Monday, September 12, 2016

Secret Origins #47

This week a trio of Legion of Super Bloggers are looking 
at a trio of stories from Secret Origins #47!
(cover by Dave Cockrum and Eric Shanower)

Secret Origins (v3) #47 (February, 1990)
The True Story of Ferro Lad
title: "In Memory Yet Green---"
writer: Mike W. Barr
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: Mark Badger
letterer: Todd Klein
colorist: Tom McGraw
editor: Mark Waid
Ferro Lad created by Jim Shooter
Review: Russell and Tim

Mission Monitor Board:  
Ferro Lad; cameos by Superboy, Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Brainiac 5

Ferro Lad's mother Luiza Karamonte, brother Douglas, father Andrew Douglas Nolan,

Sun Eater, prejudice, being forgotten by history


It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. The evil Magnon has Ferro Lad trapped in a magnetic beam. What the villain doesn't realize though is that Ferro Lad can switch between flesh and iron at will! He escapes the trap, defeats the bad guy and, removing his mask, kisses the girl! The end.
On Earth, three children have just seen the motion picture Ferro Lad VII: Will of Iron and they’re ready for more! Each one goes to rent another Ferro Lad holo to take home. Myla, the girl, chooses “Ferro Lad: The True Story”, one she’s never seen before, and after some debate with her brother and their friend, their mother says they should watch hers first.
Ferro Lad: The True Story is a documentary, narrated by former holo star Luiza Karamonte…mother of Andrew Nolan, Ferro Lad. She wants the world to know his true story…the E! Hollywood True Story. She fills in how she met Interplanet Mines heir Andrew Douglas Nolan, got married, and then got pregnant with twins Andrew and Douglas. It was a near perfect life until…the twins were born, horribly disfigured! Soon after the boys were born Nolan left and in a weird throwaway line is killed, presumably in some sort of high speed space-ship accident.
She raises the boys alone, using her wealth to repair their bodies…but their faces can’t be fixed. Instead they hide them like little Men in the Iron Masks. As they grow, Andrew becomes more outgoing, while Douglas is more withdrawn. But even masks and teen angst doesn’t stop them from having a decent life…until the day the automated lawn servants revolted! Just kidding, a robot lawnmower short circuited and nearly killed Andrew…but he suddenly discovered the ability to turn his skin to flexible iron! With his new power revealed, Andrew runs away from join the Legion of Super-Heroes as Ferro Lad.  He quickly finds himself thrown into battle during the Khund Invasion of Earth.
His mom doesn’t like his decision, slapping him on sight when he comes home, but with the help of Douglas comes to understand. She even gets a second boost to her career as she’s now known as "the mother of Ferro Lad." It’s a short-lived celebration though, as Ferro sacrifices himself saving the universe from the Sun-Eater. Douglas begins to withdraw into a depression induced seclusion until eventually Brainiac 5 is called in to help him with assisted suicide. Actually it’s some sort of permanent trip into a dream world, but either way it ends with Luiza alone, having lost both her sons.

And so, she explains, she authorized the Ferro Lad films, including this one to keep her son's memory alive. With that the holo ends, and the boys go out to play, while Myla and her mother decide to watch the documentary again. 


Ok gang, Kord Kid here, aka Tim, first I hope you enjoyed my recap. Second, I'm still pretty new to the world of the Legion. Most of my experience so far is in the earliest Silver Age adventured that we covered in the round table reviews (PS Legion bloggers...we should do those again!), and the occasional bit of Legion periphery. That this one short story Ferro Lad immediately became a favorite of mine. I understand he's had that effect on others too. It's an amazing story! The outsider, hidden away because of his appearance, who finds a place with the Legion and ultimately sacrifices himself for the good of the universe? Powerful stuff! I've since gone back and re-read Final Night, which sees him return, and again willing to give up his own life to save others...Ferro is a true hero!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Ferro Lad made his debut in Adventure Comics #346 (the Khund Invasion) and died in Adventure Comics #353 (the Sun-Eater saga). 
  • Douglas Nolan made his debut in Adventure Comics #354, where he joined the Adult Legion as Ferro Man. 
  • Douglas escaped into a separate, happier dimension in Legion (v2) #300
  • The title of the story comes from a poem by Isaac Asimov: 
In memory yet green, In joy still felt,
The scenes of life rise sharply into view
We triumph, Life's disasters are undealt
And while all else is old, the world is new.

Secret Origins (v3) #47 (February, 1990)
The Secret History of Karate Kid
title: "The Thorned Path"
writer: Tom & Mary Bierbaum
penciller: Mike Parobeck
inker: Daul Fricke
letterer: John Workman
colorist: Tom McGraw
editor: Mark Waid
Karate Kid created by Jim Shooter

Review: Russell and Anj 

Mission Monitor Board:  
Karate Kid; cameos by Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel, Matter-Eater

"Sensei" Toshiaki White Crane (Shirazuru)

Black Dragon, unnamed dissatisfaction with one's lot in life

On Earth, Karate Kid has just been named Leader of the Legion. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are complaining to Matter-Eater Lad about the assignments he gave them: track down Mordru and find The Persuader's axe. Then Karate Kid and his Sensei arrive. Karate Kid gives Matter-Eater Lad the assignment to infiltrate the Dark Circle, which Matter-Eater Lad sarcastically accepts.
Sensei is not sure what Matter-Eater Lad meant, and asks Karate Kid about it. Karate Kid tells him that he wants to build the strongest Legion possible. This prompts Sensei to remember how he came to raise Val Armorr, aka Karate Kid.
After Sensei killed Val's father, Black Dragon, Val's mother tried to escape from Japan with him. However, the crime lord's men murdered her, and took the boy. Sensei then stole him back and raised him on his own, training to take his place and to atone for the evil his father did.

When Val was a teen-ager, he goes in front of the Daimyo and when he beats his champion, the Daimyo promotes him to be the head of security for the entire region.

Val takes his responsibilities seriously, but he also has eyes for a girl named Noriko. Hideo, the champion that Val beat to get his job, treats Val as less than nothing. Val is lonely and frustrated because he is unable to satisfy his bosses. It can't help that his being half-American allows the local martial artists to call him 'half-breed' and ostracize him.
Then, at the Samurai Council, he is distracted an attempt on the visiting Sensei's life. While Val rushes to protect his mentor, assassins manage to infiltrate the castle, getting dangerously close to killing the Shogun. Val stops them, but the Daimyo still blames him for being incompetent. Val decides that Court life is not for him.
Sensei remembers all of this, and asks Val straight-out to think on his leadership choices. Isn't Val's harsh treatment of his teammates similar to the court's harsh treatment of him? Isn't he trying to force his colleagues to be something they are not? Shouldn't Val allow people to grow as they want? After several panels of him thinking things over, Karate Kid calls the three members and cancels his special missions for them.

I think this is the first deep dive into Val's history and training. Seeing him in this feudal court, his being chastised by the chief Kashu, and seeing him question the training he received, was all new to me.
It is hard to remember this is a 30th century story when you see how feudal everything looks.
Matter-Eater Lad's assignment is on a floppy disk?!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Karate Kid was elected Legion Leader in/as of Action Comics #382. He was replaced by Mon-El in Action Comics #392. 
  • The Persuader made his debut in Adventure Comics #352. 
  • The Dark Circle made their debut in Adventure Comics #367. 
  • Mordru made his debut in Adventure Comics #369. 
  • The collar of Karate Kid's gi (uniform) is mis-colored throughout the story. 

Secret Origins (v3) #47 (February, 1990)
The Secret Origin of Chemical King
title: "The Unique Properties of Condo Arlik"
writer: Robert Loren Fleming
penciller: Chris Sprouse
inker: Al Gordon
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Tom McGraw
editor: Mark Waid
Chemical King created by Jim Shooter
Review: Russell

Mission Monitor Board:  
Chemical King, Invisible Kid; cameos by Brainiac 5, Shrinking Violet, Timber Wolf, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Light Lass, Shadow Lass

Deregon, lack of self-confidence

On Phon, an omniscient narrator explains what happened when Condo Arlik was born: how he accidentally destroyed the hospital by making it collapse. That led to him being put under the care of eager scientists in a sterile laboratory. He tries to play "peek-a-boo" with the scientists monitoring him, but they and his parents have no interest in him at all.

Fourteen years later, he is still alone, still in his sterile world, still trying to master his abilities to control chemical reactions, when the first Invisible Kid arrives. Invisible Kid shows him that *people* can affect chemical reactions, as well. He shows him the sun for the first time. He signs Condo out of the lab and takes him to Earth.
Eventually, Condo gets better, no longer needing to take insulin to control his blood sugar level, for example. He is getting better at controlling his chemical reaction powers, too. Still, Condo is moody and shy. To help him develop more, Invisible Kid has recommended him for membership in the new Legion Academy.

Chemical King, as he is now known, passes the Academy training and joins the Legion. For a short time, he is an active and energetic member.
However, one terrible night Invisible Kid is killed in the line of duty. Lyle's death feels like a knife in his heart. Chemical King cries, "Where is Invisible Kid's unique properties?" Now groundless, Chemical King returns to being moody, choosing not to join in on missions. Brainiac 5 suggests that perhaps he should quit.
Then, on a routine mission to stop the Australian dictator Deregon, Chemical King steps forward to stop a Cosmic Energy Sphere, internalizing the chemical reaction so that it does not explode. As Chemical King dies, he realizes that Invisible Kid had changed him, making him brave. We learn that Brainiac 5 is the narrator, and he realizes that Chemical King has now changed him, as well....

This is one of my favorite Chemical King stories. Of course, he was only in about a dozen stories, total, so even that isn't really saying anything. Dare I say this is the best story of the issue?

Chemical King made his debut in 1967, then died in 1977. So he was a Legionnaire for about ten years, during which he didn't do a heck of a lot. I guess not too many writers understood what he could do. A quick check on Wikipedia will tell you, however, that he could have controlled Synthesis (forcing gases Oxygen and Hydrogen together to make water), Decomposition (breaking water down into Hydrogen and Oxygen), Single Replacement Reactions (A + BC = AC + B) or Double Replacement Reactions (AB + CD into AC and BD). I'm not a chemist, but grab any Introduction to Chemistry textbook and you would have found a list of potential weapons for him. Not to mention that the human body consists mostly of Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Calcium, and Phosphorus. You play with any of the metabolical processes involving those and you have quite a power!

Anyway, I do like that Chemical King was given a personality here. And while he seems a tad too dependent on Invisible Kid, we all know those people who "cling," right? And as a bewildered young man with no social skills whatsoever, his personality type does seems "right." I like this characterization better than the loner filled with self-doubt, as was shown in Superboy/Legion #228. 

One complaint I have, though, is that in Silver Age Legion continuity Chemical King was room-mates with Timber Wolf at the Legion Academy. So I think I would have liked some interaction with Brin somewhere in this story. Maybe something as casual as a throw-away line about how Timber Wolf is spending more and more time with his girlfriend, Light Lass?  I also think it would have made more sense to have Timber Wolf narrate this story instead of Brainiac 5. Or maybe Mon-El or Ultra Boy? If Timber Wolf was the one who had made the connection with the dying Chemical King, it would have made sense for Wolf to become less "Lone Wolf" and more sociable. Or if one of the more powerful members narrated the story, it could be more about "survivor's guilt," i.e. "I could have saved him....!" As it is, with Brainiac 5 narrating the story, I'm left with a great big, "HUH?" at the end.

As a last observation, I wonder if Chemical King is living with Invisible Kid as room-mates or as something more? In the original continuity Invisible Kid lived at home, but this story says Chemical King lives with him for several months before he joins the Academy. I kinda like the idea of them being boyfriends; on the other hand, I don't mind the idea that Chemical King is so overwhelmed by social mores he doesn't even understand what attractions and feelings are, ie he's just a confused kid who hero-worships the young man who "rescued" him. Clearly, he loves Invisible Kid, and in the end that is all that matters. The scene where he breaks down upon hearing that Invisible Kid is dead is just so powerful. No matter how many times I re-read it, it is still heart-breaking.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Although all three characters were created by Jim Shooter, Chemical King does not get a "Created By" tagline in his story while the other two do. 
  • Invisible Kid also gave his life so that his friends could live, but he is not featured in this issue except as a supporting character in Chemical King's story. 
  • At the end of this story we also see a statue of Triplicate Girl in the Hall of Heroes. 
  • Neither Brainiac 5 nor Shrinking Violet were on-duty when Invisible Kid was killed (in Superboy/Legion #203).  
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

All three of us Legion of Super-Bloggers have guest-hosted with host Ryan Daly (aka "Secret Origins Boy") over at his Secret Origins Podcast to talk about these stories! Check us out!


  1. Replies
    1. Any time you want to write a guest post, you're in.

  2. I would have liked to have seen Douglas Nolan have taken his brothers place in the original Legion but he was regulated to the adult Legion story and then in LSH #300 alternate universe .

    He could have been an interesting member, conflicted with his wanting to replace his twin but bitter towards the team regarding his death.

  3. Yet oddly Lyle Norg was in love with a female ghost when he was killed . Obviously Chemical King was a homosexual but Invisible Kid doubtful.

    1. Well like I tried to say, I'm not sure if it was less actual sexual attraction as it was Hero Worship. Invisible Kid truly "rescued" him; there had to be some affection/love there above and beyond any sexual attraction that might have existed (and was never shown in any story, ever, not even this one).

    2. Ironically, it was hinted in the "Archie" Legion that Lyle was dating the non-powered, post-Crisis Condo Arlik.

  4. This is a great issue with some beautiful artwork. It’s nice to revisit a story from the late Mike Parobeck. Such a talent! Also, such great recaps and commentary. It helped me appreciate the story more and I picked up some great facts and insights.