Tuesday, December 11, 2018

TOS: Adventure Comics #368

Adventure Comics #368 (May 1968)
title: "The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
penciller: Curt Swan
inker: George Klein
letterer: Gaspar Saladino & Charlotte Jetter
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Neal Adams
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage, Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane, and Jason "Anachronistic Kid" Knol

Mission Monitor Board: 
Girls: Duo Damsel, Light Lass, Phantom Girl, Princess Projectra, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Supergirl, Dream Girl
Boys: Brainiac 5, Invisible Kid, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Star Boy, Superboy, Ultra Boy

Thora, Ambassador from Taltar

Karate Kid is sparring with an armored partner in an attempt to master the Krishnu Gauntlets from Gamon Tol. He defeats his opponent, who turns out to be Superboy. Then Karate Kid proudly shows his friend his private quarters with his collection of weapons from various planets. His goal is to master every known fighting style in the universe. 
Mike: I really like the idea of Superboy being Karate Kid's sparring partner here because it lets the Kid completely cut lose without any fear of injuring his opponent. That has to be a refreshing change for him and an opportunity to push himself in a way he usually cannot. Those weapons though...it's a great idea that he wants to become proficient in every weapon but it's hard to imagine many of these actually being used by the Kid during this era given the damage they could inflict.
J: It's got to be weird for Superboy to try imitating a sparring partner. He has to consider how a regular person would respond to each impact and essentially pretend to live out that effect. So awkward.
Russell: I would have liked this whole scene more if it hadn't ended with a "death blow." Come on, Kid!!

Suddenly, there is an emergency so they rush off to the Mission Monitor Station. They go with several other Legionnaires to investigate the crash-landing of a visiting ambassador. As they arrive at the Space Port to aid the fire crew, the ambassador emerges from the wreckage unharmed. The Legionnaires are surprised by this, and by the fact that Ambassador Thora from Taltar is a woman. She, in turn, is surprised when Invisible Kid identifies himself as the leader, as Thora comes from a matriarchal society. Invisible Kid tells her that although Earth has a patriarchal history, society believes in equality. 
Russell: This page features my favorite panel of the story; even though most of the girls defer to most of the boys, the leader of the Legion clearly states that their society believes in equality. Somehow Jim Shooter snuck this by good ole Mort Weisinger!
Mike: I have to wonder what Mort thought of the whole story up until this point. The ambassador refers to patriarchal societies as primitive, implying that a matriarchal society is where more evolved species are headed.
J: It strikes me how a visiting Ambassador, from a planet that Earth only contacted a month ago, greets with condescension the natives who saved her.

Later, the women Legionnaires are in the girls' dorm area of their headquarters talking about "girly things" and equality. 
Russell: ....and followed closely by my least favorite page, the girls standing around talking about fabrics and decoration (and, to their credit, politics). I love how Princess Projectra can't be bothered to decorate.
Mike: This scene actually made me laugh because it's such a stark contrast from what we just got on the previous page. They even throw in a sewing machine and have the girls discussing patterns and fabric. The dialogue by Saturn Girl and Supergirl was hilarious. Shooter may as well have written "oh that crazy Ambassador...thinking us silly girls would ever want to take charge with all of these big, strong men around?"
J: "Gee whiz, gals, could we ever be more than this? Oh, but I wouldn't want to take away from the time I dedicate to decorating!" Agreed that this whole page was such an ugly cliche. At best it undercuts their strengths so each wave of super-power-boosting radiation seems more impressive, but  they're on equal footing in the first place. This felt so artificial.

Thora, meanwhile, uses her Taltarian science to carve statuettes of the women Legionnaires and then radiate them with energy from her special bracelet. 
Mike: Although she is obviously being set up as the villain, I cannot help but like Thora.
J: I really dig that her ability here is akin to scientifically-blasted voodoo dolls. None if it makes any sense, but that doesn't matter. Radiated voodoo dolls cannot be argued with.

The next day, Invisible Kid is surprised to find out that all of the women Legionnaires' abilities have been increased: Duo Damsel can  now split into hundreds of copies of herself, Phantom Girl can now hold items as a phantom and turn others into phantoms, Shrinking Violet can grow as well as shrink, Shadow Lass can extend her darkness over the entire planet. While out on a mission, Light Lass realizes that she can control gravity on a scale she never could before. Likewise, Saturn Girl can scan through large crowds of people to easily recognize the terrorists. Elsewhere, Supergirl is now immune to Green Kryptonite and rescues Superboy from danger. 
J: I love seeing the female Legionnaires with amped-up powers. Not only does it make their already-cool powers border on terrifying, but the guys are almost instantly obsolete. No shame, fellas! Chin up! 
Mike: There were some fun panels here, especially Duo Damsel multiplying herself so much and "Colossal Girl." Makes me think about how powerful many of the female Legionnaires are even without a boost. Particularly Supergirl, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, and Light Lass. All have powers that would be very effective in combat.

When Brainiac 5 runs tests on the women Legionnaires he finds nothing out of the ordinary, but suggests that they might be suffering from some rare space disease. On that diagnosis Invisible Kid orders the women quarantined until the cause of their power increase can be determined. They are angry, but go along. Elsewhere, Thora blasts her statuettes again, and the women's personalities begin to become more forceful. 
J: From a leadership standpoint I think Invisible Kid had to walk a fine line here. There's absolutely a precedent for a lethal disease that has similar symptoms, so a quarantine makes sense. I appreciate Supergirl being the voice of reason when they're locked away, because we all know Superboy would do the same.
Mike: Hm. His reasoning is logical on its face but...I don't know. I am a bit uncomfortable with how strongly he seems to be reacting to their increased power levels here.

When the men respond to a prison break and appear to be in danger, the women break quarantine and go to help out. 
J: Once again, the amped-up super-powers of the females make them unsettlingly powerful. Duo Damsel is an army, Shadow Lass can black-out half the world and Supergirl is unstoppable. And while Invisible Kid is the leader I still can't believe he had the nerve to order them around after they just saved the day.
Mike: This issue is full of some really nice action scenes and solid art all around. Shooter's layouts seem to be encouraging Swan into more unusual panel designs than he would normally do, and it's just great seeing the female side of the team getting showcased so much using their powers.

Instead of thanks, however, Invisible Kid is angry at their not obeying his command. Light Lass erupts, leading the attack against the men. They defeat them easily, then decide to kick them out of the Legion for not being powerful enough. 
J: It's tough to tell here if the girls jumped the gun on using force, or if the boys were actually trying to fight them. So many tempers flaring, so much quick-to-anger violence among Legionnaires. I always feel bad when the Legionnaires turn against each other. 
Mike: I probably enjoyed that head butting maneuver by Light Lass way too much. But Invisible Kid was being a jerk and Brainiac 5 has a history of being too pompous, so they could use a bit of humbling. Tempers are flaring too quickly but that's fairly typical in superhero comic books, and at least we get some explanation below.

Thora arrives at the Legion headquarters and begins to "push" the women to lead a revolt against the entire United Planets. However, when Shadow Lass envisions making Brainiac 5 her slave, Supergirl suddenly realizes that they are being controlled. Her super-will is able to fight back against Thora's mind altering rays. 
J: "Not my Brainiac..." oh, kids in love-- you're so adorable! This seems like the part that could be the biggest, longest debate: does Supergirl's love for Brainiac 5 undercut the female empowerment angle of the story? It's the key to defeating the villain here, as she realizes that the females are being influenced and/or controlled into subjugating the males. So while I'm always a sucker for love conquering all, it's a shame that Supergirl couldn't just use, say, her super-logic to step back and see what was happening.
Mike: I agree on both counts. I could not help but find her feelings towards Brainiac 5 touching, but yeah, it would have been nice seeing her resist solely based on her own strength of will or super-logic too.
Russell: I wonder if this is where Shadow Lass threw off the affection she had felt for Brainiac 5 and started looking around for somebody else. She hangs with Mon-El in a big way in the very next story. 

Meanwhile, the men are using a Legion Cruiser as their make-shift headquarters. Lightning Lad and Star Boy go to stop a sea-monster at the Metropolis Water Desalination Plant but are being beaten. Four women Legionnaires arrive and quickly capture the creature. Supergirl sees Thora bathing statuettes with her bracelet and asks to see it; when Thora refuses Supergirl realizes that the bracelet must be destroyed. 
J: What a totally normal tradition! Touching someone's bracelet brings bad luck in the form of death.
Mike: It really left like Supergirl was on to something here and that she just wasn't quite buying her explanation as to the bracelet, which was a nice touch. 

Shrinking Violet and Light Lass step in to stop a skyscraper from collapsing when Ultra Boy and Karate Kid are failing. Supergirl saves the city of Buena Suerte in the Andes before Superboy can do anything. 
J: While I don't agree with their throwing-the-boys-out-of-the-Legion policy, suddenly a Matriarchal society is looking pretty damn good. They get the hero work done lickity-split!
Mike: The girls look so pleased with themselves too. Sure they are under the influence of Thora, but still, they deserve to be proud given how effective they are.

Later, Thora convinces her radiated Legionnaires to take over the entire United Planets. The men show up to stop them, but before the battle gets too far a bomb that Supergirl planted on Thora's bracelet goes off, destroying it. The women Legionnaires are freed from her control. 
J: If it weren't for Supergirl's love for Brainiac 5, the entire planet would have been taken over by intensely overpowered female Legionnaires. Side-thought: where did this radioactive voodoo power come from? Can it be replicated? Was it used again? Can I create my own? How about if I just use crude drawings and an inert gas?
Mike: Shhhhh...it's never to be spoken of again. That panel of the girls beating the hell out of the boys is the best of this issue. Especially seeing two of Duo Damsel holding Brainiac 5 and Karate Kid while other Legionnaires strike them. I love that once they decided to make the girls more powerful, they did not hold back in emphasizing it.

Rather than face punishment, Thora commits suicide. Brainiac 5 then tells everyone that while she was on Earth, her native planet Taltar had overthrown their matriarchal society.   
J: So much going on in this brief ending! First off, a villain that commits suicide is pretty dark. I don't think they've done that a single time in My Little Pony. Also Thora's visit to Earth was an incredibly short amount of time to topple a government. And finally, that Supergirl comment is going to stick in my craw for some time. The way I'm reading it sounds like she's saying, in so many words, that God makes sure men stay in the dominant position. That's such a gross sentiment, especially coming from Supergirl. I'll just blame it on the times and sleep well knowing that the future is malleable.
Mike: Yes, that is certainly problematic and this issue is full of conflicting sentiments. Overall, while moments like the final panels and the girls hanging in their sewing room were just awkward, I still liked this issue. Yes, the whole genders battling thing can be a bit ridiculous at times, but we have not had an opportunity to see so many female Legionnaires cutting loose like this and there was much to enjoy here.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Dream Girl appears in this story, but is not given a spotlight scene with increased power. 
  • Although all of the current women Legionnaires appear in this story, several of the men are absent. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 8 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

This is the last issue inked by George Klein. He was Curt Swan's "go-to" inker in the Sixties. He inked most of Curt Swan's pencils, including innumerable Swan covers. Klein left DC for Marvel, but then passed away in 1969. He is sorely missed. 


  1. I'm surprised none of you mentioned the Adventure Comics #326 Legion story "The Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires", which has many of the same features as this one. It also has the heroines being mind-controlled by a matriarchal queen into attacking the boys, which they do quite effectively, only for the queen to contact the girls and admit she was wrong and release them.

    With all the contemporary SJW-ninjas out there, I'm not going to wade into the battle of the sexes here. All I'm going to do is mention that this is another example of Shooter's inexperience. After his clumsy attempt at a pollution message in the two-part Dr. Morlo story, he is now very blatant with an early women's lib message (although again, I do applaud him for his initiative, for it was a topic that needed to be addressed). The best example of this is his contrasting the girls' sewing and discussing decorating (I agree with you, this is too clichéd) with their later aggressiveness.

    I like how Shooter incorporates Marvel-style continuity in this story. President Boltax is still Earth President, even after all these months in publishing time. I also like how he references the relative strength between Superboy and Supergirl, which was often cited in other Weisinger Superman titles. Nice touch, that, and a good Marvel-style cross-reference.

  2. Like Mr. (or Ms.) Anon, I'm surprised that no mention of the earlier story with the same basic plot. Of course, recycled plots were a DC staple back then. Even Mon-El's origin story was a recycled plot. This was all because the thought was that nobody ready comics for more than a few years. So you pull up a plot from ten years back and you're good to go. Still, I think Shooter did the better job with the story here, due to the super-charged powers.

    And yes, the girls sitting at the "Robo sewing machine" is cliched, to the degree that sitting at a robo sewing machine can be, but these are fifty year old stories. Not comparing in terms of quality here, but do we call (Serling's) Twilight Zone or Casablanca cliched? No, because that's where a lot of the cliches started. I can certainly see where "girly time" might be MORE important to women that routinely save entire planets than to your average contemporary female.

    1. FTR, it's Mister Anon.

      I never meant to imply that this story was only a recycled plot -- there are only so many story plots (anywhere from 7 to 39, depending on the source). I just thought that the prior story would have received SOME mention, and I agree with you, Ensley, that Shooter did a better job with the same story structure. I'm also sorry that some form of the girls' souped-up powers wasn't allowed to remain, but that was also another sad hallmark of DC back in the day, that no substantial changes were ever made.

      As for the sewing room scene, all I meant was that Shooter wanted to contrast the kinder, gentler girl Legionnaires with their later hostility, only he used the most clichéd, girly-girl image to do it -- a mark of an inexperienced writer (which was my ultimate point).

    2. "I'm also sorry that some form of the girls' souped-up powers wasn't allowed to remain, but that was also another sad hallmark of DC back in the day, that no substantial changes were ever made." It would have been nice, if nothing else, if Duo Damsel had regained, as a result of this story, her original ability to split into three bodies. A hand-wave of "it was just restoring my original power, so it stuck" would have worked.

  3. I just noticed something: with the exception of Invisible Kid and Superboy, the male Legionnaires in this story are the significant others of most of the females. The notable absentees are Bouncing Boy (since he and Duo Damsel weren't made an item yet), Mon-El, (same reason re Shady) and Timber Wolf (as he had not yet joined). OMG, this is really a Legion-wide lovers' spat !! ;) :D

  4. "The way I'm reading it sounds like she's saying, in so many words, that God makes sure men stay in the dominant position."

    That's EXACTLY what it says. Yeah, totally a messed-up story, illustrating all of the fears of a teenage boy.

    The Legion always had a mixed record with gender issues, but it got significantly worse here. Yes, Saturn Girl was an early leader and shown to be very effective, but all of the girls except Supergirl had extremely passive or physically weak powers and Supergirl was largely absent.