Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Super-Stalag of Space!” (Adventure Comics #344, May, 1966)

Edmond Hamilton’s final Legion tale is an adaptation of Stalag 17, a Broadway play which became a film, about prisoners of war in a Nazi prison camp. Word comes to the Legionnaires that Brainiac 5 is a prisoner of war. A team goes to free him, and winds up being captured themselves by Nardo, the commandant, who has nuclear energy in his veins. They’re separated by gender, the boys awakening in a barracks already inhabited by other super-powered heroes from other worlds, including Plant Lad, Blockade Boy, Weight Wizard and Shadow Kid.

The film Stalag 17 opens with two Allied inmates escaping through a tunnel, only to be shot by guards. In the Legion story, a hapless Durlan who is locked by exposure to a chemical weapon in the form of Superboy, tries the same escape and dies on the wrong end of a blast of kryptonite force rings.

Brainiac 5 is selected by the inmates to plan their escape, and is almost immediately brought before Nardo for questioning and psychological torture. Brainy doesn’t crack, but he comes out convinced that one of the inmates is an informant—another page lifted directly out of the movie. Like William Holden’s character in the film, Weight Wizard argues against the inmates trying to escape or using force on their captors. Poor Plant Lad, on the other hand, cracks and attacks the android guards, dying for his trouble.

The story ends with a re-hash of the opening incident—Matter-Eater Lad and Blockade Boy escape via a tunnel (eaten by ME Lad, of course). They glimpse the area of the prison where the female inmates are kept—including Saturn Girl, Light Lass and Duo Damsel—and then they’re caught. Nardo sentences them to death, but, before they die, wants them to know that they were, indeed, betrayed by one of their comrades.

Firsts: Shadow Kid

Roll Call: Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Duo Damsel, Light Lass, Invisible Kid, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Element Lad

 

 

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