Sale of the (Thirtieth) Century

Today’s post features an 80 page Giant from 1968, the all-Legion Superboy 147.  Having read about four Legion  stories by 1970,  I longed for this comic and  studied the Swan/ Adams cover for years- how mind-boggling would the clash between the Adult Legion and the Legion of Super-Villains be? And that was just an extra?!

I’ll be returning to my fascination with the Adult Legion in a future post (no pun intended).  I finally got a copy of this comic at a mart for £5.95, from Darryl at Silver Acre in Chester, nearly three decades after it had been published. It originally cost 1/9 ( about ten pence) and the cover has three big, purple stamps from ” Greenwood’s Book Exchange”; the spine is secured with brow masking tape. If I’d waited four or five years, I could have had a pristine facsimile edition published by DC  in 2003.

Let’s have a look at the table of contents:

The Origin of the Legion: E. Nelson Bridwell wrote this 8-pager depicting how the LSH was formed. Pete Costanza’s characters are all in motion but the strip looks very old-fashioned. It’s also one of the most boring origin tales in comics; we’ve dealt with it before when looking back at Secret Origins. This year, Paul Levitz, the architect of the modern LSH, took six issues to tell the same story and yet added very little to it.

The Boy With Ultra-Powers: Gary Crane , a boy with super-vision, is on a mission to expose Supey’s secret identity. This is of course the initiation test of Ultra Boy and the début of Marla, the Legion’s adult advisor. There’s no in-story explanation as to why the LSH should need such a figure nor why he wears a costume identical to Jo Nah, aside from an altered thunderbird emblem. Pete Ross is granted honorary membership in recognition of his loyalty. A classy-looking story from Curt Swan.

The Legion of Super-Traitors: In the eighth Legion story, the Legion of Super-Pets is assembled by Saturn Girl since they are immune to the mental powers of the Brain-Globes of Rambat. Bizarrely enough, Beppo the Super-Monkey “thinks” in Superbaby-talk yet Streaky the Super-Cat can form full sentences. Lightning Lad can be seen riding Krypto into battle. Sweet but very silly and drawn by Curt Swan.

Supergirl’s Three Super- Girlfriends: the fifth LSH story ever printed is a cavalcade of  wish fulfilment by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney . Lonely orphan Linda Lee longs for a confidante and finds three in the forms of Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl and Triplicate GirlSupergirl then wins membership in the LSH and receives the attentions of Brainiac 5. There’s also a cameo by Brainiac’s sinister space-monkey, Koko. Maybe Keith Giffen could devise a  Legion of Super-Villain Pets.

The Secret of the Seventh Super-hero: a busy and incoherent seventh LSH story by George Papp. In his previous appearance (the last story) Sun Boy failed his Legion audition. This time, a crook disguised as the Luminescent Legionnaire enlists Superboy’s help  to retrieve Cyclops. This robot talks like Thor and can change good people into evil ones with its ray-power. The ruse is uncovered when the crook fails to give the Legion’s secret handshake. The main plot is actually about a delinquent Clark Kent lookalike; we know he’ll be reformed when we see him enjoying school –surely the most fanciful element of the story.

The Legion of Super-Villains: Curt Swan also pencils this Superman story (the sixth LSH adventure) which creates complications that will dog the series. It introduces both an Adult Legion and an adult Legion of Super-Villains. This grouping (Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen and Cosmic King)  is a mirror image of the original  Legion trio, much as the Crime Syndicate was a counterpart of the JLA or the Frightful Four/Fantastic Four opposition. Lex Luthor teams up with the LSV in this story but super-hypnotist Saturn Queen  changes sides. All three villains were seen prior to the launch of the New 52 but CK was killed when Variable Lad sacrificed himself. This is a simple story but visually, it feels like it belongs to the Shooter/Swan Era of the mid-Sixties.

The Lore of the Legion: a text feature that recounts Legion adventures and misfortunes. Bridwell also tells us to watch out for the return of Lone Wolf as Timber Wolf and of the Adult Legion’s Ferro Man. The latter appearance never happened, unless we count the alternate reality glimpsed  in LSH 300 fifteen years later, in 1983.

Actually, I was disappointed by this comic when I read it-  but how could it have lived up to the sagas I had imagined as a kid?   However, LSH fans in 1968 were just about to read the Mordru two-parter- more about that later this year- and I think they could have been better served.

Presuming that, like the Super-Specs, there’s an unwritten rule that precludes reprints that are less than four years old, I would replace the Supergirl and Sun Boy stories  (you knew I was going to say that!). My selections are The Legion of Substitute Heroes and The Lone Wolf Legionnaire.

It strikes me that young Shooter’s two-part  Adult Legion tale dominated the mid-to-late Sixties Legion so why not showcase Polar Boy and Timber Wolf, two Legionnaires introduced as members in that story?

Check out future posts here on the ‘Optikon for more Legion Lore!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners


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