DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL
Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218
Published 9 months of the year, thirty cents, July
Cover artists: Mike Grell
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Superboy, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, debuted in More Fun Comics #101, January 1945. It was the first new comic book character to have a measure of success after the initial Golden Age/pre-WWII rush of superheroes – the fact it was a spin-off of one of the most successful comic book characters before or after World War II helped its success a bit, I would imagine.
The character moved to Adventure Comics in April 1946 with issue #103. Three years later he was given his own magazine starting with issue #1 dated April 1949 while still headlining Adventure Comics.
Flash forward to April 1958 and Adventure Comics #247 (good things happen in April, it seems…). In the 30th century, youthful superheroes, all inspired by the adventures of the previous millenium’s Superboy, formed a club called the Legion of Superheroes. Three members went back in time and asked Superboy to join their ranks. The group returned in issue #267 of December 1959. By issue #300 (September 1962), the Legion grew so popular they were given their own series, although usually always with Superboy in attendance.
The Legion continued in Adventure Comics, Action Comics and Superboy until 1973. In issue 197 of Superboy the Legion became part of the comic’s title, as Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes (although it would be still categorized as just Superboy for some time). By #231 the title became Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, then Legion of Superheroes with #259 when Superboy was booted from his own magazine. Comics starring the Legion have been revived several times and their continuity endlessly changed and rearranged in the decades since.
The fans of the Legion are … well, legion. Facebook pages, APAs, fanzines and other fan-based appreciation societies flourish. At the time of this blog, DC is slowly bring back the Legion after the cancellation of two of their comics from the “New 52” line-up. I’ve loved the Legion since my first issue (#209) and try to catch most of their revived titles. Overall the stories have been very good – some of them even excellent – but nothing seems to recapture the glory days of their Adventure Comics run; although to be frank, the run in which this Bicentennial issue is a part is my personal favorite…
Nearly every Legion story are available in reprints – either in comics form, trade paperback or hardback. This comic was reprinted in Legion of Super-Hero Archives #12.
Long Live the Legion!
“The Secret Villain the World Never Knew”, Cary Bates ( w ), Mike Grell (a)
This is Cary “Mr. Surprise” Bates at his best, so this will take a while…
Three rejected Legion applicants leave the Legion HQ. Quake Kid learns the hazards of flirting with Infectious Lass (who I always found to be incredibly sexy .. perhaps it is the charm of forbidden fruit…) while the third is still in shock that he was rejected.
Meanwhile, the applicant that was accepted, Tyroc, prepares to land on the HQ roof. Inside, Brainiac 5 recaps Tyroc’s origin and first meeting with the LSH from issue #216 to Light Lass, Colossal Boy and Element Lad who were on mission in space (again with the mission in space…) and have yet to meet Tyroc. Tyroc joins his new teammates…
… only to be attacked by Zoraz, who burns his way into the headquarters. Zoraz activates and uses the four Legionaires’ powers against them (Colossal Boy grows so fast he smacks himself unconscious against the ceiling, etc.). Tyroc causes an explosion that Zoraz absorbs, sets fire to the HQ alarm and escapes while Tyroc is recovering from the sonic onslaught.
Superboy and Cosmic Boy arrive and explain Zoraz’s origin to Tyroc. He once raided the Legion Cell Bank (our second lesson in cloning – Secret Society of Supervillains #2 also gave us a footnote-lecture on cloning this month) and stole samples from each Legionnaire! Thus, as the new member, Tyroc has the only power Zoraz cannot counteract!
While patrolling theie headquarters, Tyroc and Shrinking Violet pass an air vent in which sits a shadowed figure – who vows to find a way to wipe out the new guy!
That evening, Zoraz attacks Star Boy and Dream Girl during a romantic interlude and defeats them. Tryoc tries to save them, but Zoraz creates a vacuum in the gymnasium voiding Tyroc’s sound-based powers. Tyroc escapes by smashing a hole in the wall to sweet air and freedom! Zoraz gets away, but the shadowy figure in the air vent returns and says he now knows how to finally defeat Tyroc!
Tyroc is called to a meeting where the defeated Legionnaires are now fine and dandy! What gives? Zoraz was actually Sun Boy and (alternately) Superboy! It was one last test for Tyroc (the LSH trick/test new applicants a lot – look at Superboy and Star Boy’s initiations …)
But then Zoraz appears! The Legionnaires think it is Sun Boy and tell him the joke is over. Zoraz unmasks – it is the rejected applicant! Absorbency Boy! He can absorb residual energy left behind by superheroes. So in the Zoraz costume, he has the powers of Sun Boy AND Superboy! Yikes!
Absorbency Boy/Zoraz challenges Tyroc to a battle for Legion membership (one hopes the Legion would still reject AB if he won…). Tyroc blasts him with a pitch only Superboy can hear. The inexperienced Absorbency Boy reels at the painful sound and Tyroc knocks him out. Later that day, Tyroc is sworn in as the newest member of the Legion of Superheroes. Presumably Absorbency Boy goes back to testing paper towels. Not quite – they turned him into Earth Man, one of the Legions deadliest villains and eventually joining the Legion. He died in the Legion’s last pre-New 52 book as heroically as this modern comic age allows…
The “morgue” of the clone bank contains the names of several Legionnaires, and also Cary Bates, Allen Ladd and John Boy.
This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.
This story is reprinted in Legion of Superheroes Archives #12 and Showcase Presents the Legion of Superheroes Vol. 5.
Supertalk: the letter column was handled by Jack C. Harris but still done in the Boltinoff “sound bite” style (see The Brave & The Bold) for issue #215. Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive, but disliked some of the new costumes). The following letter writers out and out hated the new costumes: Marie Munas of La Mesa, CA, Katie Raisler of East Lansing, MI and “A Worried Fan”. Scott Gibson of Evergreen, CO liked the costumes and the current stories, Sarah Finnegan of Washington DC spotted a story flaw regarding Ultra Boy’s powers, Barry Charles of Louisville, KY asked for a return of the Fatal Five (and they would in the next issue, per JCH) and David Hanson of Swartz Creek, Michigan finished off the letter page with the ubiquitous “Long Live the Legion”!
Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #23: Tarzan Family #4
Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.