Superboy #199 (November, 1973)
“The Gun that Mastered Men”
“The Impossible Target!”
Story – Cary Bates
Art – Dave Cockrum
Letters – Ben Oda
Editor – Murray Boltinoff
Cover Price: $0.20
It’s been a minute since we’ve looked at the Legion here at the humble blog… and so, let’s randomly take a look at a Bronze Age adventure!
We open with a flashback. Legionnaires, Timber Wolf and Saturn Girl tackling the villain Tyr the Terrible… at which point his bionic gun-arm gimmick fires off into space. Now the big fella in custody, until the Metro Police can come for him, for his crime of brainwashing Timber Wolf into becoming an assassin a few issues prior. And so, after a job well done, Superboy bids his pals adieu and goes to head back to the 20th Century.
Just then, Tyr’s gimmick-arm (which has been orbiting the planet in the interim) bathes the Legion Headquarters in light… it’s a force field, trapping the team inside!
Princess Projectra tries calling out to Superboy, but it would appear that he’s long gone by this point. The Legionnaires rush to battle stations to try and get a better grip on whatever threat they may be facing. Our team includes Brainiac 5, Princess Projectra, Chameleon Boy, Dream Girl, and Star Boy. As they plot and plan, we can see that Tyr the Terrible is keeping an eye on them.
The Legion fellas decide that the best way through this might be with brute force and fire-power, and so… they dig up some pretty impressive blasters, and go hog-wild on the walls of their HQ. It doesn’t prove to be very effective… and I’m sure the place now stinks like hot metal and soot.
Back outside, we can see that Superboy did not in fact already leave… and actually witnessed the whole beamy event! He attempts to fight his way inside the Legion Headquarters, but is unable to penetrate the force field. Recalling that the beam came from above, he heads into space to attempt to track down its origin. What he finds is Tyr’s gun-arm-gimmick! He gets up real close, balls up his fist, draws back, and…
Back inside, Dream Girl has… a vision. It’s a pretty lame one, too! See, she had a vision that Star Boy would fly toward the ceiling with his arms wide open. This boggles his mind, and he wonders just what in the hell she’s talking about… I guess he’s disregarding that huge grate in the ceiling… with the mohawked silhouette standing on top of it?!
Brainiac 5 decides to blast the grate for the heck of it… and, wouldn’tcha know it… that mohawked silhouette belonged to their captive… Tyr the Terrible! As he tumbles from the ceiling, Star Boy flies over… with his arms wide open. How ’bout dat?
Tyr comes clean that his gun-arm was behind the force field… it was to provide enough of a distraction for him to get away. He’s not too worried though, because his gun-arm won’t ever quit until he’s been freed. Princess Projectra gets nervous… because the Legionnaires present are among the weakest. That’s all well and good… but, here’s the thing… she says this aloud, while Tyr is like five feet away! That doesn’t seem all that bright!
Just then, Superboy arrives… and he’s now wearing the gun-arm gimmick! The Legionnaires are pleased as punch to see him… unfortunately for them, he’s now under the control of the gun-arm! He fights off its suggestion the best he can… but ultimately succumbs and blasts the Legion into cinder!
Then, Tyr the Terrible strikes… and lucky for him, he just so happens to be wearing his Kryptonite Glove! Yeah, really. This causes Superboy’s power to wane… and the gun-arm, unable to draw from him anymore, surrenders and releases the Boy of Steel.
Only… this wasn’t really Tyr the Terrible! It was, in fact, Chameleon Boy under the guise of Tyr the Terrible (still with Kryptonite Glove, though). What’s more, the Legion wasn’t fried… that was just a projection from Princess Projectra! Annnnd, that’s that! That’s that? Okay, that’s that.
But we’re not done yet… it’s time for us to dig into The Files of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and a Bouncing Boy story! We open with Bouncing Boy being bombarded by, what he believes to be, asteroids. Turns out, they’re actually satellites… and they escort his ship to a planet with a giant fortress on it.
After deboarding, Bouncing Boy meets the one who summoned him here… and it’s… ohgod… what in the… who… um, gimme a minute. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Who in all hell’s dressed this guy?! In what universe is this the look of a bad ass villain? To think, this numbskull had to have stood before a mirror, and after affixing his second pigtail, probably winked at himself (with his good eye) and said “Perfect!“. Alright, alright… turns out, this is the Hunter (II), Adam Orion… the son of the original Hunter, Otto Orion.
Now, the original Hunter (who didn’t look nearly as silly as his son), attempted to, well, “hunt” the Legionnaires. He was, obviously, unsuccessful… which is the reason for Adam’s current project. He brings Bouncing Boy over to an anti-gravity chamber, and has him watch as he tosses a “Bouncing Boy Sack Doll” into the weightless room… and blasts it into pieces!
He then drops Bouncing Boy into a jungle to give him a “sporting chance”. Adam then circles the planet once before the games can begin. Of course, it isn’t too terribly difficult for the Hunter to find his bounty… after all, there probably aren’t many perfectly round blue balls beboppin’ around the jungle. As he nabs Chuck, Adam tells him of his father’s folly. Ya see, where he goofed, was in going after the Legion as a unit. Adam is going to go after them one at a time… and he started with their weakest member!
The Hunter tosses Bouncing Boy into that anti-grav room to blow him away… but then… ol’ Chuck Taine gets a tickle in his nose. He sneezes, hurling him across the room… and right on into Adam Orion! It’s sure is a good thing he didn’t crash into those fashionable horns on the Hunter’s shoulders! And so… that’s the end… and how Bouncing Boy became… the Impossible Target!
That was a couple of odd little stories, huh?
One of the things I both love… and hate about these old Legion stories is that they sorta feel like a kid wrote ’em. Ya know what I mean? In our feature story, we get this wacky “gotcha” moment… that only really works if you accept that the Legionnaires can do whatever they want.
It’s like that old “the floor is lava” thing from when we were kids. You could try and creatively make your way across the room by climbing on the furniture, and tossing pillows to jump to… or, you could just say “I’m wearing titanium boots” and just stomp on over to the kitchen. They’re both equally valid when playing something as silly… but, c’mon, one is definitely lazier than the other.
What we get here… feels pretty lazy. The Legion decide (off-panel) to trick Superboy into coming inside, so they can use their… Kryptonite Glove (eesh)… and “disarm” the gimmick. It’s a decent enough plan… but, it’s not really a “gotcha” since the entire thing comes out of left field! You can’t just have Brainiac 5 knowingly stroke his chin while he plans… and then, two-pages later, just end the story with everything working out fine. I mean, you could do that (and clearly, they did), but it’s terribly unsatisfying.
Our backup story. Oh boy… we can really only start talking about that one by discussing the fashion-plate baddie, Adam Orion! I mean, what in the hell?! Punky Brewster would look at this dude and tell him to dial it back! That’s not to say I don’t love this dude’s look… because, really… I kinda do! It’s just so far out, I can’t help but dig it… a little bit.
It kinda goes back to what I was saying earlier… these old Legion stories kinda feel like they were made by kids! This is a costume that I could very easily see myself creating for a villain when I was in like fifth grade. An eye-patch? Crazy long hair? Spikes on the outfit for no real reason? Giant gun? That’s definitely a villain costume I’d have created as a child! It’s worth noting, that it doesn’t always look like this fella’s wearing pants. I assure you all of the bad guys I created as a kid were panted.
As for the story… it was silly. Bouncing Boy beats the Hunter… with a sneeze! You could just about hear the “wonk wonk wonnnnnk” as this one closed out. That’s not to say I didn’t like it though… it had a fair amount of charm, it was just silly.
Overall… perhaps not the most essential issue of Superboy (starring the Legion of Super-Heroes), but a fun enough romp for a buck-or-below. One thing I really appreciate about “learnin’ the Legion”, is using the DC Wiki… it seems like nearly every issue of Legion is the first appearance of someone (or something, like a new costume). It really makes each issue feel like an important piece of Legion-Lore… and makes me feel like I’m witnessing history… er, future history, that is.