Monday, September 12, 2022

Mistakes & Continuity Errors in the Original Legion


Mistakes, continuity errors and just plain boners in the early “Silver Age Legion”
by Emsley Wyatt

I started reading the Legion as a kid, starting probably with Adventure Comics #290, way back in 1961.  Earlier stories were read later in Annuals, reprints, and even in the later Digests.  

When you read these stories in the original format each is pretty self-contained.  But when you read them several at a time in quick succession you notice things that don't quite add up.  And I'm not even talking about costume changes and the fact that Saturn Girl went from having light brown hair to blonde.  Some of this is attributable to the fact that continuity wasn't emphasized in those days, some to the fact that multiple writers created these stories (too many cooks and all that).  But it's fun to look at them, and that's what I'll do in today's post. 

The first major continuity mistake was in regarding the time setting for the Legion adventures.  The first story in Adventure #247 established the Legion home time as the 30th Century.


But Adventure #300 showed Superboy heading to the 21st!

That error is repeated in the introductory narration in the splash panel to the Bouncing Boy origin story.  But it's probably a good thing that they stuck with the 30th Century timeframe.  After all, the hundred-year anniversary of the original Legion story is only thirty-seven years away.  And, yes, 2058 still seems like a long way off, but thirty-seven years ago was 1984!  It is highly doubtful that by 2058 we'll be colonizing the galaxy or breaking the time barrier.

Speaking of time, time is the source of many errors. When you have a series that goes on (and off) for 63 years and consists of people often traveling through time, that is a recipe for continuity errors.  

The most prominent of these was the initial idea that the Legion encountered by Supergirl consisted of the children of the Legion that met Superboy in this panel from Action Comics #267.

Fortunately, someone took Jerry Seigel aside and explained how time travel worked.  It was never officially addressed in the comics.  Most Legion fans rationalize this one by saying that “they were just messing” with her.

Time was the problem here in this panel.  Superman and Supergirl go to the future to when the Legionnaires are adults.  Supergirl is trying to set up Superman and Saturn Woman not knowing, of course, that Saturn Woman is married to Lightning Man.  That's error enough in and of itself, but we know that Superboy actually attended their wedding.

Since it's Christmas they run out and get a gift.  I can almost see Superman taking Cosmic Man aside and saying: “Psst. It was Kara's idea.  Don't tell her about the flight rings.”

Time paradoxes also contributed to this error in Adventure #300.  Saturn Girl gives Mon-El “Formula XY-4” granting him temporary immunity to the effects of lead poisoning.

Superboy thinks that he'll be able to develop a permanent cure.  WRONG.  The fact that Mon-El was still in the Phantom Zone after a thousand years is proof that he didn't.

Origins and powers provided for several continuity gaffes.  In this panel from Action Comics #267 Cosmic Boy introduced Supergirl to some Legionnaires saying that each inherited their powers from their parents from other worlds.  This is true, according to later stories, only of Chameleon Boy.  Colossal Boy got his power from an encounter with a meteor, Invisible Kid from a formula he devised himself.

Saturn Girl had, at least initially, powers beyond mere telepathy.  She could command animals, ala Aquaman,.......


…........and robots.

She could even pick up radio signals mentally!

She even had psychokinetic abilities, as shown here in Adventure #267.

And she could create illusions in the manner of Princess Projectra.

Sure, her illusions were “all in your head” whereas Projectra's would actually be objectively visible.  But, subjectively, the effect is the same.

Cosmic Boy underwent a subtle change.  Initially his magnetism emanated from his eyes, but as of Adventure #293 the eyes no longer had it.  The power was relocated to his hands.

Sun Boy's origin had a minor change.  In Adventure #300 he was bombarded by solar radiation, in Adventure #302 it was atomic radiation.

But the biggest change was to Star Boy.  When he was introduced he had a Superboy-level power set, attained by passing through a comet's tail.  He showed up a few times after that but mostly as a supernumerary.  The next time a reference was made to his powers was in Adventure #317 and all he had was the ability to make things weigh more, based on being born in space.   This whole business was later retconned to say that the comet powers were only temporary.  They even wrote a story around that in Legion #306, published some 20 years later.


Of the three original Legionnaires Lightning Lad's power set didn't change at all.  But his origin story has gone through some stuff.  This pair of panels from Adventure # 308 tells the tale.


We see the lightning monsters charging Garth, and Garth alone, with their power.  And his first thought is that this power might win him membership in the organization of which he was one of the founding members.  Hey, he even has his costume already, complete with lightning bolts.

OK, to be fair this wasn't even Garth's flashback, what with him being dead at the time (spoiler alert: he got better).  It was Cosmic Boy telling Sun Boy about the origin of Lightning Lad, but still.

Lightning Lad's origin has been retold a few times.  When Ayla told the story, she left out Mekt.  When Mekt told the story, he left out Ayla.  Gosh, you'd think those two had issues or something.

But we do see them together in Adventure #331. 

Our next error involved a flashback scene as well.  On the left is a panel from Superboy #89, the story that introduced the character of Mon-El.  Superboy is about to make what was arguably the greatest blunder of his young life, painting some lead cannonballs green to expose Mon-El, who he thinks is an impostor, possibly even an enemy.  The panel on the right from Adventure #305 is Mon-El's relating this story to the Phantom Zone prisoners just before he is to leave the Zone for the last time.  Note the difference in Superboy's internal dialog here.


WHOA!!!!  What was originally an innocent mistake, albeit one with tragic consequences, takes on a much more sinister tone here.  I noticed this one reading the “Legion of Super-Heroes Silver Age-Volume 1”.  I couldn't believe it.  How many times have I read “The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire” and never saw that?  At first I attributed that to being so familiar with the Mon-El origin story that I just slid over that panel.  But on a hunch I checked out Adventure #403, which featured a reprint of this story and others in the “The Death and Rebirth of Lightning Lad” saga.  Turns out they'd fixed it.  Well, that's a lot better.

Speaking of the Phantom Zone, Supergirl was sent there by evil Chameleon Men in Action Comics #287 and found the place deserted, without even Mon-El to keep her company.  OK, she did have the stupid cat. (Off topic, I think it's hilarious that the actors who portrayed Supergirl and Mon-El are a couple in real life.)  Mon-El should have been there as his story predated this one both on the comic and real-life timelines.  And it wasn't just Mon-El that should have been there but Jax-Ur and his two cronies, as seen in the panel from Adventure #305.  Boy, does Jax-Ur look PO'd.

Oh, and from Adventure Comics #323 there also should have been this geezer.

Sorry, make that Gazor.  Phantom Girl finds him the sole remaining occupant of the Zone.  I suppose Jax-Ur and his buddies could have made parole in the year and a half between that story and this one but it seems unlikely.

Then there is the old fashioned plot-hole.  The two-part story in Adventures #371 and 372 (“The Colossal Failure and School for Super-Villains”) had one that Colossal Boy could walk through.  The basic premise that two criminals turn Colossal Boy's parents to glass statues and threaten to break them if Colossal Boy doesn't provide them with inside information on Legion training protocols.  Unknown to Colossal Boy, at the time, is they want this information to facilitate training a Legion of Super-Villains.  But one of those villains is Nemesis Kid, a former Legionnaire himself, who could theoretically provide all the data they needed.

OK, maybe Nemesis Kid's data would be a couple years old but would that really matter?  Could he have actually been inducted before going through training?  Well, this panel from Adventure Comics # 346 would seem to imply otherwise.

So, if you have a fully trained ex-Legionnaire in your ranks, why would you need to get the information from Colossal Boy?  But the basic story is so good, I didn't even realize that the plot has this fatal flaw in it until very recently.

Now from a major error, we close on a relatively minor one.  But it's the sort of error that generally gets called a “boner”.  (Which means as a mistake, especially a stupid one.)  It comes from Adventure Comics #349, the initial appearance of Legion foe Universo.  He is ready to consummate his plan for galactic domination by hypnotizing the United Planets Inner Council when they reveal themselves to be the Legionnaires that Universo thought to be dead.  This revelation is accomplished by unmasking.  They all unmask.  Including Chameleon Boy.  Did someone forget exactly what his super power is, anyway, or was he just feeling kind of lazy that day?

Another case of forgotten powers comes from Adventure #325 (10-64).  Mon-El shows up and encounters Lex Luthor and he's wearing a Legion flying belt.  What can you say?

So that's it for this overview of mistakes from the Early Silver Age Legion.  Feel free to cite any that you think I've missed.

And, finally, I'd like to own up to a mistake of my own.  In my earlier article “Who Joined When”, I said that the character of Pol (Magnetic Kid) was introduced in Adventure #357 (6-67).  Actually, we first saw him somewhat earlier in Adventure #335 (8-65).

8 comments:

  1. I wonder if that mysterious twin was really the basis for whatever Geoff Johns had planned for Mekt.

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  2. The biggest mistake concerning the LOSH was DC letting Bendis get his hands on them.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I agree! Bendis’ Legion as a separate series which would feature Jon like how the retcon was with Conner, and let us keep the (re-)establish LSH. We never got to figure out the Supergirl/ Emerald Empress/ Saturn Girl plot, or why Saturn Girl was in prisoner in the first place … did we?

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  3. Fun summary. Thanks.

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  4. This may not rise to the level of "mistake" per se, but Element Lad spent the Silver Age running around with a big E on his chest even though the Latin alphabet had long since been replaced by Interlac. Of course, when Giffen redesigned his costume in the 80s, he got the Interlac E.

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