LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES

Adventure Comics #247

A Closer Look at the Legion's Early Years in Publication

With contributions by Aaron Severson
Thanks to the research of Mike Grost

Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958) launched the legacy of the Legion of Super-Heroes: Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. That milestone makes this comic book a prized collectible, thus expensive.

So I felt very lucky and excited when I scored very own copy of Adventure Comics #247 — I'm no thousandaire... it's coverless, and missing four pages from the center (the Green Arrow story). In my hands, I felt that magical experience that comes any time I hold a comic book that was made before my birth. It triggers the primal wonder that sparked my love of super-hero comics. The quality of the old paper, the colors, the heroes. Teen heroes grouped together.

The key art from the cover of Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958); art by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.
Popular comic illustrator Alex Ross recreated the iconic cover of Adventure Comics #247 for the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #29 (1999). Scan courtesy of Heritage Auctions.
My copy: missing the cover and center spread — but not lacking in charm.

Poring over the 12-page story, I engaged with it in a new way. I'll admit that I had previously disregarded this story somewhat, because I knew that in terms of continuity, the story didn't carry much weight. But a new reading inspired me to write about certain details which, as always, led to a larger effort.

Because this is the first appearance of the Legion, most readers are surprised to find that Superboy was not a founding member of the team ... not even their first nonfounding member. Twice, the story clearly depicts a handful of unidentifiable Legion members and as a fan, it's tempting to try to "identify" them. But those who are shown fully do not align with any later Legionnaires. Read about the attempts to reconcile this below.

Observations

Between 1958 and 1962, DC published 31 stories that we now associate with the Legion of Super-Heroes. Did you realize...

  • The Legion is known for its association with Superboy, but just over half of these early appearances were from the era of Superman.
  • 9 of the stories involved Supergirl.
  • 6 stories deal with the sad saga of Mon-El (who was not originally linked to the Legion at all).
  • Only two stories were written by the Legion's creator, Otto Binder.
  • 23 were written by Jerry Siegel, who was in a sense the Legion's true father. He wrote their 2nd, 3rd and 4th appearances, invented a dozen Legionnaires, and established much of their 30th century world.
  • Pencilers: 12 were penciled by Curt Swan; 7 stories by George Papp; 7 by Jim Mooney; 4 by John Forte.

The Story Behind the Story

Over the decades, Smallville and Metropolis were visited by all manner of strange visitors but together, three enigmatic teenagers made a unique impression on fans.

The Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958), as the novelty du jour in the "Superboy" feature. Superboy was invented by Jerry Siegel in 1945 for More Fun Comics #101, a new strip that chronicled Superman’s youthful adventures in the town of Smallville. Superboy was popular enough to warrant his own title in 1949, on top of the featured position in Adventure Comics from 1946–1969.

Mike Grost wrote about Superboy’s early stories in depth and identified underlying themes in classic Superman comics. Initiations were common in “Superboy” adventures, and was the backbone of the Legion's introduction. Superboy and the others perform a series of impressive super-feats, but emotion drives the story. Superboy seems to struggle less with the physical challenges than with his longing for companionship. He demonstrates a fear of rejection because he wants friends with whom he can be his true self (this was explored in earlier stories as well).

Emotional dynamics are what set the Legion tales apart. Sacrifice, jealousy, longing, insecurity, rejection and angst were common sentiments in Silver Age Superman stories. This kind of interpersonal dynamics was often lacking in the Superman universe, so the Legion became the perfect backdrop for a soap opera of sorts.

Editor Mort Weisinger

Mort Weisinger created an internal logic for Superman's powers. From Superboy #85 (Dec. 1960); by Otto Binder and George Papp.

Mort Weisinger joined National (DC) in 1941, and was the quintessential force behind the Superman mythos from his Golden Age adventures through the Silver Age '60s. A prolific writer himself, Weisinger is notorious for using a heavy hand with his creative teams.

Accounts of his 'abusive micromanagement' are numerous. Weisinger explained his approach to editing Superman in a 1975 interview with Guy H. Lillian III:

"People always accused me of being an egomaniac as an editor because I always gave the writers my own plots. I did that for a reason. If I asked a writer to bring in his own plots, and he spent a weekend working on four of them, and I didn't like any of the four, then he's wasted a whole weekend of work."

One cannot accuse Weisinger of being uninspired. As early as 1946, he expoused his vision, "Superman wages incessant war against injustice, intolerance, bigotry and other down-to-earth villains of modern society." Again from Lillian:

"I would bring out a new element every six months to keep the enraptured kids who were our audience involved. … Why should Superman be able to fly, … have X-Ray Vision?"

"I had a gut feeling... and I talked to kids. I'm not taking credit for the success of those books, but I did know my Superman character and mythology, and the proof of success was in the box office." — Superman.nu

The Legion of Super-Heroes clearly resonated with a young audience. Weisinger was one of the first DC editors to add a letters page, and the readers' reactions shaped his characters and story ideas. Response to the Legion was strong and sustained, which resulted in the team's increasingly frequent appearances over the first four years. Weisinger eventually dedicated the covers of Adventure Comics to the Legion starting with issue #300 (Sept. 1961), though they were not the only stars inside.

Writer Otto Binder

Otto Binder scripted the story, and confirmed as much when he compiled a master list of his scripts for Jerry Bails. Bails was a tireless researcher who assembled the invaluable Who's Who of American Comic Books. Binder's typed source pages were reprinted in Alter Ego #147 (July 2017).

Binder was interviewed in 1974 by by fan writer Matt Lage. His interview (reprinted in The Legion Companion by TwoMorrows) does not touch specifically on the story from Adventure Comics #247.

He spoke about his early work, offering that he wrote with a habit that "avoided any suggestion of repetition or similarity"; at Fawcett at least, variety was encouraged. On writing for DC, however, Binder said, "Hardly a script of mine went in exactly as I wrote it." This, he said, was just how DC editors did their job. They had proven certain formulas, and they weren't afraid to replicate them, or to edit scripts to conform.

Ted Carter of Earth is chosen to tour the United Worlds with other young people. Notice his bubble-shaped helmet and expertise with magnetism. From Strange Adventures #60 (Sept. 1955); by Otto Binder and Sy Barry.
A man from Earth becomes one of the Watchdogs of the Universe. From Strange Adventures #62 (Nov. 1955); by Otto Binder and Sid Greene.

Despite Binder's recollection, there were themes present in his stories at DC. In his studies, Mike Grost spotted the seeds for Adventure #247 in some of Otto Binder’s earlier work. Grost called out three stories in particular:

  1. In "World at the Edge of the Universe" (Strange Adventures #60, Sept. 1955), Ted Carter of 21st century Earth was studying at a university on Jupiter when it was announced that he was selected to "represent the solar system on the grand tour of the Milky Way Galaxy.” He joined other young people from the U.W. — the United Worlds, organized in 1999. Ted became pals with the blue-skinned Kyp of Argus, but Kyp's extensive knowledge of the galaxy left Ted feeling a bit like a “dunce.” When their ship was marooned on a magnetic planetoid, it was Kip's unique science know-how that saved them from aggressive creatures. These themes, of inadequacy and redemption (not to mention that Ted wears a bubble helmet while talking about magnetism), are present in Adventure #247. Ted redeems himself and the others cheer him for his invaluable help.
  2. Two issues later, Binder penned an adventure about "The Watchdogs of the Universe." Young Danny Bolton listened to his father's tale about his discovery of aliens on Earth! They were altruistic visitors, who had saved the Earth and other worlds many times over millennia: "Our mission is to patrol the spaceways and come to the 'invisible' aid of the planets in peril!” The Watchdog's members included brave men of many worlds, but they operated in secret so they would not stunt the scientific development of any world. They were forced to kidnap Mr. Bolton so he would not reveal their existence. As their dispatcher, Bolton watched them use magnetic power, and even rekindle a dead sun. For helping them so selflessly, the aliens agreed to let him return home. (Strange Adventures #62, Nov. 1955) Note: The basis of this story was recycled for the "Space Museum” feature in Strange Adventures, which began with #104.
  3. And in Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #2 (May/June 1958), Lois endured a series of trials in her bid for an acting role. In the end, Superman revealed that he had arranged those obstacles to challenge her acting abilities.

The Art: Swan vs. Plastino

Left: The first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes: Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy and Saturn Girl. From Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958); cover art by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. Right: Just over a year later, they returned in all-new uniforms! From Adventure Comics #267 (Dec. 1959); art by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.

The cover of Adventure #247 (and Adventure #267) was drawn by Curt Swan while the interiors were by Al Plastino. So who created the costumes?

The weight of evidence suggests that the three Legionnaires were designed by Curt Swan. A closer look reveals some discrepancies between the uniforms on the cover versus inside. Most notably, the Legionnaires on the cover do not display their names on their chests; the names appear on nameplates in front of them, so it would have been redundant. And inside, there is nothing remarkable about the lower halves of the Legionnaires’ costumes. Did Plastino phone the rest in? (And to nitpick: on the cover, Imra and Garth sport cuffs while inside they wear gloves.)

Even back then, the covers of issues were produced in advance of the interiors so that the comics could be promoted. It wasn’t uncommon then (as now) for DC to produce the cover first, for promotional purposes. Editor Julius Schwartz is known to have done this routinely.

One argument in favor of Al Plastino: If he was handed Swan's cover art, why would he move the names from the nameplates onto the uniforms? It's a highly unusual motif and it seems more likely that Swan would have omitted Plastino's names when he drew the covers. Sadly, Al Plastino remembered nothing about creating the Legion when he was interviewed by Glen Cadigan for The Legion Companion (TwoMorrows, 2003). After reviewing the story, Plastino offered only:

"I don't remember doing it. ... It's my work. … If it's the first [appearance], I probably did [design the costumes]."

The cover of this issue is a recognizable classic. It shows the three space-teens rejecting Superboy's application for membership in their "Super-Hero Club." It has been widely imitated, both at DC and by other publishers. Take a look at a Pinterest board I created to showcase these covers!

The First Appearance Costumes!

Left: The original splash page from Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958) was recolored when it was reprinted in Superman Annual #6 (1962); by Otto Binder and Al Plastino.
The second time the Legion appeared, they sported different uniforms (omitting the names printed on them). From Adventure Comics #267 (Dec. 1959); by Jerry Siegel and George Papp.
The Legion's first real origin story glosses over the anomalous uniforms. From Superboy #147 (May/June 1968); by E. Nelson Bridwell and Pete Costanza.
Another telling of the Legion origin story, from Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (Jan. 1981); by E. Nelson Bridwell, Paul Kupperberg, Jim Janes and Frank Chiaramonte.
Cosmic Boy's recollections depict the costumes without referencing them, per se. From Legion of Super-Heroes v.2 #297 (Mar. 1983); art by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt.
One way around it: put the Legionnaires in similar civilian clothes. From Secret Origins #25 (Apr. 1988); by Paul Levitz, Rick Stasi and Dick Giordano.
When the origin was told in the Glorith Reality era, the founders voiced their objections to R.J. Brande's uniforms, but wore them for a short time regardless. From Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 #8 (June 1990); art by Chris Sprouse and Al Gordon.

The Legionnaires costumes' from Adventure #247 generate a lot of curiosity. Indeed, the most conspicuous anomaly about the Legion's origin story is the costumes. The designs are infamous for the prominent names printed on the kids' chests.

But in the Legionnaires' second appearance, Adventure Comics #267 (Dec. 1959), they were changed. Again, Curt Swan was the cover artist, and George Papp drew the story. The story did not call attention to the change. The new costumes were pretty similar to the originals, so it was likely due to an editorial mandate. The new uniforms erased the names and became the standards. Their coloring was further adjusted in their third appearance, Action Comics #267 (Aug. 1960).

Adventure Comics #247 does not tell the Legion's origin story, so writers who tackled that tale (the first of which came ten years) had to decide how to acknowledge the costumes from the Legion's first appearance. The first two origin stories were both written by E. Nelson Bridwell. Bridwell was a continuity buff, so it's surprising that he chose to sweep the original costumes under the rug (see figures).

The first of these origins appeared in Superboy #147 (May/June 1968), and the second in Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (Jan. 1981). The founding Legionnaires were depicted only in their well-known classic outfits.

Three other stories playfully acknowledged the Legion's first appearance. A story spotlighting Cosmic Boy's origins showed the original costumes without referencing them in the text. (By Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen; Legion of Super-Heroes v.2 #297, Mar. 1983)

The Legion's official post-Crisis origin story, Secret Origins #25 (Apr. 1988), showed (as many flashbacks do) that the three of them wore civilian clothes that resembled the Adventure #247 uniforms, but their first Legion costumes were the classic ones.

And in Legion of Super-Heroes v.4 #8 (June 1990; by Keith Giffen, Tom Bierbaum and Mary Bierbaum), the matter was explicitly addressed for the first time. In that version of the Legion's origin, the Legion's benefactor, R.J. Brande, presented them with the oddball uniforms. They objected to Brande's lack of style but reluctantly wore them for a brief time, before asserting their preferences.

Lightning "Boy"

Also for this issue only, the red-haired hero was called Lightning Boy. In all of his subsequent appearance, he was consistently named Lightning Lad — another instance of the "L.L." motif in the Superman mythos. L.L. was a deliberate convention employed and explained by Mort Weisinger. In Superman #157 (Nov. 1962), Superman references it explicitly, citing Lois, Lana, Lightning Lad, Luthor, and even Luma Lynai. (In that story, he’s nearly killed by Kryptonite, only to be saved by … a Little Leaguer!)

The editor missed one reference in the Legion's third appearance (Action Comics #267, Aug. 1960), where Supergirl called him "Lightning Lad," then again by "Lightning Boy." The Supergirl story was essentially a copy of the original tale, so the script might have retained instances of "Lightning Boy" when it went to lettering.

The Mystery Legionnaires!

In Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958), it was made clear that the group had already been operating for some time. In the Legion Clubhouse, Superboy met a group of Legionnaires — more than the original three. In two panels, these other members stood on the sidelines and cheered for Superboy.

Trying to identify all of these mystery Legionnaires is a fun game, but ultimately futile because there are no good identifiers of their identities. Also, their coloration does not match precisely with any later Legionnaires.

In time, the membership order was sorted out and Superboy was considered the team's eleventh member. His induction was shown again in Adventure Comics #323 (Aug. 1964) where again, multiple members again in attendance.

Adventure #247 doesn't explicitly identify Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad as the group's founders, but Cosmic Boy appears to take the lead on matters.

Reprints

When the story was reprinted, some of the mystery members were recolored to suggest that they were Legionnaires who came later. In Superman Annual #6 (1962), one boy was recolored to resemble Colossal Boy

The original panels from Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958, left) were recolored in Superman Annual #6 (1962, right) to retroactively fit Legion history. The boy in purple now resembled Colossal Boy. Art by Al Plastino.

They also recolored the three founders' costumes to match their later, canonical coloring.

The founders are recolored for Superman Annual #6 (1962) to retroactively fit Legion history. Art by Al Plastino.

The reprints in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #1 (Mar./Apr. 1980) and Adventure Comics #491 (Sept. 1982) were colored identically to the original story, although some panels were trimmed or extended to accommodate the digest size's different height/width ratio.

In DC Silver Age Classics Adventure Comics 247 (1992), the reprint did some recoloring (supposedly against colorist Tom McCraw's wishes) to suggest that one of those Legionnaires was Brainiac 5.


The boy in the lower left is recolored to match Brainiac 5. From Silver Age Classics Adventure Comics 247 (1992).
In Legion Archives volume 1 (1997), another boy magically became Brainiac 5.

Iconic Firsts

The Jet Packs

The Legion of Super-Heroes is iconic for images of the team unified in flight. Their first appearance shows them using jet packs to fly, like so many scifi heroes of that time. They transitioned to less bulky anti-gravity belts instead of jet packs in Adventure Comics #300 (Sept. 1962).

The Legion's famous flight rings came along several years later. First, Mon-El invented an anti-gravity metal called Element 152 (Adventure #305, Feb. 1963). The Legionnaires started wearing flight rings in Adventure #329 (Feb. 1965), with no explanation.

The ring's origin was told in a flashback tale from Legion of Super-Heroes v.2 #267 (Sept. 1980). When the villain Vibrex disabled the Legion's flying belts, Brainiac 5 used the Element 152 to create the Legion flight rings.

Unknown: What powered the anti-gravity belts?

The Time Bubble

The Time Bubble magically enabled the Legionnaires to go whenever they wanted.

The Time Bubble enabled the Legion to visit Superboy and Supergirl in the past. The super-cousins didn't need it; they could breeze through time on their own power. That super-ability was greatly curtailed after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and in the Legion's other incarnations.

Much later, the invention of the Time Bubble was also attributed to Brainiac 5. His friend, Rond Vidar invented a similar machine, the Time Cube (Adventure Comics #349, Oct. 1966).

The Legion Clubhouse

Step 1: get yourself a rocket. Step 2: plant in ground. Voila! Clubhouse.
Rejected Legion applicant Fortress Lad defends the Legionnaires but loses his memory. From Secret Origins v.2 #46 (Dec. 1989); by Gerard Jones, Curt Swan and Ty Templeton.

The Super-Hero Club made its home in a building that appears to be a rocket ship with its nose embedded in the ground. This iconic design by Plastino was the Legion's headquarters until it was destroyed by the Fatal Five in Adventure #366 (Mar. 1968). In the next issue, the United Planets built the Legion a larger, more elaborate new headquarters in Metropolis.

In Secret Origins #46 (Dec. 1989), the headquarters was given its own mildly disturbing origin story. It was said that during the Legion's first membership tryouts (held in a public park in Metropolis), a rejected super-hero called Mnemonic Kid attacked the Legionnaires. Another reject, Fortress Lad, protected them with his power to become a giant "metallic fortress." But Mnemonic Kid's amnesia blasts robbed Fortress Lad and everyone else of the memory that he was ever humanoid. He was trapped in "fortress" form forever and became the Legion's original clubhouse.

Interplanetary Zoo

During Superboy's competition against Lightning Boy, an invisible eagle escapes from the city's Interplanetary Zoo. The Legion encounters another meagerie of beasts from the Interplanetary Circus in Adventure Comics #327 (Dec. 1964).

Membership Requirements

In the team's third appearance, Action Comics #267, they mention two requirements for membership in the Legion. First, heroes must be under the age of 18. Second, they only admit one new hero per year. (Supergirl fails her test when some red kryptonite ages her into womanhood). The latter rule was later ignored.

Super Powers

Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl manifest manifest their powers from their eyes. This continued into their second and third appearances and eventually tapered off until their powers came from their hands, or head.

Saturn Girl uses her telepathy — taught by the "scientists of Saturn" — to command animals as well as people. In this first story she commanded a deep sea creature; ironically, Adventure Comics at this time was also running the adventures of Aquaman.

Cosmic Boy says, "Special serums gave me magnetic eyes." This is ignored in later stories. His home planet Braal, where all people have magnetic abilities, was first named in Adventure Comics #300 (Sept. 1962).

Things That Changed Over Time

21st or 30th Century?

More than once, this story places the Legion 1,000 years into Superboy's future. This story references the 30th century, although significant subsequent stories placed them in the 21st century instead — even as late as Adventure Comics #300 (Sept. 1962, by Jerry Siegel). Throughout the Legion's history, it became canonical that all adventures took place 1,000 years into Superboy's future.

In the Legion's third appearance, they visited Supergirl, who of course lived about ten years ahead of Superboy. She also traveled 1,000 years into the future when she met the Legion. One caveat: these Legionnaires were said to be the children of the original Legion (Action Comics #267, Aug. 1960). This 'children of the Legion' aspect was ignored after this story and it's presumed that Supergirl's successive visits were actually '990 years' in the future, because she visited the Legion contemporaneously with Superboy.

It wasn't long before tales of the Legion wormed their way into Superman's adventures as well. In Superman #147 (Aug. 1961, also by Jerry Siegel), the Man of Steel was attacked by the Legion of Super-Villains. This story was another one in which they stated they were from the 21st century. These villains — Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Queen — were similarly from ten years into the Legion's future.

This spawned a long series of adventures that included the Adult Legion. The Adult Legion were contemporaries of those villains, living about ten years head of Superboy and the Legion's adventures.

Smallville or Metropolis?

The original story shows the Legion clubhouse in Smallville, which has become a super-city! Clark Kent's "ancient" childhood home has even been preserved (or probably restored).

In their third appearance (Action Comics #267, Aug. 1960), the Legionnaires took Supergirl to the future as well. That time, they went to the future Metropolis. Granted, the Legionnaires in Supergirl's story were said to be the children of the original Legion, but Metropolis became the Legion's home in all stories. If Smallville still existed in the 30th century, it was probably a part of it.

Modern Superman stories (and shows like Smallville) typically place Smallville in Kansas. That was not the case prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths. In early Superboy stories, the Kents’ home town (which was not named “Smallville” until the cover of Superboy #2, May/June 1949), was shown to be near Metropolis, perhaps even an outlying suburb. Read more about more references in the Superboy profile.

As Adventure #247 implies, the cities of the Legion’s time are sprawling megalopolises. Later Legion stories depicted Metropolis as encompassing much of the northeastern United States. The Legion of Super-Heroes, Volume II: The World Book (Mayfair Games, No. 216, 1987) explains that the 30th century Metropolis is so large that the Metropolis Spaceport is “almost 120 miles” northwest of Staten Island. Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #6 (Oct. 1988) reaffirms that geography, noting that Metropolis has “grown to encompass cities that were once known as Boston and New York” and “extends hundreds of miles across the eastern seaboard of lower North America.”

So, if Smallville was hundreds of miles away from Metropolis in Superman’s time, it was probably absorbed into the city by the Legion’s era.

The "Super Hero Club"

The term "Legion of Super-Heroes" doesn't appear in the story — except for cover and splash page blurb — as if the editor had retooled their identity somewhat while packaging the issue. It was not uncommon in early comic book stories to see a character referenced one way in its titles, and another way within the story.

In their next appearance, Superboy uses the term "Legion of Super-Heroes" by name (printed several times, in quotation marks).

Honorary Member?

Cosmic Boy invites Superboy to become an honorary member of their "special club." Afterwards, he seemed to always be considered a full member.

The concept of honorary membership continued; it was even extended to several of Superboy’s friends. » SEE: Jimmy OlsenLana Lang •  Honorary MembersLegion Members

"Children of" the Legion?

When Supergirl met the Legion, it had been ten years. These Legionnaires were the children of those that Superboy met. They wore the same uniforms as their 'parents.' From Action Comics #267 (Aug. 1960); by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney.
Retcon! When Supergirl's meeting with the Legion was reprinted for the first time, the mention of their being the children of the originals was erased. From Action Comics #334 (Mar. 1966).

The Legion proliferated among the Superman family of comics, first into the Supergirl feature. The Maid of Steel met the Legion about ten years after her cousin, Superman. But these Legionnaires said that they were the children of those that met Superboy (Action Comics #267, Aug. 1960). Makes sense, I suppose, if these visits all originated from exactly 1,000 years in the future.

The Legionnaires were clear: "We are the children of the three young super-heroes who befriended Superboy!" Further, Saturn Girl says, "Our parents came from other worlds, which explains our super-powers." They wore the same uniforms as their parents and escorted Supergirl to the 30th century.

As the Legion appeared more frequently, this 'children' aspect had to be abandoned, probably because it would have been unsustainable (and confusing) to maintain two versions of the team: one for Superboy and one for Supergirl. When the story was reprinted in Action Comics #334 (Mar. 1966) this detail was erased (see the figure at right).

Trivia

The Satellite

Superboy prevents an old satellite from falling to Earth. He identifies it as a 20th century relic called a "basketball." It bears the label: "U.S. Project Vanguard," which was a real satellite launched in early 1958. It was preceded by the October 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite.

"Secret Identities"

The Legionnaires reveal their alter egos.

On page 2, Cosmic Boy mentions that they keep secret identities, but that is never demonstrated in their lives in the future. He could have been referring to their covert actions in the 20th century, where their space-uniforms would have caused a stir.

The Unknown Spaceman

The legend of the Unknown Spaceman warranted a big statue.

On page 7, Saturn Girl and Superboy compete to rescue a priceless statue of an "unknown spaceman." When it's shown on the next page, the spaceman looks rather generic, with a raygun, cape and short-cropped hair. This hero was the "first to explore Venus." All references in the story to other planets are limited to those in our solar system. There were mentions of flights to Mars, and a creature from Neptune.

Superboy & the Legion #247

Paul Levitz dedicated "Celebration," his story in Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes #247 (Jan. 1979), to the team's 20-year anniversary. Cosmic Teams is skeptical of Levitz's claim that this also marked the Legion's 247th feature story (not counting cameos).

The story included the now-traditional Legion leadership election. Fittingly, it was Lightning Lad who won; he was the only founder who had not yet served as leader.

Anti-Lad

In Superboy v.1 #204 (Oct. 1974), readers learned about Anti-Lad: "The Legionnaire Nobody Remembered." This bald-headed young man was from the 75th century who discovered an anomaly about the day that Superboy joined. He traveled back to that day to investigate.

READ MORE » "False" Legion Members: Anti-Lad

Early Appearances of the Legion of Super-Heroes (1958–1962)

The chronology below lists all of the Legion's appearances in their first five years. Readers should note that as Legion continuity was ironed out over the years, it was made clear that the publication order of some early stories differed from their actual chronological order.

Most of the stories below were reprinted in this order in the first volume of the Legion Archives (1991). That volume omitted some cameo appearances.

» SEE ALSO: Original Legion Chronology, Part 1List of Silver Age "Supers"

1958

1st appearance: The three founding members of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl) meet Superboy. He visits their clubhouse in 30th century Smallville, where he meets their other members, including Brainiac 5, and joins the Legion. NOTES: Other Legion members are shown in shadow, suggesting that although this was the Legion's first appearance, they'd formed some time previously.
Script: Otto Binder; pencils: Al Plastino

Adventure Comics #247 (Apr. 1958)

1959

2nd appearance: The Legion returns to the 20th century with the intent of building a "Superboy Planet" to honor him. When they review his near future, however, it looks as though he's going to turn evil, so they imprison him with kryptonite instead. They learn that his suspicious activities were secretly directed by the President. The Legionnaires demonstrate a weakness to the radioactive element Sigellian. NOTES: The Legionnaires' costumes are different in this story than in their first appearance. Lightning Boy is renamed Lightning "Lad." Their names are no longer printed on their chests.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: George Papp

Adventure Comics #267 (Dec. 1959)

1960

3rd appearance, Superman's era: Ten years into Superboy's future, three children of the Legion of Super-Heroes (also named Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad) visit Supergirl in Midvale and invite her to try out for the Legion. She is disqualified after Red Kryptonite temporarily transforms her into an adult. First appearances of members Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy and Invisible Kid. NOTES: The 'children of the Legion' aspect was ignored after this story; this story became canonical in overall Legion continuity. This revelation was later ignored, and was edited out of some reprints of this story. The Legion does not appear on the cover. The story strongly parallels the events of Adventure Comics #247. Lightning Lad is also called by that name and also Lightning "Boy."
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #267 (Aug. 1960)

1961

4th appearance: Lightning Lad saves Superboy from Lex Luthor's living Kryptonite men. Later, Luthor speculates that "if a Legion of Super-Heroes will exist centuries from now...then a Legion of Super-Villains probably exists in the future, too!" He vows to one day contact them to help him destroy Superboy. NOTES: The final caption of this story says "don't miss the terrific story of the Legion of Super-Villains, coming soon!" This story is also the first appearance of Superboy's Legion statuettes. In this story he has statues only of the three founding members.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: George Papp

Superboy #86 (Jan. 1961)

5th appearance: Lana Lang travels to the 30th century with Superboy and new Legionnaire Star Boy, where she meets Star Boy's girlfriend Zynthia.
Script: Otto Binder; pencils: George Papp

Adventure Comics #282 (Mar. 1961)

6th appearance, Superman's era: A year after her first encounter with the Legionnaires, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl travel to the 20th century to give Supergirl a second chance to try for Legion membership. She and Brainiac 5 are admitted after she recovers Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur. She meets applicants Bouncing Boy, Shrinking Violet and Sun Boy. Brainiac 5 gives her a duplicate of his force-field belt, but it breaks down shortly after her return to the 20th century. NOTES: Phantom Girl and Triplicate Girl have already joined the Legion. Bouncing Boy, Shrinking Violet and Sun Boy are later revealed to have been rejected but admitted at a later date. In this story, Brainiac 5 describes the final fate of the original Brainiac (who is described as his great-great-great-great-grandfather): being shrunk out of existence after trying to turn his shrinking ray on the Earth (which happened in Superman #338, Aug. 1979).
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #276 (May 1961)

Superboy meets Lar Gand of Daxam, an amnesiac 20th century space explorer who has super-powers similar to his. Superboy theorizes that he is his long lost brother, and dubs him Mon-El. He briefly moves into the Kent home, adopting the identity of traveling salesman "Bob Cobb." Mon-El regains his memory after suffering from lead poisoning. To save his life, Superboy is forced to send him to the Phantom Zone until a cure could be found. Note: The Legion is not referenced in this story.
Script: Robert Bernstein; pencils: George Papp

Superboy #89 (June 1961)

7th appearance, Superman's era: The Legion of Super-Villains (Cosmic King, Saturn Queen and Lightning Lord) come from the future to help Lex Luthor challenge Superman. Superman is aided by the adult Legion of Super-Heroes. Eventually Saturn Queen turns against the other villains and vows to reform. NOTES: The Super-Villains tell Luthor they are from the 21st century, rather than the 30th century. As established in Legion v.2 #300 (June 1983), the Adult Legion (and adult LSV) were cast into an alternate future timeline and were not considered canonical to the teen Legion (even though some of the events predicted in the Adult Legion stories did come true). It reads as if the Adult Legion stories involving Superman were part of original Superman continuity, even if they were not the "real" future of the Legion. Some of those Adult Legion stories were also described as "Imaginary Stories." This story reveals that Lightning Lord is Lightning Lad's older brother, a fact later reflected in canonical Legion stories, and their origin on the planet Korbal.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman #147 (Aug. 1961)

8th appearance: A 30th century criminal impersonates Sun Boy and travels to the 20th century, where he tricks Superboy into reconstructing a powerful Cyclops robot that the Legion previously buried in the past. NOTES: Sun Boy and Shrinking Violet are shown to have already joined the Legion. The Legion is shown meeting on Xanthu, rather than on Earth.
Script: Robert Bernstein; pencils: George Papp

Adventure Comics #290 (Nov. 1961)

9th appearance, Superman's era (Imaginary Story): After Lex Luthor succeeds in killing Superman, the three founding Legionnaires attend his funeral.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman #149 (Nov. 1961)

10th appearance: Chameleon Boy visits Superboy to write an article for the Legion newspaper.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: George Papp

Superboy #93 (Dec. 1961)

1962

Superboy and the Legion are enslaved by the Brain Globes of Rambat, who threaten to take over the Earth. Krypto, Streaky the Super-Cat, Comet the Super-Horse, and Beppo the Super-Monkey join forces as the Legion of Super-Pets to save the day. NOTES: Both Streaky and Comet are recent additions from Supergirl's era.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Adventure Comics #293 (Feb. 1962)

Superman's era: Superman announces Supergirl's existence to the world and reveals her secret identity to her adoptive parents, Fred and Edna Danvers. The Legion helps Supergirl on her first "public" mission.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #285 (Feb. 1962)

Superman's era: The Superman Revenge Squad exposes Superman to Red Kryptonite, causing him to experience a terrifying nightmare in which he is put on trial by his enemies, including the adult Legion of Super-Villains.
Script: Robert Bernstein; pencils: Curt Swan

Action Comics #286 (Mar. 1962)

Superman's era: The Legionnaires stage a good-natured prank on Superman and Supergirl to celebrate the anniversary of Supergirl's arrival on Earth.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman #152 (Apr. 1962)

Superman's era: Supergirl travels to the 21st century to visit the Legion, where she battles the Positive Man and the Chameleon Men and meets Streaky's descendant, Whizzy. NOTES: Bouncing Boy is shown as having already joined the Legion.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #287 (Apr. 1962)

Superman's era: After being accidentally trapped in the Phantom Zone, Lois Lane meets Mon-El (who has been there for ten years).
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #33 (May 1962)

Superman's era: Mon-El briefly leaves the Phantom Zone to come to the aid of Supergirl.
Script: Leo Dorfman; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #288 (May 1962)

Superman's era, Adult Legion: Supergirl and Superman travel to 10 years in the Legion's future. Supergirl tries to fix Superman up with Saturn Woman (the adult Saturn Girl), only to find that she is already married to Lightning Man (the adult Lightning Lad). NOTES: This was the second appearance of the Adult Legion and the first hint that Garth and Imra would eventually marry.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #289 (June 1962)

As his initiation test for the Legion, Ultra Boy (Jo Nah of Rimbor), accompanied by Marla Latham, travels back in time to discover Superboy's secret identity. After he succeeds, Ultra Boy is admitted to the Legion. Superboy's friend Pete Ross is made an honorary member, for being Superboy's loyal friend.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superboy #98 (July 1962)

Superman's era: Phantom Girl visits Supergirl in the 20th century to give her a statue she has created.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Jim Mooney

Action Comics #290 (July 1962)

Superman's era, Adult Legion: Jimmy Olsen is briefly trapped in the Phantom Zone, where he meets Mon-El.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #62 (July 1962)

Superman's era, Adult Legion: Cosmic Man and Lightning Man pose as Hercules and Samson to help Superman fool a criminal. NOTES: This was the third appearance of the Adult Legion.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman #155 (Aug. 1962)

Superman's era, Adult Legion: Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl battle members of the adult Legion of Super-Villains, including Lightning Lord, Cosmic King, Chameleon Chief, and Sun Emperor. NOTES: Teenage versions of Chameleon Chief and Sun Emperor later appeared in Superboy #208 (Apr. 1975).
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #63 (Sept. 1962)

Saturn Girl invents Serum XY-4, which allows Mon-El to temporarily leave the Phantom Zone. Mon-El helps the Legion defeat Urthlo, an android built by Lex Luthor, and is granted honorary membership. He returns to the Phantom Zone, awaiting a permanent cure. NOTES: This was the Legion's first use of anti-gravity belts instead of jet packs. This story again places the Legion in the 21st century rather than the 30th.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: John Forte

Adventure Comics #300 (Sept. 1962)

Superman's era: When Superman believes that he is dying of Virus X, the Legion travels back in time to help him complete his final tasks, while Brainiac 5 works feverishly to find a cure for the virus.
Script: Edmond Hamilton; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman #156 (Sept. 1962)

While Superboy is visiting the Legion, Pete Ross has problems with a malfunctioning Superboy robot, leading Ultra Boy to travel back in time to help him. Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Chameleon Boy also make cameo appearances.
Script: Jerry Coleman; pencils: George Papp

Superboy #100 (Oct. 1962)

Bouncing Boy encourages Legion applicants with the story of how he joined. First appearance of Legion applicants Lester Spiffany (a rich boy with no powers) and Storm Boy (Myke Chypurz of Earth), who is the first applicant to be rejected because his powers are based on an external device. NOTES: This is the first solo Legion story, without Superboy or Supergirl. The Legion mentioned operating in the 21st century.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: John Forte

Adventure Comics #301 (Oct. 1962)

Sun Boy leaves the Legion when he temporarily loses his powers, but he regains them in time to defeat Kranyak. NOTES:The story again references the 21st century.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: John Forte

Adventure Comics #302 (Nov. 1962)

Superman's era: Mon-El is present when Superman releases Quex-Ul from the Phantom Zone. Later, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad appear in a parade in Superman's honor.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: Curt Swan

Superman #157 (Nov. 1962)

Matter-Eater Lad of the planet Bismoll joins the Legion. He is accused of betraying the Legion to the alien spy-master Meglaro, but is cleared when Brainiac 5 reveals the real Legion infiltrator — a miniaturized spy implanted in Lightning Lad's leg by Dr. Landro, one of Meglaro's accomplices. First appearance of the Science Police.
Script: Jerry Siegel; pencils: John Forte

Adventure Comics #303 (Dec. 1962)

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More on Cosmic Teams

DC Comics Reprints

There have been two stand-alone reprints include the following, but for a full list of them, check out the Grand Comics Database.

  • DC Silver Age Classics Adventure Comics 247 (Apr. 1992)
  • Millennium Edition: Adventure Comics No. 247 (Nov. 2000)

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