Monday, December 12, 2016

How the Legion Ruined Superboy's Love Life

Poor Lana Lang. By the time I started reading Superboy comics, and by that time they were synonymous with Legion comics, Lana was a thing of the past, appearing more in reprints of old comics than new stories. Some Superboy readers might even have said, "Who's Lana Lang?" And it could be the Legion's fault. Come with me now and learn how the Legion ruined Superboy's love life.



Lana Lang was the feisty redhead neighbor that young Clark Kent grew up with, sometimes known as Superboy's girlfriend. Yes, she was a younger, and cuter, version of Lois Lane. There was some romance, with the costumed identity of Clark, and an endless parade of stunts to prove Clark and his Super-half were one in the same, but other than being a redhead (vastly superior to brunettes), there was not much difference. She was Lois Lane, but younger, and maybe at times, a bit more nasty. That said of course, Clark's constant lying to protect his identity doesn't make him any less despicable. Let's face it, and the bulk of CW DC Comics TV series have proven it so, not telling your friends who you are is a thing of the past.

All that aside, something drove Lana and Superboy/Clark Kent apart in the early to mid-1970s. That something was the Legion of Super-Heroes. My actual first encounter with Lana, that wasn't in reprint form, was in my first new Legion story that wasn't a reprint - Superboy #197. On the first page, Clark and Lana are sitting under an apple tree, and Lana puts forth this monologue, "…how come you never try to kiss me? I'm not saying I'd let you, but I'd be flattered if you'd at least try!"

That's when the Legion signals him, and she continues, "I know how bashful you are, Clark… but brace yourself and kiss me anyway! Satisfy my curiosity!" So this is it, Clark's big moment, and the Legion ruins it with a message to come right away. Clark knocks Lana out by heat visioning an apple to drop on her head, silly boy, and just leaves her under the tree Back to the Future style.

Now let's set aside the fact that this sexy redhead wants him and Clark is more interested in time travel to chill with his buds, and the fact the that the 'emergency' is that a legionnaire, Timber Wolf, has returned from the dead. Let's get it out of the way that it's the Legion that ruined this pivotal romantic moment. Lana's not going to try this maneuver again. Especially when she wakes up alone with Clark nowhere to be seen.

Let's talk about the time travel thing and Clark's obsessiveness. The Legion is at a fixed point in the future, in this case, the moment they sent the signal from. Can't Superboy travel there (then?) at any time? Like after a make out session with Lana? But no, the Legion needs him now, he has to go now. Pretty much from this moment on, as the Legion slowly takes over Superboy's own title, he starts to spend all his time in the 30th century. My question is, if Superboy always returns to the point where he left in the 20th century, can't he always do the same in the 30th? Constant presence in both times theoretically? That way he doesn't miss make out sessions for friends returning from the dead. Because, comics.

Just as the Legion took over his title, they begin to take over his life. We see less and less of Clark Kent, Lana, and Smallville as time rolls on. Granted, it had been more than a year before this that Lana really had anything to do in the Superboy comic anyway. In the back-up solo Superboy story in #197, he kinda treats Lana like crap. And she's barely in the handful of issues before that, usually only as a plot device or bystander with a couple lines. The exception being the Lana back-up story in #181 where she imagines being married to Superboy, and he craps on her again. Always the scapegoat, never the bride.

In the very next issue, Superboy #198, Lana and Clark are on a date at the carnival, and the fact that two of the Fatal Five are hanging out at the carnival aside, Clark just doesn't seem to want to be there. It's like he's just not into her, and maybe just not into girls. Maybe Superboy hasn't matured all that much yet, and just wants to hang with the boys (and girls) of the Legion.

 Re-reading these pages, and looking at Clark's expressions, he does not like Lana, and she is really into him. Was I the only one who wondered why Insect Queen, Lana's superheroic identity, who's also a Legion reservist, didn't help out here? Maybe Superboy has shared his thoughts on Lana with a few of his Legion buddies? She doesn't even rate attendance at Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel's wedding, and everyone came to that, even Tars Tarkas, Starfinger, and the Martian Manhunter.

It's quite a shock then when Superboy #205 comes around which not only cover features Lana, but the teen of steel is actually being nice to her! It's her birthday and Superboy's present to Lana is a trip to the 30th Century to see the Legion. Now that I think of it, it must be odd to be a member of a group you can't even attend meetings of. This is sort of like having a car pool with an absentee friend - if they don't go, you can't go, and especially if they don't pick you up. Insert Superdickery joke here.

If you've read the issue, you know the plot, and it seems only fitting: Superboy brings Lana to a stark raving mad Legion who tries to execute her as soon as Superboy is out of sight. What a birthday surprise! Insect Queen does get a cameo in this time, but it's highly unsatisfying. And just to make sure his streak of treating Lana bad is secure, in the next issue Clark is seen hanging out with Suzy, a platinum blonde he is walking home from school. So he does like girls, but still, the Legion pulls him away, even from Suzy.

Speaking of other women, and Superboy spending far too much time with the Legion in the 30th Century, we next come to issue #217, and the back-up story by Jim Shooter and Mike Grell, "Future Shock for Superboy." Here we see Superboy leave the cheers of 20th Century Smallville for those of 30th Century Metropolis, a place he calls his 'home away from home.' There he meets a girl that he does like, one he feels the need to show off for, get to know better, and ends up searching the city to find her again.

The girl is Laurel Kent, although at first she gives him the alias Elna, an anagram for Lane. She's his descendant, looking very much like the girl Superboy is destined to marry. Having inherited his invulnerability, she's applied for the Legion Academy. Wildfire says it's okay to let Superboy know this because of the super-hynotic block set in place to make him forget any knowledge of his personal future when he returns to his own time. This is basic Legion lore, but the question really is - does he re-remember this information when he returns to the future? Is the block a two-way street? And if it is, might this attraction to Laurel be a catharsis for Superboy to want to spend more time in the 30th Century?

All conjecture, yes, but the mind boggles. But did the Legion break up Clark and Lana? Did the Legion ruin Superboy's love life? One really wonders if maybe the Legion had to force Superboy to quit, go back to his own time, and therefore grow up a bit, just so he could become Superman - that whole 'time to put away childish things' and all that?

Almost as a coda to this thought, the next time we see Lana is years later in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #255 where writer Gerry Conway tiredly resets Lana as a secret identity delving pest. Everything new is old again.

2 comments:

  1. I believe you are correct, why can't he take care of Lana for a couple of sessions then eat dinner, do his homework and then go to Legion Headquarters!

    I guess the deal was to keep him a teen in the same aging as the team from the time he was inducted as a member . Otherwise he could wait until he was ready to retire as Superman .

    That damn time travel !

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  2. Add in that according to DC's time travrel rules at the time, when you returned to your original time, you were the same age as when you left, so that Superboy could have spent years in the future, growing into Superman, yet go back to being teenage Clark at any time. Perhaps he did that once or twice, explaining why he really didn't care much for Lana's antics.

    Also, Shade the Changing Girl #2 has a weird backup story with Beast Boy of Lallor and Ornitho of the Wanderers.

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