This was a book that I actually owned though I could not tell you where I got it. By that time, I was a big Legion fan and this issue thrilled me to no end! Superboy #98 (Jl'62) was the oldest book that I ever had until it fell apart. But that cover!

Even at a young age, I realized that Curt Swan was the "Good" Superman/Superboy artist, though I liked Kurt Schaffenberger, too and learned to appreciate Wayne Boring, Al Plastino and George Papp.

In some ways, Swan looked more at ease with Superboy than Superman. His Smallville was straight out of Norman Rockwell and he drew Lana Lang a lot prettier than Lois Lane.

This cover had a scene of "normalcy" with walking to school and playing  baseball intertwined with two unearthly beings suddenly aware of each other!Swan was a master of setting amazing events in ordinary scenes!

The criss-crossing x-ray/penetra-visions is a dynamic image, especially with the "colors" mingled in the middle!

Also there is the drama of Ultra Boy's true intentions since there is no mention of the Legion. Combine that with his boast that his powers are mightier than Superboy's!

I was a bit surprised to discover that Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, also created Ultra Boy until I read about his contributions to the Legion Lore!

 

 

The story, after a deceptive splash page, has Ultra-Boy (it was hyphenated at the beginning) and his adult companion Marla arrive in Smallville on the train with his mission to learn Superboy's secret identity to prove himself to "the Others". He uses the alias Gary Crane. At least that was better than "Bob Cobb"! While he's feeling expositiony, we learn that he possesses penetra-vision which can even see through lead, something Superboy's x-ray vision cannot do.

After enrolling in Smallville High (somehow), "Gary" meets Pete Ross, the one boy in town who knows the Boy of Steel's true identity though Superboy is unaware of this fact. "Gary's" strategy appears to be asking everyone if they know who Superboy really is and he starts with Pete! His nervous denial leads the Ultra-Out-of-Towner to suspect Pete being Superboy! He even saves Pete from a machine-gun toting robber so he can expose him as Superboy, but actully saving his life! Superboy later comments that his heat vision couldn't have melted the lead bullets, giving him one doozy of a puzzle!

Ultra-Boy is so sure Pete is Superboy that he is absolutely dumb-founded to see the two together! He immediately drops his theory, though that wouldn't have stopped Lois or Lana for long.

The next scene is baffling. Krypto the Superdog see UB and Marla changing outfits and plans to expose them to see if they're a threat to his master. But the heat of Ultra-Boy's penetra-vision (later called flash vision) drives the Dog of Steel away. So first, his flash vision can burn Kryptonians, something only triple-heat vision could do and second, Krypto apparently drops the whole "protecting his master" thing and does not warn Superboy!

After watching teen Clark Kent get picked on by grade-schoolers, though admittingly beefy ones, "Gary" gets to thinking that since Clark's glasses didn't break, maybe Superboy might pretend to be a "meek, mild nobody"! One burst of penetra-vision later, his hunch is confirmed! But at the same time, Clark gets suspicious of "Gary" and learns his secret as well!

The next day Pete decides to put his diary into a safety deposit box since he wrote Superboy's secret identity in it! I'll bet Alfred never did that! Anyway as he walks into the lead-lined, time-locked, booby-trapped bank vault, the manager has a heart attack and accidently seals Pete in. Before he can suffocate, they summon Superboy via the Superboy Emergancy Flag to save him. The problem is with the lead and the explosives, he can't open the door! Just then Ultra-Boy and Marla arrive, in full costume! After calming a ready-to-fight Superboy down, the Valiant Visionary uses his ultra-eyes to help free Pete.

Now that everyone is friends, Ultra-Boy explains that he is really Jo-Nah from the planet Rimbor in the 30th century who gained ultra-powers after being swallowed by an energy-beast, like Jonah and the Whale. How cute! Anyway, he is trying to join the Legion of Super-Heroes and his initiation test was to learn Superboy's secret identity and Marla was the Legion's Senior Advisor, the first and last time that postion was seen! They learn that Pete knows and protects Superboy's identity and give him a 30th century coin that (somehow) will serve as a pass to a Legion meeting!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I like Ultra Boy. His costume is cool and his powers and limits are neat. I thought that Marla was a retired super-hero but he was revealed to be R.J. Brande's assistant! *sigh*

Ultra-Boy would help Pete when Pete had to substitute as a Superboy Robot in "The Day Pete Ross Became a Robot!" in Superboy #100 (O'62), which was reprinted in Superman Family #167 (N'74).

Jo would be seen briefly in the Legion series in Adventure Comics using his penetra-vision until #314 (N'63) where it was revealed that he possesses ALL of Superboy's powers but could only use them one-at-a-time! He was also vulnerable to "radioactive force" whatever that is.

But he would really shine in Adventure #316 when he must outwit and outfight the Legion as "The Renegade Super-Hero!" but he would gain the love of his life in the other-dimensional Tinya Wazzo AKA Phantom Girl.

Not bad for a hero whose main asset was that he could see through lead!

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The cover to Superman Family #167 is here and it's a strong candidate for My Favorite 100 Pager!

Adventure #316 is here!

Marla's being a retired hero would have been a good idea; I'm sorry they didn't do that!

He had the look, the physique and the attitude. He knew what Superboy's secret identity was but he let Ultra Boy make his own conclusions!

He hardly seemed like an administrator. And he never appeared again in the Silver Age.

Philip Portelli said:

He had the look, the physique and the attitude. He knewwhat Superboy's secret identity was but he let Ultra Boy make his own conclusions!

He hardly seemed like an administrator. And he never appeared again in the Silver Age.

 

 

He came close, though.  He appeared again, for one panel, in "The Legionnaires Who Never Were", from Action Comics  # 392 (Sep., 1970), to perform his responsibility of swearing in the incoming Legion leader.

I think that artists/creators of that cover missed the obvious question.

Why would two boys with x-ray vision check out each other's bodies and underwear, instead of going after that fox of a girl walking next to them....all the rest of would, you know...  that's why they sold the x-ray specs in the ads inside, remember?

I always liked UB too and thought the one-power-at-a-time restriction was an interesting one that they never made enough of. We didn't get to see him switch (how did he do that?) to take advantage of specific situations very often.

Clearly, he had more going for him than just seeing through lead--teaming up Superboy, Mon-El and Ultra-Boy was a pretty impressive group, although it's interesting that they all had a special relationship with lead.

His long-term relationship with Phantom Girl also made him stand out, but that again was something they didn't make enough of. The disappearance of Marla also was hard to figure, as he could have been a plot point for something at some point. 

I gotta agree with you, Kirk. That is a Jo who is truly focused on his mission and a truly paranoid Clark. Although I'm sure Clark had checked out the goods enough, and standing right next to Lana, she might have noticed him staring at her. Although I doubt he ever tired of the view.

I'm not sure many guys wore baseball pants and carried their glove while wearing a sweater and white shirt on the top. Why he's half-dressed for playing baseball on a city street is a mystery for the (silver) ages.

-- MSA

Well, he IS an alien from the future, after all! ;-)

Ultra Boy has perhaps the coolest costume of the Legion in the Silver Age. He looked like a solo star and maybe he was on Rimbor for awhile. Boosting his power-level made sense, though. He was Ultra Boy not Scanner Boy. It would have been a waste of a great name. Making him part of the Legion's Big 3, though oddly excluding Supergirl, gave him a rather unique position on the team, the beatable powerhouse. He should be able to defeat almost anyone yet can still be taken by surprise.

Of course, his powers can't really be one at a time since they have to work in concert to function properly particularly his ultra-invulnerability which he must have had in Superboy #98 to safely utilize his penetra/flash vision. I could see his flying power being under-developed since he had access to the flight belt/ring which freed him from having to switch to that. But then again how could he fly at ultra-speed if it wasn't really him flying?

The One-At-A-Time Titan's relationship with the lovely and loyal Phantom Girl is the second greatest Legion romance after Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl's. She is as "invulnerable" as he is so he doesn't have to protect her as much as the other Legion lasses. For being so strong and ruggedly handsome, no girl has ever got between them. Even if Star Boy tried his luck with Tinya in Adventure #326 but she was turned evil then. Hopefully Jo never found out!

BTW, isn't Superboy's trunks really high up on the cover? Talk about taking no chances!

Philip Portelli said:

Of course, his powers can't really be one at a time since they have to work in concert to function properly particularly his ultra-invulnerability which he must have had in Superboy #98 to safely utilize his penetra/flash vision.

 

 

Years ago, on the old board, our own Captain Comics came up with what I thought was a suitable explanation for that, Philip.

 

Let's see if I can recall it accurately . . . .

 

Presumably---and most sensibly---Ultra Boy's default power is invulnerability.  In other words, when he's just sitting around the Legion clubhouse doing the Legion Bulletin crossword puzzle, the power he has "on" is invulnerability.  That's the natural state of his ultra-energy when he isn't consciously shifting it to employ a different super-power.

 

Now, as is well known, Ultra Boy can only use one super-power at a time, and to all practical purposes, that's correct.  But what really happens, say for example, when U-Boy decides to use his super-strength, the ultra-energy making his body invulnerable transfers to "super-strength" mode, but only 98% of it, or so.  In other words, a tiny percentage always remains in the "invulnerable" default.  It's not enough to deflect bullets or a blast of a ray-gun, but it's enough to keep him from breaking his hand when he punches through a wall.

 

It's that same tiny percentage of invulnerablity that keeps him from frying his eyeballs when he uses his flash vision, or protects him from friction heat when he moves at super-speed.  It's an autonomic reflex that kicks in whenever he uses another super-power, to protect his own body.  Additionally, it provides only internal protection, so when U-Boy is using another power, he can still be kayoed by a baseball bat over the head or feel a good kick in the shin.

 

The only time when Ultra Boy is totally indestructable is when he consciously shifts his ultra-energy to "invulnerability", or when he isn't using any other power, in which case, his ultra-energy defaults to invulnerability.

 

If we hold that to be the case, then, theoretically, in a situation when U-Boy needs his super-power to have that extra oomph---he's got to move a planet out of the way of that careering asteroid now---then he could consciously convert all of his ultra-energy, including that tiny percentage in reserve, to super-strength.  But in doing so, then he would be truly vulnerable to all harm, including the stresses within his own body.

 

What he cannot do, though, is "divide" his ultra-energy.  That is, use 50% for super-strength and 50% for invulnerability, to make himself kinda-super-strong and kinda-indestructable.  That's the one-power-at-a-time limitation kicking in.

 

I thought Cap's solution made perfect sense.

I read Cap's article in CBG at the time and that theory has been around for a while. Even in the comics like Superboy and the Legion #215 where Ultra Boy gets blasted by stun rays after beaming down to battle the Emerald Empress, letter writers wanted to know why. The answer was that UB, going on offence at the get-go, was in "ultra-strength" mode at the time, not his usual invulnerable state. But then again, in SLSH #207, he got drugged by his controlled parents and he wasn't using any other power at the time. Maybe radioactive drugs?

Going by that hypothesis, then when Jo got out of that enegry-beast, he should have been invulnerable afterwards. That would have been discovered fairly quickly like when they wanted a blood sample or something like that after his rescue. That would have made him a lot more effective of a hero than just penetra-vision. Maybe Brainiac 5 helped him figure out how to maximize his ultra-powers over time.

I also read that maybe UB had all his powers in Superboy #98 and was limited to only his vision ones to help him find out Superboy's secret identity. Of course, if the Legion really wanted to handicap him, they could have said that he could only use his ultra-breath!

But seriously, folks, we have another Legion initiation involving Superboy, of which he has no knowledge of, that disrupts his life and alters Pete Ross' life. The Legion does enjoy yanking Superboy's chain, don't they? In spite of all their respect for him and, let's face it, their reliance on him as their most powerful/popular member.

Another question, just how strong in Ultra Boy? He is hampered by the lack of constant invulnerabilty so he can't use his strength to the level of Superboy and Mon-El but is he really as strong as them? I pictured him being 75 to 80% as powerful and that's nothing to sneeze at!

"Going by that hypothesis, then when Jo got out of that enegry-beast, he should have been invulnerable afterwards. That would have been discovered fairly quickly like when they wanted a blood sample or something like that after his rescue."

 

Not necessarily, Philip.  We know, by his own thoughts, that Jo Nah was charged with the ultra-energy immediately upon being freed from the space-dragon.  But, the energy may have taken time to coälesce and settle in his body, the same way a serum injected into the bloodstream takes time to course through or a medicine taken takes time to work into the body's system.  It may have been some time before he became truly invulnerable.

 

Still, he would have noticed it eventually, which would be another one of those niggling timeline details that involved Ultra Boy's powers.

 

As noted, when Ultra Boy was introduced, in Superboy # 98 (Jul., 1962), all he was established as possessing was vision powers, and in the hyperbole of the time, the fact that his penetra-vision could see through lead made him "mightier than Superboy".

 

In U-Boy's next half-dozen appearances, mostly in Adventure Comics, this remained consistent---he possessed vision powers only.

 

Then, with Adventure Comics # 314 (Nov., 1963), things started to get a little tricky.  In "The Super-Villains of All Ages", suddenly, and without explanation, U-Boy was shown to be able to do all the things that Superboy and Mon-El could do, only with the limitation to using only one super-power at a time.  (Thus, for the first time, setting up Superboy and Mon-El and Ultra Boy as the Big Three of the Legion.)  This must have been awfully confusing to Legion fans of the day.  No doubt they scratched their heads and wondered how U-Boy got so powerful all of a sudden.

 

Readers had to wait a couple of months for the answer, but that answer created as much confusion as it resolved.

 

In "The Renegade Super-Hero", from Adventure Comics # 316 (Jan., 1964), a flashback depicts Ultra Boy's recollexion of his origin, continuing past the usual scene showing him being cut free of the space-dragon.  Herein, U-Boy reflects that after a short time, he discovered that he could shunt his ultra-energy to give him other powers besides vision powers.

 

Now, if his narrative had stopped there, it would have been a perfectly satisfying explanation.  A fan could have plausibly concluded that U-Boy didn't make this discovery until after joining the Legion and sometime just before the events of Adventure Comics # 314.

 

Unfortunately, U-Boy's narrative continues, saying that it was after he discovered he could use his ultra-energy to give him a wide variety of Kryptonian-like powers that he applied for and was admitted to the Legion.  That mixed things up again, because if U-Boy had all of these powers, why hadn't he ever shown them before Adventure Comics # 314?  Why hadn't he used them before?

 

And, if that wasn't enough of a bollix, Adventure Comics # 316 also carried the illustration-and-text piece about the Legion line-up that it ran periodically, and the entry on Ultra Boy stated:  ". . . the youth soon learned that radiations from the energy monster had given him the amazing power of PENETRA-VISION, which enables him to see through ANY substance, even lead!"  There was no mention of his invulnerability, ultra-strength, ultra-speed, etc., or his one-power-at-a-time limitation.

 

Nevertheless, things settled down, and by 1968, Ultra Boy's one-Kryptonian-power-at-a-time abilities were squarely established.  I assume this is why Mort Weisinger didn't want to rock the boat when Superboy (Giant Annual) # 147 (May-Jun., 1968) was published.  This was as "All-Legion" themed annual, and one of the tales it reprinted was U-Boy's debut from Superboy # 98, and here, Mort did some editorial tinkering.

 

In the original publication, Ultra Boy simply had vision powers, which he used to complete his initiation assignment of finding out Superboy's secret identity.  In the 1968 reprint, one of Ultra Boy's speech balloons on the last page was obviously edited to state that he was limited to using only his vision powers to complete his initiation.

 

In other words, Mort and his Legion writers made the whole thing needlessly complicated.

They did the same thing, in reverse though, with Star Boy. When he was introduced in Adventure Comics #282 (Ma'61), he was a Superboy-clone with similar powers, though instead of heat-vision, he had electric vision. He already was a member of the Legion and not only pre-dated Ultra Boy, but Mon-El, too! He should have been part of the Big 3 but he vanished afterwards, absent throughout the Legion's formative years. Presumbly the editors forgot about him since his introductionary story was based on an earlier one featuring a hero named Marsboy. The Legion connection was added on and had little to do with the plot.

When the Legion got their own feature in Adventure #300, Star Boy was ignored for all his power. Bouncing Boy got more screen time. He was left out in supposedly "the entire Legion roster" tales of #304, 310 and 316. He appeared on the splash page of #310 (Jl'63) and the cover of #311 but had no involvement with those stories unless it was behind the scenes.

When Star Boy finally took part in a Legion adventure, it was #317 (F'64)'s "The Menace of Dream Girl!" which was the debut of the love of his life, Nura Nal--Dream Girl. However, he no longer possessed any of the Superboy-style powers anymore. They weren't even mentioned. Now he had the ability to draw mass from the stars and make anyone or anything super-heavy. Coincidently, Dream Girl altered Lightning Lass's powers so she could make anything super-light as Light Lass!

With Ultra Boy powered up, perhaps the editors felt Star Boy had to be powered down to prevent the team from being too powerful, therefore to hard to write stories for and they didn't want a Big 4!

Philip Portelli said:

With Ultra Boy powered up, perhaps the editors felt Star Boy had to be powered down to prevent the team from being too powerful, therefore to hard to write stories for and they didn't want a Big 4!

 

 

I most definitely agree, Philip.  In fact, establishing the Legion in its own series was, in many ways, vexing for Mort Weisinger.

 

After the introduction of the Legion, in the form of Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, in Adventure Comics # 247 (Apr., 1958), had proven so popular, Mort and his writers realised they had created a Godsend.

 

Need a plot thats something different from the usual run of protecting-Superboy's-secret-identity-from-Lana-Lang or committing-a-hoax-to-ensnare-some-crooks stories?  Bring in those three kids from the Legion! 

 

A story has Superboy meeting a new super-hero?  We don't have to come with whole new excuses for where the new super-kid comes from; we'll just make him a new Legionnaire!  And then we don't have to figure out a reason why he doesn't hang around Smallville after that. 

 

We need a handy way to get Superboy out of a death trap?  Bring in a Legionnaire!

 

The Legion was a handy device for Supergirl, too, once she was introduced.  So the readers don't get bored with all those operating-in-secret, Supergirl-in-training tales, just send her into the future with the Legion!

 

And because the Legion was seen as a convenient plot device, the stories added members and assorted details to the Legion without any real consideration of how they all fit together.  The writers didn't check the earlier stories; there was no reason to do so---the Legion was simply a handy concept to use when cranking out a plot.

 

What they didn't count on was the fans---who found the concept of a futuristic Legion of Super-Heroes much more intriguing than a mere plot device.  And when Weisinger realised there was gold in them thar future teens and gave them their own series in Adventure Comics # 300 (Sep., 1962), he discovered that there was a lot of clutter that had to be cleaned up.

 

The good news was that the earlier writers had explained away so many teen super-heroes as being members of the group that he had enough to make it truly a Legion.  The downside was making them all fit in.

 

Some of these super-teens had been seen for only one panel in a previous story, in which their only function was to display a strange super-power.  Now, they had to be shown, you know, actually doing something.  At the same time, it was tough to write a plot using all of the Legion members.  Mort and his writers got around it by concentrating on a core of five or six usual Legionnaires and showing the others standing around in the background, or away on missions on other planets.  Shrinking Violet, for example, appeared in the background of various Legion stories for two years before she got her first dialogue bubble.

 

And some pieces were easier not to try to fit in---such as Star Boy.  Weisinger knew very early that having more than one Legionnaire with Superboy's powers would make it that much more difficult to present a truly menacing menace.  So Star Boy was conveniently ignored, and Mort hoped the fans would forget about him.

 

The problem was, the fans didn't forget.  The Legion was, in a legitimate sense, Mort's Frankenstein Monster.  The fans loved the concept too much; they didn't forget past details and they wanted explanations about a lot of stuff!  And this interfered with Ye Olde Ed's intention to keep only one Superboy-level hero in the Legion---Superboy himself.

 

The events of Adventure Comics # 300 saw Mon-El released from the Phantom Zone after some 1,015 years, and he was made a Legionnaire.  Yes, Mon was as mighty as Superboy, but that didn't matter, because the story established that serum XY-4 worked temporarily, only for a few minutes, so back into the Zone Mon-El went.

 

And sure, Supergirl was a Legionnaire by then, but she was a second-stringer, still acting as Superman's secret emergency weapon back in her own time.  Presumably, the Man of Steel wouldn't let her make too many trips to the future before her training was over.

 

No doubt Mort and his writers would have been delighted to leave things just as they were.  But those damn, pesky fans, with their elephant-like memories, kept writing in.

 

First problem:  Jerry Siegel pens a dramatic, ground-breaking story showing the death of a Legionnaire---Lightning Lad.  And even while Mort is basking in the readers' comments on this "milestone in comics history", an equal number of fan letters, such as one from Todd Walther, of Ithaca, New York, arrive saying, "Wait a minute!  You've already shown the grown-up Lightning Lad---Lightning Man---in a couple of stories, so how can Lightning Lad really be dead?"

 

#%$@*%#! kids read too many comic books, Mort no doubt thinks.

 

Second problem:  at the end of Adventure Comics # 304, Supergirl arrives from the past to attend Lightning Lad's funeral, and Superboy is there to greet her.  "Hey!" write in Jerry Weissman, of Providence, Rhode Island, and a grunch of other devout readers, "If Superboy knows that Supergirl is in the Legion, why was he surprised to meet her when she landed on Earth after he grew up to be Superman?"

 

Don't these kids ever go out and play anymore, grumbles Mort.

 

More fan mail forced Weisinger's hand on the matter of Mon-El.  Overwhelmingly, they wanted to see Mon out of the Phantom Zone for good.  Mort got a decent story out of it from Siegel, in Adventure Comics # 305 (Feb., 1963), but now he was stuck with another Superboy-level Legionnaire.  He included Mon-El in the next few Legion stories, long enough to satisfy the fans; after that, a great many times, Mon would be tied up on a mission "on the other side of the galaxy" whenever trouble hit.

 

At least, they'd forgotten about Star Boy, Mort thought.  Well, no.  Legion fans were asking about him, too.  As early as the Legion Outpost letter column in Adventure Comics # 308 (May, 1963), when a letter from Herman Cummings, of Cleveland, Ohio, demanded to know why Star Boy hadn't been seen in a Legion tale, yet.  Mort replied that Star Boy was on a detatched-service mission for the Legion, which the readers would learn all about in a future issue.

 

That is, as soon as Mort could think of a way of bringing Star Boy back and not adding yet a fourth hero with Superboy-like powers to the group.  As you noted, Philip, that he did, in Adventure Comics # 317.

 

And Mort handled the Supergirl problem by simply instructing his writers not to use her very often.  So when she did appear in a Legion adventure, it was a sure bet that the central mystery of the story involved the Girl of Steel in one way or another.

 

Clearly, in many ways, the development of the Legion was out of Weisinger's hands, once he discovered how ardent the fans were, and how long their recollexions were.  In fact, that's probably part of the reason that, more than most DC series, the Legion of Super-Heroes had such a rich and detailed history.  Weisinger and his writers were constantly forced to divine another bit of business to address the fans' questions or to meet their requests.

 

All of that said, it leaves one jarring question to ponder.  Mort obviously recognised the difficulties in crafting stories about a super-team with more than one Superboy.  While he was able to successfully "dumb down" Star Boy's powers, he was still left with Superboy and Supergirl and Mon-El as active Legionnaires.  So why did he ramp up Ultra Boy's powers, in Adventure Comics # 314, to be the near equal of Superboy's?  At that point in the series, U-Boy had reverted to being one of the fringe Legionnaires, not having been central to a plot since Superboy # 100 (Oct., 1962).

 

The upshot of his power-upgrade was relegation to the ranks of the also-ran.  He did his star turn in Adventure Comics # 316, but for four years afterward, most Legion stories either had him standing in Superboy's shadow or as part of the Big Three.  It was only toward the end of the Silver Age that U-Boy began to emerge as a notable player in his own right.

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