Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #322 Point-Counterpoint

Adventure Comics #322 (July 1964)
title: "The Super-Tests of the Super-Pets!"
writer: Edmond Hamilton
penciller: John Forte
inker: Sheldon Moldoff
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:  
Saturn Girl, Superboy, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Light Lass, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, Sun Boy

Legion of Substitute Heroes (Polar Boy, Night Girl, Fire Lad, Chlorophyll Kid); the Legion of Super-Pets (Krypto, Beppo, Streaky, Comet, and new member Proty II)

elitism, super-dickery, the threat of the Time  Trapper

The Legion is making plans to battle the Time Trapper. They are so determined that they have even asked the Legion of Substitute Heroes to help them. Fire Lad, Polar Boy, and Night Girl help create chemical jewels that Lightning Lad charges full of electricity. 
Mike: For what will become a very silly story, this book opens with a really cool moment for the team. I have no idea what they are making but it is awesome to see the team working together in preparation like this, and especially seeing the Subs contribute. Come on, even you have to have enjoyed these panels Russell, right??
Russell: Yes, as soon as I got past the ridiculous cover I thought, whoah, is THIS gonna be the actual Time Trapper story we didn't get last month or the months before!? I was totally psyched for this adventure!
I also like how Light Lass speaks in Silver Age Supermanisms to explain her new uniform. Thanks, Light Lass! It's about time; it's only been five issues since your powers morphed! I imagine that's what Brainiac 5 is thinking, too.

As the preparations continue, Superboy realizes that the entire Legion can't go after the Time Trapper or that would leave their club-house unguarded. Saturn Girl suggests they ask the Legion of Super-Pets to watch the Club-House, so Superboy calls them from the past. 
Mike: It doesn't get much more Silver Age than this. I know how silly they look, but I have a soft spot for the super-pets, especially Krypto and Streaky. You can get a headache though if you think too hard about the time travel implications...I mean, three of them are from Superman's era, not Superboy's.
Russell: I like the IDEA of the Super-Pets, but like you say, Mike, in actuality they give me a headache. And what's up with introducing the Subs as a support team and then basically saying, "Yeah, we're gonna go with the cat and dog instead of you." Slam!

Proty II wants to go with the Legion when they head into the far future, but Chameleon Boy refuses to take him (it?). Then when the Legion of Super-Pets arrive, Proty decides that he would like to join that illustrious group.
Comet questions the validity of who and what Proty is. Proty explains that he is from the planet Antares. Originally he was just a small, round gelatinous creature until a group of super-intelligent humans visited Antares. When they realized that Antares was going to undergo extreme weather conditions, they blasted each native with an Evolution Beam. This allowed the creatures to alter their physiology into any other living creature. 
Mike: I am not exactly a fan of Proty II, but Comet is being such an a-hole here. All the pets are. That panel of them all looking at Proty with such disgust is pretty hilarious though.
Russsell: Yep! I dare anyone reading this review to try to read that comment from Comet out loud without laughing. "You're just a blob!" Uh, yeah, that's showing the open heart and humility of a true super-pet....not!!
Comet tries to talk Proty out of trying to join, telling him that it takes super-powers and a willingness to help others to make it as a Legionnaire. Proty offers to be tested, and Comet agrees, just like the Legion tests their applicants. He then tells Proty that as his first test, he must turn into Superboy and do whatever mission is assigned to the Boy of Steel in his stead. 
Mike: The pets do seem a bit full of themselves. A bit of rationalization though for Comet...he used to be a man, or a Centaur at least. So I can see why he might look at this weird little blob thing and be a bit snooty about allowing him to join. Also, the Legion is preparing for kind of an important mission against the Time Trapper now so this may not be the best time to have Proty pretend to be Superboy! There is a lot at stake here to risk having Proty get involved.
Russell: I think Comet really is a man, not just a centaur, but I defer to anyone with better Silver Age Superman knowledge than I....and at this point, who really cares? He's not being a horse, he's being an ass. There's a Legion of people who don't have Superboy's powers, and they're doing just fine, thank you, Super Dick! Oh, hold on, that didn't come out quite right....
Anyway, I too had a palpitation when I read that Proty would have to take Superboy's place. Might this story somehow redeem itself, and have Proty somehow turn out to be another Deus Ex Machina against the Time Trapper!? Spoiler Alert: NO.
Proty as Superboy goes to where the Legionnaires are busy preparing for their attack on the Time Trapper. Brainiac 5 then asks "Superboy" to fly off to the planet Vorr for a sample of Vorium for his time-thrust mechanism. 
Mike: Putting aside for a moment how silly the overall story is, and my lack of fondness for Proty generally, I thought this was actually a pretty good moment for him disguising himself to get the Vorium. These creatures look goofy but I like Forte's alien designs in this era of Legion. He really does go for different looks. On a darker note though, nothing about this suggests that Proty should be anyone's "pet" since he seems pretty intelligent and capable.
Russell: Meanwhile, what is the REAL Superboy doing? I imagine a scene where Brainy sees him working on the crystal and says, "So where is the Vorium?" and he says, "Huh?"
Oh well, keep repeating the Silver Age Superman mantra, Mike: Don't think about it too much. Don't think about it too much. Don't think about it too much.

Proty goes to the space-port and smuggles himself on a rocket heading to Vorr by pretending to be a tiki statue. Once there, he turns into a mole-like creature. They are digging for Vorium, and after he grabs a chunk he turns into a bird and returns to the rocket, where he eventually "hitchhikes" back to Earth. 
Mike: How long did this all take? In the end he accomplished what Superboy was ordered to do but he had to stow away on two ships to get back and forth, and his plan of disguising himself as one of those creatures had to take a lot longer than Superboy just swooping down to grab the Vorium. Hopefully, the Legion's confrontation with the Time Trapper is not in any sort of rush.
Russell: They have all the time in the world, Mike.
This task really does show the Super-Horse's prejudice against any of the other non-Superboy members, though, ya know.
Streaky then insists Proty go on a mission with Saturn Girl without her being aware of who he really is. Although Proty believes this to be impossible, Streaky is adamant. 
Mike: Yes Streaky, lets continue to put the team's upcoming battle with the Time Trapper at risk just to initiate a potential new Super-Pet.
Russell: Yeah, clearly the Pets are not thinking of the Greater Good at this time. I do love the comment at the end (I attribute it to either Streaky or Comet), saying they will NEVER ever ever re-consider Proty if he fails their initiation challenge. A bunch of Super-Schmucks, clearly.
Meanwhile, Saturn Girl "feels" that something is watching her and the other Legionnaires. Proty pretends to be Chameleon Boy, and offers to go with her to investigate her suspicions. Because she is busy trying to "sense" spy-eyes, she is not aware of Proty's deception. They find an electronic eye, which strikes out at Saturn Girl. Proty turns into a black jellyfish to blind the eye, causing it to crash. 
Mike: That eye thing is a pretty cool concept and design, especially for this era. I am amused though at the idea that covering it is enough to blind it as if what is essentially an advanced spy satellite from the future would only "see" things in the traditional sense that we do.
Russell: This is a pretty nice action sequence, even if it's a little silly for Proty to pretend to be Cham pretending to be Proty turning into a large jellyfish.
And I know I should take my own advice and not think too much about this plot, but....are we supposed to assume that this spy eye is from the Time Trapper? The guy who is supposedly able to watch any one at any time in any era sends a Jonny Quest Eye-bot after the Legion?
If not him, though, who IS responsible? We never find out.

Next, Beppo assigns Proty to keep the Legionnaires out of their own club-house for an hour. Proty considers several ideas but then decides to build a booby trap. To his surprise, Ultra Boy, Mon-El, and Superboy are taken aback by its presence, and keep everyone out while they scan it with their various visions. They call Brainiac 5 in to analyze it, too, and by the time they are ready to confront it Proty has passed his test. He admits to them that it was an initiation test, and they forgive him. 
Mike: Um, what happened to the whole Time Trapper threat?? The Legionnaires are awfully quick to forgive considering they could have been dealing with that instead. But hey, they only spent one hour trapped outside of their headquarters investigating this fake machine, no biggy...its not like the Super-Pets were brought in to actually help.
Russell: I'm with you here, Mike, this is where I thought that the story totally broke down. It's one thing to delay getting some Vorium, but to keep the Legion occupied for an entire hour while they were busy prepping for a battle against the Time Trapper....it just doesn't make any sense!
Speaking of making sense, wasn't the whole point of calling the Super-Pets because the Legion was about to set out into the time stream? So what are they all still doing there!?
Lastly, Krypto plays a game of "catch me if you can." Proty is able to use his incredible mental telepathy to follow the Dog of Steel, even after he flies to the bottom of the ocean. Krypto recklessly opens a lead chest containing Green Kryptonite, and Proty actually rescues him from death. 
Mike: Krypto, I expected better from you at this point. That was an amateur move.
Russell: I DO love the expression on Krypto's face when he sees that Green K, though. "Oh, shit!"

Proty, with a flair for the dramatic, changes places with Krypto to return to the club-house. Superboy then gladly enshrines Proty as a full-fledged member of the Legion of Super-Pets. 
Mike: I have to give Proty some credit here, that giant porcupine fish-thing was a good move, and another cool 60s design by John Forte.
Russell: Clearly Proty has more of a super-heroic heart than all of the other Super-Pets combined! AND he has a flair for the drama. Good for Proty!
Mike: And with that prank, Proty proves himself as capable of super-dickery as anyone and earns his place among the Super-Pets!
Russell: My favorite part of this is Beppo raising his arms up like a real chimp might. I can imagine him "hollering" with joy. Comet is clearly thinking, "Oh, well. We did our best to keep it out."

Mike: Alright, I know this was ridiculous and I am lukewarm at best on Proty II, but I got a kick out of it. We are talking about a team of super-powered animals made up of a cat, dog, horse, and monkey initiating an alien shape-shifting blob onto their team. You either accept that premise and dive in for all the craziness, or the whole story is a lost cause for you. Now, I can certainly see someone who became a Legion fan in the Bronze Age or later being aghast at this, especially if they have no fondness for the Silver Age world of Superman. I enjoy it for what it is, my mind just compartmentalizes stories like this from the later Legion tales. Now, on to Russell to rip this to shreds...
Russell: You are totally right, my friend: you either buy into the craziness or you don't. Clearly, I don't. I prefer my Legion stories a *tad* more serious than this, haha! In other words, I don't think I would have minded this story so much if it had been an 8-page "back-up" instead of the lead. Maybe one challenge instead of four!? Maybe a bit more seriousness, or a tie-in with the main Time Trapper plot which, I remind everyone, we NEVER GOT TO READ.
I won't rip it to shreds, but I will warn anyone who sees the cover: what you see is what you get. Let the reader beware!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Comet and Beppo are not called by name in this story. Although both had names in Superman continuity by this point, neither name is used in this story. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 3 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2.

Proty II joins the Legion of Super-Pets in this issue. We also learn the origin of his species on the planet Antares.

Dedicated to Glenn Walker
Who loved the Silver Age Legion Silliness
Gone Too Soon


  1. You've got to remember that the Legion bumped the Bizarros from this mag, so every once in a while you had to bring in some sheer silliness, and the pets more than qualify. Especially the monkey because, hey, monkey.

  2. How could Proty II accompany Saturn Girl without her realizing he was actually Proty? Why not just turn into Lightning Lad; apparently, that worked for friggin' decades. (Yep, I still loathe that retcon.)

    Comet was originally a centaur. He went to Circe to be turned into a human, but she messed up and turned him into a horse instead. And then couldn't be bothered to try to fix it. So she instead gave him super-powers and made it so he could turn human when a comet passed the Earth. Or something stupid like that. Comet sucked.