Tuesday, August 28, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #354

Adventure Comics #354 (March 1967)
title: "The Adult Legion!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
letterer: Milton Snappin
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan and George Klein
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board:
Brainiac 5, Cosmic Man, Element Man, Lightning Man, Polar Man, Saturn Woman, Superman, Timber Wolf

Bouncing Boy, Colossal Man, Dream Girl, Duo Damsel, Duplicate Boy, Lightning Lady, Matter Eater Lad, Mon-El, Phantom Woman, Shrinking Violet, Star Boy, Ultra Man (and a host of cameos).

Opponents: Douglas Nolan and the Legion of Super-Villains.

Superman is called to the future by the Legion for the first time in several years. He finds many changes, including an expanded headquarters, monuments to deceased members, and statues of Legionnaires who have married.
He is welcomed by Brainiac 5, who takes him on a tour of their new base. They contact most of their teammates so Superman can catch up on their lives.

Superman learns that Ultra Man and Phantom Woman have married, and that Mon-El has become a space explorer. They are interrupted by the arrival of Timber Wolf and Lightning Man, and it is revealed that Brin is also married to another Legionnaire.
Brainiac 5 takes Superman to catch up with Matter Eater Man, who is President of the planet Bismoll, and Colossal Man, who is director of the Inter-Galactic Guard. We also get to see the grown up lives of Dream Girl, Star Boy, Bouncing Boy, and Duo Damsel. Once the catching up is done, they return to a meeting of the active Legionnaires and Superman is told that the team is facing an enemy who knows their secrets. He is able to avoid their traps, infiltrate their headquarters, and sabotage them. Superman agrees to stay for a few weeks, and is helping them on a mission at the Grand Central Spaceport when there is a blackout.
In the darkness, they are attacked by a hooded figure. He takes down several Legionnaires before being driven off by Superman. They began to suspect he may be another Legionnaire and go through the profiles of members with a criminal history, such as Nemesis Kid. A dejected Superman wanders through the monuments when he suddenly solves the mystery! He informs Cosmic Man, but they leave their teammates and us in the dark as to their plan. After several days, others began to lose their patience.
Elsewhere, an intruder breaks into their headquarters and plants a reflex gas bomb. The team is weakened, and while they try to fight back, most are unable to defend themselves.
The team seems near defeat when Superman reveals that he is actually Cosmic Man in disguise. This means the villain's Kryptonite trap does not work on him, and Cosmic Man is able to capture the intruder.  The team discovers that it is Douglas Nolan, the brother of their deceased team member Ferro Lad.
Douglas reveals that when his brother died he swore vengeance on the team. However, when he learned that his brother had willingly sacrificed himself to save the galaxy, his attitude changed. His hatred recently flared up again and he hatched this plot against the Legion, but the team learns that he did not act of his own will.  Saturn Woman suspects who is responsible.
This issue is an interesting glimpse into a sort of "What If?" tale of this era, and it reads very much like a high school reunion story for the team. The older versions of the Legion, including who married who, are amusing. The art is also fun since Swan's method of portraying the male members as older was often to give them mustaches or obviously receding hairlines. The woman definitely get the better end of the deal as far as aging goes. There has also been quite a bit of romance among the team!

We all know from reading subsequent Legion stories that this issue ends up for the most part being an imaginary tale, so that removes any real sense of stakes to the story. But there are some elements that came true, such as Polar Man and some of the Subs becoming members. There are also some fun Easter eggs on the cover, like getting our first glimpse of Chemical King, Quantum Queen, and others. There is also a Shadow Woman eleven issues before Shadow Lass first appears. Douglas Nolan will also reappear in issue #300 of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

This is a pretty light, slow-paced issue, with very little action, particularly in contrast to some of their recent adventures. Very, very Silver Age in nature, but there was a lot I really enjoyed, from the monuments that Superman browsed in the beginning, to various Legion romances, and the basic premise that Superman has not been in contact with the Legion for at least a decade or so. Again, much lighter in tone than we have seen recently, but definitely worth giving a read if you have not already!

Science Police Notes:  
  • Shadow Lass is drawn on the cover as Shadow Woman, colored as a Caucasian. She will make her debut in Adventure Comics #365.  
  • Chemical King will make his debut in Adventure Comics #371. He will die in Superboy/Legion #228. 
  • Quantum Queen will make her debut in Adventure Comics #375 as a member of the Wanderers. Although she guest-starred from time to time, she was never shown joining the Legion in this continuity. 
  • Reflecto will make his debut in Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #277. His statue will make its debut in Legion (v2) #282. 
  • Timber Wolf made his debut in Adventure Comics #327. He will join the Legion in Adventure Comics #372. 
  • Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy will get married in Superboy/Legion #200. 
  • Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad will get married in All-New Collectors' Edition C-55. They will rejoin the Legion in Superboy/Legion #245. 
  • Matter-Eater Lad will leave the Legion in Superboy/Legion #212 when he is drafted into politics on his home world. 
  • The overall "continuity" of this story is called into question after the events of Legion (v2) #300. 
  • Polar Boy will join the Legion in Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #14. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 6, Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3, The Legion: 1050 Years Of The Future TPB, and The Life and Death of Ferro Lad.


  1. Some stray thoughts:

    It always seemed to me that the introduction of Douglas Nolan immediately after Andrew's death was rather forced - the "long-lost or unknown twin brother" trope. And, why introduce him in this story? I understand that Shooter (or perhaps Weisinger) wanted to show a future version of the Legion, but having Douglas attack the "current" version of the team at a later date might have made a more compelling story. Still, if that had happened, we probably wouldn't have had the great Levitz story of Legion #300, and I'm all for that.

    Love Saturn Woman's response when asked if she can free Douglas' mid: "I can try." You rarely see that kind od strength or grit in DC's Silver Age heroines.

    In the Science Police Notes, it should be mentioned that Matter-Eater Lad left the Legion in Superboy/Legion #212 after he was "drafted" into his home world's political process.

    1. Sorry - Douglas' "mind" and that kind "of" strength. Haven't had my coffee yet. :P

    2. Re: your call-out on Matter-Eater Lad, you're right so I have added him and a few others. Thanks!

  2. Far from being a mere "What if?" tale, this story actually stood, for a long time(as such things are measured in comic terms), as the "Bible" of where the Legion was heading as time progressed. The new headquarters, the resignation of Matter-Eater Lad to go into politics, and many other elements were, as mentioned, made part of the Legion canon. Fans at the time even made inferences from the absence of certain characters from the story. Some fan has even done an expanded cover to show the roster of the dead including Invisible Kid, Supergirl, and Karate Kid.

  3. It's crazy that I haven't read this story until now. It's great to finally be able to fill in some blanks, though I've gotten most of it through flashbacks, "LoSH" #300, context and other random places.

    I am thrilled that it was envisioned so far back that Polar Boy would have finally made it onto the team. The things that make me laugh are the receding hairlines, and the pairings that didn't come to pass.

  4. Re the receding hairlines: in an intro to one of the Legion Archives, the writer mentions that Lightning Lad was the original bad luck hero, not only because he was the first Legionnaire to "die" and later lost an arm, but he was the first to have a noticeably receding hairline (referring to the way Curt Swan drew him). As he put it, "you define bad luck YOUR way, I'll define it MY way."

  5. In addition to the receding hairlines, pipe-smoking as a marker of adulthood is also delightfully hilarious.