Kids in Space

Yes, it’s time once again to take a break from theological discussions and review the next issue of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics from DC Comics’ Silver Age.

Evidently, the editors at DC thought it would be an interesting contrast to follow the classic saga about the Legionnaires as grown adults with this story about the Legionnaires as small children in…

The Five Legion Orphans!
Adventure Comics #356, May, 1967
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

While the majority of the Legionnaires participate with their parents in celebrating the gala Parents’ Day festivities in Metropolis, the five Legionnaires who are orphans – Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Mon-El, and Superboy – sit dejectedly on-call inside the team’s clubhouse. The quartet then responds to an emergency summons from the planet Zinth. Raiders had absconded with the mammoth crystal that powers the entire planet and dropped it into a deep pond, apparently to be retrieved later. The heroes recover the crystal, but are transformed into toddlers by the strange waters. The tots are taken to the Interstellar Orphanage and subsequently adopted by five different couples who marvel at the children’s super powers.

Of all the children, only Brainiac 5 with his “twelfth level intellect” retains his rapier mental abilities and he is immediately suspicious of the circumstances because all five couples are from the same planet, Baskh, and live in close proximity to each other. He notices a large container of water in his foster father’s lab and by experimentation determines it’s from the youth pool in Kandor, the legendary Kryptonian city, which explains why it affected the otherwise invulnerable Superboy and Mon-El (Superboy hails from Krypton and Mon-El’s world was very similar).

Brainiac 5 creates an antidote and the quartet are restored to their normal physiology. The Legionnaires confront the adoptive parents who reveal that a radioactive asteroid had collided with Baskh’s moon and the fallout had killed all of the planet’s children. Having determined that only non-native children could survive on Baskh, the couples attempted to adopt, and when that was unsuccessful, they hatched their complicated scheme to transform the five Legion orphans into toddlers so they could adopt them. Rather than press charges against the couples, the Legionnaires sympathize with them. Brainiac 5 informs the disappointed adults that the fallout is now harmless and that they and the other Baskhians are once again able to safely produce children.

Commentary

E. Nelson Bridwell filled in for Jim Shooter to write this lightweight tale, but it is an entertaining trick coming immediately after the adult Legion saga. Curt Swan does a nice job of rendering the five Legionnaires as toddlers.

Secondary story: Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes!
Originally published in Adventure #282, March, 1961
Writer: Otto Binder, Penciller: George Papp

Plot

In 20th century Smallville, teenager Lana Lang has a crush on Superboy and contemplates how she can encourage his affections. Meanwhile, the Boy of Steel is summoned to a cave near town where he is met by Thom Kallor, a teen from the 30th century who explains that he acquired multiple super powers and became Star Boy when his spacemobile traveled through the tail of a comet. He subsequently joined the Legion of Super-Heroes and is tracking two escaped convicts. One of them he followed to 20th century Smallville and apprehended, but the other is still back on his homeworld. However, he needs Superboy to return with him to the 30th century to find the criminal in the planet’s complex sewer system using his X-Ray vision. Lana secretly overhears the conversation and plots to make Superboy jealous by using the powerful Star Boy as a ploy. She threatens to reveal Star Boy’s identity to the apprehended criminal if he doesn’t cooperate. The trio travel to the 30th century and Superboy quickly apprehends the fugitive. Lana then attempts to make Superboy jealous with Star Boy’s reluctant participation. Superboy is privy to Lana’s scheme and turns the tables with the help of Star Boy’s girlfriend, Zynthia.

Commentary

This Legion “classic” was written only six years previous to the “Five Legion Orphans” story, but readers can easily observe how storylines had become more sophisticated in that short time span. Jim Shooter or his fill-ins would never write a story as hokey as this. Papp’s stilted artwork makes one truly appreciate Curt Swan’s gifted penciling. This is Star Boy’s first Legion appearance and he’s presented as having multiple super powers that rival those of Superboy. His powers were scaled back in subsequent Legion appearances to solely the ability to increase the mass of any object.

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