In 1978 DC Comics partnered with Tempo Books, a subsidiary of Grosset & Dunlop, to produce six reprint paper-backs and six "activity" books. Of these twelve paperbacks, one was dedicated to Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes.
However, each of the books in the series presented a hodge-podge of stories, with no discernible theme or unifying villain. For example, none of Wonder Woman's reprints were from after 1956; it's hard to imagine who would want to read such chest-nuts as "The Talking Tiara" or "Wonder Woman's Wedding Day." Not really representative of the World's Greatest Feminist Super-Heroine, right?
It turns out that the majority of the book is taken up by a solo Superboy story, "Superboy's Darkest Secret" (originally from Superboy #158, although the book gives no credits). With a title like that you might think that the story reveals some dark secret about Clark and Lana (or even Clark and Pete). However, you would be in for a rude surprise, as....well, no spoilers, but it turns out that Superboy's parents Jor-El and Lara are actually still quite dead. Who'd have thunk it?
The next three stories do feature the Legion in three back-up stories. "The Six Legged Legionnaire" introduces Insect Queen (Lana Lang) as an honorary Legionnaire (Adventure Comics #335), "The Legionnaires Who Never Were!" (Action Comics #392) gives us a psychological thriller starring Saturn Girl and Princess Projectra, and "Curse of the Blood Crystals!" features Chameleon Boy under Mordru's control (Superboy #188).
I also picked up the Justice League of America collection, and instead of a few separate adventures it reprinted one two-parter and one stand-alone. At the time I didn't realize that there were NO JLA back-ups to pick from, but I still liked the idea of a collected adventure. For the Legion, though, instead of reprinting, say, the Legion vs the Sun-Eater, or the Legion vs The Chemoids, or three separate stories featuring say, the Time Trapper or Dr. Regulus, we get these back-ups.
Lana Lang perhaps was included because of the Superboy connection? Not sure what kind of hook that would be in 1978, but the story where she hangs out in the future is not terrible. The other two stories, though....if part of the appeal of these books was to try to increase the readership of the current series, the editor was totally off the mark in his choices. The Action Comics story is a good example of the psychological "twist-endings" stories that Cary Bates tended to write, but the Superboy story was a good example of the kind of "what the hell?" type of stories that Cary Bates also, unfortunately, tended to write. Why DC didn't reprint any of the Superboy/Legion stories from Superboy/Legion #197~201 is beyond me. Can you imagine pure Dave Cockrum in black and white? The mind boggles.
All I know is that as a fan, it annoyed me greatly that NONE of the characters on the cover appeared in these stories in these uniforms except Ultra Boy and Brainiac 5!
For those of you who may be interested in how the stories were broken down and re-formatted to fit on the smaller page, here are two pages from two of the adventures, and the four-plus pages needed to show them in the paperback! Clearly, the horizontal panels gave the editor the greatest problems.
|No real trouble with square-shaped panels...|
|We lose a lot of drama from this re-formatting, though...!|
|Nice switch from horizontal to vertical for this scene|
|We lose a lot of the grandeur of 30th Century Earth from this compression|
|Nothing to do with this horizontal panel except break it up into two!|