Action Comics #276 (May 1961)(cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye)
"Supergirl's Three Super-Friends!" (2nd story)
Jerry Siegel- Jim Mooney
Doug: Today's sort of a perfect storm, isn't it? Supergirl's a hot property these days due to the TV show. This short story was created by Superman's original scribe, Jerry Siegel, and the artist perhaps most recognized with Supergirl in Jim Mooney. Toss in the Legion of Super-Heroes and a whole bunch of new super-teens from the future, and I'd say this qualifies as a fun read. And boy, am I glad all that Civil War nonsense if over ;) ...
Doug: Around six months ago I reviewed Action Comics #267, where our heroine first met the Legion. If you'll recall, the Legion's founders (Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad) had offered Supergirl membership in their "superhero club". However, through a twist of fate Supergirl was aged to an adult -- thereby disqualifying her for membership in the teen supergroup! Once back in the 20th century, the aging process reversed and she returned to normal. One had the sense that she'd be seeing her new friends again at some point, and that's today's story. Action Comics #276 was only the 6th appearance of the Legion -- considering Superboy had only participated in Legion adventures four times before this story was published, I'd say it's pretty significant that Supergirl had 1/3 of the 20th century interactions with these 30th century kids so early in Legion history. Today I am using the Supergirl Archives, volume 2 for reading and scanning. I'd mentioned a few weeks ago that I was able to score volumes 1 and 2 in a lot for $30 via eBay. Not bad! How about a 100-Word Review?
The story is 13 pages long, and follows the standard formula for these adventures: Our protagonist is faced with a dilemma, the dilemma is met, complicated, and resolved. The story concludes with an "aw shucks!" moment. Yep -- that's how this one runs, and that leads us into --
Linda Lee sits with other girls, watching television at the Midvale Orphanage. She’s sad, however, because unlike other girls she has no girlfriend in which to confide. Getting out for some fresh air, Linda suddenly hears a voice in her head, telling her that she does have a super-girlfriend, and to go to Cranston Creek. Once there (as Supergirl), she meets Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, and Triplicate Girl – they’ve come to invite her to another Legion of Super-Heroes tryout! This time she’s accepted, has a parade in her honor, and meets a boy who like her: Brainiac-5. But his heritage…
The Good: Do you remember our conversation based on Paul O'Connor's posit that Silver Age DC Comics can be enjoyed "with the right mindset"? I agree with his position, but strangely, this ain't that. Why? First of all, I love the Legion. So by extension I love Superboy and Supergirl, because you can take the Krypton Kids out of the Legion, but you can't take the Legion out of the Krypton Kids! At least that's the way I see it. I didn't feel like I had to put any haughty sensibilities aside to enjoy this story, and that's saying something as I'm not certain who the target audience was for these Supergirl stories. One might assume if Superman and Superboy were both written for "10-year old boys", then Supergirl should have filled that role for 10-year old girls. We'd be wrong if we didn't think she existed to somewhat broaden the demographic for Super-books -- and sales, man! I didn't approach this as if I was a 10-year old girl -- instead I just read it as I would have when I was a kid, and I thought it was great. It's tough to free oneself from the weight of nostalgia, but that's OK. I think it's the main reason I keep returning to characters and stories that are familiar.
Jim Mooney's art is wonderful. I don't believe we've reviewed too much of his work on Bronze Age Spider-Man, whether it be the Peter Parker book or in Marvel Team-Up. Some people criticize Mooney's drawing of eyes (seems to be his trademark), but here his style is perfect. Mooney does a fantastic job of making these characters look like kids, something that's not always all that easy -- particularly with teenaged characters. He employs a conventional 5-6 panel lay-out with the art contained within the borders -- this was pretty standard in the Silver Age, and long before the "innovators" (Adams, Steranko, etc.) came along. The story is well-paced, and efficient. Part of that is due to the length (again, 13 pages), but that in itself has to present a challenge.
As stated above, we see the debuts of several new Legionnaires: the aforementioned Triplicate Girl (later revealed as the team's 4th member), Phantom Girl (later revealed as the team's 5th member), Brainiac-5, Sun Boy, Shrinking Violet, and Bouncing Boy. With the founders and Superboy, plus those we'd seen debut in Action Comics #267 (Colossal Boy, Chameleon Boy, and Invisible Kid), Supergirl would bring team membership to 13! How exciting that must have been to a young Legion enthusiast. I am not sure if Jim Mooney is credited with designing the costumes of these new youngsters, but if he is then it must have been fashion design of the volume undertaken later by Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell!
There's no messing around with Supergirl's trial this time, which was welcome. Sometimes these stories from the 1960s try too hard in creating obstacles for our heroes. No, the focus here is on getting Kara into the group. The antagonist in the story is actually a teammate who also gains admittance -- a young genius named Brainiac-5. She is taken aback upon meeting this handsome green-skinned young man (you know what? Here's another "good" about this story -- all these kids with strange powers, different colored skin, etc. and no shaming, no prejudice... Of course, we all know that the DC powers wouldn't here of a Black Legionnaire... so maybe nevermind), thinking he looks familiar. But Brainy launches a pre-emptive strike, owning his heritage immediately. He is the great-great-great-great grandson of Brainiac, 20th century foe of Superman. I'm no math major, but it's tough to get 1000 years time out of only five generations, ya think? Minor quibble. Brainy quickly falls for Supergirl, and she apparently has eyes for him. He even saves her life from a green Kryptonite meteor by giving her his forcefield belt, and then gifts it to her. She later uses it to destroy a green Kryptonite meteorite on Earth in our century (with assistance from Lori Lemaris and Jerro), protecting Superman from any future trouble. The problem is, the forcefield belt malfunctions during the operation. But all's well.
Krypto makes a cameo near the end of the story -- gotta love that! And overall, what could be better than Supergirl not only getting some new super-girlfriends, but a new super-boyfriend as well?
The Bad: The more I think about it, the illusion that DC was "integrating" the Legion with characters like Chameleon Boy, Brainiac-5, and Shadow Lass but would not have a leading Black character is bad. That's not a gripe specific to this story, but across the line. And Marvel wouldn't deal with this until a few years hence. But as to elements directly tied to today's story, the only overall aspects I'd complain about are broad tropes in the Supergirl mythos: Linda Lee's placement in an orphanage, and Jerro the merman pining for Supergirl. He seemed a bit too eager. I'd have blown him off, too, if I was Kara.
The Ugly: Nada.
My burning question for DC Comics is: Why aren't there Superboy Archives? I know there is a trade that reprints his earliest Golden Age adventures, but I'd love to re-read the Silver Age material. It's great that there have been two Supergirl Archives, and looking at some advance solicits I see DC is going to release a Supergirl Omnibus. That really does not further what we already have available to us. Let's go, DC! And get that 14th volume of Legion Archives out, already!