A Tribute to the of






The Justice League Unlimited episode "Kid Stuff," brought a smile to my face, even though this season is beginning to look a little like Recycled Villain du jour.  In case you didn't catch it, the basic premise was that Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman were transformed into youths to take on Mordred.  They still had their abilities, but a little bit of emotional immaturity came with the change, too.  According to some material I read about the episode they were roughly 8 years old and it compared them to the Teen Titans.  I don't think 8 quite makes the stretch to teen, but I guess you go with what you've got.  Once again, this idea wasn't particularly new and it put me in mind of an issue I have on hand in my collection when a similar plotline emerged in Adventure Comics #356 from May of 1967.  I guess Editor Mort Weisinger and writer E. Nelson Bridwell decided to lighten things up a bit after killing off Ferro Lad in issue #353 and then following it up with the two-part tale involving the adult Legion squaring off with the Legion of Super Villains and yet another appearance, seemingly, of Ferro Lad as an adult.  This time, as you can tell by the Curt Swan/GeorgeKlein cover, the pendulum swings from an adult Legion to a toddler Legion with "The Five Legion Orphans!"

The setting, as always, is 30th century Metropolis on planet Earth, where the Legion of Super-Heroes makes their home base.  A parade is in progress for Parent's Day, which has replaced Mother's Day and Father's Day.  The guests of honor are, of course, the Legionnaires with their parents, or at least those lucky enough to have parents.  A quick segue back to Legion HQ reveal 5 members, none of whom have that luxury.  They are Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Superboy, Dream Girl and Element Lad.  Dream Girl comments that at least Superboy has his foster parents and she has a sister, but Element Lad is the sole survivor of his race.  Even Mon-El has descendents of his siblings on his home world of Daxam.  The ponderings of the Legion are put on hold, though, when a distress call from the planet Zinth interrupts.  Apparently their power crystal has been stolen, robbing their world of light and heat. 

Upon their arrival at Zinth, the Legion members are directed to a deep pond where the crystal lies.  Superboy and Mon-El decide to search for the raiders who heisted the crystal while Brainiac 5, Dream Girl and Element Lad don special masks that both filter hydrogen from water to allow them to breathe and also provide communication via built-in two-way radios.  The threesome swim toward the bottom where they spot the massive crystal.  With great effort, they lift the gem and begin to swim toward the surface but they soon discover they're shrinking.  They abandon the jewel and head for the surface.

Soon Mon-El and Superboy return to find their fellow members about half their normal size.  Element Lad speculates that perhaps it was some effect from the water.  Superboy and Mon-El, confident in their invulnerability, plunge into the water, despite Dream Girl's protests that she has a premonition of danger.  The two Legionnaires reach the bottom, but find that they, too, are succumbing to whatever caused their teammates to shrink.  When they return to the surface with the crystal, the other three are now tot-sized.  Within minutes all five are now pint-sized versions of themselves and their emotional level has diminished as well.  A patrol ship then arrives after being summoned by an anonymous tip and takes the crystal and the five children into their care.  Next stop, the interstellar orphanage.

The duty nurse asks the quintet if they can tell her what planet they are from and she gets a few childish answers until "Baby Brainiac" speaks up:  "I can tell you about us, nurse!  I am Querl of the planet Yod…and the others are Lar of Daxam, Jan of Trom, Nura of Naltor and Kal of Krypton!"  The startled nurse replies that Krypton exploded ages ago and Brainiac 5 does a rapid save:  "I meant…uh…Rokyn!"  His thoughts fill the gaps for us:  "That's the one planet where Superbaby's native Kryptonese is still spoken!  Am I glad my 12th level-effector brain is still clicking!"  An editorial note completes the package:  "Rokyn was settled in the 20th century by survivors of Krypton when the bottle city of Kandor was enlarged."

The next scene shows a candidate couple looking for a child to adopt.  They're soon led to the play area where the 5 Legion tots are at play.  Impressed with Baby Brainiac's message in blocks, "PLEASE ADOPT ME," they decide on him until a jealous Element Infant transforms the husband's hat into solid gold.  Young Jan is selected instead.  More couples arrive, similarly garbed and they see Dream Tot crying, scared of a fire.  Soon a fire does indeed break out in another room and the startled adults realize she foresaw it.  Little Mon-El flies in and snuffs the flames with his super breath and the two are selected for adoption.  Two more couples arrive next and one pair take Superbaby, who used his heat vision to light the husband's pipe, while the final couple are taken with Brainiac's complex equations on the chalkboard.  The green-skinned Legionnaire thinks to himself that he was lucky to still have his full faculties and that he must devise a way to change him and his comrades back to normal.

Meanwhile, back at Legion HQ, the other members have returned to the clubhouse to discover their team mates are gone.  They check the monitor board for status and find that they're all on the Planet Zinth.  Since their two most powerful members, Superboy and Mon-El are with them, they decide to just wait for their return. 

We soon find that Baby Brainiac has just arrived at his new home planet, Baskh and it is his great good fortune that his adopted father is a chemist, allowing him access to a laboratory so that he can work on a cure.  Just then another stroke of luck.  His four fellow Legionnaires are also on this planet and live in the very same neighborhood. 

Soon Brainiac is checking things out in the lab when he notices Dream Tot playing with, of all things, a wind-up Legion doll that can change from one Legionnaire to another.  He observes as it inflates into a replica of Bouncing Boy, then divides into two when it takes on the form of Duo Damsel and finally grows larger than her form when it becomes Colossal Boy.  Right about then, though, a mischievous Element Infant tosses the doll to Little Mon-El who in turn lobs it toward Superbaby, but he's hurled it at such terrific speed that it burns up from air friction.  What does all this have to do with the storyline?  It sure beats me…   

The tot with the 12th level brain next notices that Mon-El is suffering from dizziness.  It's obvious to Brainiac that Mon is suffering from his weakness to Lead, but he doesn't see any.  Just the same, he gets cracking in the laboratory and begins by analyzing a sample of water in a nearby container.  It turns out to be water from the youth pool in Kandor, the bottle city from Krypton.  That explains how it could have an effect on Superboy, a Kryptonian, and Mon-El, who hails from a similar world.  The young genius soon works up an antidote and takes it onto the playground, claiming its candy.  The pills work instantaneously, restoring the five Legionnaires to their proper stature and Mon-El's carried the additional bonus of curing his lead-induced illness. 

When the adoptive parents return, it's time to find out what happened.  Brainiac's father explains that two years ago a radioactive asteroid collided with their moon, showering Zinth with dust that proved fatal to their children, but not adults.  One of the scientists, Daq, discovered that while no child on their planet of Baskh could live, children from other worlds should be able to survive.  Unfortunately the interstellar orphanage would not adopt children from other worlds unless there was no alternative, thus they posed as members of the planet Zinth and since each of the Legion orphans was from a special circumstance, it allowed their adoption.  Their intentions were to fill their empty nests and give the Legionnaires loving homes.  Thus they stole the crystal and lured them to the pool on Zinth to fulfill their plan.  Regretfully, they submit to going to prison for their actions.  Brainiac responds that the Legion will not press charges as they meant well and he also has a surprise for them.  He announces that the child death plague is over.  His evidence is Mon-El's difficulty with the unseen Lead, which was in reality the fallout that had lost its radioactive properties and turned to Lead.  It's now completely harmless.  Dream Girl confirms that she sees the Baskh people a year hence with new, healthy babies.  They then return to the clubhouse on Earth, closing the curtain on another adventure. 

The backup story in this issue is a "Hall of Fame Classic" from writer Otto Binder & artist George Papp, originally published in Adventure Comics #282, dated March 1961, entitled "Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes!"  It features the first appearance of Thom Kallor from the planet Xanthu, better known to readers of the LSH as Star Boy.  Interestingly enough, he has a very different background in this debut tale.  His abilities came to him after driving the family Spacemobile through the tail of a passing comet, which gave him invulnerability, X-ray vision, the ability to fly, super-strength, super-cooling breath, infra-red vision and electrical vision.  His abilities caught the attention of the Legion and he was invited to join.  He's come to 20th Century Earth to chase down a criminal from his own 30th Century era and also to solicit Superboy's help to apprehend the other crook back on Xanthu who has hidden in some copper pipe works, which thwart Star Boy's X-ray vision.

Unfortunately, the story goes pretty much downhill from there as Lana Lang arrives, bluffs Star Boy into thinking she's learned his secret identity and blackmails him into pretending to be smitten with her in order to make Superboy jealous.  I won't go into the storyline any further.  We've all seen it before and it's a little too much fluff for my tastes. 

Obviously Star Boy's comet-induced powers later fade, but his ability to make things super heavy allowed him to remain a member in good standing of the Legion.  In a future review I'll get into a story featuring Star Boy with a little more substance.   

The Legion of Super-heroes was a particular favorite of mine as a boy and I still have a soft spot in my heart for them, but between you and I, I think I've gotten pretty spoiled by all the great stories by Gardner Fox that I've had the privilege to read and review.  The Legion is lighter fare and that has its place, but this particular pair of stories was even lighter than most, so I didn't find it particularly satisfying, despite Curt Swan's splendid artwork.  Maybe the stories were just too short, but I think they lacked much to get your teeth into as well.  My judgment for this issue is a 5 on the 10-point scale.    

If you enjoyed this review, or even if you didn't, let me know.  My e-mail address is at your disposal:  professor_the@hotmail.com.  I also invite you to join us again in about two weeks for the next journey into the past with a new review.

Long live the Silver Age!



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