Let's Read The Legion Of Super-Heroes!

I grew up with these Silver Age stories and it all just brings me back to when I was a kid.

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If you and your friends hang out in a clubhouse, you (usually) don’t want your parents to join you.

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Yup I’m 100% out of my element with super space teens and whatnots. I’ve often found myself Legion-fan-adjacent, though, and quietly wondered WTF. I am Wondering WTF Lad, I guess.

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Adventure Comics #300

This is a fairly momentous issue. After guest appearances in this title, Action Comics, Superman, and Superboy, the Legion Of Super-Hero officially becomes one of the two features in Adventure Comics, as they’ve proven very popular with readers. Apparently, kids like reading about other kids hanging out together. The lead feature would be Superboy, with the Legion getting the back-up feature. Eventually, this would flip; the Legion gets the lead spot, with Superboy’s solo adventures taking the B-spot. The Legion would eventually take over the title entirely throughout most of the 60s.

Now, before we begin, the version I have access to on DC Universe Infinite is NOT the actual #300. The original features a lead story of Superboy and Lana, and the backup has a Legion tale, which we’ll get into shortly. The DCUI version has the story from the following issue, #301 (which is NOT on DCUI) as the lead. So, we’ll come back to that later and in the meantime read a story called…

The Face Behind The Lead Mask

Now, the narration says that this is the 21st century. You’ll note that is in direct contradiction to all the other stories we’ve had so far. That’s something that comes up for the next 10 issues or so, writers unclear if it’s the 21st century or the 30th. They’d eventually settle on the latter, but even then there will be some flubs, like in the 70s, when some stories are said to take place in 297x and others said to be in 307x.

As we enter the clubhouse, we see statues of all the members, with plaques listing their names and powers. The Doylist answer for this is, of course, so that readers unfamiliar with the team (because remember, they’ve only had a handful of appearances over the course of the past few years) can know who’s who. The Watsonian answer? The Legionnaires are all egomaniacs.

Anyway, the Legion members in attendance are about to film a PSA about not committing crimes in the future, and are getting ready to be filmed. There’s a robot with an camera and tripod. That amuses me more than it should.

Suddenly, the robot and camera are destroyed. It appears that Cosmic Boy destroyed them with his magnetic powers! He is aghast, both because he appears to have lost control of his powers and because the people of Braal preach responsible use of magnetism. Sun Boy’s powers malfunction next, melting the remains of the robot and camera into slag.

Lightning Lad is about to chide them for their bad behavior, citing “Legion Code” when he likewise experiences premature electrocution. Saturn Girl attempts to probe everyone’s mind, because maybe they’re impostors using the “Oh no, we can’t control our powers” as cover for a rampage, when her "thought-casting likewise goes haywire. Saturn Girl rushes to, and this is a real thing in this comic, the Superboy Emergency Lever.

Meanwhile, in the 20th Century, Clark Kent is at the Smallville Reformatory where young Lex Luthor is being released. He tells Lex that he hopes he goes straight, but Lex is defiant. He hates Superboy, and if they both manage to grow up, he’ll hate Superman.

Back at home, Clark wonder what to do about Lex, even contemplating putting him in the Phantom Zone. Gee, it’s too bad there’s not a device that can turn evil people good! Speaking of the Phantom Zone, Clark checks on Mon-El. Mon-El is from Daxam, and Daxamites have powers similar to Kryptonians. Clark, in his recollections, reveals that just as Kryptonians get weak from Kryptonite radiation, Daxamites are vulnerable to “lead radiation”.

What Clark doesn’t mention? When Mon-El showed up, everyone assumed, including an amnesiac Mon-El himself, that he was Superboy’s big brother. In a fit of jealousy, he “accidentally” gave Mon-El lead poisoning. “Oh, no, you’re dying. Here, I’ll put you in the Phantom Zone.” Clark had promised to not rest until he found a cure. We’ll soon see how much a promise from Clark is worth.

Anyway, Clark’s lamp is blinking. The Legion needs him! Clark changes into Superboy and flies off into the future!

At the Clubhouse, everyone’s power is still going out of control. Superboy fixes the clubhouse, but that doesn’t stop the local people from thinking the Legionnaires have now become menaces. But that’s not the worst of it. The police show up with an ultimatum- unless they get control of their powers in one hour, they will be exiled from Earth.

… I have several questions about the legal system in the 30th/ 21st century, but we’ll think about that later.

Superboy is about to examine his teammates with his X-Ray vision to find out why their powers are out of control, but he’s interrupted by a flying man in a leaden mask. He identifies himself as “Urthlo” and he claims to have a gadget that can nullify all their powers.

The Legion attempts to prove him wrong… and fails! He CAN turn of their powers. Urthlo also zaps Superboy with Kryptonite vision. They retreat with their flight belts, with Urthlo giving them 15 minutes before he hunts them down and destroys them.

Luckily, Saturn Girl has a plan. She directs Superboy to dig up something the Legion had hid their previously.

Seriously, what is with the Legion burying stuff? Do they play pirate when they’re not fighting space crime?

Anyway, Superboy digs up the chest and finds… a Phantom Zone projector! Saturn Girl directs Superboy to release Mon-El from the Phantom Zone.

So, Clark never got around to finding a cure? I’m shocked, SHOCKED.

Superboy doesn’t want to, claiming it’s because the lead poisoning will resume and Mon-El will die, but more likely because he wants his dirty laundry to stay hidden. But Saturn Girl asks him to trust her.

Mon-El is freed from the Phantom Zone, but he immediately doubles over in pain. To make matter worse, Urthlo reappears, and his leaden mask might well spell doom for the Daxamite. Saturn Girl hands him something to drink, and suddenly, Mon-El is fine! Fit as a fiddle! Mon-El, now seemingly immune to… -sigh- “lead radiation”, rushes forward to fight the masked foe. One mighty punch and… it’s a robot! Now that the danger has passed, Saturn Girl reveals herself. She had been in telepathic communication with Mon-El and had figured out a temporary cure. Key word being “temporary”; the effects of the serum only last a few minutes, but that means Mon-El can help the Legion in emergencies and more importantly he now has hope that a permanent cure can be found.

But what about the Urthlo robot? Superboy removes the mask to reveal the face of… Lex Luthor! The robot reveals the truth- after his release from the reformatory, Lex built a robot and sent it into the future with his “time ray” to seek revenge on Superboy by way of destroying the reputation of his friends. Not only was the mask made of lead, but also the robot’s whole body, so Superboy wouldn’t deduce anything. Though you’d think he’d think something was up if he tried to scan him with X-Ray vision and found absolutely nothing.

With the robot’s last bit of energy, he promises that Luthor will eventually triumph before completely shutting down.

The Legion votes for Mon-El to officially be a member. So grateful are they, that they are willing to forego the usual hazing. How magnanimous of them. As the serum wears off, they put Mon-El back in the Phantom Zone, with Superboy once again promising to not rest until he finds a true cure. Spoiler- he doesn’t.

Superboy returns to the 20th century as the Legionnaires wave goodbye, no doubt preparing themselves for another adventure…!

Adventure Comics #301
Once again, this story is labeled as the 21st century. Our Legion tale opens as a throng of admirers (how many people in a “throng” anyway?) at the Legion Clubhouse, waiting to meet their heroes. Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad sign a few autographs, using an electro stylus pen because THE FUTURE, before heading in and activating the force field to shoo away the ardent fans. You see, there’s important business today. Our heroes are holding try-outs, interviewing various applicants who hope to join the illustrious organization.

First up is… Lester Spiffany. He doesn’t have any powers, but he’s rich because his father is a big shot jewel magnate. The Legion can’t be bought, however, and they kindly inform him they’re not interested. He storms off in his fancy flying car, proclaiming, and this is a direct quote, “You’re stupid, all of you! Stupid!! Stupid!!” Hmm, someone who made his money from an inheritance and has an immature meltdown when he doesn’t get his way? Hold on, I have a picture of Lester…

elon1

The next applicant is Storm Boy, who claims to be able to control the weather. However, Cosmic Boy quickly deduces that Storm Boy’s “power” is from a device hidden on his person, and that’s forbidden by Legion by-laws. Triplicate Girl quickly splits into three to bounce the charlatan. Cosmic Boy then suggests a break, letting the remaining would-be heroes know that any others planning on such chicanery had best use that time to split.

Many of those auditioning are now very nervous. Cosmic Boy, hoping to put them at ease, uses a fancy computer to ask a random Legionnaire to speak to the attendees. We are about to hear the mysterious, epic, awe-inspiring origin of… -checks comic- Bouncing Boy.

Anyway, Bouncing Boy introduces himself. Before he was a superhero, he was Chuck Taine, delivery boy. Wait, wait, wait, a tale set in the future about a delivery boy? That’s the dumbest premise I’ve ever heard!

frymeme1

Chuck is tasked to deliver a bottle of super plastic fluid to the Science Council. On his way, he decides to stop in and watch a sporting event, buying a beverage from a vendor. Apparently, sodas in the future only cost $0.50! Wow, what an economy! Anyway, the excitement works up a powerful thirst in Chuck, so he reaches for his bottle of soda. Or so he thinks! He actually chugs down the plastic fluid! He inflates like a balloon and accidentally disrupts things. He quickly goes to the hospital where he learns that he has bouncing powers, able to transform into a ball shape and bounce. … Like Tigger.

Man, if I had a nickel for every DC Silver Age hero who got their powers from soda related incidents, I’d… well, I’d have two nickels, which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it’s happened twice.

Bouncing Boy, as Chuck now calls himself, decided to see if he could join the Legion. The Legion turns him down, which comes as a shock to Taine’s audience of Legion prospects. Bouncing Boy didn’t give up though, looking for other opportunities to try and impress the Legion. These all come to naught, however.

Dejected, he’s about to give up, when a thief with electro gauntlets is going on a crime spree! He’s zapping the police into unconsciousness! Why, even the Legion’s own Saturn Girl has fallen to the techno-crook! Bouncing Boy bounces into action! Because he’s in the air, the crook can’t zap him, as he isn’t grounded. (A helpful editor’s note explains that this story takes place before devices that allow them to fly became standard Legion equipment.) Bouncing Boy makes quick work of the robber. A grateful Legion admits that they rushed to judgment and welcome Bouncing Boy into their ranks.

His tale concluded, Bouncing Boy wishes the applicants good luck and encourages them to never give up, words they take to heart.

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Man, the Legion rings were so much more elegant than the weird jet packs they had in early stories.

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Yeah, it’s neat to read these things and see how… “Seat of the pants” isn’t quite the right term, but they were clearly making it up as they go along. For instance, it’s general consensus NOW that the founding members were Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad, but back then, they were just the first that we saw. Coming up very shortly, at least in these early stories, it’s implied that the Legion existed prior to them, and they tried out just like everybody else.

It’s a stark contrast to the Zero Hour reboot of the Legion, which was clearly hashed out ahead of time by Waid, Peyer, the artists, and editorial. (They also had the benefit of 3+ decades of Legion lore to draw from, adapting or discarding as they saw fit.)

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Adventure Comics #304

The story begins with Saturn Girl landing in front of the Legion Clubhouse. A small flying crystal capsule soon lands behind her. There’s a message inside. Something about “Zaryan The Conqueror”. She quickly destroys the capsule before any of the other Legion members can see it. She heads inside.

All the other Legion members are there, save Superboy and Supergirl (they finally let her join! Yay!) who are in other time periods. Why is everyone there? It’s Election Day! Yes, today is the day that the Legion votes on who will lead them. Everyone lines up to the “Vote-O-Matic”, because it’s the future, and the votes are cast. The winner…?

Saturn Girl! It turns out to be unanimous, as well! Wait a minute. She voted for herself? How tacky! And everyone else voted her as well? Curious. Saturn Girl’s inner monologue reveals the truth- she rigged the election, using her telepathy to get everyone to change their minds at the last minute. What is this?

Her first act as leader? She takes a rare mineral worth $200k that the Legion had been given for foiling Zaryan the Conqueror (there’s that name again) and makes a bunch of medallions with her face on them, ordering the Legion to put them on. They balk at this act of wastefulness and vanity, but Saturn Girl points out that TECHNICALLY according to Legion by-laws, she’s absolutely allowed to do this.

She then orders her teammates to undergo rigorous testing of their powers. But she is harsh and unfair, and they all fail the tests. As a result, Saturn Girl suspends everyone and forbids them from using their abilities. Again, inner monologue, the medallions are allowing her to copy their powers!

The Legion gets word that Zaryan is about to attack Earth. Saturn Girl dons a spacesuit and goes off all, threatening expulsion if anyone follows. The Legionnaires are beginning to have doubts. Was this an evil plan? Is Saturn Girl in cahoots with Zaryan, putting them all on the sidelines, leaving the Earth imperiled because they are so intent on obeying their bullcrap rules?

Lightning Lad knows something, however. He puts on a spaceship and follows! The invasion has started and Saturn Girl stands alone. But Lightning Lad rushes forward. She begs him to leave, but it’s too late. He’s stopped the invasion, but has been mortally wounded in the process.

Back on Earth, Lightning Lad explains. Saturn Girl’s plot to neutralize all the Legion was foolproof, except she forgot someone- Mon-El! Though he’s in the Phantom Zone, but he can see and hear everything going on in this dimension, because apparently that’s a thing. He saw the capsule and the message before Saturn Girl destroyed it. It had a dire prediction- the Legion would face Zaryan and one of them would die. So that’s why! She was going to make sure that she was the only one who could fulfill the prophecy. However, she forgot about Mon-El and the fact that he can broadcast telepathically from the Phantom Zone, that is apparently also a thing. He didn’t do so before because static or something, but once it cleared up he filled in Lightning Lad. That static is back, so they can’t save Lightning Lad by putting him in the Phantom Zone. Lightning Lad dies, saying good-bye to his comrades-in-arms. Superboy, Supergirl and… uh… Lori Lemaris the mermaid that Clark Kent dated in college (because Silver Age comics were a glorious mish-mash of insane ideas) show up to attend the funeral. The whole of the United Planets mourn the loss of the brave Legionnaire, who is interred in a glass coffin with Tesla coils, not unlike Snow White. And thus ends our story, but not before some closing narration that asks if Lightning Lad is REALLY dead… We call that foreshadowing kids.

Adventure Comics #305

The Legion is still in mourning after Lightning Lad’s gallant and noble sacrifice. The Legion has no time to grieve, however, as there are a number applicants hoping to fill the vacancy in the Legion’s ranks.

Up first is Antennae Lad, who can pick up radio broadcasts from anywhere in the past, present or future! He’s rejected, because it’s noisy and doesn’t quite have control and precision. … Really? That is an INCREDIBLY useful power, especially in regards to intelligence and research, and you’re just dismissing him because ooh your precious ears?

Next up is The Dynamo Kid, who claims to have lightning powers just like the departed Lightning Lad. “Claims” being the operative word. He’s actually an undercover journalist using a device hoping to do a story on the Legion, like when Alan Alda pretended to be George Plimpton pretending to be a football player. The Kid is quickly shown the door.

Next is a guy calling himself… Legionnaire Lemon?!? A bit presumptuous, but he’s positive he’ll make a good impression on the Legion. Certainly, he’s off to a good start, proving he can fly on his own and lift Colossal Boy at giant-size, which is why he also calls himself “Marvel Lad”.

The Legionnaires ARE impressed, but they have one burning question- “How do we know Superboy isn’t screwing with us?” A reasonable concern considering that, when he grows up, he’ll instigate a week-long countywide search in Midvale because he wants to see if Supergirl can keep a secret.

Marvel Lad proves he’s not Superboy by being exposed to Kryptonite. He also points out that he’s likewise not affected by the radiation from the lead box they keep it in, like Mon-El would be. Yes, for a time, the writers over at DC thought that lead radiates.

Lemon is giving a series of tests, the first two he passes with flying colors. His last test? Go to a planet and clear out the weird monsters that are there to make it safe for space pilots. He goes to the planets and quickly returns, boasting that there are no more monsters. The Legion… is ready to disqualify him, because they have the “no killing” rule, even monsters. Lemon laughs! Who said anything about killing? The “monsters” were actually holographic projections used by pirates; the planet is actually a spot where they keep their pirate booty! Wow! It’s a planet of Scooby-Doo villains!

One last test- create a new element! Marvel Lad does so with ease, combing gold, silver, and iron to make Element 152 (the combined number of the atomic numbers of the 3 elements), an antigravity metal. The Legion is astounded, and asks how Legionnaire Lemon came by his impressive abilities. He promises to tell them… Tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes, and after making them wait and doubt a little bit, Marvel Lad arrives. He reveals his TRUE identity… Mon-El! Apparently, Brainiac 5 came up with a cure for Mon-El’s lead poisoning, but wanted to wait and see if it was permanent before telling the other Legionnaires. So, Mon-El decided to prove it and have a little fun at the same time. So, for the record, that’s TWICE that Superboy promised to find a cure for Mon-El, only to actually leave it to somebody else.

Before being inducted properly, he asks to be sent into the Phantom Zone one last time, also recounting his origin in the process. You know, the one where Superboy “accidentally” gave him fatal lead poisoning and placed him in Purgatory for a millennium. You see, for the past thousand years, the Kryptonian criminals in that otherworldly prison would mock and jeer him, so Mon-El wanted this time to tell them “Up yours, good triumphs over evil, later dickweeds.” Paraphrasing, obviously, because this is a Code Approved comic, but that’s the gist of it.

Mon-El is welcomed officially into the Legion with open arms, and he vows to find a way to bring Lightning Lad back to life.

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Adventure Comics #306
his story features the origin of… The Legion of Substitute Heroes?!? HELL and YES. To say that this is an important story to the overall history of the Legion would be a gross understatement.

Anyway, a young man named Brek Bannin lands on Earth. He walks the streets, admiring all the tributes to the Legion. But he’s there to do more than admire from afar, he’s is there to BECOME a Legionnaire, for he is… Polar Boy!

Yes, he has the power to generate intense cold. He demonstrates his powers to the assembled Legion members and… he is rejected.

You see, his powers might inconvenience or distract them.

… Dickweeds.

Anyway, since he DID seem promising, he’s given a Legion flight belt (we’re still not up to the flight rings, but we’ve moved past the Jetsons style jetpacks). Heartbroken, he wanders the empty streets at night.

It’s then that he meets others who were rejected today…

Night Girl- possessing strength that could rival Superboy or Mon-El! … But only when it’s dark out.
Stoneboy- Possessing the power to turn into a solid stone statue. You know, like Disney’s Gargoyles, but on purpose.
Chlorophyll Kid- He can make plants grow. Like, really, really fast!
Fire-Lad- He breathes fire, which is pretty awesome, actually, but he was rejected because he might actually set something on fire. Pfft! Like Sun Boy or Lightning Lad AREN’T walking fire hazards?

The five heroes decide to band together in the hope that they might one day prove their worth to the Legion and they become… The Legion Of Substitute Heroes! Apparently, they heard Bouncing Boy’s speech from a few issues back. Likewise, they try to prove their worth, but each time, the Legionnaires get their first. After several tries, they return to their mountain headquarters which they built themselves in, like an, afternoon (seriously, that’s an impressive feat of engineering! I’d think they should get in for that alone), and think about maybe giving up as the Legion proper races to another emergency. It’s then that a strange occurrence attracts their attention… Strange seeds. Chlorophyll Kid uses his power to speed things up and… AHH! It’s an angry plant monster. That’s what all the other seeds are too! They dispatch the invader and the seeds only to realize the horrible truth- this is just the first phase of the invasion, and the “emergency” that called away the Legion of Super-Heroes is a decoy so the conquest of Earth can continue unimpeded!

The Substitutes all come to the realization- they are literally Earth’s only defense. They race to the planet of origin for the seeds, and, using teamwork and creative applications of their powers, manage to foil the invasion.

The Substitutes return to Earth to find that the Legion is being given a parade for their handling of the “emergency” that no one knows was really a hoax. The Substitutes are okay with no one knowing the REAL heroes of this day, for they proved their worth to the people who really needed to know it… Themselves.

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Adventure Comics #308

It’s an auspicious day today for the Legion Of Super-Heroes. They are gathered outside their clubhouse because they have recently received… a flag?!? Yes, they made themselves a flag. I can just imagine what for…

Meanwhile, at the Khund Empire
“What is it, Lieutenant Sebastian?”
“It’s the Legion of Super-Heroes, sir. They’re here.”
“My God, man! Do they want tea?!?”
“No, I think they’re after something more than that, sir. I don’t know what it is, but they’ve brought a flag.”
“Damn, that’s dash cunning of them.”

Anyway, the Legion salute their new flag (this flag would actually be used at the end of stories for a while), and they just wish that Lightning Lad could have lived to see this.

Saturn Girl informs the team that she and Mon-El are about to investigate a space fungus, so she asks the remaining Legionnaires to drape one of the new flags over Lightning Lad’s coffin. Sun Boy and the rest of those gathered say yes, they would be proud to honor their fallen comrade thusly.

As Sun Boy is about to place the flag over the clear glass coffin, Bouncing Boy sees something. The arm twitched! Cosmic Boy scoffs, but Sun Boy confirms it! They pull the body out of the coffin… Lightning Lad is alive!

Lightning Lad doesn’t remember much, and there’s really no explanation for how he has revived, but the Legion is just so happy! However, Cosmic Boy, ever the stick in the mud, suggests that if Lightning Lad doesn’t have any memories, then Lightning Lad may not have powers anymore either. Sun Boy is aghast at such a suggestion; without his powers, Lightning Lad would no longer be eligible to be in the team that he gave his life for! Cruel irony! And also, who the HELL makes these rules they have and why can they never make exceptions? You would think there would be some kind of Grandfather Clause or “Returned From The Dead” exemption. At the very least, they can let him stay and do office work, or something.

Cos and Sun Boy recall the origin of Lightning Lad as he himself told it to them- how his ship, drained of power, had found it’s way to a planet full of beasts that could discharge electrical impulses. Trying to use the creatures to recharge the ship, Lightning Lad instead found himself charged with electricity! Once they have had that bit of exposition, which couldn’t possibly become relevant again later on in the story, Cos suggests that maybe Lightning Lad’s electrical powers have drained away and proposes a test. But Sun Boy suggests they do it in secret, so they can at least spare Lightning Lad’s feelings. Yes, it takes complete death and resurrection for the Legion to even contemplate showing empathy for others.

A local scientist needs power for an experiment, so they ask Lightning Lad to help, who flies off. Sun Boy, the sentimental dope, surreptitiously uses his powers, using his powers of super-radiance to generate a warm front, thus producing a powerful thunderstorm that can accomplish the task.

Hold… Hold on. I need to sit down for a moment. There was some actual plausible science right there. This is a big deal. Let’s take a minute.

Bouncing Boy and Shrinking Violet are ecstatic that Lightning Lad appears to be as good as ever, but stick-in-the-mud Cosmic Boy isn’t so sure. He’s totally the kid that reminded the teacher they forgot to assign homework. However, before anyone can say anything further, an urgent message from the Science Police!

Somewhere, in the galaxy, there is a Thieves’ Planet, where all the worst ne’er-do-wells hide out and fence goods and make contacts and plan chicanery. The SP have gotten a tip as to where this planet might be and ask the Legion to investigate. They accept and rocket to the coordinates.

On a small planetoid, they have a confrontation with a suspicious ship they had been tracking. It’s made of non-metallic material, so Cos asks Lightning Lad to zap. Sun Boy, convinced that his dear friend is powerless, again subtly uses his powers to make it appear that Lightning Lad is up to the task. They take the prisoners and investigate the cargo that the criminals are shipping to Thieves World to unload- why, it’s a bunch of animals! Black market trading. There’s even a shapeshifting blob that seems quite taken with Chameleon Boy, who decides that’s going to be his new pet Proty. Anyway, the coordinates are still programmed in the thieves ship, so the Legion hatches a bold scheme- copy the coordinates, take the cargo, and head to Thieves World themselves and pretend to be crooks.

They head to their destination and find out the secret- an invisibility screen! So THAT’s why the Science Police have been unable to find the planet. Our heroes disembark and peruse the black market. Eventually, they’re taken to the leader of this planet- a sphere of pure energy, so powerful that it can even generate electrical impulses to contact human minds for telepathy or mind control. Of course, since it IS a mind reader, the sphere knows that these aren’t pirates but the Legion. To be fair, though, they didn’t try hard. They didn’t change their costumes or put on wigs or anything. They DID paint a skull and crossbones on their ship, however.

The Legion is placed in a crystal prison. Quite ingenious! Cosmic Boy can’t magnet his way out of it, and Sun Boy’s heat blasts just reflect and make things hotter inside. Perhaps Lightning Lad could…? Sun Boy quickly says that lightning bolts would just reflect as well, but Cosmic Boy is having none of that. He knows what Sun Boy has been up to! Before this argument can continue, Chameleon Boy comes up with an alternative. When the guard comes to deliver the food (it certainly is very nice of these criminals to feed the Legion), he’s shocked to see that Cham has a gun! The guard is forced to open the door! But the gun is actually a shapeshifted Proty. Very clever.

The Legion, now free, proceed to just go nuts, wrecking everything in sight with their powers, while Sun Boy orders Lightning Lad to stay back. But the rout of Thieves World is cut short as the sphere returns and uses its powers to command the Legion to stop. But suddenly, Lightning Lad zaps the creature! Apparently it hadn’t bothered with Lightning Lad because it had read the minds of the rest of the team and saw that they thought he had no powers.

Suddenly the truth comes out. That’s not Lightning Lad at all, but a double, and a GIRL at that! Sun Boy knew from the start, noticing a tan line from where she had cut her hair to look more like Lightning Lad and a distinct lack of Adam’s apple. He figured that this was Lightning Lad’s twin sister, assumed she was there to pay tribute to her brother, and also assumed that she didn’t have powers. But, as it turns out, this “Lightning Lass” was on the ship when it had crashed on the planet of lightning beasts and likewise got zapped along with her brother. She had snuck in to Legion HQ, removed Lightning Lad’s body to the lightning world in the hopes that the electrical impulses might revive him, then proceeded to take his place.

The Legion returns home and a vote is taken- Lightning Lass is a member of the team! She vows to honor the memory of her gallant twin, and also hopes that he might someday return, as the new Legion flag waves proudly in the breeze behind them…

That’s a fun little story, and also some rare characterization in these early stories. Cosmic Boy sticking to the rules, hell or high water, and Sun Boy being a loyal friend, even when he didn’t know much about this mystery person aside from the fact that she was Lightning Lad’s sister.

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Be right back. Changing my username to Space Fungus.

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Adventure Comics #310
This issue features a big story, so big, it’s a two-parter! Get ready for we are about to witness…

The Doom Of The Super-Heroes!

We see our heroes attending various chores around the clubhouse when Superboy finally arrives. All the Legionnaires are in attendance because today is a very important day. Everyone has gathered together today (except Supergirl, for reasons that aren’t explained) for a Rededication Ceremony. They recite their oath- “I pledge always to use my super-power only for the good of all people, and never for selfish purposes!”

Just then, an alert from Metropolis Science Police. Apparently a masked man is on a crime spree, stealing bank vaults using powers similar to Cosmic Boy. Superboy and Mon-El race to the scene. There, the find that this mysterious “Mask Man” as they come to refer to him, has not only magnetic powers, but incredible strength, enough to rival the two strongest members of the Legion! The rest of the Legion arrives, but even the whole team is no match for this mysterious foe, who claims to have all the powers of the Legion, and others besides!

Superboy uses his X-ray vision in the hopes of seeing who their opponent is. It can’t penetrate the mask, but it does reveal that the foe is actually wearing stilts; he’s apparently much shorter than he appears. Superboy, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy destroy the stilts, and the citizens of Metropolis down below all have a chuckle at how short this guy is.

… Oh, sure, Metropolis, body shame the guy that’s fighting the Legion Of Super-Heroes to a stand still, that will end well.

The anonymous assailant, humiliated by the jibes and jeers, vows revenge, promising to kill every single member of the Legion. Proving this is no idle threat, he dispatches Ultra Boy before making his escape. The Legion attends their fallen friend, helpfully informing us that no, he’s not unconscious or in suspended animation, he is in fact dead for realsies. While I might question if anyone on the scene is qualified to act as a medical examiner, this is helpful to the readers to establish that yes, this guy means business. Lightning Lad is name-dropped (who has been dead for several issues at this point) to remind everyone that yes, people can and will die in this series.

The Legion mourns their comrade, then begins to make a plan. They decide they need to take their fight to their foe. But where? He’s short, so naturally they conclude that the best place to look is a planet where everyone is short!

Oh, Silver Age comics. Anyway, the Legion flies to the planet that’s become known as… SIGH Doll World. Taking two ships, because again, the whole team is on the case, they fly to the planet. They decide to split up, as there are two main cities. Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy, both having abilities that allow them to blend in, search one town. They split up further (oh, yeah, this will end well), and Violet asks around town. She’s directed to a town elder. Meeting the fellow, he rips off his mask to show… erm… another mask! It’s Mask Man. He tied up the real elder, and proceeds to kill Violet lightning bolts. Chameleon Boy finds her and flies off with her body.

We cut to the Legion seeing Chameleon Boy approach. But Saturn Girl warns them- look out! Mask Man killed Chameleon Boy with poison gas and then impersonated the hero. Mask Man tries to kill the Titanian telepath, but they manage to prevent this (Brainiac 5… uh… punches her in the face to knock her out before she can kill herself), as the villain flies off. The Legion pursues! They follow him to the “Mount Rushmore Of Space” where asteroids are carved to look like famous figures. Suddenly, an extra asteroid appears, with the grim visage of Mask Man! The other ship has no time to dodge! It’s destroyed! Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl, Element Lad, and “the others” are dead. (It says others, but looking at the first page roll call and comparing that to who’s left in part two, the only other person who could be on that ship is Star Boy. He gets the Gilligan’s Island “… And The Rest” treatment.)

The remaining Legion craft, determined to find their foe’s weakness and avenge their fallen comrades, head to an uninhabited planet to make their last stand…

And that is the end of Part 1!

Adventure Comics #310
Part II, Last Stand Of The Legion!

Menaced by the mysterious Mask Man, the Legion has fled, for he has all their powers! X-ray vision, thought casting, shapeshifting, super-strength, electricity, transmutation, and more are all at his disposal, and he has used those powers to destroy over half of the Legion Of Super-Heroes! Yes, dear reader, the galaxy’s greatest heroes have proven no match for the mysterious foe! Zealously he has pursued them, taking them out one by one! Pursued relentlessly, our heroes have retreated to prepare a counterattack! The time has come to stand and fight, but is it too little, too late? “Last Stand Of The Legion!” may not be mere hyperbole, for they face an opponent who has but one thought in mind… Kill the Legion Of Super-Heroes!

A clue!

Read the first letter of every sentence.

The Legion has found an uninhabited planet. Morale is terribly low. Sun Boy is having none of it, however. “Even if we are doomed, are we going to die without even fighting? Is this to be the end of the Legion’s great history?” Stirred by his words, the Legion begins to act, combining their powers to build a mighty fortress. Duties are assigned. Colossal Boy will be the gatekeeper outside, Invisible Kid will act as the interior sentry, and Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 will try to devise some means to counteract their foe.

At that moment, the Mask Man attacks! A barrage of asteroids rains down. Superboy, Mon-El, Sun Boy, and Lightning Lass dispatch many of them, but wait! One is going to hit Lightning Lass. In act of supreme bravery, Colossal Boy throws himself between his teammate and the deadly peril from above, at the cost of his own life. The Legion has no time to mourn, however, as there’s trouble inside. The asteroids were just a distraction so Mask Man could slip in side. The proof, sadly, is the mortal remains of Cosmic Boy. Realizing that Mask Man can disguise themselves as any one of them, the survivors pair up.

Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 return to the lab. Brainy is devising a “Reverser” which he hopes might turn their adversary’s powers against. An unseen voice confronts them! Off-panel, the Mask Man gloats before causing an explosion that kills Saturn Girl and Brainy.

Superboy and Mon-El find the wreckage, and what’s more, they find Lightning Lass outside turned to stone. (Please note, the dialogue says she’s turned to stone, but you wouldn’t know it from the art; she looks like she’s casually walking across the hall.) But wait, what about Invisible Kid? Wouldn’t he have seen anything? No, he was the first to die when Mask Man infiltrated the building, and all this time, he’s been impersonating him.

… You know, as disguises though, that’s rather ingenious. Anyway, Mask Man advances on the two remaining Legionnaires. Superboy notes that Mon-El isn’t vulnerable to Kryptonite OR lead (at least in this story, as noted elsewhere, Mon-El’s vulnerability to lead and whether or not he’s been cured of it comes and goes). But Mask Man presents an element from another dimension, and the power it radiates kills the Daxamite. Mask Man leaves, gloating. He wants Superboy to suffer and wait before he moves in for the final kill.

Completely demoralized, he walks the halls alone. Of course, the Mask Man’s arrogance has the unintended consequence of giving the Boy Of Steel time to think. He ponders on how Mask Man killed Mon-El, and all his other powers. Hmmm… Could it be…?

Superboy returns to the lab. The Reverser that Brainy was working on is still there, and it’s mostly undamaged from the explosion. Superboy makes what repairs and adjustments are needed and then takes the Reverser as he searches through space. The Mask Man boasted of a trophy planet where he plans to place the bodies of the Legion once he’s finished off Superboy, and the Last Son Of Krypton uses his superior vision to find it. Exceedingly vain, the Mask Man has spelled out his true name across the moons encircling the planet…

… Have you guessed the identity of the villain yet, dear reader?

MXYZPTLK.

Or rather, his descendant! Superboy rearranged the moons, but Mxy Jr. was expecting that, just as he was expecting Superboy to bring the Reverser.

“Ha! You think that Reverser gadget will make my name come out backwards, but it won’t! Just from spite, I’ll say my name backward and it will come out forward! KLTYPZYXM!

… Wait.

mxynuts

Aw, nuts.

Yes, Superboy knew EXACTLY what kind of foe he was dealing with, so he zapped the Reverser with a shot of heat vision (remember, back then it was invisible) right as the 5th dimensional little pest started gloating.

As usual, Mxy is immediately banished back to the 5th Dimension, and likewise all the havoc unleashed by his magic is undone, as Superboy finds himself back where it all began, at the rededication ceremony, surrounded by his friends, alive once more, and with no idea how dire things had gotten. The end.

Okay, now THAT was cool. High stakes, lots of suspense, a great reveal, and a resolution that didn’t feel like an deus ex machina. I mean, it IS, but it’s one with precedent. It’s not like the “Phantom Zone telepathy” stuff.

I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Alan Moore was directly drawing inspiration from this for “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” Of course, it’s okay when HE does it, but when Geoff Johns gets inspired by Moore, suddenly the author of Watchmen starts harumphing and encouraging others to do the same.

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Adventure Comics #312

Roll call! Superboy! Mon-El! Saturn Girl! Sun Boy! Lightning Lass! Chameleon Boy! And his annoying pet, Proty!

… Wait, huh? Proty has shown up like once before, and they’ve never name-dropped someone who’s not a full-fledged member of the Legion before in these little blurbs. Huh. Well, I’m sure it’s nothing and in no way relevant to the story.

Sun Boy, Lightning Lass, Superboy, Chamelon Boy, and Proty are waiting anxiously for Mon-El. He arrives with bad news. Apparently, he was looking for a way to restore Lightning Lad to life, but has found nothing so far. They go to the Lightning Lad’s coffin where Saturn Girl is waiting. Proty runs to Saturn Girl. He’s quite fond of her, apparently, because he’s got some telepathy too, and they’ve formed a bond. Aw.

Mon-El tells Saturn Girl the bad news. But wait… Saturn Girl’s a telepath, and for a moment, she senses something. Mon-El is lying. Hmmm…

They decide to split up and pursue different leads to maybe, MAYBE save Lightning Lad. Superboy flies off alone, while Sun Boy, Lightning Lass, and Chameleon Boy (and Proty) take a Legion spaceship. Saturn Girl dons a spacesuit and flies with Mon-El, as she wants to find out what he’s up to. This is an actual retro spacesuit, by the way, before they came up with the “transsuit”, an invisible second skin that protects Legionnaires from the rigors of outer space.

Superboy gets some blue sun radiation, as that’s been known to revive a species that enters a death-like coma, but to no avail.

Saturn Girl and Mon-El go to a planet where it’s said a giant bird dies and comes back to life. In actuality, this is incorrect. The bird dies, and it’s offspring emerges from it’s corpse. They return to the Clubhouse, with Mon-El taking an unusual route, almost as if he wants to avoid a certain planet. At the Clubhouse, they find a note saying that Superboy is pursuing an another avenue of research.

It’s then that Saturn Girl perceives the truth from Mon-El’s mind- he DOES know a way to revive Lightning Lad, but refuses to share it! What is he up to? Can he be trusted? Is Lightning Lad dead forever?!?

End Part I…

Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy (and Proty), and Lightning Lass are following up their lead when a distress call comes in. There’s trouble at that great installation, the… checks notes Interplanetary Post Office. The narrative text describes it as “great”. Lightning Lass does NOT want to go to the frickin’ post office, thank you very much, she has a twin brother to bring back to life, but Sun Boy reminds her of the Legion’s solemn oath. They go to the “great” post office.

It’s under attack by “space serpents”, who have breached the building, and since it’s right in the middle of space, that’s a problem. Proty takes the shape of a space serpent himself and tricks the others into leaving, allowing our heroes to fix the hole. They then go on to Skor, where scientists have devised a capsule that can revive the recently deceased. They take it back and put Lightning Lad in it and… nothing.

The Legion will not quit, however. In fact, Saturn Girl remembers hearing about a world that might help, and asks Mon-El to take her there. En route, her space suit fails and Mon-El rushes her to Daxam, his home planet. In the hospital, the doctor tells Mon-El that she’ll be fine, and asks if he told the Legion about the means to revive Lightning Lad yet! A-ha! The “failing space suit” was a ruse on the part of Saturn Girl to get them both to Daxam! Why, WHY Mon-El? He says he’ll explain, but he needs to say it in front of the entire team.

Once gathered, Mon-El explains. To save Lightning Lad, someone must hold a special wand. Lightning will strike the wand, pass through the person, and into Lightning Lad’s body, restoring him to life. But at a terrible cost- whoever holds the wand… will die. Superboy points out that nothing will really kill either himself or his Daxamite teammate, to which Mon-El points out that that’s true, it will just put them into a coma from which they’ll never recover, so Superboy is technically correct.

Every Legionnaire is willing to make the sacrifice, so there’s only one fair way. Each will hold a wand, and the lightning will randomly strike one.

Saturn Girl, however, wants to make sure it’s not random at all. She paints her rod with a special extra conductive coating. Before she can rejoin the others, she notices Proty running into a cave. Not wanting Chameleon Boy’s pet to get lost, she follows…

Back at the coffin, the six assembled Legionnaires are ready. They hold their wands aloft. The lightning strikes… Saturn Girl! Superboy sees the coating on the wand. Lightning Lad is revived but at the cost of… wait, that’s not Saturn Girl’s body. Here she comes out of the cave! Proty! He lead her in there, and then disguised himself! His read her mind, knew what she was planning, and refused to let her go through with it. Saturn Girl mourns his noble sacrifice, and the now alive Lightning Lad vows to prove himself worthy of such gallantry.

The End.

… Eh. It’s like those “special” episodes of TV shows where the commercials promises “Someone Will Die”, and then it turns out to not be one of the main characters, but someone who’s only had a handful of appearances, oh, and the actor who plays that character just got cast on another show. Still, the art on this one is much better compared to some of the previous tales we’ve had.

And it should be noted, when Superboy makes a promise, a thousand years go by with no results. Mon-El makes a promise? Seven issues, tops. He gets **** DONE.

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Night Girl is one of my all time favourite characters. Fun power set and a beehive hairdo.

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You know, it took me the longest time to realize that’s an owl on her chest. Anyway, aside from character bios in various back-up features, my first exposure to Night Girl was in THIS…

… Look, it was the 90s, we all made some questionable choices back then.

But yeah, Night Girl is cool. My character of Yeti Girl was absolutely a Night Girl pastiche.

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Adventure Comics #313

(Please note- while this story originally appeared in Adventure Comics #313, the version I am reading comes from the reprint featured in Adventure Comics #409.)

Our story begins with Lightning Lass using her powers to provide power while a generator is down, when suddenly, she feels faint! Her skin has turned red. The same thing happens to other Legionnaires- Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl. Superboy arrives, as Mon-El has summoned him to prevent a crash of planets far across the universe; Mon-El tells the Boy Of Steel about the strange malady affecting their teammates. The Legion Of Substitute Heroes has also learned, and Night Girl goes to Legion HQ to see if she can help, but she too falls prey to mysterious disease. The stricken teammates are sent to Quarantine World so as not to infect anybody else. Superboy, ever the optimist, gives them so words of encouragement.

“Let’s hope we find a cure before you die!”

Great bedside manner there, Clark. He’s a regular Patch Adams.

Superboy and Mon-El fly off to prevent the planetary cataclysm, leaving the remaining members to figure out what’s going on. Just them, a mysterious figure appears- a masked girl, flying under her own power! She identifies herself as “Satan Girl” and she claims she’s come to take the place of the female Legionnaires, as she’s more powerful than all of them put together. Sun Boy declines, saying they won’t need replacements once they find a cure.

That’s when Satan Girl makes a bold statement- there IS no cure, and she should know, because it was SHE who gave them the dread disease!

Enraged by the Legion’s rejection (seriously, stop rejecting people, Legion! For every Night Girl or Antennae Lad, you get like a dozen people who vow revenge!), she promises to go to Quarantine World and see that Saturn Girl and the rest die.

The Legion tries to stop her, but she has power equal to Mon-El or Superboy, and she uses them to destroy their ship! A mystery foe with super-strength, speed, invulnerability, and Superboy or Mon-El can’t be called away from their mission, but maybe there’s someone else who can help…

Supergirl! And, as luck would have it, she had promised to visit at just about that time! They send out a summons, and the Girl Of Steel arrives, and boy are they glad to see her! Yeah, now that THEY need something. They fill her in, and name her “Honorary Leader” for this emergency. Supergirl repairs the Legion craft, and they all head to Quarantine World.

Our heroines are convalescing when Satan Girl appears. She touches a device on her wrist, and the “Crimson Plague” gets worse! Fortuitously, Supergirl arrives. Satan Girl’s mask is lead-lined, so Supergirl can’t see who she is, but Satan Girl claims to be Supergirl’s greatest enemy. The two engage in battle, and the masked threat proves to be the equal to Kara Zor-El! Neither can gain an advantage, they’re that evenly matched! Supergirl does manage to get close enough to try and burn the mask away with heat vision, but Satan Girl wrests free and escapes. Supergirl, sure she’s dealing with a Kryptonian, gets some Kryptonite and follows in hot pursuit to a lonely asteroid. Supergirl unleashes the lead box containing Kryptonite dust, but Satan Girl is apparently immune! and escapes once again. While flying through space, we’re treated to some inner monologue from the villain- she has 48 hours, and she MUST see the female Legionnaires dead before that time. We end Part I with Supergirl pondering the mystery of her enigmatic foe even as she strengthens her resolve to save her teammates…!

To be continued…!

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Say what you will about the pre-Shooter Legion, there’s no Jamm.

Loving the trip down memory lane, though in my case it leads to the 1990s and annual Archive releases.

She could just wear a full-body costume which blocks out light, and then she could fight in daylight.

The closest the writers ever got to this obvious solution was teaming her up with Shadow Lass. Which could also have been an ongoing thing if they’d wanted.