A Tribute to the of

Well, readers, I finally did it. I have now attended my first convention courtesy of the folks at Wizard World. They actually set up a show within reach of my somewhat isolated locale, so I scooped up my best friend, Ron, the Silver Lantern Webmaster and my longsuffering wife, Jeanette and away we went. It was a great time and best of all I got to meet a few folks, including my publisher/co-author on Nick Cardy: Wit-Lash, Renee Witterstaetter, Gail Simone and Chris Claremont.

Ron picked up a copy of Lou Scheimer: Creating The Filmation Generation personally signed by co-author Andy Mangels who generously included a custom sketch of Filmation’s version of Flash Gordon (Ron’s favorite Filmation show). It’s a great book that Ron gives his highist recommendation! For more information and to purchase a copy for yourself visit this link at Andy’s website:


Best of all, as we were boarding the motel shuttle to the convention center, two other gents were also getting on and after I did a double-take, then stuck out my hand and said, “Mike Grell? It’s me, Bryan.” So I got to enjoy a captive audience for a few minutes and spent a little time with him at his table when he wasn’t too busy. It was great fun to meet one of my interviewees in person and he couldn’t have been nicer.

I’ve mentioned before that Mike was probably the first artist I became consciously aware of as I was devouring his run on the Legion of Super-Heroes when they moved into Superboy’s book back in the ‘70s, which began, as best I can tell with Superboy #197. The first credit on the title I could find for Mike was with him inking Dave Cockrum in issue #202 [Sage #123]. By the time #203 had been rolled out, Mike was penciling and inking and he even got a “head shot” and bio/introduction in issue #205.

So in honor of the occasion, I’ve chosen issue #206 to review this time with a publication date of January/February 1975. I noticed that the cover price had just jumped a nickel to .25 (which caused me to hear my father’s voice in my ear: “Twenty-five cents for a funny-book?!”) Cover art is by Nick Cardy with Mike on interiors. “The Legionnaires Who Haunted Superboy!” was scripted by Cary Bates with lettering by Ben Oda and editorial duties were carried out by Murray Boltinoff.

Things begin in Smallville where the Teen of Steel is about to perform some community service by demolishing an old building to make way for a new playground. Before he can begin, however, another figure shown in a cannonball pose executes the job. Once the dust clears Superboy is stunned to see Ferro Lad, his fellow Legion member who has been very deceased since way back in Adventure Comics #353 aka Sage #1. The figure flies off in silence, leaving our hero to ponder what has just happened.

More odd events in Smallville happen the next day when Clark is strolling to school with Suzy when they spot a plummeting sky-diver with a failed parachute. Young Kent is about to blow his cover in order to save the man when his descent is abruptly ended and he is whisked to a nearby rooftop. The hero then materializes and it is another dead legionnaire: Invisible Kid! (Invisible Kid had only recently expired, by the way, in the pages of Superboy and the LSH #203, July/August 1974 and like Ferro Lad, his demise involved Validus of the Fatal Five.) Once again the Legionnaire in question vanishes, leaving many more questions than answers.

That evening, a very confused Superboy is in one of his secret rooms in the Kent family basement, recording a journal entry about what he’s just experienced. As he speculates that perhaps he should contact the Legion about matters, he is interrupted by Ferro Lad and Invisible Kid who have arrived in the room to explain themselves. A quick X-ray vision exam reveals that they are organic. The pair quickly relate what they’re doing, briefly stating that they’re not yet ready to explain their return from the grave. It is also explained that they commandeered a Legion time-bubble to travel back to the 20th century. Both feel that they’re out of training and condition and want Superboy to test them in order to see if they still qualify for membership in the Legion. If they fail, they’ll go into self-imposed exile in another time period.

Before the conversation can continue an alarm in the room sounds, alerting Superboy to a threat. The three heroes take flight to investigate and discover a ring of energy on the outskirts of town. In the next moment a giant robot emerges from the earth and stands within the ring. A burst of energy emerges from the robot and encircles the Teen of Steel, incapacitating him. The other two Legionnaires engage the automaton, coming from both sides with Invisible Kid providing a diversion while Ferro Lad uses his ability to change his body to iron to attack from the rear. Another energy ring is fired at Invisible Kid just as Ferro Lad attacks.

The robot is destroyed and the energy rings vanish, but there is no sign of Invisible Kid. He then reappears and states that he was able to render himself invisible and escape the energy ring before it harmed him.

Satisfied that they’ve proven themselves, the pair board the time bubble and leave for the 30th century, but upon arrival at the courtyard just outside Legion HQ, the bubble violently explodes.

Mon-El, Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 observe the scene and discuss the outcome of their cloning experiment and that the cells in the clones are still flawed, resulting in a 48-hour lifespan. There is a cell bank in the HQ building with samples from each member and they plan to continue to refine the process until they can bring back their fallen comrades with perfect clones. In a special time-telephone conversation, Brainy thanks Superboy for creating the robot scenario, which at least gave valuable insight as to the integrity of the noble characteristics of the clones, matching those of their original counterparts. The 13-page story closes on that note.

Hats off to Cary Bates and Mike Grell for creating a memorable and much-loved story from my youth that is still enjoyable all these years later. DC Comics rarely killed off their heroes back in the day and when they did, they stayed dead, but Ferro Lad, who always fascinated me, seemed to have a longer list of appearances post mortem than he did prior to his sacrifice to save the universe from the Sun-eater. I love the fact that I’ve had the privilege of communicating with both these creators who have given me a lot of reading pleasure over the years.

Speaking of reading pleasure, here’s hoping we’ve given you some along the way as we continue to explore the Silver Age (and occasionally the Bronze Age) of DC Comics here at The Silver Lantern. We’re always interested in what’s on your mind, too, so feel free to let us know via my handy e-mail, which is regularly monitored and answered. Write to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you next time with new material and until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2013 by B.D.S.

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