Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Boy With the Ultra-Powers!” (Superboy #98, July, 1962)

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!

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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.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-read – “The Secret of Mon-El” (Superboy #89, June, 1961)

Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may sound give the impression that I don’t actually enjoy these stories, because I point out their flaws. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I collected them, am re-reading them, and I review them because these stories and their creators have meant so much to me throughout my life. I can point out mistakes and plot points that I, as an author, would hopefully not have made. But I, as an author, have not brought to readers a fragment of the joy that these creators have. Their sheer imaginative power is nothing short of wondrous.

Robert Berstein had not written any Legion stories to date. He was the regular Superboy writer for three years, however, and co-creator, with George Papp, of Mon-El. Unlike Edmond Hamilton and Otto Binder, he did not have a science fiction pedigree, nor was he, like Jerry Siegel, a godfather of all super-hero comics. He was actually a playwright and composer, who had largely written crime and war comics before being assigned to the Superman line in 1959. He had created the Phantom Zone only two months before Mon-El’s first appearance.

The second half of Mon-El’s origin is a wonderful trip through the world of DC Silver Age comics, and the time period itself, to a certain extent. We open with Clark Kent sitting in his high school classroom. That Clark is in a sweater vest and tie is hardly surprising. That all the other boys are actually wearing suits looks pretty funny to a modern reader. What happens in the classroom has absolutely zero to do with the Mon-El story, but is worth noting simply for its humor, and as another example that Clark’s Kryptonian hormones must have been raging at this point in his life, ’cause the boy just ain’t acting normal.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-read – “Superboy’s Big Brother” (Superboy #89, June, 1961)

This is not really a Legion story, but it is a story which introduces a Legionnaire, so it’s included in the chronology. The Legionnaire in question is Mon-El, otherwise known as Lar Gand of the planet Daxam. Daxam is apparently similar, environmentally, to Krypton, and so its inhabitants are super-powered on Earth, just as Superboy is.

I have no idea if Mon-El was created with Legion membership in mind. It seems unlikely for a couple of reasons. One, why would he be needed on a team that already includes Superboy and Supergirl? While the Legion had yet to establish a “no duplication of powers” rule, as they later would (and they would play fast and loose with it even then!), it still doesn’t make much sense to add a pseudo-Kryptonian to the lineup. Also, Mon-El gives his age as “at least 18,” which might make him too old for membership.

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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.

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Back in the Day I Liked — Superboy Starring the Legion of Super-Heroes #207

This comic came in a three-pack. I still occasionally see these, but, back in the 1970s, there were always some three-packs on the spinner rack at my local 7-11. The deal was that you got three comics for somewhere around the price of two. I seem to remember they were priced at 99 cents, but they must have been less when I first bought them, since three comics in those days would only have cost 75 cents.

I don’t recall what else was in the pack. Usually there was a Superman title or a Batman title, an issue of something offbeat like Plop! or a war comic, and another superhero title. You didn’t know what the third book was. It was in the middle. Continue reading

Superboy (1949) #124

From October, 1965, another three-story issue, this one featuring:

“The Insect Queen of Smallville” – Superboy’s girlfriend, Lana Lang, becomes a super-hero! Now, it’s important to understand that, if you’re Kal-El / Clark Kent and it’s not yet 1970, “girlfriend” is another word for “arch-nemesis.” Like Lois Lane in his adult life, Lana exists at this point only to try and prove that mild-mannered Clark Kent is actually the last son of Krypton. Also like Lois, she’s really bad at the job, and similarly obsessed with it.

This time out, Lana happens upon a spaceman in the woods, as teenage girls in small towns in the Midwest were wont to do back in the day. Said spaceman (now we would say “extraterrestrial,” but this was literally a little, green man.) She frees him from beneath a fallen tree. In gratitude, he gives her a ring which allows her to assume the powers of any insect.

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