Adventure Comics 247

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Adventure Comics #247
Preboot » Pre-Crisis
Adventure247.jpg
Cover by Curt Swan, Stan Kaye and Ira Schnapp.
Story title The Legion of Super-Heroes
Previous story Action Comics v1 #276: Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends
Next story Adventure Comics #267: Prisoner of the Super-Heroes
Publication date February 27, 1958
Cover date April 1958
Creators
Writer Otto Binder
Penciller Al Plastino
Inker Al Plastino
Letterer(s) ???
Colourist(s) ???
Editor Mort Weisinger
Cover artist(s) Curt Swan, Stan Kaye, Ira Schnapp

Superboy is invited to travel to the 30th century and join a teenage super-hero club if he passes a series of initiation stunts to test his powers and his sportsmanship.

The Legion of Super-Heroes

One day in Smallville Superboy is startled to run across several teenagers who apparently know his secret identity. One boy greets Clark as Superboy even though Clark is dressed in his civilian clothes. Later, as Superboy flies over Smallville in costume, another boy addresses him as Clark Kent. And while he is still dressed as Superboy, a teenage girl asks him to say hello to his parents, mentioning Jonathan and Martha Kent by name. With growing concern, Clark begins to wonder if everyone in town knows his secret identity. Could it be possible?

The Legionaires' true colors revealed
Together the three teenagers reveal that they also have secret identities, changing into their colorful costumes as Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Boy (known in later issues as Lightning Lad). They have travelled through time from the 30th century and want to invite Superboy to visit them in the future and join their super-hero club. Intrigued, Superboy joins his newfound friends in their time bubble, which takes them to 30th century Smallville. He gets a quick tour of contemporary highlights, including a futuristic ice cream shop, a shrine preserving Superboy's Smallville home, and a history class demonstrating one of Superboy's own robots.

Arriving at the super-hero clubhouse, they are joined by other members of the club, and a meeting of the Legion of Super-Heroes is called to order. The first item of business: Superboy's application for membership. According to club rules, Superboy must prove that he is a super-hero in order to be admitted. To do so, a series of three competitions are arranged in which Superboy will take on his three new friends individually in tests of super-skill. Using the Legionnaires' television trouble-finder, the contestants are to respond to super-jobs, with the first one to successfully solve the problem winning the round.

Superboy thinks this will be easy, but each time his super senses detect another emergency that needs his immediate attention, allowing his opponent to win the round. He and Saturn girl are charged with recovering a priceless statue that has sunken beneath the sea, but en route there, Superboy notices the Superboy robot seen earlier running dangerously out of control. Next, he and Cosmic Boy must both attempt to prevent a crashed rocket-liner from causing a forest fire, but Superboy spies a falling satellite and must prevent it from hitting people below. Finally, Lightning Boy and Superboy must notify a travelling rocket that it has a leaking fuel tank and must return for repairs. This time, Superboy must rescue an invisible eagle that has escaped from the interplanetary zoo, and loses his third match.

Each time, Superboy accepts his defeat without mentioning the emergency that prevented him from winning, feeling that this would look like he was making excuses for his failure. Having lost all three contests, his membership is rejected. True to form, he takes it with a brave smile, even when he is teased by the Legionnaires for losing. Secretly broken-hearted, he turns to leave, but at the last moment, the Legionnaires call him back.

The real initiation test was in his ability to accept defeat and still be a good sport. In each test he was deliberately decoyed away from completing his mission. Saturn girl used a mental command to control the Superboy robot, Cosmic Boy made the satellite fall from the sky and Lightning Boy used his power to free the invisible eagle. Having passed their real test, Superboy is accepted for membership, and he basks in the cheers of his fellow Legionnaires.

Highest Award

Suddenly, the TV trouble-finder alerts them to another emergency at South Pole City. Rushing to the scene, Superboy uses a magnetic meteor to right a toppling tower, seeds clouds to create lightning that will heat the city while its heat lamp is fixed, and then plays a simple "mind-reading" trick upon his return to the clubhouse. Saturn Girl sees his joke - he has used magnetism, lightning and mind-reading all on one job, duplicating each of his competitors powers and earning him their highest award. Upon his return to 20th century Smallville, he proudly displays the medal he earned to Pa Kent, amazed that he will still be honored a thousand years in the future.


Roll Call

Legionnaires

In order of appearance

  • Superboy (cover, 57 panels - x as Clark Kent)
    • Joins Legion as its xth member.
  • Cosmic Boy (cover, 28 panels)
    • 1st appearance, origin, 1st cover appearance.
  • Lightning Boy (cover, 17 panels)
    • 1st appearance, 1st cover appearance.
  • Saturn Girl (cover, 23 panels)
    • 1st appearance, origin, 1st cover appearance.
  • Several unnamed Legionnaires (5 panels)
    • Only appearance of all, although later attempts were made by fans and creators to identify some of the characters depicted as subsequent members.

Supporting characters

  • An unnamed 30th century history professor (5 panels)
  • An unnamed 30th century science professor (2 panels)
  • Jonathan "Pa" Kent (1 panel)

Other characters

  • An Invisible Eagle from the planet Neptune (2 panels)
    • 1st appearance,
  • Several unnamed 30th century students (2 panels)
    • Inferred by text that many, if not all, are Legionnaires.
  • Unnamed passengers on rocket liner (1 panel)

Planets and Settings

  • Earth (seen on both the 20th and 30th centuries)
    • Smallville
      • Described here as the home of the Legion.
    • The Kent homestead
      • Seen in the 30th century as still standing, wedged in between a "Robot Factory" and another building.
    • Nine Planets Ice Cream Shop
      • "Featuring nine delicious flavors from nine planets." 1st appearance
    • South Pole City
    • The Interplanetary Zoo
      • 1st appearance

Technology, Gadgets and Other Neat Stuff

  • Legion Time Bubble (3 panels)
    • 1st appearance
  • Legion Jet Packs (10 panels)
  • A Robot mailman (1 panel)
  • The Jules Verne (1 panel)
    • An interplanetary sightseeing tour.
  • A Superboy Robot
    • A 30th century nuclear-powered version used in history classes. Not believed to be one of the many created by Superboy to protect his secret identity.
  • The Legion Clubhouse (3 panels, plus interior shots)
    • 1st appearance
  • Television Trouble-Finder (4 panels)
    • An early version of the Mission Monitor Board.
  • Statue of the Unknown Spaceman (2 panels)
    • Who, we are told, "first explored Venus."
  • The Nova Express
    • Mentioned, but not actually seen.
  • Cosmic Lamp (2 panels)

Notes

First appearances

This issue marks the first appearance of the following characters and recurring key Legion story elements:

Costumes

Cosmic Boy's magnetic eyes
Take a quick look at the Legionnaires' costumes, because other than in one or two tongue-in-check references in modern retellings of the Legion's origin story, these particular versions of their fighting togs will never be seen again.

Power oddities

Strangely, Cosmic Boy's power is depicted in this story as radiating from what he calls his "magnetic eyes." These are explained as the result of "special serums" that he has taken. While this is a great departure from essentially every later explanation for Rokk's powers, it has been proposed by some readers that such serums were administered during his youth, resulting in further enhancement of his natural Braalian magnetic powers. In most cases, Cos uses his hands to direct magnetic flows, but there is nothing to indicate that he couldn't do so with another part of his body. Perhaps at this early stage in his career, he was more accustomed to focusing his power with his eyes, although there is no indication of this in other stories, including those which chronologically take place at an earlier time.

Super-lightning clap

Lightning "Boy" also utilizes his powers in a different way than readers would come to expect in later stories. Here he must clap his hands together to generate lightning, rather than simply "throwing" or casting them from one or both hands. This might be an early way that he learned to use his abilities, graduating later to what would become his preferred style. Although the clapping requirement is not referenced, Lightning "Boy," by then using the more aliterative codename, Lightning Lad, is depicted with his hands pressed firmly together while generating electricity in his next two appearances: Adventure Comics 267 and Superboy 86.

In this debut appearance, Saturn Girl makes no mention of Titan, saying instead that she hails from Saturn just as her codename suggests. Later, once her homeworld had been firmly established, the question of why she calls herself "Saturn Girl" and not "Titan Girl" would become the topic of many an Adventure-era letter column debate. Also, no mention is made of her telepathic powers being an indigenous trait among her people. Instead, she claims to have learned the power from the "super-scientists" of Saturn, who were said to be experts in telepathy.

Unnamed members and the Legion fan phenomenon

Although Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Boy [i.e. Lightning Lad] are the only Legionnaires specifically named and clearly depicted in the story, three scenes show several other unnamed members in attendance. None of these shadowy characters are recognizable members who would later play a role in Legion history. Perhaps they are merely unsuccessful membership applicants. However, several can not be seen clearly enough to completely rule out the possibility that they are known Legionnaires.

A flashback in Adventure Comics #323 shows a scene from Superboy's induction at the end of this story that was not included in the original version. Triplicate Girl, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy and Brainiac 5 are among those present behind the scenes. In particular, if Brainiac 5, who joined the Legion at the same time as Supergirl, is present here, then this story must take place some time after the Legion story in Action Comics v1 #276, during which they were both inducted. For a more detailed examination of all the clues that piece this puzzle together, read the related article on early Legion continuity.

Some Legion fans hold the theory that it was the presence of these mysterious characters in the background that gave the story its appeal. In their essay in the back of DC Silver Age Classics: Adventure #247, which reprints this story, Tom Bierbaum and Mary Bierbaum write that

...if not for these background characters - if the Legion of Super-Heroes were simply a clearly quantified collection of a few kid heroes from the distant future - this group probably would've ended up just another rather obscure gimmick concept from DC's distant past of fondly recalled, but mostly mothballed gimmick concepts.
What made the Legion special was that it was a Legion. Character after character, all spectacularly garbed, fantastically powered and colorfully named. Who would walk on the scene next? A shapeshifter? A phantom? A descendant of the villainous Brainiac? "Superboy's older brother?" A hero who could eat matter in all forms? Anything was possible.

Indeed, curiosity about the Legion and its members inspired the readers of the Superman family titles to write in for more. The artists, writers and editors who put this first tale together had no intentions of ever using the Legion characters again. But the fans kept writing and, 20 months later, they received a second tale in Adventure Comics #267. Slowly but surely, the stories became more frequent, and the mystery of those unnamed characters began to unfold.

The Anti-Lad connection

Unbeknownst to Superboy and the early Legionnaires at the time of this story and something that they would never learn in the future was that another character would become a vital part of Superboy's successful induction into the Legion. The story described in Superboy v1 #204: The Legionnaire Nobody Remembered relates the tale of Anti-Lad, a citizen of the 75th century. In the process of viewing the events of Superboy's first meeting with the Legionnaires via Time-Scanner, he accidentally changes history, and Superboy is rejected from admission to the Legion. Anti-Lad successfully travels back through time to correct this error, interacting with the original 1958 events between pages 10 and 11 of the story as told in Adventure Comics #247. Due to a post-hypnotic suggestion, neither Superboy nor the other Legionnaires have any memory of Anti-Lad's existence.

Reboot Reference Kit: Superboy

This story takes place in the Pre-Crisis era of the Legion. As history was changed in succeeding eras, some or all of the elements of this story changed to fit the new timelines.

Pre-Crisis derived continuities

  • Post-Crisis: More than likely, this story remains unchanged in the Post-Crisis era. Given that it involves time travel back and forth to Superboy's town of Smallville in the 1950s, we can assume that the Time Trapper manipulated the Legionnaires' journey so that they travelled to his Pocket Universe, such that the adventure would take place as he desired.
  • 5YL/Glorithverse: The Pocket Universe Kal-El does exist in this version of the universe, but his involvement with the Legion was much later and short-lived. Valor, not Superboy, is the inspiration for the Legion. In this era's version of the story, the three founding Legionnaires travelled into the past to recruit a young Valor at the beginning of his career. More than likely the story did not take place in Smallville and had significant differences from the events described above.
  • Retroboot: The issue did not occur as-published, but similar events involving the three founding Legionnaires - who did not originally intend to take Clark to the future - were shown in Action Comics v1 #858.
  • Post-Flashpoint: Initial attempts by the Legionnaires to meet a teenage Clark failed Legion: Secret Origin #5, but they later met a still-younger version, and let him use a flight ring Action v2 #6. The young Clark's exact membership status remains unknown.

Non-Pre-Crisis-derived continuities

  • Reboot/Post-Zero Hour: Kal-El does not become a super-hero until his adulthood, and Valor comes into contact with the Legion without them meeting him in the past. A homage to it occurs in The Legion #25, involving a completely bemused teenage Clark Kent and three fake Silver Age founding Legionnaires [in approximations of their Adventure Comics #267-onwards costuming], who were revealed as servants of Darkseid. Kon-El would, however, join as Superboy late in their history.
  • DCAU: As seen in the episode New Kids in Town, Brainiac is active by that name in the Legionnaires' century, and travels back through time to eliminate Superman before he became a super-hero. Three Legionnaires, this time Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Chameleon Boy make the trip to help young Clark Kent survive. They do not invite Kal-El to accompany them to the future or join the Legion, but succeed in thwarting Brainiac's plans.
  • LSH cartoon: In Man of Tomorrow, the premiere episode of the LSH cartoon series, Saturn Girl, Bouncing Boy, and Brainiac 5 travel back in time to Smallville to recruit the Kal-El to help fight crime in the future. Since his powers were still being discovered and developed, Kal-El planned to use the time in the future to hone his skills before returning to the present to take up the mantle of Superman.

Other stories in this issue

There are two additional stories that do not feature the Legion. The Green Arrow and Speedy must overcome bad luck in "The Thirteen Superstition Arrows." Then "Aquaman's Super Sea-Squad" must race against time to help disable a nuclear projectile.

Reprints

This landmark Legion story has been reprinted numerous times over the years in a variety of formats, including:

Front cover homages and parodies

The classic Curt Swan/Stan Kaye cover has become a comic-book icon over the years. It has been imitated, homaged, recreated, and parodied many times in later comic books and in other media. At least three of these homages are part of the Legion canon itself. Below are displayed several examples of these imitations, homages and parodies:

See also


« Previous    Next »Adventure Comics #247
Action Comics v1 #276 
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Adventure Comics #267

Adventure Comics #195 
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Adventure Comics #250

No prior Legion issues 
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Adventure Comics #267