Monday, February 23, 2015

TOS: Action Comics #276 Group Review

The Legion of Super Bloggers Round-Table Discussion on
Action Comics #276 (May, 1961)

title: "Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends"
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: Jim Mooney
inker: Jim Mooney
editor: Mort Weisinger

Mission Monitor Board: 
Supergirl (joins), Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5 (joins). Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, and Sun Boy unsuccessfully try out.

Superman (in flashback), Lori Lemaris, Jerro, Krypto

Brainiac (in flashback)

Supergirl and Brainiac 5 try out for the Legion and are accepted.

(Round table discussion between Siskoid, Russell Burbage, Tim Wallace, and Kyle Benning)

Siskoid: CALLING THIS MEETING TO ORDER. Action Comics #276, "Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends", which introduces six more Legionnaires to the roster - and here you thought they would all have premiered in Superboy's adventures. Introductory comments before we get into the story itself?
Russell: Another Silver Age Classic with bad math and odd continuity.
Tim: I'm really enjoying the Silver Age adventures of the Legion! And yes... this one is included.
Siskoid: The last story was called The Three Super-Heroes... so there's a mirroring here. They come in threes.
Tim: Yeah, I've noticed all of the stories we've covered so far seem to mirror the last.
Russell: I can't help feeling this story is one of those "use the same plots over and over again, the kids won't notice".
Bad day at the orphanage when Linda "Supergirl" Lee realizes she'll never be able to share her hopes and worries with normal girls. In the woods, she is trolled by superhuman teenage girls. They are Saturn Girl in a lead mask, Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl.

Tim: Hearing voices in your head is one thing, listening to them and following their instructions... What does that say about a young hero?
Siskoid: It says she never knows when Superman will unleash her on the world or how. Maybe he'll use his super ventriloquism. Maybe he'll put on a feminine voice.
Russell: Superman only used feminine voices in the pages of LOIS LANE, haha. Sure, I do wish I had a girl robot in a tree, too. Of course I do. Still... I tell ya, bat-shit cray-cray. "Take over for me at the orphanage, Linda Robot!"
Tim: Laugh all you want... The more I see that robot in the tree the more I love the idea. It's like a Keebler Elf... but a teenage girl that doesn't bake, lol.
Russell: And, right off... Saturn Girl in a lead mask? WTH? But not changing her costume, so...?
Siskoid: The lead mask is super creepy. And it's just so Supergirl is tested on her memory. Can't she recognize the costume from last time?
Tim: I swear, that shot of the lead mask put me in mind of Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Man In The Iron Mask"... I half accepted a dude to be under there!
Siskoid: So we finally meet the background girls and they're all Triplicate Girl. She/they were seen from the back in Adventure Comics #247.
Tim: Yeah, about Triplicate Girl... Supergirl says "rocket-propelled"? Anyone see rockets? Because I sure didn't!
Siskoid: Yes, they're all wearing those jet packs. Oh my aching fanny! I bet they can't wait for SOMEone to invent the flight ring.
Tim: AH! I see that now... still don't see them on Triplicate Girl though...
Siskoid: Check the splash page. They aren't passing gas.
Russell: THAT would be a super pooper power.
Tim: Got it... Never mind.
Siskoid: It's so subtle, the colorist doesn't always paint it in
Tim: So this is pre-flight ring?
Russell: Yes, flight rings came along after Element Lad.
Tim: Just when I think I'm catching up... lol.
Siskoid: Looks like PG is always in phantom form in this, I wonder if she was meant to be perpetually ghostly.
Siskoid: Top of page 5, super-HAPPY Supergirl, one of Mooney's better faces. In a Stepford kind of way.
Russell: Yeah, I was gonna comment on that one, too. I'm not a huge Jim Mooney fan, but I liked this.
Tim: I think she's happy because she figured out their charade WAY faster than Superboy ever did!
Siskoid: To be fair, it's her second attempt

In the 30th century, Supergirl is once again asked to try out for the Legion, against Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Sun Boy and Brainiac 5. They plan to pick one boy and one girl.
Tim: Labels are back again! Woo-hoo!
Siskoid: With one exception: Brainiac 5 doesn't have a sign that tells us his power.
Tim: I never would have figured out that Bouncing Boy had super-bouncing if they hadn't labeled that for me.
Siskoid: So that's four more new Legionnaires, though three of them won't be allowed in quite yet.
Russell: The labels are especially odd this time around, since the names of the applicants are de facto their powers too. "I'm Bouncing Boy. I bounce!" "I'm Shrinking Violet. I shrink!" Yeah, we get it.
Siskoid: Wouldn't it be something if Shrinking Violet had Super-Violet power?
Russell: That was Color Kid, haha.
Siskoid: Haha. Jerry Siegel apparently realized that his "one new member a year" rule was rubbish, so now it's two!
Russell: So let me get this straight... Supergirl doesn't recognize Saturn Girl's costume, but she knows Brainy from his descendant who at this point she has not met.
Siskoid: That evolving Constitution. You know how Superman wants her to be his secret weapon; I bet he drills his adventures into her all the time.
Russell: Where's Dream GIrl to revise the Constitution when we need her? Sigh...
Siskoid: She probably knows more Superman lore than Superman himself.
Tim: At this point in the story, I started thinking "I've seen this before... Supergirl meeting Brainiac 5... but where?" I bought the Aquaman-centric DVD Justice League: Throne of Atlantis ...and an episode of Justice League Unlimited called "Far From Home" was curiously included (hint: no Aquaman).The episode shows Supergirl's first meeting with B-5.
Siskoid: Continuity's been reset so many times, they've had to tell this story over and over. But it's pretty amazing that she realizes he's Brainiac's descendant before he even shows his name tag. I think it's just racial profiling.
Russell: Just as an aside, I wonder if grand-pappy Brainiac is wearing pants in this story. We never see his legs. Just sayin'.... Also, pretty sure Brainiac would never say, and I quote, "hahaha, live and learn."
Siskoid: An odd bit from the original printing: Brainy's face is blue as often as it is green.
Tim: Is that little blue space monkey, Koko, related to Gleek from the Super-Friends?
Siskoid: Maybe the colorist thought he was Koko the monkey's descendant.
Russell: Tim, I was just going to say that! I have a story idea brewing about that very thing...!
Siskoid: I wonder... I'm still trying to get over the fact that Brainiac used to hang out with a blue monkey.
Russell: Siskoid, I just understood what your comment about the colorist meant, haha. His David Schwimmer phase. When Brainiac went all mechanical, he smashed its head and never laughed again.
Siskoid: So all that to say Supergirl starts out not trusting Brainy - it's a classic romcom set-up.
To impress the Legion, Supergirl digs out various artifacts from myth and history. Brainiac 5's own feat is saving her life from a kryptonite meteor with his force field belt.

Siskoid: Try-outs begin, and right away you know it won't go to Vi, Dirk or Chuck.
Tim: After he gives her the belt and she smashes the meteor, is it me or does it look like the rest of the Legion are hopping into a Batmobile?
Siskoid: Haha, the Legion jalopy.
Russell: Yeah, they all drive away...? Weird. Taking away the meteorite fragments.
Siskoid: To use for future Superboy trolling. Let's rate each of their performances. After all, we'll one day hold our own try-outs, we need the practice.
Russell: I call FOUL that Brainy gets into the Legion because... uh... wait, why? Because Sun Boy, Vi, and Chuck are lame? They are obviously better than he is, powers-wise.
Siskoid: Well, Violet is nowhere to be seen. Too small?
Russell: Seems like she would fit in fine with Invisible Kid.
Tim: Was it due to his selfless act? Removing his belt, risking his pants falling to save Supergirl?
Siskoid: If I call shenanigans on Brainy's induction, it's because he gets it thanks to technological powers, which are against the Legion charter, or will be.
Russell: Tim, that is probably it. Selflessness.
Siskoid: Bouncing Boy says NOW YOU KNOW why I'm called Bouncing Boy... what is the point of those labels then? WE ALREADY KNEW.
Russell: "Oh, *Bouncing* Boy! I thought it said "Bounding Boy."
Siskoid: And this is the super-lame Sun Boy that can only shine brightly... perhaps lucky the Substitute Legion didn't exist yet; he might still be stuck there.
Russell: Collective roll of their collective eyes. So the members huddle while they are away dropping the meteorite off thinking, "It's gotta go to Supergirl and that green guy, don'tcha think?"
Siskoid: Well, Supergirl bribed them with amazing treasure, because that's what the Legion is all about. And they must love her super-digging, it's her only try-out trick.
Russell: She digs again on page 12. She takes her "underground" status seriously. I DO want to praise Mooney for the designs, though. Sun Boy lasted for more than 30 years, virtually unchanged. Bouncing Boy was cool in a fun way. Vi's look was the only clunker. IMO.
Supergirl and Brainiac 5 are inducted into the Legion to a cheering crowd. Brainy wants her to be his girl, but she has to return to 1961.

Russell: So they are inducted. Oh joy, oh rapture!
Siskoid: Getting into the Legion is a BIG deal, look at that crowd!
Russell: Haha.
Siskoid: And the flying robot horses. I mean, ponies? Maybe this IS entirely in Supergirl's imagination.
Russell: Ooh, ponies.
Tim: No! Not an imaginary story in the Silver Age! That would never happen!
Siskoid: I just noticed that's a miniature Legion HQ on the parade float (pun intended).
Russell: That panel confuses me, because you don't see Col, Cham, or the first Invisible Kid, who joined in the *last* Supergirl/LSH story. What kind of resource material were Mooney & Weisinger using, for crying out loud!? Not a story that is less than a year old!? Come On!!!
Siskoid: They're on a mission?
Tim: A mission! Yeah, that's the ticket!
Russell: "Send the three new kids."
Siskoid: Or to be jokey, Invisible Kid is invisible, duh, and Cham is the miniature Legion HQ. Colossal Boy couldn't get through the arena doors. NO-PRIZE TIME!
Russell: As a historian, I just wonder if these two stories were written at about the same time, or something. It just seems odd that Siegel goes to so much trouble to introduce the three girls, but totally disses the three boys from last time.
Siskoid: Speaking of getting No Prize, what do we think of Brainy asking Kara to be his girl?
Tim: Back to that episode of Justice League Unlimited, "Far From Home" , different ending... Supergirl STAYS with Brainiac 5! She doesn't ditch him for a life as Superman's "secret weapon" like she does here.
Russell: At that point the story stops being The Three Girlfriends" and turns into The Two Boyfriends.
Siskoid: Hahaha, so true.
Tim: Yeah, two boyfriends... what a hussy!
Russell: Seriously, though, Kara breaks Querl's heart there, and he never gets over it. Thus begins his slow steady slide into insanity.
Siskoid: She joins, and despite the promises at the start of the story, there's absolutely no moment where the girls connect back with her. The number of times a girl's told me she couldn't go on a date with me because she was Superman's secret weapon, well... if I had a dime...
Russell: The first time I ever read this I wanted more girl & girl action, if you know what I mean. The whole point at the beginning was Kara's loneliness... yet here we are, her ditching the Legion as soon as she can. It's time travel! She could stay forever and still go back to the same time!!! Didn't she ever read NARNIA?!
Tim: Or watch Doctor Who?

Back home, she uses her force field belt to get rid of some kryptonite for Superman, but it breaks.

Tim: It kind of serves her right when that belt breaks! She's two timing the guy that just gave it to her!
Siskoid: I'm disappointed the story can't stay with the Legion longer. First we lose a page to an extended Superman/Brainiac flashback (or back-doored story?) and now we get two pages of Superman Family cameos.
Russell: And... hold on... how does a rock fragment pierce her force-field? That's what a force-field is supposed to do!! What a waste of paper!
Siskoid: Let's face it, Brainy's work is shoddy.
Tim: C'mon Russell... The passage through the time barrier radically shortened the "life" of the force-field shield... everyone knows that!
Russell: That's another great close-up on page 11, but not as good one on page 12. I just noticed, that's a painting of her underwater. Trippy. Jerro is eavesdropping on their private mental communication. Dweeb.
Russell: Who the hell wants to read about Jerro the Merboy?
Siskoid: Answer, no one.
Russell: ...and wasn't he also in love with Wonder Woman, or was that some other Merman? This is some silly Silver Age crap.
Siskoid: That was Manno the Mer-Man. Bow before my quick research skills. It's my unique power.
Russell: Poor Krypto. Mano was in the Fatal Five. Imagine if he had been replaced by Manno gone bad.
Siskoid: So basically, Supergirl goes to Atlantis and steals their stash of "What if Superman goes bad" emergency kryptonite.
Russell: Don't worry, Siskoid, Batman has a ton of it.
Siskoid: But needy Jerro don't care, him and his creepy painting of Supergirl. As does the Legion now.
Tim: Everyone does... Every time you turn a page someone somewhere has kryptonite!
Tim: And now that we're on page 12... I LOVE that panel of Krypto flying away. The expression on his face... priceless!
Siskoid: That's a great cartoon dog.
Russell: Awesome Sauce.
Tim: I've said before, I'll say it again... I love these Silver Age stories! Nonsensical fun!
Siskoid: And it's back to the orphanage where she still can't connect to the other girls, because they couldn't relate to her having two boyfriends, one a merman and the other a genius alien.
Russell: They all live in the same orphanage, right? So they KNOW she doesn't have a BF, right? They're just being mean girls? Lindsay Lohan on the right, Tina Fey on the left? haha.
Siskoid: Anyway, she can solve her boyfriend problem easily, or isn't the Linda Lee robot waterproof?
Russell: "Linda Lee Robot, hang out in Atlantis with Jerro until further notice."  Shakes my head. Lord have mercy.
Siskoid: Superman used to have his robot doubles marry Lois all the time. So why not?
Russell: Haha.
Tim: So, seriously many stories before the Legion stops pranking the Super Family? How many more stories where they show up, fake Superboy or Supergirl out with poor disguises and then whisk them into the future for an adventure before they end up back home with nothing to show for it?
Russell: One or two, I think. Haha.
Tim: I ask because... I'm really actually enjoying them! lol
Russell: Tim, YOU are the audience Weisinger was looking for with these stories, haha.
Siskoid: More variety to come, but yeah, that remains a trope for a couple more tales in the immediate future.
Russell: To sum up my overall problem with this story - it doesn't know what it wants to be. Supergirl's loneliness is a great hook to start with, but then it turns into a plot twist, and then it's a romance, and then it ends up being nothing. Supergirl doesn't see the LSH for another year, and even then they are another plot element. Sad, sad stuff.
Kyle arrives at the meeting, finally.We send his silent robot double back into its tree.

Kyle: Heya fellers! Looks like I missed an awesome discussion!
Russell: Welcome, Late To the Party Lad!
Siskoid: Not too late to insert final thoughts, Kyle! For me, it's amazing how much they throw away the introductions of these characters. It's usually "Hi! I'm me! I have this power!" and then briskly off-panel.
Russell: The story we skipped with Star Boy was that exactly... and he didn't reappear for 2 years!
Kyle: Agreed! Tim, glad you're enjoying the Silver Age stuff! Is this your first time they some of these?
Tim: It is, Kyle! Not only that, but with these early stories I'm reading them right before our discussions... I'm honestly enjoying the heck out of them, but dont want to rush through them... I want to wait on each as if I was waiting for them to hit the spinner rack!
Kyle: Final thoughts... Well like so many of these stories from the Silver Age, and like some of the guest stories I've read lately, like the Jimmy Olsen and Superboy stories, I really like these. There is a lot of Silver Age DC super-hero stuff that can be a real slog, but these do not fall into that category. Yeah, they are silly and continuity is out the winds, but damn they are a blast to read. Maybe it's looking at it more fondly compared to the darker current tone of comics, but I have enjoyed a lot of these stories, including this one, much more in my recent rereads than I remember. Good stuff, an all-ages fun romp from the Silver Age that is more enjoyable than a lot of the other super-hero stuff (like a lot of Superman) that was being published at the time.
Siskoid: Here's a final question - Who's your favorite of the newly introduced characters, and do you think they fared well in their first story?
Russell: I think Bouncing Boy is my favorite. I bet he was a hit and was asked about by the fans, because hell, a bouncing super-hero? That's visually great.
Siskoid: And note how he and his future wife share a first appearance!
Russell: I did NOT notice that... haha!
Kyle: It was destiny! Another vote for Bouncing Boy!
Tim: I think (in this story anyway) Brainiac 5 is my favorite. Supergirl is ready to write him off as a hood, the great-great-whatever of a villain, and then he turns out to be a good guy at heart... sort of like the Fonzie of the story.
Russell: Aaaayyyy!
Siskoid: While I've always liked Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel, for me, I kind of have to admit to liking Brainy too. He would become an important story engine, and is (obviously) given more depth here than any of the others.
Siskoid: Meeting adjourned?
Tim: I'll second that, Siskoid!

And so we did.

Science Police Notes: 
  • This is the fourth appearance of the Legion.
  • Supergirl and Brainiac 5 successfully join the Legion.

Milestones: First appearances of Phantom Girl, Triplicate Girl, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Sun Boy, and Brainiac 5.

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