John Forte’s final Legion adventure, capping more than three years of faithful service to the team, evokes a story from early in writer Edmond Hamilton’s career. That story, “The Conquest of Two Worlds,” tells the tale of human colonization of Mars and Jupiter. That colonization is carried out much the way the colonizations of many lands on Earth were—by driving natives off their lands, killing them liberally to make room for humans. One of the three men who bravely explores and conquers these new worlds develops sympathy for the natives, and helps first the Martians, then the Jovians. He dies for his trouble.
Like that turncoat, Beast Boy of Lallor, a mutant hated and feared, like his mutant counterparts over at Marvel, turns on humanity and does his part to help exotic animals in space. The Legion is alerted that animals on a hunting preserve planet are displaying intelligence, using strategy and teamwork to battle hunters. It’s not a very nice planet. Humanity attempted to colonize it many times, failing each time. Now they keep one, small city going to host hunters who come to capture the beasts of the planet.
Realizing that someone with the power to shapeshift into animal forms is behind all this, the Legionnaires go to Lallor. There, they learn that Beast Boy vanished some months ago. He is their culprit. Caught out, Beast Boy transforms himself into an animal and hides out on a transport back to earth, amongst animals being sold to a zoo. He makes it to Earth, uses the hypnosis power of one of the animals to make the cover scene happen (Superboy fighting Mon-El to the death otherwise has no place in the story), and then escapes again disguised as a dog.
He learns that stray dogs aren’t well-treated on Earth. He wanders, hungry and exhausted, until a little girl befriends him and feeds him. Just as his strength is returning, however, one of the zoo animals he has freed in the course of his escape attacks his benefactor. He has no choice but to defend her in dog form. It doesn’t go well. Changing back to his—strangely unblemished—human form, he dies a hero.
Saturn Girl is leader again, after the strange claim that it was Brainy in the Time Trapper story.
But the question is begged—why kill Beast Boy? He wasn’t a particularly memorable character, and the death has little long-term payoff. I suspect it had to do with the introduction of Gar Logan’s Beast Boy over in Doom Patrol. This story was dated December 1965. The familiar, green-skinned someday Teen Titan premiered in Doom Patrol #99, cover dated one month earlier. Possibly editors Mort Weisginger (Legion) and Murray Boltinoff (DP) brokered a deal to avoid confusion, since Logan-Beast Boy was to become a regular. (And clearly a very popular character, since he’s been featured in some title continuously since 1981.) I floated this theory to former DC Editor Bob Greenberger, who did copious research preparing for 1985’s Who’s Who in the DC Universe. Bob said editors never read each other’s books (and I wonder if they even read their own!), so, at best, Weisinger spotted Boltinoff’s latest Doom Patrol cover, raised the point that the name was taken, and someone decided they should eliminate the duplicate character with the lesser potential.
But the story, though unexpected and given little fanfare, is an emotionally affecting one, not easily forgotten. As its penciller on his last assignment deserves not to be forgotten.
Roll Call: Phantom Girl, Lightning Lad, Superboy, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Mon-El, Invisible Kid, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Phantom Girl