Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Mystery Legionnaires

The release of Adventure Comics v2 #0 - reprinting the Legion story in Adventure Comics v1 #247 for the 10th time - gives me the opportunity to repost something here that I originally wrote up several years ago on my other site.

When Adventure 247 was released, Superboy went into the future where he met and joined the Legion. A "Legion" implies many members; in fact, several of them were shown in that first issue. But the only ones named were Saturn Girl, Lightning Boy (Lad), and Cosmic Boy, all with different costumes than what's known today.

But who were those other Legionnaires in those panels? Let's look at the historical record....

Adventure 247 (April 1958)

page 5 panel 3

page 10 panel 4

page 11 panel 6

Adventure 247 was first reprinted in Superman Annual 6, minus the last page showing Superboy winning the "Super-Hero Number One" medal. Notice that they recolored one guy in the last panel to be Colossal Boy, and recolored the founders' costumes to be the color scheme of their traditional Silver Age costume, not the weirdo colors from the original. They even "corrected" Garth's name as Lightning Lad instead of Boy.

Superman Annual 6 (Winter 1962-63)

page 5 panel 3

page 10 panel 4

page 11 panel 6

The next appearance of the reprint was in "DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest" 1 (March/April 1980), followed by "Adventure Comics" 491 (September 1982). The coloring was identical to the original, although some panels were trimmed or extended to accommodate the digest size's different height/width ratio.

The story didn't get reprinted again until the first Archives volume, which had much whiter paper. This is the first retroactive appearance of Brainiac 5 in the story.

Legion of Super-Heroes Archives (1991)

page 5 panel 3

page 10 panel 4

page 11 panel 6

In this set of panels (from the DC Silver Age Classic reprint), the various mystery Legionnaires have been recolored (supposedly against colorist Tom McCraw's wishes) to show Brainiac 5. This color guide has been used ever since, including Adventure v2 #0.

Silver Age Classics Adventure 247 (1992)

page 5 panel 3

page 10 panel 4

page 11 panel 6

Mark Waid's "LSH Index" speculates that since we never saw them again, they were unsuccessful applicants. Other clues in later issues put the following Legionnaires behind the scenes, in terms of order of joining: Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Brainiac 5, and Shrinking Violet.

There's one other panel with a mystery Legionnaire: on page 7 panel 4, the person in the lower right corner is caucasian with blue-black hair, but he appears the same way in each reprint. Since none of the members at the time had black hair except for Cosmic Boy (who is in that panel in costume), this must be a rejected applicant.

Here's what Waid said in the LSH Index #1 under the entry for ADV 247 regarding the mystery Legionnaires:
Although Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad (Boy) are the only Legionnaires shown clearly in the story, several other unnamed members are in evidence. Since no members resembling some of those characters have ever appeared in subsequent stories, some must merely be unsuccessful applicants. As shown in issue #323 in a flashback to Superboy's induction at the end of this story, Triplicate Girl, Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, and Brainiac 5 are among those present behind the scenes. The presence of Brainiac 5, who joined the Legion at the same time as Supergirl, indicates that the story takes place some time after the Supergirl story in Action #276, in which Supergirl and Brainiac 5 are inducted. Since one panel in this story shows three female members (presumably not unknown applicants) other than Saturn Girl, and since Superboy does not react as he would to the appearance of Supergirl, Phantom Girl and Shrinking Violet must be the other two females present.


Anonymous said...

That's interesting. For some reason, I always thought the Brainiac 5 retcon coloring came about WAY before the Archive - persumably from as far back as the Superman Annual.


RAB said...

Please forgive this much delayed comment!

I'd have trouble with the idea of a rejected applicant being invited to witness what would presumably be the most momentous event in LSH history, the induction of Superboy. It just doesn't feel right dramatically.

I'm intrigued by the idea of the Legion inducting Supergirl before Superboy. One possibility that existed in pre-Crisis times would have been that for some reason, Supergirl was considered the more important or significant hero in the 30th Century, perhaps due to some later accomplishment the readers had yet to learn about. But as I say, her death forestalled that possibility. Alternately, and less flattering to her, could she have been seen as a warm-up or trial run before tackling the job of meeting Superboy?

Or another thought: could there have been room for Legionnaires we never saw (apart from those panels above) to have joined and left the group?

Michael said...

Alternately, and less flattering to her, could she have been seen as a warm-up or trial run before tackling the job of meeting Superboy?

Supposedly, in retconned history, that's pretty much the explanation. From what I can recall, and I don't remember where I read it, they were trying out their new time travel devices but could only go back 1000 years, so they recruited Supergirl. But their real reason for going back in time was to recruit Superboy, which they finally did after tweaking their machines.

Pat said...

Man, that is so why I don't trust reprints. I want to see the little glitches, not have them papered over.