A Tribute to the of

Welcome 2022! Let’s all hope it beats out the last couple of years. The bar is set rather low…

Despite that, we at the Silver Lantern continue our goal to make DC’s Silver Age come alive for you and to provide reference, interesting reviews, and of course our nearly unparalleled archive of interviews, line art and other rarities that will provide a little something for everyone.

To kick off the New Year, let’s go into the way-back machine and take a peek at one of my favorite team-up books, the immortal Legion of Super-Heroes. They officially took over Adventure Comics with issue #300 (September 1962), at least on the cover, though this particular issue began with a Superboy solo story.

The Face Behind the Lead Mask!” was written by Jerry Siegel with an interesting art combination of John Forte and Al Plastino. It seems Al did page 4, for whatever reason, along with some Superboy and Luthor heads. Sounds familiar, eh? Al had that same detail on some Kirby Superman work in the 70s. Letters were by Milt Snappin and Mort Wesinger edited the issue and lest I forget, the cover was done by Curt Swan and George Klein with Ira Schnapp lettering.

The story begins with a sort of introduction of the Legion, but oddly, they’re placed in 21st Century Metropolis. The lineup is shown in the third panel of the splash page along with their abilities, with Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy, Bouncing Boy, Shrinking Violet, Invisible Kid and Superboy all accounted for. I’ll also note that Sun Boy is listed as having “Super Radiance.”

So, a meeting is called to order, but only a quartet are on hand with Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl in attendance. No sooner do things begin than there’s a minor catastrophe. The robot filming the meeting, along with his camera, is abruptly damaged by magnetism erupting from Cosmic Boy. Directly afterward, Sun Boy involuntarily melts down the robot and camera into slag. Not to be left out, both Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl in turn have their powers go rogue on them. Not knowing what else to do, Saturn Girl throws a lever on the clubhouse wall to summon Superboy from his own time in the 20th Century.

Segue now to the Smallville reformatory, where Lex Luthor is being released and concurrently greeted by his old friend Clark Kent. Lex remains bitter toward Superboy and vows to seek his vengeance. Clark heads for home and wonders to himself if he’ll have to one day exile Luthor to the Phantom Zone, where some of Krypton’s greatest villains ended up. While he considers this, he idly picks up a viewer that allows him to see into the Zone where he spots Mon-El, who had come to Earth from Daxam, but was vulnerable to Lead, so Superboy placed him there in order to protect him until the Boy of Steel can devise a cure.

Then, Superboy’s signal lamp flashes a message that he is needed by his Legion comrades. Donning the familiar red and blue uniform, he flies through the time-barrier only to see Lightning Lad’s super lightning destroying the clubhouse. Superboy does a rapid repair job and his fellow members explain that their powers have gone wild. Sun Boy is so concerned about his run-amok abilities that he calls on his anti-gravity belt (no Legion flight rings yet, apparently) to leave the area.

In the next moments, the World-Wide Police arrive (predecessor to the Science Police, no doubt) to announce to the heroes that if they continue to be unable to rein in their powers, they will be exiled from the Earth in one hour. Pretty impressive response time and intel gathering, guys.

Superboy begins an examination with his X-ray vision when a voice informs him that he’s wasting his time. A flying figure lands and explains that he is the source of their woes. He calls himself “Urthlo” and is wearing a sneering leaden mask that thwarts Superboy’s x-ray vision to reveal the interloper’s identity. Urthlo (C’mon, Jerry, even I can see this one coming) proceeds to elaborate that his power-nullifying gadget allows him to turn on or off the heroes’ abilities at his will.

When the Legionnaires decide to attack, the villain proves he can stop their powers from being brought into play. Superboy reasons that he is invulnerable, so the bad guy brings into play his green kryptonite vision to subdue the Boy of Steel. His fellow members pick him up and they all fly away while a gloating Urthlo says he’ll allow them to flee for now, but will hunt them down and destroy them in 15 minutes time.

It seems Saturn Girl has a plan and she directs Superboy, now recovered from his green K exposure, to dig into the ground and retrieve a chest that the Legion had previously concealed. When Superboy emerges with it, he discovers a Phantom Zone projector within. Saturn Girl further instructs him to bring Mon-El from the Phantom Zone with the device. Reluctantly, Superboy complies, explaining the danger to his friend and sure enough, when Mon-El materializes, he is in great pain from the lead in the Earth.

Just then, Urthlo flies up and says that Mon-El will be of no help because his mask is made of his Achilles’ Heel, lead. But at that very moment, Saturn Girl gives Mon-El something to drink and it perks the youth right up. Going on the attack, he strikes a mighty blow at Urthlo and demolishes what turns out to be a robot.

Saturn Girl then explains that she has developed Serum XY-4, which is an antidote for lead poisoning via lead radiations. Unfortunately, however, the serum is only good for a few minutes, so a permanent cure is still not available.

Superboy then kneels down by the fallen Urthlo and removes the mask, revealing the features of (try to contain your surprise) an adult Lex Luthor. “I should have guessed the name “Urthlo” is the name “Luthor” with the letters scrambled!!” Gee, Batman’s status as the World’s Greatest Detective may be in danger.

Urthlo then states that he will soon stop functioning, so he’ll give them the backstory. It seems that shortly after his reformatory release (reforming obviously failed miserably in this case) Lex Luthor promptly created this robot and transported it into the future with the technology to screw up the Legionnaire’s powers. Urthlo was equipped with a leaden body and mask, immune to Superboy’s x-ray vision. He was given Luthor’s adult visage, so that Lex could triumph vicariously and the uniform on the robot was designed to be impervious to the Legion’s powers and of course he was given Kryptonite vision to boot. After the automaton speaks its last, Superboy notes that he was also loaded with hate tapes in his chest cavity to help motivate him. The reader can see each tape labeled with “Hate Superboy,” “Hate Legion of Super-Heroes,” and of course the ever-popular “Hate, hate, hate.”

Things wrap up on the final 2/3 page with the police rescinding their exile directive, Mon-El being given fast-track status as a member of the Legion right before being sent back to the Phantom Zone for his safety and then Superboy flying back to his own time through the time-barrier.

All right. Not the best Legion story I ever read, but the foundation was being laid for great things to come. John Forte’s art leaves something to be desired. The figures are definitely flat and two dimensional. That sounds a little funny, since that’s exactly what pen and ink art amounts to, but I think you know what I mean. The story was predictable and many well-known elements from later on were missing or altered. I’ll give this one a 4 on the 10-point scale. Not horrible, but certainly not up to the standard we’ve grown accustomed to when the Legion was put into more able hands down the road and of course they have endured and thrived ever since.

And that puts a nice, shiny bow on this maiden review for the New Year. May we all thrive and prosper in the New Year and while none of us will see the 30th Century, we can continue to thrill to the many tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes and indeed all our favorite Silver Age characters and stories for this year and the years to come.

January 15th will bring another review to his very site. In the interim, if you’ve got anything on your mind that you’d like to share, be it comments, questions, accolades or any other feedback, just fire off an email to me at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you soon and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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