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!

Ultra Boy suspects Pete Ross, Clark Kent’s best friend, of being Superboy, because Pete becomes nervous when asked about Superboy’s secret identity. (Longtime Superboy fans will know that Pete becomes nervous in that situation because he does know Superboy’s secret identity. Ultra Boy sets out to prove Pete is Superboy by repeatedly putting Pete’s life in danger—almost letting him be shot by gangsters (until Ultra Boy realizes that letting gangster shoot Superboy would let them be the ones to find his identity. Humane, kid. Very humane) and then throwing a boulder at his car.

Ultra Boy figures out the Clark Kent is Superboy by one of the great bits of conclusion jumping since Superboy decided that some random alien who crashed to Earth just had to be his brother. Clark drops his glasses and they don’t break. That’s it. Ultra Boy decides that the only way dropped glasses wouldn’t break is if they’re actually made of Kryptonian glass.

Yeah, I drop my glasses all the time. If they’re Kryptonian glass, Wal-Mart has cornered the market on it.

Pete, meanwhile gets himself locked in a bank vault because, get this, he’s rented a safe-deposit box in which to keep his diary, since his diary records Superboy’s secret identity. You know, it seems to me the way to protect Superboy’s secret identity might be—and I’m just spit-ballin’ here—by not writing it down!!!

Ultra Boy saves Pete by using his Penetra-Vision, which can see through lead, to draw Superboy a diagram of the lock tumblers, allowing Superboy to open the lock. Seems to me Superboy could have done that with his Super-Hearing, which is not blocked by lead. Speaking of “blocked by lead,” I’ve never come across another story which posits that Kryptonian heat vision does not work on lead. If any of my readers have, I’d love to know about it. Otherwise, I think Mr. Siegel just got confused this time out. Also speaking of heat vision not melting lead, this claim is featured on the story’s splash page, in a scene not shown in the story.

In the end, Ultra Boy reveals his origin as Jo-Nah of Rimbor, a new Legion of Super-Heroes recruit. Marla is the Legion’s new “senior advisor.” Still doesn’t explain why his 60-something self is crammed into Ultra Boy spandex.

Firsts: Ultra Boy, Marla

Membership: 15 with Ultra Boy’s confirmation, possibly 16 with Shrinking Violet (status still unknown)

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

  1. There are numerous stories where Superman’s, Superboy, and Supergirl’s heat vision are not able to melt lead. I believe in this story Ultra Boy had other powers, but was restricted to only his Vision power to uncover Superboy’s identity.

    • If I ever came across another instance, it didn’t stay with me. It bugs me, because it takes a reasonable limitation (x-rays are scattered by lead because of its density) and turns it into magic. Lead has a low melting point, and certainly should be affected by anything that generates heat. As to Ultra Boy’s other powers, they aren’t mentioned at all in the story. When he tells about being swallowed by the energy beast, he mentions only that he developed “the amazing power of… penetra-vision!” I think it’s likely that Siegel didn’t even have the other powers in mind at the time. Of course, the idea that he discovered more powers later works. We’ll see when I get to his later appearances how they handled it! Thanks for reading!

  2. I’m too lazy to pull the issue out but I believe in Superboy 98 Ultra Boy only had penetra vision. Later, when the story was reprinted that bit about “using only his vision powers” was inserted to account for the fact that he doesn’t display any of his other powers which were later revealed.

  3. Pingback: Right, I'll Come in Again—The Changing Powers of Ultra Boy - Steven H. WilsonSteven H. Wilson

  4. The only reason I found this article as I was at a gay club in Philadelphia. They had this exact magazine cover blown up poster sized on the wall. I guess the gay world finds this image very homo-erotic.. Nice to know Superman is branching out.. 🙂

  5. In fairness, glasses in 1961 *were* made of glass, and would break comprehensively if they were dropped. This condition persisted well into the 70s (I know, I broke several pairs).


    • I only broke the glasses of others. 😉 And no, I wasn’t a bully–just accident-prone! Yes, my first pairs were glass, starting at eight years old. (!) And some of my readers now are glass. I haven’t had a lot of breakage. I think a lot depends on how they land when they fall. I still find it jumping way far to a conclusion to say that the only reason glasses would survive is if they’re from Krypton.

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