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The start of the new week, means the start of another bunch of blogs about my Legion rereads...





Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #201
March-April (April), 1974

“The Betrayer From Beyond”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Shrinking Violet, Superboy, Star Boy, Shadow Lass, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, ERG-1, Chemical King (flashback); Invisible Kid, Ultra Boy, Chameleon Boy, Karate Kid, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Element Lad (all in cameos)

Guests:
Porcupine Pete, Infectious Lass (both applicants, both rejected)

The Legionnaires are holding an open call to replace Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy. Three applicants - Infectious Lass, Porcupine Pete and Molecule Master - are anxious to impress the Legionnaires. Superboy shows them a visitape of the recent applicant, ERG-1, who ultimately sacrificed himself to save Colossal Boy on a recent mission to Manna-5 (see below). However, as the applicants leave the chamber, ERG-1 reveals to the reader that he is actually still alive. His energy form was dissipated, not destroyed, on Manna-5, and after pulling himself together and travelling for over a year back to Earth, he’s ready to re-enter his containment suit. However, there is a force-field around the containment suit in the Memorial Room that keeps him out. In the main Legion hall, Porcupine Pete demonstrates his power to the Legionnaires, but because he can’t control the aim of his quills, is rejected for membership.
ERG-1 comes across Cosmic Boy and tries to communicate with him somehow. When he attempts to take over Cosmic Boy’s mind however, he finds the flight rings use the same frequency as the force field, and ERG-1 is stymied once more. When applicant Infectious Lass hits Star Boy with a cold and follows it up with a too strong bout of the flu, Superboy rejects her for membership since she could put the entire Legion on the sick list. The final applicant, Molecule Master, demonstrates his power by enlarging the free-flowing atoms in the air and harnessing their atomic power. Superboy declares he’s passed the first test, but there are others to follow. ERG-1 realizes he can use the applicant to gain access to his uniform, since he doesn’t have a flight ring and thus is not immune to him. But when he does so, ERG-1 realizes that Molecule Master is an android, and learns it has been programmed to steal the Miracle Machine. The Legionnaires won’t be able to stop it, as they’ll all be dead from the toxic gas it has been emitting since it arrived in Legion HQ, one that even Superboy won’t be able to resist. Shadow Lass leads Molecule Master to his next set of tests, and then succumbs to the poisonous gas, followed by the remainder of the Legionnaires. As the android attempts to steal the Miracle Machine, it is attacked by ERG-1! Molecule Master attacks him with his atom energy ad power, but instead of being absorbed by the giant atom, ERG-1 actually feeds on it, gaining enough power to destroy Molecule Master. ERG-1 reveals that he finally realized he could use the Miracle Machine and did so, first using it to remove the effects of the poison from the Legionnaires and putting them into a deep sleep and then using it go gain access to his uniform. The revived Legionnaires are shocked and surprised to see him once more.

Commentary:
This story is a sequel, even though it is set a year later (as per the story itself), to the tale of the Legion’s pyrrhic victory on Manna-5; we even get the flashback to the events of Superboy Vol 1 #195 here as well). The story features the return of ERG-1 and also introduces the Molecule Master. Long-time Legion fans will recognize the name of the super-villain as being the one who supposedly will kill future Legionnaire Reflecto, as told in the “Adult Legion” story from Adventure Comics Vol 1 #354. The story is quite enjoyable, but as with all of Cary Bates’s work to this point, has a couple of flaws to it. Primary among them is why ERG-1 chose not to face the Molecule Master with the Legion, but perhaps this is part of ERG-1’s (later Wildfire) personality; he’s going to be something of a jerk and a risk taker later on. That said, the story is an enjoyable read, and the artwork by Dave Cockrum on the “erg energy vs. atom energy” fight scenes was stunning. In addition, the many scenes showing various parts of Legion HQ are delightful and give the reader a good idea of what some the Legion's base of operations is like. Lovely story.

The issue’s second story is…

“The Silent Death”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Joe Letterese
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff


Mission Monitor Board:
Dream Girl, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Brainiac 5.

While on their way to Legion HQ, Karate Kid and Dream Girl are attacked by a pair of muggers. Karate Kid dispatches the two muggers easily before Dream Girl can lift a finger, and she begins to feel sorry for herself and doubts herself. Karate Kid tells her that her unique power is important, and makes her a valuable Legionnaire. That night, Dream Girl has a dream that someone in the Mission Monitor room will die. She rushes there, but finds Karate Kid with his feet up, eating some fruit. They conclude that the dream must have involved someone on the Mission Monitor board, and the board shows them Phantom Girl and Lightning Lad on a mission in the radically different Sahara Desert of Earth. They’re fetching some curative vurxa weeds for someone who needs them. A sudden fallout twister appears in their path, but Lightning Lad takes care of it by using his lightning against the radioactive particles, while Phantom Girl merged with him in dispersed form for her own protection. With the two Legionnaires fine, Karate Kid concludes that this means Nura saw herself in the vision...just as Karate Kid collapses. Karate Kid awakes some time later in the medico centre, after Brainiac 5 has operated on him. It turns out that he was knifed with a laser knife during the mugging, and due to his rigid discipline training him to shut out the pain, he never felt a thing. Karate Kid points out again how important Nura is, since if Dream Girl hadn’t rushed to the Mission Monitor board because of her dream, he, Val, would have died.

Commentary:
Cary Bates seems to have felt the need during his early career writing Legion stories of tales about Legionnaires who doubt themselves. He did it in Superboy starring the LSH Vol 1 #199 with both Princess Projectra and Bouncing Boy having their doubts, and does it again here with Dream Girl doubting herself and her powers. With all that said, however, this story is a pretty good one that shows that Dream Girl’s powers aren’t just about predicting catastrophic, galactic events, but also the more simple, day-to-day ones such as a fellow Legionnaire dying from a knife wound inflicted by a mugger. No wonder he later insisted that all Legionnaires receive basic hand-to-hand combat training. And the shame of it all... Karate Kid takes a serious wound from a mugger, but still manages to take on the whole Fatal Five in a story that is still infamous for that, Adventure Comics Vol 1 #378, “Twelve Hours to Live!”. The addition of Phantom Girl and Lightning Lad is a nice touch here, and both were quite effective in their “lesser” roles. Dave Cockrum was the first artist to portray Karate Kid as more of an Asian character, and Val Armorr comes across this way very nicely. Mike Grell will develop this even more, but Cockrum started it here. Oh, and I’m really hoping that the lumpy figure in the bed with Dream Girl when she woke from the nightmare (and why doesn’t he stir??) is Star Boy!

Happy Birthday, britgeekgrrl!

Happy Birthday, britgeekgrrl!

May the Goddess bless you, Johanna, with good health, fortune, happiness, prosperity, and may a warm breeze always blow at your back. Here's hoping that the new year is full of all great things.
Last night, the Friday gaming group met up for the once every two weeks gaming session. The Friday night gamers continued to play their John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game campaign in the science fantasy world of sword & planet adventure created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. You can read about the previous session from two weeks ago by following the link. This post is somewhat long, so I've put it behind a cut for those who don't want to read about my roleplaying game campaigns.


2_John_Carter_of_Mars_RPG-cover.jpg


In which the player characters have some dealing with an airship and its crewCollapse )

Friday night's game session of the John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game campaign was absolutely terrific, the player characters being put in serious jeopardy and having to use their wits (and their swords) to get out of the mess they found themselves in. The players had a terrific time of things, though they told me afterwards the fact that they couldn't roll decent dice rolls to save their lives during the fight with the 20 Jaccan soldiers in the early part of the game session. Fortunately they were aware of the Blacking Out rules the game has to avoid the death stuff, and woke up in what appeared to be even deeper trouble. The swashbuckling during the fights on the airship were tremendous and a lot of fun, a couple of players lamenting they hadn't put too many points into their Might scores. When we wrapped up for the night, the players told me that they really like the combat system of the game, and find it simple and fast. Another recommendation for the game, I suppose.

Overall, Friday night's session of John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game was terrific, and I'm really looking forward to the next session. This session wrapped up the first adventure for the game that I've run, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they do in the next session when we start a new adventure.

The Moon Landing, 50 Years Ago Today

Apollo 11.

Fifty years ago today. On July, 20th, 1969 at 10:56pm EDT, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and became the man who uttered the immortal line that everyone who watched it on their black & white televisions or who has seen it since on broadcasts of the events knows.





I can't remember where I was at the time of the moon landing, but I was 14 years old and living in Montreal, and I do remember sitting in my family's living room on a very hot day and watching the historical moment late at night (my mom let me stay up late for this world history making event) on the family's black & white tv set. Being in love with astronomy at the time, I *had* to watch this happening, even if the images were grainy and the sound was typical of the time, full of the buzz and time delay of the words being spoken on the Moon and coming back to the Earth and its waiting, breathless population. I remember dreaming at the time of lunar cities and further jaunts into the solar system, colonies on Mars, that sort of thing. Everything that science fiction had theorized in various tales, though I knew that I wasn't fated to be able to go to the Moon or Mars...much as I wanted to.

It's fifty years later, and we all know how *that* turned out. Man hasn't been back to the Moon a lot since, and that colony on Mars is something of a pipe dream these days, I guess, but back then it was a time of hope, a time of dreaming of a bright future in space. However, that doesn't diminish the accomplishment of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins n the least. Years later in an interview, Armstrong praised the hundreds of thousands of people who worked on the project, and he couldn't have been more right. It was a huge team effort. One for the ages. And one to be remembered for all time.

July 20th, 1969: One Giant Leap for Mankind

'Nuff, said.

Getting Ready for Friday Night Gaming

The Ottawa valley is in the middle of a heatwave, and today has been brutally hot once more. There's actually a heat warning for the Ottawa valley for the today and the weekend. The temperature has hit 33 degC with a humidex of over 40 degC. I'm very tired, have made a dedicated attempt today to stay hydrated, but still have a bit of a headache. Definitely going to make sure I drink a good amount of water from now until I go to bed. (And I intend to keep the gamers this evening hydrated as well.)

In the meantime, the Friday night group is gaming this evening, and they are quite looking forward to tonight's session. The Friday night gamers will be continuing their John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game campaign of sword & planet adventure on the world of Barsoom created by Edgar Rice Burroughs this evening.

I'm rather looking forward to running the game this evening, though I am tired, hurting, and a bit... wheezy, for lack of a better term. Must be the heat, the humidity and my allergies and asthma.

In the meantime, I need to carefully go upstairs and make something relatively filling for supper.

Have a good evening, folks. :)




Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #200
January-February (February), 1974
“The Legionnaire Bride of Starfinger!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Bouncing Boy/Chuck Taine, Duo Damsel/Luornu Durgo (both leave the Legion), Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Superboy, Mon-El, Shadow Lass; Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy (cameo), Invisible Kid (cameo), Sun Boy (cameo), Element Lad (cameo), Dream Girl (cameo), Star Boy (cameo), Colossal Boy (cameo), Ultra Boy (cameo), Timber Wolf (cameo), Light Lass (cameo), Shrinking Violet (cameo), Supergirl (cameo), Chemical King (cameo), Princess Projectra (cameo), Karate Kid (cameo), Matter-Eater Lad (cameo), Chameleon Boy (cameo).

Guests:
The Legion of Substitute Heroes, The Heroes of Lallor and The Wanderers (all appear as wedding guests).

In the self-titled Part 1, in the Legion medical wing, Bouncing Boy/Chuck Taine is told by Brainiac 5 that the diagnosis is clear and unmistakable - Chuck has permanently lost his bouncing powers. To cheer himself up, he goes to the library and watches a certain holovid on visitape of himself and Duo Damsel during happier times. He comes to a decision, and goes after Duo Damsel, who’s returned from a month-long mission in deep space. He learns from Chameleon Boy that she’s gone to the Metro-Center and goes after her there. Chuck tells Duo Damsel his bad news and then asks her the Question - to which she replies “Yes!” Before they can seal it with a kiss, she takes off to save two escaped Eaglox birds. She attempts to split in two to save the birds but finds that she can’t. She is able to save one of the two birds, and fortunately the second bird is saved by Superboy who has arrived for the monthly Legion meeting. Duo Damsel is concerned over her lack of being able to split in two and Superboy learns that Chuck has permanently lost his powers. Luornu and Chuck tell Superboy that it’s all right, because both of them are quitting the Legion - and are getting married! In Part 2, “This Wife is Condemned”, while Bouncing Boy is congratulated by several Legionnaire on his impending nuptials, Brainiac 5 runs another diagnostic and discovers that the reason Duo Damsel can’t split into two is because she already has. He uses a memory probe on her, and see through the probe that a huge, roc-like bird kidnapped her other self during her latest mission. Because of the connection between the two Damsels, the shock of her loss caused her to block out the separation and what happened from her conscious memory. The next morning, three Legion cruisers warm up and prepare to depart for Nix Olympica on Mars, the site for the wedding, with all the Legionnaires on-board except for Mon-El and Shadow Lass, who remain behind to keep the home fires burning. As Shadow Lass and Mon-El walk on the Legion grounds, a nameless energy being follows them, saying that it can confront the Legion a second time soon, and take’s what is its. Chuck Taine and Luornu Durgo/Duo Damsel get married (with Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl as bridesmaids and Lighting Lad as best man), but once more they don’t get to kiss. Duo Damsel collapses after she starts to glow, and Brainiac 5 informs the stunned Legionnaires and guests present that she’s dying. An uninvited guest, Starfinger, calls from above confirming this, as he holds the other glowing Duo Damsel. He says the only way they can recover is to hand him the bride so that they can be merged and cured. In Part 3, “Secret of the Starfinger Split!”, Superboy picks up the bride and prepares to take her to Starfinger, but Chuck (Taine) resists the idea. Brainiac 5 knocks him out with a nerve press, saying that “Bouncing Boy’s forgotten he’s a civilian now.” Superboy takes their half of Duo Damsel to Starfinger, but tells him that if either Duo Damsel dies, he’ll have to answer to 23 Legionnaires. Starfinger reminds the Boy of Steel that he once fought the Legion single-handed, and then blast Superboy with a crimson bolt (a red sun ray). Superboy plummets downward, and Starfinger catches the second Duo Damsel and takes off with the pair of them. As he flies, Starfinger gloats to himself about how long he’s planned for this. He hit both Duo Damsels with a poisonous mist during their mission, thus ensuring that the Legion would have to hand over the second Damsel to him or both would die. Meeting up with his monstrous bird, called Warxi, the villain has it hold the two Damsels while he rides it back to his space-craft. Meanwhile, Saturn Girl is able to track down Duo Damsel from the brain waves stored on wafers that Brainiac 5 and she recorded earlier. Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Cosmic Boy and Superboy go after the Duo Damsels. Starfinger informs the reader that his plan is to learn Duo Damsel’s secret to splitting into multiple bodies, thus allowing him to create an army of Starfingers to conquer the galaxy. The Legionnaires find Starfinger’s space-craft, designed to be a giant replica of himself, and Saturn Girl picks up the villain’s thought and tells them what he plans to do. Superboy takes off at super-speed, without telling the others where he’s going. When Starfinger believes he has just created the first twin body for himself, he’s surprised when his other self attacks and takes him out. As Starfinger flies out of the spaceship with the two Duo Damsels, he is blasted by Cosmic Boy and is revealed to be Superboy. Superboy tells them he went back to Earth and Legion HQ to get the life-size replica of Starfinger’s costume that they keep in the Trophy Room and then return to surprise Starfinger. The four Legionnaires are taken by surprise when Starfinger’s giant bird arrives, and much to their surprise, teleports away with the spaceship and Starfinger. Back on the ground, Superboy and the others discover that Brainiac 5 has helped the two Damsels merge, and she’s fine now. Looks like it will be a happy wedding day. Back on Earth, Legion leader Mon-El decides to ask Superboy to rejoin the Legion full-time now that both Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy have left the team. However, unknown to both Mon-El and Shadow Lass, the invisible floating energy form wants to take back what he feels they owe him.

Commentary:
Effective this issue, Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes went from being published monthly to being published bi-monthly. From this point forward, I list the two months covered in the copyright listing of the issue as well as the cover date. The reasons for the bi-monthly switch were apparently a shortage of paper at the time as well as doubt as to whether the Legion could hold a comic for a monthly schedule at this time. Now, on to the issue itself...

*sigh* While I was thrilled that Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel were getting married in this tale, the story was really annoying for several reasons. First off, this is the swan song of two Legion characters (Chuck and Luornu) but neither of them are the stars of the issue. The two characters are both reactive, rather than pro-active, in the story, though I have to wonder whether writer Bates was trying to show how superfluous the two characters are. There’s no justice to how the two Legionnaires leave the team. The second thing that annoyed me was the first six pages of the issue. Bates is trying to create artificial drama, for lack of a better term, here (what’s wrong with Bouncing Boy, is he dying? What question did he ask Duo Damsel? What’s happening with her powers?) but this is all marred and spoiled by the title of the story, you know. I also find it hard to believe that Duo Damsel wold have suffered the hysterical breakdown she did here with the “death” of the other Luornu, given she’s already experienced the death of one of her selves when she was Triplicate Girl. Another thing that bothered me about the story is that with some 20 Legionnaires present for the wedding, only *five* Legionnaires react? And why doesn't Lightning Lad take an interest in the business, given the relationship he has with Dr. Lars Hanscomb aka Starfinger??? Sheesh! But if nothing else, you have to admire a villain who goes to a wedding where at least 20 super-heroes are... that takes guts - and sheer author stupidity! *sigh* Bouncing Boy loses his super-powers and leaves the Legion in this story. Duo Damsel then leaves as well to marry him, as the Legion Constitution at this time forbid married members. All that said, the story was an enjoyable read, despite the plot issues I had with it. Dave Cockrum’s artwork is stunning once more and the faces of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel run the gamut of emotions in this one. According to this story, Duo Damsel and Bouncing Boy's wedding will be on October 28, 2973. So set your calendars for that one. I was really sad that Chuck and Luornu never got to kiss in this tale. Lack of a pay-off, for lack of a better term, really didn’t help reinforce the idea that they’re getting married.

Happy Birthday, bradleyclark_47

Today is the birthday of one of my LJ friends, bradleyclark_47.

Just want to wish Brad a Happy Birthday. May the Goddess bless you with good health, happiness, prosperity, and a warm breeze at your back for the coming year.

Here's hoping today is a terrific day for you, that you have a good birthday celebration, and that there's some excellent cake (if that's too your liking!). :) And here's hoping the next year is a terrific one for you.

Happy Birthday, mate! :)




Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #199
November, 1973
“The Legionnaires Vs. The Gun That Mastered Men”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Carl Gafford
Cover: Dave Cockrum and Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Princess Projectra, Star Boy, Dream Girl, Chameleon Boy, Saturn Girl (flashback), Timber Wolf (flashback).

Superboy and Brainiac 5 narrate the story of how Tyr and his mysterious, sentient weapon planned their revenge on the Legion after taking on the Legion in Superboy & the LSH Vol 1 #197. A couple of days after the Legionnaires defeated Tyr, and his gun-hand took off into space and Earth’s orbit, as Superboy departs after saying farewell to his friends, Tyr’s gun-hand fires at Earth, surrounding the Legion Headquarters in an impenetrable force-field. The five Legionnaires are the only ones at HQ, Mon-El having led the others away to a mission on his homeworld of Daxam. Brainiac 5 and Star Boy attempt to analyze the force-field, but it is an unknown energy type. They open up the Legion arsenal and try to break through the field, but the beam seems to have fortified the Legion HQ walls and made them impenetrable. Brainiac 5 points out that they’re trapped in their own headquarters, and he can’t help but think that Tyr and his gun have something to do with it. Meanwhile, Superboy sees the attack starting in the midst of his beginning to time travel back to 20th Century Smallville, and returns. However, he is unable to break trough the beam from outside either. He heads to the source, and discovers that it is Tyr’s computer gun-hand. He attempts to give it a crushing “hand shake” Superboy style and there is a massive explosion. Back inside, Dream Girl has a vision of Star Boy flying towards the ceiling with open arms, but she can’t figure out why. Brainiac 5 uses one of the weapons to blast the ceiling grate, and Tyr falls out after the grate turns red-hot and loosens. Star Boy flies up to the ceiling ad captures Tyr, restraining him with the help of Chameleon Boy. Tyr boasts that his weapon hand will not rest until he is free and the Legionnaires are dead. Princess Projectra has a minor meltdown, claiming that the five members are the weakest Legionnaires and have no chance, but Brainiac 5 says that’s right, but they do have their wits. Moments later, the force-field around Legion HQ drops away and Chameleon Boy determines that Superboy did not go back to his own time, and must have defeated the gun-hand. When Superbly arrives, however, the gun-hand reveals that it surprised the Boy of Steel with a cosmic blast and then adapted its circuits to plug into Superboy and take over his brain. The Boy of Steel strains to prevent it, but the gun-hand seemingly annihilates the five Legionnaires with a massive blast. In the aftermath of the attack, with Superboy bemoaning having killed his friends, Tyr attacks wearing a glove coated with artificial Green Kryptonite. With the gun-hand weakened, it releases Superboy since it no longer has the power as it was siphoning the Boy of Steel. When the gun-hand is grabbed by Tyr, the alien transforms into Chameleon Boy, who reveals that he was masquerading as Tyr (who has been re-imprisoned) and the Legionnaires are alive, Princess Projectra having cast an illusion of the group of heroes to make the gun-hand think it had killed them. Princess Projectra’s confidence is restored, and once Superboy has headed back for the 20th Century, she tells Brainiac 5 that working together they can defeat any enemy. Brainiac 5 tells her that’s right, since teamwork is what the Legion is all about.

Commentary:
This story is the sequel to that story about Timber Wolf and Tyr’s original attack on the Legion told in Superboy starring the LSH Vol 1 #197, and like that story, is enjoyable to read but isn’t a great tale. While the story is certainly dynamic and filled with action, it falls flat from two things. First, why doesn’t Tyr’s gun-hand attempt to take over Chameleon Boy when he grabs it, or (as the gun says) is it because it has been drained since it was relying on Superboy’s powers? Secondly, Princess Projectra’s lack of faith in herself and her four Legion friends is, frankly, not something that I expected of Orandoan royalty and I’m finding the number of Legionnaires questioning their worth and their powers’ usefulness to be somewhat tiring already. And I thought it was interesting that Projectra’s powers of illusion worked on the gun-hand (an artificial or robotic creature). I also found it hard to believe that the Legion just keeps an artificial Green Kryptonite glove on hand lying around for Chameleon Boy to use on his friend (though he did apologize for that near the end of the story. Tyr (and his gun-hand) make for an interesting adversary for the Legion, and it’s a sad thing that he did not return to the series for something like ten years or so to challenge them again. One highlight of the story is Dave Cockrum’s designs for the new costumes for Prinncess Projectra (though she may have worn this one in her most recent appearance), Dream Girl and the fabulous Star Boy. Just excellent artwork.

And then we have the issue’s second story...

“The Impossible Target!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Carl Gafford
Cover: na
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Bouncing Boy

Bouncing Boy is travelling on a one-man cruiser on his way back to Earth from checking a Legion tracking station on the rim of the solar system when he is captured by what appears to be a meteor storm but are actually man-made, controlled satellites. They surround his mini-cruiser, drain its energy, and then drag it off to a nearby semi-deserted planetoid. He discovers that he’s been captured by the son of Otto Orion, the famous hunter who tried to bag the greatest game of them all, the Legionnaires, but was killed through his own plan of evening the odds. Otto Orion’s son shows him his fate - to be tossed into a zero-gravity chamber and then shot in cold blood by the hunter. Otto Orion’s son gives Bouncing Boy a “fair chance” as he releases him onto the jungle-covered surface of the planetoid and gives him until he circles the asteroid once before coming after him. Bouncing Boy tries to hide, but not knowing the lay of the land appears helpless when Orion returns and quickly tracks him down. Thinking fast, Bouncing Boy jumps into an icy pool, but Orion fishes him out. As he does so, Orion’s son explains that Bouncing Boy was his first target because he was "the weakest, sorriest, most slow-witted Legionnaire of them all!”, though he does lament that he expected the Legionnaire to put up a better fight. Once Orion’s son places him in the zero-gravity chamber, Bouncing Boy puts his plan to work. Having caught cold in the icy water, he lets out an explosive sneeze and using his knowledge of the “angles”, ricochets off the wall and into Orion’s on, knocking him out. He tells the villain that he has to admit he was no match for a Legionnaire.

Commentary:
This story is a sort of sequel, as it brings back the son of the man that the Legionnaires faced in a take on Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #358, this time having the son of the original Otto Orion seeking revenge on the Legionnaires and starting with the one he perceives as the weakest of them all. Bouncing Boy has been a joke with the Legion of Super-Heroes for years, and has questioned his value and worth to the team over the years several times. In this story, Bouncing Boy convinces himself that he is a Legionnaire, but more importantly he shows that bouncing around and into objects not only isn’t a bad power to have, but it’s a worthwhile power in the right circumstances. Cary Bates’s story works much better here, as both tales in this issue have Legionnaires, Projectra in the first and Bouncing Boy in the second, doubting themselves. That said, Otto Orion’s son is, to put it bluntly, an idiot. He dresses like a bad imitation of Kraven the Hunter, and doesn’t realize that the “weakest” Legionnaire that he should have started with is likely Matter-Eater Lad. Dave Cockrum’s artwork in this story is stellar, with the space scenes, the building and jungles on the planetoid, all being quality work.




Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #198
October, 1973
“The Fatal Five Who Twisted Time!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Nick Cardy
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Mon-El, Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy; Cosmic Boy, Shrinking Violet and Chemical King appear in cameos.

In the self-titled Part 1, Clark Kent and Lana Lang are enjoying a travelling carnival outside of Smallville. Though, truth be told, Clark’s mind is actually on the unusual UFO that’s been spotted over Smallville, shooting out a beam that seems to have the effect of being an x-ray slicing through the town. Clark becomes so distracted that he fails to realize that Lana’s in real danger from Gorpo, an escaped gorilla. He manages to knock the gorilla out without Lana being any the wiser. The two go back to walking the carnival grounds, and Lana convinces Clark to come with her to see the gypsy fortune-teller. Using his x-ray vision, he realizes her crystal ball is the Emerald Eye of Ekron and that the fortune-teller is the Emerald Empress. The Empress attacks Superboy, and the Persuader is alerted, causing him to join in. The Emerald Empress and the Persuader are too much for the Boy of Steel. They taunt him with the fact that the Time-Sorter has sealed his doom. The Persuader’s atomic axe fells Superboy, and the Emerald Empress encases him in a force-field that puts him in permanent suspended animation. Moments later, Mano arrives. The Empress and Persuader tell him they’ve installed the Time-Sorter in Smallville and then they all disappear together. In Part 2, “Prisoners of the Time Lock!”, a time bubble containing four Legionnaires - Brainiac 5, Element Lad, Karate Kid and Princess Projectra - arrives. The Legionnaires are there to warn Superboy, but hearing a commotion from the carnival fear it is too late. Lana explains to the Legionnaires what happened, and the mention of the Time-Sorter, but the four Legionnaires are content that only two of the Fatal Five are in the past, and that two others are imprisoned in the 30th Century. Meanwhile, in the 30th Century, Mon-El and Colossal Boy discuss the fact that Validus has broken Tharok free, while the others stole a time-bridger and travelled back to Smallville in Superboy’s time. Suddenly, the Legion Headquarters and those Legionnaires on-site fade away into nothingness. On the empty site where Legion HQ stood, Tharok boasts to Validus that the Time-Sorter planted in Superboy’s era has created a domino effect as planned, causing the Legion to cease to exist! Back in Smallville, Emerald Empress, Persuader and Mano attack the Legionnaires, who have split up trying to find them. They destroy the Legion’s time bubble and gloat to them how the Time-Sorter warps the time/space continuum. The Time-Sorter made sure that Superboy lost the fight against the Persuader and Empress in Smallville and the device also cancelled the events leading up to the formation of the Legion. The Empress explains that the four Legionnaires are without a Legion in the future. Karate Kid attempts to destroy the Emerald Eye, but it reforms from the shattered pieces. The fight goes as well for the Legionnaires as it can, but they realize that they need to retreat. When the four Legionnaires get back together and compare notes, they realize they’ve been stranded in the past, possibly forever. In Part 3, “Countdown to Catastrophe!”, back in the 30th Century, a surprised Tharok and Validus are joined by Mano, though he’s supposed to be in 1950s Smallville. Mano explains he was detained by a police posse in another galaxy. Back in 20th Century Smallville, the Mano there convinces the Empress and the Persuader that they should guard the Time-Sorter to ensure that its effects become permanent in the next 20 minutes of the 24-hour adjustment period. They head into downtown Smallville, where it’s revealed that the Time-Sorter is concealed inside the statue of Superboy that stands there. Mano fingers a concealed switch on his belt... and the relieved Brainiac 5 receives the signal on his force-shield belt. The Mano in Smallville is revealed as Chameleon Boy, as he’s discovered to be a fraud when his battery-charged glove that duplicates Mano’s disintegrator hand has run out of power. Princess Projectra saves Chameleon Boy with an illusion of Validus, and Chameleon Boy tells Karate Kid the Time-Sorter’s in the statue of Superboy. Karate Kid splits the statue open, to reveal both the Time-Sorter and Superboy. With only seconds to spare, Karate Kid destroys the Time-Sorter. With time restored, Brainiac 5 tells the villains that it’s over, but the Empress and the Persuader escape into the time stream using their time-bridgers. Back in the future, Legion Headquarters starts to reappear around Tharok, Mano and Validus. Validus manages to escape, but Tharok and Mano find themselves imprisoned where they were standing in the Legion jail.

Commentary:
This is, I’ll admit an enjoyable story, and is the first appearance of the Fatal Five since they took on Karate Kid back in Adventure Comics Vol 1 #378 back in March of 1969 and Mon-El and Saturn Girl took on Tharok and Validus in Superboy Vol 1 #190; it’s actually the first time since the Adventure Comics Vol 1 days that the Legion has taken on the entire Fatal Five team, albeit in two different time periods. The division of the story into three discrete parts was quite interesting, and made the sections of the tale feel distinct. The fight sequences in the story are truly beautifully rendered by Dave Cockrum, with some real dynamics involved, and Cockrum really handled the artwork in the first chapter set in Smallvile rather well; it had a distinct feel to it, to be sure. That said, if one looks at the story too closely, there are some definite flaws here... How did Chameleon Boy know where and when to infiltrate the Fatal Five as Mano? Mon-El mentions at one point that all three of the Five - Emerald Empress, the Persuader and Mano - disappeared into the past together, so why wasn’t he there to fight the Legionnaires? Furthermore, since Mon-El mentions that he sent four Legionnaires back to Superboy’s time, Brainiac 5 obviously sent Chameleon Boy in advance without telling the Legion leader. Typical Brainiac 5, I’d say. Perhaps a sign of things to come, huh? However, the real glitch with the plot is this... If the Time-Sorter prevented the Legion from ever existing, it should have also prevented the Fatal Five from existing! The Legion was the reason the Fatal Five formed in the first place. Funnily enough, this is the second issue in a row where a Legionnaire dives towards a countdown device with seconds to spare, and stops it. Last issue it was Timber Wolf, and this time out it’s Karate Kid. Costume-wise, Element Lad, Princess Projectra and Colossal Boy all wear their new uniforms in this issue. Colossal Boy's brown and orange uniform from Superboy Vol 1 #195 is gone and forgotten. A nice, humorous part of the story was that Element Lad wanders the carnival eating cotton candy.




Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #197
September, 1973
“Timber Wolf: Dead Hero, Live Executioner!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Dave Cockrum
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Uncredited
Cover: Nick Cardy and Dave Cockrum
Editor: Murray Boltinoff

Mission Monitor Board:
Superboy, Timber Wolf, Mon-El, Lightning Lad, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl; Ultra Boy, Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Matter-Eater Lad, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, Sun Boy and Karate Kid all appear in cameos.

In the self-titled Part 1 of the story... One spring afternoon, Clark Kent is sitting under an apple tree with Lana Lang, who has romance on her mind. He receives an urgent call from the Legion of Super-Heroes. Using his heat-vision, he contrives to get a pair of apples to strike Lana, temporarily knocking her unconscious. Quickly revealing his Superboy togs, he breaks the time barrier to the 30th Century and joins his LSH friends. He is surprised and shocked to find that Timber Wolf is alive. In flashback, we learn that Superboy and Timber Wolf were on Asteroid X52 tracking down a fierce Astral Vulture when the asteroid suddenly exploded, killing the vulture and Timber Wolf. Superboy reported to the Legion that he’d been killed in action, but now he’s back. Timber Wolf doesn’t remember what happened the last six months, his memory is blank - but someone who *does* now what happened during that time is travelling towards Earth in a spaceship! That night, Mon-El observes Timber Wolf sleeping. He tells Superboy that he’s afraid some drastic event must have occurred to Brin (Londo) to cause such a memory loss. Superboy says that he’s sleeping like a baby, not a care in the world. The next day, the President of Earth arrives to award Timber Wolf the Valor Star as a commendation for actually still being alive. Timber Wolf has the sudden, irresistible urge to kill the President! When Timber Wolf snatches up the President and whirls him around, threatening to let go, Mon-El grabs Superboy’s infinitely stretchable cape to catch him when Timber Wolf hurls him away, and then Mon-El grabs Timber Wolf in his own cape; Brin is now a snarling madman. In Part 2, "The Sinister Secret of Timber Wolf!”, it is the next day, and Brainiac 5 subjects Timber Wolf to the Mento-Rehabilitator, (supposedly) curing him of his brainwashing. Timber Wolf remembers being transported to another dimension before the blast on the asteroid. He also remembers an alien that towered over him, but remembers nothing else. Feeling matters are wrapped up, Superboy bids his Legion friends farewell and returns to the 20th Century and a Lana Lang who should be recovering about now. That night, Timber Wolf sneaks around Legion HQ but Saturn Girl senses he’s up to something and follows him into the main hall of the HQ. It turns out Timber Wolf has deactivated the HQ’s defenses, allowing the alien’s vessel to land without triggering the alarms. Saturn Girl follows Timber Wolf as he goes to the central Control Complex, and activates the secret self-destruct timer. The HQ will be destroyed in 90 seconds. The alien warrior, who calls himself Tyr, attacks, shooting Saturn Girl, though she partially avoids it, and then ricochets and strikes Timber Wolf. Tyr admits to Saturn Girl that he is the one who destroyed the asteroid and saved Timber Wolf, protecting them both with his dimensional shield, in order to brainwash him into destroying Legion Headquarters. He concealed that plan behind another brainwashing plot to kill the President. As Tyr looms over her, Timber Wolf attacks the alien, knocking Tyr out. He then quickly switches off the self-destruct mechanism with only 5 “ticks” remaining. Turning their attention back to Tyr, however, they notice that his gun-hand is missing, and has launched itself into orbit...

Commentary:
Before commenting on the story, I just want to say: This is the first issue of Superboy Vol 1 that features the Legion of Super-Heroes in the main title on the cover of the book. While the Legion has certainly come a long way from their back-up days starting in Action Comics Vol 1 #378 and then into the Superboy Vol 1 run starting with #172 in March of 1971, I personally think that artist Dave Cockrum had a lot to do with this. While the title of the book is still officially “Superboy”, and would remain so for several more years, it’s important to note that from this issue onward the Legion as a series would be published continuously for some 40 years or so. As a group, they will be published every month from this issue until the seventh volume of their own title was cancelled in 2013. Now, as for the story...

This issue features the debut of the super-villain Tyr, who will return numerous times to battle the Legion over the next decades or so. The story, however, while enjoyable as a read, does have a few gaping plot holes. I mean, let’s face it, Saturn Girl should have been a dominant figure in this tale. After all, a Legionnaire goes missing, presumed dead, for six months and then returns, but can't remember anything about the missing time - and you don’t ask your resident telepath for help? With Timber Wolf as a focus character, Cary Bates uses quite a few other Legionnaires in this tale, but where’s Brin’s love interest, Light Lass/Ayla Ranzz in all this? Nowhere to be found. Sheesh! Also since Timber Wolf hasn’t been seen since the Doctor Regulus story in Superboy Vol 1 #191, it would have been nice somewhere in the stories in between if it had been mentioned that Timber Wolf was missing, presumed dead, since six months had gone by. Hmmm... were the Legionnaires looking for his replacement when they interviewed Drake Burroughs/Wildire back in Superboy Vol 1 #195? The other real plot hole is the mission that Timber Wolf and Superboy had gone on. Since Superboy is a Legion Reservist, why send him on the mission? Perhaps this story was a last minute tale of sorts, and it had originally meant to have Mon-El or Ultra Boy in that position, but with the new prominence of the Legion and their taking over the comic, Superboy was “plugged in” to that slot. Hmmm... So, overall, a bit of a clunker in places, but a story that brings the Legion of Super-Heroes into the forefront of a DC Comics title that was about to reach its (first) stride in LSH history. Costume-wise, there are some interesting aspects to this story. First of all, Dave Cockrum seems to have decided to postpone new costumes for most of the Legionnaires. Although Timber Wolf's new look and costume are spotlighted here, he actually has a more feral look back in Superboy Vol 1 #191. Karate Kid is back in his orange/beige jump-suit, discarding his high-collared yellow, white and black uniform that he wore in Superboy Vol 1 #193. Dave Cockrum apparently changed his mind about using that costume and discarded it. Lighting Lad's classic Bronze Age (if memory serves me right) costume quietly makes its debut in this issue. Oh, and Element Lad is shown on the cover (complete with flying belt from the old days before the flight rings), but he does not appear in the story.

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jkahane
John Kahane

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