Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics # 302 Point-Counterpoint

featuring
The Legion of Super Bloggers Point-Counterpoint Review of
Adventure Comics #302 (November 1962)
title: Sun Boy's Lost Power!
writer: Jerry Siegel
artist: John Forte
letterer: Milton Snapinn
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Superboy, Sun Boy, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy

Opponents:Kranyak, his criminal gang, and a Kryptonian Flame-Beast.  




Synopsis: 
Sun Boy is being honored with a statue by the Mayor of Metropolis. The supports collapse and the statue topples, but Sun Boy is able to melt it before it strikes anyone. Later, during a city-wide blackout, he discovers that his powers are not working. The Legion attempts several methods of restoring them but none are successful. A criminal that had been put away by Sun Boy, Kranyak, hears of this and escapes to seek revenge. After being confronted by Kranyak, who vows to destroy the Legion, Sun Boy recalls that Kryponian Flame Beasts inhabited the planet Lurna from eggs deposited there. He travels there and purposely spurs one of the beasts to attack him. Like he hopes, the beast's flames restore his power. He returns to Earth and is able to defeat Kranyak before the villain can use his freeze ray projector to destroy the Legion.


Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Sun Boy rush to make a scheduled Legion appearance at Metropolis Stadium. The team is being honored with a statute. Sun Boy is shocked that he was chosen as the model of the statute because of his gallant spirit. However, the statute topples and Sun Boy is forced to melt it to save spectators from being crushed.

Mike: Wow, that sucks for Sun Boy. He goes through the elation of having a giant statute erected in his honor to have to melt it himself. He still seems chipper though. Probably safe to assume that if they were fond enough of him to build it in the first place, they will likely build another one, especially since he saved the spectators.
Russell: I always wondered why the statue committee started with Sun Boy? Why not start with, like, the Founders? And I know it's the Silver Age and a story point, but couldn't Cosmic Boy have stopped the Sun Boy statue from falling over using his magnetic powers? A bit less dangerous and costly, ya know.

After leaving the stadium, the Legionnaires notice that a blackout has engulfed the city. Sun Boy attempts to illuminate the city but discovers that he cannot light up. He keeps trying but cannot get his powers to work. He explains that he gained his powers when he was accidentally locked inside an atomic reactor chamber and the bombardment transformed him into a human beacon of blazing light and heat. The team uses the atomic reactor in their clubhouse to replicate the accident, but it only causes Sun Boy pain and fails to reignite his powers. A similar attempt to lower him close to the mouth of a volcano also fails.

Mike: Very Silver Age origin to his powers here having him exposed to an atomic reactor, which I like. And exposing him to the clubhouse reactor (???) has a certain...I hesitate to say logic, but by Silver Age standards, sure, it does.  Worked the first time after all.  But lowering him into the volcano?  That...seems risky.  I mean, there is some precedent for him surviving exposure to radiation. But a volcano is hot, not radioactive.  And if that rope broke...
Russell: I love this bit, it's probably my favorite page of the whole story. I think they all happen to forget that they wear flight belts. And isn't Brainiac 5 the resident genius? Where is HE during this story?

The next day, the team is visited by a guest entomologist. They are presented with a gift collection of strange insects from other worlds. He explains that one insect, the Winged Wampus, releases a deadly gas that destroys its foe. When his pipe goes out Sun Boy casually reaches out and relights it. Saturn Girl is relieved to see that his powers have returned, but Sun Boy says it was only for an instant, when he momentarily forgot that he had lost his powers.

Mike: His powers momentarily worked when he forgot he had lost them? That is not suspicious at all Sun Boy. And a scheduled visit from an entomologist. Can you say foreshadowing? I did like the idea though that the Legion was given a collection of insects from various worlds as a present. In an intergalactic society, gifts like that feel appropriate. I also like whenever the Legion's status as famous heroes is emphasized. Between this and the statues, we get to see that a lot here.
Russell: So Sun Boy is suffering from performance anxiety? I do like how the Legion recognizes all sciences. I wonder how many little boys (and girls?) read this and thought, "Cool! I want to be an entomologist, too!" Who says comics can't teach things?

After their guest leaves, the Legion gathers for a meeting. Superboy, Ultra Boy, and others arrive. Cosmic Boy explains that the purpose of the meeting is to announce that Sun Boy has lost his powers. Sun Boy suggests that Superboy's heat vision and Ultra Boy's flash vision may be able to restore his abilities. Unfortunately, the attempt fails and Sun Boy realizes he has no choice but to resign.

Mike: Hey, if an atomic reactor originally gave him his powers, why not heat vision and flash vision? This was my favorite attempt to restore his powers, and fun in a comic book-science kind of way.  I imagine young readers at the time may have expected it to succeed, thinking "oh, of course, it would be fellow members like Superboy that are the key!"
Alas, it was not to be. Seeing Legionnaires forced to leave the team when they lose their powers always feels a little brutal to me, but I guess that was the intent.
Russell: To me, stories like these are victims of their time. We all know that Sun Boy doesn't quit the Legion for real, so there's less emotional attachment from current-day readers to his predicament.
Speaking of which, you would think he would be nicer to some of the Subs and applicants after this type of experience, though. And I love that last panel. "Here's your name tag. We won't be needing it any more."

At home, Sun Boy listens to a Legion porta-monitor as the Legion is called to help a sinking oceanic liner. Shortly, he watches the news as the team comics to the rescue, but he is interrupted by a knock at the door. Bouncing Boy has come to retrieve the porta-monitor because it is Legion property. At a nearby prison, a guard mentions that everyone is sad about Sun Boy losing his powers except Kranyak, a prisoner who was put there by Sun Boy. Using a wonder pill smuggled to him by a friend, Kranyak transforms into a gaseous form and escapes prison. He soon rejoins his gang and vows vengeance against Sun Boy.

Mike: I mentioned before that seeing Legionnaires forced to leave always feels a little brutal to me, but sending Bouncing Boy to take back the porta-monitor was just cold. When a character in a Silver Age story was going through some sort of disgrace or embarrassment, they always seemed to go out of their way to really drive the point home like that. Just to pile on the humiliation.
Russell: Even the narrator stops calling him Sun Boy! Now *that* is cold. I have expected Bouncing Boy to ask for Sun Boy's uniform back!
As for the bad guy in an early Element Lad uniform, for years I just assumed that the bad guy's name was pronounced like cran-yuch. Then it suddenly occurred to me that it probably rhymes with Brainiac. Hmmmm.

  
That evening, Sun Boy is strolling through a deserted section of town when he is attacked by Kranyak and his gang. The villain mocks Sun Boy, but instead of destroying him, he warns the hero that his plan is to destroy the Legion of Super-Heroes. How he plans to accomplish this is his secret, but he assures Sun Boy he will not fail.

Mike: I had mixed feelings on Kranyak. I did like the idea of a convict put away by Sun Boy trying to take advantage of the situation to get revenge. But...the character himself was so generic. 
Russell: I was hoping he would have Gas Girl type powers, but no. Interesting idea, though. The Legion bad guys for the first few years were very, very generic. 

Sun Boy recalls that the planet Lurna is famed throughout the universe for the fantastic creatures that inhabit it, and that these include Kryptonian Flame-Beasts hatched from eggs deposited there. This gives him an idea and he quickly travels to the planet. Once there, he provokes one of the creatures into attacking him. The flame does not harm him, but his plan works, as he soon finds his powers restored.

Mike: These Kryptonian beasts come out of nowhere in this story but they are still pretty cool. The plan of Sun Boy came totally out of nowhere as well but sure, why not. Fun to see him just get bathed in flame like that.
Russell: Okay, this is where I draw the line. Kryptonian Flame-Beasts?!? Oh, because they were hatched there. Like Asian Carp in Lake Erie or something? Okay, I can....wait, what? Why do they have to be Kryptonian? And I'm no volcanologist, but how would flames from a dragon be different in nature from flames from a volcano? Because comics, I guess. 

Sun Boy returns to Earth just as Kranyak is attacking the Legion clubhouse. He has a freeze-ray, which he uses to solidify a great chunk of ice the size of a mountain directly above the clubhouse. Sun Boy moves quickly and melts the ice before it can crush their headquaters.

Mike: Points to Kranyak for the freeze-ray. He did escape from prison by becoming a gaseous cloud, which is easy to forget at this point, so not that out of the blue for the character to have access to some creative weaponry.
Russell: I do love how Sun Boy melts the ice and then threatens to make the bad guys uncomfortable. Pretty heroic stuff.
On the other hand, wouldn't the Legion Club-House force-field that was just shown LAST ISSUE stop the ice from crushing them?

Sun Boy captures Kranyak and Saturn Girl asks how his powers were restored. He recalls that when he temporarily got his powers back when the professor was visiting he was standing near some fireflies. He realized that the heat energy from a living being might restore his sun power completely. Comics Boy wonders how his theory could be true since their attempt to use the vision powers of Superboy and Ultra Boy had failed.
Russell: I love how Cosmic Boy is all "continuity cop" here, "Hey, explain THAT!" Like there would really be a logical explanation at this point....

Sun Boy informs the team that it is because the duo are actually robots. He got his first clue when he was watching the rescue of the oceanic liner and noticed that they were drawn to Cosmic Boy when he used his powers. He wondered why and realized that it was because they were both robots. The team is still confused as to why Superboy and Ultra Boy are robots, but Sun Boy finds a tape in Superboy that had been damaged. After he repairs it, the robots explain that the real heroes were stil in the past celebrating Pete Ross's birthday and had sent two robots in to the future to take their place. While the robots time traveled they were caught in a terrible time storm and their taped message from Superboy was damaged. Everything cleared up, and Sun Boy's powers restored, he is welcomed back into the Legion.

Mike: There is a lot to unpack here. Just to celebrate Pete Ross' birthday, they send 2 robots to take their place?  Since they are time traveling...why would they not have plenty of time to celebrate and make it back whenever they choose?  This was a common inconsistency though, so I cannot single out this story too much.
I loved that massive birthday cake they decided to bring Pete. We only see Pete and the two heroes, but he does reference a party. However, we only see the three of them. And that is a lot of cake for three people. Maybe there were people off panel? Perhaps I am just overthinking the giant cake too much. Whatever, it was still oddly touching to see Pete Ross' birthday play a surprise role in this story.
Overall, I did really enjoy it. Sun Boy's loss of powers was an intriguing idea, as was having living beings be the key to restoring his power.
Russell: I'm right there with you regarding the time travel excuse....it's TIME travel. You can do Pete's party and then arrive in THE FUTURE. Nothing is stopping you.
I think this is the last time Superboy ever tried sending a robot into the future, though. Clearly they were not strong enough to time travel. Speaking of robots, the last time we saw Superboy's robots they didn't include Ultra Boy. Now they do (or did). Hmmm....how many damn robots did the guy have?!
I would have been happier if this anti-deus ex machina plot device had been skipped. Robots which think they're Legionnaires? That opens up a whole can of worms I don't want to think about.

Science Police Notes: 
  • This is the first time we learn Sun Boy's real name is Dirk Morgna. 
  • This is the first time Ultra Boy's vision power is called "Flash Vision." It was originally called "Penetra-Vision."  
  • The statues of the Legionnaires that line Main Street in Metropolis make their debut here. 

7 comments:

  1. RusselL:

    Sun Boy's statue was probably made of stone or marble, so Cosmic Boy couldn't affect it. Remember, this was in the pre-Magneto days when magnetic powers could only work directly on metals. (Look what he did to the robots for proof. And that was by accident.) Although I have to admit, two tons of molten stone is NOT good for the crowd, either.

    As for Brainiac 5, he's not here because he was investigating a series of baffling events at the Plot Convenience Playhouse on the plant Wuups.

    Mike:

    Superboy has a fondness for oversized cakes. Just check out the classic Superman story of Superboy's last day in Smallville. Right before he left, he baked a gigantic cake for the entire town (enough for everyone to have a piece) and brought it to his farewell party, .

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    1. Yes, super-baking is one of Superboy's powers.

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    2. Only giant cakes, though. Regular-sized cakes don't turn out nearly so well, as the old Superman newspaper comic strip demonstrated: https://twitter.com/JHeaton416/status/887800380859588608

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  2. I've always rationalized that there was a natural "bent" to the space-time continuum that would pop you out at a thousand years even. Oh, you could come out earlier or later, but it wouldn't be as easy. This might also partially explain why Supergirl didn't visit as frequently.

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  3. The Ultra Boy version of heat vision is "Flash Vision", while "Penetra-Vision" is the X-Ray Vision analog.

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    1. I understand that is what ended up happening. My point was that at this time, Ultra Boy still has ONLY shown vision powers.

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  4. This was my Legion of "Super-Heroes" !

    What a beautiful cover by Mr.Curt Swan.

    Seeing this takes me back to walking down to our now defunct "News Depot" and buying my comic books which Adventure Comics was my favorite !

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane !!!!!!!

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