This may be the first issue of Legion’s Adventure run that I ever bought. And no, I did not buy it new, being only a year old when it was published. I bought it sometime around 1976/77 at the Antique Underground in Prince George’s Plaza. I was amazed to get it as cheaply as I did—probably for either a quarter or fifty cents. It was a well-read, clearly loved issue.
Nelson Bridwell, now about two years into his career writing DC super-hero comics, tackles his first Legion story, which is quite an atmospheric departure from the groundwork Jim Shooter was laying at the time. But it’s also a critical piece, tying up loose ends, creating a few new characters, and leaving Shooter more Legionnaires to play with.
Bridwell was Mort Weisinger’s Assistant Editor on Legion and several other books. He’s known for many humor titles, including The Inferior Five and Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew. He co-created The Secret Six, and was a true scholar of comic book history. The reprints featured in many of the fondly remembered 100-Page Super Spectaculars of the 1970s were curated by Bridwell. Prior to writing Legion, he had primarily worked on World’s Finest and contributed the odd Superman Family story.
Superboy is summoned to the future via the glowing statue alarm in the Kents’ basement—something we haven’t seen in a while. He flies to the future, and just about collapses as soon as he arrives outside Legion HQ. Brainiac 5 urges him to come inside fast, so he’ll be safe. Supergirl is already there. The cousins learn that a cloud of Green Kryptonite dust, apparently ionized by collision with a nebula in space, has drifted to Earth and is being held in place by Earth’s magnetic field. It will take it two years to dissipate. We watch Cosmic Boy try to use his magnetic powers to release the cloud, Sun Boy and Lightning Lad try to blow it away with electromagnetic energy, and, finally, Element Lad try to change it to Helium. (Not sure why Helium, particularly, since free Hydrogen is the most common element in space. Perhaps Nelson Bridwell thought Helium would disperse more easily because it’s light. Of course Hydrogen is even lighter.
Element Lad and Brainy learn that attempting to alter the atomic structure of the cloud will result in a chain reaction that would destroy the Earth. (That’s a suspension-of-disbelief stretch for me. After all, if you have the power to manipulate at the atomic level, you should have complete control over any associated chemical reactions, but okay. Ain’t it a damn shame that the Legion didn’t yet have a member who could control chemical reactions?)
So Superboy and Supergirl must by honorably discharged. Thank god that this issue’s Bastard People moment, the Legionnaires pairing off into couples and smiling while the Kryptonian Kousins kry over being expelled, is only on the cover. After a gift-giving ceremony, in which we glimpse new Legionnaire Karate Kid for the first time in three issues, the cousins must have their memories of the Legion expunged, so that they won’t be in danger in the 20th Century from knowing too much about the future.
Their memories are wiped surgically, with Ultra Boy using his penetra vision to create a map of Kal and Kara’s brains, while Shrinking Violet carries a microscopic Green K pellet into their skulls to burn out those memories. Sounds a little sketchy, but it’s clever and visually exciting. It also came out on the heels of 20th Century Fox’s epic, Fantastic Voyage, in which shrunken scientists journey into the body of a dying patient, battle white corpuscles, and escape the body via the tear duct, just as Violet does.
The film was released August 24, 1966 in Los Angeles, September 7, 1966 in New York. It beat Adventure 350 (which hit the stands on September 29th, 1966) to the viewing and reading public by weeks—but not enough weeks for Bridwell, Swan or Weisinger to have seen it prior to this issue being scripted and drawn, unless they happened to catch a very advance showing. An abridged novelization of the film, however, was written by the celebrated Isaac Asimov in The Saturday Evening Post on February 26th and March 12th of 1966, plenty of time for the team to have read the story and “adapted it” for this issue. Asimov’s full novel version of the story was released the same month that this issue was.
Before Superboy and Supergirl leave for what may be the last time, they ask for the privilege of selecting their replacements—and armored pair named Sir Prize and Miss Terious. One wonders how the cousins had time to prepare this mysterious surprise, since they can’t leave the clubhouse and their departure is awfully quick. But somewhere in there, they must have had time to talk to the pair in the masks. Maybe it was a contingency plan worked out well ahead of time, just in case.
A new group of criminals called the Devil’s Dozen, led by a man named Evillo, appears. Evillo bears a passing resemblance to a Challengers of the Unknown villain, Villo, who premiered in the Challs’ book only a few months earlier. No connection between the two is documented, but perhaps Evillo is Villo’s descendant? Or an admirer? Apollo, a member of this team, robs a bank to draw the Legion’s attention, and, when a Legion team responds, kidnaps Lightning Lad. Saturn Girl, who has promised not to read Sir Prize’s mind, nevertheless blames him for Lightning Lad’s kidnapping and suspects that he may be a traitor.
We see Ferro Lad briefly. Like Karate Kid, he’s been absent since joining. Unlike Karate Kid, he would be featured heavily in the next few issues. Of course, the third of these would feature his death. It’s a shame that he didn’t get in more appearances when he had the chance. Matter-Eater Lad is back as well, having been unseen since becoming obese five issues prior.
Bridwell steps up the romance to levels that future Legion readers would consider baseline, with Supergirl giving Brainiac 5 an intense goodbye lip-lock before leaving for the past, and Lightning Lad calling Saturn Girl “honey” in front of the whole team. We even see tears from Saturn Girl when her boyfriend is kidnapped. You’ve come a long way, Imra. (Although, to be fair, Garth did call her “My Darling,” back in issue #343, but only after he thought she was dead.)
At the very end of the story, we get the first appearance of “The Richest Man in the Universe.” He has no name, but we’re told “He’s the ‘Santa Claus’ whose endowment helps support the Legion!” This, of course, is R.J. Brande.
But we’ll find that out next issue.
Roll Call: Superboy; Supergirl, Invisible Kid, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Colossal Boy, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Cosmic Boy, Light Lass, Phantom Girl, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Ferro Lad
Membership: 22 with Superboy and Supergirl gone and Sir Prize and Miss Terious inducted.
Firsts: R.J. Brande.