Tuesday, June 18, 2019

TOS: Action Comics #387

Action Comics #387 (April 1970)
title: "One Hero Too Many!"
writer: E. Nelson Bridwell
penciller: Win Mortimer
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: Joe Letterese
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board: 
Karate Kid, Brainiac 5, Timber Wolf, Chemical King, Bouncing Boy, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Dream Girl, Princess Projectra, Sun Boy, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Supergirl, Superboy; cameo appearances by the rest of the membership

The Legion of Super-Pets (Comet, Krypto, Streaky, Beppo, Proty II)

stupid bureaucratic and editorial decisions

The majority of the Legion is present to receive a new Warp-Transport machine from Professor Sayar, which is similar to a Star Gate or teleportation device. It can open portals between Legion head-quarters and anywhere in the galaxy. As current Legion Leader, Karate Kid accepts the device on behalf of the group. 
Suddenly, the presentation and tutorial on the device is interrupted by Wayland Bannan from the Bureau of Revenue & Taxation. He tells Karate Kid that all private clubs with more than 25 active members cannot be considered a charitable organization and must therefore pay taxes. The Legion  must either drop one member or pay taxes from now on, and also all back taxes due to the UP government. 

Timber Wolf and Chemical King, as the two newest members, both offer to resign. Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel also step forward, reasoning that they are "the least useful." Karate Kid can't accept everyone's resignations, so he offers to put in all volunteers' names in a bowl and pick the "lucky" loser. 
However, the ballots burst into a flame that none of the Legionnaires can put out. Eventually Element Lad deprives the fire of oxygen and it goes out. The only unburnt ballot belongs to Dream Girl, who says she did not submit her resignation! 
Several Legionnaires claim responsibility for the flame, but Karate Kid doesn't believe any of them. Fed up, he says he will accept the first resignation officially handed to him. 
Brainiac 5 says there's an easier way to decide who should quit. He has his Archive Computer calculate who has done the fewest feats within the last year, and that Legionnaire should be allowed to quit. 
A few minutes later the computer picks Brainiac 5 himself, but when he starts to resign Supergirl stops him. She tries to offer to resign in his stead, basing her "lack of usefulness" to her absenteeism. As she starts to leave, the Super Pets arrive to say they would quit their group if Supergirl quits. She doesn't know what to do. 
Brainiac 5 decides to program the computer with the question, "Who is the least helpful Legionnaire?" Superboy then tries to stop the computer analysis but is blasted by its defense mechanism. He then hands Karate Kid his resignation. 
He walks out and is met by the second Duo Damsel, who kisses him good-bye. He admits that the Legion doesn't need him because they already have Supergirl and Mon-El, and he also doesn't "belong" in the 30th Century. The Legion builds a statue in his honor. Brainiac 5 admits that he turned the computer off before it came up with a response. 

Can we start our comments with the elephant in the room and ask WHY this story exists? At this time and place, what in the world is the impetus to limit the size of the Legion to 25 active members? Seriously, with that many members to choose from why not just rotate them around and just leave it at that? That's what Bridwell and Shooter had been doing, anyway. Now that there was no SUPERBOY in the title card, he could appear or not without any particular problem. So why the need to officially kick him out? As soon as the Legion re-appeared in the pages of Superboy, he was re-admitted, anyway!

And I call BS on the whole premise, regardless. There are and have been hundreds of "private groups" that are considered charity or law-enforcement groups that do not have to pay taxes. The idea that the Legion is considered a "club" and not a branch of the Science Police is just stupid. Also, how likely is it that Karate Kid recognizes the head of the Bureau of Revenue & Taxation. It's like we would be expected to recognize the Budget Director of our government. I can't; can you?

Anyway, clearly this story was written in order to get Superboy off of the team, for whatever reason.

So let's look at the meat of the story: several Legionnaires offering to quit for the good of the outfit. I like how Chemical King and Timber Wolf as "the newbies" are willing to step up in order to step down. I don't like how we get a quick glimpse of Timber Wolf's powers without a similar glimpse of Chemical King's, though. He could have waved his hand at his buddy and made him fall unconscious or something. As it is, I think this scene helps establish that Chemical King is re-active instead of pro-active, and I don't like it.

And although I like the idea of several Legionnaires stepping forward to quit, I'm not a fan of Karate Kid getting so upset. Nobody is suggesting that four members quit all at once. The obvious solution is to do what they did: put every volunteer's name in a bowl and pick one. Although this straight-forward method is interrupted by some unknown assailant, I had to laugh when Brainiac 5 then says, "I have an easier way." Uh....no, Brainy, picking a name out of a bowl is literally the easiest way.

The story then veers into an odd territory where the number of "feats" is compared....and Mon-El has a whopping 354 to Brainiac 5's uber-minor 9?!? How is that even possible? What the hell is a "feat," anyway?

Supergirl seems to be participating in this story for the sole reason to leave....and yet that doesn't quite happen. Her case is valid and of the other 25 members, she definitely has the worst attendance record. I don't understand why they didn't just give her Reserve Member status and leave it at that. Seriously, the next time she actually takes part in a story, it's when she resigns! (Superboy/Legion #204).  And the Legion of Super-Pets is never seen in action again after this appearance, regardless of whether Supergirl quits or not, so there's that, too. 

One last thing....it's never shown, but I'm assuming Professor Sayar sneaks out sometime after the tax man leaves? How awkward is the day for him, right?

We here at the Legion of Super-Bloggers are so intrigued by the idea of the Legion's computer calculating which Legionnaire would be deemed "least helpful" that we have decided to write a whole post about it! Be here next Monday to read our thoughts on who the computer might have chosen if it had been allowed to finish its work---!

Science Police Notes:  
  • The Warp Transport Machine is not seen again until Superboy & The Legion #229. 
  • Although the line-up of Legionnaires on the splash panel could be argued to be the members in the order in which they joined, later flashes of this panel have the Legionnaires in different orders. Also, Paul Levitz established clearly that Star Boy was member #13, not #9 as it seems to show him as here. 
  • Phantom Girl is shown in the crowd scenes but has no lines. All other members who are physically shown to be in the hall have atleast one line of dialogue.  
This issue has been reprinted in The Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol 9 and Showcase Presents: The Legion Vol. 4.

Superboy quits the Legion in this story, bringing the current membership down to twenty-five. He will return as an active member in Superboy/Legion #201 (April 1974). 


  1. The only good reason I can think of getting rid of Superboy would be if they were planning to transition to the Adult Legion. All the developments that Superman was ignorant about in Adventure 354-355 can't happen until he is out of the Legion.


  2. We lose more podiums that way. And, of course, no functionary could relieve them of the tax burden accrued from when their membership was over quota just by saying so.. Wonder if he'd count as "income" all the stuff they got when they did the "Heroes for Hire" bit back in Adventure 377.

  3. For me, at the time of that roster, it would be a toss-up between Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy, though I love Chuck. I wish he'd get a power upgrade and become the new Elastic Lad.