Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #304 Group Review


featuring
The Legion of Super Bloggers Group Review on

Adventure Comics #304 (January, 1963)
title: The Stolen Super-Powers!
writer: Jerry Siegel
artist: John Forte
editor: Mort Weisinger

Mission Monitor Board: 
Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Bouncing Boy, Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet, Triplicate Girl, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, Lightning Lad, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Mon-El, Superboy, Supergirl

Guests:
Lori Lemaris

Opponents:
Zaryan the Conqueror

Synopsis:
Saturn Girl uses her telepathic abilities to cause the others to vote for her as Legion Leader in a misguided attempt to stop Zaryan the Conqueror from invading Earth.


Commentary:
(Round table discussion between Russell Burbage, Tim Wallace, Glenn Walker,  and special appearance by Condo Arlik)

Russell: Okay, then let's get to it. Roll Call! Your fearless leader Element Lad, here!
Tim: Kord Kid, here!
Glenn: Continuity Kid here!
Russell: We're reviewing the story from Adventure Comics #304. So what does everybody think of the splash page?
Glenn: Great, love John Forte, he -is- Silver Age Legion
Tim: Neat idea...but the perspective is a bit off. Either that's a tiny club house or the Legionnaires all grew really tall
Russell: I think so too. Not Forte's best.
Glenn: I have always thought of the original Clubhouse as being like a TARDIS or mostly underground...
Tim: Good thought, Glenn!
Russell: I DO like how Violet and Bouncing Boy are looking at each other like, "Is this for real?"
And I dig Saturn Girl's Reclino-Ship
Glenn: I need a reclino-ship
Tim: That is pretty sweet! Something Archie Bunker or Al Bundy would be proud of!
Russell: Alright, moving on....


It is Legion Election Day, and Saturn Girl arrives at the Clubhouse first. She is alone when she receives a capsule message about Zaryan the Conqueror. After reading the message it contains, she destroys it with a blaster she happens to be carrying. Then as all the members arrive, the voting for new Legion Leader begins. 

Glenn: Get out your vote-o-matics here
Russians can't hack those.
Russell: Haha!
Tim: Another odd bit of perspective or proportion...Cosmic Boy looks like a GIANT compared to everyone else at the table
Actually...Sun Boy is the only one that looks in scale with him
Glenn: Or maybe Vi is just shrinking?
Russell: This is the first time that an actual year, 2963, is used. I think the last two stories I read said the Legion was in the 21st Century~!
Glenn:  Yeah, it was a few stories in before everyone got the 30th century memo
Russell: Tim, it looks like all the members know each other and know their powers. No abilities listed on the name-plates!
Tim: At least the name plates are still there!
Glenn: I had a thought when it's said Supergirl is in the distant future - what if she is moonlighting with another super-team there?
Russell: The Wanderers, maybe?
Tim: And I love the post office wall pictures of the wanted criminals
Glenn: ....And it seems neither Super-cousin likes it in their own time lol
Russell: Speaking of time travel, though....it's TIME TRAVEL. Why would they ever miss anything?
Tim: Wait sorry...just looked again...that's the vote-a-matic...the criminals aren't for another page
Glenn: Bouncing Boy looks like he just had a really good burger. Mmmm... burger...and fries....
Russell: LOL
Tim: Wibbly wobbly timey whimey...just like Doctor Who taught us
Glenn: That's true about time travel, but still, the traveler would age
I always wondered about that, how old Superboy was really, when he'd spend a few months in the future, ya know? Like a kid who's been left back, everyone else is 15, but he's 18!
Russell: Or maybe he would de-age, like the kids in Narnia always did?
Or maybe he'd age differently, like a Vulcan.
Glenn: Maybe something else the memory wipe would do when he returned to his own time?  Magic? In different continuities it has been said Kryptonians age differently
Tim: Memory wipe? Is this another Identity Crisis?
Glenn: When Superboy returns home, there's a post-hypnotic suggestion that makes him forget elements of his own future or would damage history.
Russell: So that's the original Identity Crisis, sorta. He forgets that he knows about Supergirl.
Glenn: Bouncing Boy needs to wash his outfit in that one panel. In my copy, it's all gray.
Tim: Help me out here...is super thought casting the same or different than super hypnosis?
Russell: They were handled differently then
Glenn: I think Jerry Siegel took some liberties with Saturn Girl's powers as well. This is almost like mental domination.
Tim: So it's a loophole to get around the whole "no duplicate powers" thing?
Russell: There is an early story with Saturn Queen where she "hypnotizes" someone to believe something false. Totally Sensor Girl like.
Glenn: More than just 'suggestion'
Russell: And I'm not sure there was a "no duplicate power" by-law yet.
Glenn: Weren't Saturn Queen's powers more in the domination realm?
Russell: Yes. But she made Night Girl think that the sun had come out when it hadn't.
Glenn: This is the, what, still single digit appearances, right?
Russell: Legion appearance #18
Glenn: Still early tho, no hard and fast rules or power definitions.
Russell: Yes, I think that's right.

Saturn Girl wins unanimously, which means, and is commented on by several members, that she voted for herself. Several members suspect that Saturn Girl "made" them vote for her, she admits in a thought balloon that IS what she did. Immediately after being voted in, she asks for a treasury report. She takes the Spectrum Rainbow Bar out of the treasury to make medallions of her face, then orders all members to wear them. She then announces that she will test each member on the efficient use of their powers. 

Russell: So I liked how Colossal Boy is talking all about "traditions" here hen *we* know that the Legion is only 3 years old. This is only the 2nd Leader Election ever. Can't really say there are "traditions."
Glenn: I caught the tradition part too, but interpreted differently - it's against tradition, but not against the rules.
Tim: There's a reference to the Constitution too...so I just assumed the tradition, like the Constitution, was written in as backstory
Tim: So then the tradition and Constitution are just part of building backstory
Glenn: Jerry is just letting you know there are such things, and there's a lot of Legion history as yet unrevealed.
Tim: Ok...so laying the groundwork then.
Russell: I think this may be the first time the Legion Constitution is mentioned, for example.
Tim: Oh look, there's the post office wanted posters!
Russell: Only Zaryan warrants a name. I'd love to see HIS original appearance story.
Glenn: I was wondering about that, have we ever seen the other two?
Russell: Nope! Orion the Hunter before he went all Hippie?
Tim: The one to the right of Zaryan looks a little like Ra's Al Ghul.
Russell: So, newly elected Great Leader Saturn Girl raids the treasury and makes medallions for all the Legionnaires. Awfully nice of her...NOT!
Glenn: She's just doing what she wants... like a President.
Tim: I'm sorry I'm so fixated on this...but so at this point Saturn Girl calls out Constitution section Y381...and that's completely random?! So when the Constitution was fleshed out someone had to go back and collect all these references and shoehorn them in? Now I really feel for Siskoid when he had to cover this on the Fire & Water "Who's Who in the Legion" episodes!
Russell: Yes, but Legion Fandom put all of the references together first, I think.
Then DC actually published them in the letters' pages in the late '70s, then reprinted  them in the Who's Who in the LSH book.
Glenn: And that's why Legion fandom rocks so hard
Russell: Yep! BTW there is no "Y381" clause in the WWinLSH Constitution. I just checked
Glenn: The way Saturn Girl laughs to herself when tricking the Legionnaires into wearing the medallions makes me think Jerry didn't have the whole plot fleshed out at once.
Perhaps he at first meant for Saturn Girl to have been taken over by Zaryan?
Russell: "Haha, I'm going to steal their powers and kill myself!"
Glenn:  I mean, that's an evil villain laugh.


Glenn: Okay, who here would like to be 'punished severely' by Saturn Girl?  Show of hands?
LOL!
Tim: She's not my favorite, or my vote for "hottest Legionnaire"...that said, if the opportunity presented itself I wouldn't turn it down, LOL!
Glenn: I know as a kid, and as an adult, I read that and said 'wow,' but for two completely different reasons...
Russell: You boys!! Behave! Calling the LSH inefficient under the previous leader is a clear slap at Cos, but he sits there and puts on the medallion just like everybody else.
Glenn: She is 'pushing' I bet with her powers to make them complacent. Where's my no-prize?


Triplicate Girl and Ultra Boy are judged first. When they use their powers, the medallions absorb their powers and transfer them to Saturn Girl. As judge, she end ups forbidding all Legionnaires from using their powers for several days. 

Russell: Ultra Boy: Yes, oh Great Leader. In your Reclino-Ship.
Glenn: I love the 'ha ha ha, idiot' remark at Triplicate Girl!
Russell: Harsh!
Glenn: Yep, she could be Zaryan.
Tim: This is a return of a Legionnaire being an ass to another Legionnaire that we've seen before with how they'd treat Superboy, Supergirl, ...how many others must suffer this fate?
Russell: Haha! It's interesting to me that at this point the only power Ultra Boy had was his penetra or flash vision. I'm looking forward to the story where he has numerous non-vision powers. It hasn't happened yet.
Glenn: Interesting, I was unaware of that.
Tim: I'm now scared, and mildly intrigued, by the idea of Saturn Girl severely punishing someone with penetra-vision!
Glenn: So, all those powers, and -that- is the one he shows off most?
Russell: It's the only power he showed in his debut, so no writer has given him any more....yet.
Glenn: Like in Monty Python, 'it's my only line,' it's my only power. Yet. LOL!


The Legion receives an alert that Zaryan the Conqueror is preparing to attack Earth. Saturn Girl flies off to face him alone, ordering the others to not interfere. 

Russell: ....under threat of expulsion! That's harsh
Glenn: I wonder if Commander Loring is related to Jean Loring?
Russell: God, I hope not. Great great great nephew or something?
Glenn: Check his pocket for black diamonds... or size-changing superheroes.
Tim: It all comes back to Identity Crisis.
Russell: Another appearance by the fore-runners of the SP, the World Wide Police.
Glenn: It seems there was a lot more to Zaryan's plan that we didn't see, ship parts assembling in space, a robot army - again, I wonder, could this have been two stories blended into one?
Russell: Yeah, I noticed for an invasion force it's him and three robots?!?
Glenn: He's that powerful - spoilers - he does kill a Legionnaire.
Tim: That ship assembling thing was cool...and pushing the boundary of suspension of disbelief
Russell: It's the Silver Age, Tim!!
Tim: I know! I love it!
Russell: Why are there so many marbles in space?
Glenn: The budget called for marbles, stars are more expensive
Russell: Ah, literally "shoe string budget." Got it.
Glenn: Had there been any attraction between Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl before this?
Russell: Only the Supergirl story we reviewed a few weeks ago where it was fated that they get married.
Glenn: Ah
Russell: That was less than a year before this. Which sorta spoiled this ending, kinda, but we can talk about that a little later. No comments on Vi being a Negative Nancy?
Glenn: LOL I thought it was in character.
Russell: I suppose.....Vi was a bit of a wet blanket at this time.


Just as Saturn Girl approaches Zaryan's space ship, Lighting Lad joins her. He refuses to argue with her about what they are doing; he simply attacks Zaryan's ship before she can. He destroys the ship, but is caught in a freeze ray. He begs her to bring him back to the Legion Clubhouse. 

Glenn: That was quick.
Tim: Very quick! Very Silver Age "oh man we have to wrap this up quick---!"
Glenn: Exactly!
Russell: Well we do still need two pages to explain this stuff!
Glenn: Soooo, why didn't Mon-El tell -everyone-?

Lightning Lad explains to all the members that Mon-El from the Phantom Zone told him Saturn Girl's plan. Mon-El saw that the message Saturn Girl received and destroyed was from the Trylop Council of Menl. It was a prophecy that a Legionnaire would die fighting Zaryan, so Saturn Girl contrived to stop all the other Legionnaires from facing Zaryan, insuring that she would be the one to die. Lightning Lad couldn't let her do that, so he ignored her orders to sacrifice himself instead. 

Tim: Wait...I'm no expert...but that's not how the Phantom Zone works!
Glenn: ...and why is Lori Lemaris there again? Were Supergirl and her friends? I was lost there on that one.
Russell: Tim, it's not? I'm not a huge Silver Age Superman fan. I don't know the rules of the Phantom Zone.  And Glenn, time travel back to page 9. We're still at LL's death scene, man
Tim: The Lori Lemaris thing threw me too...wasn't Supergirl in the future? Why is Lori in the future?
Glenn: Whoops, timey wimey.
Russell: Tim, don't the PZ guys constantly watch us? But they don't have telepathic powers, right?
Tim: I guess...maybe in the Silver Age...just not sure that's how I'm more familiar with the concept.
Glenn: The Phantom Zone is like where all those dead people from John Edward, they watch us all the time
Russell: John Edward?
Tim: LOL!
Glenn: Fake psychic from the old SciFi Channel. Was always seeing dead people watching us.
Tim: I always think of it more as a prison.
Glenn: He would say, 'Your Gramma is always with you' and I would always wait for the guy to say, 'What? Gramma is watching me in the bathroom?'
Russell: That sounds like the PZ to me! It always creeped me out.
Anyhooo.....! That last panel on page 9 is the epitome of the Silver Age Superman universe to me: exciting dialogue trapped within plot exposition.
Glenn: Damn sunspots!
Russell: Yep. Can we also talk about Saturn Girl's ray-gun? It's debut and also final appearance. Can you say, "plot contrivance"?
Glenn: Freedom to bear arms, even in the 30th Century.
Russell: Lord!
Glenn: Lots of heroes in the Silver Age had holsters but rarely used a gun...
Russell: Again with the "no killing" clause not existing yet, I guess.
Tim: Maybe it backfired and disintegrated itself?
Glenn: Like Batman, the Shadow offered the gun to Saturn Girl as a 'gift'...
Russell: Haha that must have been it.
Glenn: Man, i've read too many comics...
Russell: How cool would it have been if the message had come from Naltor, instead of Mernl. And...WTH is a "Trylop Council"?!? Or if Dream Girl had come from Mernl
Glenn: That would have been perfect, Naltor ties in to Zaryan later, right?
Russell: Does it?
Glenn: I believe so, Dream Girl's first appearance? Or I might be mis-remembering.
Tim: So, when I covered Lightning Lad on the F&W Who's Who episode, I remember the entry referencing him as one of the most tragic Legionnaires...now...well, now I've gotten a little glimpse of that!

Russell: Yes. His sacrifice is totally gallant and heroic. BTW, I wonder if DC had a rule against showing dead bodies, because you would have thought Saturn Girl would cry over HIM, not on Cos.
Tim: Well you do see him in his lightning coffin.
Russell: Oh, right. Duh.
Tim: So maybe they just couldn't show people touching dead bodies?
Glenn: Ewww!
Russell: Panels 1 & 2 on page 10 just seem weird that he's not there.
Glenn: It's possible; there was a Comics Code rule against zombies. Who knows how weird the Comics Code got in the details?
Russell: I mean he's there, she's not, then he's not. I LOVE how the boys are crying though.
Tim: Yup...was just thinking it must be code related.

The Legion builds a crypt for their dead friend. All of the Legionnaires attend Lightning Lad's funeral. Similar to an "eternal flame," electric bolts will flash over him for all eternity. Throughout the United Planets, flags fly at half-mast for the gallant hero. Lastly, the Legion places a statue of Lightning Lad in their hall of heroes. 

Russell: ...so NOW Mon, Clark, and Kara show up. Deadbeats.
Glenn: Now, pay attention, LL is definitely dead because we see his ghost up in the heavens.
NOT Proty.
Russell: Wrong story, Glenn.
Tim: A statue with a label!
Russell: I KNEW you'd love that, Tim!
Glenn: And how about those catty girls with their 'nah nah, your powers have worn off' ?
Glenn: AND what is up with Lori Lemaris??
Russell: Glenn that was for the readers so they didn't write in, "Uh, does SG still have everybody's powers!?" As for Lori.....yeah, WTH Lori....!?!?
Glenn: Those girls grew up to join the LSV fan club I bet.
Russell: I'm guessing that in some other Superman story Lori had met Lightning Lad or something, and she invited herself along. "Urged" Kara to bring her, maybe? Lots of mind control this issue.
Tim: Mind Control only covers part of it...Lots of odd WTF moments here.
Russell: Glenn, do you have the actual story? If so what's your final blurb say?
Glenn: There's the scroll that asks if he's really dead, etc, and then the end, that's it.
Russell: Okay, that's the same. I was curious because we had already seen the Adult Lightning Man in continuity. So wasn't that a huge spoiler that he wasn't really dead?
Tim: Is it possible the super science of the 30th Century can restore his life? Stay tuned! LOL!

Condo Arlik: Hi guys, just interrupting the flow here: I've been lurking and enjoying the conversation. I'd like to suggest that when we review these issues, we also look at the Superboy stories (some of them have Legion references) as well as the letter columns.
Here are the letters from this issue:




Glenn: The lettercol is mostly Legion stuff. Telling which was the popular feature...
Russell: Yep.
Condo Arlik: Yep, I just wanted to throw them in now because I can't stay! Sorry!
Russell: Okay, thanks! I wonder if any of these fans are still out there, maybe even reading this?
Glenn: The lettercol promises that Mon-El will permanently emerge from the Phantom Zone, requests character ideas, and a reader named Buddy creates Polar Boy.
Russell: I wonder if he ever got any residuals.
Glenn: HA!
Russell: First, or very early mention of "bits of Legionnaire business."
Tim: Do creators actually get paid?
Russell: Oh, right. Never mind.
Glenn: By DC back then, nope. They even had a feature composed completely of fan ideas - Dial H for Hero. I doubt anyone got paid
Tim: Ouch!
Russell: That wasn't the original Dial H idea though, was it? I thought that was only in the remake where the fans suggested characters.
Glenn: Weren't a lot of the Legion Academy members first created in the Legion Outpost fanzine?
Not sure if it was the case with the Robby Reed Dial H version.
Russell: Yes, a few were for sure.
So, any final thoughts?
Glenn: I dug the story, but wish there was more of it.
At the time, I think they knew Lighting Lad wasn't dead.  We had as mentioned already seen Lightning Man. They were stringing us along, something that wasn't a regular thing in comics of the time.  But the Legion was always ahead of its time.
Tim: It was bat-shit crazy...weird proportions, weird time anomalies, unexplained/unexpected appearances, rushed endings...everything I love about the Silver Age!
Russell: Go back and re-read page 8. Lighting Lad destroys the invasion craft. Zaryan is either killed, or escapes. But he never came back, so....did Lightning Lad KILL Zaryan?
Another bit where we could have used a little bit more time.
This is one of those Silver Age stories where I would like it to be re-told with more details and more characterization.
Glenn: Anyone here read a title called Legion The Early Years? That's where I got the Dream Girl Zaryan reference from. Circa 2010-11.
Russell: Oh, those stories. I'll have to look at those again now...!
Tim: I just looked up Zaryan...he appeared 12 times pre-Zero Hour. So...guess he survived!
Russell: Really? I don't remember that at all
Glenn: Me neither, I just Google Fu-ed it...
Tim: He's back in Adventure 328, 403, 499...
Russell: Two of those are for sure a reprint of this story.
Anway, as it is, it's one of my favorite early LSH stories. For one thing, it features most (all) of the Legion. (Star Boy is AWOL). Most of them are able to show off their powers or give us their names in a basically normal way. For example, Triplicate Girl and Invisible Kid naturally joke about their powers when they vote, clueing us in as to who they are. Or even more naturally, we see Phantom Girl on page 7 with no name and no powers shown, just being there. I love that.
Tim: It was a fun one...another reason for me to love the Legion!
Glenn: Awesome story.
Russell: Jerry Siegel was definitely finding his groove....
Glenn: John Forte still does the best old school Saturn Girl.
Russell: Any closing thoughts?
Tim: Long live the Legion?
Glenn: Long live the Legion!
Russell: And with that, I call this review Adjourned!

Science Police Notes: 
  • This is the first Legion Election to be shown in a story. Each member gets a vote, but because Saturn Girl wins unanimously there is no mention whether the winner must meet a specific percentage of the votes or a simple majority. 
  • Star Boy does not appear in this story. 
  • Superboy and Supergirl are not shown during the election sequence. Perhaps they did not vote? 
  • This is the first and only time Lori Lemaris visited the 30th Century. 

Milestones: 
This story features the election of Saturn Girl as the second Legion Leader after Cosmic Boy. This story also features the "death" of Lightning Lad. 

7 comments:

  1. There had been "Lightning Man" appearances earlier so a lot of folks figured that he'd get better. The first LSV story, the Supergirl tries to fix up Superman story, and one other that escapes me at the moment.

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  2. "Is Lightning Lad really dead, or could there be a way to restore him to life?" I think, just by asking the question, you're kinda answering it at the same time. I mean, if they weren't planning on bringing him back to life, why even bring it up, right?

    As for the "no duplicate powers" rule, it wasn't a thing at the time. In fact, that Legion rule wouldn't actually ever get mentioned until the introduction of Wildfire! (They initially rejected him (as ERG-1) for not having a unique power, the first time that was ever mentioned.) (For the record, Ultra Boy was retroactively allowed because his penetra-vision can see through lead, making it unique from Superboy's X-ray vision, and Mon-El's lack of vulnerability to kryptonite was used to justify his powers being different. Then they just said "Superboy and Supergirl get special exceptions just because we felt like it".)

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    1. There definitely was a mention of the rule when Dream Girl altered Lightning Lass' powers so that she could stay in the Legion along with her revived brother. Not sure if that was the first time or not....we'll get to it eventually. ;-)

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    2. Actually, there apparently wasn't. Dream Girl altered Ayla's powers so that it would appear Ayla had lost her powers and would have to leave the Legion. (DG had a vision that some Legionnaries would be killed on a mission, so, similar to Saturn Girl in this story, it was apparently easier to enact complicated, sociopathic schemes to have them removed from the Legion than to just say "hey, you might want to be careful out there"). But while DG says that Ayla's lightning powers weren't needed (as they duplicated Garth's), no mention is made of that being prohibited. (Ayla and Garth had already been serving together for a few issues at that point.)

      CBR's Comic Book Legends Revealed covered this one a few years ago (it's the last legend on the page): http://www.cbr.com/comic-book-legends-revealed-320/

      (And, really, if that rule actually was in effect, given the way it was applied to ERG-1/Wildfire, Chameleon Boy's powers probably should have kept Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, and maybe even Bouncing Boy from joining...)

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  3. Silence!!! Now put your medallions on!" is one of my favorite lines ever! This story is one reason I love Saturn Girl so much (and John Forte's Saturn Girl is so great!)

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  4. Everyone in the Phantom Zone has telepathic powers. There is "no air" in the PZ and they cannot make any sounds. They gain telepathy when they enter the zone and that is how they communicate with each other.
    The problem with this story is that they cannot talk to us here in the material world that way (Unless speaking through a special opening that is viewing them directly). Mon-el cannot initiate a telepathic conversation with say Cosmic Boy through the zone. (The telepathy is too weak). The only way it can (and has) been done is if a group of them gets together and in chorus sends a message to someone. Then we can hear their combined thoughts on this side of the barrier. (There have been several stories where they have influenced Superman this way).

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    1. Oh, he can also contact someone with telepathic power of their own in this world, such as Saturn Girl.

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