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

 

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.”

:-/

This ceremony is the first indication that the Legion is regarded as more than a bunch of kids who do community service. Their headquarters is a clubhouse, but they have enough fans to fill a stadium.

As for the new members, though…

  • Brainiac 5 didn’t audition. He didn’t even say what his superpower is. (He has one, and it is pretty great, but you wouldn’t know it from reading this story.)
  • Supergirl goes home to the 20th century after the ceremony.

So I feel really bad for everyone else who auditioned this year.

Listen carefully while I blow your minds:

Up until now, the Legion didn’t have to be from the future at all.

There have been little things in a couple of stories that indicated the connection between their home and Superman’s, like the history lesson with the Superboy robot and the historical preservation site at the Kent house, but none of them have been integral to the story, and none of them have ever revealed anything that the non-Legion characters didn’t already know. You could write functionally identical stories featuring a Legion who came from another star system, or another universe- what’s important is that they have access to Smallville and Metropolis, and Superboy and Supergirl have access to their home, but they aren’t the same place.

Then Brainiac 5 shows up. And he doesn’t just know that Supergirl exists, that she disguises herself as Linda Lee, and that she’s Superman’s secret weapon… he knows things about Superman’s life that Supergirl doesn’t know, because they haven’t happened yet.

The decision to allow plot points to be written in advance like this- to pin down Superman’s future by writing it in the Legion’s history- opens a ton of possibilities for Legion stories… but it also raises all kinds of questions about the nature of causality, and the ethics of time travel. Can the past be changed? Is it even acceptable to try? If so, what if you make things worse? If not, what about the future?

This story isn’t going anywhere near those questions.

The new audition rules are, um… well… I’m sure they seemed like an improvement when this story was written, anyway. :-/

We’ll get to Cosmic Boy’s “surprise” applicant in the next post.

The Legion Clubhouse has appeared on-panel a couple of times by now, but I only just realized I’ve never posted any of them. Which is a shame, because it is a cool and interesting place. Inside, it’s fully furnished with tons of room and all the amenities, but outside, it looks like the Legion just reclaimed and repainted a crashed rocket ship, complete with a sign proclaiming their ownership and purpose in not-so-precise handwriting.
So basically it’s the clubhouse you always wanted when you were a kid, turned up to eleven. :D

The Legion Clubhouse has appeared on-panel a couple of times by now, but I only just realized I’ve never posted any of them. Which is a shame, because it is a cool and interesting place. Inside, it’s fully furnished with tons of room and all the amenities, but outside, it looks like the Legion just reclaimed and repainted a crashed rocket ship, complete with a sign proclaiming their ownership and purpose in not-so-precise handwriting.

So basically it’s the clubhouse you always wanted when you were a kid, turned up to eleven. :D