Tuesday, April 17, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #337



Adventure Comics #337 (October 1965)
title: The Weddings That Wrecked the Legion
writer: Edmond Hamilton
artist: John Forte
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein
cover letterer: Ira Schnapp
reviewer: Bits Boy (AKA Legion Lad)

Mission Monitor Board
Superboy, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El, Brainiac 5, Light Lass, Cosmic Boy, Element lad, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Triplicate Girl


Guests

Night Girl, Chlorophyll Kid

Opponent
Would-be invaders from planet Murra


SYNOPSIS


Brainiac 5 warns a regular Legion meeting that he suspects an invasion is threatening Earth, thanks to Saturn Girl telepathically detecting the plans of the invaders' secret agents before they started guarding their thoughts. Brainy says they can thwart the danger using Plan-R, but he gets annoyed when the briefing is disrupted by constant displays of affection between Phantom Girl and Ultra Boy, and Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.



This smooching has got to STOP!

After the meeting, Jo and Tinya visit the section of the Clubhouse Museum where exhibits of marriage customs of other worlds are kept, with Tinya declaring the romance should end because the Legion constitution says no married person can remain in the group. 

The Legionnaires visit the marriage customs exhibit of the Clubhouse Museum. 
Because EVERY self-respecting museum should have a marriage customs section.

Meanwhile, Imra reassures Garth that she loves him even if he has a metal robot arm. Tinya proceeds to wear a halo-jewel from the planet Hrann to show her love for Jo, while Imra smooches Garth under the scarlet spiral coral of the planet Vavalla, in a custom akin to kissing under mistletoe.

All this time, the Legion's meeting has been secretly monitored by the agents. The leader of the group, Aarl, is concerned about the mysterious Plan-R that Brainy mentioned, and decides to capture a Legionnaire to force him or her to divulge the details. The agents believe they “can't fail” because they possess ALL super powers in existence, including some that none of the Legionnaires have.

Soon after, the Legionnaires spread out to search for the spies. Saturn Girl is ambushed by a group of the agents, but is saved when other Legionnaires come to her aid. Back at the clubhouse to report on the incident, Garth and Imra, along with Jo and Tinya, shock the Legion by announcing their desire to get married and quit the group.

Brainy accuses the quartet of deserting the Legion at a time of crisis, but Imra shoots back by telling Brainy that he doesn't understand because his “cold, unemotional computer mind can't understand what love is”.

That's cold, even for you, Imra.
Almost immediately, the double wedding is organized. The couples decide to use the wedding wand rite of Tinya's homeworld Bgtzl, as gifts pour in from distant worlds to congratulate the newlyweds-to-be. The ceremony is duly carried out, with the two couples honored by a farewell arch consisting of Legionnaires holding wands topped by small figures of themselves.
Wedding gifts pour in from various worlds. 
I want to know what happened to the pet.
Brainy tells the Legion that because of the imminent danger posed by the invaders, the group needs to add new members to replace the four who have left. The secret agents, who are still covertly spying on the Legion, hear this and decide to infiltrate the Legion by applying for membership.

Aarl chooses two of his gang to join him in the subterfuge. Using powers of super-disguise, they change their appearance so that they all look different from each other, with distinctive colored costumes and skin hues. Applying as Size Lad (who can make any object smaller or larger), Blackout Boy (who can cause total darkness in any area), and Magnetic Kid (who can attract any living creature magnetically), the spies get admitted into the Legion at the expense of other try-out hopefuls such as Night Girl and Chlorophyll Kid. 

The Murrans are admitted into the Legion.
The new members immediately volunteer to search for the agents and choose to enter a cave with lead-bearing rocks. When they don't emerge, Superboy – unable to see through the lead of the mountain - flies to their rescue, followed by other Legionnaires. The spies, feigning unconsciousness, tell them that they were attacked by the agents. While the rest of the Legion disperses to search the tunnels, Brainy tasks Element Lad and Cosmic Boy to take the “injured” trio back to the Clubhouse Emergency Hospital for treatment.

Once inside headquarters, the spies reveal themselves and take down Jan and Rokk with a surge of electro-shocks. With all other members on a wild goose chase, the agents ransack the empty clubhouse and find a book outlining Brainy's Plan-R. But because it's written in code, the document can't be read at first glance, forcing Aarl and his gang to return to their home world of Murra, where he hopes it can be deciphered.

As this happens, the rest of the Legion converges back at the Clubhouse, with Superboy and Mon-El tracking the Murrans on their way home. After reviving Jan and Rokk, Brainy reminds the members that the weddings had all been a ruse, after Saturn Girl had also earlier discovered telepathically that the headquarters was being monitored. The scheme to fish out the moles had been conceived outside of headquarters, where they weren't being spied on. Emphasising that the marriages were non-binding because they had been officiated by a robot, Brainy calls the “honeymooners” back to join the Legion on a mission to Murra.

Brainy outlines his plan to pretend there is a plan.
The confident Murrans are not intimidated by the Legion's arrival, defiantly predicting they will win in battle because of the source of their powers – super-pills manufactured by their world's mighty computer, which can grant temporary super powers to anyone who takes them.

But quick off the mark, Brainy gets Superboy to use his microscopic vision to analyze the composition of the pills, enabling Element Lad to change one of the elements into harmless sodium, making the pills ineffective. As the computer is removed by Superboy and Mon-El, Jan transforms every other super-pill left on the world into aspirin, rendering the entire populace powerless.

Back home, it's revealed that the Subs were in on the ploy, pretending to be disappointed rejects in the auditions, with Proty II identifying the Murrans by detecting which applicants were shielding their thoughts.

As the story ends, both Jo and Tinya, and Imra and Garth, express the wish that their weddings had been real. As Superboy congratulates Brainy on his clever masquerade, he asserts that one day the hoax may well be reality.

COMMENTARY

The cover is an absolute eye-catcher, with glorious art by Curt Swan and George Klein. DC Comics used to champion the cover-before-story concept, with attention-grabbing covers devised first, around which the writers had to formulate their stories. It's unclear if editor Mort Weisinger followed this lead, or whether Edmond Hamilton really came up with this saga on his own, but the premise of the four Legion members getting married and resigning is so off-the-wall it suggests the former.

The cover also notes that the powers of the Murran spies were suggested by readers, as submitted to the regular Bits of Legionnaire Business column, and confirmed in this issue's edition (even if Size Lad was wrongly referred to as Star Lad). It was also mentioned that more reader creations would be used in future Legion stories.



Strangely, Brainiac 5, for all intents and purposes, acts as leader in this adventure, even if Saturn Girl had assumed the mantle in the previous issues. In the next issue, Imra is shown leading the Legion again, but it's clearly stated that she is filling in for “absent leader Brainiac 5”, indicating that Brainy was indeed appointed leader off-panel.

There are some spot-on characterizations in the story. Brainy is portrayed as an aloof, unemotional being throughout, with Imra calling him out for having a computer mind which can't fathom what love is. And that's really saying something, given that Imra herself is often regarded as uncompassionate and obdurate. Even if all this was part of the ruse, the description is pretty much accurate, as reflected in the closing panel when Brainy still finds it strange that the four lovebirds continue to be enamored with each other.

Worth noting are the powers of the Murran spies, which, as previously pointed out, were submitted by readers: only the shadow-casting of Blackout Boy would be duplicated by a future Legionnaire. The ability of Size Lad to shrink or expand anything is interesting, and could certainly be of use to the Legion. Conversely, the worth of Magnetic Kid's trick to attract anything is debatable; wouldn't it be more useful to repel objects instead? In future years, of course, the Legion did admit another member named Magnetic Kid, in the form of Rokk's brother.

The Murrans all wear a green costume. Not unreasonable if one is led to believe that these are all members of the same particular organisation, but it is later revealed that the entire population of the world all dress the same way. However, never mind their sartorial eloquence. What's more impressive is the super computer.

Somehow the chief scientist of the planet made a device which could create super-pills that could grant temporary super-powers. And just in case anyone got confused, each pill dispenser was clearly described on the console of the computer: for example “temporary thought-casting super-pills”. 

The fantastic super-computer is clearly labelled to ensure no-one takes the wrong super-pill.
On the whole, the story is typical mid-60s fare, a tad silly and with plot holes one can easily pick out if scrutinized closely enough. But it did go some way to reinforcing and perhaps establishing beyond doubt the nature of Brainy's cold-blooded demeanour, while cementing the relationships between Imra and Garth, and Jo and Tinya. The Coluan's standoff-ishness would come to the fore three issues later, when he would invent the renegade machine Computo.

Strangely, when this story was reprinted in Adventure Comics #411, the Murrans and their costumes were recolored. Instead of the original flesh-toned hues, their skin was now yellow, while the green uniforms had mysteriously turned orange. But of greater interest were the costumes of Blackout Boy, Size Lad and Magnetic Kid. Instead of the drab red, blue and green that was shown in the original story, the applicants were now shown to wear slightly more attractive ensembles (see image below). And they chose to wear Caucasian make-up.

The brighter-colored costumes of the Murrans in the story reprint.

TRIVIA NOTE
Because the Murran masqueraders were admitted into the Legion as part of the elaborate deception, some fans consider them as legitimate ex-members, even if the memberships were obviously later annulled.


STATUS
This issue has been reprinted in Adventure Comics #411, The Best of DC #67 (digest), The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives #4, and Showcase Presents: Legion of Super-Heroes #2.


MILESTONE
This is the first issue which shows Brainiac 5 as leader. He is the third Legionnaire to hold the post, after Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl, who is now Brainy's deputy.

Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.

5 comments:

  1. I always wanted a set of those ceremonial poles with the Legionnaire figures at the end of them. DC Collectibles should get on that!

    Chris

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  2. Or just the figures as we often saw in Superboy or Supergirl stories. Hey, is that Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane on the cover behind Superboy and Sun Boy?

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    Replies
    1. I always thought they were a set of parents, but I never figured out who's parents they were.

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  3. Yet another legion story of someone getting kicked out (well, kicking themselves out because the CONSTITUTION doesn't let them be married), and someone else infiltrating the Legion with nefarious purposes. I appreciate that Brainy is genre-savvy enough to know that the first thing that anyone with nefarious purposes is going to do will be to try to join the Legion to destroy it from the inside. It's like he's been reading the last twenty stories or so.

    Honestly, my main disappointment here is that they came up with the plan after detecting that they were being surveilled. I was kinda hoping it would turn out to be something they'd planned months ago, JUST IN CASE, and really were kicking it into gear with Brainy declaring "Plan R" at the meeting.

    The creative team actually showed remarkable restraint NOT going that route!

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  4. I agree it is a great cover, but while the bystanders are smiling, if you look at the faces of the male legionnaires it looks like they are attending a funeral and not a wedding.
    "Some fans consider them" the Murrans "ex members." ---So what??

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