Monday, August 13, 2018

Legion Cameos #1: Silver Age Superman

Welcome to a new series of posts that is going to focus on cameo appearances by the Legion: those stories in which they appear but for only for a page or two, or perhaps even only a panel or two. Roles that are notable but not significant enough to devote an entire post.

These will not necessarily be in chronological order, although each post will likely focus on a particular era or theme. There is no limit to how far afield the issues discussed may be from regular Legion continuity so long as a Legionnaire, or perhaps just a traditional Legion villain, makes an appearance. This one is for those completists out there who may enjoy knowing about every Legion appearance, no matter how small. So a big welcome from Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane, and let's get this one started with some Silver Age Superman fun!

Superman #149 (Nov 1961) 
"The Death of Superman!" 
Written by Jerry Siegel
Art by Curt Swan and George Klein

We are going to start very small here as far as the Legion is concerned. This imaginary tale says it all in the title. Luthor appears to becomes a trusted ally to Superman, but it's just a ruse. He succeeds in killing Superman with Kryptonite, and is put on trial in the bottled city of Kandor. Luthor is banished to the Phantom Zone and Supergirl pledges to carry on in her cousin's place. 

This is truly a small cameo by the Legion as they only appear as one of many mourners at Superman's funeral. They seem to me to be younger incarnations of the Legionnaires, which is odd, since this funeral is for Superman and not Superboy. That would suggest that they have many adventures with Superboy still in their own futures. I realize this is an early Legion appearance, but since they are associated more with Superboy than Superman, it still feels like an adult version would be more appropriate. But hey, it's the Silver Age, so I just appreciate their being present at all.

Superman #152 (April 1962)
"The Robot Master!" 
Written by Jerry Siegel
Art by Curt Swan and George Klein

Clark Kent is shocked to discover that his friends Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White are not only aware of his secret identity but also that of his cousin, Linda Lee Danvers. They are threatening to publish the truth when Superman discovers that they are robots. A Clark Kent robot arrives and tells him that they are the creation of a villain called the Robot Maser, and Superman and Supergirl take the robots to his Fortress of Solitude. Eventually, the robots come to blows over which of their counterparts Superman likes best and destroy each other.

The Clark Kent robot later rebuilds himself and it is revealed that he has smuggled a number of objects into the Fortress. Superman and Supergirl arrive and are invited to meet the robot master, which turns out to be the Legion of Super-Heroes! It turns out this is all an elaborate plan to celebrate the anniversary of Supergirl's arrival on Earth and give her the surprise gift of busts of the Legion and of themselves. Apparently, the Robot Master gag was just a hoax to trick them into taking the robots inside the Fortress.

I really did not know what to think of this one when I first read it. It's so strange but yet lacking the fun of a lot of these Silver Age tales. The robot versions of Clark's friends were acting so out of character in the beginning that it was obvious there was a hook, and they turned out to be more annoying than anything. And this was just such a wasted use of the Legion! I realize they were still firmly entrenched in the Superman family at this point, but still, shoe-horning them into such a silly story is truly a waste of their potential and their "hoax" just makes no sense. I tend to enjoy Silver Age cameos by the Legion from before they grew into their own, but not this one.

Action Comics #309 (February 1964)
"The Superman Super-Spectacular!" 
Written by Edmond Hamilton and Leo Dorfman
Art by Curt Swan, Jim Mooney, and George Klein

Now, this is more like it. Superman is invited on the television show "Our American Heroes," which honors famous Americans by inviting them to appear with important people in their life. Lois Lane and Lana Lang believe that Clark Kent will be unable to join them because they are convinced he is Superman. They are surprised when he does arrive, and we later learn that Clark is really President John F. Kennedy in disguise!

Among the important figures in Superman's life who appear on the program are the Legion of Super-Heroes. At one point during the show, Superman is about to be handed a lead box containing gold that will be donated to charity. Fortunately, the Legion arrive just in time for Element Lad to detect that the gold is really gold kryptonite, which would permanently rob Superman of his powers. He uses his abilities to change the rock to platinum so it will still be of value to the charity.
While their appearance is limited to one page, we get to see 9 Legionnaires show up! I enjoyed that Element Lad of all members was given a chance to shine. And I guess 20th Century Metropolis is well aware that Superman was part of a teenage superhero team a thousand years in the future when he was Superboy?? Or at least they are now. Time travel is taken so seriously now in comic books that the casualness of their appearance is amusing.

This issue ended up causing quite the stir at the time because it went on sale a month after Kennedy's assassination. DC received some angry letters from readers who found it to be in bad taste, so Mort Weisinger wrote a response explaining how far in advance comics are shipped to distributers and that it was virtually impossible to recall this issue.

World's Finest #172 (December 1967) 
"Superman and Batman...Brothers!" 
Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Curt Swan and George Klein

This is a particularly fun imaginative tale of what would have happened if Bruce Wayne had been adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent following his parents' murder. Young Clark discovers that his new brother is obsessed with studying crime and has created a hooded costume for himself. He fears Bruce is turning to a life of crime, but soon learns of his real plan to devote his life to battling crime. After Bruce learns that Clark is really Superboy, the two agree that he should become his new partner, Batboy.

Later, as adults, the two move to Gotham City and foil a scheme of Lex Luthor, who swears vengeance. He later attacks a charity bazaar and abducts an older couple, who turn out to be Jonathan and Martha Kent. He uses them as hostages to lure Batman into a trap. Luthor sets off a bomb hoping to kill Batman but although it fails to do so, it does succeed in killing the Kents. Bruce is heartbroken to lose another set of parents and decides to leave Gotham. Clark hates the thought of Bruce wasting his talents and presents another option by taking him to the 30th Century and the headquarters of the adult Legion of Super-Heroes. Batman is welcomed to the Legion by Cosmic Man, who says they will amend their Constitution to allow for members without super powers.
I always got a big kick out of this story and especially this ending. Imaginary stories in Superman comics of this era could get dark, and this is a good example of that with the murder of the Kents. But there is a lot of fun to be had, and the idea of Batman going to the future to join the Legion is inherently bizarre but very intriguing. Its amusing how easily Cosmic Man dismisses their rule of no members without super powers given how seriously the Legion takes their charter in their own stories at this time.

Well, that's it for now Legion fans! We will follow up again soon with some more minor, but hopefully fun, appearances of the Legion in the Silver Age DC Universe.


  1. While I agree with the basic premise of this series, I can name at least five stories, mostly from the same Sixties period, in which the entire Legion or a single Legionnaire plays a significant role in the story, or at least the resolution of the conflict. However, in keeping with the Legion spirit of cooperation, here is my contribution for further cameo appearances:

    * Action Comics #288
    * Superboy #100
    * Action Comics #385-387

    1. I promise we will eventually get to all of these stories....!

    2. Is it still possible for an outsider to submit guest blog posts? Because I would really like to write about those five stories that feature single Legionnaires and the entire team. They're mostly from the Sixties, with one from the 80's

    3. I've submitted a review of Superman 213.

    4. Anonymous Lad,
      yeah send me something at

    5. Emsley your review will be our next installment in this series!!

    6. Thanks, Russell. I'll try to get something to you as soon as I can.