Adventure Comics 300

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Adventure Comics #300
Preboot » Pre-Crisis
Adventure300.jpg
Cover by Curt Swan, George Klein and Ira Schnapp.
Story title The Face Behind the Lead Mask
Previous story Action Comics v1 #290: Supergirl's Super Boyfriends!
Next story Adventure Comics #301: The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy!
Publication date July 26, 1962
Cover date September 1962
Creators
Writer Jerry Siegel
Penciller(s) John Forte, Al Plastino
Inker(s) John Forte, Al Plastino
Letterer Milton Snapinn
Colourist(s) ???
Editor Mort Weisinger
Cover artist(s) Curt Swan, George Klein, Ira Schnapp

The Face Behind the Lead Mask!

(12 pages/66 panels/2,389 words)

Synopsis

At a meeting of the Legion of Super-Heroes, only a few members are present because most are "visiting different planets on various space missions." Suddenly, Cosmic Boy's magnetic powers go haywire, destroying a robot cameraman there to record the meeting "as a stern warning to interplanetary crooks." In rapid succession, Sun Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl each experience power malfunctions. With no other recourse, Saturn Girl pulls down on a lever labelled, "Pull down to summon Superboy."

Meanwhile, in the 20th Century, Superboy, in his guise as Clark Kent, greets Lex Luthor as the latter is being released from the Smallville Reformatory. Luthor brushes aside Clark's good wishes and vows revenge on Superman, once both grow to adulthood, of course.

Back home, Clark is checking in on Mon-El in the Phantom Zone with his hand-held Phantom Zone viewer, when his signal lamp goes off, summoning him to the 30th Century.

Superboy arrives in the future just as Lightning Lad is inadvertently blasting apart the Legion Clubhouse. As he makes repairs with his "super-friction," Sun Boy's power again goes awry, causing him to fly off, where his super-heat melts a mountain-top glacier.

The World-Wide Police then show up with an ultimatum. Because of the danger posed to the public by the out-of-control Legionnaires, they will be exiled from Earth if they cannot regain mastery of their powers in one hour.

Superboy begins to examine the Legionnaires with his X-Ray vision, checking for signs of infection, when Urthlo shows up. Wearing a lead mask to conceal his identity, Urthlo boasts that he can control the Legionnaires' powers and sets about to prove it, also using his green kryptonite vision to manhandle Superboy.

As the Legionnaires flee, Superboy obeys Saturn Girl's command to burrow into the ground for a buried chest, but he is dubious of her command to use what he finds there - a Phantom Zone projector. The Legionnaires urge Superboy to follow Saturn Girl's instructions and he summons Mon-El from the Zone.

Mon-El immediately succumbs to lead poisoning, but Saturn Girl gives him "Serum XY-4." His symptoms now gone, Mon-El makes short work of Urthlo, who has just caught up to the team.

Everyone's joy is quickly dampened, however, when Saturn Girl explains that the serum will only work for "just a few minutes." Before he "dies" Urthlo explains that he was created by Lex Luthor and sent into the future to destroy the Legion since they are "so dear to the heart of Superboy."

The World-Wide Police lift their exile order, Mon-El is inducted into the Legion before being sent back into the Phantom Zone, and Superboy returns to the 20th Century.

Key Quotes and Catchphrases

  • "Oww! - My aching brain!!" (Sun Boy, under mental attack from Saturn Girl)
  • "Bah! Once I admired Superboy, but now I despise him! Despite my scientific genius, people think he's greater than me!" (Lex Luthor)
  • "Hm-mm . . . Too bad Lex hates me so!" (Superboy)
  • "Twenty-first century, here I come!" (Well, then, you'll miss your Legion meeting by about 900 years, Superboy)
  • "Run! The super-heroes have become super-menaces!!" (innocent bystander)
  • "Great Krypton!" (Superboy)
  • "I am . . . "Urthlo!" With this power-nullifying gadget, I can turn the super-heroes' powers on or off at will, ha, ha!" (Urthlo)
  • "You fiend!" (Saturn Girl)
  • "Oww! . . . th-the pain . . . ! . . . <Moan!>" (Superboy, under the influence of Urthlo's kryptonite vision)
  • "Fly away, Legionnaires! Flee, and try desperately to think of some way to combat mighty "Urthlo" effectively! Suffer like trapped rats - - because in fifteen minutes I'll hunt you down and destroy you!" (Urthlo is evil, but also sporting)
  • "Please trust me and do as I say! Instantly!" (See, in the early days, Saturn Girl would ask before making you her mind-puppet)
  • "Oh-hhh! . . . <Moan!> . . . I'm in great pain . . . Oh!" (Mon-El, apparently in great pain)
  • "You Fool! Why did you make me do this to him?" (Superboy, to Saturn Girl)
  • "Great Krypton!" (Superboy)
  • "No, no! You can't harm me! I'm made of lead!" (Urthlo)
  • "<Gasp!> Urthlo is a robot!" (Lightning Lad)
  • "I have failed in my mission . . . blast it!" (Urthlo)
  • "Great Scott! Look at these hate tapes inside his chest compartment! No wonder the automaton loathed us!" (Superboy)
  • "Hate Superboy," "Hate Legion of Super-Heroes," "Hate hate hate" (Urthlo's hate tapes)
  • "Goodbye, Mon-El! Some day I will create a serum which will cure you permanently . . . I promise!!" (Sure, Superboy, sure)
  • "Long live the Legion of Super-Heroes!!" (Sun Boy)


Critique

There's a lot wrong with this story, like the seeming illogic of the teenage Lex Luthor making a robot of his adult self and sending it into the future to fight the teamates of his teenaged rival. One also wonders how someone who could build a lifelike robot with kryptonite vision, a time machine, and a device capable of nullifying the powers of each and every Legionnaire, could never find a way to defeat Superboy, who squeals like a little girl at the slightest trace of kryptonite.

The reason of course, is that none of that stuff mattered. Writer Jerry Siegel was hacking out work for a tyrannical boss who, by all accounts, spared no effort on letting hom know who was in control of the Superman mythos. One imagines that, as with the inclusion of Matter-Eater Lad and planet Bismoll, Siegel took some small joy in seeing how much he could get away with. Of course, at this time, comics were still mainly disposable time-killers for prepubescent children. If it moved the plot along, give the villain a power-nullifying device and don't take up the precious few panels allotted to explaining how it works.

It is probable that, for this first adventure, editor Mort Weisinger demanded a villain his young readers would recognize, so he hedged his bets by asking for Luthors in both teen and adult varieties. Readers of this era were presumed to enjoy puzzles, so figuring out who "Urthlo" might be would have been just the thing to stimulate them, or at least that may have been what Siegel was going for.

In retrospect, this story does not hold up well. The idea of a robot that passes as human running on magnetic "hate tapes" stored in its chest cavity seems particularly anachronistic today. Weisinger also seems to have missed what seems obvious today, that freeing Mon-El from the Phantom Zone in the 30th century means Superman never found the cure he vowed for his "older brother's" lead poisoning - a condition caused by his own misdeeds.

Since his debut, as the Legion Publication History shows, Mon-El had appeared about a dozen times or so prior to this story. In each he would be a helpful, in incorporeal spirit able to observe all and whisk our heroes out of a jam in the final few panels of a story. That he did so in the Superman family of stories only meant that there were more Superman stories, than Superboy tales, scheduled for publication each month, and in need of resolutions. Using Mon-El then, would not have been unusual, and putting him back in the Phantom Zone by story's end would re-establish the status quo.

Even though this story was set only 100 years after Superman's time, and not the usual 1,000, one like to think that Siegel knew what he was doing. Establishing that Mon-El was still in the Phantom Zone after Superman's presumed death from old age, and slipping that past Weisinger, could easily be a passive-aggressive way saying, "See, the Superman you manage is no where near as smart as the one I created."


Roll Call

In order of appearance:

Legionnaires

  • Superboy (cover, 37 panels - inc. 5 as Clark Kent, 670 words)
  • Lightning Lad (cover, 21 panels, 108 words)
  • Sun Boy (cover, 31 panels, 206 words)
  • Comic Boy (cover, 21 panels, 150 words)
  • Saturn Girl (cover, 35 panels, 313 words)
  • Mon-El (cover, 13 panels, 23 words)
  • Triplicate Girl (cover only)

Villains

  • Lex Luthor (4 panels - inc. 2 in flashback, all as a teen)
  • Urthlo (21 panels, 293 words; 1st and only appearance; destroyed)

Supporting characters

  • Two unnamed World-Wide Police patrolmen (2 panels, 64 words)
  • An unnamed World-Wide Police officer (1 panel, 25 words)

Other characters

  • A Smallville Reformatory Guard (1 panel, 0 words)
  • Four citizens of the 30th Century (2 panels, 8 words)

Planets and Settings

  • 20th Century Earth, including:
    • Smallville Reformatory
    • Superboy's bedroom in the Kent home
  • 30th Century Earth, including:
    • Legion Clubhouse, including:
      • The Hall of Heroes (1st appearance)
      • Meeting Hall, with an apparent Mission Monitor Board
    • The arctic
  • The Phantom Zone
  • Braal (mention only; 1st in-continuity reference)
  • Korbal (mention only; 2nd in-continuity reference)
  • Saturn (mention only)

Technology, Gadgets and Other Neat Stuff

  • Legion statutes, including:
  • Legion nameplates, including:
    • "Cosmic Boy Super-magnetism," "Saturn Girl Super-thought-casting," "Lightning Lad Super-Lightning," "Sun Boy Super-radiance," "Chameleon Boy Super-disguise," "Bouncing Boy Super-bouncing," "Shrinking Violet Super-shrinking," "Invisible Kid Super-invisibility," and "Superboy X-ray vision invulnerability"
  • Legion Clubhouse
  • A robot cameraman (destroyed)
  • "Superboy emergency lever"
  • Hand-held Phantom Zone projector
  • Superboy's signal lamp
  • Legion flight belts (first mention. See also: Adult Legion flight belts created in Action Comics v1 #289)
  • Urthlo's "power-nullifying gadget"
  • Serum XY-4
  • Lex Luthor's Time-Ray Projector

Notes

  • Mon-El is inducted into the Legion without having "to pass [their] usual super-initiation test."

Errors and Oddities

  • Cosmic Boy is drawn twice in the last panel.
  • Both Superboy and the narration state that the Legion exists in the 21st century.
  • The Legion Clubhouse is destroyed by Lightning Lad and then immediately repaired by Superboy using "super-friction."

First appearances

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

  • Serum XY-4: The first cure for Mon-El's lead poisoning, albeit temporary. Saturn Girl say's she was able to develop the antidote because she was able to mentally contact Mon-El in the Phantom Zone and both diagnose "the harm down to his body" and figure out "what chemical elements" would counteract his ailment.
  • Braal. First in-continuity reference. (Was it mentioned in Superman Annual 4?)

Powers and abilities

  • Cosmic Boy notes for the first time that all people on Braal possess magnetic powers because "evolution gave people the power to magnetically battle that world's metal monsters." He also notes, in the only reference ever, that it is a "supreme crime" from Braalians to mis-use their powers."
  • Sun Boy has hitherto only had the power to glow brightly. Here, he displays "heat rays from [his] fingers" for the first time.
  • Saturn Girl's powers are strong enough that she is able to contact Mon-El in the Phantom Zone. This is the only time she has ever been shown as able to mentally diagnose an illness and a cure.

Reboot Reference Kit: Mon-El

In each subsequent era, there was no Superboy, at least not in the "Superman when he was a boy" sense, to Mon-El had to find a different way into a Phantom Zone-like place. In each case, he would remain a 20th Century character released into the 30th Century by the Legion.

  • 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 this adventure would take place as he desired.
  • 5YL/Glorithverse: In the Glorithverse timeline, Lar Gand became famous in the 20th Century as the hero Valor, Seeder of Worlds; leading the team to recruit him rather than the absent Kal-El Superboy as a commuter member in their early days, while he also encountered Earth's heroes in the 20th Century and briefly became a member of L.E.G.I.O.N. (and starred in his own self-titled series set in the 20th Century). He became trapped in the Bztgl Buffer Zone and was rescued after Phantom Girl saw him while traversing the Zone whereupon he joined the Legion full-time.
  • Post-Zero Hour: Most of Valor's 20th Century "Glorithverse" appearances remained intact, save those which heavily involved the LSH, such as the "DOA" storyline which led into Zero Hour/End of an Era. He would make his way to the 30th Century when, confused by lead poisoning, he was manipulated by a bookmaker into fighting Superboy (Kon-El) as "Champion", in Superboy v3 #17-19 before being sent into the Stasis Zone in events similar in spirit to those of Superboy v1 #89. He would make several "ghost" appearances in the 30th Century, beginning in Legionnaires Annual #2, before being freed bodily when the team retrieved Superboy to help free him. Not wishing to be worshipped for the planet-seeding, he altered his look and took the name M'Onel.

Retcon Alert

  • Lightning Lad refers to Korbal as a full-fledged planet, just as Mekt did in the first telling of the Ranzz' origin in Superman v1 #147.
  • Saturn Girl is apparently still from Saturn at this point, as she mentions that "only evil Saturnians use their powers to harm others."
  • Saturn Girl's origin is changed from her first appearance in Adventure Comics #247 In that issue she was said to have been taught telepathy by the super-scientists of Saturn. Here, she notes for the first time that all people from her world "can perform amazing mental feats," as intimated in many earlier stories where it was said that the Legionnaires had super-powers because they came from different worlds.
  • Cosmic Boy also conforms with the "from different worlds" rationale for his powers, officially ditching his origin given in Adventure Comics #247 where he said, "special serums gave me eyes of magnetic power."
  • At this time of this story, the Science Police had yet to be introduced. The 30th Century's Law enforcement agency is referred to here as the "World-Wide Police."

Other

The Most Told Origin Story in All of Comics

Second telling Lightning Lad recounts how he gained his powers when, "a lightning monster on the planet Korbal freakishly electrified my body." No mention is made of a crash landing, or of his brother, Mekt, and twin sister, Ayla, also being present.

Worth 1,000 Words

The Legion has a lever poking out of a wall in its main meeting room with a sign that reads, "Pull down to summon Superboy."

Other stories in this issue

There is an additional story that does not feature the Legion - "The Good Deeds of Bizarro-Luthor"

Reprints

This Legion story has been reprinted in the following:

Front cover inspirations, homages and parodies

The cover to this issue was inspired by a number of covers, in particular the Superman Annuals of 1960 and 1961. Each of those issues featured a large vertical panel in the center with Superman flying, and with three or four smaller pictures on each side depicting other characters in the issue. The format was used again after this issue, for example in Superman v1 Annual #6, as well as being homaged by Keith Giffen for a near-milestone issue and parodied by another company. Below are displayed several examples of these imitations, homages and parodies:

See also


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Action Comics v1 #290 
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Adventure Comics #301

Adventure Comics #299 
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Adventure Comics #301

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #63 
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