Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #317 Point-Counterport

Adventure Comics #317 (January 1964)
title: "The Menace of Dream Girl!"
writer: Edmond Hamilton
artist: John Forte
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

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

Opponents: 
pure hubris, teen-aged male hormones

Saturn Girl calls in all members who are not involved in life-or-death missions, including Matter-Eater Lad and Star Boy, who are collecting data on a post-atomic war-ravaged world. Mon-El and Superboy are trying to break through the time barrier but hit an "iron curtain of time" after only going 30 days into the future. 
Russell: I like the idea that Saturn Girl can call in the other members, but....Lighting Lass and Brainiac 5 are busy carving likenesses in rock? You would think they could find something better to do---!
Nice atmospheric panel with Matter-Eater Lad and Star Boy on that post-atomic world. Creepy! Good to see these two, by the way. It's been more than a year since we saw Matter-Eater Lad, and we haven't seen Star Boy in action since his debut appearance, waaaaay back in Adventure Comics #282!
I also like the mention of a new super-villain, the Time Trapper. This makes him sound like quite a bad-ass! I'm a little confused by the reference of him facing Cosmic Boy and Sun Boy, though, because THIS is the first mention of him, ever!
Mike: In fairness, Lightning Lass did explain how Brainiac 5's presence helped their mission. Yeah, not necessarily the best use of his abilities, but perhaps it was some sort of training/mentor exercise with her to help her learn new ways to use her abilities. That's my shot at a no-prize.
That post atomic world just stands in such contrast to what we usually see in Legion stories of this era, I love it.
Didn't Mordru also have a reference to having already battled the Legion when he first appeared? Maybe I am mis-remembering. Even so, I kind of like that. Knowing the Legion is so active that they have plenty of adventures we do not see reinforces their significance to the galaxy. Its also notable they would do that with both Time Trapper and Mordru, two of their biggest villains.


The Legionnaires arrive and their meeting starts "as always" with a reading of the Constitution. The new applicant Rann Antar is rejected, because making feathers as heavy as lead is, oddly enough, already one of the powers of a Legionnaire (Star Boy). Dream Girl, however, has the ability to see into the future. 
Russell: Hold on, the Constitution is read aloud before EVERY regular meeting!? They must go on forever! I would hope that they only read a clause or two every time....interesting that the writer pulls this out so early in the story, though.
Funny how the writer feels the need to explain who and what Star Boy is. Because he hadn't actually appeared WITH the Legion before, maybe Hamilton felt obligated to re-introduce him to the readers.
And here we have Dream Girl, one of the more controversial Legionnaires. (I love that look Star Boy is giving her in her debut panel, though!) I think if the writers actually used her to her full potential she would be an awesome addition to the Legion, but too often I think she was used as a plot device. Oops, sorry, I digress...
Mike: Wait, Rann Antar shows up with a basket of really heavy flowers and expects to get into the Legion? Couldn't one of them just bring a basket of lead bars and avoid having to admit a new member? Sorry, I shouldn't pick on poor Rann. Even if Saturn Girl's response is pretty brutal..."sorry, but that isn't a real super-power!".


When Dream Girl is given the opportunity to demonstrate her power she has two visions: one about hatching monsters and another about an exploding rocket fuel tank. After Star Boy and Superboy prove that they occur just as she predicted, Dream Girl is voted into the Legion....although none of the female Legionnaires vote for her!
Russell: I love that panel where most of the boys stand up for Dream Girl. Note that Element Lad is not in this story. He's over in the corner conferring with Triplicate Girl.
By the way, what the HELL is that thing in (on?) Dream Girl's head? Is it some sort of bobby pin? It's bothered me for years. Can somebody tell me, please!?!?
Mike: The guys really melt like butter from the very first panel she appeared in. Star Boy and Mon-El practically bounced out of their seats when she walked in. Even Brainic 5, who you would think would maybe notice what is going on, despite sensing the same attraction. And Saturn Girl's disgust was great.
A note on Forte's art...he does a very good job of drawing Dream Girl in this issue. As does Curt Swan on the cover. Which is important since their art helps to justify why the boys are reacting the way they are.

Star Boy and Matter-Eater Lad offer to take Dream Girl around the Club-House and help train her, such as explaining Defense Plan 78 to her, but she is more interested in learning the Legion Constitution.
Saturn Girl tries to break through the time barrier, but the second Time Bubble has the same result as the first. They ask Dream Girl for future advice, but she can only see a few days in advance. When pressed, she calls Star Boy a stupid bore and walks off. 
Russell: This is an interested page for a few reasons. First of all, Saturn Girl is basically calling out Cosmic Boy and Sun Boy, as well as Superboy and Mon-El. Ouch! Sun Boy tells her, "Good luck!" but he's probably thinking, "You bitch!"
Secondly, I don't think knowing your limitations is being swell-headed necessarily....."Hey, Star Boy, can you make these feathers super-lightweight?" "That....isn't how my power works." "Try, Star Boy, we must make these feathers super lightweight!" "Grrrr......" On the other hand, "your stupidity bores me!" = Now *that* was a heavy put-down!!
Mike: I am sympathetic with Dream Girl. Saturn Girl taking that out on Dream Girl when she should be taking it out on the boys instead.

Later, Lightning Lass and Dream Girl to go check on an experimental electric generator. Dream Girl is sent because she is from the super-scientific planet of Naltor, and Lightning Lass goes with her because of the electricity. Dream Girl looks the generator over, but when it is activated it "short circuits" Lightning Lass, causing her to lose her electrical powers. Citing Claus 2-B of the Constitution, Dream Girl insists Lighting Lass be expelled. 
Russell: As soon as Triplicate Girl speaks up in Lighting Lass' defense, Sun Boy is heard whimpering in the corner. "You were all so ready to kick ME out when I lost MY powers! *sob*"

Triplicate Girl is angry at Dream Girl's tone, and accuses Dream Girl of causing the accident. Citing Sub-Clause 11, Dream Girl insists Triplicate Girl be court-martialled for bad-mouthing a fellow Legionnaire. When Star Boy tries to talk Dream Girl out of it, she cites Claus 4 Sub-Clause 2 which forbids a Legionnaire from subverting another Legionnaire while on duty. Star Boy can't believe such a sweet and beautiful girl could be so cruel. 
Russell: Nice how Triplicate Girl right away knows something is up. Too cool, too, how Dream Girl has ALREADY memorized the Legion Constitution. I bet Star Boy wasn't even listening when it was read aloud to him.
Speaking of Star Boy, he's thinking with little Star Boy again. "Nobody as sweet and beautiful as you could do such a thing."?!? Oh, Star Boy. Sweet and naive Star Boy.
Mike: Poor Star Boy. It is always depressing when you realize the girl you have a crush on may not actually be a very nice person. Happens to all of us at some point.

Matter-Eater Lad asks Brainiac 5 for advice about Dream Girl, and he suggests that she has a plan to expel certain members. He suggests that perhaps she is being manipulated by someone else. So Matter-Eater Lad decides to watch Dream Girl more closely. Almost immediately after, he sees her almost sit in Chameleon Boy's assigned seat during a meeting. 
Russell: This is another great scene. Matter-Eater Lad naturally asks Brainiac 5 for advice; they learned that they could trust each other in Matter-Eater Lad's very first adventure (Adventure Comics #303).
On the other hand....Dream Girl is getting him to believe that she's really Chameleon Boy!? Come ON, Tenzil!!
On a different note, the planet Vondra has asked the Legion for aid in running their census!?!? What the hell kind of mission is that!?!
Mike: Very noble of Matter-Eater Lad to volunteer to watch her. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.


Saturn Girl tries to assign Dream Girl to the planet Vondra to help them in their census, but she has a sudden premonition of a fearful, menacing aurora. Saturn Girl allows her to take others with her, so she orders four other Legionnaires to join her. When they arrive on Vondra, they are immediately changed into infants. Dream Girl, who knew of the power of the aurora, had taken a vaccine to protect herself. 
Russell: This is one of those Silver Age tropes that I never could understand. For some reason during the Silver Age, every few years DC characters would be de-aged into infants. It happened in several Superman titles; it happened to the Legionnaires atleast three times! I don't get the appeal. I do like how the Legionnaires' uniforms don't shrink with their bodies, though. That's kinda cute.
Mike: The thing that has always bothered me about this trope is that comic writers of this era were terrible when it comes to writing baby talk. It's never anything like toddlers actually talk. They always revert to "me this" and "me that." Like little Bizarros. They did that a lot in stories of Superman as a baby, and as much as I love Silver Age Superman, I cannot read those.

Superboy shows up, and Dream Girl makes him take care of the infants while she pilots the ship cruiser back to Earth. 
Russell: Superboy shows up because....why now? How? Dream Girl didn't send out any emergency signal. He just happened to be passing through!? Also, although Dream Girl was supposed to show up to help work on this planet's census, she and her group don't meet ANY native Vondranians. Census results: zero. Mission concluded.
Mike: Maybe Superboy was just very concerned with the integrity of the census on Vondra?
Oh, and that panel of Bouncing Boy getting bounced is pretty cute. Its nice they get to have some fun as kids.

After she signs back in at the Metropolis Spaceport, Matter-Eater Lad sees how she appears to have started signing in as "Chameleon Boy." At the club-house, he confronts her with his suspicion that she is really Chameleon Boy in disguise. Citing Clause 81, making false claims against a fellow Legionnaire, Dream Girl demands that Matter-Eater Lad be suspended from active duty. 
Russell: One question: how stupid can Matter-Eater Lad be?

Star Boy confronts Dream Girl on her viciousness, and she breaks down and tells him the truth. She admits that all of her actions were part of a ploy to get seven specific Legionnaires out in order to save their lives. She had a vision of them dying in a space cruiser explosion, so she tried to stop this from happening. 
Russell: I really like this scene where Dream Girl breaks down, and can no longer play the icy cold bitch any more. This is a deeper characterization than most of the other Legionnaires have ever shown.
Mike: Defense Plan 78? Somehow that manages to sound both dull and intriguing at the same time. Putting together 78 plans is a lot of work. Although I guess Brainiac 5 could probably knock those out over lunch. And how many more do they have? Hundreds?

Star Boy explains to Dream Girl that what she saw was probably part of Defense Plan 78, which features mannequin Legionnaires in a space cruiser in a rouse to scare off space criminals. Sure enough, when the two go to check on the cruiser it is destroyed by a small meteor. 

Russell: In true Silver Age style, the story wraps up in a page of explanations. OF COURSE her vision was only of seven mannequins being destroyed. That's kinda  the cheap way out, but on the other hand, we have now irrefutable evidence that what Dream Girl dreams will *absolutely* happen.
Mike: That goes back to your point early on that her character really has tremendous potential. And as far Defense Plan 78...that's just weird keeping a ship of mannequins around, I don't care what their purpose is.

After all the infants have returned to normal, Dream Girl tells Lightning Lass that she used Naltorian science to alter Ayla's lighting powers into gravity-nullifying powers. Dream Girl tells Lightning Lass, "with the return of your brother, Lighting Lad, your power wasn't needed."  Dream Girl then quits the Legion because she entered the Legion "by a trick." 
Russell: "A week later"? What the hell did she do in all that time? She left Lighting Lass hanging for a week? Now *that* was cold.
Also, for a story heavy in Legion Constitution references, it's terribly odd to read this passage and realize that it does NOT include a reference to the clause saying that each member must have atleast one unique power. Too weird.
I love that bit where Ayla raises the club-house off it's moorings...even though I always thought it had a basement level (or two!)
One last question, though...why is Dream Girl leaving? Her visions were all true, and her actions were well-intentioned. What "trick" did she use to get in? That isn't clear to me at all.
Mike: Agreed, I do not understand why she didn't stay. Perhaps the writer was afraid it would be too difficult to use her on a regular basis? It's not like they have to use her in each story. Plenty of members do not appear in each issue, they could just do that while still having her as a member. I imagine some of the girls were not too disappointed by her decision to leave.


Science Police Notes:  
  • Dream Girl is the first Legionnaire to quit the team.  
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archive Vol 2 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol 1.

Milestones: 
This is the first issue of Adventure Comics to feature the tag-line, "featuring Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes" on the cover. It will stay on the cover through the rest of the Legion run in the series, issue #380.
Dream Girl joins, then leaves, the Legion in this story.
Lighting Lass' ability to control lightning is altered by Naltorian science into an ability to nullify the mass of objects. She becomes Light Lass in this story.

11 comments:

  1. Dream Girl, even her name, was calculated to just drip raw sex appeal. I was probably 12 when I first read this story and I got it even then. Her costume, your basic one piece, was probably as skimpy as you could get away with then. Changing Lightning Lass's power without her consent comes across as more than a little creepy, but I guess it got around the inevitable "duplicate power" thing.

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  2. Why does Superboy show up when the Legionnaires turn into babies? That's easy -- he saw the cover and knew he could not change fate. lol

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  3. It's kinda funny if you think about it: the Legion are adamant sticklers for their Constitution. They've got all these clauses and sub-clauses about what Legionnaires can and cannot do, and they seem to obey it religiously. (See also the way Saturn Girl dicks around with everyone in the issue where Lightning Lad dies.)

    But... didn't they write that Constitution themselves!? I mean, they wrote their own rules, and decided that those rules would include things like "you MUST obey the leader no matter what" and "you can't question any other member". That's... kind of nuts. Especially given that they're all teenagers, not a demographic normally associated with being ardent rules-followers...

    (Kind of have to wonder if the Threeboot's "eat it, grandpa" was meant to specifically counter this part of the old Legion stories.)

    (There's probably a much longer essay examining this in there somehwere.)

    And I know the Legion let Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad in, but... you tried to get in with the power of making feathers heavier? Really? That's gotta be one of the most specific powers I've ever seen. (When exactly would he have been expecting to use that power, anyway?)

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    1. This is not meant to be my most important contribution this year, but... I assumed he would be carrying around his bowl of feathers with him and using them (throwing heavy feathers at bad guys?) as necessary.

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  4. I don't know that Light Lass would be able to lift the clubhouse. She still would have to overcome the inertia of the object at rest.

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    1. I thought that scene was totally strange and foolish. I pass over it whenever I read that issue.
      That being said, regarding your inertia complaint, in a future episode/issue she is going to "doom" a male legionaire by using her power on him and cause him to rise up into the air and be stuck high in the atmosphere to starve.

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  5. Am I the only one who noticed the whole "I don't actually dream the future, I see the future" bit? It's like they completely forgot that later on when they brought her back...

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