Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The League of Fantastic Supermen!” (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #63, September, 1962)

Another “not Legion” story appears in a “not Superboy / Supergirl” story. Jimmy Olsen had his own title throughout the 1960s, as did Lois Lane, making them certainly the first—possibly still the only—non-costumed, non-super supporting characters to rate their own titles. (To be fair, both Jimmy and Lois took on costumed identities fairly often in these stories, including Jimmy’s assumption of the identity of Elastic Lad, a reserve member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, down the road.)

Of course, Superman, Supergirl and the whole Superman Family showed up in every issue. Indeed, in 1974, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen was re-titled Superman Family, and Lois and Supergirl’s titles were canceled so they could be rolled into it. Jimmy’s book was also, strangely enough, Jack Kirby’s first assignment upon arriving at DC Comics, and thus is the title in which the Fourth World was launched.

Jimmy’s and Lois’s books were Silver Age gold. Every silly, impossible, unlikely and downright idiotic thing that could happen did happen in these pages. It never f__ked up the continuity, and it was always fun. Creators could shock readers with wacky plot development, kill characters, rape characterization—and everything was all better 8-12 pages later. They literally don’t make ’em like that anymore.

“The League of Fantastic Supermen” is not only so iconic that it’s memorialized in an action figure, it’s also the story that introduced two new members of the Legion of Super-Villains—Sun Emperor and Chameleon Chief. It’s also the last Legion of Super-Villains story in which it was remembered that Saturn Queen had reformed at the end of her first appearance. At least I guess that’s why she’s not in this issue.

Our story opens in the Bottle City of Kandor. (Remember that? A whole Kryptonian City which survived the destruction of its planet, and is kept, alive and intact in miniature, in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.) Four criminals have escaped, stolen Superman costumes, and are headed out of the bottle. (The costumes and the enlarging gas they use are on hand because there’s a whole group of Kandorians who sometimes function as the Superman Emergency Squad.)

Superman is unavailable, so the Kandorian authorities contact Jimmy Olsen. He’s hanging out in the Fortress while Superman is off-planet, and is, apparently, Superman’s backup. Shit like this happened all the time in the Silver Age. No, Supergirl wasn’t her cousin’s backup, nor was Batman, Wonder Woman of Green Lantern. No, it was a scrawny, freckled, teenaged photographer. God I love the Silver Age!

Jimmy’s only recourse is to fire a random gun at the four as they fly out of the bottle and gain Superman’s powers. It turns out to be a red kryptonite gun. Red K, for the uninformed, does something unpredictable to any Kryptonian who is exposed to it. In this case, it give each of the four a different funny head. Doesn’t really stop them. Fortunately, the Legion of Super-Villains is monitoring on their timescope. They step in and kidnap the four funny-headed psychopaths, imprison them, put on funny heads of their own, and take their places. Their plan is to surrender, get put in the Phantom Zone, then tear a hole in it and let all the inmates get super powers, so they can join the LSV and conquer the world.

Hilarity ensues.

Two questions: One, why do villains assume that the minute a Kryptonian baddie gets super powers, he’s going to join their weak, human ass in any kind of plot? And two, why does the LSV, who all come from other planets, seem so damned determined to conquer Earth? Maybe they just really like the ice cream and the hot dogs?

Supergirl and Lori Lemaris (Superman’s college girlfriend, a telepathic mermaid) show up. Pretty much all the stops are pulled out, as they are in most of Jimmy’s adventures.

We never actually see the Legion of Super-Heroes, nor are they mentioned at all. But they got enough love that month, what with their own series starting over in Adventure Comics. Now, if only Jerry and Mort could remember… It’s not the 21st Century!!!

Firsts: Chameleon Chief, Sun Emperor

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