Monday, September 29, 2008

Great guns! A girl, too!

Another superheroine I want to go back and learn more about is Saturn Girl. She's never been my favorite member of the Legion of Super Heroes (that would be Shadow Lass), but she's the highest profile girl on the team and I love the slightly creepy way they portrayed her in the Legion of Super Heroes cartoon.

Saturn Girl has been around since the first appearance of the Legion in Adventure Comics #247. I don't know if DC knew what a hit they were going to have when they published the story. It's a fairly disposable adventure if you don't know what a monster it was spawning.

It begins in Smallville, where some teenagers Superboy's never seen before let him know that they're in on his secret identity.

They don't leave him hanging for too long though and soon reveal that they're superheroes from the future, part of a club of teen superheroes, and that they want to offer membership to Superboy.

Apparently, at some point in the future, Superman's secret identity becomes public knowledge because everyone in the 30th century knows that he's Clark Kent. The teens take him into the future where the Kent home is an historical landmark and teachers use Superboy Robots to demonstrate his various powers.

After a quick tour of Future-Smallville, Cosmic Boy - who does most of the talking for the Legionnaires - explains that before Superboy can become a member, he has to defeat each of the three heroes in a contest. The contests are made up of heroic rescues, so whoever makes the rescue first wins.

Cosmic Boy explains that the first contest is to bring up a valuable, giant statue that sank in the ocean. He then introduces Superboy to his opponent: Saturn Girl.

Things seem to go well at first, except that one of the classroom Superboy Robots goes crazy and escapes. Superboy takes the time to stop it, thinking that Saturn Girl's telepathy won't do her any good in raising a huge statue.

Yes! Sea monster! I like Saturn Girl already.

She then taunts Superboy, which honestly sort of makes me like her even more.

"You can be a gentleman if you want and carry it for me." That's rich.

The other two contests go about the same. Superboy's distracted from the contest by a more serious threat, he stops it, but meanwhile Cosmic Boy and Lightning Boy (he'll become "Lad" later) finish the contest with unexpected applications of their powers. Since Superboy loses all three matches, the Legionnaires tell him he's not wanted.

No, wait. Yes, he is. Turns out that the Legionnaires are pretty much jerks who cheated in order to distract Superboy so that they could each win their contests. Saturn Girl explains how she pulled it off.

Apparently her telepathy also works on AI. Pretty cool.

Of course, Superboy should've known that the Legionnaires had a cruel streak after that stunt they pulled at the beginning with knowing his secret identity. But really, Superboy's such a smug little brat himself that you can't blame the Legion for wanting to have some fun with him.

He gets back at them though by completing one, final rescue, but imitating their powers to do it. Sort of. He uses a magnetic meteor to mimic Cosmic Boy's power and creates a lightning storm to copy Lightning Boy's. His duplication of Saturn Girl's powers is pretty iffy though.

They're all a bunch of square nerds, so the Legion congratulates Superboy on a jolly good joke and welcomes him to the club. Naturally, its the girl who presents the medal.

And that's the end except for one last panel in which we learn the moral of the story: Superboy is so cool that he'll be remembered 1000 years from now.

That's why I said the story was fairly disposable. Like every other Superboy story, its main purpose was to show how awesome Superboy is. There's no hint in the story that DC expected to ever do anything more with the Legion.

But kids in 1958 really liked the idea of a futuristic team of teen-aged superheroes, so Saturn Girl and the others would return over a year later with all new costumes and a new name for Lightning Boy in Adventure Comics #267.


Siskoid said...

So what's causing Legion fever the most?

Legion of 3 Words?
Sequart's Teenagers from the Future?
The demise of the animated series?

Because there's an awful lot of Legion blogging lately (I'm just as guilty too).

That said, Saturn Girl was the first superheroine in a leadership position, and that's cool.

Michael May said...

Huh. I hadn't thought about her in that context, but that's cool. I'll make sure to address that in future installments.

Most of the Legion stuff I'm reading about lately is inspired by Legion of 3 Worlds. Which, unfortunately, I can't make myself buy. I've flipped through the first issue on two separate occasions, but I can't stand Superboy Prime and - as far as I can tell - none of the three Legions in it represent my favorite eras: the '70s and the Legion Lost era.


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