Deck Log Entry # 147 The OTHER Legionnaire Who Killed (Part 3)

For the last couple of entries, we've been talking about Lightning Lad's rôle in the death of interplanetary criminal Zaryan the Conqueror.  This prompted the question from correspondent Commando Cody, "Why didn't the Legion then charge Lightning Lad with violating the club's code against killing?"


It's a good question, and as we shall see, Cody wasn't the first one to ask it.


To the point where we left off---Adventure Comics # 311 (Aug., 1963)---the Legion could not be faulted for failing to investigate Lightning Lad in the matter, as the same action had resulted in the Legionnaire's own death.  As a matter of propriety and practicality, charging Lightning Lad with breaking the code would have been pointless.


In fact, there is a suggestion that, had Lightning Lad lived, the super-hero club would have looked into the matter.  In “The Return of Lightning Lad”, from Adventure Comics # 308 (May, 1963), the Legionnaire appeared to have returned from the dead, but lost his super-power in the process.  As mentioned in the last session, Cosmic Boy was insistent on expelling the now-powerless Lightning Lad from the club.  This was despite whatever emotional turmoil it might have caused Garth Ranzz.


This implies that at least one Legionnaire would pursue other possible violations of Legion law committed by Lightning Lad.


The point became moot, though, when it was discovered that the “resurrected” Lighting Lad was actually his twin sister, Ayla Ranzz, posing as the slain Legionnaire.


Thus, through Adventure Comics # 311, Lightning Lad remained dead and beyond the reach of any disciplinary procedure.  However, in the letter column of that issue, editor Mort Weisinger, responding to a number of fans, revealed that Lightning Lad would be restored to life in the following issue.







In “The Super-Sacrifice of the Legionnaires”, from Adventure Comics # 312 (Sep., 1963), Mon-El, who had been pretty much absent since his release from the Phantom Zone seven issues earlier, returns to Earth after searching for a means to resurrect Lightning Lad.  He reports to his hopeful fellow Legionnaires that he has failed.  Even the great biologists of his home world, Daxam, were unable to provide a means to bring the dead back to life.


Or so Mon-El tells them.


Mon and the others travel to a deserted world with an atmosphere that constantly discharges bolts of lightning.  Here is where Lightning Lad’s transparent sarcophagus has been relocated and here is where Saturn Girl is waiting.  They give her the bad news.


Early in the Legion’s formation, Saturn Girl had pledged to never use her super-power of telepathy to intrude on the privacy of her fellow members’ thoughts.  In her grief at Mon-El’s failure, however, her self-control slips, and she is startled by the stray thought she has picked up from Mon.  Incredibly, Mon-El does know a way of restoring Lightning Lad!


When she attempts to read his mind directly, Saturn Girl finds that Mon is shielding his thoughts, preventing her from confirming what she detected or finding out why he lied.



Confronted with the hard reality that her brother isn’t coming back, Lightning Lass weeps uncontrollably over his coffin.   WIth two sobbing females on his hands, Superboy, ever the softie, issues a stirring challenge.


“We’ve often accomplished feats that were considered impossible when others asked us!  Now we’re going to do something for our own lost comrade . . . we’ll find a way to revive Lightning Lad!”


Like a losing football team pumped up by its coach’s half-time pep talk, the Legionnaires rally around the Boy of Steel.  “Superboy’s right!” says Saturn Girl.  “We’ll search the whole universe, if necessary, to find the way!”


The first step is to run a Google-search on the Legion’s “mechanical-librarian” computer, collecting several hits on the topic “revival of life”.  Narrowing it down to a handful of the most likely possibilities, Our Heroes split up into small sub-teams to check them out.  A suspicious Saturn Girl ensures that she’s paired up with Mon-El.


The Legionnaires give it their best shot.  The blue sun of Galaxy AB-213.  The legend of the undying Taroc creature.  The radium-capsule of Skor.  All methods advertised to raise the dead---and each one of them has a hitch which makes it useless in restoring Lightning Lad.  Worse yet, in his frustration, Mon-El’s guard slips and Saturn Girl catches another “glimpse” of his thoughts.


Mon-El could revive Lightning Lad right now---but doesn’t want to!


She’s had enough of this.  She tricks Mon-El into taking her to Daxam, where one of that world’s physicians inadvertently spills the beans.  Saturn Girl demands the whole truth and Mon agrees to admit all.


Summoning all of the other Legionnaires involved back to Lightning Lad’s resting place on the lightning world, Mon-El reveals the information that he’s been hiding.


The biologists of Daxam had, indeed, devised a method for returning life to the dead.  A unique conductor is attached to the dead subject and a live person.  This conductor is of a sophisticated and complex design.  When the living person is struck with a sufficient jolt of electricity, his life-force will transfer, via the conductor, into the dead subject, making him live, again.


But such a miracle comes with a terrible cost.  The donor whose life-force is used dies!


As soon as he’d been able to sneak away, Mon-El had intended to secretly use the device himself, to sacrifice his own life-force to revive Lightning Lad.  And, yes, the conductor will suck the life out of super-beings such as himself or Superboy just as completely as it will out of regular folks.


Naturally, being Legionnaires, everyone present volunteers to trade his life for Lightning Lad’s.



They decide that the only fair way is for all of them to have an equal chance.  Each Legionnaire grips a conductor running to the body of their fallen comrade and holds a steel rod up in the air.  The lightning bolts eternally crashing overhead will provide the power.  It’s a grim and deadly lottery, with the “winner” being the one whose rod is the first to be struck by a bolt.


Yet, one Legionnaire, Saturn Girl, is determined to make the sacrifice.  Unknown to her fellow Legionnaires, she holds a rod made of duralim---an element which actually attracts lightning.  She’s doctored the rod to make it look like the steel ones held by the others.


For several tense minutes, the six Legionnaires stand, rods held high, over Lightning Lad’s lifeless form, waiting for fate to choose.  Then, a burst of lightning strikes Saturn Girl’s duralim rod!


It turns out that it is not Saturn Girl’s time to die---as determined as she was to die for Lightning Lad, there was someone even more determined that she live.  Instead, Chameleon Boy’s shape-changing pet, Proty, lured Saturn Girl away then took her place.  The Legionnaires discover this when, in death, the little protoplasmic creature reverts to its true blobby, yellow form.


The good news is---Lightning Lad lives again!  It is a bittersweet occasion of joy and loss, as the resurrected hero retakes his place in the Legion.


Oh, and that “killing Zaryan the Conqueror” thing?  Nobody brings it up throughout the rest of the series.  Ever.







As to the real-life, behind-the-scenes reason that the Legion was never seen to address the question of Lightning Lad’s hand in the death of Zaryan, I’m tempted to guess that it was because Mort Weisinger and his writers never thought of it.  But that rather short-changes them.  More than any other series produced by DC, the Legion of Super-Heroes took many of its elements and developments from suggestions by its fans, and you can bet that Mort paid attention to the Adventure Comics mail that came over his transom.


Weisinger also had an advantage.  DC’s top-tier super-team title, Justice League of America, featured characters who were stars of their own magazines or series.  Thus, JLA writer Gardner Fox was hogtied when it came to introducing any developments in the book that would have an impact on the heroes in their parent titles.


But, except for a few of the characters---principally Superboy and Supergirl---no such restriction bound the Legion.  That gave Mort’s staff the latitude to impose permanent, life-altering changes on the various members.  As the writers got their sea legs, more disaster would be imposed on the Legionnaires.  Featured players would suffer death and dismemberment, lose their super-powers, or find themselves kicked out of the club.


So, while the idea of writing a story behind Lightning Lad’s killing of a foe might not have occurred to Mort and company immediately, it would have eventually.  Especially when, as discussed below, at least one reader had written in, pointing out Lightning Lad’s apparent violation of the Legion code.


The problem for Weisinger here was Lightning Lad was one of the few Legionnaires who couldn’t be tinkered with too much.  Several earlier stories had established that Lightning Lad would grow up to be Lightning Man and still solidly a member of the Legion.  And as the letters from Todd Walters and Steven Gerstein and Caroline Dove had shown, Legion fans possessed impeccable memories.  Mort knew that any story involving court-martialing Lightning Lad for the death of Zaryan would not have any lasting impact.  Should L.L. be convicted and expelled, the Adult Legion appearances had established that it would eventually be undone.


I suspect that Weisinger did like the idea of examining the consequences to a Legionnaire who killed.  However, when it came time to write a story around it, the central character turned out to be Star Boy, whose future life was unwritten.



As to the matter of providing an in-fiction explanation for the Legion’s failure to take action against Lightning Lad, after he had been restored to life . . . well, that is the purpose of my one-man review board.


Once Lightning Lad was revived and returned to duty with the Legion, he was subject to the club’s rules and regulations.  In this unique case, death had been only a delay to the club’s procedures.


After a consideration of all the evidence and testimony, I conclude that the Legion of Super-Heroes failed to pursue the matter of Lightning Lad’s possible violation of the Legion code for one or more of the following reasons:




1.  The Legion Code against killing did not apply.



There is no direct evidence that Zaryan the Conqueror was killed in Lightning Lad’s assault on the villain’s space-cruiser.  Zaryan’s death was not shown “on panel”, nor was his body shown afterward.


True, the level of destruction to Zaryan’s ship, as seen in the single panel showing Lightning Lad’s actual assault, makes it highly unlikely that Zaryan survived.  But, remember, we are dealing with thirtieth-century technologies, some of them alien to Earth.  One-man survival pods, personal protective force-fields, even teleportation, are all within the scope of futuristic technology and were seen in other Legion stories.


The sole witness to the incident, Saturn Girl, immediately departed that area of space, understandably, to rush the injured Lightning Lad to Earth and possible medical aid.  But as a consequence, no-one remained to inspect the wreckage of Zaryan’s spacecraft and check for either survivors or victims. 


Quite possibly, the Legion took the concept of habeas corpus at its literal meaning---“that you have the body.”  Without clear indication that Zaryan had died, perhaps it chose not to accuse Lightning Lad of violating the Legion code.




2.  Even if Zaryan had died, Lightning Lad did not violate the Legion code against killing.



This one is a bit tricky because it involves a precedent not yet set at the time Lightning Lad was restored to life.  That is the matter of Star Boy’s court-martial and expulsion from the Legion after he caused the death of Kenz Nuhor in “The Legionnaire Who Killed”, from Adventure Comics # 342 (Mar., 1966).


A quandary in the substance of the Legion code against killing resulted from this story.  It’s best looked at in chronological order.


The Smallville Mailsack of Adventure Comics # 316 (Jan., 1964) published a letter from Barney Palmatier, of Santa Monica, California.  Mr. Palmatier wrote in, raising the question forty-eight years before Commando Cody did:


 I see that you have brought Lightning Lad back to life, for which we are all grateful.  But when Zaryan the Conqueror’s ship was destroyed by Lightning Lad, Zaryan was also destroyed.  Therefore, since it is against the code of the Legionnaires to destroy life, he should be expelled from the Legion.  Right?



To this, Mort replied:


It is against the code to destroy life ruthlessly or in a wanton manner.  It is not against the code to destroy life in self-defense . . . Lightning Lad gave up his life to stop a diabolical villain.  He deserves nothing but praise for his heroic deed.


An eminently reasonable explanation, one that would have made my Deck Log Entries on this subject unnecessary---except for the matter of “The Legionnaire Who Killed”, which came along two years later.


One of the key issues raised during Star Boy’s court-martial was the matter of self-defense.  As presented here, the Legion code against killing did not provide for the right to self-defense.  It was a violation of the code for a Legionnaire to kill---period.


This lack of a self-defense provision is the reason why Superboy volunteered to defend Star Boy from the charges.  He, along with the other invulnerable Legionnaires, believed that their fellow members should have the right to kill to prevent their own deaths.  The Boy of Steel’s efforts to exonerate Star Boy concentrated on demonstrating why a self-defense proviso was a needed thing.


Ultimately, he even persuaded the prosecutor, Brainiac 5, of this.  However, it didn’t stop the court-martial from going forward.  Star Boy had violated the Legion code as it currently existed---without the right to self-defense.  In the end, the lad from Xanthu was found guilty and kicked out of the Legion.


Yet, this was clearly a contradiction of Mort Weisinger’s earlier claim that the Legion code did permit Legionnaires to kill, if necessary to save their own lives.  By now, he should have known that the hard-core Legion mavens would jump on that.  At least one did---Alan Anderson, of St. Petersburg, Florida.  His indignant letter appeared in Adventure Comics # 345 (Jun., 1966):


You’ve finally gone and done it!  Your latest story, “The Legionnaire Who Killed,” simply has no basis.  In your January, 1964 letter column, you stated:  “It is against the code to destroy life ruthlessly, or in a wanton manner.  It is not against the code to destroy life in self-defense.”  Admit, you blew it!


With his own words hurled back at him, Mort could only offer a mea culpa and weakly argue that it didn’t matter, anyway:


True, we forgot about that provision in the code.  But Brainiac 5 proved that Star Boy could have used his power to beat the killer without doing him in.  So the expulsion still stands.


This is the kind of thing that gives loyal series fans fits.  Devotees of Sherlock Holmes have applied contorted trains of thought into justifying how many wives Doctor Watson had or to his war wound, cited variously as in the shoulder or the leg.  The same could be said for die-hard Legion-lovers and the matter of the Legion code providing an exception for self-defense.  Fan sites have debated it for years.


Which is why I find the last of the possible reasons the most compelling . . . .




3.  As they did often, the Legionnaires ignored their own rules.



It’s been discussed here before that, as much as the Legionnaires presented themselves as responsible and adult, they were still only teen-agers, on the cusp of maturity.  So many of their actions were based on the whims and superficial concerns of adolescents.  Our own Randy Jackson has raised this point a few times.


Many times in the Legion series, the symptoms of “teenage-itis” poke through their veneer of maturity.


You have the hair-trigger emotional responses.  In “The Stolen Super-Powers”, the other Legionnaires are so chaffed by Saturn Girl’s behaviour that, at the mere mention of Zaryan, they immediately jump to the conclusion that she is in league with the criminal.  During the events of “The Legionnaires’ Super-Sacrifice”, Saturn Girl believes that Mon-El is withholding his knowledge because he is jealous of Lightning Lad.


Not only are they insecure about each other, but like all teens, they are insecure about themselves.  In “The Fantastic Spy”, the secret details of Legion operations are being leaked to criminals.  Immediately, thoughts turn to the possibility of a traitor in the organisation, but no fingers have been pointed.  That doesn’t keep Matter-Eater Lad from worrying about his status with the group.


“Since I’m the newest member,” he says, “and my loyalty hasn’t been proven yet, I---I can’t help feeling you veteran Legionnaires suspect me!


Perhaps part of M-E Lad’s insecurity comes from his awareness that his super-power is a pretty lame one, by Legion standards.  To be sure, the most obvious examples of the Legionnaires’ cliquishness and adolescent thinking appear in their membership-offering.


Many times, the Legion seems to have accepted new members on the basis of personality alone.  The events of “The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy” scarcely justify his induction into the Legion.  He gets in because he’s the funny fat kid.  The Legionnaires admit it themselves when B.B. is left behind “to guard the ship” in “The Legion of Super-Monsters”.  Once he is out of earshot, his buddies admit that their plump pal is jolly and they like him, but his power of super-bouncing doesn’t help much on missions.


On the other hand, Polar Boy, whose power of super-cold clearly would be of benefit, is rejected.  Polar Boy meets all of the qualifications for Legion membership; he’s also noticeably smaller, and probably younger, than the Legionnaires.  To them, it would be like having one’s kid brother tagging along.  So he’s shown the door on the flimsiest of excuses.  (“It might . . . disable us at a critical moment!”)


Even Star Boy’s court-martial saw some cracks in the Legionnaires’ official deportment.  During the vote for verdict, all of the female Legionnaires---except Saturn Girl---voted for Star Boy’s acquittal out of sentiment for his romance with Dream Girl.  It wasn’t the first time Dream Girl was responsible for the teens voting with their hormones.  Back in Adventure Comics # 317 (Feb., 1964), Dreamy was admitted to the Legion, the girl Legionnaires outvoted by the boys, responding to the blood rushing out of their brains.


While they played at being adults, the Legionnaires all too often displayed their immaturity by letting their impulsive emotions override their own policies.



The failure to indict Lighting Lad for the death of Zaryan might have been simply one more example of the cliquish Legionnaires giving into their adolescent whims.


Not all of them.  Cosmic Boy was certainly a hard-liner, as seen by his insistence that L.L. be expelled for losing his super-power, as he believed, back in “The Return of Lightning Lad”.  On his home world of Braal, its people were considered adults at fourteen---probably owing to a faster maturity rate---and Cos had been the first Legion leader.   He understood the tremendous responsibility of being a Legionnaire.


Notably, Cosmic Boy was absent during the events which saw Lightning Lad return to life.  Without his influence, the issue of Zaryan’s death wasn’t raised.  Nor was it likely to be, given that the Legion members who were there for Lightning Lad's revival included Lightning Lass (his sister), Sun Boy (his best friend), and Superboy (who believed that the Legionnaires should have the right to kill in self-defense).


And then there was Saturn Girl, whom Legion fans had already pegged as Lightning Lad’s girl friend, based on the fact that Action Comics # 289 (Jun., 1962) had shown them married, as adults.  Moreover, she was the current leader of the team.  Any move to prosecute Lightning Lad would have to get past her. 


The other Legionnaires still had fresh memories of their experience with Saturn Girl as a tyrant.  They were probably more than glad to let the matter of Lightning Lad’s violation slide, rather than see the return of “Imra, the She-Wolf from Hell”.


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Comment by Commando Cody on September 28, 2012 at 7:38pm

re: Mon-el.

My attempt at reconciliation is that even though Superboy/Superman had found that he could not change the past, there was no proof that he could not make changes to the future he had visited, therefore he kept up his efforts to find a cure in his own time.


Comment by Commander Benson on September 28, 2012 at 11:12pm

Here, I would disagree.

The first rule of time travel in the Silver-Age DC universe is that history cannot be changed. What has happened has happened.

Superboy, in A.D. 2963, learns that Mon-El won't find a permanent cure for his condition and released from the Phantom Zone until then. If the Boy of Steel then time-travels a little over a millenium to the past to try and prevent it, that is substantially no different than when he travelled from 1930's Smallville to 1865 Washington to try and prevent Lincoln's assassination.

In both cases, he was attempting to alter events that already taken place. The only difference is when the "Now"---or the frame of reference---was.

Furthermore, if it could work the way you suggest, that Superboy could return to his own time and change "the future", then why couldn't he just take some of Brainiac 5's anti-lead serum with him, release Mon from the Phantom Zone in the Kent basement, and give him the serum there?

Comment by Commander Benson on September 29, 2012 at 3:18am

That's only a couple of wigglers in the can of worms the folks at DC opened when they gave Superman the power to travel through time.  Weisinger tried to get at least some of them back in the tin when he came up with the two rules of time-travel ("history can't be changed" and "you become a phantom whenever you travel in the past of your own lifetime").  But those rules created nearly as many problems as they solved.


Now, I personally insist that time is not a medium that can be travelled along like it was a river or a road.  Consider a road, for example.  If you're driving down, say, I-85 and you pass over a specific spot on the highway---let's say that someone has carved an "X" in the asphalt at that spot---then no matter where you are on I-85, you can always return to that spot.  You may have to go back the way you came, or it may lie ahead of you.  But that spot will always be there.


If time worked like that, then it's "spots" would be marked by the events and actions that take place at a specific moment.  For time to be analogous to a road, then those specifc events and actions would have to always exist, in order for one to return to that moment (should time travel be possible).  That would mean that everything that occurs everywhere continues to exist in perpetuity.


That's just sheer nonsense.


What time really is---is an artificial measuring device created by man to place events in order and to anticipate future ones.  "Seconds" and "minutes" and "hours" and so forth serve the same function as "feet" and "inches" and "miles".  How far is it to the next town?  Ten miles.  How long is it until your favourite television show comes on?  Three hours.


Try to imagine how confusing a simple road trip across country would be without the concept of miles or a set method of measuring distance.  Now, imagine how much more confusing things would be if we had no system for measuring time.


The idea of time as a medium exists because of every man's idle wish that he could go back to a point earlier in his life and do something differently.  The more creative of us turned that natural desire into grist for fictional tales.  And many writers have been very sophisticated in presenting the idea of travelling through time (more so than DC's handling of the matter), and because of that, many have come to believe in the possibility of time-travel as a concept.


But you can't go back to a certain event in the past, like you can to that "X" on I-85---because that event doesn't exist, anymore.


That's why I have always had a hard time really being comfortable with stories that include travelling through time.



Comment by Commando Cody on September 29, 2012 at 10:52pm

Braniac 5 cannot send his serum back through time because he would be changing his past (even if he sent it back with Superboy). Superboy, however, might be able to create a cure for Mon-el, splitting the time stream. That means that if he traveled to the future, it would be a different future than the one he previously visited, which might still exist; it's just inaccessible now to Superboy.

If Superboy has no capacity to change the future, then he has no free will. His future has been predetermined and every choice he makes in life only appears to be a choice.

Paradoxes like this are the reason it's so hard to write time-travel stories that hold together.

Comment by Commander Benson on September 29, 2012 at 11:27pm

"If Superboy has no capacity to change the future, then he has no free will. His future has been predetermined and every choice he makes in life only appears to be a choice."

There's no predetermination here. It's postdetermination, from the standpoint of the thirtieth century. That doesn't obviate free will.

For example---within certain logistical parameters, of course---I could do anything two minutes after I type this. I could go into the kitchen and get a can of pop out of the fridge, or into the bathroom and make a headcall. Or I could do a Google-search for an episode of Chopped. Or I could scratch my nose. I'm free to do anything I want.

Now, let's wait two minutes.

Time's up.

O.K., what I ended up doing was jotting down an idea for a future Deck Log Entry, one that occurred to me earlier, before I could forget it. But if I had wanted, I could have thrown a glass of water in the face of the sleeping Good Mrs. Benson.

Now, my action at that particular time is immutable. It could have been different before, but now it cannot be changed. And as you, yourself, allowed (although I fail to see how sending the anti-lead serum back into the past with Superboy would change Brainiac 5's past), the past is, indeed, unchangable.

So what is the difference between now, when the action is immutable, and two minutes ago, when it wasn't? The frame of reference. The "now". Events continually progress in a forward motion; "now", an immeasureable moment after instantaneously, becomes "the past". Once it becomes "the past", it is unchangable, but not before.

What a time-travel story forces one to consider is a situation that does not exist in real-life---the circumstance in which one can jump ahead a large amount of time and view not just what has immediately become the "the past", but a huge bank of time that has become "the past". But the past is still the past. Once the event has taken place, it is immutable. It is not predetermined; it is postdetermined. Allowing for the unusual ability to jump ahead in time does not change that; it just changes the reference, the "now", to an extreme degree.

Now, one can look at it this way. Let's say that right now, it is 2317, 29 September 2012. At 2318---one minute from now---I have the free will do to anything I want. Now, let's state that, through some impossible circumstance, I jump ahead to one year from now, 2013, and I learn what I did at 2318, 29 September 2012, and then I return to 2317, 29 September 2012. Well, yes, in that sense, I don't have free will to determine what I do a minute later---from the perspective of 2013, that minute is the past, and it's immutable.

But that does not make it predestination. Predestination, by definition, compels that what I do at 2318, 29 September 2012 has always been determined. Predestination would insist that yesterday, 28 September 2012, it was already determined what I would do at 2318, to-day. And that is not the case.



Comment by Randomnole on October 1, 2012 at 10:15am

Back to Lightning Lad, I wonder if Zaryan's attack on the Earth would be considered an act of war?  His nickname was "The Conqueror" after all.  He intended to subdue the Earth with force.  In that case, Lightning Lad's actions were not merely self-defense, but a wartime defense against an invading army.  The story was published not very long after World War Two, when such invasions were real memories in the mind of the writer and older readers.  Perhaps Lightning Lad's attack was just not equivalent to "killing" in the Legionnaires' minds.

Actually, I like the Commander's Reason Number One the best.  The epic battle between Lightning Lad and Zaryan took place in a single panel.  There had to be a lot of action that wasn't shown, and Zaryan could have escaped alive.

As for his resurrection, if it had been Saturn Girl who sacrificed herself for LL, wouldn't he insist on using the Life Exchanger to sacrifice himself to bring her back again?  There had to be a limit on how often the thing could be used.

Comment by Fraser Sherman on October 1, 2012 at 10:21am

I considered whether the fact he was saving Saturn Girl's life could factor in, but the Legion's always been at pains to avoid using lethal force even in such situations. And besides, Mort gave us his answer.

Comment by Commander Benson on October 1, 2012 at 11:51am

"Back to Lightning Lad, I wonder if Zaryan's attack on the Earth would be considered an act of war?"

I would say that it was. The thirtieth-century Earth of the Legion series was unified under one government, so Zaryan's imminent attack on the Earth clearly consititutes an unprovoked hostile action against a soverign state.

That raises the issue of the Legion's code against killing and its applicability to a wartime scenario. The code doesn't address this---unless one holds to the pre-Adventure # 342 version of the code; that it allows for self-defence. It's a logical extension of the self-defence proviso that using lethal force to thwart an imminent deadly assault on the Earth is also preserving one's own life.

But that puts us in the same boat as before: the Legion series contradicted itself on the existence of the self-defence provision. Going by the Code as it was presented in Adventure Comics # 342, there was no provision for self-defence, and there was no procedural justification for killing in wartime. I don't have to point out how impractical that would be.

But it's interesting that you raised that point, Randomnole. While researching this response, I took a close look at another instance of an unprovoked attack on the Earth by a hostile entity in the Legion series---the invasion of the Khunds, in Adventure Comics # 346-7 (Jul. and Aug., 1966). Warlord Garlak, leader of the Khund invasion force, notifies the Earth government of the Khund intention to conquer our world. Under any standard of governmental law, this is a declaration of war.

In the climax of the tale, the South American electro-tower, the remaining element in Earth's strategic-defence posture, destroys the majority of the invading Khund fleet. Like Raid and bugs, the electro-tower kills the Khunds dead dead dead, as their ships explode in mid-flight. However, with only a dozen or so ships left, Garlak turns spoilsport and attempts to do as much damage as he can before they're stopped.

In response, the Legionnaires on hand rush up to meet the attackers. And here's where it got interesting.

While no Khund is definitively shown to be killed by the Legionnaires' counter-assault, there are several scenes in which Khund death at the hands of the Legion members had to result. Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy, Princess Projectra, and Ferro Lad are all shown using their powers to deliberately crash the invading Khund cruisers. Not "Oops, I didn't mean to cause their ship to crash into that mountain!" but rather, purposefully destroy them, to the rousing accompaniment of fiery explosions.

This wasn't a Smokey and the Bandit-type thing, where the crash victims all pulled themselves out of the wreckage and shook their fists. The ships' destruction caused by the Legionnaires must have resulted in several Khund deaths.

Yet, nothing was ever made of these violations of the Legion code. Either within the fictional conceit of the series or without. I checked the letter columns of the next several issues of Adventure, and not a word was brought up about it in the published letters.

So that leaves it to us to make an accounting. I feel the simplest way to reconcile the Legionnaires' use of deadly force in the Khund situation is Reason Number Three from my Entry above: often, the Legion ignored its own rules.

After it was all over, and as soon as Legion leader Brainiac 5 got back from whatever mission he was on, I can easily see Superboy (taking responsibility for the Legion's actions as deputy leader) and Cosmic Boy (because he was just that sort of fellow) informing Brainy on the Khund deaths caused by the Legionnaires.

And I can just as easily see Brainiac 5 making the initial decision to bring charges to bear against the offending Legion members, for violating the Legion code.

And in that same conversation, I see someone, most likely Superboy, responding:

"Sure, you can do that, Brainy. Cos and Lightning Lad and two of the rookies broke the Legion code by killing Khunds in the ships they destroyed, no question. I saw it and I'll testify to it, if I have to. But you might want to think on this first. What do you think its going to do to morale around here if you indict four Legionnaires for doing their damndest to save Earth from being conquered---or worse?

"But, sure, you're the leader. Go ahead and have your courts-martial. They'll still need to be voted guilty before you can expel them, expel them for---I'll say it, again---preventing the Earth from being taken over by Khunds. You can pretty much forget about getting any "guilty" votes from Invisible Kid or Sun Boy or Colossal Boy. While we're on the subject, even though Supergirl and I were born on Krypton, we're pretty fond of Earth, too. And you already know how Mon-El and Ultra Boy feel about Legionnaires having the right to self-defence. Start doing the math, buddy.

"And let's say you did get enough votes to expel them. How do you think that's going to play once the ultra-news boys get ahold of that? Oh, the public's gonna love you, Brainy. Especially coming so soon after that Computo mess.

"So, if you want to press charges, go ahead. I'm just saying, that's all . . . ."

Comment by Fraser Sherman on October 1, 2012 at 12:14pm

That problem isn't limited to the Legion. I can find several examples of Superman whacking aliens, such as the Appellaxian diamond-creature in JLA 9 that he turned into carbon.

Comment by Commando Cody on October 2, 2012 at 9:29pm

That problem isn't limited to the Legion. I can find several examples of Superman whacking aliens, such as the Appellaxian diamond-creature in JLA 9 that he turned into carbon.

If I remember correctly, Aquaman (through his finny friends) destroyed his Appellaxian foe, Flash killed the fire creature, and Wonder Woman killed two (the mercury creature on Paradise Island and the wooden creature that captured several of the proto-JLA members).


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