Tuesday, September 25, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #358

Adventure Comics #358 (July 1967)
title: "The Hunter!"
writer & layouts: Jim Shooter
artist: George Papp
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan & George Klein
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane, Jason "Anachronistic Kid" Knol, and Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Superboy, Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Shrinking Violet, Karate Kid, Chameleon Boy

Otto Orion aka "The Hunter," his lackey Jakra, his armed minions

On the small jungle planet Simballi, Otto Orion aka "The Hunter" flushes out and kills another Tigerram. However, he is bored by hunting dangerous animals. That night he cancels "the Feast of the Kill." He tells his number one henchman, Jakra, that he wants to hunt the Legion of Super-Heroes now. He has even gone to the trouble of creating plastic heads of the Legionnaires and mounted them on the wall as future trophies. 
Mike: Pretty standard set up of the bored, rich millionaire spending his time trophy hunting, while throwing in a bit of 30th century scenery. Giving Krave...um, I mean, Otto, white features while having everyone who serves him appear Asian also adds some uncomfortable racial overtones as well.
J: Spot-on with all those assessments, but on the plus-side I really admire his "visualize and attack" method of goal-setting here. But having all these henchman essentially trap his prey so he can shoot 'em is really lazy. Not much of a hunt, not much of a sport.
Russell: Visually this is cool but a bit creepy. Also, the nerd in me looked at the two times these plastic heads were shown and compared them. Guess what? They were not drawn the same way both times. That's lazy work by George Papp. Compare above and below:
Russell: Also Supergirl, Lighting Lad, and Light Lass don't have their heads up on the wall. Oops! I have a feeling I'm going to hate this story.
I love the henchman's step-ladder, though.

Otto Orion decides to ship some of his more dangerous "pets" on his private cargo fleet to various Earth space ports. He arrives on Earth as well and then issues an ultimatum to the Legion, to surrender or risk bloodshed. The Legionnaires on duty on Earth investigate, but do not surrender. So the Hunter releases his animals from the Metropolis Space Port. 
Mike: "It took considerable skill and power to create those letters." Really? Sky writing? In the 30th century? I would think that'd be pretty simple.
While I am not a fan of "the Hunter," I do think his plan of sending his pets to attack at various space ports was actually a pretty interesting and a nice visual. Although if he is such a collector, it's a bit surprising to see him risk so much of his collection. I guess he is really, really bored.
J: C'mon now, the stunned crowd clearly said the words appeared "as if by magic!" They would've spotted a plane for skywriting. Only a skilled hunter and his team of henchman could make cloud-letters like that. I hope Shooter's layouts (and not Papp's imagination) rightfully take the blame for so many interstellar animals looking so much like Earth animals with mild mutations.
Russell: Did anyone else think, "Surrender Dorothy"?
I like how George Papp or whoever the letterer was added "Pittsburgh" as one of the great Earth cities as an in-joke to Jim Shooter (who was growing up there at the time of this story), but managed to spell it wrong.

The Legion is able to slow them down, but not to stop them. The Hunter arrives with special radioactive and kryptonite beasts, which succeed in stopping Ultra Boy and Superboy. He demands that the Legion surrenders to him. Invisible Kid as leader surrenders on behalf of all of them. The Hunter then commands his animals to go back to his ships, and his sheer force of will is able to convince his animals to do so. He then commands the Legion to be caged on his personal ship. They all fly off to Simballi. 
Mike: The high point of this story for me is the several pages of action we get as the Legionnaires fight the alien beasts. Their powers get showcased and I love goofy names like a Venusian Tricorn Beast or Ankarian Toad!
J: Yes! Seeing Karate Kid knock out a Jovian Mastodon was amazing. Really, his action panels were the best since he actually attacked the animals and didn't just dodge 'em. I definitely underestimated the Hunter and thought he was defeated until the radioactive and Kryptonite creatures came out.
Russell: I'm with the other guys, I loved this whole sequence. Karate Kid held his own, much more than several of the other more senior Legionnaires. On the other hand, those Kryptonite creatures look like the monsters that Luthor sicced on the Boy of Steel back in Superboy #86 (as illustrated by, you guessed it, George Papp!)
And the fact that Invisible Kid allows the Legion to be taken captive in exchange for the safety of Metropolis....that takes courage. Good for him!

Once on the Hunters's jungle planet, the Legionnaires are held captive as Hunter stages a Fesat of the Kill. Karate Kid has had enough, and tries to break free. However, that triggers the prison's defense mechanisms, and all of the male Legionnaires are knocked out. 
Mike: Nice to see Karate Kid get some attention even though he fails. One problem I have here is that those defenses just look lame. Although there is a defense specific to each of their powers, they are also just small guns sticking out of the walls. The Legion should easily be able to figure out a way around them. I mean, if nothing else, super-speed kids! At least two of you have that! Use it!
J: Again, nothing but admiration for the Hunter's foresight in setting up these defenses. He's more than roguish good looks and burly charisma. Even Superboy admits he's "really a scientific genius!"
Russell: This is where I started to question the logic of this story. How could the Hunter have known which Legionnaires he was going to start his hunt with? What if he had caught, say, Phantom Girl or Element Lad, who could have broken free easily? A little bit too convenient if you ask me.....

The next morning, the Hunter tells them that all they have to do to survive is to get to the Totem Pole on Sacrificial Mountain, some kilometers away from his camp. He gives them 15 minutes head start 
Mike: Again...super-speed! Come on, Legionnaires!
J: Careful, Hunter, pride goeth before the fall! Who gives superheroes a 15-minute head start?
Russell: Although there is no mention of it, the Hunter must have either a) taken their Legion Flight Rings or b) doctored the water to make all the Legionnaires super-stupid. More on this in a moment.

Invisible Kid orders Superboy to fly off to the totem pole and win their freedom, but the Hunter was waiting for this. He is caught by a hawk carrying a large chunk of Green Kryptonite. 
Mike: Okay, this is not the Legion at their best. That in-story explanation line from Invisible Kid just makes it worse. It tells the reader that they threw away an obvious chance to end this quickly before Otto could take any steps to stop them.
J: Or the Legion recognizes the Hunter's methodical genius and admit the futility of attempting to outwit their captor!
Russell: The truth is somewhere in-between your two comments, I think. If this were better written, I think Jim Shooter would have had the Legionnaires stop and discuss their plan of action....such as all flying off to the totem pole in various directions? Surely the Hunter could not have caught all six of them if they had all flown off separately? This story is a good example of the characters acting stupid in the cause of the plot, instead of acting as if their lives really do depend on them coming up with a good idea.

Having witnessed Superboy being captured, Invisible Kid orders the others to split up and get to the totem pole as quickly as possible. 
Mike: Credit to Otto for realizing that Ultra Boy is the biggest threat to his plan, even if the Legion itself seems to fail to realize it.
J: I can't believe Invisible Kid's brilliant plan is for everyone to split up. Thanks, leader, we're definitely better on our own.
Russell: This is where I *really* get angry with this story. The whole code of the Legion is that they are stronger as a team than as individuals. They should NEVER have split up. That's just idiotic. Didn't Cham and Invisible Kid learn anything from being captured and imprisoned in the Stalag of Space? There's power in numbers!!

Ultra Boy is targeted by Ultra-Beasts, who bombard him with Flash Vision until he switches to Ultra-Speed to try to escape. However, they grab him before he can escape. Before he can switch to Ultra-Invulnerability, they knock him out. 
Mike: Now he decides to use ultra-speed....
J: And look where it got him! The Hunter is always several steps ahead of his prey, even when it's the Legion of Superheroes.
Russell: But if Cham or Karate Kid had been with him, Ultra Boy would have been able to break free. (sigh)

Chameleon Boy changes into one of the Hunter's hunting dogs, but the other dogs pick up his scent and alert the Hunter to his presence. Chameleon Boy switches to a monster, but the Hunter is not scared, and calmly darts Cham into unconsciousness. 
Mike: Seems like becoming a native bird or insect a while ago might have been the better play here Cham.
J: No one escapes the Hunter!!!
Russell: Seems like he should have turned into one of the henchmen instead. Another half-ass idea from a character that should have known better.

In the jungle Shrinking Violet shrinks to escape her human pursuers, but is scared by all of the smaller predators that are after her. She grows again, and is captured. Karate Kid hears her cries for help, but when he tries to rescue her a trap springs on him and captures him, too. 
Mike: Ouch, that trap on Karate Kid looked really painful! I cannot imagine how he could get out of that without his legs being crushed at least. Since we do not see him again, I am going to assume that is what happened and its only thanks to 30th century medicine that he is up and around the next time he shows up.
J: Once again Karate Kid is the ultimate fighting machine in this story. There's a panel with him spinning, throwing out karate chops and knocking out 5 guys at once. Too cool!
Russell: Please tell me what the hell the point of Shrinking Violet is if she can't do much in miniature and she can't do much at normal size. Also please note she is in that cage, stuck in fly-paper on the far right. Oh, the indignities.

Meanwhile Invisible Kid moves slowly but surely towards the totem pole. When he hears the hunting dogs and air cars in pursuit, he takes to the trees. He makes a rope out of his shirt and swings from tree to tree ala Tarzan. He arrives at Sacrificial Mountain. 
Mike: Well, it took a while, but nice to see Invisible Kid finally using some ingenuity here. After all this time.
J: I love love love that close-up on his face in total fear and panic. Fantastic. But what's all this shirt-rope crap? How does he, uh, attach it to a branch on a tree in front of him, swing forward, detach the shirt-rope, attach it to the next ahhhhh forget it.
Russell: Didn't everybody play "kick the can" when they were kids? Obviously, if the target is the totem pole, that is where the Hunter needs to be. D'uh.

Rushing towards the mountain, Invisible Kid climbs it to reach the top and touch the totem pole goal. The Hunter arrives and shoots at him, but Invisible Kid refuses to give up. When he succeeds in touching the totem pole, he not only saves himself and his friends, but the air car that the Hunter is riding on explodes! 
J: Wait... so the Hunter had Invisible Kid in his sights, gave a warning shot, gave a verbal warning, then somehow proceeded to miss several shots after that?
Russell: And it wasn't because Invisible Kid was actually invisible, either, which would have made more sense. I wonder if that was an editorial breakdown in communication or something.

The Hunter as he lay dying admits to Invisible Kid that he made this a life-or-death struggle by planting a bomb in his air car set to go off if any Legionnaire touched the totem pole. He orders Jakra to fee the Legionnaires, then dies. 
Mike: Well...okay then.  I can see what they were going for here, but I felt so disengaged from the story at this point that it had no emotional impact for me. This ends up just feeling like a very complicated way for Otto to commit suicide. Which actually could have some gravitas if handled well in a better story.
J: Exactly! This is messed-up, man. Definitely more about Otto committing suicide-by-Legionnaire, in a manner of speaking. The way he first says "I... am dying..." makes it seem like he had some kind of terminal illness and this was his last hurrah. But I can see how the words could also be read as he was dying in that moment, so his confession was that he strapped the bomb into his belt to give him the thrill of potentially losing. But in the end he clearly chose to not win.
Russell: Just like the rest of the story, this conclusion just doesn't work. There was a bomb in his BELT which was able to destroy his sky sled, but not rip him in half? And I think this would have worked better if it WAS more of "suicide-by-Legionnaire." But.....oh, never mind.

Russell: I'm not going to mince words, I hated this story. This read more like a throw-back to the tales from 2-3 years ago and less like a Jim Shooter era adventure. The Legionnaires were idiots, the plot holes were gaping, and the villain shouldn't have gotten off of Earth. Even if we excuse the lack of the heroes calling for help, there's no excuse for them not using their flight rings or for not using their powers in more creative ways. I like the idea of a bad guy going hunting for Legionnaires, but it was done much, much better in the Super-Stalag and Grimbor stories. This is just a mess. 
Mike: So...I did not dislike this issue as much as you but I also did not like it either. There were just so many occasions when the Legion seemed to drop the ball in obvious ways that it just made so much of what was happening feel unnecessary. There were actually a few moments here that were enjoyable...the action scene with the aliens beasts attacking the space ports and the Legion fighting back...when Invisible Kid finally started using his head there at the end. But overall it just felt so...lacking. On the other hand, I do want to dig out the sequel with Otto's son because I am curious how it's handled.
J: Definitely one of my least-favorite Silver Age Legion stories. Nothing really original here, the art varied between beautifully engaging and lazy, boring close-ups. The ending kind of freaked me out, that this was all an elaborate suicide by a villain who would have otherwise won. The Legion came across as incompetent. And did we even get a mention of everyone else being off on another mission or something to that effect? After this I look forward to the treasures within Volume 7 of the Archives.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Superboy is the only Legionnaire on this issue's cover. 
  • Animals mentioned in this story include the Tigerram, the Ekala, the Jovian Mastodon, the Oraxian Cyclops, the Sloth-Ape, the Tricorn Beast, the Ankarian Toad, and the Toradian Karkon. 
  • Although Otto Orion dies in this story, his son appears as the new Hunter to carry on his legacy, starting with Superboy/Legion #199. 
  • Kraven the Hunter made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #15 (August 1964) a good three years before this wannabe. 
  • This story is clearly based on the short-story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, originally published in the magazine Collier's on January 19, 1924. It was turned into a film in 1932 starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, and Robert Armstrong. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 6 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 3.


  1. Well, even Jim Shooter can't hit it out of the park every time. The best that can be said about this story is that you don't notice the flaws while you're reading it, only later. I did find it a neat touch that the Hunter built his own personal stake into the hunt himself.

  2. I agree with Emsley about the Hunter creating his own endangerment to make it a "real" hunt, that it was a nice twist. Something I've noticed about Shooter's stories, at least at this stage of his career, is that his better ones are two-parters, such as the Sun Eater/Fatal Five and the upcoming TOS story. (There are exceptions - "The Ghost of Ferro Lad" is a great story, and I fing the two-part Adult Legion story a bit lacking.) Two-parters allow the story room to develop at a wider pace, which was to the novice Shooter's advantage. Who knows, maybe the Hunter story would've been improved if it was two parts.