A Flash of Lightning in a Summer Cloud

The countdown to the one hundredth post on Materioptikon begins today!  Our 95th post will, again, focus on a giant-sized DC comic- Giant Adventure Comics 403  dated Mar-April 1971.

I got my first copy of this comic from the newsagent on Victoria Street in Newton Stewart. In the early 70s, there was a wishing well in a public garden and rockery, accessible by a flight of steps. My recollection is that the water was fancifully dyed with a blue tinge.

Actually trying to date the purchases of comics over forty years ago is maddening. This Giant carries an ad inside for the premiere issue of Mr. Miracle. But my introduction to the character and my first issue of that bi-monthly title was number 4, cover-dated October ’71.  So I might not have read this Legion comic until the spring or summer of 1972. But that seems unlikely. On the other hand, we did holiday in Mochrum outside Port William that year and would have stopped off in Newton Stewart going or coming back.  On one stop in the town, I remember getting this gift set:

Now, Emma Peel was a very dim childhood memory in the early Seventies but I associate the Tudor Crisps “Wear-Em Scare-Em” badge/medallion promotion with Sunday afternoon repeats of the Linda Thorson Avengers .

The Cobwebbed Room website notes a closing date of 1974 for the promotion, but this comic wasn’t three years old when I got it!  Doesn’t really help, does it?

In any case, I had definitely read three issues of Adventure and three of Action Comics  starring the LSH  between 1969 and 1970. I had also read the Invisible Kid/ Chemical King short in Superboy (Jul 71);  possibly the Adventure Double Double which featured the intro of Shadow Lass…

…and three 65-66 Adventures  from my cousin Jim’s collection; plus the Lore of the Legion text feature in Super DC. So, for convenience, let’s call this my twelfth Legion comic of all time.

This book collects the saga of the death and revival of Lightning Lad from January to September 1963.

The Stolen-Super Powers: Saturn Girl unscrupulously acquires the leadership role and duplicates the Legionnaires’ powers for good measure. It’s a plot to thwart fate but Imra discovers that you can’t cheat the Reaper when Lightning Lad is killed by the criminal Zaryan. The first story to highlight the risks of Legion membership, consolidating Imra’s Ice Maiden rep into the bargain.

The Secret of the Mystery Legionnaire:  new applicant “Marvel Lad” carries out a number of initiation tests including driving off a  Sun-Eater (too bad, Ferro Lad!) It turns out Mon-El’s fatal lead poisoning is in remission thanks to Brainy’s serum and he can permanently leave the Phantom Zone (too bad, Captain Mar-Vell!)  so he’s been playing a prank. Two months later, the Legion would meet and induct Mystery Lad, Jan Arrah the sole survivor of Trom and the future  Element Lad.

The Return of Lightning Lad:  Garth returns from the dead but his best friend Sun Boy suspects he’s lost his powers. It turns out that Garth’s twin sister Ayla has impersonated him to carry on his work as Lightning Lass- instead of, you know, just auditioning.  Perhaps her obvious boyishness prefigures her romantic relationship with Shrinking Violet?  The LSH infiltrate the Thieves World, ruled by an energy-being and Cham acquires his first pet from Antares, the yellow telepathic  blob Proty.

A footnote makes reference to Lightning Lord’s return in Superboy 172- also March 1971- but I wouldn’t glimpse him until 1974.

The Super-Sacrifice of the Legionnaires/ The Bravest Legionnaire: The Legionnaires investigate three interstellar methods to revive the seemingly-dead but the only method which will work is straight out of Frankenstein. It’s a random lottery to conduct life force via lightning bolts. Saturn Girl, Mon-El and Sun Boy all volunteer but it’s Proty who gives “his” life, out of affection for Imra. The Five-Years- Later series in the early 90s  would reveal that Garth was never revived- Proty’s personality was transferred along with his life-force. The serial also establishes some of the Legion’s major tropes:  imposters, mortality and sacrifice.

There’s no letters page, since Adventure was a vehicle for Supergirl at this point but there’s a schematic for the current Legion hq complex and four pages of Legion costumes designed by readers.  Part of the appeal of the LSH was the invitation to submit your own creations and surprisingly, fan fashions were adopted in the comics several times, most notably for Saturn Girl and Duo Damsel. My own favourites  are Karate Kid’s white judo togs  and the Star Trek dancing girl outfit for Shadow Lass.


For once, the stiff artwork of John Forte doesn’t bother me- there seem to be more outlandish aliens and monsters in this arc than usual.

We’ll be returning to the Legion in the countdown to the centennial post but next- Luthor’s ESP sister!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners



4 comments on “A Flash of Lightning in a Summer Cloud

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Dougie, your memories of where you were when you bought that comic may well be correct. In the early ’70s, I bought a lot of comics over the course of about two or three years completely out of sequence. I remember buying, brand-new, from the small RS McColls in EK, an issue of the ‘Kryptonite Nevermore’ series – long after I had read subsequent issues while living in a previous house. And in Blackpool in ’73 and ’74, I bought brand-new Kirby issues of The Fantastic Four and Buscema issues of The Silver Surfer from the late ’60s – straight off the spinner-racks. It does make it difficult to get one’s recollecrions in sequence ‘though, I’ll admit. Fortunately, I was buying weekly British comics at the same time, and can sometimes use them to date the purchase of the U.S. ones.

  2. Kid Robson says:

    Oops – ‘recollections’, not ‘recollecrions’.

  3. Dougie says:

    It was always a thrill though, getting something like the FF King-Size Special or Not Brand Ecch, two or three years later. As a child, that gap feels like an eternity. Yesterday a Second-Year kid gasped ” 1990? That’s AGES ago!”

  4. Kid Robson says:

    And to him it will be – it was before he was born so must seem like prehistory. What I can’t get my mind around is that the first Total Recall movie still seems fairly recent to me – surely it’s not old enough for a remake, twenty years or not?

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