Thursday, September 15, 2016

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #364

Sometimes this blog writes itself with news items and new books to review. Sometimes I have a day when I wonder what I will post. And while new things about the show keep coming out, like the new Supergirl promo, I don't feel like I need to regurgitate all that stuff here.

So this was an empty day and I wondered what to post. So I asked on Twitter for some ideas. And blog friend Clinton Robson, of the Coffee and Comics blog, threw out the idea of doing something about Beppo the Super-Monkey.

I don't think I have ever talked about Beppo during the 8 years of blogging about the Superman family. And I thought I could shoehorn some relevance for current stories given that there was the Kryptonian pod on the Supergirl show. In theory, Beppo could have been in the pod.

So I decided to review Adventure Comics #364 featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes. This story also did a good job of being a primer for the super-pets. If you didn't know the origins of the pets going in, you learned them here. But after looking at the story again, I think it is worth reviewing just to see how loose continuity rules were during the Silver Age. Things are very silly here. And it all starts with that cover by George Klein and Curt Swan. Krypto is biting Cosmic Boy's shorts! Comet is kicking Superboy! Fantastic!

The writer is Jim Shooter. He was seventeen when he wrote this back in 1968! Seventeen! And he was already a veteran. It is clear that Shooter has a love of the DCU in this, even if he does bend the rules of powers a bit here and there. But I would settle in. The Silver Age was known for stuffing a lot of story in!

The art is credited to Peter Costanza and he does a good job with the animals in the story, giving them a realism which was appreciated.

But honestly, who doesn't want to read a story focusing on the super-pets.

 "The Revolt of the Super-Pets" truly is a showcase of the pets of the heroes. There are 5 members but 4 are linked to Supergirl and Superman.

There is Beppo the Super-Monkey, Krypto the Super-Dog, Streaky the Super-Cat, Comet the Super-Horse, and Proty, the shape-changing pet of Chameleon Boy.

The plot is hinted at on the open splash page. The pets are leaving the Legion behind, becoming the heroes of the planet Thanl. And the Legion sadly walks away, acknowledging that on this world they are has-beens. I love how the citizens all look the same down to the outfit and haircut. They all look like Sinestro or Black Adam!

One thing I don't really know is how 4 super-pets from the (then) 20th century end up in the future. Do they join Superboy and Supergirl? Do they have their own way of getting to the Legion's time?

 The actual story opens with the Super-Pets patrolling space outside the Earth.

'Crime machines', basically spaceships with classic 60's rocket designs, descend on Earth to loot the planet. The pets, using their powers, repel the invaders sending them all back from where they came. It is a nice couple of pages! We get to see Comet mule kick a ship. Comet uses his heat vision on another. And Proty, maybe stretching the nature of his shape-changing ability, changes into a huge indestructible wall to shield his friends.

Despite saving the planet, the Legion isn't happy. Brainiac 5, in particular, has quite angry. Slamming his fist down, he chastises the group for routing the whole criminal fleet. The pets destroyed all the unmanned crime machines. The actual Legion might have left on rocket untouched so they could follow it back to the base. Ultra Boy and Invisible Kid join in complaining about the pets.

The Legion decides to try to trace the crime machines and demand that the pets stay behind so they don't botch anything. After all, they are simple animals.

Talk about ungrateful.

 The pets aren't happy with the Legion downgrading them as mere animals.

It gives them all the opportunity to retell their origins.

So we learn that Comet was a centaur named Biron who saved Circe's life. But instead of being turned fully human as a reward, he drank a tainted potion and became a horse. She then granted him immortality, telepathy, and super-powers instead.

Beppo (who first appeared 9 years earlier!) was a Kryptonian monkey that Jor-El used in his earliest space experiments. It turned out that Beppo stowed away on Kal-El's rocket as Jor-El rocketed his only son to safety.

Beppo, like all Kryptonians, gained powers and improved intelligence under the yellow sun rays of Earth. He is no ordinary chimp.

How awesome would if have been if Beppo was the occupant of the Kryptonian pod on Supergirl?

Proty recalls how the egg-like creature on Antares were evolved by the scientists of Llorn. The scientists' rays gave the Proteans the power to shape change.

I reviewed their history a bit more in depth here when I discussed the Unknown Legionnaire.

In the comics, in the 80s, we learned that the Proteans are sentient and therefore cannot be pets. They are given their freedom.

And we learn about Streaky and how he gained his power by exposure to X-Kryptonite. Streaky is portrayed as frisky and brave in this story. So, of course, I love it.

Krypto isn't given a recap. Perhaps he was so well known that Shooter didn't think he needed to retell the Super-Dog's origin story.

But now we know the back story of all these pets. And they all show that these are not mindless animals but thinking beings.

Saturn Girl stayed behind when the rest of the Legion left to try to apologize to the pets and let them know they are appreciated. But the pets want nothing to do with the team anymore. They are striking out on their own to do good without the condescending oversight by the Legion.

I love how Streaky is the only one who seems reluctant to strike out on his own. He loves Supergirl too much!

In another Shooter stretch of powers, Saturn Girl gives the pets a 'telepathic charge' so they can talk to each other. I don't know if I have seen her do that before.

 While looking for a new purpose, the pets run into Rikkor Rost, a being from the planet Thanl who have always admired the super-pets, even more than the Legion itself. The planet has memorials of the pets everywhere.

Rost hopes that the Pets will move to Thanl to become the planet's defenders. The pets agree and are given a posh HQ to play around in.

Love Beppo's statue! He's waving hi!

 Meanwhile, the Legion has tracked down other 'Crime Machines' and attack. But the machines retreat through some sort of portal.

In other words, even if the pets left a Crime Machine undamaged to follow it, they wouldn't be able to. The Legion insulted the pets for not doing something which turns out to be impossible. Superboy realizes the Legion owes the team an apology.

Luckily, the team is able to track their pets back to Thanl.

You know this is an old story when the Legion need to don old school astronaut suits when in space. No flight rings and transuits in the future right now.

 The Legion heads to Thanl and try to convince the pets to come home. But the pets still aren't happy with their owners.

I love that second panel with Kara pleading with Streaky to come home. I think Streaky is sad there, conflicted. I LOVE that panel!

 When the pets won't come willingly, Chameleon Boy tries force. He grabs Proty to drag the pet home.

Well, that simply isn't right which leads to a fight between the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Legion of Super-Pets. And, as insane as it sounds, the pets win.

But once again, the powers here are a little wonky. Cham turns into wax paper?

 Rikkor Rost continues to plant the seeds of distrust. He tells the pets that they should spy on the Legion to make sure the team isn't plotting against them and Thanl.

So the pets decide to infiltrate the Legion to spy from within! That's crazy!

Comet exposes himself to a comet which temporarily allows him to become human. And so he calls himself Biron the Bowman and tries out for the team. And Proty turns himself into an indestructible human and calls himself Blockade Boy.

After a showing of their powers, the two are quickly inducted into the team. And their first job is to track down where the Crime Machines came from.

Again, this shows the zaniness of the Silver Age. But I love how Supergirl recognizes Biron as Bronco Bill Starr. She has met (and kissed) Comet in this form before!

The two pets, using the Legion's technology,  discover that the crime machines are launched from Thanl. Rost is the leader of a criminal organization. He lured the pets to the planet and fomented the disdain between the groups so that the animals would live on Thanl. He hoped that the presence of the Pets would keep the Legion out of his hair.

Ahhh ... but Comet is too smart for that. He arrives with Proty and the pets thrash the criminal cabal behind the looting runs.

The Legion isn't far behind. They knew Biron was Comet from the history books. They also had figured out that the group on Thanl were behind everything already. But they wanted Comet and Proty to figure out on their own so that their wouldn't be any animosity or questioning of motives.

There is a very nice scene of the Legion and the Pets laying into the bad guys. It includes a shot of Brainiac 5 clobbering someone with a right hook. That seems odd of him. But who cares.

With the Thanl plot behind them, everything seems to smooth over between the two groups. Everyone is friends again. The Legion has a new respect for their pet colleagues.

But look at those last two panels. Shrinking Violet and Streaky together! Two of my favorite DC properties in a panel together! Makes me soooooo happy. And I love Streaky complaining he won't have a new playhouse. How cat-like!

Anyways, this was an absolute blast to review! Legion and Super-Pets! Origin recaps! Streaky and Comet! Streaky and Supergirl! Wonky Silver Age power sets! It all seems to work in a very nostalgic way! So thanks to Clinton for the idea.

And yay Beppo!

Overall grade: B


Uncle Screensaver said...

Oh wow. I was wondering how I could ask you to post something about Comet and you did! I'm just curious if you know anything about the original Comet, which was apparently Superman's "super" horse, which was featured in the Sunday comic strips. I've been thinking about getting the hardcover collection containing his appearance but not sure, even with a discount it's worth it just to see the first Comet.

Uncle Screensaver said...

Also, this appearance of Streaky is cool because he's not drawn cartoony. Also, it's a shame that the LSP never had Streaky's 30th Century descendant in it. In addition, if the LSH know that Comet is Biron why not work to free him. While the rules were you couldn't change the past, they could've had Supergirl go back, see what the potion was and then work to make it and free him. I suppose I'm thinking too much.

Uncle Screensaver said...

Actually, the cover art really has the animals look realistic, and as someone commented somewhere about this cover, that kind of makes their ferocity scary. Also, they should totally have Beppo in that pod! if not Krypto! Or, allow fans to have some closure and it's Supergirl from JL3001, or Kara from Sman/ Aliens - seriously, she's been floating in space for decades now! :/