Monday, June 29, 2020

Superboy (v2) #50

The New Adventures of Superboy #50 (February 1984)
title: "Dial 'V' For Villain!"
writer: Paul Kupperberg
artist: Keith Giffen (pp 1-7, 39-40)
penciller: Kurt Schaffenberger (pp 8-38)
inker: Dave Hunt (pp 8-38)
letterer: John Costanza
colorist: Jerry Serpe
editor: Julius Schwartz
cover: Keith Giffen

reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Superboy; Chameleon Boy, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Element Lad, Star Boy, Wildfire

Krypto; Pete Ross, Lana Lang, Bash, Lisa, Valerie; Ma and Pa Kent; Police Chief Parker

small-time hood with telekenesis powers named Nylor Truggs; Lex Luthor

In the 30th Century, at the Museum of Heroes & Legends, a small-time hood named Nylor Truggs uses his innate telekinesis and mechanical expertise to break into the "H" Dial display and steal it. 
Mike: This is a very cool opening. Dial H for Hero had been the back-up feature in this title since issue 28 so I thought it was very clever of them to incorporate it into Superboy's 50th anniversary issue like this.
Russell: Yes, I agree it was a clever idea. And it started out well executed, with the idea that this guy knows the Dial would work, and wanted to steal it from people who didn't realize it was still operable.

Unfortunately for him, Chameleon Boy happens to be at the Museum attending a preliminary tour of the new wing dedicated to the Legion. As he listens to the curator drone on, he is more than happy when the alarm goes off. Truggs uses the dial and turns into the Cyclone. 
Mike: Now even though I thought it was very clever of them to use the H-Dial in this story, I have to admit I was never a big fan of the Dial H for Hero series. Having said that, Cyclone is definitely one of the cooler designed costumes to come out of the H-Dial. I do understand that the characters created by the H-Dial were submitted by fans at this time, which was an awesome idea, but let's face it, some of these characters looked very goofy.
Russell: I was a fan of the series when it first re-started in the 80s, in the pages of Adventure Comics. I even sent in some designs, none of which were even acknowledged. So I stopped being a fan, haha. Makes me wonder who designed *these* particular characters, though. My guess is Paul Kupperberg, the writer, did the honors.

Cyclone is successful in spinning the Science Police officers around, and also escapes from Cham. Cham, bewildered by the tool Truggs is using, calls in the Legion. 
Russell: Now here is where the story starts to veer off course for me. The art shows Cyclone pretty well tussed up inside whatever Cham has turned into.Yet he somehow manages to "adjust" the dial and then re-dial it, too? And he somehow turns it into a time machine? Hmm....

In 20th Century Smallville, Superboy flies into the County Airport to stop a hijacking in progress. He had short-circuited the initial airplane, causing it to land in Smallville. He then quickly takes care of the would-be hijackers, then flies off to Lake McCormack. He resumes his identity as Clark Kent, who is hanging out at the lake with his high school friends Bash, Pete, Valerie, Lisa, and Lana. 
Mike: Oh, you small town country kids, always hanging out at the lake. And of course, Clark has to deal with the Smallville equivalent of Steve Lombard. I do love Schaffenberger's art here. I know many fans considered this series to be out of date when it was coming out, and I can understand that, but I find it fun and a big reason for that is Schaffenberger's art.
Russell: I like how the action switches from 30th Century Metropolis to the airport to the lake. We have to get in an obligatory Superboy-only action scene before the Legion shows up,  now don't we?
No idea who these other kids are besides Pete and Lana, though. And I have always been a fan of Kurt Schaffenberger. He's no Jack Kirby or George Perez, but he definitely has his merits.

At Soames Research School, where Lex Luthor is supposedly in solitary confinement, he is suddenly joined by the time travelling Truggs. Inexplicably, the "H" Dial transported him back to this era, where he decided to look up Luthor for technical support to build a time machine. 
Mike: Yep, trusting Lex Luthor is always a good idea.
Russell: Plot hole number two....not only does Truggs manage to "adjust" the dial to make it into a time machine, but it somehow brings him to Lex Luthor, someone who has had no experience with it before whatsoever. I would have thought it would have gone to Robby Reed or one of the other H-Dialers before it took him to Lex!

Truggs uses the dial and turns into Landslide, whose power causes the rocks and cement in the prison walls to collapse. 
Mike: Okay, I know he looks silly but I love it. It reminds me of Schaffenberger's work on the Marvel Family comics for Fawcett in the 1950s. This is exactly the type of bad guy that might have shown up there.
Russell: I don't mind this character so much as the overall lack of originality once we get to the next few characters. They literally start to all look the same...

Back in Smallville, the friends walk home from the lake. Lisa gives Clark a kiss, much to Lana's dismay. 
Mike: Whoa, good for you Clark!
Russell: And who is this Lisa girl, again? And also, this confused me as to who was at the lake. So Clark was *swimming* with Valerie, then *talking* to Lisa? What happened to Valerie while Bash was chasing Pete?

Clark meanders home and finds that his Element Lad statue has been lighting up, which means the Legion is trying to contact him. And Ma Kent tells him that Lex has escaped, too. As he flies off over Smallville on patrol, Wildfire blasts at him to get his attention. Six Legionnaires are in Smallville chasing down Truggs. They explain to Superboy their mission and how Brainiac 5's tracking of the unique energy of the "H" Dial has led them to Smallville. 
Mike: Yes, they are all here! I thought this was a good selection of Legionnaires for this tale. Not necessarily what I would have chosen, but it is a solid team. Could have used a girl or two though.
Russell: I do wonder how Paul Kupperberg chose these characters. We'll see that not every member gets a moment to shine, so I am curious whether the tale was edited.... Like you I would have liked to have seen a woman or two, and I would have preferred Smallville veterans Mon-El and/or Ultra Boy in the mix.

Elsewhere, as Lex works on their time machine, Truggs is finalizing work on approximately ten ultra-high frequency modulators that he wants to bring back to the 30th Century in order to cause earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters that the future is ill-equipt to deal with. 
Russell: I never cared for those time-travelling villains who wanted to hatch a plot in Smallville so that it would reap havoc in the 30th Century. It just didn't seemed plausible, even surrounded by a story full of impossibilities.

Truggs uses the dial to become the Smasher, and goes to bury the first of his doomsday devices. Lex thinks to himself that Truggs is doomed to fail and possibly considers killing him. 
Mike: Another design that is exactly the sort of thing that would have shown up in one of Schaffenberger's Marvel Family stories. (I am kind of a big fan of those Golden Age tales if I have not already made it obvious.)
Russell: And with the appearance of this character I started to think that Kupperberg (or editor Julius Schwartz) was running out of ideas. I would have preferred a different power-set and look compared to Landslide.

The Legionnaires know Truggs' general vicinity, but cannot pinpoint his exact location, so they split up. Wildfire and Superboy find a huge hole out in the fields outside of Smallville. Superboy investigates first, only to be smashed by the Smasher. When he recognizes Wildfire, that clues them in that this must be Truggs. 
Mike: Okay, maybe he is not the most threatening looking villain, but I enjoyed how they used Wildfire in this scene.

Superboy then smashes the Smasher, but while he and Wildfire are talking, the Smasher manages to escape. 
Mike: Uh, really great job there guys. How is that super-hearing working for you, Superboy?? He was right there! And two of the most powerful members of the Legion just let him get up and walk away.
Russell: Yeah, not their best moment at all. And what is supposed to be happening in panel 4? Wildfire re-inhabits his uniform, and gets "touchy" that Superboy is still holding it? Seems like Superboy would say, "Oh, you're back?"

Elsewhere, Element Lad and Brainiac 5 come across Lex's cave hideout. They initially chat, with Brainiac 5 sort of "talking shop" with Lex while he has a chance to arm himself. 
Mike: I always thought the idea of Brainiac 5 matching wits with Lex Luthor was an intriguing idea with a lot of story potential here. Unfortunately, it does not really get much focus in this issue but I still enjoyed the scenes that we got.

Lex manages to use his ultra-high vibrational energy on them, scrambling their brains and knocking them out. The Smasher then returns, but soon after reverts back to Truggs, who now cannot use the "H" Dial for one hour. They clear out of Lex's cave, taking the devices and the time machine with them.  
Mike: How has their partnership gone this long without the one hour time limit coming up? Someone of Lex's intelligence should have questioned Truggs until he got all of the information he could about the power and limitations of the H-Dial.
Russell: Yep! I had that in my notes, too. Why would Lex "partner" with somebody without doing a thorough discussion of his abilities and weaknesses? Seems far-fetched.
Also, not a big fan of Element Lad and Brainiac 5's egotism here; it nearly gets them killed! Lex was Superman's arch enemy, after all. They should have taken him more seriously. Element Lad especially should have been ready to turn ALL of Lex's weapons to oxygen.

Element Lad and Brainiac 5 awaken and call the others. They don't know where Lex and Truggs have gone and can't find them, because Brainiac's "H" Dial energy tracker was destroyed in their fight with Lex. With nothing to do but wait, Superboy invites them to his house for a barbecue. 

Ma and Pa Kent welcome the Legionnaires to their home, but just as they are making small talk Krypto arrives. He is bothered by Lex's ultra-high frequency vibrational weapons, and can follow the "sound" of it for them. They head off again. 
Mike: Having them all go to a family barbecue is so fitting for this series. And is this really Ma and Pa Kent's first time meeting so many Legionnaires? Now that I think about it, they really have not been exposed to more than one or two before now, but it is still weird for me to think that this was really their first chance to meet so many.
Russell: While I REALLY liked the idea of the Legionnaires hanging out with the Kents, does it really make sense for them to wear casual clothes, but not hide the fact that Brainiac 5 and Chameleon Boy are aliens? It would have been smarter for Cham to "turn into" Clark and let the others stay in uniform so that "Clark" would be seen hosting his pals from the future. Or invite Lana or Pete over, as they were Honorary Members.
Maybe this is why Kupperberg chose these members? They never met the Kents before? Kinda confusing....Still, great to see Krypto.

Lex is captured rather easily, but he has hidden Trugg's 30th Century technology so that he can access it again some day after he escapes. 
Mike: Wow, Lex really did go down easily. Krypto just showed up and led them right to him. Lex's comment about already learning all he needed to know from Trugg's futuristic technology was nicely ominous though. And this scene can be used as a retcon explanation for so much of the technology Lex will come up with in the future.
Russell: I hadn't thought of the retcon explanation for Lex's super-technology, but that makes sense. I did like how easily Lex was caught, by not realizing some of the characteristics of Trugg's futuristic weapons. Ironic, that.

Truggs uses the "H" Dial to become High Roller and at McCormack Lake, uses the dial to turn Lana and the gang into his mentally enslaved lackeys: Megaton (Pete), Wisp (Lana), Blizzard (Lisa), and Man-Mountain (Bash). His plan is to have them help him bury his doomsday machines, but when the Legionnaires show up he orders them to fight them instead of having to do it himself.  
Mike: Those are...interesting looks for Pete and Lana. And what is up with Lana's legs?
Russell: These villains are not especially interesting, and neither is High Roller. But of all the five, are we surprised that there is another character (Man-Mountain) resembling Landslide and Smasher?  I would have preferred a Hulk or Thing or even Blok-like character instead of what we got.
And...where's Valerie again?!?

The Smallville kids now turned into super-powered slaves of Trugg do their best to defeat the Legion, but their hearts are literally not in it; they can feel that what they are doing is wrong, but they are unable to break out from under Trugg's control.  
Mike: Well, they did about as well as they could to make this bunch into an actual threat to the Legion considering their appearance, and there were some humorous touches during the battle. Especially when playing off the fact that the Smallville kids were aware of what was happening but could not stop themselves.
Russell: This is where I am most disappointed in how the Legion is portrayed in this story. The page reprinted above has Colossal Boy figuring out how to stop Blizzard (Lisa), and the next page has Wildfire defeating Megaton (Pete). But Star Boy doesn't do anything except get in the way of Element Lad as they confront Man-Mountain. He has no moment in this story at all, which is a shame.

While the Legionnaires do the best they can against innocent bystanders, High Roller realizes that he should escape. Krypto chases after him so that Superboy can catch him and knock him out. 
Mike: High Roller is much more consistent with what I expect from the H-Dial than Cyclone was at the beginning of this story. Also, don't mess with Krypto!
Russell: I want to say that the first time I ever came across Superboy was in re-runs of the Filmation cartoons, which always featured teen-aged Clark on adventures with Krypto. To this day, I have a love of the "character."
By the way, check out the second panel in the page above, and notice how Krypto's tail is chopping down a tree. Love it!

In an adorable scene, Krypto then destroys the "H" Dial, which reverts all the teen-agers back to normal. 
Mike: This was such a perfect sitcom ending. I could almost here the laugh-track as the credits were about to roll.
Russell: I LOVE this ending. Obviously Krypto didn't like the vibrations or whatever of the dial, either, so he destroyed it. You can make fun of the Legion of Super-Pets all you want, but Krypto IS the World's Greatest Dog!

Back in the 30th Century, Chameleon Boy reports to the museum curator that the "H" Dial has been destroyed. The curator is mildly annoyed, but then surprises Cham by telling him that they have another one in storage....! 

Mike: Having Giffen handle the art for the scenes in the 30th century while Schaffenberger handled the 20th Century was one of my favorite parts of this issue. And I do think it was an enjoyable issue. For most of this series, there was no acknowledgement of Superboy's time with the Legion and it was very insular in its Smallville setting, so it was refreshing to have the Legion show up here. And the regular creative team managed to keep the whimsical mood of the book without dumbing down the Legion.
Russell: Overall I enjoyed this story. As I said, I am a fan of Kurt Schaffenberger's work, and enjoyed it very much on this book (and earlier on Shazam and various fill-ins on Super Friends). The "looks" of the Dial-H characters are not as unique as they could have been, but let's just blame that on Trugg's lack of imagination instead of Kupperberg's or Schaffenberger's, shall we? My only real complaint is that the story seemed rushed or condensed to the point that we lost a few important scenes or points, and Star Boy didn't get anything special to do.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story reads as if it were the next issue of an on-going Superboy series, which is what it is. However, a quick reference to non-regular readers like me telling us who Valerie and Lisa were would have been nice. 
  • Likewise, a quick editorial note as to why Pa Kent has a bandage on this head would have been nice, too. 
  • This issue went on sale at the same time as Legion of Super-Heroes #308. Because Element Lad's statue lights up it can be assumed that he is the leader, but he was not notified of the election results until LSH #308, in the middle of the Khund-Prophet incident. So it is probably safe to assume this story takes place after that adventure was successfully completed, around the time of LSH #311.  
  • The series The New Adventures of Superboy was cancelled after only four more issues. Its last issue was #54 (June 1984). 
This story has not yet been reprinted in any collection.

This was the first, last, and only appearance of the Legion in Superboy's second title, New Adventures of Superboy. 


  1. I am a little surprised that the editor didn't catch the problem of Wildfire showing up at the cookout in human form.

  2. Bash always reminded me of Spiderman frenemy Flash Thompson. Hey, the names even rhyme.

  3. I remember enjoying the story, and being thrilled that some of my favorite members made the trip back in time. I also remember being underwhelmed by the dialed-up heroes' designs (though I agree, The Cyclone's costume kicks butt), especially since there had been so many great ones over the years in the Dial-H back-up.

  4. I bought this Superboy series fairly regularly, including this issue, and really enjoyed it. Man, I love Schaffenberger's art. It's like the comic equivalent of a big bowl of Kraft Mac n' Cheese. Comic comfort food!