Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century: Review of the Molecular Master, By Johnathan

Ha ha! I have returned, overcoming a month's worth of illness, romance and computer failure to bring you the tale of a plucky little guy by the name of Molecular Master! Here, look at him sitting around in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes No. 201:

Such a good-looking era in Legion art - check out the lovely Infectious Lass and the homely-as-sin Porcupine Pete, as well as those way-cool chairs! I want those chairs, but maybe not in orange.

Molecular master gets to try out third, after Infectious Lass has made Star Boy barf and Porcupine Pete has studded the whole damn place with quills - note their abundant presence above. Which, actually, is kind of gross. I know a few people who would have to leave that room pretty quick-like after they realized that it would be like being in a big pile of toenail clippings or used hair or whatnot.

I don't know how I feel about the Molecular master's power:

That's a pretty old conception of what an atom looks like, MM. I do like the Kirby dots, though.

Also, i think that that might be a carbon atom, which is kind of boring. I just don't know...why does making an atom really big make it all crackly and energy-tastic? are all of my atoms doing that right now? And what does he do with the really big atom, anyway? Split it?

And just why the hell isn't he called the Atom Master, anyway? Gosh darn it, I want scientific accuracy fro my minor Seventies Legion characters! Isn't this the magazine that brought us the Chlorophyll Kid, causing literally dozens of youngsters to know that chlorophyll has something to do with plants? Oh, the shame.

So anyway, Molecular Master makes it through the first portion of the Legion application without anyone bellowing "REJECTED!" at him. Meanwhile, ERG-1 (you know, Wildfire) is roaming the Legion clubhouse in my favourite form, that of a blobby little pink cloud of antimatter. This is his second appearance after seemingly killing himself while saving Colossal Boy a year earlier and he's trying to get back to his uniform so that he can have some limbs again. Sadly, all of the Legion's technology seems designed to make life difficult for blobby pink guys and so:

He tries to possess the one person on the premises who isn't covered in Legion tech. But what horrible secret does the Molecular Master conceal?

By the way, I love the Molecular Master's costume. It's A-1.

No mind! But why?

Dang. That is one creepy android. I appreciate all the work that went into making all of those robotic facial features (check out the massive power supply going into that eyebrow! I'll bet he could make Mr. Spock run and cry with one hydraulically-augmented raising of that little number) but hawk-nosed tube-men with wildly staring eyes might just be a new phobia of mine.

Robot nose! Robot cheeks! Robot Adam's apple! Oh my god, terrifying robot ears!

ERG-1/Wildfire is upset about the other aspect of the Molecular Master's power: the highly poisonous breath. I like that at this point there no longer seems to be the need for someone to shout "There must be kryptonite in the gas!", though I would think that any gas potent enough to have an effect on Superboy might not require such a roundabout method of delivery. Just heave it through the front door in grenade form and he'd kill himself by sucking it up for easy disposal. Super-villains, huh? Always over-thinking.

So: evil android filled with poison gas and after the Legion's very own deus ex machina. Can he be stopped in time?

Oops - guess not.

Ah, the Miracle Machine, as recently featured in Final Crisis (and eventually featured in Matter-Eater Lad's bowel). The Legion really shouldn't be surprised that folks try to kill them for this thing. Perhaps they should at least hide it behind something opaque - you know, give the homicidal maniacs a bit of a challenge.

Don't worry, though. ERGfire has used the Machine to restore himself to his suit (and certainly not to fashion himself as new human body, no sir), thus sparing the Molecular Master the embarrassment of standing there dramatically while that big atom completely failed to do anything to the inertron. Psh. Big atoms...

Undaunted, the Molecular Master tries again! He makes the biggest damn atom ever!

ERG-1 eats the super-atom! The Molecular Master's super-power officially sucks. ERG, on the other hand...

... has the Antimatter Kick! I don't even care that Wildfire never really did any kicking in later years - blasting this one android in the face with his foot makes him just incredibly great.

That's not quite the end of the future's best-dressed android, though. A few years later, in Legion of Super-Heroes No. 281, a bunch of Legionnaires are trapped in the past and run into the little scamp. It's a weird issue: Roy Thomas and Paul Levitz team up to produce a weird script, while Steve Ditko and Bruce Patterson compliment it with some weird art.

That costume still looks good, though. Note that in this second appearance everyone thinks that his name is Molecule Master, which is lame. I won't be a party to such a renaming, damn it.

In this issue, the Molecular Master no longer has the awesome power of the Big Atom. Instead, he can sort of generically control molecules, causing things to fly around and warp out of shape and so forth. I think at one point that he turns some air into rocks. Surprisingly, this is not an improvement. The absence of the big atoms has made me miss them.

Superboy, by the way, thinks that he's Ultra Boy, who is at this point possibly dead.

Molecular Master still has a robot nose but its not as terrifying. Thanks for showing me that, Superboy. I'll sleep easier tonight!

So it turns out that MM was working for *yawn* the Time Trapper, who really wanted that Miracle Machine, darn it. I can't remember if the thing was still uneaten at this point - if it wasn't what the Time Trapper was after here then I don't have a sweet clue what's going on. Oh, the perils of writing that hooded buffoon into your stories: I will never remember what the hell is up.

Hey, I just noticed - Saturn Girl is giving him the guns!

See? Lousy power.

Flying machine gun-attack is better than jeep-attack, but still.

Eventually, Molecular Master resorts to throwing rocks at the Legionnaires. Snazzy costume or not, that's pretty lame. Also, this version of the Master exploded when too many people attacked him at once. Were I more fond of the original version of the character, I might have concealed the existence of this one but the big atoms and the horrible robot nose and the Time Trapper connection all come together to spell NOT APPROVED.

There we go. Two hundredth post.

Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century: Review of Porcupine Pete, By Johnathan

Ah, Porcupine Pete. Not the first Legion applicant to have a stupid name but probably the one with the stupid-est name. Also, and this might just be where I'm from talking, but he's asking for a face full of .22 if Old Man Strong catches him anywhere near his spruce trees.

Pete has a few too many appearances for me to get around to sampling pictures from before the very sun goes cold and dark, so we'll just be looking at his very first appearance. Here he is, discussing his soon-to-be-crushed hopes and dreams with the well-dressed Molecular Master and the simply dreamy Infectious Lass. Take a good look: Porcupine Pete is also the ugliest person ever to apply for the Legion, and it's not because he's a member of some weird alien race or something - according to the Legion edition of Who's Who, he's just some kid who grew spikes as he got older. That's right: that's down home human ugliness there, no cultural sensitivity required.

I think that they used this setup exclusively for the purpose of judging applicants, and no wonder the poor schmoes didn't do so well. Keeping in mind that these are teenagers, can you even imagine walking into that place, with a semicircle of hot dudes and cute girls looming over you, and Superboy, straight out of history, dead centre and judging, judging, judging. Frankly, I'm surprised that there aren't many of these tryout stories that end with someone in the foetal position.

I have to admit: this is a good panel. Pete's costume isn't too bad - it at least makes sense that it's skimpy - and the sheer enthusiasm that he's displaying as he hoses the room down with quills is very endearing. He's going all out, folks. They'll be picking these things out of the upholstery for months. Plus, the more I think about it the more I like the idea of a superhero with a blast radius. Ooo! Porcupine Pete, the Human Bomb and that one exploding guy from the Blasters should team up! All they'd need is a spare JLA teleporter and they could be the most effective super-team in existence:

Kobra Minion 1: "Okay, the death-ray's finished, hail Kobra."

Kobra Minion 2: "Nuclear generator online, hail Kobra."

Kobra Minion 3: "Targeting Atlanta, hail Kobra. Hey, after this do you guys want to go get some wings or something, hail Kobra?"


Kobra Minion 2: "Hey, where did those three guys come fro-"

BAROOM *sound of many quills puncturing frail snake-fetishists* KRAPPOW!

Porcupine Pete: "Case closed." *lights quill-shaped cigar using Kobra Minion 1's flaming femur*

Sadly, the Legion doesn't see the potential inherent in having a guy like Porcupine Pete around, and yet another fragile ego is crushed beneath Superboy's bellows of "Rejected!" To me, this seems like another time that the whole thing where Karate Kid got in by beating up Superboy should be brought up. I mean, Supes isn't flinching but making the entire rest of the Legion dive for cover has to be worth something, right?

Ah, well. There's a bit of a happy ending, in that Pete joined the Legion of Substitute Heroes and even ended up leading them on the Legion cartoon, so his legend lives on.


PS: check out the poll on the sidebar. Just as an experiment, I'm looking to get some input from you wunnerful folks. What do you like, hey? Let me know and by crackers I'll do it.

Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century: Review of Infectious Lass, By Johnathan

Holy crap - this is my one hundredth post. Well, I guess technically Paul wrote some of those one hundred, but I'm claiming the milestone since he's not paying attention. I tried to think up a thematically appropriate review - something like 'Review of One Hundred Corrupt Cops From Gotham City' or 'Review of Lois Lane's One Hundred Best Falls From Skyscrapers' - but I wasn't quite committed enough. Maybe I'll be ready by post number 500. Instead, I'll be writing about Infectious Lass, because her painful rejection by the Legion of Super-Heroes is the whole reason for this series of reviews and I just never got around to her. Sad, sad thing. Well: no more tears, it's time for a review!

Infectious Lass made her first appearance in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes No. 201. Right from the get-go she was a-friggin'-dorable. Let's watch:

See? Isn't she cute? That's her with Porcupine Pete and Molecular Master, two fine Legion rejects and future reviews in their own right. Take a moment here to take in Infectious Lass' enthusiasm and optimism. Boy, she really wants this Legion thing.

Now, on to the tryout:

Before we get all caught up in the drama of the demonstrations and the voting and so on, I think there's just enough time for a look at Infectious Lass' costume. Hmm. Definitely the best costume that a Legion applicant has ever worn - take that, Storm Boy. Heck, seeing as how it debuted in the Seventies, this is probably the best female costume in the whole building at the time. I mean, look at it: it's got an insane and stylin' pattern, an incredible collar that possibly can be hurled like a batarang and a matching mucus theme on her mask and cape (if you can't get a good look at the mask, it looks like she got hit in the face with a ball of Ghostbusters-brand slime). I must say, the mucus cape shows real devotion to a theme. It's possibly my favourite hero accessory of all time. Screw bat-cloaks and Spidey-mobiles and those little wings on the sides of the Flash's head - a cape that looks like it's made of snot, that's where it's at.

So: back to the action (look at the mucus! Awesome!). Star Boy has unwisely volunteered his services as guinea pig and pays the price. Can't blame him though - Infectious Lass is completely hot, in a two-dimensional, alien sort of way. Were I a futureman I would be all over that.

Now, by my reckoning Infectious Lass is doing great. She took out Star Boy in no time! Man, she could probably lay out the Fatal Five with head colds with her hands tied behind her back! And taking out a Legionnaire is a traditional way of impressing the judges, right? I mean, Karate Kid got in by beating Superboy down, so there's precedent, right?

Apparently you have to be, like, super confident and brag about it first for that to work. By saying that she's sorry, Infectious Lass reveals too much weakness and the feral teen clique that is the Legion snarls and boots her out on her shapely rear.

This is actually the panel that inspired the whole 'Super-Human Detritus' thing. It's a perfect example of what is entertaining and tragicomic about the whole Legion tryout phenomenon. Poor Infectious Lass - a distinctive, interesting character who was made up specifically so that she could fail to get into the Legion - stands there, meekly apologizing, while over her looms Superboy - possibly the most influential super-hero in history and someone Infectious Lass has looked up to her whole life - bellowing "REJECTED!" and chastising her for doing a good job. I mean, I guess it's a realistic way for a bunch of incredibly powerful teenagers to act, but still.

Lucky for us: Infectious Lass isn't one to give up easily and so shows up again in Superboy No. 218.

Here she comes with Absorbency Boy and Quake Kid, two more rejectees. Now, even I must admit that the Legion were probably right in rejecting her this time - she needs more control of her powers, not greater potency. I would have dearly loved to see a panel of her demonstrating her Epidemic Power, though. The whole Legion stricken with pinkeye or mono would really be something to see.

Quake Kid, I've got to say, really knows how to make the most of a bad situation. Sure, he didn't get in to the Legion and sure Dream Girl screeched "REJECTED!" at him as soon as he entered the room, but at least he gets a chance to tap some fine alien ass. I'm guessing that STDs have been wiped out by the 2970s, as a name like Infectious Lass would otherwise cause at least a moment of hesitation in even the most Tony Stark-esque of Lotharios(I hope. Otherwise Quake Kid is likely swarming with space-syphilis or Saturnian Gonorrhea). Infectious Lass had better realize what this guy is up to - he's blatant enough that the artist didn't even have to draw the pup tent in his spandex for me to know that it was there.

Aw geez. See what I mean about control, Infectious Lass? Now you're not going to get "commiserated" and since you can't commiserate with yourself you're going to have to find another euphemism for what you do when you get home. Tough luck. (This, by the way, is Quake Kid's only appearance. Since we don't actually learn anything else about him I'll judge by his taste in women and pronounce him JOHN APPROVED)

Infectious Lass eventually joins the Legion of Substitute Heroes, which is really a much better place for someone who is naive and nice - Subbies can just be themselves, especially if it generates laffs:

So that's that: Infectious Lass. Pretty and oh so rejected, with a great costume and a pretty good power. I'm going to leave you with this exchange between her and the ever-popular Ambush Bug: