Tuesday, December 19, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #323

Adventure Comics #323 (August 1964)
title: The Eight Impossible Missions
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: John Forte
inker: George Klein
letterer: Joe Letterese
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Supporting Cast:
Honorary Members Jimmy Olsen and Pete Ross, Proty II

Mission Monitor Board:
Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Element Lad, Phantom Girl, Saturn Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Superboy, and Ultra Boy. Honorary Members Jimmy Olsen and Pete Ross
Proty II

Jimmy Olsen and Pete Ross are visiting while the team tests some new applicants.The first is Spider Girl, who will go on to become both an enemy and an ally in later stories. The second is Double-Header, future Substitute. Let's just say that neither really distinguishes themselves here.
After Double-Header storms off in a rage, its time to elect a new leader! Saturn Girl suggests using a computer to choose the right person but Brainiac 5 objects. He believes that he would win too easily because of his computer mind. You can always count on Brainy's big ego, but in this case he may have a point.

Fortunately, Proty II has a solution. Yep, Proty II. He is going to solve this for the Legion. Proty II. He has written his name backwards on a medallion and transformed into a bizarro version of himself.  It is all part of a puzzle he has created and he offers to assign missions to Legionnaires that will each involve a clue to the puzzle. And the Legionnaires immediately go along with this because why not.

First up is Saturn Girl, who is sent to compete in an interplanetary rodeo on the planet Rorbis. After witnessing a dinosaur-throwing contest, we see her in a race that involves riding a Kangobronic steed through a series of obstacles. Because the males of the species battle fiercely among themselves, they have been equipped with mind-blinding helmets so they will not fight. Of course she wins, but for now let's just enjoy the sight of Saturn Girl riding an alien kangaroo.
Next up is Ultra Boy. Apparently, Proty has learned that some crooks are hiding out on an asteroid. Ultra Boy's assignment is to capture them for the Science Police. Although the crooks have rendered themselves invisible, Ultra Boy heats up the surface of the asteroid which causes the criminals to yelp in pain so they can be found.

Phantom Girl is charged with discovering what the greatest award Jor-El ever received on Krypton was *without* using a timescope or time bubble. Fortunately, she is able to use her power to come and go from the Phantom Zone at will. In the Zone, she decides to question the man she feels has the most evil face she has ever seen. He identifies himself as the Mighty Gazor. Back on Krypton, he was dying of old age and tried to use his earthquake machine to take the planet with him. Jor-El was able to stop him, and received the biggest award of his career for defeating the villain. That award was...the globe brain of Garf-Og!
The next Legionnaire to be tested is Element Lad. His challenge is to turn a block of marble to uranium and then remain standing in place for 10 minutes. The trick is not to die of radiation poisoning during that time. The Legionnaire solves the problem, though, when he thinks to place his anti-gravity belt around the block, which sends it off into the air. He remains, but the block does not.

The time has come for Pete Ross' test. He has the simple but still tough challenge of doing something super. Since Pete has no powers, he does the only thing he can and lies. Since he knows Superboy's identity he uses that knowledge to trick Proty into thinking he is telepathic. Not so smart now, are you Proty?
The final mission is for Jimmy Olsen. Like a King ordering around his court jester, Proty's challenge to Jimmy is to transform into Elastic Lad and "amuse us." Jimmy has a sudden burst of inspiration and uses Legion dolls he borrowed from the trophy room to put on a puppet show. Its pretty weird but the Legionnaires seem to enjoy it.
With everyone having completed their mission, they now have to figure out the clues left by Proty. It seems that Saturn Girl has when she steps forth and has everyone to write the first letter of their name on a card. She also tells them to line up in the order in which they performed their missions. She explains that she also knows why Proty changed into a bizarro version of himself earlier and it has to do with his medallion.
The reason Proty chose to spell the name Superboy is because today it is the day of the anniversary of when the Boy of Steel joined the Legion. (All this took place in one day?) Because she figured out the clues, Saturn Girl is chosen as their leader!
I loved this story. There is so much going on here. The globe brain of Garf-Og. Pete Ross in the running for Legion chairman. Saturn Girl riding an alien kangaroo. Proty II coming up with a shockingly intricate plan to select a new leader that the entire team enthusiastically goes along with. Jimmy's bizarre puppet show. Double-Header! This story is just over-flowing with Silver Age goofiness. I am not saying that ironically, I truly loved this issue.

First of all, I have to discuss Proty. He was supposed to be a pet, but we have recently seen him save the day in the Dev-Em story, then join the Legion of Super-Pets, and now he is helping to select the team's leader. I do wonder what the thought process of the creators was that they suddenly gave Proty such a prominent role. I admit I am generally lukewarm on his character, but I am thankful that whatever they were thinking behind the scenes, we got this story.

One of the aspects I most appreciated was the variety of the team's missions. From Saturn Girl's alien rodeo to Phantom Girl travelling to the Phantom Zone to Element Lad's exposure to radiation, these tests were all over the place. Hats off to Jerry Siegel for coming up with so many original ideas to pack in here without derailing the story. And artist John Forte did a great job as always.

It was also fun to see Jimmy Olsen and Pete Ross right there competing for leadership with the rest of the team. Especially since Pete flat out tricked Proty, apparently successfully. Not sure what the Legion would have done if Pete had won in the end, but it was still fun. Jimmy's puppet show was also quite the surreal moment. I can imagine that their participating may be a bridge too far for some Legion fans, but anyone who appreciates Silver Age Superman comics likely got kick out of it.

This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 3 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2.

Saturn Girl is re-elected Legion Leader for her second consecutive term.


  1. Bit of a contradiction there. Phantom Girl goes to the Zone and only finds the one guy there, but just back in Adventure 305 Jax-Ur and a couple of other baddies are still there.

  2. This was the first Sliver Age back issue I ever bought. Boy, did it give me an unrepresentative view of what happened in a SA Legion story. Jimmy and Pete hanging out with the Legion. No real villain, just a puzzle. But these oddities are what make it fun.

    I assumed that Proty II knew that Pete Ross know Superboy's identity and was playing along with his joke.

  3. This is one of my favorite old stories too. I always hoped that Spider Girl would wind up on the Subs or even the main team. I loved how she had reformed in the 5YL book.

  4. I think Bay is right. By the way, I notice you "skipped over" the story in Lois Lane #50, which featured three girl Legionnaires. Kind of an amusing tale it the mold of the Jimmy Olsen appearances.

    1. Thanks for pointing that one out, I gotta see if the boss will let me do that one or if it’s been reserved by another blogger.

    2. We skipped over it because it wasn't included in the Legion Archives. Mike, if you want to do it and have access to it go to town.
      Or Emsley if you want to do a Guest Review that's OK, too!!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. OK, I've written a quickie review and submitted it by email to the "Legion Blogger" email address.

    5. Impressive! And now Russell is thinking “why can’t my usual bloggers produce that quickly?”

  5. A really fun story, but you skipped Brainiac 5 having to defeat 3 supercomputers (who looked a little like Computo) at 3-dimensional chess... simultaneously.

    This came out in 1964, which probably explains why it looks nothing like Star Trek's 3-D chess sets...

    1. Mike, you skipped over Brainiac 5?!?
      I expect a revised version of this post up within the week! ;-)

  6. Alternately, you could leave it as is and have Proty's puzzle solution be "SUPER OY," proving once and for all that Colossal Boy isn't the only Jewish character in the Legion family...