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.

This issue of Superboy was one of the outer ones in the pack. There was probably also a Superman or Justice League, or something I knew. I didn’t know who the Legion was. The word “Legion” was something like “League.” Was this some kind of offshoot? Who were these characters on the cover, apart from Superboy?

I learned quickly that the Legion was a team of teenaged heroes in the far-off 30th Century. How Superboy could be a member was not explained in either story in this issue. In the first story, “The Rookie Who Betrayed the Legion,” I met Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Timber Wolf and Light Lass, as well as one of their arch foes, Universo, and Dvron, a rookie in the Science Police. I loved the crisp, clean lines of Mike Grell’s artwork, and how he posed the characters as dynamic in action, and with real character when at rest. My only complaint was that I thought the Science Police helmets looked stupid, but you can’t have everything.

Dvron seemed like a bit of a punk, and I really didn’t warm to him. I liked the Legionnaires, though. I was glad I’d picked up the issue.

The second story, “Lightning Lad’s Day of Dread,” introduced more characters: Lightning Lad (obviously) who was the brother of Light Lass from the previous story, Element Lad, Karate Kid, and the third member of Light Lass’s family, Lightning Lord. In this story, the boys were said to be twins, with Light Lass being the baby sister. That doesn’t jibe with other stories, in which Lightning Lad and Light Lass are twins, and Lightning Lord is older. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5 and Shadow Lass also appear in this story, but are not named. I actually thought Shadow Lass was an exotic-looking nurse or doctor, like the purple-haired Moonbase crew on UFO. It may have been as much as a year before she appeared and was name in a story. Princess Projectra, Phantom Girl and Saturn Girl also appear on the cover, but not anywhere in the issue. I didn’t know who they were or why they were there, but I got the impression that this was a big group.

Cary Bates was quite good with the short stories that appeared in title like Superboy and Action Comics. They only had 18 – 20 pages to play with, so having two stories made them short. Bates knew how to plot them and keep them exciting. It was an especially good trick for a title like this, where there were (I later learned) about 25 Legionnaires out there, and you had to work at least a half-dozen into each story.

The letters page in this issue also grabbed me. It was clear from the fact that more than half the space was devoted to a “fans forum,” including room for readers to suggest new Legionnaires, that this was a title with a high level of fan involvement. In other words, it was something very different.

Different indeed. There’s no one else quite like the Legion.

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