Tuesday, May 1, 2018

TOS: Superboy #125

Superboy #125 (December 1965)
title: "The Sacrifice of Kid Psycho"
writer: Otto Binder
artist: George Papp
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
Special Guest Reviewer: Emsley Wyatt

Mission Monitor Board:  
Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl, Lighting Lad, Sun Boy, Brainiac 5

Generic gangsters, cruel war

Editor's Note: Recently I made a tongue-in-cheek comment about the quality of this story, and whether we really needed to include it in our Original Series reviews. Ultra Fan Emsley Wyatt contacted us and argued for its inclusion. When we challenged him to write the review himself, he stepped up and actually reviewed it for us! We hereby grant you Legion of Super-Blogger Reservist status, Emsley, for writing above and beyond the call of duty!  Take it away! 

by Emsley Wyatt aka Ultra Fan 
I know this story doesn’t get a lot of love from Legion fans, but since it was scripted by the father of the Legion (Otto Binder) himself, I thought it worth a second look.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover and maybe that’s true.  But, dang it, you can judge the cover, and in my estimation the cover of Superboy 125 was a pretty good one.  It’s got five elements:  Superboy himself, the gangsters and their tank/catapult, Kid Psycho, the Kryptonite meteor, and the shield, all in perfect balance and proportion.  The writer must have agreed because they use the same scene for the Page 1 “splash” panel.
The title character is introduced in the very first panel, coming into the Kent’s store and asking Clark if he would direct him to Superboy’s home.  Clark, as you would expect, feigns ignorance.  The boy leaves and right outside the store encounters a broken electrical cable sparking near a truck containing high explosives.  I know, what are the odds?  Clark does a quick costume change and gets there only to discover that Kid Psycho has it all under control.

So after Superboy fixes the broken cable he decides that he must find out more about his “would-be pal, Kid Psycho”.  And about that name, who wouldn’t love to have a pal named “Kid Psycho”?  Imagine Sun Boy at a bar and telling his latest would-be conquest; “And this is my pal, Kid Psycho.  Hey, where are you going?”  Maybe since he projects invisible shields he should have gone with “Kid Colgate.”
So a couple more incidents occur, some escaped snakes and the cover scene. Then Kid Psycho reveals himself to Superboy. His “back story” is then told in flashback.  His parents were astronauts who killed a space monster that was threatening their planets spacecraft.  I only include this panel so you can see the cool space monster.
They were exposed to radiation that caused a mutation to their child, who grew up to become Kid Psycho.  Then you have a few panels of him using his powers, at first experimentally, then as a hero on his native planet.  Then he has two more revelations for Superboy:
Yes, like Superboy himself (and fellow Legionnaire Element Lad), the Kid is the last survivor of his race. By this time the whole “sole survivor” thing was becoming a little hackneyed.  Maybe he should have just come to Earth because the people of his planet wanted to see him represent them in the Legion.  Anyway, he tells Superboy that he migrated to Earth and sought to join the Legion of Super-Heroes.  He was rejected and came back through time to prove himself to Superboy in hopes that Superboy would advocate for him as he reapplied for membership.  Superboy agrees and the two proceed to the 30th Century.
I think it’s pretty cool that his “psycho-force” can be used for time travel as well.

Superboy makes a passionate case for the Kid, but then Saturn Girl gives them the bad news.  He wasn’t rejected because his power wasn’t formidable enough, but on medical grounds.  Every time he uses it, it shortens his life by a year.
Well, I call bull on the numbers.  In this story alone he uses his powers eight times, with a ninth time implied by his presence in the 20th Century.  Given some of the trivial uses his abilities were put to earlier, it’s a wonder he’s still around to even apply for Legion membership.  Maybe it should have been a proportional thing where lifting a piece of chalk might cost him a few days but stopping a flood would be a year.  

But still, the idea of a hero with a power the use of which constitutes a form of slow-motion suicide is an intriguing one.

I almost find it reassuring to know that even in the 30th Century bureaucratic snafus can still occur.  The Legion thought the doctors had informed him of this situation.  Bet the doctors would say that they thought the Legion would let him know

Kid Psycho is, to say the least, taken aback by this, but nonetheless says that if the Legion ever needs him he would be glad to use his power even knowing the price he’d pay.  
As he leaves, choking back tears, Superboy whispers to Saturn Girl, who then calls the Kid back.  At Superboy’s suggestion, Saturn Girl designates Kid Psycho as a Legion Reservist, giving him the title of “Secret Weapon No. 1.”   Saturn Girl would never have thought of it, but the gesture does show Superboy’s generosity of spirit.

He may not have made the team, but at least they have acknowledged his worth and that’s good enough for Kid Psycho.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Kid Psycho does not appear in Legion continuity again until Superboy/Legion #200. He died during Crisis On Infinite Earths #3 as referenced in Legion (v3) #18. 
  • With this story, artist George Papp has now drawn the debuts of Star Boy, Mon-El, Insect Queen, and Kid Psycho. He will eventually draw the Legion itself. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 4 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2.


  1. This was pretty high concept for the time, and makes me wonder how it would play out today.

    Probably with a lot of angst and melodrama, I suspect.

    Still, hell of a twist. And considering how many supers routinely flout the laws of physics and seemingly channel huge amounts of energy through their bodies, it's actually fairly plausible.

    In a similar vein... anyone else remember Strikeforce Morituri? To fight off an alien invasion, human volunteers were exposed to a process that granted them superhuman powers... with the absolute guarantee that their powers would kill them within a year. Similar premise...

  2. Minor clarification: The second "opponent" should have been listed as "cruel fate", rather than "cruel war".

  3. Interesting. The little I knew about Kid Psycho was from the references like Who's Who, the Secrets of the Legion, his Crisis appearance, etc. I had though he just make force fields. This power is a lot more formidable.

    Maybe he'll be resurrected in another reboot. Perhaps his abilities were so formidable that someone went back in time and faked some medical records to keep him OUT of the Legion proper ... ?

  4. I am so vexed by Kid Psycho. I like his powers a lot. The idea his life span is shortened rather than being aged is weird. Granted, ideas like cellular damage were not in most writers' minds at the time but it does serve to give him limitations, if like Ultra Fan suggests, the greater the feat, the greater the risk to him.

    Also, not a fan of the 5-head under the turban.

  5. Just the name "Kid Psycho" is an odd choice, since it had only been 5 years since the Hitchcock movie came out; also, by this point Superboy was no longer portrayed as the last survivor of his people, as Dev-Em (and his parents) had appeared in Adventure #320, about a year and a half before this story debuted.
    And I can't help but wonder if the cover promise that, "You'll cheer! You'll cry!" was a somewhat desperate bit of salesmanship to get the more emotional readership not to plunk down another 12 cents on those upstart Marvel Comics that were climbing the sales charts.
    Thanks for an insightful review, Emsley, and thank you, too, Marvel Boy, for making me look up the expression "5-head", which is a five-finger-high forehead; incidentally, the pun wouldn't quite work in England, where, last I knew, "forehead" rhymes with "horrid".

    1. well at least I gave you a new word to add to your vocab

    2. I wasn't being sarcastic--I really appreciate it!