A Tribute to the of

Ah, the good old days, when a comic cost a dime and contained more than one tale, all of which had a beginning, middle and end within the covers of that very book. Superman was the greatest hero of them all and his titles tended to be some of the more imaginative, or at least entertaining. For this edition of the Silver Age Sage, I thought it would be fun to explore an issue Iíd seen, but not read before. That cover should look pretty familiar, as itís a pretty direct homage to a classic cover from Adventure Comics #247 [Sage #41]. Itís Superman #147, dated August, 1961, (I canít help but wonder if the similar numbering was done on purpose) and it's Curt Swan with Stan Kaye inks and Ira Schnapp letters. We see that rather than Superboy being rejected for membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes by Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, a full-grown Superman being marked for death by equally grown villainous counterparts in Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen. This book marks the first appearance of both the adult Legion of Super-Heroes and the Legion of Super-Villains, but letís not give too much away.

Interior credits for ďThe Legion of Super-Villains!Ē goes to writer Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan on pencils and Sheldon Moldoff on inks with Milt Snappin lettering. Mort Weisinger is our editor and that splash page is pretty impressive where we see a helpless Superman watch as each hero and counterpart villain are duking it out with Lex Luthor in his trademark gray duds is an interested onlooker.

The story itself begins in the Metropolis lock-up where Luthor is offering his services to the warden to repair radios owned by his fellow convicts. Now we all know that Lex Luthor is not the altruistic type, and it soon becomes apparent that heís taking the opportunity to lift a couple of parts here and there for his own nefarious ends.

The villain has successfully produced a highly sophisticated communication device that can actually project his voice through the time barrier and into the future. Reasoning that if there is a 30th century Legion of Super-Heroes, surely there must be corresponding villains and that is who our lawbreaker is trying to contact. It soon becomes apparent that he has been successful when a few objects appear in his 1961 cell along with a disembodied voice: ďWe heard your summons! Use these objects to escape, Luthor! Weíll join you soon in your own time!Ē Rapidly donning the belt and helmet and wielding the ray gun, Luthor easily blasts his cell wall to rubble.

Once outside, the belt acts as an anti-gravity device, while the helmet provides a shield that is impervious to the bullets of the guardsí rifles. Within moments, he spots a spacecraft and is welcomed aboard by the Legion of Super-Villains from the 21st century.

Introductions are soon made and the first is Cosmic King, who goes on to explain how he received his power of transmutation, the ability to change any solid object into something else. Heís been an alchemist on the planet Venus, working on a ray that would change the atomic structure of objects. One day he successfully changed a flower into a jewel, yielding success, but then suffered a brief dizzy spell and stumbled right into the pathway of the ray. To his delight, he soon discovers that by concentrating, he can now emit rays from his eyes that serve to transmute objects. However, to his surprise, the Venusians are not enamored of his new abilities and banish him. He decides to go to Earth and plot his revenge, eventually joining with the Legion of Super-Villains in the 21st century.

Next up is Lightning Lord, who gained his power of super electricity at the same time as his brother, Lightning Man, formerly Lightning Lad on the planet Korbal. They came across a lightning monster, who blasted the youths, endowing them with the super lightning ability. The brothers followed different pathways, however, with Lightning Lad choosing to serve, later becoming a co-founder of the Legion of Super-Heroes, while his brother has chosen to commit crimes and putting in with the Legion of Super-Villains.

Finally, Saturn Queen explains that she hails from Saturn where all the people from that world can perform amazing mental feats. Upon traveling to Earth, she decided to become a member of the underworld and use her super-hypnotism for her own gain, also joining the LSV.

Now that everyoneís story has been told, they reveal that they had some selfish reasons for aiding Luthor. As Supermanís greatest foe, they hope to join forces to destroy the Man of Steel and humiliate the LSH.

The next day, while Superman is helping out an orphan city, Lightning Lord appears and destroys a structure with his super lightning powers. Superman keeps the civilians from being harmed by the flying debris and then chases down Lightning Lord, but he orders the Man of Tomorrow to retreat or risk his electrocuting a busload of people. Superman has no choice but to obey.

The next day at the Metropolis Fair, Superman is on hand, but this time it is Cosmic King who appears and after distracting the crowd with plastic souvenir airplanes being turned into gold and causing a greedy scramble, he swiftly converts a massive statue of Superman into green kryptonite. While our hero is weakened, Cosmic King streaks away with his jetpack.

The following day, things donít get any easier for Superman when a weird, tentacled creature appears in Metropolis and scoops up Lois Lane, placing her in a protective bubble and high-tailing it out into space. Itís final destination, into a pit on a small planet in another solar system, reveals that the creature and even Lois were actually illusions that vanish before his eyes. Then, the trap is sprung and our hero finds himself immobilized in a kryptonite force screen. Behind a lead panel, he hears a mocking voice: ďFool! I, Saturn Queen, tricked you with an illusion I created with the power of my super-hypnotism!Ē The panel then rises, revealing the trio of super villains, who introduce themselves as such and then, in a doppelganger of the cover, condemn Superman to death.

Luthor then appears and begins to gloat when the adult Legion of Super-Heroes, or at least the core members, Lightning Man, Cosmic Man and Saturn Woman arrive to help the Man of Tomorrow. The individual battles are neck and neck when Luthor intervenes, threatening to increase the potency of the green K if the heroes donít stand down. Luthor then does his own mocking that if they were so heroic, one of them would volunteer to die in Supermanís place. After a quick huddle and drawing lots, Saturn Woman says she will do just that.

Superman protests, but Luthor says the execution will take place, so the Man of Steel asks a favor of a brief release so that he can perform one final super deed in Saturn Womanís honor, which will not involve saving her. The villains agree to the request and Superman immediately flies to Saturn, where he creates a massive shovel that he uses to scoop up meteor fragments from Saturnís rings. Returning to the planetoid, he then uses them to make a ring around it and is confident it will save Saturn Woman. He then returns to the chamber and points out the ring to Saturn Woman who thanks him and says it reminds her of her home world. Then in a bizarre twist, Saturn Queen uses her super-hypnotism to temporarily paralyze her fellow villains. Superman, of course, had been counting on something like this: ďWhen Saturn Queen told me her origin, it struck me that there must be some reason for crime not existing on Saturn! Examining Saturnís rings with my super-vision, I discovered that radiations from it cancel out Saturn peopleís criminal traits! Youíll recall that Saturn Queen didnít become a criminal until after she left Saturnís rings behind her and came to Earth! Thus, the meteorís rings from Saturn I formed about this planet had the immediate effect of curing Saturn Queen of her villainous tendencies! Thatís why she saved Saturn Woman!Ē Saturn Queen then vows to use her powers for good and just for good measure, Supes gives her a small meteor chunk to keep on her at all times to ensure her better instincts.

Things are wrapped up with the criminals being returned to their proper times and places to face justice.

Okay, I appreciate Jerry Siegelís contributions to the medium I love as much as the next guy, but talk about an ending that stretches the suspense of disbelief to the breaking point. So, while I enjoyed seeing the Legion in some new configurations, that kind of sapped the story at the end, so this one gets a 6 on the 10-point scale.

Agree? Disagree? Other questions or comments? You know what to do. My e-mail address is regularly monitored, so drop me a line at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

A new review will be right here at the Silver Lantern the 1st of July, so be sure to make your return and rememberÖ

Long live the Silver Age!

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