Tuesday, July 25, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #303

Hey Fellow Legionnaires! It's your old pal Tim, aka Kord Kid, back again! 

This time it's a little different though. Russell, our fearless leader, has tasked me with looking back at some of the Legion's Silver Age adventures. And since I love these goofy early adventures I said "Sign me up!" One day, I may regret that, but for now I'm starting with Adventure Comics #303...the introduction of Matter-Eater Lad! But is he friend or foe? Let's find out in the story, "The Fantastic Spy" by Jerry Siegel and John Forte!

At a hospital in the "far distant future", Cosmic Boy and Brainiac-5 have stopped by to check on their friends Sun Boy and Lightning Lad. It seems the latter were injured in a crash landing. Luckily the famous Dr. Landro is on the scene to perform surgery! Before they're taken away for the operation though the chums get to exchange some "get well" gifts. 

Movie goggles, Cosmic Boy's gift to Lightning Lad, seem pretty cool...but the tiny dinosaurs trapped inside a gem by Brainiac, Brainiac-5's "villainous great-great-great-grandfather" seems a slightly odd thing to give Sun Boy, especially when B-5 says he's ashamed to be related to Superman's foe. Just then Dr. Landro appears and explains how he plans to repair Lightning Lad's knee and Sun Boy's ankles with tiny 4th Dimension capsules in a bloodless surgery. 

A week later everyone is healed up, in good spirits and gathered at the Legion Clubhouse to meet the team's newest member, Matter-Eater Lad! The newest Legionnaire impresses the group by eating a ray gun.

Afterwards Cosmic Boy alerts the team to a mission. The Science Police need the Legion to guard a shipment of the valuable mineral Energite. Lightning Lad and Bouncing Boy volunteer, but as soon as they arrive a giant space squid grabs the satellite carrying the mineral and speeds away. Things look bad, especially when it's pointed out that ONLY the Legion knew of the secret plan to transport the Energite!

Cosmic Boy checks for bugs in their headquarters but finds nothing. Still convinced that there must be a hidden device, he decides to hold the next meeting in total darkness so nothing can be video recorded. This time the Legion needs to transport a tiny doomsday bomb to the United Nations Arsenal on the other side of the planet. Cosmic Boy and Chameleon Boy will deliver it, in disguise as a couple, travelling on the Earth-tube express car. 

As they pass through the Earth's core all passengers must take a freeze pill to survive...but when they thaw, Chameleon Boy discovers the bomb has been stolen out of his purse!

Back at base, Cosmic Boy tries a new technique to baffle whoever is spying on them...mind helmets! That way their thoughts can't be read, and they can't be controlled by psychic influence. Just in time too, as they have another mission. Meglaro, a nefarious brain in a jar with "super mind power" needs to be transported to the year 100,000,000 AD where he won't be able to do any harm. Brainiac-5, Lightning Lad, and Sun Boy step up for this adventure, but are slowed by Sun Boy's sore ankle. 

That delay allows a spaceship time to arrive on scene and whisk away Meglaro!

At the clubhouse the future teens decide all of these things can only lead to one conclusion...one of them is a betrayer! After scribbling down some calculations, Brainiac-5 uses his guilt-detector ray and quickly determines the guilty party is...Matter-Eater Lad! The Boy from Bismoll makes a run for it! He also tells the team that all of these incidents have put them in hot water with the Science Police, now they'll never be trusted to guard the treasures of the universe being stored on the planet Umrax for the next 48 hours. That's oddly specific...but before anyone can think too hard, B-5 charges out of the clubhouse to track down the traitor. Or so he'd have everyone believe. Once outside they spot Matter-Eater Lad pretty quickly and Brainiac-5 reveals he's not a traitor, none of them are...not exactly. It seems Dr. Landro implanted a tiny spy, shrunk using the evil Brainiac's technology, inside the capsule he put in Sun Boy's ankle. That spy has been relaying info to his partners in crime all along!

And with that Brainiac-5 fills everyone in on all the details. Once he figured out the bit about the tiny spy, he had Matter-Eater Lad feign guilt and run so the criminals wouldn't realize they were on to them. Then they arranged for Superboy to be waiting on Umrax, a planet whose atmosphere renders anyone who sets foot on it unconscious (except Superboy, who's immune), to capture the villains. 

Then it's back to the hospital to have Sun Boy's ankle fixed and the fantastic spy apprehended!

There you have it...Matter-Eater Lad's intro to the Legion! That was a wacky fun story, full of twists and turns, and a red herring worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Pretty well written too! Seriously, think about it...Siegel's foreshadowing of the miniaturized spy when Sun Boy is gifted the tiny dinos...that's genius! Sure,  having Superboy show up for a couple panels to tidy things up at the end was a little much, but hey...its The Silver Age. Great art too by Forte! I'm especially fond of the smiles and laughing faces throughout the story. These are simple, fun stories...and I can't wait to see what Russell suggests next!

Mission Monitor Board: 

Chameleon Boy, Bouncing Boy, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Sun Boy, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, Matter-Eater Lad, Superboy

Science Police Notes: 
  • Superboy makes only a cameo appearance at the end of this adventure. 
  • Meglaro makes his debut and also his final appearance in this story. 
  • This is the first mention of the Science Police Commission, the organization that will eventually be referred to as The Science Police.   
This story features the induction of Matter-Eater Lad into the Legion. 


  1. I missed this story as originally published, encountering it only years later. I often wondered of the title was a play on the film "Fantastic Voyage" but did a little research and found that it predated that movie by about four years.

  2. When reading these stories as a child I was baffled why they didn't let in Fire Lad or Polar Boy (both of whom had useful powers-and even Night Girl and it would have been simple to have had Brainiac 5 design some device to let her have her powers even in sunlight if they didn't want the limitation) yet they let in Matter Eater Lad!

    For that matter also Triplicate Girl-now I love Luornu, as you might be able to tell (lol) but her power is distinctly unimpressive. And even more so after she became Duo Damsel. She and Tenzil have much less impressive powers than most of the Subs, so how did they get in? I suppose they got in early before things were so strict on the admissions front (although the try outs from the era show that getting in was pretty hard even at this point)

    My brother said when I pointed this out to him that maybe they just liked ME Lad more. I suppose we will have to go with this. The 'he can eat us out of jail' justification was a little weak here, like Edmond Hamilton knew in advance people would query such an admission.

    And despite that justifcation you will notice that Tenzil appears very rarely after this (although Shooter did use him a bit in the late Adventure era) and when the Bronze Age came they wrote him out really quickly (just like Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy)

    It seems most writers couldn't work out how to use his powers. It's a shame really because I do like him. Even though letting him in and not the Subs makes no goshdarned sense darnit.