Chronicling the original incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the people they meet and the worlds they live in.

 

Huh! I didn’t think there were any Legion stories featuring Superman this early.
(Also holy cow, “Krypto battles Titano”? Why is that not on the cover?)
The Legion of Super-Villains is kind of a half-assed concept thus far, but I like the cover homage.

Huh! I didn’t think there were any Legion stories featuring Superman this early.

(Also holy cow, “Krypto battles Titano”? Why is that not on the cover?)

The Legion of Super-Villains is kind of a half-assed concept thus far, but I like the cover homage.

The Phantom Zone projector is a pretty blatant deus ex machina in this story- it never appears before this page, even though it would’ve been easy to introduce in a scene of Clark sharing his knowledge of Krypton with Bob, and there’s no explanation of how “terrible weapons used on Krypton” arrived on Earth safely in the first place, or why Clark would willfully ignore the existence of other living Kryptonians, even if they were supposedly criminals.
Since then it’s become a much bigger part of the overall Superman mythos, though, and I suppose we have this story to thank for making that possible.

The Phantom Zone projector is a pretty blatant deus ex machina in this story- it never appears before this page, even though it would’ve been easy to introduce in a scene of Clark sharing his knowledge of Krypton with Bob, and there’s no explanation of how “terrible weapons used on Krypton” arrived on Earth safely in the first place, or why Clark would willfully ignore the existence of other living Kryptonians, even if they were supposedly criminals.

Since then it’s become a much bigger part of the overall Superman mythos, though, and I suppose we have this story to thank for making that possible.

So that explains that- aside from what “Mon-El’s” real name is, anyway, or why he arrived on Earth unconscious and about to crash instead of with a controlled landing.
Interestingly, there may be a reasonable explanation for the “lead is permanent/kryptonite is temporary” thing.
Kryptonite is radioactive, and the radiation is what’s dangerous to Kryptonians, so if you block it with lead or take it far enough away, they’ll stop being affected. (Earlier in this story, Clark retrieves a sample from a lead box to test on Mon-El while he’s sleeping.)
But lead isn’t radioactive. For it to have any effect on an organism, it must be ingested or inhaled or absorbed through the skin. (Presumably when Superboy shelled this asteroid with cannonballs, the impacts created some tiny lead fragments which could’ve entered Mon-El’s system.) So taking Mon-El away from the lead in the environment won’t help him recover, because the lead that’s killing him is already inside his body.

So that explains that- aside from what “Mon-El’s” real name is, anyway, or why he arrived on Earth unconscious and about to crash instead of with a controlled landing.

Interestingly, there may be a reasonable explanation for the “lead is permanent/kryptonite is temporary” thing.

Kryptonite is radioactive, and the radiation is what’s dangerous to Kryptonians, so if you block it with lead or take it far enough away, they’ll stop being affected. (Earlier in this story, Clark retrieves a sample from a lead box to test on Mon-El while he’s sleeping.)

But lead isn’t radioactive. For it to have any effect on an organism, it must be ingested or inhaled or absorbed through the skin. (Presumably when Superboy shelled this asteroid with cannonballs, the impacts created some tiny lead fragments which could’ve entered Mon-El’s system.) So taking Mon-El away from the lead in the environment won’t help him recover, because the lead that’s killing him is already inside his body.

Long story short:

The stranger in the rocket doesn’t remember anything before his arrival. He has powers like Clark’s, and believes Clark’s theory about them being related when it’s explained to him, but he looks much older than Clark- “at least 18”. Clark calls him Mon-El in private, and helps set him up with a public identity as Bob Cobb, a traveling salesman.

As time goes on, Bob continues to adjust and enjoy his new life, using his powers to do good and help people like Clark does… but Krypto doesn’t recognize him. Clark investigates further in secret, having become suspicious of Bob, and finds more inconsistencies: Kryptonite doesn’t weaken Bob, and his belt is made from material not found on Krypton. The more he finds (and doesn’t share), the more he becomes suspicious when Bob doesn’t notice the inconsistencies and continues living alongside him as his brother.

Finally Clark stages an elaborate trick to find out the truth, by disguising lead cannonballs as kryptonite meteors to see if Bob will pretend weakness if he does.

It doesn’t go well.

I have background knowledge that tells me Clark’s theory here is incorrect- but it is nice to see that the writers included enough evidence to make it plausible at this stage. I wasn’t expecting that.
More recent depictions of this character and his costume haven’t changed the basic design elements from this version, but they have changed how much emphasis is put on each. Looking at his appearance in comics today, you wouldn’t draw the same comparison Clark does in the first panel- but looking at his appearance in this story, I recognize him as the same character from those later comics, and I see where Clark is getting the idea of comparing their outfits, even though I wouldn’t have made the comparison myself.
I like the idea in the second panel, that Clark doesn’t just know Kryptonese but has enough familiarity with the writing system to recognize his father’s handwriting. Of course, it raises the question of how he knows those things, since according to the previous page, the artifacts that came to Earth with him were destroyed…
The visual in panel 5 makes it look like Clark finds the medallion under the newcomer’s shirt, with his X-ray vision- but the text says he sees and reads it with microscopic vision. So it’s not normal-sized and hidden under his shirt- it’s so small we can’t see it in normal perspective, and engraved with a message. That suggests some interesting stuff about Kryptonian culture, especially if this story adheres to the canon of Kryptonians not having superpowers on their homeworld.
The text in panel 6 gives me a whole bunch of ideas. I’m going to make them a separate post.

I have background knowledge that tells me Clark’s theory here is incorrect- but it is nice to see that the writers included enough evidence to make it plausible at this stage. I wasn’t expecting that.

More recent depictions of this character and his costume haven’t changed the basic design elements from this version, but they have changed how much emphasis is put on each. Looking at his appearance in comics today, you wouldn’t draw the same comparison Clark does in the first panel- but looking at his appearance in this story, I recognize him as the same character from those later comics, and I see where Clark is getting the idea of comparing their outfits, even though I wouldn’t have made the comparison myself.

I like the idea in the second panel, that Clark doesn’t just know Kryptonese but has enough familiarity with the writing system to recognize his father’s handwriting. Of course, it raises the question of how he knows those things, since according to the previous page, the artifacts that came to Earth with him were destroyed…

The visual in panel 5 makes it look like Clark finds the medallion under the newcomer’s shirt, with his X-ray vision- but the text says he sees and reads it with microscopic vision. So it’s not normal-sized and hidden under his shirt- it’s so small we can’t see it in normal perspective, and engraved with a message. That suggests some interesting stuff about Kryptonian culture, especially if this story adheres to the canon of Kryptonians not having superpowers on their homeworld.

The text in panel 6 gives me a whole bunch of ideas. I’m going to make them a separate post.

Man. So many things to say about this panel.
The reader knows at this point that this rocket is likely to show some parallels with Kal-El’s, since the story is called “Superboy’s Big Brother”… but Superboy doesn’t know that, and yet he’s making a very specific comparison based on very vague evidence. I can only conclude that Silver Age expository text sometimes borders on clairvoyance.
The comparison points out something really terrible about the version of his origin story he’s recalling. According to this, Jor-El didn’t just put his infant son in a little prototype rocket- he put him in a little prototype rocket rigged to explode. That crosses a line from “desperate” or even “reckless” straight to “hopeless” at best and “infanticidal” at worst.
I guess it does have the fringe benefit of not requiring an explanation of where the Kents put an alien rocket ship… but again, it was a little prototype rocket, just big enough for a baby. I’m pretty sure they could have put it in a pickup truck, covered it with a tarp, and carted it away to hide in a shed somewhere. So I really don’t see why that element was ever included.

Man. So many things to say about this panel.

  1. The reader knows at this point that this rocket is likely to show some parallels with Kal-El’s, since the story is called “Superboy’s Big Brother”… but Superboy doesn’t know that, and yet he’s making a very specific comparison based on very vague evidence. I can only conclude that Silver Age expository text sometimes borders on clairvoyance.
  2. The comparison points out something really terrible about the version of his origin story he’s recalling. According to this, Jor-El didn’t just put his infant son in a little prototype rocket- he put him in a little prototype rocket rigged to explode. That crosses a line from “desperate” or even “reckless” straight to “hopeless” at best and “infanticidal” at worst.
  3. I guess it does have the fringe benefit of not requiring an explanation of where the Kents put an alien rocket ship… but again, it was a little prototype rocket, just big enough for a baby. I’m pretty sure they could have put it in a pickup truck, covered it with a tarp, and carted it away to hide in a shed somewhere. So I really don’t see why that element was ever included.
Ma and Pa Kent are basically only in this scene to provide an audience for Clark’s expository dialogue, but including them provokes an interesting thought.
Normally when we see or hear something strange and no one seems to be reacting to it, we check our observations against those of other people- we say “did you see that?” or similar, and adjust our confidence depending on the answer.
Clark, however, knows that he can see and hear things other people can’t, and has some experience that tells him those things are real. So he can’t use that test- if he asks someone “do you see that?”, he might get a “no” even if the thing he’s seeing is real.
His other powers help him resolve this problem with certainty- if he sees something strange far away, like in this situation, he can check if it’s real very quickly by flying out to look closer or even touch it. But someone who only had perceptive powers and not active ones like speed or flight might have a much harder time distinguishing for certain between things only they can see because their senses are heightened and things only they can see because they’re hallucinating or confused or mistaken somehow.

Ma and Pa Kent are basically only in this scene to provide an audience for Clark’s expository dialogue, but including them provokes an interesting thought.

Normally when we see or hear something strange and no one seems to be reacting to it, we check our observations against those of other people- we say “did you see that?” or similar, and adjust our confidence depending on the answer.

Clark, however, knows that he can see and hear things other people can’t, and has some experience that tells him those things are real. So he can’t use that test- if he asks someone “do you see that?”, he might get a “no” even if the thing he’s seeing is real.

His other powers help him resolve this problem with certainty- if he sees something strange far away, like in this situation, he can check if it’s real very quickly by flying out to look closer or even touch it. But someone who only had perceptive powers and not active ones like speed or flight might have a much harder time distinguishing for certain between things only they can see because their senses are heightened and things only they can see because they’re hallucinating or confused or mistaken somehow.

I know this story is important to the Legion’s history, but I don’t know if the Legion actually appears in it, or if the two threads connect later on.
I like that it continues the trend from “Super Girl-Friends” of being introduced with an uplifting development rather than a threatening or puzzling one, though.
Side note: I understand that the intent is to keep things simple for the readers, but it’s still really weird to see people who know Superboy as Clark or even Kal-El refer to him as “Superboy” even in private. It’s not like the writers couldn’t remind us of his different names in narration or something.

I know this story is important to the Legion’s history, but I don’t know if the Legion actually appears in it, or if the two threads connect later on.

I like that it continues the trend from “Super Girl-Friends” of being introduced with an uplifting development rather than a threatening or puzzling one, though.

Side note: I understand that the intent is to keep things simple for the readers, but it’s still really weird to see people who know Superboy as Clark or even Kal-El refer to him as “Superboy” even in private. It’s not like the writers couldn’t remind us of his different names in narration or something.

"Your home is great, we just joined this club together, and I like you and want to be with you- but I have to go back home, where I have no friends and everyone who’s met me is fooled by a robot wearing my clothes, to remain on watch for nothing in particular, in case the financially secure adult relative who put me in an orphanage needs a greater tactical advantage than being the strongest, fastest, toughest creature on the planet and shooting high-energy radiation out of his eyes because I’m not allowed to change the status quo in this book that much.”
:-/

"Your home is great, we just joined this club together, and I like you and want to be with you- but I have to go back home, where I have no friends and everyone who’s met me is fooled by a robot wearing my clothes, to remain on watch for nothing in particular, in case the financially secure adult relative who put me in an orphanage needs a greater tactical advantage than being the strongest, fastest, toughest creature on the planet and shooting high-energy radiation out of his eyes because I’m not allowed to change the status quo in this book that much.”

:-/