A Tribute to the of

I grew up in a small town. I think it was a good thing, even though there usually wasn’t a lot to do, hence my love of comics as a kid. They were cheap, thrilling entertainment and helped me while away some of my spare time. The only problem with a small town is that there often isn’t much going on. For that you have to go to the city and in my case that was a good 5 hour drive. Well, not any more. I’m now within striking distance of Denver, a pretty major metro area where there are usually things going on and recently I stumbled across something that made my jaw drop.

It was May 2nd. Free Comic Book Day. I’d decided to skip it, though. My local shop leaves something to be desired and there wasn’t much I was interested in picking up. Nah. I’ll just have a leisurely Saturday morning. I staggered down to the Bat-cave and decided to see what was going on in the World Wide Web. Moments later I stumbled across something on my feed. Someone mentioned they’d had a book signed by Jim Shooter and he was posting from Denver. What?

Well, it seems Mile High Comics, who has received more than a few dollars from me over the years had lined Jim up as a special guest for FCD. I’m about an hour and a half drive from Denver. I hurriedly got ready, grabbed a couple of my Legion books that he’d worked on, kissed the missus and blasted off.

You may remember that I had the privilege of interviewing Jim back in 2008 and the hit count on that one overshadowed every other. I enjoyed it immensely and so I couldn’t pass up this golden opportunity. The line wasn’t onerous and in a short time I got to shake Jim Shooter’s hand and chat for a few minutes, even eliciting a hearty laugh when we briefly spoke of the infamous Mort Weisinger. He posed for a photo with me, signed my books and promised to keep in touch. It was a fabulous chance to meet one of my long-time favorite writers. You may recall that my very first eBay purchase and, Sage #1, was Adventure #353 scripted by…Jim Shooter. It was no accident. I loved that storyline and one day I’m going to get Mike Grell to do a commission of Ferro Lad.

So, to mark the occasion, it seems only fitting that I review a Jim Shooter story of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I combed through my collection and decided upon a two-part tale from Adventure Comics #371 and #372. The credits are nearly identical with Mort Weisinger editing, Neal Adams on covers with Gaspar Saladino lettering and Curt Swan inked by Jack Abel on interiors. The one difference was interior lettering with Ben Oda on duty for #371 and Milt Snappin taking care of it on #372. This link will take you to a site with scanned pages from both issues.

Part One is titled, “The Colossal Failure!” Gim (Colossal Boy) Allon is the featured Legionnaire and after he goes off shift he heads home for a meal with his parents. Shortly aftet they’ve finished, a film crew arrives, explaining that they’re doing a documentary for Universe T.V. As they set up their equipment and begin the interviews, Gim notices what appear to be rays emanating from the 3-D receptors. Abruptly his parents have been transformed into glass statues.

Gim is furious and is about to take down the two frauds when he is informed that they’re still alive, as evidenced by Mrs. Allon’s brooch, which contains a living jewel that forms a link with its owner’s life force. The game is blackmail and the objective is that the criminals want a copy of the Legion training and testing program. Colossal Boy explains that it’s classified and it’s been changed since he went through his training. Unfazed, the pair tell him that he has two weeks to come up with it or his parents might have a shattering experience. They then teleport themselves and the glass statues away.

Colossal Boy soon devises a plan based on the knowledge that a member failing in their duties must be retrained. He promptly muffs the next mission and is ordered into that very scenario. Soon he’s suited up in the generic uniforms of Legion recruits and being put through the paces under the watchful eye of guest instructor Bouncing Boy. At one point he is sparring with electro jousting poles and meets Condo Arlik, aka Chemical King.

Bouncing Boy and the other team members are worried about their colleague, so Chuck Taine, or Bouncing Boy to you civilians, decides to do a little detective work at the Allon apartment. He finds no one home, so just snoops around a bit discovering both the life jewel and some contraband in the form of a top secret training manual, notes and drawings that should be held in strictest confidence. He has no alternative but to turn his colleague in. A formal hearing is held and Gim Allon offers no defense, so he is expelled from the Legion. He had anticipated discipline, but not this, but he must go and on that cliffhanger, the story closes until the next issue.

This time the title is “School for Super Villains!” After a quick recap, Gim is approached by the Science Police, but he promptly enlarges himself, resisting arrest and takes off courtesy of his Legion flight ring. A few of the Legionnaires arrive moments after he’s gone and discover he’s dropped a life jewel. Later Bouncing Boy and Ultra Boy go to the Allon apartment and are unsuccessful in finding them, but a neighbor lets them know that they’ve been missing for a week.

Back at Legion HQ, Brainiac 5 has a plan to try to find the Allon’s with the help of the life jewel and the talents of Shrinking Violet. Donning a special space suit, she shrinks down to sub atomic size to enter the jewel and track the radiation beam that links the jewel to Mrs. Allon. The suit not only protects Shrinking Violet, but allows warp speed travel as she seeks out the Allon’s. The beam leads her to a distant planet where she discovers a training facility modeled after the Legion center, with Tarik the Mute, a known criminal who was injured in a shoot-out in attendance and apparently in charge. He communicates by beaming his thoughts to a telepathic android and she learns that he is assembling a Legion of Super-Villains with Colossal Boy acting as one of the instructors.

When she returns to make her report, she also explains the reason behind Gim’s behavior: Tarik is holding his parents hostage. A plan is quickly devised and Brainiac 5 assembles a 4-man team consisting of Chameleon Boy, Superboy and trainees Chemical King and Timber Wolf. With Superboy and Chameleon Boy in disguise and the incognito status of the trainees, the foursome go to a restaurant where they know one of Tarik’s recruiters will be. They soon raise a ruckus to get his attention, posing as Marco Malok and his gang, Legion rejects and soon pile into the Science Police who have arrived to restore order.

After the staged melee, in which “Marco” aka Superboy displays only super strength and invulnerability, while Chameleon Boy mimics the abilities of Elastic Lad and Chemical King and Timber Wolf do their thing, the recruiter offers them safe passage to the training facility, ending Part I. Part II is subtitled “Robbing and ‘Recking and Rotten Tricks!” The four new arrivals quickly note past Legion rejects in the ranks like Nemesis Kid, first seen in Adventure #346 and #347 [Sage #194], Spider-Girl from #323 and Radiation Roy from #320. Also Ronn Kar from #314 and then, to much surprise, Mekt Ranzz or Lightning Lord, brother of Lightning Lad and Light Lass. I must briefly note a boo-boo when Chameleon Boy’s thought bubble says, “Great Orion! Lightning Lord’s lost brother…Mekt.” That would be Lightning Lad’s lost brother. You blew it, Mort! As it happens, Mekt is using his super lightning generating ability to try to strengthen some green kryptonite. Superboy gets out of range as quickly as possible, but not quickly enough to escape the notice of Colossal Boy, who realizes the new recruits must be Legionnaires and he sounds the alarm.

The battle is on, but there are too many super-powered villains for the four Legionnaires to tackle and they soon taste defeat. Tarik then demonstrates what happens to their enemies by turning the duped recruiter to glass and then shattering him with a hammer.

The Legionnaires are incarcerated for the night to await a similar fate, but Superboy remembers he has some spare makeup from his Marco Malok disguise and hatches a plan.

The next morning the Legion members are assembled and Tarik insists that Colossal Boy squeeze the trigger on the glass gun. When he hesitates, Tarik pulls it and Superboy is transformed right before a hooded man shatters him with a hammer. That pushes Gim over the edge and he quickly enlarges and a new battle takes place. In the confusion, Timber Wolf manages to send out an alert to the rest of the Legion and to everyone’s surprise Superboy arrives to take down Tarik and his android. As the rest of the Legionnaires arrive to clean up the mess, Superboy and Chameleon Boy get a chance to explain how they pulled a switcheroo, with Cham assuming Superboy’s identity, then dodging the ray, transforming himself to glass and then changing once again into a pile of shattered glass.

As things wind up, the Allon’s are restored and Gim is voted back as a member in good standing. As a final gesture, both Chemical King and Timber Wolf are admitted as full-fledged Legionnaires.

I do love these old Legion stories and this was no exception. It had the added bonus of inducting a couple of new members and bringing back some familiar faces, even if they were baddies. A good solid 8 on the rating scale, but I must quickly insert that, despite the great stories I’ve heard about his work ethic and his reliability, I could really tell the difference with Jack Abel on inks. They just looked flat. I didn’t care for them at all and I didn’t think it was possible to screw up Curt Swan pencils. Ah, well.

Once again, I am at your disposal for comments, opinions, requests, what have you. Just drop a line to: professor_the@hotmail.com

As always, this feature will return on the first of the month with a new review. Don’t forget to swing by and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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