Friday, November 1, 2019

Legion Cameos: Superman #165

(Nov. 1963) “Beauty and the Super-Beast”
Writer: Robert Bernstein
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: George Klein
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Cover: Curt Swan & George Klein 
Reviewer: Emsley "Ultra Fan" Wyatt

Guests: Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Krypto

Opponents:  "Circe," Superman Revenge Squad

Editor's Note: Here is another installment of the series of reviews we call "Legion Cameos." These are stories were the Legion or certain Legionnaires play a small but usually significant role in the proceedings. This time out we're looking at the infamous "Lion-Head Superman" story. Did you know the Legion was involved in this adventure? 

First, the cover: 
Superman magically changed into a lion.  Pretty cool, eh?  And then you get the “splash” page where Circe is making Superman juggle balls while flying upside-down. What's not to like? 

At the beginning we see a typical Lois/Lana verbal catfight.  Lois has been selected to fly in space as the first U.S. woman. (Note: The actual first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, flew in June of 1963.  The actual first American woman in space was, of course, Sally Ride, who flew on the Shuttle Challenger 20 years later, almost to the date.  The first journalist in space was Akiyama Toyohiro, who flew on a Russian Soyuz in 1990.) It was probably fairly easy to convince NASA to let Lois go on a Mercury capsule with Superman agreeing to “ride herd” on the entire mission. Lana, for her part, is going on a mission to seek Circe’s tomb, using her network connections and her archeological skills acquired from assisting her father in his research. 

But suddenly, danger lurks.  A meteor threatens to smash Lois’ capsule.  Superman deflects the meteor, but fails to smash it and it starts descending toward Washington, D.C.  He swoops down and pulverizes it just in time thinking that he “just didn’t hit it hard enough.” The capsule splashes down and Lois vainly thinks “My name will go down in history with John Glenn and Gordon Cooper.”  But on the carrier deck she modestly says “With Superman guarding me every inch of the way, my Aunt Matilda could’ve made the trip.”

Meanwhile, Lana’s crew has found Circe’s tomb and as they raise the glass lid………….. 

Circe arises from her tomb.  Circe is a character in Greek mythology.  From Wikipedia: “Circe (/ˈsɜːrsi/; Greek: Κίρκη Kírkē pronounced [kírkɛː]) is a goddess of magic or sometimes a nymph, enchantress, or sorceress in Greek mythology. She is a daughter of the god Helios and either the Oceanid nymph Perse or the goddess Hecate. Circe was renowned for her vast knowledge of potions and herbs. Through the use of these and a magic wand or staff, she would transform her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals.”  I bet she was a real hit at parties.
She also has a long history in the DC Comic universe, tangling with Wonder Woman back in 1949!  She also played a part in the creation of Comet, the super horse and has tangled with Rip Hunter, Time Master.
And it turns out that she also has a history with Superman.  They have crossed paths in the past (in both senses of the term.) 

Circe then meets with some heavy-hitters to demonstrate her powers.  She draws a top secret invention that no one besides the President and Army Chief of Staff knows about. She gives Superman the head of first a lion, then a mouse. 

So Circe walks around town with Superman, having ordered him not to fly.  He, at her order, climbs to the top of a crane, then bores down 100 miles to get her a handful of gravel.  He also digs out the foundation for the new city hall in the process.  Then she makes him juggle while standing on his head.  He uses the balls to thwart some jewelry store robbers (with a tank, no less).
Finally, Circe throws in the towel, flying away, and disappearing. Superman speaks out with a "good riddance!" 

Superman then trains his super-vision up in the sky and we see members of the Superman Revenge Squad! 
Yes, it was all a plot to foil the Superman Revenge Squad. And “Circe” unmasks to reveal herself to be Saturn Woman, which explains the earlier mind-reading trick, the flying, and.... not quite the disappearing. Who knows, maybe she just mind-tricked the audience into not seeing her anymore.  And Proty II is now Saturn Woman’s pet?
So here Superman explains the reason for the deception to Saturn Woman.  As long as he had a credible reason for being upside down all the time the bad guys would just assume their beam was a bust and, Saturn Woman, in her Circe guise, supplied that reason. The baddies figured that Circe's "magic spell" was making Superman do his upside-down thing rather than them wondering why he was doing everything in that bizarre fashion.

As for the freaky transformations, Proty II form-fitted his body over Superman’s face and changed into the appropriate shapes.  Eeeeeeuuuuwwww.

The whole thing ends with a joke panel in which the Revenge Squad operatives stand trial and receive a horrible fate. 
Actually, they get off pretty easy.  In later issues the Revenge Squad would execute operatives who failed in their assignments. (And if there actually was a “Krypto Revenge Squad” this was the only mention of it I recall ever seeing.)

Overall, I found this an amusing story.  I liked the mix of real science (the space shot), pseudo-science, (the fact that the beam didn’t affect Superman when he was upside-down) and fake sorcery.  This marked an additional appearance by an adult Legion member.


  1. This wasn't the actual Circe who fought Wonder Woman, though, isn't it? I mean, there were apparently multiple versions of Atlantis (Atlantises, Atlanti?), right? . I'm pretty sure this is just someone else with the name, because DC in the silver age was just disjointed like this with it's continuity.

    1. Crap, I accidentally followed a question mark with a period. Sorry.

    2. I don't know if the the Circe who tangled with Wonder Woman back in the forties was intended to be the same character who later shows up in the Superman family of books, but I'm pretty sure she was intended to be the mythological being. The depiction of her through the fifties/sixties was pretty consistent. I know that the character returned later, but am not sure if she's the same Circe, or just someone recycling the name.

  2. -"Proty II is now Saturn Woman's pet"?
    -Looks at 5YL Annual #3
    - *wink wink* *eyebrows eyebrows*

    1. A travesty! Garth has always been a favorite. Or at least pre-5YL

      Funny though! *nudge nudge*

  3. I did not like this story when I first read it. At the age of 10, I found the upside down, "poles" completely preposterous and scientifically inaccurate. In fact I had forgotten I had read this story (a sure sign I disliked it) until the final "Krypto Revenge Squad" Line which I did like a jarred my memory.

    One other point, this and other stories of Superman's deceptions. He has no qualms or hesitation to utterly humiliate himself in front of everyone. I guess when you are that all powerful, you don't have to worry overmuch about slights to your dignity.