Tuesday, January 16, 2018

TOS: Superboy #117

Superboy #117 (Dec 1964)
title: "Superboy and the Five Legion Traitors"
writer: Jerry Siegel
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & Sheldon Moldoff
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Chameleon Boy, Ultra Boy, Invisible Kid, Brainiac 5, Element Lad (sort of)

plot contrivances

After Superboy moves a populated planet out of a solar system whose sun is about to go nova, he returns to watch the sun go BOOM. Although he is invulnerable, the blast still throws him far from his original location, confusing him. 
He returns to Earth just in time to see five Legionnaires arrive from the future. As soon as they arrive, however, a group of bank robbers call attention to themselves. Of course, the Legion captures them with no trouble. Police Chief Parker invites them on a tour of the town but they turn him down. They don't go and hang out with Clark, either. 
The next morning as a thunderstorm turns the skies dark, the five Legionnaires appear in Clark Kent's home-room at his high school. The teacher asks each of the Legionnaires to show her class their powers. She then Brainiac 5 to add up all the figures in the students' math book, which he does within seconds. . 
Then instead of asking Invisible Kid to become, you know, invisible, she asks him about worlds of the future. He uses a mentazo ring to show the class the interstellar cities of Mechago, Necropolis, and Gothikter. 
Then instead of asking Element Lad to turn lead into gold or oxygen into nitrogen she asks him about unusual elements. He tells her and the class about Energite, the most unusual element known to him. 
And Ultra Boy volunteers to use his Penetra-Vision by revealing Clark's secret identity---! 

Acting fast, Superboy suddenly realizes that he is on a parallel world, and that these five Legionnaires must be evil counterparts to his true buddies. He remembers the adventure last issue where a similar sun going nova sent another Superboy into HIS universe. He glances over this world and sees "their" Superboy somewhere overseas. "Our" Superboy turns off the lights in the room, then grabs a medal he happened to have on him and, picking up a hairpin, carves a message on it and flings it to "their" Superboy. He then blows the lights back on. 
Ultra Boy then blurts out that Clark Kent is Superboy, just as "their" Superboy flies in with an anti-gravity paralysis ray and captures the five evil Legionnaires. With "our" Clark Kent still standing there, clearly Ultra Boy's announcement is wrong.

Later, "our" Superboy meets up with "their" Superboy to confer. (With the five evil Legionnaires just hanging out.) Superboy explains to Superboy what must have happened. "Our" Superboy admits he thought something was wrong when the Legionnaires didn't salute the Legion flag (and also didn't want to have a sleep-over at the Kents' house and have any of Ma's delicious apple pie.) Also, He guesses that these five went bad and were kicked out of the Legion, and came back in time to expose "their" Superboy. Also, Smallville was re-named SmallVILE and Metropolis was known as MetropoLUS.
Lastly "our" Superboy flies the bad guys into "their" Superboy's future, turning them over to the Science Police. Then "our" Superboy crosses back thru the dimensional maze to our universe and returns to his beloved Smallville. 

This is probably the dumbest Superboy story I have ever read.

Granted, I haven't read A LOT of Silver Age Superboy stories. I find them silly to the extreme. You know how it is: if you don't like tomatoes, you don't eat tomatoes. So I try my best to shy away from these "classics."

That being said, as the Legion of Super-Heroes appears in this story (sort of) I had no choice but to read it and since I'm the editor of the Legion of Super-Bloggers, it fell upon me to review it.

I don't mind the idea of a parallel world. I really don't. This story is from late 1964, after the debut of the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3, so I was hoping that DC's continuity was tight enough that this story would be set on that world as well. After all, who names a town SmallVILE if it's not full of evil-doers?

Unfortunately, that wasn't the path writer Jerry Siegel and/or editor Mort Weisinger chose. Instead we get five Legionnaires who go bad for no defined reason, who show up in Smallvile (sic) for no announced reason, and who are escorted off-stage with no specific drama. To me, this adventure is a text-book example on how NOT to write a comic-book story.

This is where my fellow LSBers would say, "Don't overthink it, Russell!" Okay, but I graduated with an English/Creative Writing Major so plot contrivances are hard for me to ignore. For example, why in the world is there no mention of Ma & Pa Kent in this story? Were they the "same" in this world? Did Clark/Superboy have no inkling that he was on a different world when he hung out with them? Either way, that would have been a scene worth seeing, or a comment worth noting. What about Pete Ross? We get a quick glance at Lana here, but only as a plot device (she doesn't think Clark is Superboy on this world, so who DOES she suspect?) Would Superboy's best pal be the same guy on this world? And of course, the bad guys' motivations are totally blank. Superboy supposes why they are there (to reveal his identity as some type of revenge) but what in the world would have happened to make these five Legionnaires go bad!? It seems to me THAT should have been the point of this story. And lastly, is it SO easy for "our" Superboy to get back to his real dimension? Seems like if you were lost, it would be a tad harder to find your way home again.

Anyway, those are the types of things I would say if I cared about the integrity of this story. None of this was ever brought up again, so I guess the less said about this story the better.

Science Police Notes:  
  • The concept of "parallel worlds" had been established for the DC universe in Justice League of America #15 (Nov 1962) where aliens vibrated at a different frequency that matched their own dimension. The concept was expanded in JLA #s 21-22 (summer 1963) with the debut of "Earth-Two" and the Justice Society. Clearly, this world (and the one from the previous issue of Superboy) were also part of the Multi-verse, but were never visited again. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 3 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 2.


  1. Is Ultra Boy physically able to star on a classic-era cover without checking out Superboy with his penetra-vision?

  2. I always kind of liked this story. The parallel worlds thing was in vogue then. In addition to the already mentioned JLA/JSA crossover, there was a story called "The Batman Nobody Remembered" that was along the same lines. Bruce Wayne was Superman, but he looked like Clark Kent. The Joker was a TV comic. And Batman was just in the middle of it all, having flown the Batplane through a freaky storm. But, hey, getting back to the Legion story, who wouldn't want an "anti-gravity paralysis disc"? Walking around with your enemies frozen in position over your head. That's awesome.