sort of “internal cover” was that not every story was represented on the cover, back in the days where a standard comic book contained two or three stories. Did anyone read the” jacket copy?” Good question. But it was there. Continue reading