Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Mordru the Merciless” Part Two (Adventure Comics #369, June, 1968)

Last week, as you recall, (okay, it was yesterday) four Legionnaires were hiding out in 1950s Smallville, the unstoppable sorcerer Mordru hunting them relentlessly…

The kids settle into their secret identities. With whiteface makeup applied, Shady becomes Betsy Norcross, an exchange student. She never says when she’s an exchange student from. And it’s a bit odd that an exchange student would go door to door, asking for a place to live, but that’s just what Shady does at Lana Lang’s house. These things are usually set up by the school, but Mrs. Lang takes her right in. One wonders what “Betsy’s” accent sounded like. Was she passing off as European? Australian? Asian? We saw in the last issue that Curt Swan did not draw Asians looking very Asian. They just had black hair and the same skin tone white people had. I guess that’s refreshing, given how badly stereotyped some comic artists had been in their depictions, only a few years earlier.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Mutiny of the Super-Heroines” (Adventure Comics #368, May, 1968)

Wrapped in the exciting packaging of Shooter and Swan in 1968 comes a derivative plot from four years previous. “Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires” also concerned a matriarchal, alien world trying to control the female Legionnaires to their own devious ends. Only that time they just tried to lure the boys into romance so they could bring them down, one by one. This time out, the girls gain greatly enhanced powers and attempt to show the world how useless their male comrades are.

It all begins when a spaceship carrying an ambassador falls from orbit. The Legion races to the scene, only to discover that the ambassador has saved herself, using super-strength to move the wreckage. Star Boy is a little too surprised that the ambassador is a woman in this 30th Century supposedly committed to sexual equality. Ambassador Thora is introduced to President Boltax, although she admits that, coming from a matriarchy, it’s hard for her to deal with men being in charge.

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “Black Day for the Legion” (Adventure Comics #363, December, 1967)

It takes a while for Part Two of the Mantis Morlo story to start. After the splash page, there’s a page of recap of the last issue, then the first actual page of news story just repeats the story elements already shown on the splash page. The Legionnaires, were left in battle with the Chemoids at the end of last issue, and they weren’t doing well.

Now they trade Chemoids, and their powers work well when used against a Chemoid who was adapted for one of their teammates. That suggests that the Chemoids are not as versatile as Morlo claimed, or maybe they just don’t adapt quickly enough to handle multiple opponents. Superboy takes out the smog generator that was endangering Orando. The mission is accomplished, but Morlo escapes, jumping off a flying platform and vanishing utterly.

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The Legionnaire Who Stole an Identity! (Or, Superboy’s Forgotten Bromance)

“The Five Legion Orphans” was only 12 pages long. To fill the rest of the book, one would expect that perhaps a new Superboy adventure would have been commissioned. Perhaps another outing by Otto Binder, who had given us “The Six-Legged Legionnaire” last issue. What we got, instead, was the closest Silver Age readers were going to get to an explanation of why Star Boy first appeared with powers identical to Superboy, and, when he showed up again after missing 19 Legion adventures, was suddenly equipped only to make things super heavy.

The explanation comes in a text box added to the last panel of 356’s reprint of “Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes,” a story written by the aforementioned Otto Binder.

A note on the Grand Comics Database entry for this reprint says that Star Boy was “partially refried from Adventure #195.” Partially refried? Like the beans?

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Six-Legged Legionnaire” (Adventure Comics #355, April, 1967)

Rounding out an issue left short by an abrupt end to the Adult Legion saga, Otto Binder contributes his last Legion story, bringing one of his favorite characters, Lana Lang, to the clubhouse to apply for membership.

In 20th-Century Smallville, Lana catches Superboy changing clothes in a phone booth, but resists the urge to learn his secret identity, giving him his privacy instead. She knows that, if his identity were revealed, he’d have to give it up, and that would be sad. It seemingly doesn’t occur to her that knowing his identity might also expose her to personal danger. The women in Clark Kent’s life seem oblivious to the idea of danger.

As a reward, Superboy takes Lana to a Legion meeting. The meeting itself is a secret, so he leaves her to explore future Metropolis. It occurs to me here that Superboy must place a high level of trust in Lana, if he’s willing to let her wander unescorted 1,000 years in the future. Even a future city is still a city, but he probably figures that Metropolis is inherently safe and Lana doesn’t have the worst judgment in the world.

Lana has brought her Insect Queen costume and ring, and she uses them to get an aerial view. Along the way, she encounters and endangered space liner, and uses her powers to extinguish a fire in the engine compartment and save the passengers and crew. One of the passengers is Dream Girl, who tells Lana she handled the crisis as well as any Legionnaire would have, and also that she owes Lana a favor.

This puts an idea in Lana’s head—and, minutes later, she shows up at the Legion clubhouse as an applicant for membership. The application process is back to its old form, with no pre-tests to rule our Lana’s artificial powers, and no evident vote by the members. Invisible Kid lets her go through her whole dog-and-pony show before telling her she’s not qualified. At least he’s nice about it!

As she goes to sit with the rejects (ouch!), a distress call comes in from Ice City at the South Pole. Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet are dispatched. Lana, still hoping to prove herself, cashes in her favor with Dream Girl and asks for a prophecy. Dream Girl reveals that the Legion team is in danger, but that Lana must not turn into a moth today—that will lead to tragedy.

Superboy flies Lana to Antarctica and shows off Ice City—a metropolis carved from solid ice. The residents avoid freezing to death by wearing special parkas, and Superboy gets one for Lana. Strangely, the fully human Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet never put on parkas. I suppose it’s possible the Chameleon Boy can adapt to extreme cold, but the question is never addressed.

Sure enough, the Legionnaires are in danger from an escaped criminal named Oggar-Kon, who plans to use fantastic technology to either melt Ice City, blow it away, or shake it apart. Nearly defeated, Oggar-Kon flings Green K dust all over Superboy. As expected, the only way Lana can think to save the love of her young life is to change into a moth-girl. She saves Superboy, but loses her bio-ring. She’s trapped in moth-form… forever. Well, it seems like forever. It’s until Light Lass demonstrates her amazing control over her power—she can make an object light, even if she doesn’t know where it is, and without making the other objects around it light. She causes the ring to float upward—from its place inside the secret pocket on Superboy’s cape.

Lana demonstrates real bravery in this story, and earns a place as a reserve Legionnaire. We won’t get to see her in action too many times, but there’s no denying she’s one hell of a Legionnaire. One wonders if Insect Queen would have run more issues than Superwoman did.

Roll Call:Superboy, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet,

Firsts: Insect Queen as an honorary member


Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Doomed Legionnaire!” (Adventure Comics #353, )


Yeah, Ferro Lad’s been dead almost as long as I’ve been alive, so I don’t think I’m blowing any secrets here. The last time a Legionnaire died, there was no fanfare, no announcement on the cover, and almost no emotion shown. Of course, Lightning Lad came back not long after his “death.” But Ferro Lad stayed dead. (Yes, he returned as a ghost, as his twin brother, as a clone (twice!) and as a character in a reboot Legion. But this Andrew Nolan died in Adventure 353, and is still dead in current continuity, such as it is.)

It sounds like Jim Shooter always planned to kill Ferro Lad. He told Roger Stern that he didn’t think he’d be allowed to kill any existing Legionnaires, so he created some “extras” in his first story. Since no regular character in a comic like this had been permanently killed before, he thought it should be tried. (14 years later, he tried to apply similar logic to the idea of turning a long-standing character permanently evil, but Jean Grey just came back to life as a hero again, so I don’t think that idea stuck. It’s a shame, but it begs the question—would we remember Ferro Lad so fondly if he had lived?

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Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Super-Stalag of Space!” (Adventure Comics #344, May, 1966)

Edmond Hamilton’s final Legion tale is an adaptation of Stalag 17, a Broadway play which became a film, about prisoners of war in a Nazi prison camp. Word comes to the Legionnaires that Brainiac 5 is a prisoner of war. A team goes to free him, and winds up being captured themselves by Nardo, the commandant, who has nuclear energy in his veins. They’re separated by gender, the boys awakening in a barracks already inhabited by other super-powered heroes from other worlds, including Plant Lad, Blockade Boy, Weight Wizard and Shadow Kid.

The film Stalag 17 opens with two Allied inmates escaping through a tunnel, only to be shot by guards. In the Legion story, a hapless Durlan who is locked by exposure to a chemical weapon in the form of Superboy, tries the same escape and dies on the wrong end of a blast of kryptonite force rings.

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Farpoint Weekend Break

So there will be no blogs this weekend, because I’m attending and working the 25th annual Farpoint convention. In case you’re the one person I haven’t told the story to, I co-founded Farpoint with my family back in 1993, and, though I don’t have to write the checks any longer, it’s still a going concern and I’m still working on it.

Back in 2002, we introduced something called the Volker/McChesney Award to recognize fans who had made significant contributions to local fandom. My stipulation when we created the award was that no member of the Farpoint committee would be eligible—in particular, *I* would not be eligible, because I didn’t want to create an award and then appear to be giving it to myself.

But the committee pulled a fast one on me, and this year’s award was presented to both my wife Renee and me. Yes, we were given the opportunity to decline; but we thought that might hurt the feelings of some very nice people. So, last night, we received our award and the following words were read by a young blond man whom I’m told bears more than a passing resemblance to me. (That would be my son, Ethan, who was emceeing with his brother.)

Very kind words, so I share them here.

The Farpoint Committee is awarding the 2018 Volker/McChesney Award for Service to Fandom to Steven H. and Renee Wilson. As the founders of Farpoint Convention, and still serving on its committee, they have provided a long-lasting gift to fandom, a convention by fans, for fans.

Steve and Renee are the second in a 3-generation chain that started with Beverly Volker and Nancy Kippax and now includes Beverly’s grandchildren Ethan and Christian Wilson. The Volker and Kippax families attended the first Star Trek conventions in New York City, which inspired them and others to bring the Star Trek convention scene to Baltimore. Their families all participated in the first ShoreLeave, ClipperCon and OktoberTrek conventions. They also created the Contact fanzine, which provided writing opportunities for many to share and explore their desire for continuing adventures based on Star Trek and the beloved characters. One of those writers being a young man by the name of Steven H. Wilson….(Note from Steve-I never actually wrote for Contact, but Renee did!)

When the final OktoberTrek finished, Steve and Renee were inspired to continue to keep a fandom-centered convention alive in our area. Over the years, they have seen Farpoint grow and evolve, moving to embrace the full of science fiction and fantastic media and all the new technologies that let fans participate in the things they love and also create their own new stories and art. The Wilson family’s participation in today’s Farpoint Convention is a reminder of fandom’s roots, reaching from small groups of fans keeping Star Trek alive to the current mainstream fandom incarnation. Today’s high-profile fan culture would not be possible without the inspiration and dedication of people like the Volker and Kippax families, represented here by their children Steven and Renee and grandchildren Ethan and Christian.

Karen Armstrong and the Charter for Compassion

I love rationality. Seriously, for me, it’s like a nice, warm shower on a bitter, cold day; or a snow cone at the beach when it’s a hundred degrees outside. Rationality cuts through the oppressive wrongness and makes me believe that everything just might be okay. When things go wrong, rationality helps us process why they went wrong and how we can fix them. Sometimes it takes it some time to jumpstart—a few minutes, a couple of days—while we take out the emotional garbage and moan about how unfair life is. But, if we’re trained to make use of it, rationality always does jumpstart our competence, and helps us make things better.

IF we’re trained to make use of it.

If we’re not? Well, we tend to panic, to get angry, to make stupid decisions and, generally, to make things a whole lot worse.

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William Shatner Is My Hero

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Yep, William Shatner Is My Hero

Why? Because he never gives up.

In GalaxyQuest, the parody of Star Trek that’s so wonderful that most people place it high on their list of “Best Star Trek Films,” Tim Allen’s character has the motto “Never give up, Never Surrender.” He says it over and over, and it resonates as something James T. Kirk might have said, although he never did. Trust someone who’s watched James T. Kirk enough to have memorized his dialogue.

You know that song from Disney’s Hercules? The one about going the distance? “I have often dreamed of a far off place, where a hero’s welcome would be waiting for me… I’ll be there some day, I can go the distance… when I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong.”

I’ve been going the distance for fifty-two years. I don’t feel like I’m where I belong. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll never feel that way.

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