Monday, October 13, 2014

TOS: Adventure Comics #247 Group Review

The Legion of Super Bloggers 
Round-Table Discussion on 
Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958)
title: "The Legion of Super-Heroes"
writer: Otto Binder
penciller: Al Plastino
inker: Al Plastino
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and Stan Kay

Mission Monitor Board: 
Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad (as Lightning Boy), Saturn Girl (all first appearances); cameos by other members (Brainiac 5 and Triplicate Girl might be identified from backs of heads)

Superboy (joins), Jonathan Kent (cameo)

The Legionnaires themselves


Three teens from the future offer Superboy membership in their super-hero club, but when Superboy fails to complete three simple tasks, the Legionnaires pretend to reject him. Then they reveal that the three tasks were merely initiation pranks which proved he is a good sport. Also, made him cry.

(Round table discussion between Siskoid, Russell Burbage, Tim Wallace, Metropolis Kid, and chiming in from an away mission, Anj)

Siskoid: CALLING THIS MEETING TO ORDER. Ok, Legionnaires, this is it. The very first Legion story. And that cover which has been homaged I don't know how many times...
Russell: I've seen it so many times, I now don't like it as much as some of the copies, haha.
Siskoid: I think I need a Yes/No table for my apartment.
Russell: Do you have a name tag?
Tim: It is a classic...and I love that right off the bat, we get the quaint Silver Age labels that tell you who everyone is, what they're thinking... carries on through the issue too.
Siskoid: Yes, the issue is even more labelly.
Russell: They even have their names on their uniforms!?! Who DOES that!?
Metropolis Kid: Funny thing about the cover - obviously, here in the original story, Garth is Lightning Boy, later to be named Lightning Lad... they actually change his name on the cover for Adventure vol. 2 #0 to Lightning Lad, which is a new take on this classic. But yeah, holy crap, they're like the Ninja Turtles with initials on their belt buckles.
Binder was a sci-fi prose author and Weisinger was a huge sci-fi fan, I wonder if they demanded or suggested Cosmic Boy have a Buck Rogers helmet and jet pack.
Russell: What does Cos have a helmet for, anyway? He ditches it after page 2.
Siskoid: Maybe Cos needs a helmet to protect himself from Superboy's punch after he disses him: "Your low score on the tests we gave you proves your powers are too ordinary!"
Metropolis Kid: I wonder what design parameters if any were given to Plastino on this.
Anj: I can't help but think that whoever designed Mentalla's costume riffed on the original Saturn Girl color scheme.

Russell: I have asked Steve Lightle about Mentalla, because I believe *he* designed her. [At this point, Steve Lightle pops up on the mission monitor board and Russell asks] The design of Mentalla... based on your wife? And on Saturn Girl's Adventure #247 costume?
Steve Lightle: Short answer: yes to both! [transmission ends]

Tim: I love the Silver Age by the way... it's so honest and trusting and full of innocence. So any jabs I make... I make with love.
Siskoid: So say we all. (Oops! Wrong franchise!)
Russell: It's pretty easy to jab at this. And yet... there IS something wonderful about it.
Metropolis Kid: Well, a normal feature in Adventure before Legion took over as a mainstay with #300 was the Bizarros... Ever read those stories? The worst Legion story ever is still gold compared to most of those!

Siskoid: If we get into the story, Superboy is accosted in Smallville by three kids who each know his secret identity - a common Silver Age trope.
Tim: "Hi, you don't know us, but we know everything about you... Come get in our time bubble so we can kill--I mean, make you an honorary member."
Russell: The idea that the Legion loves and respects Superboy so much here... It's nicely tied together at the end when Clark boasts to Pa Kent.
Siskoid: He's a teen, he needs acceptance from his peers, but where is he going to get peers?
Metropolis Kid: They have a real odd way of showing it! I mean, this wouldn't be the last time these three bully or haze Superboy... #267 & 293 come to mind. "Hey guys, Superman inspired us, golly he sure is grand! You know what would be swell? Let's go back in time to when he was our age... and HAZE HIM!"
Russell: MKid, that IS what they were thinking. I love how in S/LSH #247 Superboy does the same thing back to them.
Siskoid: 666 the number of the beast; 247 the number of the hazing.
Russell: There's a lot of gold in this story that was panned over and over again... LSHers coming to Smallville, pranks, the "table" panel...
Siskoid: Interestingly, we don't see 30th century Metropolis yet, it's all future Smallville, where somehow, the Kent home has survived 1000 years.
Tim: I love how when they get to the 30th Century the first thing they do is go for ice cream! "Nine flavors from nine planets." Only 9? I guess Baskin Robbins doesn't exist in the future.
Siskoid: Do you get the feeling the Legionnaires go to school and brought Superboy in as show-and-tell?
Metropolis Kid: Oh man, that would a great one of those "in between" panel commissions to get! Someone needs to get Steve Lightle to do a Legion show & tell page!
Russell: What is up with the Superboy robot? THAT to me is the oddest thing in the story. Necessary plot device later, but just... stupid.
Tim: Is it weird to anyone else that the Kent farm has been replaced by a robot factory? The placement of the little farm house wedged between big buildings... It's like "Up" without all the balloons.
Tim: I think that robot is where grown-up Superman got the idea for his robots
Siskoid: GASP! Tim, you blew my mind! Unless there are Superboy robot stories that predate this, which there probably are.
Russell: Tim, maybe, but I also always wondered, why a SuperBOY robot?! Shouldn't it have been SuperMAN?
Siskoid: Well, It's Smallville, home of the Teen of Steel; Metropolis has all the classroom Superman robots.
Metropolis Kid: Any idea when Superman's robots first appeared?
Siskoid: Action Comics #240 (same year, 1958).
Tim: Well... It seems Superman is lost to future history... They only remember Superboy.

Metropolis Kid: Wouldn't a building with a sign that said "super hero club" with no visible security be a huge target for the Legion's enemies?
Siskoid: Do they even have enemies yet? THEY'RE the actual villains in this story.
Metropolis Kid: Haha, if they don't have enemies then who are they superheroing against?
Tim: I like how once in the club, if their names didn't give away their powers, the labels on the desk make it clear.
Siskoid: And all their powers are SUPER. One reason I can't be in the Legion is that I only have regular Thought Casting. And here we have other, unidentified Legionnaires, but depending on your version of the story, they might well BE identified! In the Silver Age Classics reprint [and the Millennium edition and Archives], the guy on page 5, with his back to the "camera", is colored green and blond. In the original story, he's just in shadow. They obviously decided he was Brainiac 5 later. In the original, you could well think the three girls with identical haircuts are Triplicate Girl, but the same reprint gives them different hair dyes.

Tim: So... should we get to the origin of super-dickery? I swear that's what this is! These rigged events broke poor Clark's young mind and made him think it was ok to play cruel pranks on your friends
Siskoid: Yes, the hazing ritual, making Superboy cry... They basically created a monster.
Anj: In some ways, I feel the Legion is actually honoring Superboy here by employing the Super-dickery powers that Superman ends up using as an adult. Too bad Superboy isn't in on the joke.
Tim: When I read the first challenge, with Saturn Girl communicating with the sea monster I kept thinking "Hey! Aquaman called... he wants his gimmick back!" Oddly enough, I don't think we ever had Saturn Girl talk to animals again...
Metropolis Kid: I wonder if her and Aquaman ever had a fling? Mera... Dolphin... Saturn Girl?
Siskoid: She also talks to a robot. Some telepathy! Obviously, each of the contests is rigged, and also has a crazy Silver Age "solution". When Cos floods an entire forest to stop a fire, I started wondering if these kids were maybe a little dangerous.
Russell: Can we talk about how stupid it is to have an invisible eagle in the zoo?
Tim: Haha! Right? Who would see it?
Russell: Look, kids... uh... Plus Garth's super-hand-clapping. Trippy.
Siskoid: It's like they gave them powers, and then immediately ignored what those powers really were. Saturn Girl controls a robot, Lightning Boy flashes letters in orbit...

Metropolis Kid: I can't help but wonder, what would have happened if Superboy had said "screw it, I'm winning this damn contest" and let the threats run amok? "Innocents Killed in Legion Hazing Prank".
Tim: I can't believe they reject Superboy... from the club they created in his honor... Like I said before, I swear this is why super-dickery exists! But good point MKid. If Superboy hadn't done what they expected... did they have a back-up plan?
Siskoid: Saturn Girl was probably spying on his thoughts the whole time, but yes, they had a back-up, and it's on pge 11.

Russell: And he's Superboy, not the Superman in Man of Steel. Of course he'll save the innocents.
Metropolis Kid: Hahaha Russell, I was just thinking what if he threw a super tantrum and snapped their necks for rejecting him. "That super enough for you?" Sorry, my strong dislike for that movie is hard to contain.
Tim: Y'know, its a good thing they didn't try to pull this on Superboy-Prime... He'd have gone off the deep end much sooner and killed them all.
Metropolis Kid: I'm still impressed Superboy took it like a man and didn't cry. Obviously, it had to be a little crushing to be called "super" boy yet deemed unworthy to join the club of super teens your age. Especially given how he would bawl his eyes out on Superboy covers in the 70s.
Siskoid: But he did cry, see?

Metropolis Kid: Oh crap, you're right he did. Well at least the others didn't see, he's tearless on the next page.
Siskoid: He super-guilt trips Saturn Girl into revealing the truth, at the very least. "WAIT SUPERBOY COME BACK!"
Russell: That panel is just heart-breaking.
Siskoid: It's my favorite panel because I'm obviously a bit of a sadist. What's sad is that it's less about his failure than about disappointing his parents.
Russell: You just know that Pa Kent took one look at the medal and said, "That's fine Clark, now go do your chores, dagnabbit!"
Metropolis Kid: Silly Clark don't you know your parents are only proud of you when you let them die? Oh, there it is again. Sorry.
Siskoid: Pa's expression is priceless

Tim Wallace: that last panel is weird... It's like "Back from the future where they still remember me... in your face, Pa!"
Siskoid: Superboy is setting himself up for enjoying all those parades and medals he'll get when he's older.
Metropolis Kid: Glen Ford would say "Showing off a bit there son, aren't you? "
Russell: Glen Ford (sigh).
Tim: Just noticed... in the panel with all those unknown Legionnaires, the Adventure Comics #491 reprint only shows four and Superboy, but the original story shows six!
Siskoid: GASP! And later reprints definitely have Brainy here.

Russell: I wanted to touch on the weird history of the Legion. In Adventure Comics #323 they "flashback" to this story an you can clearly see Cham, Colossal Boy, Triplicate Girl, Brainy, and Invisible Kid. But that would mean Supergirl had to join *before* Superboy, cuz Brainy joined with Supergirl.

Metropolis Kid: Mind blown.
Siskoid: The tech (jet packs, etc.) belies this happening later I suppose, but is there any reason to think all Legion stories are chronological?
Metropolis Kid: Hmmm, very true. Time travel means the stories don't have to be linear. So the first time in Superboy's life that he meets the Legion could be the 5th time THEY meet HIM.
Russell: Yeah, it's funny that time travel is such a big part of the LSH right from the start.
Siskoid: If it's out of order, he might already be a member from their perspective, so pranking him in his past becomes a whole other thing.
Metropolis Kid: Maybe one of the stories where Superboy is a dick was one of their first encounters with him. That creates kind of a chicken and egg scenario for super-dickery.
Tim: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff.
Siskoid: So Superboy shows up one day and acts like he's a member, Brainy decides they should humor him, but now HAVE to go back and recruit him. But first... let's put labels on everything, and change costumes and all the rest, just so he never realizes later that he DIDN'T meet a prototype Legion.
Metropolis Kid: Let's get a grant to research this further and write a book.
Russell: That's another thing, WHY or HOW did Superboy know to stop in time? How come he never visited today, then accidentally visited yesterday? In LSH terms, of course.
Metropolis Kid: Time Trapper interference?
Russell: Haha.
Tim: My brain hurts... too many time travel references and paradoxes.

Siskoid: So if we wrap this up... Final thoughts on the first ever LSH story?
Russell: I always wondered what kind of fan letters this issue got. What about this story made the fans go crazy and beg for more?
Metropolis Kid: According to Robert Greenberger's write-up in the Millennium Edition, it got a ton.
Siskoid: And though Mort Weisinger got all that fan mail, it still took 20 issues before they returned for another engagement!
Metropolis Kid: He was too busy bullying his writers and shooting down plot ideas in favor of his own.
Siskoid: Yes, sadly, that's not an inaccurate portrayal.
Russell: I do like how Superboy kinda sorta got back at them, playing a little joke on them at the end. Maybe that's how kids were in the 50s? Spin & Marty had to fight before they became best friends? That sort of thing?
Tim: I liked it! It was everything I love about Silver Age stories... goofy, weird, somewhat dated plot twists and tropes... genuinely fun.
Siskoid: And historic... remember, this was basically the first super team since the JSA stopped meeting for tea and crumpets.
Metropolis Kid: Great art! Some more dynamic page layouts and progression that a lot of the DC standard 6 panel a page stuff at the time
Anj: Plastino's art is crisp. He also drew Supergirl's first appearance. Quite a resume.
Tim: I like that nothing is too out there to throw in the story too... Invisible birds? Clap writing in space? Why not?
Russell: Right, and the story was so good that they basically told it again with Supergirl in Action Comics #267, which actually occurred before this...!?! Now MY head hurts.
Siskoid: Yes, pass the bottle of aspirin around. MEETING ADJOURNED!

Science Police Notes: 
  • The Legionnaires never again wear the exact costumes featured in this story.
  • Adventure Comics #247's iconic cover was homaged many times over the next 50-plus years.
This is the very first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, its founding members, their original HQ, time bubbles, and the 30th Century setting. 

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