It’s hard to believe that it’s already time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…
“School for Super-Villains!”
Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams
A couple of weeks ago, we witnessed Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion in disgrace for stealing classified training material. Unbeknownst to the Legion, he had been blackmailed by mysterious criminals who were holding his parents captive.
As the action picks up, Colossal Boy dejectedly walks the streets of Metropolis deciding on his next step when he is accosted by Science Police. He escapes, but accidentaly drops his mother’s “life jewel” in the tussle. The criminals subsequently reconnect with the fugitive ex-Legionnaire and offer him a new deal.
In the meantime, Brainiac 5 deduces the recovered “life jewel” can guide the team to Colossal Boy’s mother for some answers. Shrinking Violet diminishes to sub-molecular size and follows the beams connecting the life jewel with its owner across the galaxy. The beams lead her to a distant planet and a training center for the newly-created Legion of Super-Villains run by Tarik the Mute, with Colossal Boy as the reluctant trainer. Violet returns to Earth and informs the Legion of her findings, including the real reason why Colossal Boy turned traitor. Brainiac 5 devises a plan in which Superboy and Chameleon Boy and candidates, Chemical King and Timber Wolf, infiltrate and subdue the collection of super-criminals and free Colossal Boy’s parents.
With Superboy and Chameleon Boy in disguise, the quartet stage a phony battle with the Science Police on Mars in hopes of attracting the attention of Tarik’s recruiter. The ruse works and the four are transported to the super-villains’ training center. The heroes observe several disgruntled Legion-rejects from the past including Nemesis Kid, Spider Girl, Radiation Roy, Ronn Kar, and Lightning Lord; Legionnaire Lightning Lad’s brother. However, Colossal Boy recognizes Superboy, and, out of fear for his parents’ safety, sounds the alarm. A battle ensues and the super-villains overcome the super-heroes. Tarik condemns the four to death, but as they await their execution the following day, Superboy conceives of a plan. But will it work?
At dawn, Tarik orders Colossal Boy to use a ray gun to turn the Boy of Steel into glass, just like his parents. When the teen titan hesitates, Tarik pulls the trigger and an executioner immediately shatters Superboy into a million pieces with a sledge hammer (see cover photo). Enraged by Superboy’s death, Colossal Boy snaps and joins the three remaining heroes in battling the villains. In the melee, Timber Wolf radios Legion Headquarters for reinforcements and Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, Starboy, and Ultra Boy quickly come to the rescue like a 30th century cavalry. Just as Tarik prepares to smash Colossal Boy’s crystallized parents, Superboy KOs him with a steely left hook. Huh? Superboy? Turns out Chameleon Boy and Superboy had disguised themselves as each other prior to the dawn execution and CB had dodged the ray gun, changed himself to glass, and then into broken glass at the appropriate times.
The criminals are taken into custody, Colossal Boy’s parents are restored to normal, and he’s voted back into the Legion along with new members, Chemical King and Timber Wolf.
This was an entertaining story, especially since it includes the origin of the Legion of Super-Villains and the introduction of Chemical King and Timber Wolf as Legion members. The abrupt and overly-simple ending was admittedly a bit lame, but quite par for the course for the Silver Age era. This issue is significant for a couple of more reasons. It was Curt Swan’s last outing as the Legion’s penciller. His drawings would be judged as stark and too simple today, but his classic lines put him at the very top of the DC’s pencillers of that era. This was also my last Legion comic book at that time. I began following the Legion in November, 1966 in Adventure Comics #350 and would continue for twenty-two issues, but I reluctantly quit comics after that because I was entering into seventh-grade and reading comics was definitely “not cool” as it would become a couple of decades later (and comic book plots would become so convoluted, no seventh-grader could possibly follow them). But don’t worry, we still have eight more Legion installments to review before DC ended the franchise’s tenure in Adventure Comics with the May, 1969 issue.