Seven months out from the premiere of its own series, the Legion adds yet another associate legion to their mythos. The last one was villainous. This one isn’t even human. (Okay, eventually the Legion wouldn’t be all human either, but those days are far off! Begs the question, though, why couldn’t the super-animals just be regular Legionnaires? You may laugh, but I have had three colleagues, dogs, who were considered members of the Fire Department.)
Jerry Siegel co-creates the Super-Pets, appropriately with primo Super-artist Curt Swan, drawing the teen Legionnaires for the first time. (His first Legion story was “The Legion of Super-Villains,” in which they were adults.)
Superboy receives a radio call from Chief Parker, indicated once again by the flashing lamp in the Kent home. This time, Superboy reflects that the call must be from the President, Chief Parker of The Pentagon. Professor Lang has been replaced. Guess young Clark took my advice about not letting his girlfriend’s Dad in on the fun. A plane is about to crash, and Superboy must save it. But, when he flies to the rescue, he’s seized by the urge to sabotage it instead, leaving the occupants faced with a fiery death.
Fortunately, Krypto shows up in time to right his master’s wrong, and also in time to almost be flung to his death by an enraged Superboy. Before he can figure out what’s up with his anger management issues, Superboy is summoned to meet the Legion in their “usual meeting place,” the Gobi Desert. (Which makes sense, but also establishes, for the first time, that he’s had meetings with the Legion that we haven’t seen.) The Legionnaires also are behaving erratically, and try to kill Superboy.
Turns out it’s all an alien plot by disembodied brains from a dying world. (“Gamesters of Triskelion,” anyone? This story predates the infamous Star Trek episode by at least five years.) These brains can control any human intellect, but, we learn when Krypto attacks, not animal ones. In order to defeat the four brains, a now-freed Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy travel through time to assemble a team of four super animals.
Streaky the Super-Cat was an obvious choice, probably very much in the minds of Supergirl readers, as he had first appeared in her strip the year before. The Legion travels forward 20 years to pick him up from outside the Midvale Orphanage. Pretty posh orphanage Linda Lee lived in, if she could have a cat! Also, the 20 year span caught my eye. In the 70s, we were told that Superman would always be about 29. Clearly earlier (and older) authors thought it was okay to age him to his mid-30s, which, believe it or not, was considered pretty ancient in those days. Of course now Superman has a tween kid, so he’s allowed to be a young 30 to 40-ish.
Beppo the Super-Monkey had been introduced in October, 1959, in a Superbaby adventure in Superboy #76. Apparently, he’d spend the intervening few dozen years bumming around the solar system. The Legionnaires find him on Phobos, apparently also when Superman would be about 35. I was a bit surprised to hear Beppo’s thoughts transcribed in baby talk (“Me like him”), since Krypto thinks in whole sentences and Streaky’s dry wit cries out to be voiced by Sir John Gielgud. A couple of studies of comparative intelligence seem to show that dogs respond to human language more ably than primates, though I believe the average dog is capable of learning about 150 words, and Kanzi the Chimp knows 450 of them.
Cats, of course, tap into a vast, universal intelligence network, and their intellect is not dependent upon their brains. They had the Cloud long before DropBox came along.
Comet the Super-Horse had never appeared before, but would show up in Supergirl’s strip a few months later in Action Comics #292. Readers were told that this was a special sneak-preview of Supergirl’s future. Here, he’s just a horse. When his origin as a magical centaur was revealed, he would be seen to be able to turn into a man who dated both Supergirl and Lois Lane. Hmmmm…
After the pets do their thing, the Legion return them to their proper places and times, but not before officially forming the Legion of Super-Pets.
In the words of Krypto, “What an honor!” (Actually, nobody heard him say anything but “Yip, Yip!”)
Firsts: Legion of Super-Pets, Comet the Super-Horse