Tuesday, February 26, 2019

TOS: Adventure Comics #376

Adventure Comics #376 (January 1969)
title: "The Execution of Chameleon Boy!"
writer and layouts: Jim Shooter
artist: Win Mortimer
letterer: Gasper Saladino
editor: Mort Weisinger
cover: Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino, and Neal Adams
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: Chameleon Boy. Cameos by Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Saturn Girl, Shadow Lass, Superboy, Supergirl, and Ultra Boy.

After winning the contest to prove himself the mightiest Legionnaire, Bouncing Boy disappears in a flash of light. Before the Legion has time to absorb what happened, they are stunned by the arrival of another Bouncing Boy! His last memory is battling Chameleon Boy, who he assumes must have been impersonating him. This theory has problems, though, as Chameleon Boy is presently lying in a coma at the Med Center. While the team retraces the events of the past few days, the missing Bouncing Boy materializes in a strange throne room. 

He is introduced to King Astros and his knights, each of whom has specialized weaponry that gives them unusual abilities. One of them, Kayle, explains that they created the challenge of last issue in hopes that the mightiest Legionnaire could defeat their enemy, Kodar. He is claiming the right to marry the King's daughter in order to inherit the throne and none of the knights have the power to face him.
Bouncing Boy is hesitant to get involved but is told that whoever saves Princess Elwinda shall have her hand in marriage. He is introduced to the Princess and finds himself caught off guard by her beauty. Before he can respond, one of the devices in the castle detects that Bouncing Boy is not who he seems. The knights do not react well to the revelation.
After Psyche blasted Proty, Chameleon Boy jumped in and defeated her. Still thinking of the Legion's competition, Chameleon took Bouncing Boy's form expecting it could be an ace in the hole in the final round. It turned out not to be needed, but then he thought he could use it to catch the Legion's challenger by surprise. Chameleon Boy is locked in his chambers while the King meets with advisors to discuss what they have learned. After Cham sees the Princess strolling in the garden from his window, he takes the form of a bird to pay her a visit.
Cham and the Princess hit it off quite well, but Cham is soon brought back before the King. Apparently, the people of this world turn out to be racist and xenophobic, and are unwilling to risk the possibility that this "orange-skinned alien freak" may defeat Kodar and win her hand in marriage. Cham is locked in the dungeon while the Princess tries to appeal to her father on his behalf. Their discussion is interrupted when Kodar attacks the castle. In the chaos, Cham gets free and confronts Kodar.
Cham is overjoyed to be accepted and is ready to spend the rest of his life with the princess. He is a bit disturbed to find that the wedding ceremony involves each of them taking their vows separate under raised axes, but hey, when in Rome and all that. Unfortunately for Cham, the Legion finally tracks him down and it appears from their view screen that he is about to be executed. Thinking they have only seconds to save their friend, Brainiac 5 teleports Cham home. Needless to say, he is not happy to be home.
Commentary: If you read my review to last issue, you may recall that I was not a fan of that story. That is why I went in to this second part expecting the worst. After reading it, I have to say that it was...pleasantly surprising. Sure, it was silly, there was nothing very original here, and it is not a tale that would be described as memorable. Nevertheless, it had a certain charm. The Legend of King Arthur clearly had some influence here, which Shooter flat out acknowledged through Cham's dialogue.

Solo stories are pretty rare in this era so letting Cham get his own adventure was nice. I enjoyed seeing him play the hero and get the girl, and was frankly very relieved that it turned out not to be a Proty solo adventure. I recalled very little about this story but it was obvious from last issue that Proty was going to play a significant role. Fortunately, while it was significant in that it helped explain the big reveal, it did not equate to more than a quick flashback scene for Proty. (I do kind of wish the cover had not pretty much spoiled the secret of the two Bouncing Boys though.)

The ending has a very sitcom feel to it, which was appropriate to the mood of the issue, but also left many unanswered questions. Why could they not just send Cham back? Brainiac 5 said he had sealed the passageway between their worlds but couldn't Brainy just unseal it? Why does Cham not even ask? He was willing to give up his life with the Legion and stay in that other world with the Princess, but he just accepts what Brainiac 5 says and walks off? Again, this is just a silly side tale for one Legionnaire, but the ending still feels just a bit too abrupt. 

Of course, if you think the whole axe ceremony was a fake, and the King was actually scheming to take Cham's head off, maybe the ending was for the best...

This is not the type of story that deserves to be nitpicked though so I will sum up it up this way...light, cute, ridiculous...but still fun.

Science Police Notes:  
  • Princess Elwinda is never shown again, although she is mentioned in passing in Action Comics #383.  
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 8 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.


  1. A few random thoughts:

    One should admire Shooter's daring in presenting a solo Legionnaire story as a main feature rather than as a back-up. I suspect that this was more Marvel influence, focusing on character as much as on plot. In that, Shooter was ahead of the curve here. But them, the feature was about to change homes, and he may have seen the opportunity to take a risk.

    This story IS influential in one regard: it highlights Cham's feeling of isolation due to his appearance and ability to shape-shift, as well as his angst over the way others distrust him regarding his power even in his home dimension. This trope picked up steam in the early 80's and was used very effectively by Levitz to show the true Durlans as a paranoid, hyper-isolationistic race. Kudos here to Shooter.

    I'm glad nothing more was made about Cham being able to separate part of himself and have that piece be able to shapeshift. I'm not sure why, but that doesn't seem... right, somehow. Don't get me wrong, I like how Shooter tries to expand Cham's abilities, but this wasn't to my liking. It feels like it makes Cham an amorphous creature, not unlike Proty, which he has never been portrayed as. On the plus side, it is a precursor to characters like Odo, my favorite from DS9.

    You make two really good points here, Mike:

    * It could very well be that the king might have been planning to kill Cham the "monster" under the guise of a wedding tradition, intending to tell Elwinda that is was simply a tragic mishap. Come to think of it, that might have been a better ending: Cham saves himself at the last minute from a beheading, and THEN the Legion 'ports him out of there, leaving him to wonder if Elwinda was in on it. Nah, that's too cruel.

    * I agree that this ending was way too abrupt for a story with such emotional exploration. The familiar Shooter "last-minute-rush-to-the-end" is inappropriate. This is a story that NEEDS far more denouement than was given here.

    Hey! I haven't used "flustercuckery" here. I'm so proud of myself. ;)

  2. The whole story does have a "fairy-tale" quality to it which is only reinforced by the Cinderella references at the end. Hey, I wonder if Chameleon Boy could actually LIFT his head off by becoming a guy holding his head in his hands. How creepy would THAT be?

    1. Thanks. Emsley. Now I have THAT image stuck in my head. Just rock me to sleep, why don't you? lol