Tuesday, April 23, 2019

TOS: Action Comics #379

Action Comics #379 (Aug 1969)
title: "One Of Us Is An Impostor!"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller: Win Mortimer
inker: Murphy Anderson
letterer: Milton Snapinn
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board: 
Dream Girl, Element Lad, Lightning Lad, Mon-El, Shadow Lass

Sunburst, impostor Legionnaire who may or may not have been Uli Algor

As five Legionnaires call a meeting to order, the computer alarm alerts them that one of these five Legionnaire is an impostor. Before it can reveal anymore, however, it explodes. The Legionnaires are puzzled, then receive another alert that a bad guy named Sunburst is robbing the Metropolitan Mint, which is suspended mid-air over downtown Metropolis by anti-gravity bars. 

On the way, Dream Girl "sees" that Sunburst is defeated by his own power. On the scene, Sunburst blasts the Legionnaires with his solar flare powers, sad that Sun Boy is not with them so that he could compare their powers. Mon-El, surprisingly, is knocked out by the blast. 
Lighting Lad tries to blast Sunburst but misses. Element Lad tries to change the metal in Sunburt's gadgets to hydrogen, but he, too, misses, changing the Mint's door instead. 
Shadow Lass blasts her shadow power towards Sunburst's voice, blinding him. Mon-El then knocks him out. 

Each Legionnaire confronts one another until Mon-El rips off Shadow Lass' face-mask. He knows that the real Shadow Lass would have been weakened by Sunburst's bright light attack. They rescue the real Shadow Lass. 
Mon-El explains that he was weakened because he had forgotten to take his anti-lead serum, which allowed Sunburst's red-sun radiation to stop him. He then explains that Sunburst had electro-magnetic force-field that warped Lighting Lad's and Element Lad's powers and caused Lightning Lad's hair to stand on end. 

Dream Girl's vision was because the fake Shadow Lass' "power" was low intensity light bursts, which only appeared dark compared to Sunburst's intense brightness. 

It didn't take long for the
Action Comics run of the Legion to hit a bump: this is a really bad story. It's written by E. Nelson Bridwell, which is surprising because I generally like this stuff. This time, though, he tries too hard by half to be clever, and it just doesn't work.

Is it just me, or does the "One of us is an impostor" trope re-appear regularly in Silver Age comics? It certainly did appear all the time in Sixties TV shows, where the "doppelganger" was a plot device on almost every TV show I can think of. And we'll see it again in just four more issues! What's worse here is that we have a Caucasian woman wearing full-body make-up (?) to appear as Shadow Lass and NONE of the Legionnaires notice? Also her boy-friend, who, you know, would have probably kissed her or held her hand? He wouldn't have noticed that she was wearing a face-mask? This story is from the heyday of Mission:Impossible, so maybe the peel-away face-mask was a legitimate plot contrivance of the time, but.....no one noticed the face-mask line around non-Shady's neck?! This is like no one noticing a bald-cap on an otherwise full head of hair. Sorry, this is just stupid.

The other thing that marks this story as one of the more stupid Legion stories is the total mis-use of Dream Girl's powers. She SEES premonitions. There is no way she could SEE that Sunburst would be stopped by his own power, because that isn't what appeared to have happened. Maybe she saw/heard Mon-El explaining how he was stopped...? But then she would have known that "Shadow Lass" was the impostor. Any way you cut it, this bit just doesn't work.

A few things I do like....the art is the best it's been in a while, and that is because inker Murphy Anderson basically drew this story. If you aren't a fan of Anderson you might not like this, but I always liked his stuff so the art this time to me looks beautiful. I mentioned last week that inker Mike Esposito "cleaned up" Win Mortimer's rough edges. This time, Anderson washes out Mortimer's pencils entirely. If I didn't know that Mortimer did the pencils I would have guessed that this was pencilled AND inked by Murphy Anderson. He messes up how Element Lad's powers work, but we've seen Mortimer draw him this way, too, so I'm going to blame Mortimer for this (and Bridwell and Weisinger for not catching it).

I also like how Dream Girl stands up to Mon-El on page 6. This is basically a woman who has no super-strength at all standing up to the strongest Legionnaire. She thinks it isn't him, sure, but you still get the feeling that she's not another demure Legion "girl."

Science Police Notes:  
  • This was the first time Murphy Anderson worked on a Legion story. He would return numerous times in the next ten years. 
  • Sunburst was never seen again. He did not even rate a mention in Who's Who in the Legion. His moll may or may not have been Uli Algor, who re(?)-appeared in Action Comics 386. 
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 9 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.


  1. Maybe face-mask tech has improved in a thousand years. And a very early issue of the Justice League did a Green Lantern imposter story.

    1. My thoughts exactly Emsley. Disguise "tech" or whatever is likely to be much improved in 1000 years(mask line...really Russel?) Consindering heroes of the then present day were being fooled by the same style disguises. Even Batman(look it up people!) Anyway thanks again for the review. Appreciate all the time you put into each and everyone

  2. And one more thing, as Columbo used to say, I thought that the "moll" was the gal who turned up later in Action 386.
    Her name was Uli Algor and she was incarcerated on T-G for "impersonating a Legionnaire" and used light as her gimmick. It wasn't explicitly stated that it was the same character, but I felt it was strongly implied.

    1. It did not occur to me when I read this story, but you're right, it was strongly implied in ACT #386 and mentioned in Who's Who in the Legion.

  3. Love the art, and Sunburst has a pretty cool costume for the time period.