Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturn Girl is one of "The Three Superheroes": Action Comics #267

Last time we saw Saturn Girl, she and her Legion friends were a bunch of butt-holes. Was that because they were dealing with super-baby Superboy? Let's see what happens when they meet Supergirl.

Our story opens with a bus trip on the worst-planned field trip in history.

A) That driver sounds just a little too happy about delivering the bad news.

B) How late do they have to be to be totally screwed by a drawbridge? Did they not know they had to cross a drawbridge and that it might potentially be up?

Fortunately, one of the students is Linda Lee (secretly Supergirl). She slips out the back of the bus, dives into the water, grabs hold of the ship, and pulls it down enough that it'll clear the still-lowered bridge.

Maybe it's just me, but if I'm a drawbridge operator and I'm witnessing a ship suddenly lowering in the water for no apparent reason, my first thought is not going to be, "Yay! Now I don't have to lower the drawbridge!" What if it just as suddenly popped back up while it was under the bridge? Idiot.

At least the kids make it in time to see Superman. Yay!

But while they're at the fair, things start to go wrong. An Electric Death Machine used to demonstrate Superman's invulnerability goes haywire and almost explodes. Linda debates ruining her secret identity in order to stop it, but while she's thinking, a familiar-looking redheaded kid uses lightning powers to destroy the machine for her. He leaves, but not before letting Linda know that he knows she's Supergirl.

And then...

After the lion incident, Cosmic Boy rescues Linda from a runaway rocketship ride. She wouldn't have been hurt obviously, but again, everyone would've known something was up with her. He too lets her know that he's in on her secret.

Later, back home, the "proper time" arrives. Linda has changed to Supergirl to investigate something and the three super-heroes show up to meet her. Supergirl recognizes them from stories Superman's told her about his childhood.

And there's our answer about whether or not the Legionnaires are jerks in general or just to Superboy.

It's interesting though that they claim to be the "children" of the original Legion. I don't know my Legion history very well (which is the main reason behind these posts), but I'm guessing that never got mentioned again. And you can see why. It's stupid.

Beyond the ridiculousness that the original three Legionnaires would have kids who looked exactly like them, there's just no point to it. The Legionnaires are time travelers. Why couldn't these be the exact same kids who tortured Superboy a couple of times before? They don't have to have aged alongside Superman.

I'm going to be watching closely to see if this is ever brought up again, but I'm betting that it's not. I'm betting that someone realized how dumb it was and dropped it. But still, from a continuity standpoint, there it is in black and white. Saturn Girl claims that she's the daughter of one of Superboy's Legionnaires (I'm sure we're supposed to assume she's Saturn Girl's daughter, but it's more fun to think that she belongs to one of the guys) and neither Cosmic Boy nor Lightning Lad correct her. That leaves us with one of two options.

1) She's telling the truth and all of the Superboy Legion stories feature different Legionnaires than the Supergirl ones do. I'm guessing that'll be pretty easy to disprove, but I'll keep my eyes open.

2) She's lying for no good reason. Proving once again that the Legionnaires are scumbags.

Okay, enough about that. The Legionnaires tell Supergirl that they've come back in time to recruit her for the Legion. She follows them back the the 30th century for a tour, stopping along the way to stick her chin in a Martian ice-cream cone.

That robot arm delivering Cosmic Boy's cone makes me want to visit the 30th century right now.

The trio introduces her to some other Legionnaires and we meet Chameleon (called "Chameleon Boy" here), Colossal Boy, and Invisible Kid. Then they tell her that she has to perform some kind of super-feat to win that year's spot in the club.

She digs a tunnel straight through the Earth, claiming that it'll cut down on air traffic because now people can drive from continent to continent. There are about a thousand things wrong with that theory, but the Legion lets it slide and so will we.

Except that the Legion still turns her down for being over 18-years old.

Supergirl realizes that she must have come in contact with some Red Kryptonite while tunneling. As she explains, "Red Kryptonite has unpredictable, temporary effects on any survivor of the exploded planet Krypton." In other words, it lets the writers do whatever goofy thing they want to make the story go in any direction they want. In this case, it's to cheat Supergirl of her Legion membership.

Not knowing how long the effect will last, the disappointed Supergirl returns to her time. Fortunately, she returns to normal after about an hour, but she's still sad that she's missed her chance at this year's spot in the Legion.

Now, I haven't read a lot of Superboy or Supergirl stories - just the ones I've talked about here - so I don't know how indicative these are of the rest of them. But I find it very interesting that both Superboy stories end with the hero's triumphing over adversity and his fragile self-esteem's being boosted by the love and adoration of everyone he knows, while Supergirl ends up on her bed with a wistful look in her eye. "Dear Diary, today was the absolute WORST!!!"

I'm curious about who Supergirl's target audience was in the '50s. Was it young girls? This story was a backup feature in Action Comics, and an issue with Hercules beating up a poster of Superman on the cover at that. That's a weird spot to put a comic for girls. Unless DC thought they could get both boys and girls reading that way. And who's to say they were wrong? I don't know either way.

But even if this story was intended for a girl audience, is it true that young girls in the '50s preferred to see their heroine moping at the end instead of getting to join the Legion? I don't have any answers; I'm just wondering out loud.

Next time, Saturn Girl meets Superboy again. But which Saturn Girl is it?

Stay tuned.


Daniel said...

She's telling the truth and all of the Superboy Legion stories feature different Legionnaires than the Supergirl ones do.

Interesting theory. Blown out of the water, of course, by those stories in which both Superboy and Supergirl appear. Somehow, I have it in mind that there weren't many of those.

In any case, I believe you're correct, and the "children of the original Legion" thing was never used again.

Michael May said...

stories in which both Superboy and Supergirl appear

Ah! That's a piece of the puzzle I didn't have yet. Thanks!

Michael May said...

Weird formatting on the bold in that last comment. Sorry.

Pat said...

Actually the idea of having Supergirl belong to a different generation of Legionnaires was a good idea that DC promptly forgot about. You're right; that was never mentioned again.

The problem with Supergirl being in the same Legion is that then Superboy obviously knows about her existence prior to her arrival on Earth. But then why was he surprised when she popped out of the rocket ship in Action #252?

DC handled it by having Saturn Girl plant some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion in Superboy's mind that whenever he returned to the past, he would forget about Supergirl's existence.

Yes, DC was trying to broaden the appeal of its products to girls at the time; there were any number of female versions of their major characters that were introduced around that time: Batwoman, Batgirl (the first one), Lady Blackhawk, Supergirl and others that I'm forgetting right now.

Michael May said...

Thanks, Pat!

The comments section is rapidly becoming my favorite part of doing this blog. You guys are WAY helpful.


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