Monday, June 8, 2015

TOS: Superman #147 Group Review

The Legion of Super Bloggers Round-Table Discussion on
Superman #147 (August, 1961)
title: "The Legion of Super-Villains!"
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: Sheldon Moldoff
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and Stan Kaye

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superman, Lightning Man, Cosmic Man, Saturn Woman

Lois Lane (as an illusion)

Lex Luthor; The Legion of Super-Villains, composed of Cosmic King, Lightning Lord, and Saturn Queen

Luthor contacts and teams up with Legion of Super-Villains from the 30th century. The adult Legion of Super-Heroes comes to 20th century to help Superman.

(Round table discussion between Siskoid, Russell Burbage, and Tim Wallace)

Siskoid: The story is "The Legion of Super-Villains" from Superman #147, August 1961... and the cover looks mighty familiar.
Tim: Even I recognized that!
Russell: Yep, three years in and we're in true homage mode. Imagine how big Adventure #247 must have been for them to do this.
Siskoid: This game show's a lot deadlier, at any rate. But just as mean to Kal-El.
Russell: Haha, that's right, it's still the same boobie.
Siskoid: Boobie?
Russell: Patsy? Victim.
Tim: Ah! My mind went immediately to Saturn Girl. I mean Saturn Woman.
Siskoid: Saturn Queen, actually.
Russell: Both.
Siskoid: It'll get more confusing before it gets clearer, Tim.
Tim: And I definitely meant Saturn Girl... Saturn Queen isn't my type.
Russell: Haha. She looks like Joan Crawford.
In prison, Lex Luthor builds a radio that allows him to contact the Legion of Super-Villains. They oblige him with the technology required to break out, and he joins Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen aboard their future craft.

Tim: Yeah, lets talk about that... Who would think it's a good idea to give a "scientific genius" access to electronics?
Siskoid: They're always doing that, giving Lex "MacGyver" Luthor access to a lab and equipment in jail. And he always uses it to bust out or whatever. And by "whatever", I mean create radio transmitters with which he can speak to the future.
Russell: And this is the perfect escape, because it can't be tracked back to the radio. In fact, at the end, he STILL has electronic privileges. No dope, that Luthor.
Siskoid: Of course, you can talk to the future easily with a radio... signals are beamed out and will can be received by space-faring peoples in the future. That's real.
Tim: I can't help but think the Legion of Super-Villains was thinking "Let's help him... but totally make him wear a stupid hat".
Russell: Haha. I was just thinking he's no dope, but he wasn't smart enough to change out of his prison fatigues.
Siskoid: The prison fatigues were pretty much his standard costume back then. The LSV probably wants to humiliate him just like the LSH humiliated Superboy, that makes sense.
Russell: It's his initiation!
Tim: ooooh! Good call, I wasn't thinking like that.
Siskoid: Now, what is this adventure Luthor mentions? In which a member of the Legion helped Superboy defeat him?
Tim: Ok, so it wasn't just me? I was a little thrown by that.
Russell: "Army of Kryptonite Men", Superboy 86. it was ON THE BLOG!! Read it, for cryin' out loud! LOL. Kyle reviewed it a few months ago.
Siskoid: Right, the one Lightning Lad is in.
Russell: Yes. So he gets caught by Lightning Lad, and then, what, ten years later finally calls the future and it picks up.
Siskoid: In reality, it could have been a future Superboy story, since this takes place much later.
Russell: Yes, both written by Jerry Siegel, and only a few months apart in publishing history. I wonder if SUPERMAN sold better than SUPERBOY? And that's why this appeared here? Probably. Spread the Legion goodness around...
Siskoid: Sure. And while the Luthor thing is a good bit of continuity, what happens on page 3 isn't. Lex puts on the stupid hat and flies out of prison to the LSV's spaceship, where they say they're from the 21st century!
Russell: Haha, yes! I noticed that too.
Siskoid: The LSV is right around the corner! If they aren't here already!
Tim: I love how the prison guards immediately know he's got "some kind of anti-gravity belt"... no guess work there, they just know.
Siskoid: Lex has escaped so many time by now, they've become experts in technobabble.
Russell: Tim, it's either that or "He's wearing some sort of anti-gravity hat!" Belt sounded better.
Siskoid: LOL. Note that he doesn't KNOW there's a Legion of Super-Villains, he only guesses. But he's right. Maybe he inspired them with his broadcast.
Tim: Why are they all so chummy? Lex calls them "pals" and they're super eager to tell him their origins.
Russell: Yeah...
Siskoid: He MUST be their inspiration, and they really want to show their stuff to their idol.
Tim: I'm telling you, if I received a message from the past (or future) I'd be just a little suspicious.
Russell: You're no Lex Luthor, haha.
Siskoid: When we get such messages, they're always about Nigerian Princes and stuff. So those origins... Cosmic King is first.
Russell: Yes, Cosmic King says he is trying to be an alchemist, which his planet thinks is an evil thing. What did he expect!?! And... he suffered a dizzy spell?! WTH...
Siskoid: Venus won't stand for pseudo-science!
Tim: So... where Cosmic King is from, transmutation is a crime? Does that include turning regular milk to chocolate? Water to ice? Inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide?
Russell: Bad!! Very bad!! I see where the ugly hats came from, though.
Siskoid: LOL, I was about to say!
Tim: It's like a DEVO convention!
Russell: Haha.
Siskoid: It's interesting that though they're all analogs of the Legion founders, King doesn't have Cosmic Boy's powers. He's the only one, even though he stole the name and costume.
Tim: Maybe that's why his is the only vaguely interesting origin of the three?
Russell: It always bugged me that he wasn't from Braal. He should have been from Trom.
Siskoid: And for his originality, he's the one that's least remembered and least featured in Legion stories. Half page of Who's Who for you! Above the stupid Council!
Russell: Haha, no respect.
Siskoid: I guess Trom didn't exist yet.
Tim: Really? Least remembered? But the other two were... lame.
Russell: Lightning Lord was cool... eventually. Can we talk about him now?
Siskoid: Well, being Garth's brother insured Lightning Lord would return again and again. When we get Lightning Lord's origin, we also get Lightning Lad's... is this the first mention of it?
Russell: Siskoid, yes, I think it is. I just looked through the Archive and this is the first time.
Tim: That?! That's Lightning Lad's origin? A lightning monster shared some of his power with them?
Siskoid: Yes, and Ayla's, though she isn't there. What's super-lame is that your origin story gets told as ANOTHER CHARACTER'S origin story.
Russell: Yes, Ayla is not mentioned, and the Lightning Monsters look much different than they used to be, or... would be?
Siskoid: Upright instead of quadrupeds.
Russell: Yes. These guys later showed up on an episode of ULTRAMAN.
Siskoid: So, not impressed Tim? Lightning Beasts! Come on!
Tim: No... not really.
Siskoid: As for Saturn Queen, she's just, y'know, from the same planet as Saturn Girl. And she wasn't used except in Adult Legion stories for the longest time, until recently, where they kept using her as a big bad. So she still beats Cosmic King.
Russell: I never liked her.
Siskoid: There wasn't much there. We should mention the absurdity that she only thought of turning to crime when she came to Earth. Which I presumed was because we're such jerks, and we infected her through telepathy.
Russell: Earth is a bad influence.
Siskoid: I don't want you hanging out with Earth!!!!
Russell: But then, why didn't Saturn GIRL turn bad? Dumb.
Siskoid: I'm afraid she DID. But we haven't gotten to her stint as Legion leader yet.
Russell: Haha, right, sorry. On to Orphan City!
Their plan is to humiliate the Legion by destroying their hero Superman. The next day, the Man of Steel is completing the world's most beautiful orphan asylum, but the LSV destroys his work and captures him.

Russell: Okay, so instead of facing him 3 vs. 1, they do the same old Legion ritual of facing him individually.
Siskoid: Well, teamwork is anathema to villains.
Tim: Instead of bringing them buildings from around the world, maybe Superman should have spent a little time finding them families?
Siskoid: LOL! "Pet project?! These are our LIVES!!!"
Russell: Don't be hating orphans. All the best super-heroes are orphans. He's growing the next generation, haha.
Tim: I'm just saying Superman could do better than building them a "beautiful orphan asylum".
Siskoid: Superman doing background checks etc., he could have gotten the kids on a faster track to adoption. Now they live in a castle, who needs adoption!
Tim: Exactly!
Siskoid: Well, they live in rubble, I guess. Thanks LSV!
Russell: I DO like the way LL threatens them, though. Cold blooded, electrocuting their school bus.
Siskoid: Why does Cosmic King need a flying harness when we KNOW the have access to antigrav BELTS.
Russell: Haha. Look! Obligatory Superman Statue!
Siskoid: Those things are a dime a dozen. Superman spends all his waking hours sculpting them.
Russell: Instead of helping orphans! Haha.
Siskoid: He helps them by giving them statues to admire.
Tim: Uh... was it me, or was that the WORST exclamation ever when Supes got hit by the statue? "Ow-wwww!" Seriously? Ow-wwww?
Russell: Haha. It hurt!
Siskoid: Yeah! He was really whiny in the Silver Age.
Russell: Just as good as his comment TO HIMSELF that he will arrange for the statue to be deep sixed.
Tim: C'mon! "Ughhhh!" would have been better. Or "OOMPH!"
Russell: Would have loved an Aquaman reference there.
Siskoid: Cosmic King could have finished him right there, but no, Saturn Queen has to show her stuff. (Also: Their plan is super-elaborate to impress Luthor). Aquaman and his collection of kryptonite statues?
Russell: Right! Cosmic King could have killed Supes, but the people helping him aren't even shown. Weird sense of what constitutes drama in this story.
Tim: Well, there was a subtle Flash reference (not), it'd only be fair to give the rest of the League a nod.
Siskoid: What's the reference(not)?
Tim: Flash... golden gliders... get it?
Siskoid: Oof! /ban
Russell: Cary Bates probably read this story. So now we get a monster IN A WEIRD HAT. What the hell is going on here?!
Siskoid: Saturn Queen and Lois Lane's fake cameo. My hat has a Lois Lane in it. If I were Superman, I would have let the thing go. Probably just one of Lois' elaborate plans to get Superman to marry her.
Russell: And it leaves the solar system. Really!?! Supes doesn't try harder to catch it before it leaves the solar system!?!?!
Siskoid: It's an illusion, quick as thought!
Russell: Uh-huh.

The LSV votes for him to be executed for his brave and worthy deeds, but adult versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes' founders show up to counter the villains' moves.
Russell: Because comics.
Siskoid: So ok, we need to talk about the whole Adult Legion thing.
Tim: It creeped me out a little.
Russell: Me too.
Siskoid: Even though there's time travel, the Legion must be adult because Superman is an adult.
Russell: "The last time I saw them they were teenagers..." So were you, Clark.
Siskoid: Were they going to support two "continuities", was that the plan?
Russell: I wonder if this story didn't get the fan mail the other issues did? We basically stopped seeing Adult Legion for a long time.
Tim: And thats a good thing.
Siskoid: It's almost a one-off.
Russell: We went back to teenage Boy and Girl. I keep forgetting just how much of a Superman story this is. The LSH doesn't do ANYTHING, really.
Siskoid: The hard questions... Saturn Girl, real color blond or brown?
Russell: She's blond in my version.
Siskoid: Ohhhh.
Tim: Blond.
Siskoid: Brunette in the original story.
Tim: Really? Weird.
Russell: But what about their uniforms? LL's especially is just wrong.
Siskoid: Saturn Woman has a purple outfit on, and Lightning Man is all navy blue, but then these are adult outfits, they can vary from the model.
Russell: Cosmic Man is in pink, with a jet pack!?! Garth is in blue & orange, but with no bolts.
Siskoid: Yep, that's it. But you're right in how little they are featured, even their battle... they're tiny in the frame.

But Luthor enters the fray and threatens to expose Superman too kryptonite if the Legion doesn't surrender. The heroes draw straws to see who will sacrifice themselves for Superman and Saturn Woman draws the shortest.
Tim: It's her honor!
Russell: ...because they carry straws on every mission.
Siskoid: For just such a purpose. They're all so jealous. You'd think Garth would try to take her place.
Russell: Superman yells he won't let Imra do it... like he's in any position to stop her.
Siskoid: If this is the future, then they're a married couple.
Russell: That romance hasn't been established yet.
Siskoid: Exactly. And that's why you don't do Adult Legion stories.
Russell: What I hate about page 9 - Luthor challenges the heroes to volunteer to die for Superman. Doesn't he know that's what heroes DO!!?!?

Superman convinces them to free him so he can perform one last super-deed in her honor before she's zapped with a death ray. They allow it, so he flies to Saturn and scoops up the meteor fragments that make up the planet's rings and seeds them around the LSV's planetoid HQ. Saturn Woman is reminded of home. Aww.
Tim: Superman with his giant shovel full of Saturn's rings looks like a cereal ad! It's hilarious... It's like his last request was "Can I have breakfast?"
Russell: Haha. Dumbest. Ending. Ever?
Siskoid: Saturn Ringolos, a part of this complete breakfast.
Russell: "We've come close to killing Superman twice now, so let's give him up and not kill him immediately."
Siskoid: Because, get this, LUTHOR VOUCHES FOR HIM.
Tim: I call shenanigans! Superman says Saturn Queen told him her origin? When? She told Luthor! Superman wasn't even around at that point.
Siskoid: I know!
Russell: Bottom of page 8, "after the bad guys tell all about themselves..." They sure did love the spotlight.
Tim: Ahhh... never mind.
Siskoid: Looks like a last minute edit from Mort Weisinger!! After screaming at Jerry Siegel for an hour, added that caption.

Saturn Queen turns on her acolytes and becomes a goodie. Superman reveals that Saturn's rings cancels Saturnians' criminal traits. The Legion brings the LSV back to the future and Superman brings Lex back to jail.
Siskoid: AND Superman did all this WITHOUT betraying his promise to the LSV, because real heroes don't break their promises, even to killers who want them dead.
Russell: Can I just say... I hate this story... SO MUCH!
Siskoid: You can say it, but I know you don't mean it.
Tim: So this isn't my favorite Legion story so far. It was ok, but for some reason the idea of adult Legionnaires freaks me out. Like when Star Boy showed up in Geoff Johns' JSA with a beard... *shivers*... glad to hear we don't see them again for a while!
Siskoid: Haha, Star Boy had a beard from the 70s on, I think.
Russell: I agree. This is my least favorite story so far.
Siskoid: First appearance of an enduring villain, slipping the origin of Lightning Lad under the wire, Luthor teaming up with the LSV, tribute cover... come on!
Russell: And yet... no.
Siskoid: And also: A real continuity nightmare, sidelined Legion, a scratchy little battle repeated exactly the same twice. I'll go out on a limb here and say Siegel is NOT the best Legion writer. All his stories have had these crazy snafus, or have copied Otto Binder's original.
Russell: Right! I never liked Superman stories of this era in general. Too convoluted. Like Batman stories of this era, but that's a totally different craziness... When the Legion stopped being guest-stars and plot devices, the stories got better.
Siskoid: One enduring element here we didn't mention is that the blank in history has been upgraded from a "fire" to an "atomic war". We're ALL going to burn. not just the records.
Russell: Make those little kids less anxious. Thanks, DC. And I DO like the last panel, when Garth tells Lex he's out of luck. That was funny.
Siskoid: The Legionnaires are such trolls, I can just imagine them sending all sorts of messages down through time to annoy Lex during his prison sentence. It's pretty much their best moment in the story.
Russell: Haha, yes.
Siskoid: Now, I AM a fan of Superman during this era, but I admit, fan in an ironic way. They weren't meant as humor comics, but that's what they've become.
Russell: Some of those Imaginary Stories were the best ones, IMO.
Siskoid: This issue also had a Krypto vs. Titano story, I mean, COME ON! I'm not made of wood!
Russell: No Bizarro? Haha.
Siskoid: But yeah, the Adult Legion is a failed experiment which doesn't bear thinking about, despite the fact Alan Moore referenced them in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?".
Russell: I liked *that* story.
Siskoid: Let us otherwise never speak of them again.
Russell: I'm up for that... until Adventure Comics  #354 or whatever it was.
Siskoid: Shhhh. And on that whisper of a note, this meeting is adjourned.

Science Police Notes:  
This is the fifth appearance of the Legion, but the first appearance of the adult Legion.
The canonicity of this story, as with all Adult Legion stories, is in dispute.

Milestones: First appearance of the Legion of Super-Villains, including Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen.


  1. I am working from memory here, but I remember how early Legion adventures were explained--possibly in a letter column. The Legion coud originally only travel back in time exactly 1000 years-- so teenage Legion could team up with Superboy and Adult Legion with Superman. This also explains why later, when Supergirl meets the Legion for the first time, they claim to be descendents of the original Legionnaires. Fortunately, that idea was abandoned. (Knowing the Legion's style back then, it could have just be retconned as a prank-- instead it was never mentioned again).---
    Thank you for reviewing these issues. I have them plastic covered and boxed up a closet, but I haven't looked at them in decades. Reading what you write on this blog brings back a lot of good memories!

  2. That's right! We failed to make the connection with the Legion Spawn from the first Supergirl story! Probably because we take way too long between round tables sometimes. Someone needs to pay us to talk about the Legion all day so we can quit our jobs and devote ourselves to the mission.