Or – “A Heart Of Iron, With A Face Even His Mother Didn’t Love.”

The kids of the Legion are a pretty diverse lot, spanning the galaxy as well as a spectrum of skin tones.  Some are made of energy, others made of stone, and at least one seemed to be made of nothing much at all.  And even though they’re heroic to a boy, kid, or lass, even the kids of the Legion have their own legends to live up to.  Case in point: a young man from Earth whose face was so horrible that even in the age of enlightenment, surrounded by aliens of all shapes, people couldn’t bring themselves to look at him.  Rather than take the path of many physically scarred types (notably The Viper, Doctor Doom, and Tony Montana) the extraordinary lad made the most of his shortcomings, joining the foremost heroic assemblage in the universe, and sacrificing himself to save the various worlds.  He is the man even the heroes of the Legion speak of in hushed tones, and rightfully so.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Andrew Nolan of Earth…  Ferro Lad!

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I’ve previously made mention of the ever-so-tragic Legion class of ’66, consisting of the traitorous Nemesis Kid, the noble warrior known as Karate Kid, and future young widow Princess Projectra.  But before Projectra’s endless emotional trials, before Val’s death, before Nemesis’ cold-hearted betrayal, came the moment that first proved the true depths of the Legion’s heroism.  Once again, we cast ourselves back in the Wayback Machine to Adventure Comics #346, moments after Projectra’s display of illusion, but before Karate Kid showed Tom Welling the floor…

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Since the Legion requires that each hero have a unique power, Ferro Lad gets in due to his density and invulnerability, and immediately is embroiled in a controversy.� Evidence begins to mount that one of the rookies is a traitor, and all four of the new kids are put under heavy scrutiny.� While most of the team shifts it’s attention to the seemingly-suspicious actions of Karate Kid (completely ignoring Nemesis Kid’s evil pointy cowl) Ferro Lad just gets on with his new job: busting villain skulls.

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K.K. is alive, though not for a lack of trying on Nemesis Kid’s part, and the green and gold clad yayhoo is driven from the Legion in disgrace.� Ferro Lad keeps a relatively low profile, going about his business without requesting any attention or�extra glory.��The presence of Tom Welling, Mon-El and Ultra Boy may also have had something to do with his lower profiles, as well.� Still, when�two new members (Sir Prize and Miss Terious) show up�and insist that they be allowed to join the team, the normally�withdrawn Ferro Lad feels the need to step up and voice his concern…�

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In this case, though the new kids AREN’T actually telling the whole truth, it turns out to be for the best, as they are revealed to be former Legionnaires Star Boy and Dream Girl.� Ferro Lad’s quiet brand of heroism continues though, as Andrew tends to take a more reactive role within the Legion, acting as rear-echelon guard and covering his teammates with his nearly invulnerable iron hide.� A man that I consider to be one of the greatest Legionnaires of all time, the legendary Matter-Eater Lad, owes his very continuation to Ferro Lad (which also makes Ferro Lad indirectly responsible for saving the world several times, even after meeting his fate.

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While the kids of the Legion generally lived in a time free of war, strife, poverty and hunger, there was still a sizable chunk of evil floating around.� When a renegade Controller unleashed the unbelievable power of a creature called The Sun-Eater, even the powers of the Legion weren’t enough to stop it.� The Legionnaires scattered throughout the galaxy, gathering the most powerful and dangerous criminals to assist in their efforts to stop the creature.� Ferro Lad stopped the execution of one ‘Mano’ (stopping a space-guillotine with his bare hands) but even the powers of the greatest villains didn’t give the Legion the edge over the ‘Eater.� Brainiac 5 and evil genius Tharok combined their efforts to create an explosive device powerful enough to stop the Controller’s pet monster, but don’t have time to come up with one very important piece of ordinance…

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There are two schools of thought on that scene.� The less charitable Legion fans have occasionally voiced the opinion that Tom Welling must have taken the dive, letting the less-powerful Ferro Lad sacrifice himself in Tom’s place.� Me, I favor a another interpretation, frankly a BETTER interpretation.� In keeping with his tendency to stay in the background, Ferro had never had to tax his unimaginable strength to the limit in front of his friends and teammates before, and T.W. was, frankly, unprepared for the full power of the iron Legionnaire.� In either case, before the others can stop him, Nolan is out the airlock and in action, arming the explosive as he goes.� That sun-eater doesn’t stand a chance, folks…

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The five villains immediately break loose, and declare themselves “The Fatal Five,” setting off on a career of evil-doing, but the Legion is overcome by the loss of one of their own.� Even though they had�dealt with the loss�Lightning Lad before, this was the first time that the Legionnaires (who, it’s important to remember, are teenagers) had to deal with the permanent death of one of their own.� The Legion inters their lost son on the asteroid Shanghalla, known throughout the universe as the resting place of the greatest heroes of all time.

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The unusual energy trace races through the atmosphere, slicing through the very walls of Legion headquarters before striking the central computer.� Cosmic Boy, Tom Welling, Projectra, Brainiac 5 and Sun Boy find themselves haunted by ongoing dreams of the long-lost Ferro Lad, to the point where none of them can even rest.� The harried Legionnaires gather to perform a seance (anchored by Projectra) and find that the ghost of Ferro Lad has inhabited their headquarters, and that he won’t free their minds of his evil influence until they disband the Legion and leave Earth… forever!� The team heeds his warning, only to find that it wasn’t a ghost at all, but the same renegade Controller who caused Nolan’s death.

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As the Controller reaches for the handle that would turn Tom Welling into a total zombie, he is taken by surprise as the rest of the Legionnaires bust in to save their token 20th century farmboy.� The Controller is quickly overcome and runs away to another room, reaching for another switch to another doomsday device, when a booming voice orders him to step back.� We don’t see what the Controller sees, only the horror in his face, and the Legionnaires race in, only to see the alien dead on the floor, of the equivalent of a heart attack.� He was frightened to death, by something…� and Brainiac 5 has one MORE question for Tom…

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Who, indeed?� In a world of science and futuristics, the presence of this strange piece of ephemeral superstition comes across as a bit odd, and completely sentimental (in the good way.)� Later writers have occasionally tried to explain away the presence of the spirit in this story, but, frankly, I’m recapping and I didn’t like those stories as much as this one.� Not long after, Jim Shooter created what was simultaneously the most creative and creatively-shackling concepts of all time: The Adult Legion stories.� In the future of the far-flung future, the adult heroes find themselves accosted by a shade from their past, a man who has the same disfigurement and abilities as Ferro Lad.

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According to the letter column, DOUGLAS Nolan later joined that future Legion as Ferro Man, and was every bit as heroic as his brother…� But, as mentioned, that future Legion story was a bit restrictive, and many writers that came later chose to simply ignore it.� But things kept occurring from those future stories (including the addition of Shadow Lass to the team, the advent of Reflecto, the death of Chemical King, and more) and the question finally had to be dealt with: is it the future, or an alternate reality?� Though Douglas Nolan grew to become Ferro Man in the future, in the “mainstream” Legion reality, he was trapped in the Time Institute, driven�insane by endless glimpses of alternate realities.� On the anniversary of Ferro Lad’s death, Brainiac�5 and Rond Vidar finally discover a way to view the realities he sees, and find that only ONE makes him happy…�

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This was also, to my knowledge, the only time we got a glimpse (however fleeting) of how Ferro Lad’s features actually might have looked.� Douglas Nolan’s retreat from reality did accomplish a few things…� It proved the that Future Legion stories were an alternate reality, it gave Andrew a happy ending, and in a way, it prolonged the heroic legend of Ferro Lad.� A few years after that, Princess Projectra returned to the Legion as Sensor Girl, greatly changed by the events of her life.� Projectra takes a moment to tell the story of what she and her comrades did immediately after their initiation and the ejection of Nemesis Kid, fighting off a conspiracy by the Khunds to undermine Earthgov.

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Karate Kid and Ferro Lad struck up a friendship, that was quickly tested by the field of battle, and the three Legion tyros used their unique powers in concert to overcome the Khundish threat, and the new kids realized that they worked well together.� Both Lad and Kid competed for the attention of the Princess, and it seems pretty obvious to me that had Ferro Lad survived, Karate Kid could have had a rival for her attentions…

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That last panel is so incredibly touching, but sad at the same time.� “It did last,” Projectra remembers, “For TWO lifetimes…”� That piece of dialogue actually brought tears to my eye.� The Legion has had a lot of restarts and reboots in their history, but there was one in particular that set the tone for the Reboot and Threeboot realities to come.� Once again, we have a small sidebar about the events that took place in OUR world that colored events in the Legions.� After the Five Year Gap jump took place, an older and darker version of the Legion arose, but it quickly became clear the that Superman offices didn’t want any part of it, and DC’s editorial staff was at odds.� The decision was made to remove Clark Kent and any mention of Tom Welling (whose superhero career was actually erased by the original Crisis) from the Legion books.� To that end, a time-travel retcon was devised that would replace Tom Welling with Lar�Gand, known to longtime fans as Mon-El.� Mon managed to destroy the Time Trapper, and the world suddenly changed.� Without the Trapper, Mordru the Merciless had run rampant, and taken over the entire universe.� But one freedom fighter, known for his misshapen visage, hidden under a mask, fought on…

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Even without a Legion to inspire him, Andrew Nolan is a hero, giving his life to protect�a spell that mystically rewove reality.� The Time Trapper was gone, replaced by Glorith of Balduur, and Legion history was mostly restored, save for a decided lack of Tom Welling and nearly anything that might be even remotely related to him.� The new volume four Legion soldiered on, and eventually the discovery was made of a duplicate Legion of Super-Heroes in Earthgov custody.� Since this team was “cloned” from the middle of their run in Adventure Comics, it featured several long-gone team members, including a rejuvenated Ferro Lad…

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The young Ferro Lad was a bit brasher than his adult teammates remembered, but still had the same Ferro Lad charm.� Much like Colossal Boy, his job was, essentially, to function as a lineman while the quarterbacks called the plays.� But, since this was the angsty 90’s, his ‘deformity’ is played for much more drama than it ever was in the 60’s.� When a mind-altering villain plays on the Legion’s insecurities, only the strongest willed members can shake it off…

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…including our fair Ferro Lad.� The SW6 Legion’s existence soon proved problematic, as the Zero Hour Crisis began to show it’s toll on the 30th century.� One of the earliest signs that something was terribly wrong came in mid-battle as Matter-Eater and Ferro Lads go into action against a group of criminals.

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Ferro is gone, replaced by Bouncing Boy, and the Legionnaires don’t know the difference.� The timestream continues to change, but some of the older Legionnaires are unaffected, due to their own anomalous natures.� When Andromeda (the younger version of Laurel Gand, herself a version of Supergirl…� a long story, which I’ll get to later) and Apparition (a terrible renaming of Phantom Girl) hear of their counterparts belief that Ferro Lad was among the young Legionnaires, they can’t believe what they’re hearing.

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It would seem that Ferro Lad’s destiny is to be a statue in the Legion’s Hall of Fallen Heroes, regardless of the retcons involved.� The Zero Hour Crisis actually forced the teams to work together, realizing that the SW6 team was actually the Legion itself, stolen from a moment in their past, and the existence of both teams together was destroying the fabric of the 30th century.� They eventually discovered a way to reunite, essentially rebooting the Legion from day one.� This new Legion bore uncanny similarities to the first, but eventually diverged wildly.� When Shrinking Violet was possessed by the Emerald Eye of Ekron, the Legion was split in two, with half the team trapped in the 20th century.� While in the past, a grown Superman (I’ll call him George Reeves) interacts with those who used to be his childhood friends, and they meet a young homeless man from Metropolis named Andy…� if you don’t see where this is going, go get a drink and think on it.� The sons of a prominent actress, Andy and his twin brother Douglas were born a bit different…

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Working alongside�George Reeves�in an unofficial capacity, young Andrew is nicknamed Ferro, and gathered with the other heroes to try and offset a big problem: Earth’s sun is being consumed by a Sun-Eater.� Anybody got goosebumps yet?� Some of the greatest minds (hero AND villain) pool their resources to try and find a way to reverse the process and fail.� But then, naive young Ferro steps forward with a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel…

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Now, before I get to the plan itself, I have a couple of observations to make.� The original stories featuring Ferro Lad were VERY sophisticated fare for 1967, dealing with themes of heroism, betrayal, and death.� The whole “punch out�Tom Welling�and throw yourself onto a bomb to save the world” story was way ahead of it’s time, no matter how quaint and archaic it may seem now.� Yes, the bomb had antennae and little coils, and yes, it was�a pat and somewhat silly ending, but it had real resonance and power, regardless of its whimsy.� That said, in the dark and oh-so-very-relevant decade known as the 90’s, there was only one thing to do with whimsy.� You had to mock it, the way a teenager mocks anything that isn’t hip and edgy…

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Brainiac 5 lets Ferro down gently (after a telepathic chewing out by Saturn Girl) telling him that he “isn’t smart enough” to build that particular bomb.� The sun is instead reignited by Hal Jordan using the combined power of the Guardians of the Universe (which, honestly, isn’t any cooler than Ferro and his bomb, if ya ask me) and the Legion soon after finds a way to break through the timestream and return home.� Unfortunately, they have to leave a heart-broken Ferro behind.

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I really hope that SOMEBODY at least checked the record books to make sure that Ferro wasn’t destined to be the father of a mighty president, or maybe the President of the Justice League or something.� I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt.� Sadly, though, Ferro’s insecurities end up hampering him as a Legionnaire in his first adventure with the reassembled team…� A mysterious woman whose gaze turns people to stone attacks, and Shrinking Violet puts two and two together.

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He reveals to the mysterious old man that he feels like a loser, that he’s completely out of his element in the far-flung future, but the truth is he WAS key in defeating the villain.� The old man tells him that everyone has feelings of inadequacy, even his fellow Legionnaires, and that he has to give himself a chance to grow into his heroic role…

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A newly-rejuvenated Ferro takes to the air to join his friends, and the old man reveals himself to be Chameleon, encouraging the new kid.� Ferro Lad’s tenure with the Legion proves him to be both brave and resourceful, and eventually he becomes close friends with Karate Kid (only natural, given their origins.)� When the Stargate system that connects the various planets collapses, Ferro and Karate Kid are trapped on the distant world of Steeple.� Ferro has come along with his friend to learn greater self-control and increase his will-power to better harness his steel powers.� Ferro is attacked there by a hideous escaped murderer called Nadir, and the resulting injuries trap him in his iron form.� Still, he returns to the Legion again, and serves in good standing until this incarnation, too, is rebooted by the caprice of the universe (and quarterly publishing revenues.)

Still, for one of the shortest tenured Legionnaires, the shadow of Ferro Lad is a long one indeed.� Even Tom Welling held him up as a paragon, the kind of hero even he aspired to become.� When you put it all together, you get a portrait of a man who knew he wasn’t the strongest or the most powerful, who knew that he wasn’t going to lead the team, but still knew that his contribution would mean something.� His job was to wait until the threat identified itself, then hit it until it fell down, and with all due respect to the Batman, there’s always going to be room for that kind of hero.� I always repeat the mantra that, in the Legion, EVERYONE has something to contribute, but moreover, everyone has a lesson to teach.� The lesson of Ferro Lad is a simple one: “Do the best you can with what you’re given.”� That Ferro Lad’s short tenure as a hero is still fondly remembered today is a testament to a young man who wouldn’t let his disfigurement define him, and never let fear spoil his aim…

**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! Our previous Major Spoilers Hero Histories include:

Blok
Bouncing Boy
Brainiac 5
Colossal Boy
Dawnstar
Dream Girl
Karate Kid
Lightning Lass
Matter-Eater Lad
Sensor Girl
Star Boy
Timber Wolf
Tyroc
Wildfire
XS

Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! Next time around: the spiritual stylings of the last son of Trom, and the transformations he has gone through: Element Lad!

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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7 Comments

  1. Randallw
    August 27, 2007 at 4:18 am — Reply

    If I may for a moment make reference to the link you added

    “what makes Tenzil unique is that he possesses an amazingly silly superheroic power and he’s in the Legion, mostly on the basis of sheer goddamned balls. Tenzil being a lawyer or a fry cook (as he was during the “Archie Legion” period) completely misses the point. (Of course, maybe Bedard is setting up for Tenzil joining the Legion. I don’t know.)

    That blog is somewhat out of date. Sure it’s a week or two but hmm.

    but anyway, to the topic on hand. All I knew of Ferro Lad was he sacrificed himself to stop the Sun Eater. What comes to mind was that at the start of Exiles one of the new team was Magnus (The son of Magneto and Rogue) whose power, albeit an unintentional by product, was turning whoever he touched into iron. He too sacrificed himself on his first mission to save everyone. Although granted he didn’t have a chance of achieving anything. Seems very coincidental.

  2. August 27, 2007 at 9:44 am — Reply

    Awesome! I have printed it out and plan to read the Ferro Lad post at home tonight.
    Thanks for taking the time to put these together.

    RobOrange aka “Major Spoilers Fanboy”

  3. August 27, 2007 at 10:35 pm — Reply

    I really enjoy these Legion Hero Histories that you all have been doing. Thanks a lot!

    It reminds me of when I loved the Legion. I never could get into the 5 year jump or anything after it, so for me the series ended in last issue 1989, before the jump and everyone got all dark and moody. Honestly, the first Crisis had started the downward slide for me. I’ve tried to get into it it with each new re-boot, but can never stand it for long. To many great memories.

    Don’t if anyone saw it here, but they actually played the Sun-Eater story out in the season finale of the new cartoon with Ferro Lad sacrificing himself. I thought that took some guts. They could have kiddified it and skirted the death, but they included it.

  4. August 28, 2007 at 1:45 am — Reply

    I really enjoy these Legion Hero Histories that you all have been doing. Thanks a lot!

    Hey, that’s why they pays me the big bucks. They’re actually 20% larger than anything that counts as real, legal tender. :)

    Don’t if anyone saw it here, but they actually played the Sun-Eater story out in the season finale of the new cartoon with Ferro Lad sacrificing himself. I thought that took some guts. They could have kiddified it and skirted the death, but they included it.

    The new Legion cartoon is a fave-rave at my house, with it’s awesome take on Matter-Eater Lad, Bouncing Boy, the whole Sun-Eater story, and even their odd-yet-compelling take on Brainiac 5. My daughter Molly loves it, saying that Saturn Girl is her favorite, but also enjoying “That Boy With A F On Him,” (Ferro Lad) “Tooth Man,” (M-E Lad) “Jumping Boy and His Three Girls,” and Tom Welling, who she claims is Daddy. I’ve actually been torn a number of times as to whether I should reference it as part of the Double H’s, and have figured that it would only muddy the already swirling waters of Pre-Crisis, Reboot, and Threeboot continuities.

    Still, it’s pretty impressive, and I hope that the revamped Season Two doesn’t disappoint me…

  5. Juanma
    August 30, 2007 at 4:05 pm — Reply

    Great!! Thank you for these memorable reading. I´m a voracious reader from Argentina and the legionaires were allways my favorities dc characters. I´m hoping to read the one´s of Duo Damsel and Cosmic boy.

  6. Katya
    May 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm — Reply

    I watched the Cartoon. Yes, I said watched, bacause they CANCAELLED IT after the end of the second season when Braniac 5 went insane, (taken over by the consince of the original Braniac) beat it, and left the Legion to sort itself out. It ends on the line of the originalBraniac, after his seeming demise, says something like ‘evil doesn’t die, it evolves’. And then they left us with this huge cliffhanger! I don’t call that fair. That was one of the only things I watched on TV.

  7. andrew nolan
    July 28, 2008 at 9:42 pm — Reply

    i think fero is the coolest hero erver not because his name is the same as mine but he was born befr me lol thanks for posting this information

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