Thursday, September 17, 2009

How the Legion of Super - Villains of the 21st century was born

As something of a Legion afficionado I´m always interested in any trivia concerning the Legion ( and one of these days I will read LEGION OF THREE WORLDS 5 ) so when someone at the german comic messageboard asked a question about Saturn Hexe ( Saturn Witch ) my interest was piqued. I couldn´t have known that it would also lead me to the reason for one of the biggest confusions in the history of the Legion.

Which century is this anyway ?

Now those of you who follow the podcast LEGION OF SUBSTITUTE PODCASTERS that is all about all things Legion know that a constant problem in those early Legion stories is that sometimes it´s listed as the 20st century and sometimes as the 30th century for the Legion´s time. Today it is canon that the Legion of Super - Heroes lives in the 31st century ( the 30th in the early stories as they were supposed to take place 1000 years in the future ) - because if they lived in the 21st century that would be right now - but you have to ask yourself how the whole confusion started.

You might think that it was just someone not paying attention or just a foul up but the reason is far more devious. At first I thought this would be a good entry for COMICBOOK LEGENDS REVEALED but since it doesn´t involve any rumors that could be exposed as true or fals I decided to put it on my blog and share it with my faithful readers.

Blame the Legion of Super - Villains

That´s right. It´s all their fault. Now you may ask yourself how a post in the german comic messageboard about the Saturn Hexe could lead to such a startling discovery.

Now there are a lot of topics that are discussed on the particular messageboard in question and there are of course always people who are looking for old comics they read as a kid. For us comicfans it´s easy to find them because when we remember the comics we know that it was GREEN LANTERN 145 or FLASH 211 or SPIDER - MAN 44. But when a non comicfan looks for a comic that he once read as a kid it´s more like " I´m looking for that dude with the hands who was in that team with the chick and he fought some kind of monster....with a pineapple head. "

The case that started it all was a comic in which Saturn Witch and evil adult versions of the Legion´s founding member fought against Superman who was then aided by the adult Legion of Super - Heroes. In the end of the story Superman defeats them by using Saturn dust to free Saturn Witch of her evil impulses. He also knew that it had the origin stories in it which he described a bit.

For me it was clear that the evil adult versions of the Legion could only be the Legion of Super - Villains who popped up in quite a few Superman comics because of the huge popularity of the Legion with the readers. You may recall the three founding members Saturn Queen, Cosmic King and Lightning Lord from their appearances in the brilliant SUPERMAN / BATMAN story ABSOLUTE POWER. Now not only did I immediatelly recognize them but I recalled hearing this story in one of the LEGION OF SUBSTITUTE PODCASTERS podcasts. So I did a little research on the internet about when the Legion of Super - Villains first appeared since I reasoned that if their origin stories were in the story it might have been their first appearance.

Unlike today back in the day it often happened that they told the origin story in the first comic a character appeared in. This was also the case with the Legion of Super - Villains who first appeared in Superman 147 of August 1961. The title of the 11 page story was purely brilliant : The Legion of Super - Villains.

At first I just found the base infos but after a bit of searching I found a link that detailed the whole issue. And lo and behold here is a bit from the issue info that sounds familiar :

Luthor breaks up the fight by threatening to kill Superman, then mocks the Legionnaires' heroism by asking one of them to trade places with the Man of Steel. The villains are astounded when the Legionnaires draw straws to decide who will have the honor of dying in Superman's place. Saturn Woman draws the shortest straw and Superman asks that he be allowed to do one last super-feat in her honor, promising that he will not save her. Amused, Luthor complies, and Superman flies to Saturn where he brings back many of the meteor fragments that make up its Great Ring so that he can set them in orbit around the planetoid to give it a ring as well. Just as Luthor is about to shoot Saturn Woman, Saturn Queen uses her power of super-hypnotism to temporarily paralyze the villains. Superman correctly deduced from Saturn Queen's origin that Saturn has no crime due to the presence of the rings, whose radiations cancel out criminal traits. Upon leaving her home world and the peaceful influence of the rings, Saturn Queen turned villainous.

It was indeed the story that guy was looking for and I even found the german comic which reprinted it. He ordered it ( he recalled the picture with the lightning beasts from the link ) and has probably already read it.

That in itself would have been it´s own reward because I like to help people ( which is one of the reasons for this blog ) but there was one bit of info on that page about Superman 147 that was a bonus.

Cosmic King tells Luthor that they are his "friends from the 21st century" and later refers to joining the Legion of Super-Villains "on Earth in the 21st century". This is not an error, as Cosmic King is from Venus, which has a different calendar system from Earth and, in fact, a different length of year (and therefore century). Aside from the confusing fact that a Venusian day (243 Earth days) is longer than its year (225 Earth days), the Venusian calendar is probably not based on any reference point but its own. It also indicates that people were living on Venus before Earth developed space-flight, therefore Venusians are not Earth colonists. This fact is reinforced by 20th century-based stories that have shown Superman encountering Venusians. Unfortunately, Cosmic King's distinctly Venusian point-of-view does set off a series of captions - from Adventure Comics No. 300-303 - which have a "Venusian slant" to them, by also stating that the Earth-based Legion of Super-Heroes is set in the 21st century. However, nowhere in the actual dialogue of those stories does anyone mention the century as being anything other than the thirtieth.

Now you know it. It´s all those damn Venusians fault. With their ridiculous and illogical calendar they confused Legion fans for decades who didn´t know if it was the 20th century or the 30th century. It was all a dastardly plot started by that Venusian villain Cosmic King. But now the mystery is revealed and the truth is laid bare. It was always the 30th century.

edit : I totally forgot that in the beginning it was the 30th century not the 31st century. Thanks to Meerkatdon who reminded of that. I have changed it in the text but left it in the title because I think " Legion of Super - Villains of the 21st century " just sounds better.

Here´s the link with the full description of Superman 147 and much more trivia about the Legion of Super - Villains

If you want to read the german version that appeared in this comic :

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    1 comment:

    Meerkatdon said...

    A masterful analysis. Stupid Venusians!

    The slightest possible correction: At the time, the Legion was in the 30th century, not the 31st. The conceit was that the Leigon's time was exactly 1,000 years in the future.