Thursday, March 24, 2016

Superboy & The Legion #257

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #257 (November, 1979)
title: "Who Stole The Legion?"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Joe Staton
inker: Dave Hunt
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris
cover: Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Superboy, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, Light Lass

R.J. Brande

angry owner of Cosmic World, prejudices against crazy people, unnamed extortionist

In Metropolis, four Legionnaires are at RJ Brande's corporate head-quarters. Shrinking Violet shrinks and goes in to deactivate the alarms so the others can enter. A Mechani-Vac almost gets her, but she uses an abstract art statue to jam the Roomba.
At Cosmic World, the Science Police have to arrest four other Legionnaires for trespassing and for commandeering the amusement park against the direct refusal of the park manager. Lightning Lad begins to explain, but Brainiac 5 stops him. Saturn Girl knows that Brainy is acting rationally, but won't explain to the others.
From his private asteroid home, RJ Brande contacts the Legion, telling them that Chameleon Boy and his team have gone back to Earth. When asked, Light Lass explains that the Legion's underground facilities at their head-quarters are mostly intact.

Back at Cosmic World, as the Science Police are about to take away the errant Legionnaires, there is an earthquake in the Grand Canyon below the hovering Cosmic World. Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad use their powers to stop the tremors. Brainiac 5 explains that the geo-stratum below Cosmic World was disrupted by the constant use of the anti-gravity generators.
The SP decides that the commandeering of the amusement park by the Legion was actually a safety measure by them, and refuses to arrest them.

In RJ Brande's corporate headquarters, Chameleon Boy and his team finds proof that the EarthGov President is behind Brande's bankruptcy.

What a piece of crap.

So not only did the three founders and Superboy commandeer (i.e. steal) an amusement park, they are now lying about it. What an awful plot. How it got okayed by editor Jack C. Harris is beyond me.

Let's start with the RJ Brande story. First of all, being bankrupt is not illegal. So why in the world are the SP officers guarding RJ Brande's corporate head-quarters? Okay, we find out that they were ordered to by the President but, legally, why? It doesn't make any sense. Speaking of senseless, Princess Projectra would have been the *perfect* member to have on this mission. She could have made the SP officers not see the Legionnaires as they were working, done deal. And how convenient is it that in the span of three pages the Legionnaires are able to discover that a) RJ Brande IS being robbed; and b) the perpetrator is the Earth President. They even find a PR photo of him for dramatic effect. Nice. (Note: this is sarcasm.)

Then as for the "lead" story, how in the world did Brainiac 5 know to investigate the anti-grav generators? How was he able to guess that they were about to cause an earth-quake? Where did his lap-top come from? Then how did magnetism and lighting manage to stop the quakes? Why am I even asking logical questions here? Moving on....

title: "Once A Legionnaire...!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Dan Adkins
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Gene D'Angelo
editor: Jack C. Harris

Mission Monitor Board:  
Duo Damsel, Bouncing Boy

unwanted attention

On Wondil IX, Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel have volunteered as colonists on the newly opened ice planet. When an automated delivery space sled goes awry, they step forward to save the falling cargo and prevent the ship from crashing. Norsk, a blowhard volunteer, then lets everyone know that the couple are Legionnaires.

Later, they discuss their situation. They want privacy, and are now not sure that they will be able to get it.
The next day Norsk insists on leading a group into the mountains in search of rumored Crystalat Ore, which would make them all rich if they could find some. They find an ice dragon instead, but the Legionnaires let Norsk defeat it so that he can bask in the glory.
They know it was a harmless, lifeless phenomena, but they hope that Norsk with take some of the spotlight off of them.

The whole plot of this story hinges on the idea that Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy are able to hide their identities until they demonstrate their abilities to Norsk and the other colonists. But....? Did they use fake identities to get onto the planet? We don't need Peyton Manning to throw a football or Beyonce to sing to recognize them. Why would the former Legionnaires think they were going to stay unidentified. I mean, come on, one is big and round and the other is flaunting her bi-colored identity. It isn't rocket science.

This story is fun because it gives us Steve Ditko doing the Legion. This story is silly because the leads don't actually act like protagonists in their own story.

And then there is this panel, which makes me think of Luornu as Helen Keller every time I see it.
"W-a-t-e-r, water!"
What, no wedding ring? 
Science Police Notes: 

  • The roll call on the first page is totally off. If features Shadow Lass, Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lad, Timber Wolf, and Light Lass. Arguably only three of those characters are "stars" of this story. 
  • The title of this story, "Who Stole the Legion?" has no real bearing on the actual events in the story.  
  • The caption says that Shrinking Violet shrinks to "her smallest size" to gain access to the building. However, it has been established in Legion lore that she can get as small as a microbe. 
  • Brainiac 5 does not have his flight ring back yet. Saturn Girl is shown carrying him at the conclusion. 
  • The narrator of the DD-BB story writes, "many are the number of former Legionnaires...." The actual number at this point would be six (these two plus Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid, Supergirl, and Chemical King).  
  • Duo Damsel complains that Norsk has outed them by saying, "once a Legionnaire, always a Legionnaire." However, he never actually is shown saying this.  
  • The letter column includes the announcement (reprinted below) that the next issue is the last issue of Superboy & The Legion of Super-Heroes. 

This issue has not yet been reprinted.

Brainiac 5 proves to the others that he is no longer insane and rejoins the Legion at the conclusion of this story.
This is the first issue of Superboy/Legion of Super-Heroes featuring a story drawn by comic-book legend Steve Ditko. He would eventually draw seven stories total.


  1. That panel looks like it was drawn by Helen Keller...

  2. When I was a kid and overlooked a lot of bad Legion stories because I loved the Legion so much, I still hated this two parter. What's the point of making Brainy insane just to cure him six months later. And he has been shown to still be able to be helpful even if he is crazy while undergoing treatment so I don't really understand why this act is proof he is no longer insane. And as far as the back up story goes--well, blasphemous as it might be, I have never been a Steve Ditko fan--not on anything he has drawn (though I do love some of the characters he designed)--so a story drawn by obviously doesn't care, just cashing a paycheck Ditko does absolutely nothing for me. I do enjoy the reviews though--keep them coming!!!

  3. "What an awful plot. How it go okayed by editor Jack C. Harris is beyone me." This reminds me of a Jim Shooter interview I once read. Allegedly, DC editorial was so afraid of offending Gerry Conway that they approved the terrible story he'd written for the Avengers-JLA crossover, and pressured Shooter (who was EIC of Marvel at the time) to approve it as well. Of course, Shooter rejected the story, and the whole project fell apart.

    Now, I have no idea if this is true, or not. But, based on the similar timeframes (late 70s to early 80s) it's possible that Conway was also writing the Legion when this crossover was in the planning stages. So, maybe DC was pressuring Jack C. Harris to approve Conway's awful plots the same way they tried to pressure Shooter. What do you guys think?

  4. I think it's probably true that Gerry Conway was valued by DC and didn't have too much editorial interference. I have read several interviews over the years that have alluded to DC acting this way to keep writers from bolting for Marvel.

    As for the Shooter stuff--well, it has been widely documented that Jim Shooter has his own version of history where he is both the defender of right and virtue and also the put upon victim of corporate scheming. So I don't really buy his version of anything that happened once he became E-I-C at Marvel.

    1. May I ask for hints on this documentation against Shooter's word? Got no dog in this ('ceptin' I can't believe the story-work he gave us in S/LSH 224 was so impressively squandered when he left. Well, whatever.)

  5. Spinning off Superboy is a really interesting choice. I mean, at the time the Legion was selling pretty much in line with the most of the other Superman-adjacent books, so it's fairly reasonable to think that it was part of Superman's extended fandom and wouldn't do well without that connection.

    On the other hand, I just spend a bit of time at Mikes Amazing World's newsstand to confirm a suspicion, and, well, the Legion books are mostly unique in that they featured far more cheesecake on their covers (much deeper v-necks than you see in any other book), balanced out by bizarre-costume Cosmic Boy beefcake most of the time. The legion was, at this time, one of two team books in both major companys' entire lineups with more than one female character in their casts, and the X-women didn't feature prominently on the covers nearly as often in 1980. So maybe they did understand their appeal perfectly well and thought taking superboy's name off would help keep that going without getting into trouble...

  6. Well, as a wide-eyed 12-13 year old, the Cosmic Boy beefcake certainly kept me coming back!

  7. I love all these comments! Thanks, guys!!