Superboy v1 197
- 1 Timber Wolf, Dead Hero, Live Executioner
- 2 Part 2: The Sinister Secret of Timber Wolf
- 3 Notes
- 4 Other stories in this issue
- 5 Reprints
- 6 See also
Timber Wolf, Dead Hero, Live Executioner
Clark Kent and Lana Lang are relaxing under a tree when Lana decides to “let” Clark kiss her. Just then, Clark’s Legion belt signal, which only he can hear, buzzes. As Lana closes her eyes to prepare for the kiss, Clark uses his heat vision to sever a twig, causing two apples to fall and knock her unconscious. Clark then switches to Superboy and travels into the future to answer the Legion summons.
In the 30th century, Superboy finds Legion Headquarters deserted except for one member – Timber Wolf. Superboy is delighted to see the feral Legionnaire, whom he thought was dead. The other Legionnaires emerge from the places where they hid so Timber Wolf could surprise Superboy. Timber Wolf then recounts that six months earlier, he and Superboy were on a mission when a nearby asteroid exploded. Superboy survived, but there was no sign of Timber Wolf, who now has no idea how he survived nor where he’s been for the last six months.
The next day, the President of Earth presents Timber Wolf with a Valor-Star medal, but as they shake hands, Timber Wolf suddenly announces his intention to kill the president and takes off into the sky, dragging the president along. As Superboy and Mon-El follow, Timber Wolf begins swinging the president in a circle and threatens to release him in any direction. Mon-El pulls Superboy’s cape, which stretches in a wide circle around the whirling Legionnaire; when Timber Wolf releases the president, he lands harmlessly in Superboy’s cape. Mon-El uses his cape to restrain the snarling Timber Wolf.
Part 2: The Sinister Secret of Timber Wolf
At Legion headquarters, Brainiac 5 examines Timber Wolf and pronounces him returned to normal. Timber Wolf remembers a little more of the incident six months earlier: Just before the asteroid exploded, he was teleported into another dimension, where a mist-covered figure told him that he had detonated the asteroid and saved the Legionnaire for his own purposes. But that is all Timber Wolf remembers. Satisfied that the danger has passed, Superboy returns to his own time.
That night, Timber Wolf prowls the hallways of Legion HQ, but is observed by Saturn Girl, whose telepathic powers alerted her to his condition. She watches as he enters the Central Control-Complex and activates the headquarter’s destruct sequence. Before she can intervene, she is shot by a ray from a mysterious intruder, who reveals himself to be Tyr, an alien criminal whose right hand consists of a bizarre energy weapon. Saturn Girl deduces that the assassination attempt on the president was a ruse to keep the Legionnaires from guessing that Tyr had brainwashed Timber Wolf into destroying the Legion, so he could invade their galaxy unimpeded.
However, the ray from Tyr’s gun-hand had bounced off of Saturn Girl and struck Timber Wolf in the head, shocking him back to normal. Timber Wolf defeats the villain and shuts off the self-destruct mechanism with seconds to spare. But as the two Legionnaires turn back to their unconscious enemy, they discover that Tyr’s gun-hand is missing.
In orbit, the automated gun-hand pledges that it will soon return to free its master and help him take over earth.
Key Quotes and Catchphrases
"I can't fight an irresistable urge to ... KILL THE PRESIDENT!" - Timber Wolf
Superboy #197 represents the second coming of the Legion: After four years as a backup feature -- first in Action Comics and then in Superboy -- they graduate back into a their own lead feature. History even repeats itself as they nudge Superboy aside so they can share the top spot with him, just as they did 11 years earlier in Adventure Comics. The irony is double this time, as it occurs in Superboy's own series.
The story marks an effective re-introduction to the Legion as well as their dynamic rebirth. Gone are most of the Adventure-style costumes, replaced by eye-catching outfits designed by artist Dave Cockrum. The story emphasizes action and plot-twists (a Cary Bates specialty). There aren't many character bits in the 13 pages alotted (the remainder of the book contains a Superboy solo story), but Bates still manages to touch on the themes that make the Legion so special: the camaraderie and the sense of belonging to a large and noble family that perseveres against the forces of evil, which are well-hidden in this case.
The story begins with Timber Wolf returning, prodigal son-like, from the dead, and being welcomed back not only by Superboy but by almost the entire Legion. The half-page group shot on page 4 is one of the defining images of this era's Legion. It encompasses both a sense of camaraderie and wholeness, as the lost member has returned. At the same time, the image shows us how much the Legion has changed since they last headlined a series. The costumes are not only different, but the heroes themselves look older and more mature. It's as if they left home as teenagers and are now returning as adults.
Fittingly, the story itself takes on adult dimensions even though it remains accessible to younger readers. The scene of a Legionnaire being celebrated as a hero, then immediately trying to kill the president is deliberately unnerving. After the Legionnaires prevent Timber Wolf from carrying out this act and he apparently returns to normal, his comrades are too quick to pronounce him cured. Superboy even leaves, confident that the danger has passed. But the evil the Legion faces now is more insidious than most of the villains they've faced in the past. It is only Saturn Girl's vigilance (and a lucky ricochet shot) that prevents the team's headquarters from being destroyed while they sleep.
"Timber Wolf, Dead Hero, Live Executioner" can be viewed as a coming of age story, or as a metaphor for death and rebirth on several levels. But it is also an enthralling action story, taut in its use of only a few Legionnaires in feature roles. This was a hallmark of Bates' Legion work, which emphasized quality over quantity. It was also a marked improvement over earlier stories that featured Legionnaires popping in and out at random. In Bates' stories, each featured Legionnaire is there for a reason, and each has something important to contribute to the story. While the truncated cast would leave fans waiting for months for their favorite Legionnaires to appear, they could rest assured that their patience would be rewarded.
All stories have flaws, and while fans sometimes nitpick over the use of a Star Trek device (the self-destruct mechanism) or the unintentionally humorous opening scene (which some interpret as Clark being afraid of sex), neither detracts from the story. Probably the biggest gaffe is the misleading cover: Timber Wolf never attacks his fellow Legionnaires in this story and three of those shown (Duo Damsel, Ultra Boy, and Chameleon Boy) appear only in the aforementioned group shot, while a fourth (Element Lad) does not appear at all. Misleading cover scenes, meant solely to attract the reader's attention, were common in those days.
"Timber Wolf, Dead Hero, Live Executioner" dynamically reintroduces the Legion but also forecasts much of what is to follow. Tellingly, it ends on a cliffhanger, as if to say, the greatest adventures are yet to come.
- Bouncing Boy
- Chameleon Boy
- Chemical King
- Cosmic Boy
- Duo Damsel
- Element Lad (cover only)
- Karate Kid
- Lightning Lad
- Matter-Eater Lad
- Phantom Girl
- Princess Projectra
- Shadow Lass
- Shrinking Violet
- Sun Boy
- Ultra Boy
- Tyr and his automated gun-hand.
- President of Earth (presumably Kandro Boltax, but not named)
Planets and Settings
- Asteroid X52 (destroyed by Tyr)
Technology, Gadgets and Other Neat Stuff
- The self-destruct detonator of Legion Headquarters
- An astral vulture
- This issue launches the Legion's third continuous series (following Adventure Comics and Action Comics), as they are promoted to equal billing in Superboy's title.
Errors and Oddities
- On the cover, Element Lad is shown wearing a Legion flight belt. Flight belts had been discarded years earlier in favor of flight rings.
This issues marks the first appearance of the following characters and recurring key Legion story elements:
- Timber Wolf’s feral features and brown and orange costume
- Lightning Lad’s blue, white, and orange (later yellow) costume sans cape
- Two silhouettes of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek are visible on the wall of Timber Wolf’s quarters.
Powers and abilities
Reboot Reference Kit
Other stories in this issue
There is an additional story that does not feature the Legion - "The Slay-Away Plan".
Timber Wolf, Dead Hero, Live Executioner has been reprinted in the following:
- Legion Publication History - Other issues published 1971-1978
- Legion Publication History - Other issues of Superboy
- Pre-Crisis Chronology
- Quick index of links to other Superboy v1 issues
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