A Tribute to the of

Journey with us back to December of 1962 (or at least the publication date; we all know they were out on the stands before those printed dates, with this issue it was October 30, 1962) when, in Adventure Comics #303, a 12-page backup story (finally deemed cover worthy, rendered by Gil Kane, for reprint in Adventure Comics #499, the May, 1983 issue) of the Legion of Super-Heroes rolled out one of its most unusual new members. “The Fantastic Spy!” was written by Jerry Siegel, edited by Mort Weisinger, drawn by John Forte and lettered by Joe Letterese. Cover art, which was strictly for the lead tale, was by Curt Swan and George Klein.

Things start in a 30th Century hospital, where two legionnaires are awaiting treatment. Sun Boy and Lightning Lad suffered injuries in a rocket crash. They have ankle and knee injuries, respectively and the attending surgeon, Dr. Landro, is offering his services free of charge as he’s a fan. Using futuristic technology, he inserts curative capsules in each extremity with a technique that is both painless and bloodless.

Next up, we meet the new candidate, a young man from the planet Bismoll (Pepto Bismol has just one “L,” but I can’t help but wonder…) who goes by the mouthful moniker of Matter-Eater Lad. His ability to eat anything is pitched as the ideal resource for eating his way out of any trap the Legion may find itself in. He is accepted and the first assignment of the day is announced when Cosmic Boy recruits volunteers to guard a shipment of Energite for the Science Police Commission.

As Lightning Lad and Bouncing Boy go out into space to find the craft they’re to guard that contains the Energite, a pirate ship, disguised as an organic space creature, takes off with it, earning the Legion the wrath of the Science Police. They suspect a spy in their midst and since the Energite was taken toward Bismoll, the question of their new member being a plant is raised.

Some elaborate techniques are employed to thwart any surveillance, but they are also ineffective. Even Chameleon Boy, shape shifting into a disguised Cosmic Boy’s “bride” can’t seem to fulfill their mission to guard a doomsday bomb without the device being spirited away under their noses.

Furthermore, the use of Lurium helmets, which block mind-reading are eliminated by Z-rays cast by a passing spaceship. Now the members are convinced they have to uncover the traitor among them and the handy Guilt Detector wielded by Brainiac 5 reveals it is Matter-Eater Lad, who promptly eats his way through a barrier and flies off, vowing never to return, despite the unjust accusation.

The members vow to bring him to justice and Brainy muses that they’ve lost all credibility with the Science Police just as they were to guard valuable treasure on the planet Umrax. He then goes to capture Matter-Eater Lad.

When he returns with the new Legionnaire in tow, things begin to be brought forth, first and foremost with the revelation that neither Matter-Eater Lad nor any Legion member is a traitor. As it turns out, Brainiac 5 used a probe-viewer on each member in the clubhouse and discovered a mole in the ankle of Sun Boy. A man has been miniaturized and placed in place of the curative capsule and equipped with a radio. It seems Doctor Landro is in cahoots with interplanetary hoods and implanted the capsule to find out how to enrich themselves at the Legion’s expense, at least as far as their reputation is concerned. Each mission was picked up by the stowaway and radioed to the gang.

The statements made about Umrax were a plant and sure enough, Landro and company went there and were quickly apprehended. Finally, a legitimate surgeon is brought in to remove the capsule with the miniature man and a genuine curative capsule is put in.

In the final panel, Brainy thinks on the irony that the technology used to place the monitor was introduced by his wicked ancestor, the original Brainiac and now he got a chance to do some atoning.

You’d have to search pretty far to find a bigger Legion fan than myself, but I must confess, this story didn’t do it for me. Jerry Siegel’s script seemed a bit predictable and John Forte’s art was wooden. Maybe I’m just spoiled rotten by Curt Swan’s masterful handling of one of my all-time favorite super teams, but between the two, I have to give this one a dismal 4 on the rating scale. Even bringing in a new member couldn’t save this turkey.

Along about the 15th of the month, we’ll take a peek at something new and it is my and the webmaster’s hope that you’ll find your way back. Meanwhile, drop a line any time at professor_the@hotmail.com. We’ll leave the lights on.

Until then...

Long live the Silver Age!

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