Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Forgotten Legion!” (Adventure Comics #351, December, 1966)

BASTARD PEOPLE ALERT! This issue contains possibly the worst bastard people moment in Legion history. I’m talking about this panel, wherein Invisible Kid socks Ultra Boy in the jaw (knowing he’s not currently invulnerable) for disobeying an order. And, seriously, there’s no excuse for this. I know it was the 1960s, and punching each other in the face was just something boys did. Kids. Sheesh. But no, this is not okay in any time or context. The Legion is not the British Navy. It’s a futuristic, civilized collection of very intelligent individuals. Indeed, the person being the Bastard People here is arguably the guy with the second-highest IQ in the group. Intelligence doesn’t guarantee good behavior, but it sure as hell makes it harder to excuse.

Violence as a means of keeping order in a club, even in the military, was out of style when this story was written. And even if there were some outliers in American society (other than streets gangs, fraternities and other nefarious organizations) which employed corporal punishment, I doubt they employed it by risking knocking out the teeth of the person they were subjecting to “discipline.” And nothing at all is made of this moment, other than Phantom Girl asking if Invisible Kid needed to hit Ultra Boy “so hard?” (Really, Tinya? That’s what’s bothering you about this? How hard Lyle hit your boyfriend?) and Ultra Boy complaining that it hurt. (Gee, Jo, ya think?)

No, this is not okay. Invisible Kid is one of my favorites, and seeing him turned into a bully whose temper tantrums should disqualify him for membership in the Legion, much less leadership of it, does not sit well with me. I may not have noticed it when I was eleven or so and first read this issue of Adventure, but I notice it now.

Rant ended. On with the story.

When last we left our intrepid young heroes, Lightning Lad had been kidnapped and Saturn Girl, Ultra Boy and Mon-El thought maybe their newest Legionnaire, the masked Sir Prize, had something to do with it. So Ultra Boy, despite orders to the contrary from Invisible Kid, tried to use his Penetra Vision to learn Sir Prize’s identity. The aforementioned punch to the jaw foiled that effort.

That bit of drama over, the scene shifts to R.J. Brande’s (the story refers to him more than once as “R.J. Brandes) planetary estate, where Ferro Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Cosmic Boy and Miss Terious have traveled to answer a mayday from their sponsor, the richest man in the universe. He’s being menaced by the Hag, one of the Devil’s Dozen. We never do see Brande himself, but we see his defense satelites, which blow up the Legion cruiser, and his army of prison robots, who trap the Legionnaires in cages formed from the extensible fingers—until Matter-Eater Lad eats their fingers, that is.

Confronting the Hag, the Legionnaires are shown paintings which reveal their futures. Ferro Lad sees himself standing in flames. (Uh oh!) Miss Terious just sees herself, but then she tells Cosmic Boy that his future is too awful to view. (“You’re going to be the Time Trapper! You’re not only going to turn evil, you’re going to be the most disappointing villain the Legion has ever faced!”) Miss Terious says she knows how to defeat the Hag, but she needs the hair of a bona fide magician and the footprint of an enchanted shoe. Of course, such things can’t exist in the high-tech 30th Century, so the Legionnaires and the Substitutes have to travel back to Superboy and Supergirl’s times to find them.

Superboy, you will recall, has had his memories of the Legion knocked out of his brain by means of a Kryptonite capsule. Restoring them is easy enough for Element Lad, though, who turns the capsule to helium. (Is helium supposed to be in someone’s brain? Oh well, he’s Superboy, so I guess it can’t hurt him.) Once that’s done, Superboy happily flies off with Mon-El to fetch a lock of Mxyzptlk’s hair for Miss Terious’s witch’s brew.

The Subs don’t have as easy a time. Without Element Lad along for the ride to 1966, they don’t have anyone who can change Supergirl’s Kryptonite pellet to another substance. She therefore does not remember them, leading to…

Bastard People Part Deux: Really, Kara? Okay, so you don’t know these six characters who just flagged you down with a flare. Okay, with flame breath from Fire Lad. But all they did was ask you if they could visit with your Super-Horse, Comet. Is that any reason to tell the Super-Pets to beat the living snot out of them? And then to stand by and do this?

I haven’t read every Supergirl story from Action Comics, but I’ve read enough of them (two Archive Editions’ worth!) to know that she didn’t treat strangers this way. Linda Lee Danvers nee Kara Zor-El was never a suspicious or ungenerous type. Her reaction to the Subs is way out of character for her.

This is Color Kid’s first outing with the Subs. He joined off-panel, his membership being announced in a letters page, after first appearing in Adventure #342 as a Legion applicant. He proves especially useful in this issue, too. Sadly, he doesn’t realize that he can restore the Super-Cousins memories using his power until after the run-in with Supergirl.

While all this is going on, Evillo is trying to transform Lightning Lad into the fifth member of his Devil’s Dozen. Evillo named his team when he had only four followers, hoping to make twelve. I don’t know if that’s ambitious or pathetic. Lightning Lad is able to resist being transformed by concentrated evil, but, while the attempt is being made, we learn that Evillo has a doctor on staff who can fix Lightning Lad’s robot arm, it having been devoured last issue by metal-eating crustaceans.

Also also meanwhile, Bouncing Boy, who has been flexing his Legion reservist muscles guarding the clubhouse, is kidnapped by Sugyn, the only one of the, um, four Devil’s Dozen members who hasn’t done anything else yet. And, off-panel, Matter-Eater Lad is kidnapped by the Wild Hunstman, whom we haven’t seen at all this issue.

Wow. A lot happens in 24 pages this time! I mentioned a few issues back that Shooter brought a more relaxed style to the Legion. Bridwell must not have gotten that note, ’cause… damn!

The whole thing wraps, kind of abruptly, like a Shakespearean comedy. Once the witches’ brew is completed, the Hag turns out to be the beautiful White Witch, heroine of Naltor. Miss Terious is her sister, Dream Girl, who came to rescue her, and Sir Prize is Dream Girl’s swain Star Boy. They’re invited to re-join the Legion (no explanation given as to why it’s suddenly okay that Star Boy broke the Legion Code), and then Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad and Bouncing Boy come on the scene, all restored to perfect health. Lightning Lad has two human arms, Matter-Eater Lad is no longer overweight, and Bouncing Boy has his powers back—all thanks to the doctor, who hates Evillo and wanted to piss him off.

One question—Lightning Lad was able to resist being turned evil because good always triumphs over evil. So why was White Witch turned evil and transformed into The Hag?

Weird 20th Century Pop-Culture Department: Ferro Lad makes a remark about the Emerald City of Oz. I guess he’s an Earth boy, so, okay. But how does Polar Boy know about Grauman’s Chinese Theater?

Roll Call: Supergirl; Invisible Kid; Cosmic Boy; Ferro Lad; Matter-Eater Lad; Dream Girl ; Mon-El; Ultra Boy; Phantom Girl; Shrinking Violet; Lightning Lad; Brainiac 5; Karate Kid; Element Lad; Princess Projectra; Saturn Girl; Colossal Boy; Bouncing Boy; Superboy; Star Boy

Membership: 24

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