Tuesday, July 24, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #350

Adventure Comics #350 (November 1966)
title: "The Outcast Super-Heroes!"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller: Curt Swan
inkerGeorge Klein
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:  
active: Invisible Kid, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Element Lad, Ultra Boy, Shrinking Violet, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl, Colossal Boy
inactive: Superboy, Supergirl, Light Lass, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Ferro Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Girl, Matter-Eater Lad
new members: Sir Prize, Miss Terious

Guests: 
RJ Brande

Opponents: 
Evillo and his Devil's Dozen (the Hag, the Wild Huntsman, Sugyn, and Apolllo)

Superboy and Supergirl are called to the 30th Century, but as soon as Superboy arrives he feels weak, as if he was being attacked by Green Kryptonite. Brainiac 5 gets him into the lead-lined Legion Club-House, where he feels fine. He meets up with Supergirl,who was also weakened.
Brainiac 5 escorts them to the Space Monitor Center, where it is explained that an incandescent Green Kryptonite dust cloud has entered Earth's atmosphere. 
Mike: The story opens with some nice art by Swan. I really love those shots of the meteors, dust cloud, and the planet being enveloped. Really nice effects here.
Cosmic Boy tries to repel it magnetically, but Earth's magnetic field is too strong for him. Lighting Lad and Sun Boy try to blast the cloud away but fail. Element Lad tries to change the Green Kryptonite into Helium, but when he gets an unexpected reaction he quits. He takes a sample back to the Club-House. 
Russell: I think this beginning set-up is my favorite part of this story. It just seems SO science fiction-y and yet plausible. I could have read a whole issue of the Legionnaires trying to "fight" this Green Kryptonite dust cloud!
Mike: Yes, this really is an exciting premise. Just the sort of thing a reader would hope for in picking up a comic set a thousand years in the future. Nice way to show off different Legionnaires' powers too.
Brainiac 5 analyzes it and finds that because the Green Kryptonite has been altered during its trek through space, it cannot safely be trasmuted by Element Lad.  Invisible Kid then announces that they have no choice but to discharge Superboy and Supergirl from the Legion. 
Russell: So far this story is moving ahead in a logical and emotional way. Because the Maid of Might and the Boy of Steel would be in danger if they were to answer a Legion summons, the Legion has no choice but to "fire" them.
The Legion re-call their individual communication statuettes from Superboy's and Supergirl's eras. The Legionnaires then line up to say their good-byes to the Boy and Girl of Steel. Each member seems to have a token or memento from some adventure that they shared with their friends. 
Russell: These were touching scenes. The first time I  read this story I remember thinking, "Did they really quit?!" I read this story as a reprint in Superboy/Legion #205 so I knew that Superboy atleast had rejoined, but I thought maybe Supergirl had really stayed out? Anyway, there seems to be a lot of emotion on display here for something that (spoiler alert) didn't actually last.
Mike: Yes, I did find these scenes to be quite touching as well. And the references to past missions were especially nice. I am sucker for those kind of nods to continuity, and they show that the Legion has already built up quite a rich history in a fairly short period of time.
After Brainiac 5 kisses Supergirl good-bye, Invisible Kid tells them that their memories must also be erased. Brainiac 5 will plant Green Kryptonite pellets in their brains. Using Ultra Boy's penetra-vision to pinpoint the correct locations, Shrinking Violet enters Superboy's body through his nose to go into his brain and leave the Green Kryptonite pellet. 
Russell: I find it amusing that Supergirl kisses Brainiac 5 and thinks how much she will miss him and all of her Legion friends, when she hasn't attended a Legion meeting in over two years! And with that-----we're in Silver Age Crazy Town! Why in the world does the Legion have to take away the memories of Superboy and Supergirl?! Don't both of the Kryptonians already have a "mind block" where they don't remember anything pertinent about the future after they return to their real time periods? Isn't that why Superboy doesn't remember that there IS a Supergirl? So why in the world would they both have to lose ALL knowledge of the Legion? Shades of "Identity Crisis" thirty years before that series made mind-wiping a thing!! Still, it was cool to see Shrinking Violet take the spotlight. Clearly, the film Fantastic Voyage had an impact on this story!
Mike: Crazy, sure, but there was a great deal here I enjoyed. Collecting all of Superboy and Supergirl's Legion souvenirs in a trophy room was fun to see and very much a trope of this era. its what all the superheroes did! Even Jimmy Olsen at this time. The Kryptonite capsules may have been part of an overly convoluted plan by Brainiac 5, but the idea of having to plant them inside our heroes brains was still bizarrely fascinating. Also, we have not gotten to see Shrinking Violet get the focus very much up to this point so I thought her adventure inside Superboy was great, even if she needed a rescue at the end.
As soon as Shrinking Violet drops off the Green Kryptonite pellet, Superboy's defense systems kick in and try to eliminate her. Saturn Girl "sees" her predicament, and the Legion ask Superboy to cry so that Violet can escape via his tear duct. 
Russell: And here we are, the Legion makes Superboy cry AGAIN. Poor kid.
Mike: Fortunately, he recovers very quickly. As soon as Violet's out, he is back to normal!
After a similar operation is performed on Supergirl, the two are ready to return to their own times. However, before they depart they ask Invisible Kid to take in Sir Prize and Miss Terious, two masked and unknown heroes, as their replacements. The Super Teens also make Invisible Kid promise not to allow any Legionnaire to try to find out the new members' real identities. 
Russell: Point of order here guys....when in the world would Superboy and Supergirl have had the chance to meet and talk to Sir Prize and Miss Terious?!? We've skipped over bits and pieces of the story in this summary, but basically from the moment the Teens of Steel arrived at the Club-House until this page, they never left!! So....HOW did they know about Sir Prize and Miss Terious!?!
Mike: Duh, that's easy. Super-speed followed by time travel at some point when the Legionnaires were giving them their souvenirs. Happened so quickly the Legion never even knew the super duo were gone. That sort of thing was way easy for them during the Silver Age. (I am only half-kidding, that's just the type of scenario that I could see being offered in a Superman comic at this time.)

After the two new Legionnaires are inducted, a bank robbery is reported at the Interplanetary Bank, Invisible Kid sends Colossal Boy, Lighting Lad, Saturn Girl, and Chameleon Boy but Sir Prize asks to be included, too. 
As the Legionnaires rush to the bank, we flashback to the planet Tartarus, ruled by Evillo. He calls on his four lieutenants the Hag, the Wild Huntsman, Sugyn, and Apollo. They begin bickering until Evillo tells them that he is ready to send them out on assignments. Apollo is assigned to rob the Interplanetary Bank. 
Using an alien instrument, Apollo is able to "relax" the Beast Guards. Inside, his super pheromones causes the female tellers to voluntarily hand over all of the cash. 
Russell: There is so much going on in this story that DC couldn't even afford twelve bad guys to make up an actual Dozen.
Mike: I can only imagine how lame the other eight are. Things have suddenly taken such a weird turn. It feels like Bridwell had ideas for at least three different Legion stories in his head and just jammed them all together into one here.
The Legionnaires arrive at the Bank and have to get by the Guards, now whipped into a frenzy by Apollo. Saturn Girl can't override the musical hypnosis, so she and Lighting Lad rush into the Bank to stop the actual crooks. Colossal Boy takes on the Jigsaw Creature, which is really four symbiotic animals. They grab him, but when he shrinks out of their grasp they continue to fight each other. 
Russell: This is my second favorite bit of this story. The Jigsaw Creature is LITERALLY kicking Colossal Boy's ass.
Mike: While the story took a downturn for me when we met Evillo's supposed Devil's Dozen, I do have to credit Bridwell for being able to juggle a pretty large cast while managing to give quite a few of our heroes a chance to briefly take the spotlight. Its true several of them do not exactly shine in their moments, as we have seen with Colossal Boy and Shrinking Violet, but still, alot of Legionnaires get to see action in this one.
Sir Prize takes on the Loudspeaker Beast. He sends out a counter-signal to save his own ear-drums, then flies at the Beast and slams it into the ground. Colossal Boy witnesses this and thinks that Sir Prize may be as strong as Superboy. 
Russell: We aren't going to spoil the surprise (huh, get it?) of Sir Prize's identity if you haven't read this story. Suffice it to say that it seems cool that Sir Prize was able to defeat the Loudspeaker Beast on his own.
And we didn't reprint that panel, but there was a scene where Lightning Lad comments that they haven't given a Legion Flight Ring to Sir Prize or Miss Terious yet. Uh....why not!?!? Aren't the cruisers and the club-house itself going to turn against them if they don't have Rings?
Chameleon Boy turns into a spider and wraps webbing around the Asteroid Serprent. He then breaks the Fourth Wall to address the readers directly to make a not-too-subtle jab at Marvel Comics' Spider-Man. 
Russell: This is my least favorite part of this story. ABC-TV's BATMAN had just started a few  months ago, AND Spider-Man was in the midst of a creative burst with Steve Ditko just leaving the title in the spring. It just seems very odd for Cham to blink at us from across the page AND the centuries.
Mike: Aw, you're no fun! The Legion doesn't exactly break the fourth wall a lot in its history, so I'm willing to give them this moment.
Inside the Bank, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl  fight off the thugs, but Apollo stalls Saturn Girl with his handsomeness. Lighting Lad is then attacked by crystal creatures from the planet Rojun, which begin to eat his robotic arm. When he tries to shock them off him, they short-circuit him and he passes out. Apollo kidnaps him and rushes off. 
Russell: If you're keeping track of clues to Sir Prize's identity, here is another one for you: Sir Prize knows Lightning Lad's real name. He had also made a funny reference earlier in the story when Colossal Boy chides Garth and Imra on their concern for each other: "Love does that to people." Clearly, Sir Prize knows Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl from some earlier encounter.
Mike: The moment of the crystal creatures eating Lightning Lad's arm was one of my favorites of this issue. A real horror-like scene injected into this otherwise very sci-fi-fi setting, even if they did just look like small turtles.
I really did not like Apollo, and was hoping Saturn Girl would just grab that harp out of his hand and start beating him with it.
Back at the Club-House, RJ Brande calls for help. Invisible Kid assigns Cosmic Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, and Ferro Lad but Miss Terious "cuts herself in on the deal." As the four Legionnaires rush off, Ultra Boy decides to use his penetra-vision to see under the mask of Sir Prize....! 
Russell: I'm never sure if I'm supposed to think of what Ultra Boy is doing here as clever, or stupid.



Russell: I'm not embarrassed to say that this is probably one of my all-time favorite Legion stories. In my own mind the events of this story lasted for more than one issue, and the Legion had several adventures without Superboy and Supergirl around. I just like the way they all say good-bye to them, and I wish it had "stuck" longer.
Mike: Despite really not liking Evillo's Dozen (have I mentioned that enough?), I do think the overall issue was very good. Again, Bridwell did an excellent job at balancing a very large cast. It was a bit jarring at a few instances where the story changed direction, but for the most part it flowed well, especially if you consider how much happened. He also kept it very action-packed. One could argue that perhaps too much happened for one issue, but I think for the most part Bridwell succeeded here. I did not find myself caring that much about the mystery of Sir Prize or Miss Terious, but I did enjoy going along with the Legion on their various adventures.

Russell: As an extra-special bonus, here's the letters' page from that issue featuring ideas for Legionnaires from readers, and a biography on Chameleon Boy. "Dee-zeez" sounds an awful lot like Infectious Lass, and "Water Kid" sounds a lot like Zan! I wonder if any of the readers mentioned below are still with us? And in Cham's biography is the first mention of him and Colossal Boy joining at the same time, and Gim providing Reep with his name....as well as the first mention of the Legion Espionage Squad, a good year before it was mentioned in an actual story!!


Science Police Notes:  
  • Princess Projectra is the only Legionnaire who does not appear in this story. The other 20 Legionnaires are shown, either active in the adventure or in the background in group scenes. 
  • There appear to be only 15 Legionnaire statuette signal devices owned by Superboy and Supergirl. 
  • The Legion battled Dr. Regulus in Adventure Comics #348. 
  • The Legion met Satan Girl in Adventure Comics #313.
  • The Legion received a Kryptonian flag in Adventure Comics #333.
  • Duo Damsel gives Superboy a model of Computo. Brainiac 5 gives Supergirl the lead helmet of Unknown Boy. 
  • The title of Part 2 is "The Devil's Dozen!" 
  • The film Fantastic Voyage premiered on August 24, 1966. Directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Rachel Welch and Donald Pleasence, it went on to win two Academy Awards for Special Effects and Production Design. 
Status: 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 6 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3.


Milestone: 
This issue is the debut of writer E. Nelson Bridwell on the Legion series. He would go on to write dozens of their adventures without ever being their "permanent" writer.
Superboy and Supergirl are honorably discharged from the Legion in this story. Their places are taken by the masked members Sir Prize and Miss Terious, leaving the membership at 21.
This issue introduces RJ Brande, the Legion's main financial benefactor.

6 comments:

  1. Some random thoughts:

    I've often wondered why, in a series involving time travel, didn't Clark and Kara simply go forward in time to attend Legion meetings, after the K-cloud would have dissipated. And yes, what WAS the purpose of erasing their memories of the Legion, other than to set up next issue's conflicts?

    I think I have an answer as to how the cousins knew of Sir Prize and Miss Terious. I believe they had pre-arranged to have the surprisingly mysterious pair (sorry, couldn't resist) arrive at Legion headquarters and then vouch for their membership, to help the individuals in the suits gain admittance to the Legion (more on that next week). The K-cloud catastrophe simply hurried things along, which is why they had to spring it on the team so suddenly. But, hey -- it worked.

    I noticed a glitch in the Chameleon Boy origin. It says that he travelled to Earth "with his parents' permission". Fourteen years later, we learn that Cham was raised by a single mother (actually his aunt) and he never knew his father, until he was revealed to be R.J. Brande. Who debuts in this story!

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  2. I think everybody wondered about the whole "just go two years into the future" thing. And it it was a problem with the Kryptonian cousins "suddenly" being two years younger than their fellow Legionnaires, just have them wait two years to do it. Not so much an "honorable discharge" then, but a furlough, or perhaps a "lay off".

    I too loved the "jigsaw creature". Makes one think that "Arm Fall Off Boy" might not have been so useless after all.

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  3. "Duo Damsel gives Superboy a model of Computo."

    Wow, really? That, um... seems kinda tacky? "Here, have a model of the machine that killed 1/3 of me." (I don't know if the issue addresses that or not, but still...)

    On the other hand, Ferro Lad in an issue that's not the Nemesis Kid or Fatal Five stories. I always felt sorry for that poor guy, the way he was shuffled off so quickly.

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  4. I miss the days when stories were this dense with content. An epic in every issue (or two) back then!

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    1. They kinda HAD to be, Ken. Comics were sold on newsstands and in Mom-&-Pop drug stores back then -- no comic book shops to guarantee 20-part story arcs. I agree with you, self-contained and stand-alone issues can be better and more satisfying.

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  5. I wondered why they had to be "discharged." The Earth was not the entire United Planets. Just station Superboy and Supergirl when they visit the future on planets and missions other than Earth, of which most of them were. It would just take a little bit of planning, and they then keep 2 really powerful members.

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