Friday 9 July 2010

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #204

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #204, Mike Grell. Nick Cardy cover
When I was a kid, my dad wouldn't let me use his Time-Scanner in case its rays inadvertently changed the course of history.

Sadly, the father of the character we know only as Anti-Lad lacks that wisdom and so, while using the device in his 75th Century home, to view Superboy's audition to join the 30th Century Legion of Super-Heroes, Anti-Lad finds that something's gone wrong and, thanks to the malfunctioning scanner, Superboy's failed the try-out. Needless to say this potentially disastrous turn of events has to be put right before the whole universe is thrown into chaos.

Fortunately Anti-lad's dad's as irresponsible with his Time Machine as he is with his Time Scanner and so the youth goes back in time to make the Legion thinks he sabotaged Superboy's big break, so they'll give the kid from Krypton another chance. Strangest moment in the tale comes when Anti-Lad breaks the fourth wall, at its conclusion, and directly addresses the reader for purposes of exposition.

It's a nice, frothy, throw-away tale with zero drama, and totally avoids the obvious question as to whether it's now canon that Superboy failed his first attempt to join the Legion. It's also as slickly drawn as you'd expect by Mike Grell whose 75th Century costumes give a whole new meaning to the word camp.

But The Legionnaire Nobody Remembered is only the warm up to a genuinely strange tale in which Brainiac 5 builds himself a robot Supergirl to meet his romantic "needs." Unfortunately for him, one of his needs turns out to be protection against a deadly belt of radiation the genius has managed to fly his spaceship straight into. Fortunately for him, at that very moment, the real Supergirl turns up and saves him.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #204, Brainiac holds his dying Supergirl sex-bot robot, Mike Grell
Having found out what he's done, Supergirl, instead of taking out an injunction, then plays eight rounds of tonsil tennis with him. Leaving aside the mind-boggling coincidence that, after years of being a Legionnaire no-show, Supergirl just happens to turn up in the 30th Century at the exact moment she's needed, her total lack of concern that Brainiac's built a robot replica of her to service his "needs" seems very odd and therefore makes the tale a worthy successor to all those older tales where Supergirl would fall in love with her horse or search the universe in an attempt to find Superman a girlfriend who looked exactly like herself. I can't say I like the story - even when I was a kid it seemed creepy - and the usually stylish Mike Grell really doesn't draw an attractive Supergirl, making her look like she's dressed entirely in nylon. Then again, she's from the 1970s in this tale, so maybe she is.

PS. Yet another Steve Does Comics No-Prize goes to the first person to point out the obvious blooper on the front cover.


Jim said...

Cosmic Boy's old costume.

Anonymous said...

Nope. Cosmic Boy's "black bustier" costume didn't debut for another 11 issues. The goof is that the shadow is reversed; it has the wrong arm raised.

Steve said...

Anonymous is right. The shadow's pointing with the wrong hand. Well done, Anon. :)

Gil McGlynn said...

In addition, the bigger blooper is that the backup story refers to "Brainiac" and NOT "Brainiac 5" :)

- Gil McGlynn

GregGildersleeve said...

Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad are also in the wrong costumes for the era, but I chalk this up to artistic license. I think the blooper is actually the shadow arm.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, Superboy DID fail his first attempt to join the Legion, in Adventure Comics #247. But it turned out that the Legion members had sabotaged his initiation tasks as a practical joke. After turning the tables on them and completing the tasks, he was allowed to join.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, Anon. I must confess that it's an era of the Legion's and Superboy's histories that I know little of.

Rob D said...

The Braniac panel shown is an homage to Michelangelo's Pieta, right?

Steve W. said...

It is indeed. It's amazing how often it gets recycled in comics. I remember it being used for the cover of The Death of Captain Marvel as well.