Legion of Super-Heroes Re-Read – “The Unknown Legionnaire” (Adventure Comics #334, July, 1965) 

The timeline in this story is a bit odd. It begins with a framing sequence, where the Legionnaires visit a planet in the Antares system and find a statue honoring the Unknown Legionnaire. Superboy asks if anyone remembers that adventure, as if it was long ago. This isn’t the first time it’s been made to sound as if the Legion’s adventures have been going on for the seven real time years the group has been in existence. Age-wise, Superboy hasn’t aged out of high school yet, which puts a pretty short span on his Legion career since Adventure #247. Three years would be an outside limit, and I say it’s pretty outside. 

More, at the beginning of the flashback tale, Supergirl talks about getting back to school at Stanhope College, which she started attending in the November, 1964 issue of Action Comics (#318) —less than a year ago in real time, and probably much less on the Legion’s timeline. So the flashback “do you remember” device is glaringly off.  

We’re told how the villainous Dr. Eldor had escape the prison planetoid, and how the Legion tracked him to a strange, giant mushroom-covered world in the Antares system. It is, in fact, the home world of the Proteans, Proty II’s race. A squad of police officers approach the Legion, and Proty II runs to them. Chameleon boy smells a shape-shifting rat, because Proty doesn’t like strange humans. The police are, in fact, Proteans. For reasons unknown, they’re working with Eldor.  

There follows a series of dodges in which the Proteans impersonate some Legionnaires and kidnap others, all the while to help Eldor find an ultimate weapon left behind by the humanoid benefactors who gave them their shape-shifting power. In the midst of this, a costumed boy shows up wearing a lead mask. He has all of Superboy’s powers, but can see through lead. A mind scan by Saturn Girl reveals that he does not know who he is. If he were an android or robot (that an android is a robot in human form always seemed to have escaped Hamilton!), he would at least remember being created.  

And, ya know, Imra, damn near everyone also would remember what genitalia they have, especially if they’re trying to hide that piece of information. I’m just sayin’. Because, you see, it turns out that Unknown Boy is really Supergirl, who encountered Red Kryptonite on her flight home, lost her memory, gained the power to see through lead, and knew only that she had to protect her secret identity and that she had a set of coordinates with a helpful date on a piece of paper in her pocket. 

It’s interesting that Supergirl, while amnesia-ridden, jumps to a conclusion that few super-heroes ever have: that pretending to have a different gender would better protect her secret identity. I can think only of the original Red Tornado and another 40s femme fatale named Madame Fatal who tried this. I personally think intrepid reporter Claire Doubtfire make an excellent secret identity for Superman.  

Almost halfway through the Adventure run, we’ve seen Supergirl in a significant role only one other time—and that was in the Satan Girl affair, where she was likewise altered by Red Kryponite. (For the purists, she had five other appearances, but they were all pretty much cameos, except for “The Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires.”) 

As to Unknown Boy, this is getting to be a tired story device, the Legion being confronted by a fairly mediocre threat, and all the Legionnaires standing by or falling as fodder so that the mystery Legionnaire of the month can step up and look amazing.  

 Firsts: Post-hypnotic suggestions being used to make Superboy forget what he learned about his own future. In this case, it’s revealed that Supergirl places them. Later, it would be Legion technology.  

Roll Call: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, Superboy, Supergirl

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