High-Tech Tomorrow: Review of the Concentrator, Part One, By Johnathan

Hey there, friends - it's time for another review-as-voted-on! Looking way back to Adventure Comics No. 321, we're going to have a look at the fearsome Concentrator, mua-ha. I think, though, that this is one of those times that it's better to look at the whole issue, rather than extracting bits of it for humourous out-of-context ridicule. I estimate... three entries, maybe? And this is a three-day weekend! Keep tuning in to see if I can manage to meet my own very easy deadline! (Ha ha ha! It's Monday already: I fail!)

We join the Legion on page two:

Man, I sure do wish that Phantom Girl had remained all ghostly and pigment-free - just imagine how much weirder her string of peek-a-boo uniforms would have been if the cloth and her exposed bits were all the same colour. Also, think of the savings on ink! Im sure that by now we'd have seen a Phantom Girl and the Phantom Squad, Featuring Phantom Ape miniseries or something, if only because of the rising cost of little pink dots.

"Who is this stranger with Bouncing Boy's haircut, clothes and voice? Dammit, I told you not to let just anyone wander in here! Now, where's my chair? No, that's not it. No, my chair was facing the other way, so that can't be it! Also, this isn't the cactus that was here before - that cactus was shorter!"

See, what I'm trying to hint at here is that Star Boy has poor recognition skills.

Also, he's an A-1 jerk. "No, you can't be Bouncing Boy - he was a fat asshole. "

And I'll tell you exactly what Mon-El - and possibly Sun Boy - is thinking in this panel: I wonder if anyone's noticed the new way I combed my hair?

Bouncing Boy goes on to tell the story of his slimmening, which involves a shrink ray and is patently something that the writer threw together just to get rid of the guy. Not that anyone was listening to him anyway:

They were far too busy voting on whether to toss him out on his ear or not, with maybe a quick roughing up by Ultra Boy to make sure he keeps his mouth shut if any reporters think to ask about the Big Computer Sex Parties or anything like that.

So presumably they send the Reservist out for Astro-coffee or something, and then it's back to the meeting!

Now, this is back from when the Time Trapper was a super-scientist hiding behind the Iron Curtain of Time, thirty days into the future or so. Long, long before he became the Irritating Emo Plot Device From the End of Time that we all know and I loathe, he was actually mildly interesting. He sat behind that curtain and made fun of the Legion and every once in a while he tried some ridiculous scheme involving Glorith or the Molecular Master or someone like that.

Ah, there's the first mention of the Concentrator. Time to find out what it is: speak on, Star Boy!

Aw. I guess we'll never learn what that darned thing is. grumble grumble this is why I have to write such long reviews, damn Legion and their secrecy...

Superboy: Hey, Mon-El's hair looks great. I wonder if I should change my 'do?

Chameleon Boy and Triplicate Girl then show up and completely coincidentally tell everyone about some really lame attempts to wrangle info about the Concentrator out of them. This elicits some fairly elaborate eyebrow-raising and not a little nose-wrinkling, and then, in a completely coincidental occurrence:

Science Police Commissioner Wilson shows up! He's heard some talk of a Concentrator of some kind and he wants the poop! He's... kind of paunchy!

Now, this comes up later, so I'd like to point it out specifically: the chain of events here is that a) This guy hears a vague rumour about the Legion having a super-weapon of some sort. b) He asks them about it and they say that it could potentially threaten the entire Universe. c) He believes them, just like all good people should when a group of teenagers make grandiose claims.

d) Based solely on space-radio scuttlebutt and their collective word, he decides to put them through gruelling psychological torment, with possible life imprisonment waiting for anyone who blabs.

Planet Althar, uninhabited except for strange life-forms! (Space Directive X21v states that planets may be considered inhabited only if the life-forms in question are regular, small or boring. Technically, Althar is considered to be in-friggin'-habited, but the term was coined in the 2530s, and scientists of the Legion era don't talk like that any more.)

A better site for testing astronauts' suitability for space travel, you say? Could it be, just as an example, somewhere that you don't need a rocket ship to get to? I only ask out of curiosity, you understand.

Heh, Matter-Eating Lad. Nice one, Querl.

See, it came up again (sooner than I'd thought, but still): based solely on their word, this man is prepared to imprison these people for life if they reveal a secret that they themselves decided to keep. That's like... ag! I can't even think up a good example! Legion logic hurts my head!

Good issue, though.

NEXT TIME: the Legionnaires get psychologically tortured!

Review of Burial Customs, By Johnathan

Here we go, here we go, here we go now. Today we're taking a look at what happens when a Legionnaire kicks the bucket. In Adventure Comics No. 341, the awesome yellow robot Computo seemingly vaporised Triplicate Girl (but really only 1/3 of her, so it was okay). The Legion, mildly wracked with grief, was moved to honour her thusly:

By signing their names. That's right, the Legion of Super-Heroes treats the death of a close friend in the same way that they do the approach of an eight-year-old clutching a duotang with 'Delia + Ultra Boy' and 'Mrs. Delia Nah' scrawled all over it. Luckily, the other 2/3 of Triplicate Girl don't show up until after the funerary rocket has left, so she doesn't have to see that Sun Boy absent-mindedly scrawled 'have a bitchin' summer - S.B.' across her engraved face.

Lame tributes aside, it is pretty cool that they shoot what little Triplicate Girl that they could scrape up into space. Not only that, but the charred hero-bits have a destination!

Shanghalla! Asteroid resting place of the galaxy's heroes! Number one destination for clone-happy mad scientists! Surprisingly small!

Shanghalla's another one of those things that got built up in my mind by the little entries at the back of Jeff Rovin's Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes. It's a neat idea, if little-used. I kind of wish that there were an issue of Secret Origins or something dedicated to it, but what are you going to do? Me, I'm gonna check out some tombstones!

Every hero interred in (on?) Shanghalla has his or her own little rocket ship, complete with a character synopsis and picture on the side. Uh... here they are:

Mog Yagor: Mog Yagor is a neat name, but recently I've been thinking that it sound a bit too much like something out of H.P. Lovecraft to be a coincidence. My current theory/hope is that Mog Yagor is the green thing up above and that the 'space beast' was a hostile astronaut. Because nothing brings greater joy to my solitary existence than reading way too much into the single-panel appearance of a dead character forty-odd years ago.


Hate Face: Oh, man. Hate Face. Possibly one of my favourite super-hero names ever. I was absurdly excited when some random character was referred to as Hate Face in a bar during the run of (I think) L.E.G.I.O.N. in the 90s. And he's so tragic! I mean, how many other people are ugly enough that their epitaph bears the phrase 'revolting visage'? My guess? Not too many. Someday Hate Face. Someday, someone will tell your story.


Beast Boy: Eh. Beast Boy is the only one of this corpsey crew that had appeared pre-mortem. He was similar to the other Beast Boy (the green one) in that he could change into animals, but dissimilar in that he was a complete wuss. He got all upset and quit his super-team and declared war on humanity or something because people sometimes found it disconcerting when he turned into a huge alien bear or whatever. Then he got killed saving a child, so everything was alright. Booooring.


Nimbok of Vaalor: I gotta say: the people of Vaalor need a good editor. First off, they really shouldn't refer to themselves as 'his alien race' on the tomb of their planet's champion. Secondly, they need to clear something up a bit more: was the sorcerer disguised as his best friend or did Nimbok (great name) think that the sorcerer himself was his buddy when really he wasn't?

Thirdly, nobody should end an epitaph with an exclamation point.


Leeta 87: Another great name; another horrible tomb-rocket. Is it possible that the best picture that anyone had of Leeta 87 was the one in which she is about to crack her skull open? Is there a connection to the fact that her rocket is shaped like a cocktail shaker? Was Leeta 87 a drunk? Does 'innumerable enemies' really mean 'innumerable martinis'?


Still awful.


Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century, Part 11, By Johnathan

Bam! I'm back and only a day later than I said! Since nobody offered an opinion otherwise it's time for another trip into the far future - witness the 30th Century adventures of: Command Kid!


Command Kid, like Dynamo Boy, is actually a super-villain who cleverly wrangles his way into the Legion for his own sinister purposes. Command Kid, in fact, was the very first to do so, so sucks to Vorm's asthmar.

Command Kid's plan basically rests on the fact that no other villain has tried this kind of thing before and so the Legion are completely unprepared for it. Basically, he heads to Earth, captures some crooks and waits to be invited to join up. Sure enough, along comes Superboy:

I must say, pretending not to know what the Legion is is a good touch. Plus, it prompts Superboy and pals to finish building a theme park by way of a demonstration of their powers:

Aw, look at the happy children. And then Lightning Lad makes it rain so the children are cool, plus rollercoasters are twice as fun when you're wet! Sun Boy's little cry for attention there is one of my fave things ever, by the way. I'll bet he does that a lot at parties. "So you like the punch, huh? Well, call me if you'd like it boiling hot!" or "Psssh. If I went to India I wouldn't just look at the Taj Mahal - I'd burn it down!"

So this comic (Adventure No. 328, for those who care to know) has a couple of running themes and since I'm way too lazy to address them in a chronological examination of the issue here they are all lumped together.

The first one is the coolness of Command Kid's powers.

This is the stunt that got ol' CK into the Legion:

Okay, tricking crooks into thinking that their car is a monster surrounded by police isn't bad. Looking at that first panel, though, I kind of thought that his power might be 'cootie-hands'. Hell, I'd buy a comic featuring a guy whose very touch was feared by criminals everywhere, lest they succumb to the dreaded Girl Germs.

Anyway, so: monsters. What else you got, Kid?

Illusory fire... okay. I guess that that's kind of cool. Not very imaginative, though. Bah, what do I know - he's probably saving the really cool stuff for later.

Dammit, more monsters! Command Kid is incredibly lame! Plus, his power only seems to work on groups of three. Plus, he's got terrible hair. Seriously, though. The way I understand it, he can make people see anything he wants. Myself, I'd have sent a ten-foot tall silver Abraham Lincoln with a machine gun after them. And also he's smoking a cigar.

Okay so it's not the best idea ever, but it's better than fire or crappy dragons.

Theme number two? People pointing out his questionable tendencies:

This is basically just some heavy foreshadowing of the fact that he turns out to be a bad guy, not unlike his terrible hair, bad costume or the title "The Lad Who Wrecked The Legion".

An immodest teenage boy? Well, I never!

So... he has an ego and a temper? Guys, you just described Wildfire. And Wolverine. Hell, you just described half of the heroes created after 1975. Still, I guess there weren't as many super-heroic dicks running around back then.

Third theme? Clues:

Hell if I know what they mean, though. Let's check 'em out:

He doesn't like gold jewelry...

He's not fond of golden anniversary presents...

He avoids gold kryptonite...

Well, I'm stumped.

The final theme is that Command Kid is up to something.

Somehow, Command Kid's power of giving people the heebie-jeebies instills various Legionnaires with feelings of inadequacy. He captures nine guys and everyone's moping around like Proty died. Star Boy's so depressed that he takes some roofies when Command Kid says he can make him more powerful:

I don't know about you guys but to me, that sounded ominous. But fine, Star Boy feels a little underpowered. That's natural, right? He did used to be as powerful as Superboy and he sure can't make people think that they're surrounded by flames or monsters or whatever.

Sun Boy, on the other hand, has no excuse. Sun Boy! You generate heat! You can surround people with fire! That's half of what this jerk does! Don't take the pill!

Anyway, Sun Boy takes the pill. Then everyone else gets depressed:

Oh ho! Command Kid sees a chance to gather more unconscious Legionnaires to his fur-collared green bosom. First, though, he'll have to get rid of the really powerful guys that are hanging around, so he comes up with what is possibly the weakest lie ever:

Seriously: "Another dimension plans to invade, check them all."? In the pre-Crisis DC Universe, that's like distracting the police by calling them up and reporting that a murder has taken place in a house, so they'd better check all of the houses. Superboy and his posse fall for it, though, just like they always do.

... and then everyone else succumbs to the temptation of being unconscious on a concrete slab while waiting for an arrogant jerk to do unspecified things to them. Actually, put like that it doesn't seem so bad. Where do I sign up?

Things look grim (and red), destinies are being sealed...

... and then Saturn Girl and Element Lad show up and put a stop to things. Way to ex machina, guys.

Oh, I get it! He's allergic to gold!

The rest of the comic's pretty much devoted to Saturn Girl and Element Lad telling everyone how they figured out Command Kid's secrets. Turns out that, through the futuristic wonders that are security cameras, they saw all of the clues and figured out the whole 'Command Kid doesn't like gold' thing.

They call planet Preztor and get in touch with a man with just fantastically bad hair. I mean... wow. Maybe Preztor is an enlightened planet where nobody judges anybody else based upon hairstyle, but man. I just can't live up to those kind of standards.

So it seems that Command Kid was possessed by a demon.

Also, the demon was allergic to gold, which doesn't really exist on Preztor. Okay, so why does the demon come to Earth, then, Mr. Hair?

Gah, why do I hate him so much?

That's possibly the best line ever, Triplicate Girl. Indeed, I can hardly believe it either. Dude should have stayed on his own planet, away from all of the gold. I'm sure that he could have gotten some demons into a few regular folk, then lured the Legionnaires to his gold-free land. Friggin' amateurs. Why aren't I a super-villain?

Nice exposition, kids. That demon is actually pretty creepy looking, I must admit. Command Kid still had a lame plan, though.

And that's that. Command Kid's gone and Element Lad makes a terrible prediction. It would have been cool if he were right, though - Legionnaires fighting possessed muthas all across the galaxy, never knowing who the enemy is, getting all paranoid and bickering a lot. It could've been like a bright Sixties version of those grim storylines from the Eighties and Nineties like 'The Great Darkness Saga'. Plus there probably have been at least one more Legionnaire that would've been made up specifically to die by the hands of of Demono or whoever the head demon turned out to be.

Ah, well. Command Kid is NOT APPROVED.

Review of Subtraction, By Johnathan

Not the mathematical activity (although all math that I can do in my head is automatically JOHN APPROVED) but the editorial activity. Confused? You should be, because I'm not making any sense. Read on, and (hopefully) be enlightened!

A while back (say, January, 1964) The Legion of Superheroes had gotten big enough that somebody felt the need to give people a scorecard and so produced "The Origin and Powers of the Legion of Superheroes" and stuck it into Adventure Comics No. 316. Now, I would love to Take each of the little images in this thing and deconstruct them in a humourous manner, but my fellow Haligonian and nerdboy Ben has done that job first (and so well!) over at Good Book Readin'.

Instead (Curse you, Ben!), I'll present you with an interesting bit of editorial decision-making, as well as my theories on how it came about.

Okay, first let's look at the original "Powers and Origins" page 1:

And now here's the same page from Adventure Comics No. 365, republished (and recoloured) after the Legion had been growing for a few years and people had begun to get confused again:

This second printing featured all kinds of new Legionnaires like Karate Kid and Ferro Lad, but what really stood out for me was the little change that was made to page 1. See, things had changed a bit since No. 316 Triplicate Girl -

- seen here surprising some suitor who obviously had no idea who he was asking out - got into a bit of a scrape with a murderous, box-shaped Computo and ended up one-third dead. So now:

Duo Damsel! Duo Damsel, who had the amazing power to... be two people! I know that it's a better superpower than I'll ever have, but if she hadn't been the very first person to join the Legion after it'd been founded she wouldn't have stood a chance.

My theory about why Duo Damsel's picture is the same as Triplicate Girl's: Though it could've been deliberate on the part of the DC editorial staff, part of an attempt to show how losing a whole third of her being wasn't affecting her sunny outlook on life and tendency to pull the same joke on all of her dates (or maybe just on guys who suffer from short-term memory loss, if that's the same nebbish), I'm betting that nobody noticed that they had one purple-suited Carggite too many and sent the 1960s intern-equivalent scrambling to daub carcinogenic correction fluid onto one of them. Or someone just did a really half-assed job.

Either way, the whole business is


Belated Review of the Legion of Super-Heroes Cartoon, By Johnathan

I must have been assuming that this wasn't going to be very good, because I just watched the first episode tonight. Turns out it was terrific - great jazzy theme song, cool character design, excellent use of Triplicate Girl, etc. I won't go on as I'm sure that every nerd and his nerd-dog have already done so, all over the internet. Just wanted to confirm it:


Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the 30th Century, Part 2, By Johnathan

Next up: Storm Boy!
Before we got down to the nitty-gritty of the events surrounding Storm Boy's application to the Legion, let's take a look at appearance. His hair: square and marine-esque, it probably said someting to the DC audience of the time, but I'm not sure what. This was the early sixties, and I'm not certain at what point the owner of such a haircut would have metamorphosized from an upstanding young man to a complete and utter square. In any case I like his hair, because of its rarity in the comic medium - you're not likely to find it on anyone other than Sergeant Rock... and maybe Captain Atom. I like his glasses even more, and for the same reason: superheros don't wear glasses (Clark Kent et al do not count). And I wear glasses, so. Plus, this thing's set a thousand years in the future! I honestly would have thought that by the year 2962 (or whenever) children would be scanned in the womb and at the first sign of myopia the cloning process would begin. New eyes would be grown in a matter of minutes and installed in utero, and the entire family would henceforth speak of 'Billy's little problem' in hushed tones when he wasn't around. Assuming that my powers of prediction are infallible - and permitting myself a lapse into vulgarity - this guy's eyes must be fucked up!

Moving on, Storm Boy's clothing is a standard 30th Century jumpsuit. For a while I'd thought that he was wearing a glowing jewel around his neck, but I recently realized that that thing is his superhero emblem - he's chosen to represent the awesome powers of the thunderstorm with a little glowy cloud thing. Questionable, but we all just have to remember that the guy's eyes are fucked up.

Enough with the fashion critique. It's time for the nitty-gritty!

Storm Boy lives up to his name and his glowy cloud and calls up a thunderstom. He Impresses Bouncing Boy - looks like the guy's a shoe-in! But wait...

Oops! He was doing it with a little device in his pocket! And that's the number one rule when seeking membership in the Legion of Superheros: you gotta have your own powers. Storm Boy's little remote control is a big no-no, and one that he likely knew about, which is why I ask the question: why'd he do such a bad job of using it? Sticking his hand in his pocket like that. So disappointing, but even if he wasn't a moron and hid it in his boot or something what did he expect to happen? Did he think that he'd do well as a member and that everyone would just laugh it off when they found him out? Listen, Storm Boy, if a Legionnaire loses his or her powers at two o'clock they're out the door with a selection of erased memories by four thirty. They don't even get a party. And that's Sun Boy - you they'd probably hunt for sport.

So anyway:

They get Triplicate Girl to kick him out and think no more of it. And that, if you were wondering, is why they keep Triplicate Girl around.

Some closing thoughts:

1) I sure hope that this wasn't one of those needlessly complicated comic books schemes where, say, Storm Boy's sister has been kidnapped by gangsters and he's not allowed to go to the police but he figures that if he joins the Legion he can trick them into rescuing her. Because they didn't really give him a chance to explain.

2) Did Cosmic Boy give back that storm-making device?

"Hey guys! I got a new power! I'm magnetic and I can make storms!"

Storm Boy is: