Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #267

I've been in a but of a Legion mood these days and figured maybe now was the time to review Supergirl's first interaction with the team. For clarity, I don't own this individual issue but have this story reprinted in multiple places. It is on the dream list.

Action Comics #267 sports a great cover of a spurned Hercules lashing out at a poster of Superman. But the real draw is the Supergirl story when a Legion of Super-Heroes comes to the past to recruit her. 

This is early in Supergirl's career. She is Superman's secret weapon. She is almost paralyzed with fear about breaking Superman's edict that she remain in hiding. But you can see just how much she wants to help and be a hero. These early stories show us this foundation of Supergirl, the need to help people.

It is also interesting that this is the first appearance of three Legionnaires. When you add that to the first appearances of many Legionnaires in the Supergirl story in Action Comics #276, you come to realize just how important Supergirl is to Legion history.

And, as with other elements of Supergirl's early history, some of the details here are changed in future reprints to help form a better continuity. So just like Argo City went from having a 'bubble of atmosphere' to a protective dome, so did a crucial detail here get changed.

On to the story!

"The Three Super-Heroes" was written by Superman creator Jerry Siegel with art by Supergirl legend Jim Mooney. 

The splash page has a hefty chunk of text which lays out the beginning of the story. But I don't know if the mystery of the 'three strange teen-agers' is such a mystery when you see the three Legionnaires in costume.

But the truth is, if my research is correct, that this is only the third appearance of the Legion. So maybe the Legionnaires weren't common knowledge back then.

And, even if the Legion were common knowledge, there is a wrinkle here.

One thing I like about these early adventures is that the writers made sure there was some sneaky super-heroics involved to give us some action beats as well as play up Supergirl's struggles with keep her identity secret.

Here, she is on a trip with the orphanage to a Superman fair. The kids will miss the opening because the drawbridge they are approaching will need to be raised to allow a ship to pass.

At super-speed, Linda leaves the bus, dives into the water, and pulls the boat down low enough to pass by the bridge allowing the bus to drive on it's merry way.

I love that panel of her shaking the water off herself like some dog caught in the rain!

At the fair, several emergencies crop up that would require Linda to reveal herself as Supergirl to save lives. Luckily each time another teenager shows they have powers to handle things.

When a dynamo almost shorts out, a boy with lightning powers destroys it.

When a lion escapes, a girl with telepathy commands it back in its cage.

When an amusement ride breaks, a boy with magnetism saves a careening seat.

All say they know Linda is Supergirl and they will talk more later.

I show this interaction just because you can see the conflict on Linda's face. She'll need to break her word with Superman to save lives. But she was going to do it. She wouldn't let people die to keep her secret safe. (Take that Zach Snyder!)

Then when it looks like the tree holding her secret Linda Lee robot double is going to be uprooted, she finds that it has been moved.

At last, the three teens call for Supergirl, this time at their time bubble and in their costumes.

We know who these people are. Right?

Well, wrong ... at least in the original printing.

It turns out that these are the children of the original three Legionnaires, a next generation carrying out the traditions of their parents. They caused and stopped the accidents at the fair as an 'initiation stunt'. Ugh, reminds me how badly Superboy was treated in Adventure Comics #247!

In the later reprints, to ease continuity, this scene is rewritten to make them the actual Legionnaires.

I covered the rewrite way back in 2013 when it was mentioned in an article in Amazing Heroes #18.

They did say these were initiation stunts.

That means they want Supergirl to join the team!

I love that first panel! Look at the joy on Kara's face as she realizes she'll go somewhere where she can openly be herself!

She travels to the future under her own power and is astonished at what she sees.

Martian ice cream at an old timey ice cream shoppe!

The classic Legion headquarters!

And three new applicants, all of whom would eventually join the team. This is the first appearance of Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, and Invisible Kid! 

That's 9 Legionnaires introduced in Supergirl stories between this and Action #276.

Only one applicant a year gets chosen and so each is asked to do a super-feat!

When Supergirl hears about the clogged air traffic in the future, she gets a crazy idea.

As has been noticed and commented on many times, in these early stories, Supergirl often burrows under the ground like Bugs Bunny.

Here she uses her powers to carve a transworld tunnel!  Ummm ... I don't know if that is safe or makes sense ... but there we are.

Alas, when she returns, she has somehow aged to the point that she can no longer join. Only people under 18 can be in the Legion. And she is a Superwoman!

As would often happen in these Action Comics stories, something blocks Supergirl from ever being happy!

A run in with Red Kryptonite underground has aged her. 

Good thing her super-costume stretches to any size! Amusing that Siegel threw that line in (so there would be no complaints in the letter column I'm sure).

 But this was early on in Red K history as well. Eventually we learn that Red K lasts 48 hours. Here, Supergirl wonders just how long the effect will last, even pondering years! But, luckily, an hour later while in the past, she de-ages to normal.

Now you would think she'd go back to the future to show her actual age again although by then perhaps the Legion spot would have been given.

I should actually count up how many early Supergirl stories end with a forlorn Linda Lee sitting on her orphanage bed hoping life gives her a break. But that is the end ... albeit with a promised sequel!

As a Supergirl fan and a Legion fan, I love this story. It certainly is an important one for Supergirl history and an important issue for a collection. And it begins a long history with the Legion and Supergirl together. Clearly without Supergirl stories, the team would be less of a Legion! Nine members introduced in Supergirl stories!

Mooney's art is simple but wonderful and his expressions for Linda are spot on.

Overall grade: A


Daxam1978 said...

I really like this story too,I love silver age LSH.
As you said really nice artwork by mooney.
I love how the legion introduces more members over the first few years & I really like ADVENTURE no.307 that features Element Lads debut.

Anonymous said...

FYI: tho the 10cent issue is B 4 my time,
I DO have Act#334, the 80-page giant, which is where
I read this story from, among others I really liked.

Anonymous said...

I love this story. This is the kind of stuff that gave me a silver-age heart. If DC ever gives us a silver-age Supergirl run I will be there throwing money on them.

H said...

You're in luck, anon, they did. Two volumes:



I've never been much of a Legion fan (which is surprising, considering I'm into most of the other Superman stuff that started in the Silver Age) but I like this one. I appreciate all the nods to the first Legion story even though that one was only a couple of years old at the time. A good deal of the early Supergirl stories seem to be reusing Superman or Superboy concepts with Kara to see how they work.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Siegel's Supergirl gets her heart broken a lot, she is a lot closer to the silver age Spider-Man in that respect. That final panel pose on her bed with a forlorn expression is a hallmark of Siegel's tenure on the feature driving home the point that one can be good looking superhuman and still be utterly miserable.
You'll see less and less of these sort of emotion drive storylines after he left DC for good...its a pity, as he'd figured out a way to differentiate Supergirl from Superman in an interesting way.
Is it me or is Jim Mooney still drawing Supergirl's hair off model a little...it gets imperceptibly longer and shorter from panel to panel, touching her shoulder sometimes other times hanging just below her earline...


Professor Feetlebaum said...

It's fun to go back and read these old stories and see how some concepts evolved over time. It must have occurred to Weisinger fairly early on that the "children of the originals" idea was not going to work in the long run. There would have to be two Legion groups appearing simultaneously-Superboy's "original" group, and Supergirl's "next generation" of identical offspring. Talk about confusion!

Funny that Supergirl didn't feel "that tingling sensation" when she was exposed to the Red Kryptonite. Maybe that came later, along with the 24-48 hour limit. At least she only had to wait a few hours before returning to her correct age.

Anj said...

Thanks for comments.

The two Legions would have been confusing. Having Superboy and Supergirl appear together in the Legion and not have Superboy remember her when he returns and to explain all that is also a bit nutty.

Ahhhh the Silver Age!