Tuesday, September 5, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #309


Hey Fellow Legionnaires! It's your old pal Tim, aka Kord Kid, back again! 

As i mentioned last time I posted Russell, our fearless leader, has tasked me with looking back at some of the Legion's Silver Age adventures. I love these goofy early adventures, so of course I said "Sign me up!" One day, I may regret that, but for now I'm going back to the future with Adventure Comics #309...and the story, "The Legion of Super-Monsters!" by Edmond Hamilton and John Forte!


The story starts, oddly enough, with school lessons. The Legionnaires, far and wide, watch and learn via closed circuit TV. Yes, even the Legion of Super-Heroes have to go to class, so stay in school kids! 



After meeting their educational requirements, the team holds try-outs for new recruits. The first we see, Rainbow-Girl, doesn't get in, but she does receive an anti-gravity belt as a consolation prize. Next up is Jungle King. He arrives with a Borlat (a six legged tiger for the uninitiated, like myself). The normally fearsome creature seems docile, as Jungle King provides the explanation in flashback. His father performed experiments on him to create the greatest animal trainer of all time! Sadly, while providing the exposition, it also provides his downfall as Bouncing Boy notices that while Jungle King was distractedly telling his story, the Borlat is now on the attack! 



Sun Boy manages to quickly subdue the beast, but it seals the deal...Jungle King is not Legion material! Immediately plotting revenge for the rejection, Jungle King takes a spaceship to Monster World...a planet that man has been unable to settle because it is inhabited by, well, monsters! His plan? To use his hypno-mental ability to control the beasts of this planet and use them to destroy the Legion! He wrangles his army: Earthquake Beast, Super-Spinner, Eye Monster, Mirror Monster, Drill Beast, and Omnibeast. 



Then, renaming himself Monster Master he loads his Legion of Super-Monsters onto his spaceship and heads out to rob the Great Space Bank! This, of course, captures the attention of the Science Police who notify the Legion. Sun Boy puts two and two together and deduces that Monster Master is really Jungle King, the youth they denied membership to. 



The Space Bank's manager tells the team that he overheard the villain say his next move was to steal the rarest jewels in the universe. Brainiac 5 knows that can only mean the Comet Jewels in Sky City on the planet Korr so they head there to stop their latest foe. They arrive just in time, as Monster Master is about to use his Earthquake Beast to topple Sky City! The team has to make a tough call, save the city before it falls or apprehend the rogue.



Saturn Girl uses her thoughtcasting ability to determine his next target, Inshar the world of giant flowers! Shortly after they arrive, Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy manage to subdue Monster Master's Drill Beast while Chameleon Boy goes undercover, impersonating the creature. 



Things seem to be going great until an overzealous Bouncing Boy exits the Legion spaceship and bounces too high, allowing himself to be spotted by Monster Master! The villain orders his beasts, including Chameleon Boy, into his ship and makes a speedy getaway. Hoping to evade our heroes, he tries to hide his spacecraft in the caves of a tiny planet, but Chameleon Boy manages to send out a radio signal to his teammates. 



He then disguises himself as the Omnibeast to try and evade capture until help arrives. The Legionnaires arrive to save Chameleon Boy, but Monster Master slips from their grasp again and heads back to Monster World with our heroes in close pursuit! With the Earthquake Beast standing guard, Monster Master heads to his tower. Along the way he's stopped by a Gas Creature who wants to tag along but, thinking it's powers are useless, he spurns it and sends it way. The Legion draw lots to see who will try to defeat the Earthquake Beast. Bouncing Boy wins and is so excited by the importance of the mission, he bounds right in and manages to bury the Earthquake Beast in rubble by, um, bouncing. 



The Gas Creature, angered by rejection, grabs Monster Master and vaporizes him! 



Wow! When Russell first suggest this story I thought "Great! Monsters! And Halloween's right around the corner, this is perfect!" What I got was definitely not what I was expecting. I had envisioned monsters like vampires and werewolves and gill-men. What I got was space Tarzan and his army of Godzilla movie rejects. It was still fun, with all the Silver Age tropes I've come to expect, but I have to say it's not one of my favorites. It seemed like Edmond Hamilton played the cat and mouse game between heroes and villain too much and too predictably. I mean every time the Legion had Monster Master in their grasp he got away...three times! That said, I did enjoy the irony there at the end. The guy seeking revenge for rejection, destroyed by a creature he rejected...a twist worthy of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone!  

See you in the future!

Status: 
This story has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 2 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol 1.

4 comments:

  1. Let's not rag on Bouncing Boy here. He actually does a very good job beating the Earthquake Beast. Sure, being able to inflate his body and bounce like a rubber ball may not be as obviously powerful as heat-projection or bodily morphing. But, it DOES require him to get into the thick of things to be effective, which Chuck often does, here and in future stories. He has to endanger himself bodily for his power to have its maximum impact (sorry). That he does so without hesitation is the mark of a hero.

    And don't you just love the 30th Century chivalry of Brainiac 5? Excluding Saturn Girl from the final fight "because it's too risky a mission for a girl". Even after she was essential in locating Monster Master in the first place and likely could have controlled the Earthquake Beast mentally, as she has done before to other creatures, and been just as effective as Bouncing Boy.

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  2. I think that this is the first case of "try-out" gone wrong that we see. The Legion try-outs were a great source of "comic" relief and this story turned that on its head. We do see other rejected applicants go to "the dark side" but I think that this was a rare instance of it happening right away.

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  3. This story was also reprinted in Adventure Comics #500 (June, '83), which I picked up (at a used book store that also sold used comic books) in '85 and still have; 500 was all-Legion issue, part of a series that re-published all the early Legion stories until Adventure Comics' demise with issue #503. The inside back cover contained commentary on the Legion stories by no less than the then-DC Veep of Operations Paul Levitz, who described Adventure 309 as a milestone issue, since it was the first issue of Adventure with most (almost two-thirds) of the pages devoted to the Legion (the rest were the cover-Superboy story) and the Legion's first battle against a super-villain, tho' one could argue that the group battled Luthor in issue 300.

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  4. I find it "ironical" that the Legion, at story's end, realized that rejection caused the Jungle King/Monster Master to turn on them, and yet, later, the Legion earned some renown for the rude ways they turned away applicants to their group in future issues.

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