What became of the Legion’s “Outcasts”?

I apologize for keeping everyone dangling in suspense for three weeks! It’s time to finally find out what happened to Legion outcasts, Superboy and Supergirl, in…

The Forgotten Legion!
Adventure Comics #351, December, 1966
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

The previous issue ended with Superboy and Supergirl being discharged from the Legion because of a deadly Kryptonite dust cloud encircling Earth, Lightning Lad being kidnapped by Evillo, and the disguised Sir Prize and Miss Terious taking the place of the Super cousins on the Legion roster.

Invisible Kid prevents Ultra Boy from determining the identities of the two new members while a small Legion contingent heads to the private planet of the Legion’s benefactor, R.J. Brande, in response to an emergency summons. Once there, they encounter the Hag, one of Evillo’s “Devil’s Dozen,” who begins to work her black magic on the group. Miss Terious leads the team in a hasty retreat and declares they need to counteract the power of the Hag with a spell of their own, requiring the hair from a magician and the print of an enchanted shoe.

In the meantime, the kidnapped Lightning Lad regains consciousness at Evillo’s lair, and the villain tries to brainwash him into becoming the fifth member of his Devil’s Dozen crime gang. Lightning Lad is able to successfully resist, but remains a prisoner. Another member of Evillo’s gang, Sugyn, travels to Earth and kidnaps Bouncing Boy, who had previously lost his powers. Displeased that Sugyn captured a powerless Legionnaire, Evillo kills him because of his incompetence.

A group of Legionnaires travels back in time to 20th-century Smallville and Element Lad changes the Kryptonite pellet that was implanted in Superboy’s brain to helium, restoring his memory. Superboy and Mon-El then travel to the Fifth Dimension and obtain some hair from the magician, Master Mxyzptlk. The Legion of Substitute Heroes is called into action to obtain the hoof prints of Comet, Supergirl’s enchanted horse.

Possessing the required ingredients, Miss Terious creates a counter-potion, which transforms the Hag back into her original identity, the “benevolent” White Witch of Naltor. Miss Terious then reveals she is Dream Girl, sister of the White Witch. Dream Girl had previously left the Legion after joining under false pretenses. Sir Prize reveals himself to be Star Boy, who was discharged from the Legion after accidentally killing a criminal (Adventure #342). Invisible Kid invites the two to rejoin the Legion.

The team then travels to Evillo’s planet and discovers that another of the villain’s prisoners, Dr. Zan Orbal, has restored Lightning Lad’s arm and Bouncing Boy’s powers and cured Matter-Eater Lad’s obesity. A fight ensues with the strengthened Legion defeating Evillo and his gang, which includes the Wild Huntsman, Apollo, and a number of henchmen. Superboy and Supergirl are able to return to 30th-century Earth and rejoin the Legion because Color Kid of the Legion of Substitute Heroes changed the deadly Kryptonite green dust cloud to blue, rendering it harmless.

Flubs

There is no explanation as to how Matter-Eater Lad ended up at Evillo’s lair after being part of the contingent that confronted the Hag on Brande’s planet.

Commentary

There’s A LOT going on in this issue including a fairly discombobulated plot and almost a full roster of regular Legionnaires along with the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Legion of Super-Pets. I’m guessing that writer, E. Nelson Bridwell, was tasked with creating a two-part story, which included every Legionnaire.

Legion roster: Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Dream Girl, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad, Light Lass, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Sun Boy, Superboy, Supergirl, Ultra Boy

Legion of Substitute Heroes: Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid, Fire Lad, Night Girl, Polar Boy, Stone Boy

Legion of Super-Pets: Comet (horse), Krypto (dog), Streaky (cat), Beppo (monkey)

Disclaimer: There are many references to “good” and “evil” sorcery/witchcraft in this story, another example of secular entertainment delving into the “mystical” with no Biblical foundation. It’s interesting that Evillo (below) is presented as a stereotypical devilish character replete with horns.

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So what was a ten-year-old Catholic boy thinking when he was presented with all of these references to sorcery and witchcraft in this particular Legion saga? It was par for the course for all forms of entertainment at the time and continues today. The irony is that the FAR GREATER spiritual danger for me was veiled behind the pious “holiness” and ritualism of my (then) Roman Catholic religion.

Next up: Writer Jim Shooter returns and pens a two-issue story that has endured for fifty-two years as the Legion’s greatest tale.

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Superboy and Supergirl kicked out of the Legion? Well, not really.

Today, we’re going to take a break from theological discussions and continue our series on the classic Legion of Super-Heroes tales from DC Comic’s Silver Age.

The Outcast Super-Heroes!
Adventure Comics #350, November, 1966
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

Superboy and Supergirl are summoned to the Legion of Super-Heroes’ clubhouse in 30th-century Metropolis where Brainiac 5 informs them that a dust cloud composed of Kryptonite, an element deadly to the cousins, surrounds the Earth. The Legion attempts to remove or neutralize the threat with their super powers, but to no avail. Legion leader, Invisible Kid, informs the two that they must be discharged from the team for their own safety. Prior to sending Superboy and Supergirl back to the 20th-century, Brainiac 5 coordinates a medical procedure on the pair which removes all of their memories of the Legion in order to keep the team’s secrets out of the hands of potential enemies. In a scene straight out of “Fantastic Voyage” (1966), Shrinking Violet performs non-intrusive brain surgery on Superboy and Supergirl by shrinking to microscopic size and implanting tiny Kryptonite capsules into their brains, specifically affecting only their memories of the Legion. Before the capsules take effect, the Super cousins insist the Legion accept two mysterious persons, Sir Prize and Miss Terious, as their replacements, and Invisible Kid reluctantly accepts their terms.

No sooner are Superboy and Supergirl departed than the two new Legionnaires arrive at the clubhouse door in full-body, identity-concealing armor. But the puzzled Legionnaires are immediately summoned to thwart a bank heist in progress. Prince Evillo rules over a small planet and has assembled a group of criminals, aka the Devil’s Dozen, to wreak havoc in the galaxy. The group includes the Hag, who rides a rocket propelled broomstick, the Wild Huntsman, who resembles a half-man, half-horse Greek Centaur, Sugyn, who we’re told resembles a hero of Welsh tales, and lastly, Apollo, who is supposed to resemble the mythological Greek god. Evillo sends Apollo along with some henchmen to conduct the bank heist.

The Legion overcomes the formidable beasts guarding the bank and interrupts the robbery, which involves some very strange, other-worldly currencies. But Apollo overpowers Saturn Girl with his telepathic charms, thereby luring Lightning Lad into a trap, which was his aim from the beginning. Apollo abducts the unconscious and injured Lightning Lad and the Legion must contemplate it’s next move. Sir Prize and Miss Terious demonstrated some formidable powers in the preceding fracas and some of the Legionnaires conjecture they may even be Superboy and Supergirl in disguise. Unable to stand the suspense, Ultra Boy decides to use his penetra-vision to ascertain the identities of the mysterious new members.

Will Ultra Boy find out who is hiding behind those masks? Will Lightning Lad be rescued? Are Superboy and Supergirl really permanently out of the Legion? Find out in a couple of weeks when we review Adventure #351 and “The Forgotten Legion!”

Commentary

Adventure #350 was my introduction to the Legion. For whatever reason, I picked out this issue from the comics rack at Daw’s Drugs on Empire Boulevard and was immediately hooked. For this two-part “Outcast” saga, recently hired, young writer, Jim Shooter, was spelled by DC veteran, E. Nelson Bridwell. Curt Swan’s artwork is outstanding as usual.

Fumbles

Once again we have a cover that’s completely out of sync with the plot, with Legion members happily ignoring the sobbing “outcasts.” The diameter of the clubhouse portrayed on the cover appears to be only about eight feet wide and Colossal Boy’s shirt is yellow instead of green! Evillo has a “Dirty Dozen” gang, but there are only four members. Why didn’t the Legion travel back in time to the 20th century to alert Superboy & Supergirl of the dangerous circumstances rather than making them jump through hoops? Why did the Legion present the discharged Super cousins with a trailer load of parting commemorative trophies only to take them back because all traces of the Legion had to be removed from their memories? When Superboy’s invulnerable antibodies began attacking Shrinking Violet, why didn’t she just enlarge herself a smidgen? Why didn’t Bridwell anticipate that banks would not be dealing in hard currencies in the 30th century or have bank tellers?

Legion roll call for this issue

Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Superboy, Supergirl, and Ultra Boy.

Universo attempts to conquer the Universe

Today, we’ll take a break from theological discussions and take another imaginary journey to the 30th century. Young writer, Jim Shooter, had been gaining confidence with his two previous Legion of Super-Heroes tales, and with this story he hits his stride and begins his long run of Legion, Silver Age classics.

The Rogue Legionnaire!
Adventure Comics #349, October, 1966
Writer & Layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

A small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, and Superboy – are invited to judge the annual Metropolis Student Science Fair and they select a small-scale time cube as the winning project. The festivities are interrupted when Brainiac 5 receives an alarm indicating an intruder at the Legion clubhouse. The five teens meet Chameleon Boy back at their headquarters and confront the intruder, Universo, who uses his hypnotic powers to immobilize all of them except for Brainiac 5. Universo escapes, using one of the Legion’s two time bubbles after destroying the other. Superboy remains incapacitated, but the other five Legionnaires ask the science fair winner to quickly create a larger time cube after one of Universo’s hypnotized dupes informs them of five unscheduled occurrences of time travel.

Each of the Legionnaires travels back in time in the hunt for Universo – Chameleon Boy to Peru in 1300 A.D., Shrinking Violet to Egypt in 1243 B.C., Colossal Boy to England in 693 A.D., Saturn Girl to France in 1812 A.D., and Brainiac 5 to China in 1280 A.D. – but all of these destinations are traps and each Legionnaire is met by one of Universo’s mind-slaves. The story breaks away from each circumstance with all five of the Legionnaire on the brink of certain death. Is there any hope?

Convinced of his victory over the Legion, Universo enters the chambers of the Inner Council of the United Planets and begins to unleash his hypnotic powers against the supreme intergallactic leaders. Just at that moment, the five dignitaries remove their disguises and reveal themselves to actually be Legionnaires, now conditioned to resist Universo’s powers. Huh? Brainiac 5 tells a shocked Universo that the time cube’s student creator was able to monitor the circumstances of each Legionnaire and transport them to safety when they were at the brink of death. It’s then revealed the student is actually Universo’s son! With the criminal in custody, Brainiac 5 uses Universo’s eye pendant to release Superboy from the hypnotic hold.

Comments

There’s a lot of fun stuff in this issue with the Legionnaires encountering human-sacrificing Incas, pyramid-building Egyptians, medieval English soldiers, Napoleon, and Kublai Khan! High school freshman Shooter must have been in the middle of World History class. Universo would plague the Legion in the future, and his son, Rond Vidar (unnamed in this story), would go on to become a member of the Legion and a Green Lantern. This Legion story is very unusual in that Superboy plays only a background role. Curt Swan handles the pencils with his usual aplomb, skillfully presenting the Legionnaires in the various historical settings. Great story! Now Shooter is cooking!

Fumbles: Today’s readers will get quite a chuckle seeing the unnamed 30th-century science fair student (Vidar) piecing together the second, make-shift time cube using “transistor units.” Ha! Has anyone seen where I misplaced the vacuum tube tester? As with many other Legion stories and comic books in general, there’s a disconnect between the story title and cover art and the actual plot. Although Universo feigned interest in joining the Legion as a diversionary tactic (his age would have disqualified him), he was never a member.

Next up: Strike up the band with “Auld Lang Syne.” Adventure Comics #350 and “The Outcast Super-Heroes!” was my introduction to Legion lore way back in 1966.

Dr. Regulus attempts to destroy the Legion and dominate the Universe!

Today we’re going to take a break from theological discussions and take a trip back to 1966 to review the next Legion of Super-Heroes tale from DC’s Silver Age…

Target – 21 Legionnaires!
Adventure Comics #348, September, 1966
Writer & Layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: George Papp

Plot

Superboy arrives at Legion headquarters in 30th Century Metropolis to participate in the election of the club’s new leader, Invisible Kid. The team then demonstrates their powers at a charity benefit, which is disrupted by an earthquake caused by the Legion’s clubhouse being ripped from its foundations and abducted by a mysterious giant spaceship. Sun Boy awakens after having been knocked unconscious during the mayhem, but has a case of amnesia and flies away in a confused panic.

A sinister villain, Dr. Regulus, sits at the controls of the rogue spaceship and contemplates his plan to destroy the Legion and “dominate the Universe” by harnessing the power of the sun’s radiation, while on the ground the fugitive Sun Boy unknowingly falls asleep in front of an open radiation source. Will he be killed by the deadly rays?

The Legion tracks down the mammoth spaceship and, once inside, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Invisible Kid, Phantom Girl, and Superboy are individually vanquished by Regulus’ advanced technology. But the villain’s celebration is cut short when a rejuvenated Sun Boy confronts him, allowing some of the recovered Legionnaires to rejoin the fray. Regulus escapes and the Legion is able to return their clubhouse to its location. Sun Boy then reveals that he originally gained his powers via a failed experiment conducted by Regulus several years previous.

Comments

While Jim Shooter’s second Legion saga is notable for revealing Sun Boy’s origins, it’s clear the DC wunderkind was still honing his craft. Dr. Regulus would return to battle the Legion in future installments. Guest artist George Papp’s pencils are decent but no match for the Legions’ regular drawer, Curt Swan. It’s amusing from our 2018 perspective to see all of the mechanical dials and controls in these 30th century portrayals.

Next up: In Adventure 349, young Shooter begins his long string of classic Legion tales with “The Rogue Legionnaire.”

The Legion must find the traitor in their midst before an impending alien attack

It’s time to take a break from theological discussions and continue with our reviews of classic Legion of Super-Heroes tales.

As we witnessed at the end of Adventure Comics #346 (see here), the warlike Khunds were threatening to invade 30th-century Earth. The Legion of Super-Heroes suspected a spy had infiltrated their ranks and was subverting their efforts to defend the planet. Circumstantial evidence seemed to point to new member, Karate Kid. Let’s conclude this saga with…

The Traitor’s Triumph!
Adventure Comics #347, August, 1966
Writer & Layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

With the Alaskan electro-tower destroyed, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, and Karate Kid join Superboy, Lightning Lad, Shrinking Violet, and Nemesis Kid at Ceylon at one of the two remaining defensive towers. Chameleon Boy, Light Lass, Princess Projectra, and Ferro Lad leave their post guarding the tower at Tierra Del Fuego to join their teammates at Ceylon as the Legion formulates a new battle plan. In the middle of the meeting, the team learns that the Tierra Del Fuego tower is under attack. Superboy chooses four of the veteran Legionnaires to accompany him to the besieged tower, but they encounter only a small Khundian raiding party, which they subdue in short order with their super powers. Just as the team celebrates its victory, a powerful electro-bolt destroys the tower. Concluding the bolt could only have come from the remaining Ceylon tower, the five Legionnaires return there only to find it also destroyed with Phantom Girl, Ferro Lad, and Princess Projectra rendered unconscious by gas. Cosmic Boy concludes the saboteur must have been a Legionnaire and since Karate Kid is missing, assumes he is the culprit.

With the three electro-towers destroyed, the only weapons powerful enough to stop the Khund attack are in the Legion’s own arsenal. The team arrives at their clubhouse in Metropolis only to witness Karate Kid standing over the destroyed weaponry. Superboy begins to accuse the startled Karate Kid, but Nemesis Kid appears from behind a storage tank and, mistakenly thinking the Boy of Steel is addressing him, admits to being the spy. Karate Kid had suspected earlier that Nemesis Kid was the spy and was following him. Just at that moment, the Khundian fleet arrives and begins its attack on Earth. Suddenly, a fourth electro-tower rises from the ground and destroys most of the invading ships. Superboy reveals that he suspected treachery after the destruction of the Alaskan tower and built a bogus tower at Tierra Del Fuego, the one that was previously destroyed, and concealed the authentic one.

With only a handful of ships remaining, Garlack, the Khundian leader, orders an attack against the Legion. The team goes into battle mode and thrashes the invaders using their super powers. Still upset about being accused of treachery, Karate Kid breaks his way into the Khund command ship and personally vanquishes the alien leader. As the Legion discusses what to do with Nemesis Kid, the traitor breaks free and teleports himself away from Earth.

Comments

This was 14-year-old, Jim Shooter’s very first Legion story and it’s definitely not a page turner. How did Nemesis Kid leave Ceylon to destroy the Alaskan tower without being missed? Likewise, why didn’t Cosmic Boy and the others notice Nemesis Kid was also missing after the Ceylon tower was destroyed? This saga has more holes than Swiss cheese! But the story is notable for adding three new members to the Legion’s already-dizzying twenty-one full-time-member roster. Curt Swan’s pencils are terrific! Nemesis Kid would return in later issues to battle the Legion as a member of the Legion of Super Villains.

Next Review: The Legion must find a way to stop the evil Dr. Regulus in “Target 21 Legionnaires,” Adventure Comics #348.

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Superboy and the Legion engage what’s left of the Khundian fleet on page #1 of Adventure Comics #347

Jim Shooter makes his debut writing for the Legion of Super-Heroes

Yes, it’s time for another detour from theological topics. Last year, I reviewed all nineteen of director Elia Kazan’s films and this year I’m one-third of the way through all of the Byrds’ albums. I thought it might also be interesting to begin a monthly (or possibly more frequently) review of the classic “Silver Age” editions of the Legion of Super-Heroes comic books. First some background:

The Legion of Super-Heroes debuted in DC Comics’ Adventure Comics #247 (April, 1958). Writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino created this 30th-century intergalactic group of teenagers with unusual powers who teamed together to protect the United Planets. Superboy regularly traveled to the future as a member of the Legion. Appearing only sporadically at first, the Legion finally became a regular, monthly feature in Adventure Comics #300 (September 1962). Thirteen-year-old Jim Shooter began sending Legion storylines to DC Comics in 1965. Impressed with his work, DC actually hired him to write the Legion stories the following year. Shooter was teamed up with one of DC’s best artists, Curt Swan, resulting in the Legion’s legendary stories from the Silver Age. The Legion’s long run in Adventure Comics ended in 1969, but they would continue in various books involving several reboots until DC finally pulled the plug on the venerable franchise in 2013.

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Shooter’s photo from his high school yearbook

I’m going to begin my reviews of Legion lore with Shooter’s debut, Adventure # 346, and hope to eventually finish with the team’s last appearance in Adventure #380, which was published in May, 1969.


One of Us is a Traitor!
Adventure Comics #346, July, 1966
Writer & Layouts: Jim Shooter, Finished Art: Sheldon Moldoff

Plot

Cosmic Boy is delayed from an important Legion meeting while saving a construction worker’s life. He arrives in time to join fellow-Legionnaires, Chameleon Boy, Light Lass, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, and Superboy in evaluating four candidates for possible membership; Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, Nemesis Kid, and Princess Projectra. After demonstrating their impressive powers, the four are accepted as members. Superboy informs the team that a warlike race from a distant galaxy, the Khunds, poses a possible threat. The leader of the Khunds subsequently sends a message to the Legion demanding that Earth surrender immediately or be destroyed. In anticipation of such a threat, three powerful “electro-tower” defensive weapon systems had already been erected and Superboy directs the Legion to split up into three teams to guard each one. In the meantime, the Khundian leader, Garlack, confides to an underling that a spy has already infiltrated the Legion’s ranks in order to foil their efforts and destroy the towers.

At the electro tower located in Alaska, Cosmic Boy is drawn away to investigate a loud blast, while Phantom Girl flies up into the sky (via her flight ring) to examine a suspicious spacecraft, which turns out to be an unmanned booby-trap. The craft explodes, stunning Phantom Girl, who is rescued by Cosmic Boy. The two return to the tower, which has been completely destroyed in their absence, with Karate Kid lying unconscious nearby. Phantom Girl confides to Cosmic Boy that she suspects Karate Kid may have had a hand in the tower’s destruction. Is Karate Kid the traitorous spy and saboteur? Will the Khunds destroy Earth? To be concluded in Adventure #347.

Commentary

Compared to today’s comic book plot lines, these Silver Age stories are extremely simple. But credit must go to Jim Shooter for becoming the Legion’s writer, quite an accomplishment for a fourteen-year-old high school freshman. And he would get better, much better. Having no idea how comic scripts were actually produced, Shooter initially submitted his tales as full-scale pencil drafts. This one was completed by DC staff artist, Sheldon Moldoff. The artwork gets a C- with body parts a tad out of proportion. After having already drawn several Legion stories prior to Shooter’s arrival, Curt Swan would become the regular penciller of the series following this issue.

Shooter and the other Legion writers and artists attempted to anticipate 30th century technology, but some of their efforts are hokey and laughable from a 2018 perspective. Paper banners strung across walls to identify objects for the reader, a clubhouse that appears 10-feet-wide from the exterior, but cavernous when viewed from the interior, the use of film and projectors, etc., etc. The warlike Khunds, first introduced in this story, would appear in several subsequent Legion tales and in other DC titles.

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On the first page of Adventure 346, candidate, Karate Kid, surprisingly holds his own against the “Boy of Steel” in his Legion audition.

The Legion of Super-Heroes makes an appearance on “Supergirl”

Yes, it’s time to take a break from theology and discuss the strictly frivolous.

I was a big fan of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes way back in the late-1960s –  Adventure Comics #350 (November 1966) to #372 (September 1968) to be precise – and I casually followed the various permutations of the 30th-then-31st century superhero team from a distance over the years until DC pulled the plug on the 55-year-old franchise in 2013.

Last month, I had heard that the LSH was making an appearance on the January 15th episode of the popular “Supergirl” television show on the CW cable channel, so I decided to give it a whirl last night via on-demand.


“Legion of Super-Heroes”
Supergirl, Season Three, Episode # 10
January 15th, 2018
Directed by Glen Winter and featuring Melissa Benoist, Chris Wood, Amy Jackson, and Jesse Rath

Plot

Kara Zor-El aka Kara Danvers aka Supergirl (Benoist), Superman’s cousin, is in a near-death coma after battling Reign, another Kryptonian with similar powers, who is creating havoc in National City with her merciless brand of vigilante justice. Members of the Legion – Mon-El (Wood), Saturn Girl (Jackson), and Brainiac 5 (Rath) – had journeyed back to the 21st century to assist in Supergirl’s recovery with the help of their 31st century medical technology, but Mon-El is reluctant to intervene directly against Reign for fear of adversely affecting the future course of history. The Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) – Supergirl’s crime fighting allies – develops a plan to defeat Reign, but needs Supergirl’s participation. Brainiac 5, a half-human, half-computer life form, slowly helps Kara regain consciousness. Could a romance be developing? Brainiac 5 and Supergirl were a couple in the old comic book series. Mon-El finally changes his mind and volunteers the Legion in the fight against Reign, but just when all appears lost, the semi-recovered Supergirl arrives, forcing Reign to retreat. Ah, a syringe of liquid Kryptonite to the jugular will do it every time!

Commentary

It was fun to see some of the old LSH characters on the small screen. Will DC now consider bringing the team back in a monthly book? Mon-El didn’t get a chance to strut his Superman-like powers in his appearance, and Saturn Girl, a telepath in the comic series, is incorrectly portrayed as having the power of telekinesis. We’re talking CW here, so the special effects weren’t exactly top notch but, all in all, it wasn’t an unpleasant hour. Kudos to Melissa Benoist who does a very good job in the role of Supergirl.

Was there enough substance to get me to tune in again? Hmm.

The Great Darkness Saga

It’s time to take a little detour from theological discussions and briefly review…

The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga – Deluxe Edition
Written by Paul Levitz, penciled by Keith Giffen, inked by Larry Mahlstedt
DC Comics, 2010, 416 pages

I was a fan of DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes way back during the Silver Age of comics (specifically, 1966-1968), but I regularly checked in on the 30th then 31st-century team of young crime-fighters with unusual powers from various planets until DC pulled the plug on the franchise in 2013.

Most long-time Legion followers say the team’s finest era just so happened to be during that 1966-1968 span, when the stories were written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan. Some of the greatest stories from that period included:

  • The Sun-eater saga featuring the Fatal Five and the death of Ferro Lad (Adventure Comics #352-353)
  •  The Adult Legion (Adventure Comics #354-355)
  • Mordru the Merciless (Adventure Comics #369-370)

But I had also always heard “The Great Darkness Saga” from 1982 ranked right up there with the best of Shooter & Swan’s classic stories, so I recently got my hands on this deluxe edition graphic novel in order to check it out.

In this edition, the reader must wade through a thick prequel (LSH #284 -289, Annual #1) before they finally get to “The Great Darkness Saga” (LSH #290-294). Pat Broderick’s and Bruce Patterson’s subpar artwork in this prequel material is a distraction. Plot? I’ll keep this very brief.

Plot

A mysterious evil character awakens from a one-thousand-year slumber. He sends out his minions to gather powers from various sources, but they encounter teams of Legionnaires, who eventually track them back to their master, Darkseid, who bares a striking resemblance to Satan of the Bible. Darkseid sets about to destroy the Universe aided by three-billion Daxamites under his control. The wizards of Sorcerers’ World conjure up a humanoid infant, who, it is foretold, will play a messiah-like part in Darkseid’s eventual defeat. The humanoid eventually morphs into Izaya, a benevolent god-like figure who empowers Superboy and Supergirl to weaken Darkseid to the point that he must withdraw in defeat.

Comments

“The Great Darkness Saga” was written by long-time (1977–1979 and 1981–1989) Legion writer, Paul Levitz, and Keith Giffen handled the artwork, which is average at best. In contrast, the pages contributed by Howard Bender in the early portion of the epilogue material (LSH #295 & 296) were a wonderful homage to Curt Swan’s style. The story includes many references to Legion lore from the Silver Age as well as significant new events such as the introduction of two additional members and the resignation of another. Even the obscure Legion of Substitute Heroes is pressed into service against the powerful Darkseid.

Once I got past the early filler (LSH #284-289), “The Great Darkness Saga” turned out to be a decent story, but I wouldn’t put it in the category of the classic Shooter-Swan epics.

Additional thoughts from a believer

The thinly-veiled allusions to Biblical “characters” was an “interesting” fictional explanation of the spiritual realm from the mind of an unbeliever. Most people in this world recognize that there is a “greater power” that exists. Believers shouldn’t be upset or surprised that the lost flail around in ignorance by using symbolism from the Bible in their entertainment. We must point out to them that the God of the Bible is very real.

Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes

It’s time to take a respite from theological discussions, so let’s review…

Atomic Batteries to Power, Flight Rings to Speed:
Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes
Created by Lee, Michael, and Laura Allred
DC Comics, September 2017

This one-off, crossover features the Batman and Robin characters as they were presented on the hokey “Batman” ABC television series (1966-1968) featuring Adam West (d. June 9, 2017) and Burt Ward, and the DC Silver Age version of the Legion of Super-Heroes as they were written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan.

Plot

Six members of the 30th century’s Legion of Super-Heroes track one of their arch-enemies, Universo, back in time to Gotham City in the year, 1966. The villainous super-hypnotist believes that by intervening in the past, he will be able to prevent the formation of the Legion in the future. The Legionnaires make a surprise visit to the top secret Bat Cave, hoping to enlist Robin into their club and to seek his help in apprehending Universo. When it’s discovered that one of the Legion’s time bubbles has been stolen, Batman deduces the culprit to be the criminal genius, Egghead. The team splits up with Batman traveling with three Legionnaires to 2966 to find Egghead, while the Boy Wonder teams with the three remaining LSH members to search for Universo in Gotham City.

Robin and his team find Universo but are no match for the combined police and military forces who are compelled to do the bidding of their mind-controlling master, and must retreat. Meanwhile, Egghead searches 30th-century science museums hoping to find some technology or information that will give him an advantage back in the 20th century, but comes up empty and returns to 1966. A meeting between Egghead and Universo reveals the former to be the ancestor of the latter.

Robin’s team engages Universo once again but is thwarted by the super-hypnotist’s powers. Just when all appears lost, Batman’s team shows up from the future and joins in the fracas. The battle appears to be a standoff until Batman suggests it’s time for the Legion to unleash its “secret weapon.” Universo is defeated and Saturn Girl once again invites Robin to join the Legion, but Batman insists the Boy Wonder is indispensable in the fight against crime in the 20th-century.

Commentary

This is as absolutely hokey as it gets folks with no redeeming value other than lots of laughs for fans of the old Batman television show and the Silver Age Legion. There are plenty of “insider” jokes and miscues that will resonate with aging baby boomers like myself who were glued to the family television set on Wednesday and Thursday evenings back in 1966 watching the Dynamic Duo. Many of the villains and “good guys” featured in the TV series make cameo appearances in this story. If you can remember the campy, tongue-in-cheek dialogue of the show and some of the outrageously complicated deductions West’s Batman would extrapolate from some ridiculously minuscule and vague clues, then you’ll enjoy this book. The Allreds capture Adam West’s Batman to a tee.

Final thoughts

A believer contemplates the Lord God in even the most “secular” of circumstances. The “legendary star” of the Batman television show, Adam West, died a couple of months ago at the age of 88 of leukemia. Out of curiosity, I googled “Adam West” along with “God,” “Jesus,” “Christian,” “faith,” and “religion” and came up empty. We won’t know if West accepted Christ this side of eternity, but we do know that fame, fortune, and good health do not last.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1


What does it mean to be a born again Christian?
https://www.gotquestions.org/born-again.html

It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! You’re both wrong, it’s (gasp) Super-Bugs?!?!?!

No, I haven’t gone entirely “looney tunes.” With this post, I’m taking a short respite from theology, but I’ll be putting my “serious cap” back on very shortly.


When I was a little guy, my Dad used to bring home comic books for me every so often. “Sad Sack” and “Hot Stuff” were my favorites. As I got a little older, I began buying comics on my own at the local drug stores. They were only 12 cents back in the day (compared to $4.99 today!) so a loose quarter from my parents’ bedroom dresser* could buy me two. Oh joy! One title that I became a particularly big fan of was Adventure Comics featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team of teenagers living in the 30th-century who hailed from different planets and had various super powers. Superboy and sometimes Supergirl traveled to the future to join the Legion on their planet-saving missions.

My first issue of Adventure was #350, “The Outcast Super-Heroes!,” published in November, 1966 (see photo below) and I eagerly bought each of the following issues up to and including #372, “School for Super-Villains!,” published in September, 1968. It was a coincidence that I just happened to pick up the Legion at the beginning of what many consider was its finest run, with the writing of Jim Shooter and the artwork of Curt Swan. The Legion and I drifted apart after that but every once in awhile I would check in just to see the latest team permutation. The franchise went dormant and was revived several times, but DC Comics finally pulled the plug on the Legion in August 2013 because of low readership. The main drawback of the Legion is its dizzying number of characters, names, powers, planets of origin, etc. However, the team continues to pop up in other titles every now and then.

Fellow blogger, Slim Jim, often posts about comics, which fueled my nostalgia and curiosity for the Legion, and whaddayaknow, the team had a new book recently published, sharing paper and ink with a rather improbable ally.


“The Imposter Superboy”
Featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and…(gulp)…Bugs Bunny???
Written by Sam Humphries and pencilled by Tom Grummett
DC Comics, August 2017

The Legion’s resident genius, Brainiac 5, desperately struggles to save the sick and dying Supergirl. His robotic assistant, Computo 2, determines the only cure is Illudium Phosdex, an element that went extinct back in the 24.5th century. Brainiac orders Computo 2 to travel back in time to the 21st century and enlist the help of Superboy in acquiring the element, but rather than summoning the Boy of Steel, the robot inexplicably transports Bugs Bunny, yes, THAT Bugs Bunny, back to the future. The Legion is flabbergasted by Bugs’ appearance as is the rascally rabbit. Computo 2 blames the goof up on a mysterious “malfunction.” Brainiac attempts to convince Bugs to submit to a medical examination in the hope that he can provide the needed element, but the strong-willed and feisty hare refuses to cooperate and demonstrates that he has a few super powers of his own thanks to his special batch of super carrots. The tussle is interrupted with a BOOM! as one of the Legion’s most feared enemies, the gigantic Validus, crashes through the walls of the team’s compound. One by one, the Legion’s members succumb to the powerful and merciless blows of their legendary foe. All hope seems lost as Validus looms menacingly over the comatose Supergirl. But just in the nick of time, Bugs appears, clad in a Superboy-style outfit and with a half-eaten super carrot clasped in his hand…er, foot…er, paw. Super-Bugs predictably makes short work of the impressive villain. As the dust settles, Computo 2 admits it orchestrated the entire fiasco because it was jealous of Brainiac’s love for Supergirl and wished to eliminate its Kryptonian rival. Bugs’s super carrots prove to be an abundant source of the needed element. Supergirl is cured and Bugs is delivered back to the 21st century, a new hero in Legion lore.

As improbably looney as this crossover story was, it had its fun moments and that was the point. There are many, many comical allusions to Legion history, which fans will enjoy. For instance, the cover is a spoof of Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958), the very first appearance of the Legion. Bugs is his delightfully sarcastic and rascally self that I remember from the 1960s. Bugs Bunny made his animated film debut in 1940 and his first comic book followed the same year.

The artwork from penciller, Tom Grummett, is actually pretty good and a big improvement over the disappointingly amateurish penciling in most of the Legion’s incarnations. But, of course, I was spoiled by the classic artwork of Curt Swan. A shorter version of the story, done in a faux Shooter/Swan style, is tacked on at the end of the book.

Coming up in a couple of weeks, the Legionnaires drop in on the Dynamic Duo in the year 1966. Ah, what a great year that was!

Thanks, Jim, for the fun!!!

Final thoughts from a Christian believer: People are strongly attracted to fictional (and non-fictional) stories in which “good” overcomes “evil,” and where “justice is served,” but they fail to acknowledge their own evil thoughts and actions, e.g., like *stealing money to support a comics habit. Jesus Christ is the ultimate victory over sin and evil. Won’t you repent of your sins and trust in Him as your Savior by faith alone?

 

Adventure350
Adventure Comics #350