We love our super-heroes! But why?

I recently completed a lengthy series of thirty-five posts written over a span of eighteen months that was comprised of reviews of Legion of Super-Heroes comic books from DC Comics’ Silver Age (see here). This blog is mainly devoted to theological issues and many readers were undoubtedly scratching their heads wondering why I allotted thirty-five posts to such “frivolous” subject material. Throughout the long series, I had this concluding post in mind and now we’re finally here. Phew!

For millennia, human beings have been absolutely enthralled with tales of heroes versus villains, good guys versus bad guys. Think of the notable fictional heroes of literature in the past: Odysseus, King Arthur, Beowulf. In the last one-hundred years, as entertainment forms have expanded with new technology, audiences have continued to gravitate to tales of heroes triumphing over evil via radio, movies, television, and even video games. The release of a new movie featuring a comic book super-hero has become a shared, must-see event for society-at-large. These hero movie and comic franchises have even become a quasi-religion for some people. Skeptical? Just visit a Comic Con convention.

Why do people crave these stories of heroes triumphing over evil? As human beings, we’ve all experienced injustice and unfairness to some degree. We all know what it’s like to be bullied or mistreated and we innately crave justice and even revenge. Fictional heroes right the wrongs that we never could.

At movie theaters, we thrill at the hero’s bravery, resolve, and commitment to what’s “good” and “right,” because such qualities are in short supply in the real world, even within ourselves. While we all would like to flatter ourselves and think we are “good” people and lovers of justice, we’re mainly concerned with our own personal circumstances and we ourselves have often mistreated others as we selfishly prioritized our own welfare. Yes, we have and we still do. There is a God and He is Holy and Just. The Bible states that we are all sinners and that we all deserve eternal punishment. We don’t like to admit it, but we are the unjust ones. We are the villains. Yes, us! Argh! That’s not a popular message, but that’s our reality as we stand before a Holy and Just God. But God, in His love, provided a Hero for us.

A real man, Jesus of Nazareth, walked the streets and trails of Palestine two-thousand years ago and He was on a mission. Jesus was the only person who was ever truly good. He was/is God the Son and He lived a life of perfect goodness. He didn’t deserve the cruelty and punishment that He received, but He willingly died on the cross as the atonement for your sins and mine. But He rose from the grave, defeating sin and death, and offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of their sin and receive Him as Savior by faith alone. Now, THAT is a HERO! He is my Rescuer, my Defender, my Solid Rock amidst turmoil! Thank you, Jesus!!!

Postscript: Many fictional characters have been based on persons mentioned in Scripture. As just one example, much has been written about how the “Star Wars” movie franchise draws heavily upon the Bible. See “5 Biblical Themes from Star Wars.”

Legion of Super-Heroes Index: Adventure Comics #346 thru #380

Way back in mid-April, 2018, I began this series of bi-monthly reviews of Legion of Super-Heroes tales in Adventure Comics from DC Comic’s Silver Age. I began with issue #346 and ended with #380. That stretch was very significant because it marked the writing debut of young Jim Shooter. Teamed up with DC’s premier penciller, Curt Swan, the duo created some of the Legion’s most iconic stories that are still being talked about fifty years later. The stretch was personally significant for me as well because I became a fan of the Legion after buying Adventure Comics #350 and I continued buying the comic up to and including Adventure Comics #372.

So, without any further ado, below is an index to my 35 reviews of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics, #346 (July, 1966) thru #380 (May, 1969). The titles hyperlink to my reviews:

“One of Us is a Traitor!” –  Adventure Comics #346, July, 1966 – Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, and Princess Projectra join the Legion, but one of them is a traitor.

“The Traitor’s Triumph!” – Adventure Comics #347, August, 1966 – In the conclusion, the Legion’s traitor is revealed.

“Target – 21 Legionnaires!” – Adventure Comics #348, September, 1966 – Dr. Regulus wages war against the Legion.

“The Rogue Legionnaire!” – Adventure Comics #349, October, 1966 – The Legion opposes Universo.

“The Outcast Super-Heroes!” – Adventure Comics #350, November, 1966 – Superboy and Supergirl are forced to quit the Legion and two mysterious strangers take their place.

“The Forgotten Legion!” – Adventure Comics #351, December, 1966 – In the conclusion, the Legion defeats the “Devil’s Dozen” and Starboy and Dream Girl become members.

“The Fatal Five!” – Adventure Comics #352, January, 1967 – The Legion teams up with the most powerful group of criminals in the Universe, the Fatal Five, to battle the Sun Eater.

“The Doomed Legionnaire!” – Adventure Comics #353, February, 1967 – In the conclusion, Ferro Lad sacrifices himself to save the Solar System.

“The Adult Legionnaires!” – Adventure Comics #354, March, 1967 – Superman visits the Legionnaires when they are adults and the team tangles with Ferro Lad’s twin brother.

“The War of the Legions!” – Adventure Comics #355, April, 1967 – In the conclusion, the adult Legionnaires battle the grown-up Legion of Super Villains.

“The Five Legion Orphans!” – Adventure Comics #356, May, 1967 – Five Legionnaires are transformed into tykes.

“The Ghost of Ferro Lad!” – Adventure Comics #357, June, 1967 – The Legion battles the Controller and gets some unexpected help.

“The Hunter!” – Adventure Comics #358, July, 1967 – The Legion battles the Hunter in the 30th-century version of “The Most Dangerous Game.”

“The Outlawed Legionnaires!” – Adventure Comics #359, August, 1967 – The Legion is banned and its members are hunted down like common criminals.

“The Legion Chain Gang!” – Adventure Comics #360, September, 1967 – In the conclusion,  the Legion’s nemesis is revealed to be Universo.

“The Unkillables!” – Adventure Comics #361, October, 1967 – An alien manipulates descendants of the most famous assassins in galactic history into attacking the Legion.

“The Chemoids Are Coming!” – Adventure Comics #362, November, 1967 – The Legion must stop Dr. Mantis Morlo and his environmentally-toxic experiments.

“Black Day for the Legion!” – Adventure Comics #363, December, 1967 – The conclusion of the Legion’s confrontation with Dr. Mantis Morlo.

“The Revolt of the Super-Pets!” – Adventure Comics #364, January, 1968 – The Legionnaires’ super-pets stage a rebellion.

“Escape of the Fatal Five!” – Adventure Comics #365, February, 1968 – The Universe’s most powerful criminal team returns and the Legion is in trouble. The introduction of Shadow Lass.

“The Fight for the Championship of the Universe!” – Adventure Comics #366, March, 1968 – The conclusion of the epic battle between the Legion and the Fatal Five.

“No Escape from the Circle of Death!” – Adventure Comics #367, April, 1968 – The Legion faces certain destruction at the hands of the “Dark Circle,” until they remember the “Miracle Machine.”

“The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines!” – Adventure Comics #368, May, 1968 – First, the super-pets revolted and now, the Legion’s female super-heroines.

“Mordru the Merciless!” – Adventure Comics #369, June, 1968 – The Legion confronts one of its most powerful enemies.

“The Devil’s Jury!” – Adventure Comics #370, July, 1968 – In the conclusion, the Legionnaires battle for their lives against Mordru, one of the most powerful villains in the Universe.

“The Colossal Failure!” – Adventure Comics #371, August, 1968 – Colossal Boy appears to betray the Legion.

“School for Super-Villains!” – Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968 – In the concluding story, the Legion determines the Legion of Super-Villains is extorting Colossal Boy.

“The Tornado Twins!” – Adventure Comics #373, October, 1968 – The Flash’s 30-century descendants give the Legion a “run for their money.”

“Mission: Diabolical!” – Adventure Comics #374, November, 1968 – It’s gang warfare, 30th-century style, and the Legion is caught in the crossfire.

“King of the Legion!” – Adventure Comics #375, December, 1968 – Bouncing Boy? King of the Legion? C’mon!

“The Execution of Chameleon Boy!” – Adventure Comics #376, January, 1969 – In the conclusion, Chameleon Boy is robbed of wedded bliss.

“Heroes for Hire!” – Adventure Comics #377, February, 1969 – The Legionnaires feign that they’re soldiers-for-hire in order to trap the crooks on the planet, Modo.

“Twelve Hours to Live!” – Adventure Comics #378, March, 1969 – The lives of five Legionnaires hang in the balance after being poisoned.

“Burial in Space!” – Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969 – In the conclusion, the Legion is forced to assist a race of weaklings in order to save their five dying comrades.

“The Legion’s Space Odyssey!” – Adventure Comics #380, May, 1969 – Superboy stages a convoluted ruse to protect his comrades.

The Legion navigates a convoluted ruse

Yes, my friends, it’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for one final adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Legion’s Space Odyssey!”
Adventure Comics #380, May, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Curt Swan and Mike Esposito

3 Stars

Plot

At the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, Superboy is performing a routine inspection of communications equipment when he is contacted by Dream Girl, who informs him of a mysterious pending catastrophe. The Boy of Steel immediately proceeds to gather up the other Legionnaires present at the compound – Bouncing Boy, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Invisible Kid, Light Lass, Sun Boy, and Ultra Boy – when they are all suddenly transported to a distant planet. As the team contemplates how they’re going to get back to Earth, a powerful, dinosaur-like creature attacks and apparently kills Superboy (see cover).

After the team builds a monument to their fallen comrade, they create a temporary shelter on the apparently hostile planet and then proceed to build a makeshift spaceship using their unique powers. The team begins their slow “odyssey” back to earth, but encounters several challenges along the way, which they overcome.

As the returning wayfarers approach Earth, Ultra Boy, using his “penetra vision,” observes a deadly ray apparently annihilating everyone in the Legion clubhouse. But after the dust settles, Ultra Boy sees Superboy and Mon-El standing unharmed amidst the strewn parts of faux decoy Legionnaire robotic-doubles. The Legionnaires land their ship and learn from Superboy that he sent them to the distant planet to protect them from the prophesied attack, and the Legion of Super-Pets assisted in delaying their return by staging the multiple challenges.

The source of the deadly attack upon the Legion’s headquarters came from a ship that improbably plies the Sun’s molten surface. Inside the vessel, two criminals, Skyzznx and Alrrk, celebrate their assumed victory over the Legion, but the heroes teleport themselves inside the craft and confront the villains. With no way out, the dastardly duo destroy themselves.

Commentary

Shooter’s plot line in this tale is rather ridiculous. Why didn’t Superboy just warn his teammates of the impending attack you ask? He justifies the complicated ruse by saying he knew his teammates wouldn’t have believed him. Ach.

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This was our last review of DC Comic’s Silver Age Legion tales. We began our Legion “odyssey” way back on April 2018 with our review of “One of Us is a Traitor!” (Adventure Comics #346, July, 1966), Jim Shooter’s writing debut, and continued with the next thirty-four issues of Adventure Comics.

Following this issue, DC pulled the Legion from Adventure Comics and consigned the franchise to the secondary story in Action Comics. Jim Shooter’s last Legion tale appeared in Action Comics #384, January 1970.

I hope you had as much fun looking back at these old Silver Age Legion tales as I did! I’ll be posting an index of all 35 reviews shortly. In the meantime, DC is in the process of relaunching the Legion franchise and I’ll be posting about that very soon.

Postscript: Human beings have been attracted to tales of good heroes overcoming evil foes and dispensing justice for millennia after millennia. I’ll be writing a post about mankind’s fascination with heroes, super and otherwise, down the road.

Dead Legionnaires buried in space?

It’s time to once again climb aboard 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…

“Burial in Space!”
Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

At the conclusion of our previous issue, Adventure Comics #378 (see here), five Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – teeter on the brink of death, with their enigmatic executioner gleefully celebrating over them, when suddenly, time mysteriously stops. Let’s pick up the action:

We learn that a strange alien from a highly-advanced race from the planet, Seeris, has intervened and stopped time at that specific location to momentarily save the dying Legionnaires. He had been hoping that the heroes could assist him with some unspecified problem, but their current condition makes that impossible. As he monitors the situation, another contingent of seven Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters to find their five comrades and mistakenly assume them to be dead. The Seeron immediately transports to Legion headquarters and informs the heroes of all that transpired and proposes that he will cure their teammates if they will assist him with his problem.

The seven are quickly transported to Seeris where they are informed a warlike race of brutes has invaded the planet. The aggressors are of such low intelligence that they are almost impervious to the Seerons’ impressive mental powers. The Seerons are unable to resist the invaders because their complete emphasis on intellectual prowess over the centuries has rendered them physical weaklings and they have no defensive capabilities.

The seven Legionnaires – Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, and Ultra Boy – agree to the deal and set out to stop the vanguard of the advancing horde. A battle ensues and the brutes prove to be more powerful than expected, forcing the Legionnaires to retreat.

In the meantime, ANOTHER contingent of the Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters, also mistaking the five that are in stasis for being dead, and proceed to give them a burial with honors in space. Back on Seeris, the seven Legion members regroup and formulate a plan to build an impregnable fortress to stop the enemy’s advance. The brutes easily breech the citadel’s walls, but Ultra Boy is able to buy some time with his impressive powers. Ultra Boy then sends out an appeal to the entire Seeron race to join in the conflict despite their physical limitations. The sheer number of Seerons proves too much for the invaders and they are defeated.

In gratitude, the Seerons transport the septet back to Earth and send a “thought force” to end the localized time stasis and cure the five heroes of their poisoning. However, upon arriving, the seven discover their five teammates had been mistakenly buried in space. Taking a cue from Brainiac 5 in the last issue, Ultra Boy suggests they use the mysterious “Miracle Machine” and the quintet subsequently reappear at Legion headquarters, none the worse for wear. Who was it that poisoned the five Legionnaires in the first place? Come to find out it was only a penny-ante crook by the name of Alek Korlo. Sheesh!

Commentary

This was an entertaining conclusion to the two-issue tale. Perhaps the most interesting element of the saga was back in the previous issue when writer, Jim Shooter, employed a “park bench philosopher” to counsel the dying Princess Projectra to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it,” and to “think of what’s been good in your life…don’t bother regretting a moment and squeeze your last hours dry, too!” The lost certainly don’t have much to offer when it comes to dealing with death.

Below is a detail from the cover of this issue that I wanted to emphasize. Note what appears to be a minister in ceremonial robes sending off the apparently-dead Boy of Steel while holding a book clearly labeled “Bible.” Great! God gets His digs in even in a comic book from DC’s Silver Age!

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Detail from the cover showing a robed minister holding a clearly-labeled Bible!

Only one more issue to review in our Legion Silver Age series. That’ll be coming up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, DC is currently in the process of reintroducing the fabled Legion franchise, so I’ll be replacing my bi-weekly reviews of Silver Age Legion tales with monthly reviews of new LSH stories hot off of DC’s presses.

Five Legionnaires must decide how to spend their final twelve hours

It’s time to once again climb aboard 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…

“Twelve Hours to Live!”
Adventure Comics #378, March, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – are gathered at Legion Headquarters in Metropolis for a celebration; Brainiac 5’s birthday. As the quartet shares a toast to Brainac 5, he notices a strange powder coating the lining of his cup. He rushes to the lab and determines that he and his teammates have all been poisoned with a lethal substance for which there is no antidote and have only twelve hours to live (Superboy’s cup was specially treated with a Kryptonite-based poison, the only substance lethal to the Boy of Steel). Brainiac 5 suggests each person use their remaining time as they see fit and that they all reassemble in twelve hours to “face death together.”

Each Legionnaire chooses to spend their remaining hours differently. Braniac 5 returns back to the lab, racking his twelfth-level intellect for an antidote. Superboy returns to 20th century Smallville and his adoptive parents, the Kents, but grief overcomes him and he departs back to the 30th century to perform heroic good deeds as his final legacy. Duo Damsel spends her last hours with her parents, although without burdening them with her impending doom. Karate Kid opts to die battling crime and seeks out the most powerful team of villains in the Universe, the Fatal Five. With “nothing to lose,” the Kid is a formidable opponent, but the Five – Tharok, Mano, the Persuader, the Emerald Empress, and Validus – manage to escape. As for Princess Projectra, she sits alone on a park bench, overcome by grief, but a stranger intervenes who counsels her to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it.” Huh? Easy for him to say.

With time quickly running out, the Legionnaires glumly reassemble at their headquarters and Brainiac 5 sadly informs his teammates that he was unable to find an antidote in the interim. Superboy then writes the quintets’ collective legal will on a huge steel tablet using his “super-hard fingernail.” After Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra sign the will with a “laser stylus,” they, along with Superboy, weaken and collapse. As Brainiac 5 also begins to feel the poison’s effects, it occurs to him that the mysterious Miracle Machine (featured in Adventure Comics #367, see here) could possibly save the dying quintet. Braniac 5 struggles to make his way to the storage room, but can’t crack the impenetrable “inertron” casing that seals the device. As life slowly ebbs from the collapsed Legionnaires, a shadowy figure enters the headquarters. However, just as the mysterious villain celebrates his victory over the dying heroes, time suddenly stops and all remain motionless.

Is this the end for Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy? Who is the mysterious criminal who poisoned them and what force has stopped time for the dying Legionnaires and their executioner and why? We’ll have the answers to those questions in two weeks when we review the ominously titled, “Burial in Space,” in Adventure Comics #379.

Commentary

It’s strange that writer, Jim Shooter, chose to use the very same small contingent of Legionnaires that were featured in the preceding issue, Adventure Comics #377. It’s also interesting how Shooter portrays the different ways the fivesome individually attempt to cope with their impending deaths, especially Princess Projectra and the godless advice she received from the “park bench philosopher.” I’ll have more to say about that topic in next issue’s commentary. For the purposes of this review, I only devoted a few words to Karate Kid’s reckless suicide mission, single handedly battling the Fatal Five, but the minor plot line actually consumed eight full-pages of this issue. Superboy using his last ounce of strength to engrave the Legionnaires’ last will and testament on a mammoth steel tablet is a glaring example of over-the-top Silver Age melodramatics.

Dumb question: Am I missing something? Since Superboy and the other Legionnaires are able to time travel, why didn’t Superboy just go back a few minutes in time immediately after the poisoning and destroy the lethal beverage?

Count it down, my friends! Only two more Silver Age Legion tales left to review! and only 33 more days until DC reintroduces the Legion after a six-year hiatus with “Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1,” due in comic shops Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Legion mercenaries? 💲💲💲

Yes, my blogger friends, it’s time to once again climb aboard 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…

“Heroes for Hire!”
Adventure Comics #377, February, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

The story begins with the Science Police chasing a fugitive criminal to the planet, Modo. Legend has it that the entire planet is controlled by a powerful, evil entity, Modulus, and the incredulous officers quickly become believers when they are subdued.

Back in Metropolis, a contingent of Legionnaires –  Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – breaks up an attempted robbery of experimental mind gas from a research center. One of the criminals is captured and divulges that numerous criminal gangs utilize Modo as a base of operations because of Modulus’ protection.

Emboldened by their evil lord’s patronage, the criminal gangs of Modo wreak havoc throughout the galaxy with impunity. Meanwhile, in a shocking twist, the Legion begins to uncharacteristically extort money for their services. In a short period of time, the Legion amasses a fortune made up of various planetary currencies, storing it aboard one of its space cruisers. The teen heroes begin spending the money like drunken sailors at port, catching the attention of one of the Modo gangs.

Shortly afterwards, the gang attacks the Legion cruiser and tows it to Modo. However, Chemical King uses his powers to surreptitiously release the living crystalline currency from the planet Rojun that’s in stow. The metal-eating creatures, in turn, consume the protective casing of several other strange and volatile currencies. A chain reaction ensues, resulting in a paralysis ray that overpowers every criminal on the planet, including overlord, Modulus.

As the Science Police round up the dazed criminals, the Legionnaires celebrate the success of Brainiac 5’s improbable booby trap and resolve to return all of the money they had collected as part of the ruse.

Comments

Ach. What started out as a decent plot-line fell apart with the ham-fisted ending. Only three more Silver Age LSH issues left to review! Will writer, Jim Shooter, give us at least one more five-star tale?

Noteworthy: The full-page illustration on page 5 (see below) showing the effects of experimental mind gas on Brainiac 5 is a good example of late-60’s psychedelia art.

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Chameleon Boy sadly sings, 🎵 The Wedding Bell Blues 🎵

Yes, friends, it’s time to once again 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…

“The Execution of Chameleon Boy!”
Adventure Comics #376, January, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

Previously, in Adventure Comics #375, we learned that a mysterious entity had challenged the mightiest Legionnaire to combat, and the team subsequently used the search for the members of another super-hero-team-temporarily-gone-bad as a tournament to identify their champion, with Bouncing Boy improbably claiming the title. Just when the entity abducts Bouncing Boy via a transporter ray, the real BB appears. Let’s pick up the action…

The ersatz Bouncing Boy is transported to the planet, Nadir, which is ruled by King Artros and his mighty knights. Nadirian society appears to be similar to that of Medieval Europe, but technological advances are hidden beneath a veneer of antiquity.

The Nadirians reveal that an evil and mighty baron, Kodar, is claiming the right to marry Princess Elwinda, and become heir to the throne. They had summoned the Legion’s champion as their only hope in battling Kodar. After defeating the baron, the victorious Legionnaire would take the royal maiden’s hand in marriage, himself.

To their surprise, the Nadirans’ high-tech equipment reveals Bouncing Boy is actually Chameleon Boy in disguise, who had assumed his teammate’s identity in the hopes of winning the aforementioned tournament by stealth. The Nadirians are shocked by CB’s alien appearance and call a council to deliberate on this “disturbing” revelation. In the meantime, CB changes into a bird and leaves his guarded quarters to drop in on Princess Elwinda in her private gardens. Romance quickly ensues, but the council resoundingly decides against the possibility of an “orange-skinned, alien freak” marrying the princess.

The Nadirians opt to battle Kodar and his powerful army themselves, but are quickly subdued. Just when all appears lost, Chameleon Boy enters the fray and, using his unique powers, defeats the evil baron. Grateful for his saving-intervention, King Artros grants that CB may marry his daughter.

⚠️ Warning: Brace yourself for the very awkward ending.

During all the shenanigans on Nadir, the Legion had been desperately scanning a multitude of dimensions in search of Chameleon Boy. They were shocked when they discovered a dimensional portal to Nadir and observed Chameleon Boy with his head on a chopping block with two knights holding raised axes overhead (see cover illustration). Brainiac 5 immediately transported Cham back to Legion headquarters and permanently sealed the portal. A furious Chameleon Boy then explained that the raised axes were part of the traditional Nadirian marriage ceremony. Instead of rescuing CB, the Legion had permanently put an end to his dreams of wedded bliss with Princess Elwinda. Ach. I hate when that happens.

Comments

This was an interesting conclusion to the two-part saga with some entertaining twists and turns, although the abrupt and awkwardly contrived ending was an unfortunate example of ham-fisted, Silver Age writing. I’m guessing Shooter was using the Nadirians’ repugnance with Chameleon Boy’s alien appearance as a subtle commentary on the very strained race relations in 1969 America.

Huh?!?! Bouncing Boy the mightiest Legionnaire?!?!

It’s time to once again 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…

“King of the Legion!”
Adventure Comics #375, December, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

We open this story on a distant asteroid with a contingent of Legionnaires slowly approaching an unidentified group as if for combat. Naw, the Legion is only meeting another group of super-heroes, the Wanderers, who hail from a remote region of the Universe. Following the formalities, the Wanderers are returning home when their ship is engulfed by radiation from a strange space cloud. Hold that thought.

Back on Earth, the Legionnaires are occupied with routine tasks when Superboy encounters a strange gauntlet, which inscribes a giant message on an armor plate, challenging the mightiest Legionnaire to combat, which evokes a “Shades of Belshazzar!” from the startled Boy of Steel.

The Legionnaires subsequently bicker among themselves as to who should be their champion, but when the new Science Police Chief informs them that the space cloud incident has temporarily transformed the Wanderers into criminals, Element Lad suggests they turn the dragnet into a tournament to decide the mightiest member.

In the preliminaries, Bouncing Boy, Element Lad, and Mon-El hunt Dartalg, with Bouncing Boy improbably nabbing the fugitive. Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, and Saturn Girl track down Ornitho with Cham eventually making the arrest. Karate Kid, Sun Boy, and Ultra Boy search for Quantum Queen* with Karate Kid claiming victory. Brainiac 5, Superboy, and Timber Wolf locate Immorto and it’s Superboy who apprehends the Wanderer.

In the semi-finals, Karate Kid and Superboy hunt Elvo, with the Boy of Steel claiming the prize. Chameleon Boy, accompanied by his shape-changing pet, Proty, and Bouncing Boy vie to capture Psyche, with Bouncing Boy once again the improbable winner (or is he?).

In the final match, Superboy and Bouncing Boy square off to capture Celebrand, but the leader of the Wanderers unexpectedly surrenders to Bouncing Boy!

Back at Legion headquarters, the members humbly submit to Bouncing Boy as the mightiest in their ranks, when he is suddenly transported away by the same mysterious challenger who was behind the gauntlet message. The next moment, the REAL Bouncing Boy stumbles into the room. So who did the mystery entity actually transport? Stay tuned for part two of the story in Adventure 376!

Comments

This was an entertaining tale with the Wanderers temporarily turning into villains, Superboy encountering a challenge based on an occurrence in the Book of Daniel, the tournament to determine who was the mightiest Legionnaire with Bouncing Boy as the (laughable) winner, and the mysterious ending. The scene where the vanquished Legionnaires cower beneath the victorious Bouncing Boy and rip off their uniform emblems as an act of submission (p.23 and cover) is the kind of over-the-top melodrama that occasionally leaked into Silver Age plots.

*Trivia alert: In “The Adult Legion,” Adventure Comics #354, March 1967, Shooter featured Quantum Queen as one of the future doomed Legionnaires.

Gang warfare in the 30th Century?

It’s time once again to climb aboard 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…

“Mission: Diabolical!”
Adventure Comics #374, November, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter; Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Curt Swan

4 Stars

Plot

We open the story with various groups of Legionnaires scattered across the galaxy consumed in various leisure and crime-fighting activities. One by one, each contingent is abducted by some unseen enemy.

Back at the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis, Earth, five of the team’s heroes – Ultra Boy, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, and Supergirl – are contacted by an entity who represents SCORPIUS, a powerful criminal space gang. The being informs the quintet that SCORPIUS is holding their teammates hostage and that they must eliminate five super-outlaws – Rogarth, Black Mace, Mystelor, Shagreck, and Qunto – who are working for a rival gang, TAURUS. Realizing the crooks have them “over a barrel,” the five heroes disguise themselves to avoid identification by the Science Police and engage the TAURUS super-outlaws, but the melee is broken up by the Legion of Substitute Heroes who aren’t privy to the extortion plot. The quintet retreats, but Polar Boy of the substitutes manages to recognize a couple of the disguised heroes. Polar Boy’s observation will lead the substitutes to launch an investigation that will ultimately pay dividends at the story’s end.

In the meantime, the five heroes contemplate how to infiltrate the top echelon of TAURUS. When Dream Girl ascertains the circumstances of the next attack by the five super-outlaws, Ultra Boy concocts a scheme to disguise himself as Black Mace in order to infiltrate TAURUS. The scheme backfires when Ultra Boy is knocked unconscious in the tussle, but Dream Girl is able to subdue Mystelor and, using a quick disguise, takes her place among the outlaws.

Aboard the super-outlaws’ spaceship, Dream Girl, as Mystelor, is able to stoke resentment against TAURUS’s leadership and the crooks decide to travel to TAURUS headquarters to demand proper compensation. However, they’re not aware that Dream Girl has secretly signaled her four Legion co-conspirators to follow along. At the rival gang’s headquarters, the leader of TAURUS is revealed to be R.J. Brande, the Legion’s billionaire benefactor! But is it really Brande? The Legionnaires come out of hiding and arrest “Brande” with no interference from the super-outlaws who are on strike for higher wages. The Legionnaires quickly determine the leader of TAURUS is not actually Brande, but is Chief of the Science Police, Zoltourus, who had kidnapped Brande and secretly used the billionaire’s vast funds to finance TAURUS’s operations.

The five super-heroes are suddenly transported back to SCORPIUS headquarters where they are joined by their released Legion comrades. Thinking the ordeal is over, the heroes quickly realize they’ve been double-crossed by the SCORPIUS gang, which intends to kill them all. Just as the Legionnaires’ doom seems certain, Polar Boy and the Legion of Substitute Heroes attack SCORPIUS headquarters and subdue the criminal gang.

Commentary

This tale was a bit convoluted and wasn’t among Shooter’s best efforts. The thought should occur to the inquisitive reader that if SCORPIUS is powerful enough to kidnap 21 Legionnaires, it should also be powerful enough to neutralize the five super-outlaws by itself. However, it was always interesting whenever the substitute heroes played a role in a story. I remember feeling sad for these Legion “rejects” whose powers obviously far exceeded those of regular Legion members, Matter-Eater Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Duo Damsel. Speaking of Matter-Eater Lad, I’m guessing that Shooter purposely chose him as well as Dream Girl, Element Lad, and Supergirl as four of the five main protagonists in this story in an attempt to compensate for their infrequent appearances relative to other Legionnaires.

Postscript #1: Whenever enthusiasts compile a list of the most ridiculous comic super-heroes of all time, Matter-Eater Lad is inevitably included.

Postscript #2: DC Comics discontinued its Legion of Super-Heroes series in 2013 because of low readership. However, over the last couple of years DC has been teasing Legion fans with hints of a series relaunch. Recently, I learned that DC will be reintroducing the Legion in LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #1 due out at comic shops on Wednesday, September 4. This is the first of a two-part prelude that will be followed by a monthly, ongoing series from writer, Brian Michael Bendis, and artist, Ryan Sook.

 

A Legion Clunker

Yes, my friends, it’s time to once again 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…

“The Tornado Twins!”
Adventure Comics #373, October, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Cover: Neal Adams

3 Stars

Plot

Seven of the Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Karate Kid, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, and Superboy – are enjoying various recreational activities when they’re suddenly summoned to a robbery in progress. However, when they arrive at the crime scene they discover the criminals have already been apprehended by a brother and sister, super-hero duo with the last name of “Allen.” Hmm, we may already know where this one is headed, right JLA fans? The Allen twins, Don and Dawn, smugly gloat about beating the Legion to the punch, which leads to a heated exchange between Don and Karate Kid.

The Legionnaires return to their headquarters with their tails tucked between their legs, but are soon called to another emergency; some worker robots have gone haywire at an iron mine, causing a partial cave-in and trapping some V.I.P. visitors. The Legionnaires confront the powerful robots, but are quickly overcome. The Allen twins show up, thrash the robots and save the visitors. The puzzled Legionnaires search for information about the mysterious twins, but find nothing unusual as the Metropolis media celebrates the new heroes and pronounces the Legion as “has-beens.”

Like beating a dead horse, the Legion is called to a third emergency at a chemical plant and are once again upstaged by the twins. Heated words are again exchanged between Don Allen and Karate Kid, which quickly escalates into an all-out rumble between the seven Legionnaires and the twins, with the Allens leaving the seven bloodied and battered. Does anyone else see a pattern developing here? Public confidence in the Legion is at an all-time low and still plummeting.

The Legion is then sent a, gulp, fourth emergency signal, but the heroes’ confidence is so shaken that they initially opt to stay inside their headquarters. However, they soon reconsider and investigate a seemingly-hostile alien spaceship parked in the middle of Metropolis. Yet, when they force their way inside the ship, they find a giant statue of the 20th century super-hero, the Flash aka Barry Allen. Don and Dawn soon arrive and explain they are descendants of Barry Allen and were artificially endowed with the Flash’s powers on a temporary basis in order to publicize the United Planets’ upcoming commemoration of “Flash Day.” After twenty-two pages of bitter acrimony, everyone suddenly shakes hands and goes about their business. Ugh!.

Commentary

Aside from the pitiful “The Revolt of the Super-Pets” (Adventure Comics, 364), this issue might be the hokiest Legion tale we’ve reviewed to this point. A “Flash Day” in the 30th century? C’mon! Seriously? The feigned animosity featured in this story was a well-worn plot device in DC’s Silver Age-era. Win Mortimer’s pencils are a step down from Curt Swan’s, but still much better than latter-day Legion artwork. It’s great to see Element Lad in a story for a change. For some strange reason, he was one of the least-featured Legionnaires. Maybe it was the pink leotards?