Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “King of the Legion” (Adventure Comics #375, December, 1968)

Jim Shooter curtailed a lot of the harshness and nastiness with which the Legionnaires had treated each other during their first 46 issues in Adventure Comics, making what I call the “Bastard People” effect less noticeable. But King of the Legion? This thing is freaking Bastard People porn.

On an asteroid, the Legionnaires meet the Wanderers, a previously unheard-of super team. They shake hands and swear eternal friendship. Ornitho, one of the Wanderers’ number, demonstrates his power to turn into any kind of bird. The others don’t demonstrate, or get names, except for their leader, Celebrand. Kind of an interesting oversight.

Shortly after they part company with the Legion, the Wanderers fly near the Nefar Nebula and are temporarily turned into criminals. Meanwhile, the Legion has returned to Earth, where Superboy will test a supposedly indestructible armor plate for the Galactic Security Force—by flying into is full speed. Now the plate is invulnerable and so is Superboy. But the plate doesn’t look especially well-anchored. It seems the result would be simply that it would move when he hits it. Or, if it is somehow anchored, we’ll find out what happens when an irresistible force hits and immovable object. And they’re performing this stunt on Earth. You’d heard the expression NIMBY—Not In My Back Yard? I would think every citizen of Earth would be shouting NOMFP about this. I’ll let you work out the acronym yourself.

It’s probably for the best that this potentially world-destroying test does not occur. A glowing gauntlet appears before Superboy and carves a challenge into the indestructible metal. “I challenge the mightiest Legionnaire to combat in a tourney of worlds on the last planet!”

“The last planet?” Just go with it. It’s never explained. Superboy declares that they’ll accept the challenge. How? Never mind, it’s more important to immediately start arguing about who the mightiest Legionnaire is. Naturally, damn near everyone assumes it’s one of the males. Kudos to Saturn Girl, for at least not being held back by that silliness. No such positive notes for her testosterone-laced competitors, nor for Phantom Girl, Shadow Lass, Light Lass—and even Supergirl!– who are only concerned that their boyfriends win. The eldest Legionnaires, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy, as well as Invisible Kid, at least have the good sense to stay out of it–although Lyle does seem to be one of the ones drawing up the brackets, with Matter-Eater Lad and Duo Damsel.

A call comes in to tell the Legion that the Wanderers have gone bad, steaing the Seven Stones of Alactos, and Element Lad suggests that this be the challenge they will use to determine the mightiest Legionnaire, by setting up brackets while they gather up Wanderers. Mon-El and Element Lad wind up in a fist fight, in which Mon’s strength could easily kill his opponent, while Jan uses his powers to make Mon vulnerable to lead, which could also kill Mon-El. Deservingly, Bouncing Boy moves forward, capturing Dartalg. Saturn Girl falls first in her bracket, screaming “Eek” as giant bird Ornitho carries her off. Chameleon Boy literally steals the victory from Chemical King. Similarly, while Karate Kid and Ultra Boy beat the crap out of each other, Sun Boy defeats Quantum Queen, seen for the first (and last) time on page 16 of her intro issue. And then Karate Kid decks Sun Boy to win the victory.

So, not only do we have all the Legionnaires treating each other like shit and literally threatening each others’ lives in one case, we also have the introduction of a new future Legionnaire—the third of the previously unknown dead heroes from the cover of Adventure 354—and she gets no real introduction, no distinctive personality and only one unspoken line. We were in a hurry to get the characters in there, however sloppily. I wonder if there was some sort of trademark issue on Weisinger’s mind?

Timber Wolf gets short-changed again, being blasted off a building by Immorto. He is captured by Superboy. So is Elvo, after he makes short work of Karate Kid in the second bracket. And it’s hard to feel sorry for Val, who just beat up two fellow Legionnaires. Bouncing Boy and Chameleon Boy go after Psyche, who uses her power to make BB want to kill Cham. At least BB had to be manipulated into wanting to harm a teammate.

We don’t see the end of the battle, we just see Bouncing Boy bringing a wounded Cham home.

Superboy and Bouncing Boy fight the final contest, capturing Celebrand, who has the stolen seven stones. The stones show the past, present and future and even events in other dimensions, so Celebrand knows he’s going to be caught. He surrenders to Bouncing Boy.

Back at HQ, the Legion Losers—and even those who didn’t participate–melodramatically rip the emblems off their costumes (they have a real fetish about those emblems! Interesting that we don’t see what Duo Damsel and Chemical King do at this moment. Bouncing Boy is declared the mightiest, and he is promptly teleported away to fight the invisible opponent. Convenient, because how else would they have known how to answer the challenge?

And then… Bouncing Boy shows up. Who just teleported away? We’ll find out next issue, in a story which fortunately features only one Legionnaire. All the rest were no doubt in Marla’s office, filing hostile work environment claims.

Roll Call: Ultra Boy, Superboy, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Element Lad, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Light Lass, Matter-Eater Lad, Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5, Supergirl, Chemical King, Duo Damsel, Shadow Lass, Timber Wolf, Cosmic Boy, Bouncing Boy, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Sun Boy, Invisible Kid, Shrinking Violet, Lightning Lad, Star Boy (Missing only Dream Girl)

Firsts: Wanders—Celebrand, Ornitho, Dartalg, Quantum Queen, Elvo, Psyche, Immorto

Editing Note: For this post and many, many others over the course of this Legion re-read, I wish to thank Jim Gallagher, Huw Mordecai and the crew from the LSH group on Facebook. When you blog daily and don’t have a staff, your readers tend to be your proofreaders. Thanks for your keen eyes and encyclopedic knowledge of our favorite super-team, but, most of all, thanks for sticking with me through this grand experiment!



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