Friday, November 8, 2019

Legion Cameos: Adventure Comics #205

Adventure Comics #205 (October 1954)
“The Journey of the Second Superboy”
Writer: Bill Finger
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Sy Barry
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Cover: Curt Swan & Sy Barry
Reviewer: Emsley "Ultra Fan" Wyatt

Guests: Ma and Pa Kent, Kral from Titan

Opponent(s): Kral from Titan?

Editor's Note: Here is another installment of the series of reviews we call "Legion Cameos." These are stories were the Legion or certain Legionnaires play a small but usually significant role in the proceedings. This time out we're going waaay back to before the Legion was even created. Read on!

As everyone here knows (or at least should) the first Legion story “The Legion of Super Heroes” appeared in Adventure Comics #247 published in April 1958.  So why am I reviewing a story published almost four years earlier?  Well, I kind of think of this story as, to steal a word coined by Isaac Asimov, the “Zeroth” Legion story.  You’ll see why as the story develops.

First, the cover:
So the Kents find another space rocket with another boy inside.  Wow, what a coincidence!

The first page is a full page “splash panel” showing Superboy and the boy from the cover flying through the sky.  Also, there’s some dialog that echoes the “Look. Up in the sky” opening narration of the 50’s Superman television series.  There’s also a narrative box cleverly disguised as a billboard on the roof of a building.  “Is SUPERBOY the only youngster who can fly?  Is he the only one on Earth with super-powers?  The answer—NO.  For out of trackless space comes a rocket, bearing another youngster with amazing powers—a youngster who combines his powers with SUPERBOY’S and helps him battle crime!  How did this all come about?  Read…The JOURNEY of the SECOND SUPERBOY!”

The story opens with Clark using his telescopic vision to spot a small rocket heading right for the Kent farm.
The passenger emerges and Superboy and the Kents introduce themselves.  A similar scene would occur later when Mon-El came to Earth in the story “Superboy’s Big Brother.” The occupant of the rocket introduces himself as Kral from Titan, “Giant Jupiter’s great moon." Okay, Finger clearly wasn’t paying attention during astronomy class as Titan is actually a moon of Saturn, not Jupiter.  Kral explains that Titan is going to explode and his parents sent him into space hoping that he’d find refuge on another planet.

The Kents take him to their farm and tell him that they’d take him in as they did “another boy.”  Kral indicates that he’d like to go to his ship and see if it has sustained any damage.  But back at the ship we discover that he is not what he seems to be:
Yes, Kral is actually a scout for an evil regime on Titan.  And he’s a telepath, as are all Titanians.  And this is what ties this story to the Legion, even though it is set completely in the 20th Century and no actual Legionnaire appears. The simple fact that Titan boasts a race of humanoid telepaths and that fact is being established almost four years before the first Legion tale shows a remarkable bit of universe building on DC's part.

The next day Kral starts to learn more about Superboy’s abilities.  Using his telescopic vision, Superboy detects a back robbery in progress.  The next few panels establish that Kral can fly but does not possess either invulnerability or super-strength.  But one of the robbers throws a knife at Kral and he demonstrates another power:

What???  It looks like they handle crime a little bit differently on Titan. With his ability to generate heat OR cold, Kral seems to be a prototype for both Sun Boy AND Polar Boy.

So Kral is thinking that Superboy could threaten the invasion plans and decides to try to find out if he has any weakness.  He figures that the best way to do so is to partner up with Superboy and observe him in action as much as possible.
They fly around together, performing various super feats.  Kral rescues a dog, earning himself a kiss from a young girl.  Later he checks in with his superiors.
“To be cunning, to be treacherous, to be victorious.”-that’s their oath!  Remember, this story was published in 1954 at the height of the Cold War and the evil Titanians certainly serve as surrogates for another, more terrestrial, “Evil Empire.”

So Superboy and Kral are flying around one day when Superboy encounters a piece of Kryptonite.  Kral uses his powers to melt the Kryptonite but now knows Superboy’s weakness.  Kral considers this new information and how best to exploit it, noting that there’s plenty of Kryptonite on Titan.
But he confesses his duplicity to Superboy.  Together they formulate a plan to deceive the terrible telepathic tyrants of Titan (not to be confused with "The Sirens of Titan." That was Kurt Vonnegut). 

Superboy will hypnotize himself into believing that he is a typical Earth boy and that all Earth people have super powers.  But even this plan is part of a ploy by Kral.

Upon arriving at Titan, Superboy puts on an exhibition of the full range of his powers.

So now Superboy faces the head of the Titan government and the self-hypnosis holds. And the moment of truth arrives for Kral.

But he thinks back on his time on Earth and chooses a different path.

And, of course, the Ruler of Titan believes that the super-beings of Earth would invade, because he can’t conceive of them not doing so.  Superboy and Kral, now true friends for the first time, say goodbye.

Now it becomes apparent that the story title “The Journey of the Second Superboy” has a double meaning.  It refers not only to his physical journey from Titan to Earth and back again, but also to his personal journey from being a willing tool of the tyrannical regime of his home world to an independent thinker dedicated to changing that world.

So, do you think I’m right in regarding “The Journey of the Second Superboy” as the “Zeroth” Legion story?  For those unfamiliar with the term, "Zeroth" means an item which precedes that which is generally regarded as the first in a series. So here we have Superboy teaming up with another super-teen.  You have the race of telepaths on Titan.  But there ARE inconsistencies with established Legion lore as well.  For one, the Titanians possessing other powers as well as their telepathy.  The placement of Titan as a moon of Jupiter, rather than Saturn, might be regarded as another but I’m inclined to dismiss that as a simple mistake.  And weren’t Saturn’s rings supposed to deter criminality? 

Well, we could argue it back and forth.  But still, I could see a conversation, taking place one slow night at the Super Hero Clubhouse.

Yeah, that could have happened.


  1. I vote with you Russell. This IS the Zeroth appearance of the Legion.
    Never even heard of this issue before, which is strange considering my collection, so your superior knowledge has convinced me.
    Well done Russell!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, but this post was written by Emsley, not me. :-)

    2. Thank you for your kind, if initially misdirected, words.

  2. Jut thought I'd mention that the "post script" panel was taken from Adventure 300. Reversed it, broke up the dialog box and put in dialog created with Comic san font.

  3. Definitely belongs in there as a prototype. Even Kral’s extra powers could be justified with a single line about him being genetically altered for the invasion force or something.