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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That would explain why Star Boy had one of the more interesting Silver Age costumes and one of the least interesting powers!

Ultra Boy was the leader during the Legion's end run in Adventure. So he had to go from the rebel (#316, 351) to the boss!

Most of the first Legionnaires were seen as rejected applicants (Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy and Shrinking Violet) only to reappear as members.

After the original three and the Super-Cousins, only Chameleon Boy (possibly), Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl, Star Boy and Brainiac 5 were introduced as members prior to Adventure #300. Ultra Boy still had to pass that last test!

I enjoyed your explanation for the mind of Mort Weisinger, Commander! It's interesting to see the Legion's evolution from one of a variety of one-shot, throwaway plot points to something that has to be consistent.

Keep in mind, though, that we know about these letters because Mort was publishing them. If he hadn't wanted to address these issues, he no doubt could've run more "the Legion is swell" responses. He may have run them to make sure *everyone* remembered there was a Star Boy and make it seem like he had everything worked out even before they asked about it.

He may have been getting more letters calling him out on these things than he'd intended, but he didn't have to let us know it if he didn't want to. Fan communication was light years behind what it is now, so most readers would've never known what other Legion fans were thinking if he hadn't encouraged it.

It's interesting to think about how they created new members after they'd shown the first few and given them names. I wonder what was rejected (without actually being shown and rejected). I mean, the notion that Triplicate Girl and Bouncing Boy were the among the first member they thought up after the original three boggles my mind.

--  MSA

Mr. Silver Age said:

Keep in mind, though, that we know about these letters because Mort was publishing them. If he hadn't wanted to address these issues, he no doubt could've run more "the Legion is swell" responses. He may have run them to make sure *everyone* remembered there was a Star Boy and make it seem like he had everything worked out even before they asked about it.

He may have been getting more letters calling him out on these things than he'd intended, but he didn't have to let us know it if he didn't want to. Fan communication was light years behind what it is now, so most readers would've never known what other Legion fans were thinking if he hadn't encouraged it.

 

 

You're undoubtedly right on that score, Mr. S. A.  I'm sure Weisinger took advantage of the intense fan interest in the Legion as much as he was constrained by it.

 

I had never really given much thought to that until I draughted that post, but the relationship between Mort and the Legion was something of a forced marriage.  The Legion concept tapped a vein with the youthful readers and they responded.  The Legion Outposts of Adventure Comics were jammed packed with readers' submissions of potiental Legionnaires and polls of favourite Legionnaires and other sorts of business designed to encourage fan interaction.  Not to mention the biggest example coming late in the Silver Age:  the decision to determine Legion leadership by fan election.

 

Certainly editors of all of the DC titles paid attention to the tone of the fan mail, but the Legion was so fan-inspired that Weisinger could virtually assure the continued popularity of the Legion series by (1) catering to whatever ideas were most on the readers' minds; and (2) throwing their names and suggestions into the lettercols as much as possible.  And then there was the ultimate sop to a Legion fan---when a character he suggested would actually appear in the series, either as a rejected applicant or that Holiest of Grails, a recurring character.

 

I may be missing something, but I can't think of any other Silver-Age DC series that invited and rewarded as much fan interaction as the Legion of Super-Heroes.

 

But that was a sword that cut both ways.  It also meant that Mort had to come up with answers to fan questions that he probably would rather have ignored.  "How can Lightning Lad be dead when we saw him as a grown-up Lightning Man back in Superman # 147?"  "Why was Superman surprised to learn about Supergirl's existence when she arrived on Earth in Action Comics # 252, when they were Legionnaires together back when he was Superboy?"

 

There had to be enough letters asking questions like that that Weisinger just couldn't ignore them.  So he had to come up with answers, and then one lucky fan's letter would get published to provide Mort the opening to provide the response.

 

One of the things for which Weisinger must be given credit is his versatility in coming up with answers to some knotty situations inadvertently created:  anti-kryptonite; Supergirl's post-hypnotic command to Superboy; for Legion membership, it's his physical, not chronological, age which counted; kryptonite protected Daxamites from lead, as lead protected Kryptonians from kryptonite; Supergirl wore a reversible skirt.  Yeah, some of them were clever and some of them were more than a bit of a reach, but most of them eventually found their way into the stories proper.

 

I really don't think all that much thought was given to new Legionnaires in those early days, Craig.  After all, they were meant, in most cases, to be simply window-dressing.  Characters such as Triplicate Girl and Bouncing Boy made for good visuals and weren't intended to be shown for more than a panel or two.

 

However, once the Legion became a series, now Mort had to find ways to justify their on-going presence in the Legion---or rather, his writers did.  That was more of the clutter that had to be cleaned up once the Legion concept became a series that needed to be reasonably consistent.  I always chuckled slightly at the fact that Bouncing Boy was perceived as such a lamely powered character that an entire story---"The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy", from Adventure Comics # 301 (Oct., 1962)---was needed to explicate his Legion membership.  Yet, I can easily conceive useful functions for his power.  On the other hand, Mort didn't seem to think such a justification was necessary for the much-lamer Triplicate Girl (and the lamer-still Duo Damsel).

As a little sidelight here, I have always found this to be true in Marvel books as well.  Example:  A short back-up feature in the mid- 120s of Fantastic Four showed a Thing who was Reed Richards, instead of Ben Grimm in another dimension. This "What If" should only have been a one-shot ironic story.  But some reader decided to go back and revisit it again and make it into cannon.  Big Mistake in my book.

I always felt the same way with both the Squadron Supreme and Squadron Sinister over in Avengers.  An interesting one-shot or one arc concept, but not right for on-going series or characters.

The most interesting thing about Triplicate Girl was that, in Legion chronology, she/they were the first to join the three founders. True, she's the ultimate multi-tasker but still....

And Bouncing Boy knew that his power wasn't the greatest but he also knew how to maximize it. The Rotund Rebounder always pulled his *ahem* weight and I think readers were sad when he lost his bouncing ability the first time that they kept bring him back for cameos until he regained his power in Adventure #351.

And (again) after justifying BB's membership, the next Legionnaire to join was.....Matter-Eater Lad!!

The older kids in my extended family were into Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but other than reading the occassional story here and there, I never caught the bug.  Still, I recall some of the stories you all are referencing...

the death of Proty,  tripplicate Girl becoming Dual Damsel,  Matter-Eater Lad... not sure why, but some of these stories came down to our family from cousins, and who knows where those comics went.

I certainly took better care of my comics than they did.  This was in the very early 60s, during the Kennedy years  IIRC.

The older kids in my extended family were into Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, but other than reading the occassional story here and there, I never caught the bug. 

It's said that there are DC or Marvel guys and Batman or Superman guys and those stick with us as we grow up. I think you were a Marvel guy pretty much, Kirk, whereas I was a Superboy/Legion guy through and through. So my first love is those comics, followed by DC's heroes, followed by Marvel's big guns (FF, Spidey, DD) and then all those costarring guys.

That, likewise, makes me a Superman guy over Batman. Batman probably has had better stories over his entire life, but as a character, I'll take Superman (and the Legion over the X-Men).

-- MSA

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