This is the second installment of my look at recurring plots, imagery and character-types in the Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes stories published by DC Comics during the Silver Age.
As I explained in the first part, Mort Weisinger, the editor of the Superman family of titles throughout the 1950s and 60s, often encouraged his writers & artists to reuse old elements. This was due to the fairly regular turnover in the young readership during those two decades. Looking back at these stories it’s interesting to see these patterns.
This time around we are looking at super-babies and mystery Legionnaires!
As acclaimed comic book writer Roger Stern observed in his introduction to Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Volume 6:
“stories in which heroes are turned into infants were one of [editor Mort] Weisinger’s strange fascinations.”
These three issues of Adventure Comics are only just the “heroes transformed to babies” stories featuring the Legion. Quite a few others appeared periodically throughout the other Superman-related series during Weisinger’s editorial tenure.
Each of these covers was penciled by Curt Swan, inked by George Klein & lettered by Ira Schnapp.
Adventure Comics #317 (February 1964) written by Edmund Hamilton and drawn by John Forte. This is the introduction of the prophetic Dream Girl, who is seemingly plotting to destroy the Legion from within, although of course there’s a twist ending revealing her true motive. Among Dream Girl’s methods of sabotaging the Legion, she transforms several of the team into infants.
Adventure Comics #338 (November 1965) written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Forte. The villainous Time Trapper attempt to de-age the Legion members into nothingness. When they instead get stuck as infants, the Trapper tricks them into committing various crimes.
Adventure Comics #356 (May 1967) written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by Curt Swan & George Klein. The five members of the Legion who are orphans regressed to toddlers. It’s all part of a screwy scheme by the inhabitants of a planet whose own children were wiped out by a plague.
Another plot device that editor Mort Weisinger directed his writers to utilize on several occasions was having mysterious or disguised individuals joining the Legion under suspicious circumstances.
Adventure Comics #307 (April 1963) cover by Curt Swan & George Klein, written by Edmund Hamilton and drawn by John Forte. Mystery Lad is soon revealed to be Element Lad, who goes on to become a longtime member of the team.
Adventure Comics #330 (March 1965) written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Jim Mooney. The Mystery Legionnaire, aka Dynamo Boy, is actually Vorn, a member of a gang of space pirates who infiltrates the team in order to destroy it; unlike Dream Girl from a year earlier, Dynamo Boy really intends to go through with this dastardly plan.
Adventure Comics #334 (July 1965) cover by Curt Swan & George Klein, written by Edmund Hamilton and drawn by John Forte & Sheldon Moldoff. Who is the Unknown Legionnaire? Who? WHO??? Okay, okay, I’ll tell you… it’s Supergirl, who after exposure to Red Kryptonite loses her memory and assumes a new masked identity.
Adventure Comics #350 (Nov 1966) written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by Curt Swan & George Klein. When a cloud of Green Kryptonite encircles the Earth in the 30th Century, both Superboy and Supergirl are forced to resign from the Legion and return to the present day. But before leaving they chose their own replacements: the masked, armored Sir Prize and Miss Terious! The next issue reveals them to be former members Star Boy and Dream Girl, who rejoin the team.
Adventure Comics #355 (April 1967) written by Jim Shooter and drawn by Curt Swan & George Klein. When the adult members of the Legion face off against their opposite numbers in the Legion of Super-Villains, two masked, armored figures leap into the fray. But whose side are they on? It turns out they’re the 30th Century descendants of Lex Luthor and Mr. Mxyzptlk, who have become heroes to atone for the crimes of their ancestors.
There are also at least a couple of other Legion stories utilizing the Mysterious Unknown Masked Legionnaire trope in the Bronze Age. It seems to be a popular idea to return to again and again.
Next time I’ll be looking at one of the most iconic images in the history of the Legion, and some of the numerous homages, swipes & parodies of it that have appeared throughout the decades. I really hope you’ll vote “Yes” to checking out our next installment!