Monday, August 30, 2021

The Original Legion: Who Joined When? (Part One)

By Emsley Wyatt

Who joined when?

When the Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April 1958) it was as a group without a history.  They were just sort of there.  

The story was intended as a one-and-done, as most comic stories were in those days. But it didn't stay that way.  Readers wanted more and what readers want, they usually get. More and more Legion stories were written and more and more members were created.  Then, readers started to demand a history for the group.  What was their origin?  When did the various members join? This two-part post will attempt to answer that question! 

For the first ten years, fans wondering about the order of admittance to the Legion basically had to figure it out for themselves. Fans had to play Comic Detectives, as it were, relying mostly on publication dates and who was in the background at various inductions and in other scenes.  

It didn't help that initially, the writers didn't seem to know, either! We readers had to deal with all sorts of incongruous clues. For example, in Adventure Comics #308 Cosmic Boy describes Lightning Lad's encounter with the lightning beasts of Korbal in an attempt to gain super-powers in order to join the Legion...and the panel shows LL, alone (no Ayla or Mekt),  already in costume! 

Fans had speculated that since Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl had been featured most frequently in the earliest  stories (published in the Superman line of magazines before the Legion had their own series) that they were the charter members. That speculation was finally confirmed in Superboy #147 (May 1968) when, ten years after their first appearance, the Legion was finally given a proper origin story.

And, as a bonus, the induction of the next two Legionnaires is also shown: Triplicate Girl (later Duo Damsel) and Phantom Girl.

Their swearing-in was shown MANY years later in a scene from Secret Origins #42 (July 1989).

For a brief moment, then, the girl Legionnaires outnumbered the boys.  But that would soon change as the next three inductees were males: Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy, and Invisible Kid.  They are shown here in a panel from the story of Supergirl's first Legion tryout in Action Comics #267 (August 1960).

Incidentally, the induction ceremony for the two “CBs” was eventually shown in Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #39 (October 1987).

The narration here firmly establishes that the two "CBs" are the sixth and seventh Legionnaires to join.  Also note  Brainiac 5 and Shrinking Violet sitting on the bench observing the ceremony.  Perhaps they are there as rejected applicants, thinking to themselves, “Maybe next year....”  Invisible Kid probably came in next time.  Perhaps that was the point at which they adopted the one per year rule, which was then modified into the “Noah's Ark” rule (one male and one female), then dispensed with entirely as try-outs seemed to be held with much greater frequency than yearly.

As for Supergirl, old-time fans know that at her first try-out she was rejected because Red Kryptonite exposure had temporarily turned her into an adult.  

First of all, I call BS on this.  Sure, the Red K made her look like an adult, but her age in elapsed actual time was still fifteen.  Might as well reject her for being a thousand plus years old since she was born in nineteen-whatever.  

But read what Cosmic Boy has to say here. His remarks raise another interesting question: who got the nod when Supergirl was rejected?  It couldn't have been Brainiac Five, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, or Sun Boy because they are shown during Supergirl's second tryout, in Action Comics #276 (May 1961) as fellow applicants. Perhaps it was Ultra Boy or Star Boy, despite the official order which lists them coming in after Supergirl. More on this later.

As stated above, Supergirl got her second tryout in Action Comics #276. Here she is with Violet, Bouncing Boy, and Sun Boy.  While Cosmic Boy doesn't specifically classify them as applicants here, later panels identify them as such.  “But they've got placards,” I hear you saying. Yes, they do, but so does Brainiac 5, who is clearly an applicant at this point.  

But this is the year that Supergirl gets approved, along with Brainiac 5. Their induction is celebrated at a stadium.

I love this scene.  It makes it clear how much the Legion is loved by the public: they fill a stadium just to see the new members.  And you know there have to be Legion groupies (looking at you, Night Girl).  The charter members fly on mechanical jet-horses.  That's cool, wouldn't you like to have one of those?  Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl zip around on their jet packs, while the prom king and queen, er, the new members, ride on the Thirtieth Century equivalent of a parade float, complete with a model of the clubhouse.  So where are Colossal Boy, Invisible Kid, and Chameleon Boy while this is going on?  As the rookies, they're back at headquarters stuck with monitor duty.

Next up is Superboy.  People had initially presumed that since the story in which Superboy joins (Adventure Comics #247 April 1958) came out years before the one in which Supergirl joined (Action Comics #276 May 1961) that Superboy joined first.  But, of course, when factoring in time travel that doesn't have to be the case.  This is where playing detective comes in. 

But the bane of all detectives, professional or otherwise, is evidence tampering.  The initial appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes has been reprinted a number of times.  Here is a panel from the original comic: 

Notice the four individuals with their backs to the reader.  Who are they?  Here is the same panel reproduced in Adventure Comics #491.

The female to the left is most likely Triplicate Girl, while the guy to the far right is undoubtedly Brainiac 5.  The middle two are harder to ID, but the brown-haired fellow is probably Colossal Boy or Invisible Kid.  When the story appeared in Blue Ribbon Digest, the character on the right was cropped out entirely.

This phenomenon also happened with the panel later in the story where the Legionnaires cheer Superboy.  Here is the version in the original printing: 

Notice the two characters to Saturn Girl's right and the guy in the foreground.  Who are these guys?  At this point there are only two male Caucasians in the Legion aside from Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad, who are clearly depicted: Colossal Boy and Invisible Kid.  Is the third guy Chameleon Boy just doing his thing, or is it someone else????

Well, here is that same panel reproduced twice: First from Superman Annual #6 on the top, then from Adventure Comics #491 on the bottom. 

In the first panel “leaning on chair guy” has been recolored to represent Colossal Boy; in the second to represent Brainiac 5.  That would work.  (By the way, in the Blue Ribbon Digest version, this panel was reconfigured to eliminate both “seat guy” and the guy on the far right.)  Also, note that in the earlier reprint the uniforms of the charter members have been recolored to more closely resemble the versions we're most familiar with.  

We get to see Superboy's swearing-in ceremony in Adventure Comics #323 (August 1964). Everybody's there but Supergirl and Phantom Girl. 

An additional word on Superboy's admission. In the Legion back-up story in Superboy #173 (April 1971), there is an illustration of what is supposedly Superboy's inauguration ceremony into the Legion. However, in the panel of Superboy being sworn in you can clearly see later members Matter-Eater Lad, Mon-El, Bouncing Boy, and Light Lass. To compound the error, Light Lass is wearing her "feather" uniform rather than her "cloud" symbol, which places this much later in the Legion time-line. Small wonder that this panel is simply regarded as an error and universally disregarded.  

So now we come to Ultra Boy and Star Boy.  The official “proclamation scroll” shown in Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #300 (June 1983) shows them joining in that order.  Here it is.

But the story that introduced Star Boy, Adventure Comics #282  (March 1961), appeared 16 months before the one that introduced Ultra Boy, Superboy #98 (July 1962).  The Ultra Boy story is pretty devoid of clues, given that all the action takes place in the 20th Century, so we'll look at Star Boy first.  Here he is from his debut story, meeting Superboy for the first time.

And here he is meeting the Legion, from that same story.

Again we're looking at the backs of heads.  The guy with the reddish-brown hair is probably either Colossal Boy or Invisible Kid.  But the female has to be Supergirl, the only other blonde in the group as of that time.  So, clearly, Star Boy is admitted after Supergirl and, therefore can not be the guy selected the year that Supergirl was rejected.  Here is another take on this meeting from Legion of Super-Heroes (v2) #306 (Dec 1983).

The presence of Brainiac 5 also establishes that this is occurring after he (and Supergirl) joined the Legion. Superboy's inclusion is interesting as well.  Could it be that the first time Superboy met Star Boy wasn't the first time Star Boy met Superboy?  Time travel, it gives me a headache.  (The whole concept of meeting someone before they meet you was pretty effectively lamp-shaded in Karate Kid #13, when Val met Superboy years before Superboy met Karate Kid...)

So why, if they have met before, is Superboy acting so surprised at the extent of Star Boy's powers? Because, that's just it: he's ACTING. He can't let Star Boy or, for that matter, his fellow Legionnaires, know that he has met Star Boy before, AFTER he becomes a Legionnaire. Similarly, when Star Boy travels back to the Twentieth Century and "meets" Superboy, he can't let on that, from HIS perspective, they already know each other. 

So, in the absence of a credible theory to explain otherwise, I'm going to have to say that the official order (and incidentally, the Legion of Super-Bloggers side panel which is based on that) is wrong and that Ultra Boy is the member who was approved when Supergirl was initially rejected.

Or not.  You want a credible theory, here's a credible theory.  What if the person inducted instead of Supergirl is someone who isn't talked about?  Someone whose membership was stricken from the Legion's own records.  Could it have been the character fans refer to as “False Pretenses Lad"?

Shown here is his only appearance, in a single panel from Adventure Comics #327 (Dec 1964).  It does seem like a long time from when he might have been admitted (1961) to when we see him here, but we know nothing about him, what his power is, how long he was in the Legion before being detected, if he had eluded capture for awhile after exposure, how long he'd been incarcerated before being sent to the prison planet, etc, etc.  

However, if he were the Legionnaire admitted in Action Comics #267 it would resolve the nagging question as to who got the slot meant for Supergirl. In fact, one of the unidentified Legionnaires in the “Hooray for Superboy” panel in Adventure Comics #247 may well have been “False Pretenses Lad!”  I don't know about any of you, but I will never look at that panel the same way again.  If this theory is true, I bet Supergirl had a bit to say about it.  “So, that guy you took instead of me?  How'd he work out”?

The next three Legionnaires are pretty straightforward.  Sun Boy and Bouncing Boy were active by Action Comics #287 (about a year after the Supergirl/Brainiac 5 admission).

Violet was nowhere to be seen here, but she was clearly a member when Bouncing Boy was sworn in, as Adventure Comics #301 (Oct 1962) clearly shows her standing with the active Legionnaires.  It is also worth noting that this scene is the first time we actually see the Legion oath being administered.  

So my assumption is that Violet and Sun Boy came in together under the “Noah's Ark” rule and that Bouncing Boy was admitted shortly thereafter in recognition of  the valor and effectiveness he shows in that story.  Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl must have felt pretty bad about the way they dismissed him because it seems that his admission occurred contrary to the normal rules.  

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the Legion has no rules that they're actually obligated to follow and are able to waive them simply by majority vote.  The age limitation was waived for Mon-El, as it was again much later when Polar Boy was admitted.  The initiation tests were also waived. 

This completes all the admissions that took place prior to the Legion getting its regular series in Adventure Comics #300. Part two will cover the members who joined after the Legion got their own series! 


  1. As any long-time reader knows, comics canon is subjective. If there's history around characters that's contradictory, inconvenient or just plain ridiculous, it's simply forgotten (or chalked up to dream sequences -- a Roy Thomas favourite in the days before wholesale reboots).

    It's safe to assume Legion fans have no problem with the premise that "Lightning Boy" and the costumes in ADV 247 never happened. Not a stretch to also disregard the one-boy-and-one-girl-per-year admission policy, since 1) boys quickly made up a decided majority; and 2) the founders would have reached 20 well ahead of the roster.

    So, for the Legion to function as intended, logic dictates it had to swell the ranks ASAP. It makes sense that members joined in the same order as they were introduced -- with sensible work-arounds for the Supers -- and all in the space of about a year, Legion time. For the most part, that's exactly what's assumed. We may quibble about whether Chameleon Boy joined before Colossal Boy (as per the Secrets of the LSH miniseries) or at the same time (referenced above, from LSH 39) -- but it's accepted that they were admitted before Star Boy and the characters introduced in ACT 276.

    Except, wait, Bridwell's origin story made Triplicate Girl and Phantom Girl the 4th and 5th Legionnaires, even though 8 others were introduced before them (I'm counting Superboy, who was known to have joined -- even though it's established he did so later -- but not Supergirl, who would join after meeting Luornu and Tinya . . . oy, feeling a continuity headache coming on).

    Knowing Bridwell went on to become DC's continuity guru, I find it impossible to believe he got mixed up. I wonder if he was trying to square the ludicrous circle of Supergirl's initial rejection. My take is the founding Legionnaires were desperate to legitimize themselves as an intergalactic law-enforcement agency -- super-powered or not, they were kids -- and figured adding history's most renowned teen heroes to their ranks would give them instant cred. As such, it was beyond stupid to go back 1,000 years for the purpose of extending an invitation to Kara, only to deny her membership on a meaningless technicality. Did Bridwell want to establish that Supergirl was very quickly given her 2nd chance -- or did he just disregard her rejection? (If we assume the group grew from 3 to 18 in quick succession, there's wiggle room for a bunch of interlocking histories -- like this isn't already confusing enough).

    Appreciate the thoroughness of Emsley's research, but have to point out a problem with his inspired theory about Star Boy and Superboy meeting at different times in their histories. If, in SBY 98, Thom knows about the Legion but Superboy doesn't, he commits the temporal no-no of telling Supes he's in the LSH (the mention of which doesn't come as news to the Boy of Steel). Might be easier to just disregard Superboy's presence in LSH 306 flashbacks . . .

  2. Hi guys,

    I love the writing you do.

    Could I make a humble plea that you please give credit where it is due in your articles?

    At Cosmic Teams, I have spent untold hours doing much the same kind of work. I receive no income from the site whatsoever and I do it for the fun and passion of it. This includes custom preparation of images that appear in my articles. As a designer as well, I often spend extra time on that, so when I see things borrowed from my site without a little bit of credit somewhere, well it makes me a little sad.

    I know: it's the Internet. But when we take our writing seriously, we also accept the conventions that go along with that, as a matter of respect and professionalism.

    LLL, have a wonderful day, and keep producing!

    1. If your site is the one I think it is, I certainly did use it as a source in the preparation of this article. The text is my own but I don't recall if I lifted any images from it, always preferring to go to the "original source", but if I did, credit where it's due. I have tried to be scrupulous in citing where things came from. Russell recently edited out such a citation and I was quick to point that out in comments. No offense intended and certainly none taken

  3. I like the theory of False Pretenses Lad being who they rejected Supergirl for. I always assumed they were just being jerks and didnt actually have any other recruit (why would they when they have Supergirl). And, since they feel like following their rules to an absurd degree that day, they invented a recruit to justify their very weak argument. But your theory works just as well. And imagining them going to the past with their tails between their legs to ask Supergirl to do the try-outs again is quite a delightful image.
    I do think you're overthinking the Starboy thing though. Their encounter could work without any extra timey-wimeys from their part. Its just a little of the good old mindwipe. Now, i dont know how often that excuse was used at the time, and one could argue is too early for them to do that. But what im thinking goes more in the line of Jhons arc with Superman and the Legion. It was the first time i saw them doing that. In that story Clark didnt remenber the Legion until they make him remenber. Couldnt that be what's happening here?
    Now, its a story from 40 years later, diferent rules, kinda diferent continuity. But i can think on a very obvious, and quite similar, example from this time. Superboy and Supergirl being on the same team. Superboy meeting his cousin more than a decade before he meet her as Superman. I dont know if there's any story from the time that adress this but its prety clear that, in order for it to make sense, there's mindwiping involved here. And there's sereval instances of him being mindwiped by the legion for diferent reasons, so one could assume is an especific sort of mindwipe. So my theory is that it was a mindwipe specifally for people like Supergirl, people he's gonna meet in his inmediate future and cant know about before hand. Im thinking something like, a subconcious sort-of-hipnosis that kicks in when the people in question is in the radious of his supersenses. So Superboy did meet Starboy, but he forgot everything about him the moment he meet him in the past, and that continued all the way though their "first meeting". And of course Starboy, knowing about all of this, played along the whole time. Now that im writing all this, im realizing i probably overthought this way more that you did. Oh, well, anyways. Im content with my theory. It was a good post.

    1. If there's REALLY a continuity gap that needs filling after almost 60 years and endless reboots, it occurs to me that Anti-Lad (from SBY 204) almost fits this time line. He's forgotten and stricken from LSH records, all right -- however, he presumably returned to his 75th century without being incarcerated, and probably didn't need to sabotage the Legion emergency board to fulfill his mission of setting time on its proper course (even in a Bates plot . . .).

      No, a better option for "False Pretenses Lad" is a familiar name that's actually a blank slate in the original series: Kid Quantum.

      Better known from the reboot, the character was originally a Bierbaum retcon as the first deceased Legionnaire -- in the post-Glorith, pre-Zero Hour universe. That's all there was, though -- a name without a face or backstory.

      Fan-fiction authors, start your engines.

    2. I love the idea that James Cullen was the original FPL.

  4. I love out you pointed out that kicking Kara out for being "over 18" was total BS, since her, Clark, and Mon are all over 1000 years old.

    1. And Mon-El actually was physically over 18 as well, but they waived the age limit for him. It may be that, in addition the annual "open tryouts", the Legion would just randomly recruit super-youths whom they encountered during the course of their duties. Shadow Lass, for example. Or even the (rejected) offering of membership to Dev-Em in Adventure #320. Otherwise they'd be saying: "Hey, tryouts are in eight months, so if you're not doing anything......."