Monday, November 23, 2015

TOS: Adventure Comics #300 Group Review

featuring
The Legion of Super Bloggers Round-Table Discussion on

Adventure Comics #300 (September, 1962)
title: The Face Behind the Lead Mask!
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: John Forte w/Al Plastino
inker: John Forte w/Al Plastino
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein

Mission Monitor Board: 
Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, Mon-El (and statues of Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid I, and Shrinking Violet)

Guests:
Unnamed Science (actually World-Wide) Police officer


Opponents:
Urthlo, (young) Lex Luthor

Synopsis:
At a regular meeting of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Legionnaires lose control of their powers. Urthlo arrives and announces that he now controls the Legionnaires' powers and there is nothing they can do about it. But Saturn Girl comes up with a serum to temporarily cure Mon-El and immunize him against lead, and Superboy releases him from the Phantom Zone to knock out Urthlo, who turns out to be an automaton created by Lex Luthor sent into the future to destroy the Legion.

Commentary:
(Round table discussion between Siskoid, Russell Burbage, Tim Wallace, Condo "Bits Boy" Arlik)

Siskoid: This meeting is called to order. The comic - Adventure Comics #300, The Face Behind the Lead Mask! Beginning of the first regular Legion series, "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes" which will run continuously until Adventure Comics #380!
Russell: Dun dun dun!!!
Tim: This cover tells me absolutely nothing about the story inside... It's refreshing and scary at the same time.
Russell: It makes me think that these characters will appear... and most of them do, but...
Siskoid: Not Triplicate Girl.
Russell: Right right right.
Siskoid: This is one of the most homaged Legion covers, but I got to say, I've always thought it was butt-ugly.
Russell: I'm looking at the Archive Edition version, and yeah, it's dull as dish-water.
Siskoid: Everyone's standing on a patch of dirt, the clubhouse is on the Moon, and it spoils the big event from the story!
Russell: Yeah, super-forehead boy creeps me out too.
Siskoid: A lot of the Silver Age Giants and Annuals had this kind of layout, I wonder if it was their way to show this was an event (Legion in their own stories).
Russell: I'm thinking that, too. It reminds me of a Superman Annual or something.
Siskoid: <did we lose Tim?>
Russell: Maybe he slipped into the Phantom Zone?
Tim: <no sorry, got pulled away for a sec... back now>
Russell: ...and the story ended. Thanks, guys. Oh, hey, Tim, you're back. ;-)
Tim: Aww, man... and I had several zingers prepared too.
Russell: Zing away, Mr. Wallace.
Siskoid: Of note, for when you guys write my biography, the first issue of Legion I ever SAW (but did not buy) is the early 80s tribute to this cover (Legion of Super-Heroes #301) with Chameleon Boy dead center.
Russell: I never liked *that* cover, either.
Tim: It puts me in mind of the cover to "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow"...only less dynamic.
Russell: Ooh...yeah, I kinda see that.
Tim: Wow... now I'm wondering if that was in any way an homage to this one?
Siskoid: "Whatever Happened" is also supposed to look like an old Superman Annual. I think it references the Annuals, and this possibly references the Annuals, but then other covers clearly homage this one specifically.
Tim: So in a weird way that's a yes?
Siskoid: Pop will eat itself. How happy are we that these are finally going to be Tales of the Legion as opposed to Superboy/girl stories?
Russell: VERY!  Clearly DC was hedging its bets though, as the Legion didn't become the cover feature for a few more issues.
Tim: Well, Superboy is still a big part of this...
Russell: Yes. I always wondered if Superboy's title sold as well as the Adventure title.
Siskoid: BUT, the story introduces his stand-in, which might mean they were thinking of phasing him out.
Russell: Yet they never did. And never gave Supergirl her own series until they booted the Legion out of this. Weird.
Russell: Let's get into it, shall we? Crack open the cover...

As the Legion sits down for a televized meeting, their powers each go out of control, first trashing the camera, then the rest of the clubhouse. Only one thing for it, flipping the switch that summons Superboy.
Tim: Name tags with powers are back baby! One of my favorite bits about the future!
Siskoid: This really plays like a (re) introduction to the Legion. They name everyone even if they don't appear, and everyone at least thinks of their origin.
Tim: Though is it a little odd that they have statues of themselves inside the clubhouse?
Siskoid: Well, if Superboy is their idol, statues of self and friends are very important.
Condo: During this time, whenever Invisible Kid was shown using his power, he was pictured completely in white. Not in broken lines. So his statue is also cast in white.
Russell: Lyle's statue is fully colored in the Archive edition.
Siskoid: White in original issue except his face, weird.
Condo: Yes, they changed all the coloring in the Archives, including Lyle's original blue hair and red-and-yellow costume.
Russell: Thanks, Condo! Interesting bit.
Tim: (Re)introduction is right! Like how they each explain their powers (mostly as thoughts to themselves) when things get nutty.
Russell: Definitely a re-intro of them. Name tags and origins, coming right up.
Siskoid: Is this the first time some of these origins have been told? Or was Sun Boy's origin told in that solo story he had with Superboy, for example?
Russell: I think so! In his first appearance Cos, said he got his powers from a serum. But Sun Boy's origin was first told in "The 7th Super Hero", a story we skipped.
Siskoid: And now all Braalians have them, right!
Russell: Saturn Girl also was taught by scientists on Saturn in that story... upgrade!
Siskoid: For everyone. Sun Boy has also leveled up from his original super-radiance. He's melting stuff, not just brightening up the room.
Tim: Sun Boy also seems to have the ability to quickly pass judgement.
Russell: That never changes.
Siskoid: Well, I'm so used to the Sun Boy bashing by now (thanks to Hot or Not) that I don't even notice his many evils.
Tim: I think I've said it before, but why not again? Those Hot or Not pieces are great, Siskoid!
Siskoid: I have very little to do with their greatness, but I'll pass the sentiment along, Tim. Of course, the best bit is the lever to summon Superboy in case of emergency. I hope there's a Supergirl switch too.
Russell: "Pull down to summon Superboy."
Tim: Yeah, that lever... you'd think the future would be more future-ish.
Russell: Maybe Supergirl has a button? That's a mildly sexual reference.
Siskoid: My mind immediately went to the gutter - "Pull down pants to summon Superboy!"
Tim: You think anyone ever pulls the Superboy lever as a prank? Like pulling a fire alarm (which is bad kids... don't do it!).
Siskoid: Of course, they pranked Superboy all the time.
Russell: It makes Superboy's lamp flash, and Supergirl's model go ting-a-ling.
Siskoid: This is known.

Back in the past, an unrepentant Lex Luthor is released from juvie, and Clark "Superboy" Kent wonders if he'll be forced to send him to the Phantom Zone one day, the Zone where his friend Mon-El is still rotting away until a cure for lead poisoning can be found.
Siskoid: FORESHADOWING!
Russell: "One day I will be Luthor---!" "Who are you now?"
Siskoid: No one will dare to call him Lex. It's MISTER Luthor to you!
Tim: I know this is "young" Luthor... but he looks a lot like "old" Luthor.
Siskoid: Baldness will do that. DID Superman ever send Luthor to the Zone?
Russell: Poor Clark, woe is him, his old best friend hates him and his new best friend he accidentally poisoned and put into the Phantom Zone (insert explanatory text on Mon-El here).
Siskoid: There's a reason Superboy is lonely.
Tim: I feel like there was a story involving Lex in the Phantom Zone at some point... but I may be wrong.
Siskoid: There must be!
Russell: Let's ask Michael Bailey! :-)
*space radio crackles*
Russell: Just got an answer from Bailey! "Don't think so. The closest I remember of that was Lex getting sent there in the Death of Superman story from 1961."
Siskoid: Write in the comments if you know something the ultimate expert doesn't, folks.

Responding to the emergency call from the Legion of Super-Heroes, Superboy flies to the future where the Legionnaires are causing havoc with their powers. Lightning Lad is destroying the clubhouse, Sun Boy is responsible for the melting ice caps, etc. The "World-Wide Police" even tells them they'll have to leave Earth if they can't get their powers under control.

Russell: Okay, so... first real problem here. How did the police know that the Legion was having a problem? Cos destroyed the camera (and camera robot).
Siskoid: Well it's after Sun Boy causes global warming.
Russell: Haha never thought of it that way.
Tim: If nothing else, those cops have guts... calling out a bunch of super-powered teens... and teens that aren't even in complete control of their powers! Guts, I tell you!
Siskoid: So World-Wide Police, not Science Police. See? Could be environmental cops. Under either name, come to think of it.
Russell: Nobody pays attention to global warming, Siskoid, duh!
Tim: Well... he's a Legion member, and in these early stories that seems to be the team's MO.
Russell: Why didn't they call their resident genius, Brainiac 5, to help them, BTW?
Siskoid: Off planet. Like all the rest. Hm, I wonder if the other Legionnaires thought it was a good idea for these four to televise a galactic threat to all comers?
Russell: If they had an issue with that, wait 'til we get to the ending...!
Siskoid: Before the villain arrives, Superboy inspects the Legionnaires with his X-ray vision. Note that he goes for Sun Boy. Had his powers been on Saturn Girl, we might have arched our eyebrows higher.
Russell: He liked peeking on his buddies.
Siskoid: That famous Ultra Boy cover.
Russell: Right!

Then comes Urthlo, a villain with a lead mask and a gadget that allows him to control or even nullify the Legion's powers. And for Superboy, a dose of kryptonite vision. He wants them off Earth. They flee.

Tim: Urthlo...Urthlo, seems vaguely familiar... don't tell me, it'll come to me...
Siskoid: Eventually. ;-)
Russell: Look, a masked flying man! Le's just stand here and not do anything to him until he blasts us with Kryptonite Vision.
Siskoid: Tit for tat, he gives them a 15-minute headstart.
Tim: Hang on... purple and green outfit, bald head behind that mask... Urthlo... hmmm... it's on the tip of my tongue. Hates heroes... darn this guys seems familiar but I can't quite put my finger on it
Russell: This story is getting weirder and weirder.

But Saturn Girl has a plan. The heroes retrieve a phantom zone projector they buried in the desert and free Mon-El. Saturn Girl gives him a serum of her own invention that renders him immune to Urthlo, who claims to be MADE of lead. The robot is quickly downed by Mon.
Tim: Ok, since when does the Legion bury treasure like space pirates or something?
Russell: Right! And how come SG can find it? Is she reading its mind? Wait, no, her powers don't even work!
Siskoid: It's a good thing they did, because if they hadn't, they could have just grabbed it from a case or drawer.
Tim: How is its safer to bury than... I don't know keeping in a vault at their headquarters?
Russell: Because comics.
Siskoid: Anyway, Saturn Girl doesn't need powers to find the chest, they put a rock triangle on the spot.
Russell: Ooh, you're right.
Siskoid: Trust her, Russell! Do as she says, instantly!
Russell: Yes, ma'am.
Siskoid: In case of emergency, fly to desert, use Superboy to dig up chest, retrieve phantom zone projector, free Mon-El (don't forget to administer serum).
Russell: Look at Supe's face. He's enjoying this.
Tim: Lol.
Russell: That's really my next question... was SG about to cure Mon during the meeting that was interrupted? Wouldn't she have wanted Superboy there for a tearful reunion? Or to dig up the phantom zone projector, at least? What the what?
Tim: I love how Superboy delivers the cheesy movie dialog "You fool! Why did you make me do this to him?" Her powers dont work... she didn't make anyone do anything!
Russell: Saturn Girl knows what she is doing, Superboy.
Siskoid: Note that Saturn Girl wanted to gift the serum to Superboy, not Mon-El, so he would have been there.
Russell: But in the meantime, Mon stays in the Zone.
Siskoid: It's all about Superboy's anxiety, after a 1000 years, what's one more day?
Tim: Only temporary... that Saturn Girl is such a tease!
Russell: Another question... why didn't he free Mon back in the past?! And by he, I mean DC. Plot contrivance, I guess.
Siskoid: What would he have done in the past? Here at least he can thrive with a team.
Russell: Oh, I dunno, NOT suffer 1,000 years in the Phantom Zone? THEN he could have gone to the future.
Siskoid: It's harsh.
Condo: Another sidetrack: Urthlo made a comeback in the 90s.
Siskoid: Where, Condo?
Condo: Around the Zero Hour time, when universes were coming together, he appeared with a host of other forgotten characters, like Satan Girl.
Russell: Look at that!
Siskoid: Awesome, good catch!
Tim: Wow... nice one, Condo! On a different note, that third panel close-up of Saturn Girl on page 10... absolutely dreamy! I love that shot! She looks gorgeous!
Siskoid: Haha, SG is just too mean. I know I've gone on record saying I find that attractive, but her Legion stories test my limits.
Russell: Yes, the art by John Forte is gorgeous.
Siskoid: Forte unless it's Superboy's face, then it's Plastino(!).

Unfortunately, Saturn Girl's serum only lasts a few minutes, so the Legion can only release Mon-El for emergencies. But he has hope. Unmasked, Urthlo proves to have an adult Luthor's face and recounts his origin as a creation of young Lex back in Smallville, time-projected to the Legion's time to eliminate Superboy's support group.

Russell: The Secret Origin of Urthlo is just Silver Age stupidity at its worst. Teenager Lex builds adult Lex robot and instead of using it to stop Superboy NOW, he sends it into the future... with some powers to "turn off" the Legion's natural abilities. HUH!? And then even though he's made of lead, he wears a lead mask!?!
Siskoid: To hide that he's a Luthor of course. So weird, Lex builds an OLDER version of himself?!
Tim: Is it me or does the robot look like he's sweating when he's unmasked?
Russell: It's sweating because it's hot under that lead mask.
Siskoid: And he knows all about the Legionnaires and Mon-El?!
Russell: Right, that was another point I was going to make. How does he/it know about Mon?
Tim: What bothers me more is how the robot rolls over on Luthor and reveals the whole plan... talk about no honor among thieves.
Siskoid: And there's that famous bit with the "hate tapes" inside the robot's body. Sweating hate!
Tim: That sounds like a band name... Sweating Hate!
Siskoid: Or a GOP strategy. #POLITICAL!
Russell: Mandatory time travel paradox - if Mon-El is still in the Phantom Zone in the 30th Century (marked 21st on page 1, BTW) then obviously Superman didn't free him.
Siskoid: Oh gosh, that's true. Hope destroyed.

Mon-El is voted in as the Legion's newest member, too well-admired to go through the usual humiliation- I mean, initiation - before being sent back to the Zone.

Russell: Speaking of elections, the five Legionnaires on Earth vote Mon-El into the Legion! Not even a quorum! I wonder if The Founders have two votes each or something...
Tim: Yeah... but no sooner than he's a member than they send him back to the Phantom Zone! It's like "Thanks for granting the wishes, now back in the bottle genie!"
Siskoid: The Constitution says, if I remember rightly, that they can vote people in without the usual rigmarole.
Russell: At this point there's at least 13 members. It's not even a majority!
Siskoid: Voting is supposed to be ¾ of the membership! according to article 8. But Article 3.6 says any team distribution can vote in someone on a provisional basis
Russell: *Shakes head* Not even a democracy. And where the hell does Superboy have to run off to? It's time travel, for God's sake. He could have worked with SG and found a cure for Mon-El RIGHT THEN and still gotten back to deal with Luthor. Sheesh
Siskoid: Ma and Pa are all, like, why do you look 21?
Russell: So we get explanatory dialogue like, "Look, a flying masked man!" but we can't be bothered with "we'll officially vote you in when we have a quorum, which we currently do not have."
Siskoid: But maybe they did make him a member provisionally and ratified the decision when the others got back. They probably didn't have a constitution yet though, that was a concept for later.
Tim: Ok, hang on... Cosmic Boy acknowledges it was really Superboy and Mon-El that saved their butts, and let's be honest it was mostly Mon-El... but they still congratulate themselves?
Russell: Long Live the Legion, Tim!!!
Tim: Long live Superboy and Mon-El is more like it, Russell!
Russell: Haha.
Condo: The whole bit about the Legion going back in time to help Superboy whenever he was in trouble doesn't wash because to the Legion, that's history and they already know the outcome. It's as if they said "history records us as having saved Superboy on November 19, 1963, so we better go back in time to do that."
Siskoid: If I know this era's Legion, they probably didn't do their history homework. They're like pranking Terminators, screwing with the timeline.
Russell: They're teenagers. They probably didn't do ANY homework. For sure Sun Boy didn't. ;-)
Siskoid: Poor Sun Boy.
Tim: He was too busy being a judgmental jerk!
Siskoid: How will he ever grow up to be a good person if we keep ostracizing him?
Russell: He is hot, though... Warm?
Siskoid: And so ends the first Tale of the Legion!
Russell: Hooray! ...wherein the Legion doesn't actually do anything.
Siskoid: What did we think?
Tim: I liked it! It was the goofy fun I've come to love and expect.
Russell: It's amazing that we got a franchise out of this. These are real Morts.
Siskoid: Hahaha. I'm excited about what comes next, because Superboy doesn't appear in the next couple stories.
Russell: True.
Siskoid: He can finally cut the cord and let the Legion fend for itself.
Tim: Wait, what?! No Superboy? I'm not sure I can continue being part of this...
Siskoid: Bouncing Boy and Sun Boy are the heroes of the next two. Believe it... or Not!
Tim: No... not Sun Boy!!!
Siskoid: Even he. So lots of fun to come. We're just warming up, which is basically what I thought of the story, a warm-up.
Tim: Alright... I'll stick around, but these kids are really going to have to impress me... but no Superboy, sheesh!
Russell: If by "Fun" you mean Silver Age goofiness, yes. I gotta go to bed, I'm losing my super-ability to type. I love the art, but that is the basic selling point for me. The stories are too stupid for my tastes.
Tim: Seems as good a place as any to wrap it up... goodnight Legionnaires!
Russell: Until we get an ultimate stupid story that turns out to be Great. So maybe I'm being too harsh.
Siskoid: THIS MEETING IS ADJOURNED!
Condo: Who wants me to get a ride home in my new skycar. The other Condo always offered a lift when a meeting was adjourned. ;-)

For David. 

Science Police Notes: 
  • Mon-El is freed (albeit temporarily) from the Phantom Zone and joins the Legion in this story.
  • John Forte did the main art of the Legion feature with Al Plastino adding Superboy's faces.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes is said to exist in the 21st Century. Later, it will change to the 30th Century. 
  • Triplicate Girl appears on the cover, but not in the interior story.

Milestones: Beginning of the first regular Legion series, "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes," which will run continuously until Adventure Comics #380.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I loved the Legion's Adventure, but the early ones were hard for me go get through because it seemed like the threat was always had to come from a previously established Superman villain or his descendent.

    I don't know if you have been looking at them, but the letter columns from this era were usually pretty revealing and often unintentionally funny. Has anyone thought about taking a look at them and/or mentioning them in these reviews (or maybe even doing a separate regular column on them?)

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  2. Articles on letters pages? I love the idea! Consider put on the list!

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    1. I used to love the letters pages. Somewhere in the Legion run of Adventure there was a letter from a young Mark Waid (waaaaay before he wrote the Legion books)

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  3. John Forte's Saturn Girl is gorgeous. I actually really liked his work on these Tales.

    I also love the little plot point that Saturn Girl is a scientist of some kind (which didn't come up often enough). This little bits of characterization made them into more than just "characters". Nowadays the best we seem to get is "seems unfeeling" "jerk" "arrogant smart guy" no subtleties at all.

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  4. One of the things Hot or Not made me realize (to name that old thing again) is how many of the female Legionnaires are brainy, strong-willed and/or excellent fighters, and how many of the male Legionnaires are just dumb jocks with little control over their emotions.

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  5. "Ok, hang on... Cosmic Boy acknowledges it was really Superboy and Mon-El that saved their butts, and let's be honest it was mostly Mon-El... but they still congratulate themselves?"

    Let's be fair here... it wasn't the entire Legion congratulating themselves, just Sun Boy. Which, y'know... Sun Boy. He probably does that after every mission. ;)

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    1. He either congratulates himself or exiles the other team members on a space rock and goes all catatonic. Another day in the life of Sun Boy. Go Legion! ;)

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  6. Maybe "Long Live the Legion of Super Heroes" is more like a prayer or a wish. Kind of a "God save the Queen" type thing.

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    1. I am now going to change the lyrics of God Save the Queen to Long Live the Legion.

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    2. Different number of feet. Gonna be messy.

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