Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Legion of Super-Villains!” (Superman #147, August, 1961)

As promised at the end of “The Army of Living Kryptonite Men”, an adult Lex Luthor, imprisoned, makes good on his promise to track down the Legion of Super-Villains, which must exist, he reasons, if there is a Legion of Super-Heroes. His method of tracking them down is pretty hilarious—he offers to repair all of his fellow inmates’ broken radios, and, while doing so, steals one part from each of them in order to build a future transmitter. Did the radios with missing parts actually work when he was done? We’re never told. I guess it doesn’t matter, since, after building the future transmitter, he quickly secures the means to escape.

“Calling the future!” he says into his transmitter. (I love it!) These were the days, if you don’t remember them, when a lot of Americans still didn’t dial phones. They picked them up and told an operator who they wanted to talk to. So Lex wasn’t behaving that out of character for someone of his time, but still… The whole future, Lex? All of it?

The potential answers are endless:

“Thank you for calling the future. If you are corporeal, please press 1. If not, stay on the line…”

“Hello, [Lex!] I’m an automated assistant, and can understand whole sentences…”

“You have reached the future. Our business hours are from midnight of the Big Bang to—Shit! What’s that?!”

“I told you never to call me here!”

“Hello, Hair Club for Venusian Men, how may we help?”

(Readers, please supply your favorite possible answer to Lex!)

Of course, this being a comic story, and Lex leading a certain kind of charmed life, his call is answered only by the Legion of Super-Villains which he hopes exists, and they send him weapons through time.

Blasting his way out of prison with weapons sent to him through time, he rendez-vouses (?) with the Legion of Super-Villains, who identify themselves as coming from the 21st Century. We meet Cosmic King, who wears the bubble helmet that Cosmic Boy was originally shown wearing on the cover of his first appearance. Other than that, and a blue/magenta version of CB’s costume, he has no connection whatsoever to his LSH counterpart. They’re not from the same planet, and CK has the powers Element Lad would later sport. And he’s from Venus. Odd, because, apart from Saturn Girl, the Legion stories avoided the cliché of having characters come from in-system planets.

Lightning Lord is the second member. Here we learn that Lightning Lad (now Lightning Man, since the villains come from a time in the future when the LSH is all grown up) has a brother. And, indirectly, we learn Lightning Lad’s origin, because he shares it with Lightning Lord.

Finally, there’s Saturn Queen. She’s from Saturn (later Saturn’s moon, Titan) just like Saturn Girl / Saturn Woman. Her power, though, is hypnosis. And she’s not really evil. She just became evil when she left Saturn. As soon as Superman gives her a chunk of Saturn’s rings to wear, she’s reformed again. (She doesn’t stay reformed. She comes back many times as an LSV member.)

Note the titles—“King, Lord, Queen”—you know these are bad dudes, because they’re royalists, and we Americans—What? Prince Harry’s marrying who? I am so more interested in his life than mine!

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. Not much Legion action in this one. We get to see Saturn Woman heroically offer to die in place of Superman—kinda silly, since she knows from history that Superman isn’t going to die—or is that the whole point? Other than that, we learn little except that Jerry Siegel forgot that the Legion comes from the 30th Century, not the 21st. Or maybe the LSV was just lying to confuse Lex. Yeah, let’s go with that.

It’s funny that the Legion is still alternately referred to as the “Super Hero Club.” That took a while to wear off.

Firsts: Adult Legion, Legion of Super-Villains, Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, Saturn Queen

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2 thoughts on “Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Legion of Super-Villains!” (Superman #147, August, 1961)

  1. I’m always late to the party. Despite reading stories featuring the LSV since 1965, it was only a couple of years ago that I realized that all the early members had names based on non-democratic leaders. In addition to the original three (Lord, Queen and King) there were Sun Emperor and Chameleon Chief.

  2. Pingback: "The Triumph of the Legion of Super-Villains" (Adventure Comics #331, April, 1965) - Steven H. WilsonSteven H. Wilson

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