Tuesday, June 5, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #343

Adventure Comics #343 (April 1966)
title: "The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords!"
writer: Edmond Hamilton
penciller: Curt Swan
inkerGeorge Klein
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
special guest reviewer: Jason "Anacronistic Kid" Knol

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Saturn Girl, Superboy, Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Chameleon Boy, Duo Damsel, Invisible Kid,  Shrinking Violet, Element Lad, Matter-Eater Lad

former Legionnaires Bouncing Boy and Star Boy; The Legion of Super-Pets (Beppo, Comet, Krypto, Proty II, Streaky)

The Luck Lords

Editor's Note: Recently we here at the Legion of Super-Bloggers put out the word that we were looking for new members. Well Jason Knol, aka "Anachronistic Kid," answered that call! He has stepped in to help us with our Silver Age coverage, and maybe with the odd essay or two. And while we're not sure if reviewing this story will turn out to be a lucky turn for him or not, if things go the way of Calamity King we have an extra Venusian rabbit's foot we can give him. Welcome aboard, Jason!  

Who can resist a cover that features a huge WARNING to the reader? The adventure’s already underway with a warning to the superstitious to beware “The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords!” And why should we be so afraid? Because of the recent Legion tragedies we’re shown: Bouncing Boy lost his super-power, Lightning Lad lost his arm, Star Boy lost his Legion membership and one of Triplicate Girl’s bodies was destroyed.

New readers won’t have trouble understanding this because, along with the captions, Bouncing Boy is holding a picture of himself in ballooned form and Duo Damsel is holding a statuette of her three bodies together. It’s also worth noting that Superboy is shown flying up to a mysterious citadel, although he leaves halfway through the issue and never sees any real action.

The opening splash page is beautiful Silver Age wackiness featuring a red rocket blasting towards the open mouth of the Gorilla Nebula, a massive, white, gorilla-shaped blob that pops against a black background splattered with clusters of red, yellow and white star-dots and scattered planets. The caption box suggests that the series of unfortunate events that have befallen our heroes may be due to this tale’s 13 Legionnaires, or the Gorilla Nebula and, again, “The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords!” A title so good they had to throw it in twice.

Within the rocket are Sun Boy, Brainiac 5, and an archaeologist who has found three priceless emerald statues. They don’t actually matter and you’ll never see them again. At the archaeologist’s request the Legionnaires load up the statues to take back to Earth for safekeeping. Call it coincidence, but the shortest route back to earth is through the jaws of the Gorilla Nebula-- “Everyone knows that’s bad luck!”

Didn’t they pass through there on the way to the planet, or was the first page just foreshadowing? As the Legionnaires don’t believe in such rubbish they fly on through and it’s smooth sailing until they near Earth. Suddenly, Sun Boy’s arm accidentally hits the poorly-placed Emergency Dive Lever, and their rocket crash-lands on a highway, leaving Brainiac 5 concussed and Sun Boy’s wrist broken.

The cocky archaeologist blames it on the jinx of the Gorilla Nebula, which he avoided by carrying his luck Star Stone from the planet Ventura. It looks like a pointy version of an Everlasting Gobstopper from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Sun Boy recounts the “ill-starred mission” to the Legionnaires at the Clubhouse, and Saturn Girl dismisses such superstition with critical examples from different cultures. For example, on the many-mooned Jupiter people “foolishly believe” that lunar rainbows are unlucky. But her point remains that symbols of luck vary across worlds, so the Legionnaires shouldn’t be put off by superstition. Proty II reads Chameleon Boy’s mind and transforms into one of Durla’s unlucky “jinx-stones” and Cham freaks out about touching it. Saturn Girl, in an exercise in team bonding, encourages herself and everyone else there to touch the stone as well. Proty goes to join Krypto, Comet, and Streaky (not referred to as the Legion of Super-Pets) as the Legionnaires fly away.

And wouldn’t you just know it? Chameleon Boy glances back and immediately smashes into a structure. I can hardly blame his clumsy mistake, given the massive, oddly-shaped, seemingly superfluous architecture of the 30th Century.

Superboy’s x-ray vision quickly confirms Cham has broken his shoulder. The group flies back to the Clubhouse where former members Star Boy and Bouncing Boy, along with all other members not currently away on distant missions, are waiting to pick up their copies of the Legion Bulletin. Word has gotten around that Chameleon Boy had touched the jinx stone before his unlikely accident, and once again Saturn Girl must be the voice of reason against superstition as she points out the other accidents Legionnaires recently had.

But in turn each tragedy-stricken member recounts an unlucky taboo they broke just before their accidents: Bouncing Boy turned clock hands backward, Lightning Lad put his left foot down first after landing on a planet and Triplicate Girl used her power three times in one day, which is apparently unlucky for her people.

Oh, and Star Boy shook hands with Legion applicant Calamity King, who had the fantastic ability to “bring disasters and bad luck!” Shocker: he did not make the team. But Star Boy murdered someone in self-defense shortly thereafter, so it was probably Calamity King’s fault, right? Saturn Girl, on the ropes against everyone’s bad-luck beliefs, has to reiterate that “jinxes are so much baloney!” Here Curt Swan makes cramming 10 easily-distinguishable Legionnaires into a small panel seem effortless.

By total chance Superboy then has to immediately leave for an urgent mission in his own time, but he vows to return and help Saturn Girl quell the mob’s fervor. He doesn’t return. Invisible Kid and Shrinking Violet decide to use their respective powers to dodge the bad luck. However, Shrinking Violet finds herself unable to shrink, and Invisible Kid can’t reappear to help her! With the Legion believing themselves cursed, we end Part I.

And we begin Part II: The Secret of the Luck Lords with Saturn Girl still the only voice of reason against a fearful team. The Legionnaires already affected by the jinx fly off to repair a damaged cruiser while Saturn Girl researches jinxes by inspecting the Map-Globes of Other Planets.

There she determines that Thaun is where the answer may lie, so she flies off alone in a cruiser. Meanwhile, the cruiser to be repaired instead explodes, thereby proving that the jinx can hit ‘em more than once each.

The unlucky crew returns to Element Lad and Shrinking Violet explaining that Saturn Girl went off alone to Thaun, as indicated by the globe left out. Lightning Lad, overcome by his passion for the girl he loves, resolves to follow Saturn Girl. The other Legionnaires-- and the Super-Pets, now with Beppo-- board the ship as well. The team takes a moment to note that the Super-Pets remain un-jinxed, despite touching the jinx stone. What a random insight!

Near Thaun the crew finds ship wreckage which Space Law dictates they must stop and investigate. Alas, it’s the wreckage of Saturn Girl’s cruiser, so she’s definitely dead now. Damn you, jinx stone!

The team carries on to Thaun and notes a massive hand, open-palmed toward the sky, resting atop a citadel on a mountain. The hand is generally a symbol of good luck, “But they say it means bad luck to anyone who enters the citadel!” What a rotten planet.

The humanoid, Kirbyesque locals all carry various symbols of good luck, and one tells the Legionnaires that the Luck Lords who live in the citadel “made us pay dearly for them… but they’re worth it!” Yet another local claims they’re nonsense and swears they’ve been planning to call the Legionnaires “to free us from this blackmail!”

And as the non-believer runs to spread the news of the heroes’ arrival-- egad!-- he smashes into a cart and breaks his leg. His charm-carrying pal, smug and gleaming, comes over to gloat that carrying a charm would’ve prevented the accident. Ouch.

Element Lad, Duo Damsel and Lightning Lad, an unlucky pack of three walking together, return to the cruiser. Together with Invisible Kid and Shrinking Violet they decide to fly up the mountain to the citadel and confront the Luck Lords about their jinx. On the way up Element Lad turns a falling boulder to oxygen, the first spot of good luck they’ve had, and atop the mountain the citadel’s doors are open and awaiting the Legionnaires.

Within they find a massive room is full of statues featuring luck-based imagery: the number 13, a 4-leaf clover, an open hand, lightning bolts and evil eyes. They also find Saturn Girl-- alive!-- trapped in a clear box. She “wasn’t wrecked, but captured and imprisoned by the Luck Lords!” after she used her powers to learn that they were the source of the Legion’s jinx.

Lightning Lad, in absence of any forethought, shoots lightning at the cell and only succeeds in knocking out himself and Element Lad. This is why he isn’t elected leader.

Two pages left and we still haven’t met the villains of this story. Time to rush a denouement!

Enter the Luck Lords, in maroon cloaks and blank-faced bronze masks. They each wear the symbol of an open hand within a white circle upon their chest. The villains immediately confess to jinxing the Legion on the basis that some of the planet’s inhabitants wanted to summon the Legion to investigate the Luck Lords. The best laid schemes…

Invisible Kid, Duo Damsel and Shrinking Violet attempt a surprise-attack but are foiled by bad luck when Violet bumps a giant hand statue and needs both of Duo Damsel’s bodies to prevent the hand from crushing her. Invisible Kid gets closer but is blocked by a transparent wall shielding the Luck Lords. They call it his bad luck, but that’s a bit of a stretch at this point. I could see if he slipped on a banana peel or tripped over his shoelaces, something to that effect, but not knowing an invisible wall is there?

Invisible Kid, face and ego bruised, calls out to Saturn Girl to telepathically summon the Super-Pets from the ship. I seem to recall they were immune to the jinx! The final page of the story begins with a glorious page-width panel with Comet, Streaky, Beppo and Krypto flying fearlessly to shatter the transparent wall and save the day.

The Luck Lords plainly state their weakness, “We have no power over them… get away...” Note the ellipsis rather than an exclamation, as befits the situation. Perhaps they sensed that their luck had finally run out. In a matter of two panels the Super-Pets smash Saturn Girl’s cell and the transparent wall protecting the Luck Lords. Saturn Girl revives the knocked-out Legionnaires so they can join in the big reveal. Now it’s time to see who the Luck Lords really are…

Green skin. Bulging eyes. White hair. “Why, they’re aliens! They aren’t natives of this world!” Indeed, Lightning Lad. Again, this is why he isn’t elected leader.

The Luck Lords admit they’re scientists who were exiled from their home world for “crimes” and then used their “psych-science to make the people here think we were masters of luck!” I want to point out how they casually gloss over the fact that they were exiled from their planet for “crimes”. I’m not totally familiar with intergalactic law in the 31st century, but it occurs to me that jinxing people isn’t a crime that gets one exiled from their planet. But I digress.

The Luck Lords used a “super-hypnotic long-range ray” which made the Legionnaires “cause their own bad luck”. So they were never truly jinxed, they were just hypnotized and created their own accidents. Except for Sun Boy-- he really killed a guy.

This issue wrapped up a continuing storyline of “jinxes” befalling members of the Legion through the last few issues. Given the sizeable build-up one would expect significantly more from this story. The issue is a slow burn, to say the least, and the mysterious Luck Lords don’t even show up until the last two pages. The big reveal is that aliens used a hypnotic ray to make the Legionnaires cause their own bad luck. Worse yet, their entire motivation was to not get the Legion to investigate their planet-wide blackmail scheme. The forgettable Luck Lords finally reappear over 20 years later in Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3, and then again almost 20 years after that in Brave and the Bold Vol. 3.

If I were a kid who plunked down 12¢ for this book in 1966 I might have felt cheated by this story. It starts with an interesting premise (guard the valuable artifacts) that is immediately abandoned and forgotten. The majority of the action is Legionnaires having clumsy accidents. Almost everyone spends the whole story worried or complaining. The villains show up at the very end of the story, and there isn’t even a fight-- the Super Pets save the day!

But as a grown man reading the story for the first time-- in an Archive collection bought below cover price-- I take the issue in stride as another piece of Legion history. I delight in the Silver Age goofiness of the opening splash page and the crazy future architecture in so many panels. I fully believe and appreciate that Saturn Girl can study a wall of Map-Globes and accurately guess which planet is behind the Legion’s jinxes. And I’m deeply unsettled by Comet’s malevolent stare.
Science Police Notes:  
  • Although the splash page caption claims there are 13 Legionnaires in this story, there are either twelve and two Reservists, or 14 if you count both Bouncing Boy and Star Boy. Fifteen, if you count a cameo by Light Lass in the first panel of page 4. 
  • Cosmic Boy is shown flying off with the "jinxed" Legionnaires to check on their cruiser, but then disappears from the story completely. His place is later taken by Element Lad with no explanation whatsoever. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 5 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2.


  1. "Cosmic Boy is shown flying off with the "jinxed" Legionnaires to check on their cruiser, but then disappears from the story completely. His place is later taken by Element Lad with no explanation whatsoever."

    Protty II strikes again.

  2. I believe this was the first story inked in its entirety by George Klein, and the art stands out, particularly by use of the heavy line. In '68, Klein inked with a thinner line, which I don't find as appealing.

  3. "This is why he isn't elected leader." Ha!

    Seems like the hallmarks of this era are people making absurdly bad decisions, and other people explaining everything as it happens.

    Good times, though!

  4. The Luck Lords were exiled (maybe they actually escaped which was how I took it when I read that) from their home world for crimes. They then came to this world and with their superior science set up their luck scheme to enrich themselves. This does not imply to me that that these are the same "crimes" they were exiled for Anachronistic Kid.