Or – “Han Solo With Superhuman Strength…”
In his brilliant series “I Should Write The Legion,” Christopher Bird pointed out the inherent awesomeness of today’s entrant, the local Rimborian boy who made good. Â He’s a rogue who went straight, the Legion’s most street-smart member, and although he may not be a Rhodes Scholar, he’s still a clever kid who knows what really makes the world go round. Â As tough as Mon-El, as strong as Tom Welling, as fast as Dawnstar, he also has a very specific weakness (if you can call having Kryptonian level powers a weakness) in that he has to use them one at a time. Â This makes him sneakier and much more conservative than most of the Legion’s combat members, and has also served to give him more humanity than Mon or Mr. Welling could ever imagine, as he’s only immune to harm SOMETIMES. Â Possessor of one of the greatest “should-be-ugly-but-still-somehow-works” costumes in superhero history, two-time Legion leader, and the member who spends the most time in some sort of legal trouble, he’s also one of the most loyal Legionnaires, offering his “hit-first-cause-there’ll-be-trouble-later” brand of justice throughout every incarnation of the Legion thus far. Â This, then, is your Major Spoiler Hero History of Jo Nah of Rimbor… Â Ultra Boy!
Ultra Boy is one of those early Legionnaires, whose timeline is more than a little bit skewed due to the scattershot nature of those early tales.ï¿½ Officially, in continuity, he joined as the fourteenth member of the LSH, after Sun Boy, before even Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad, but his first actual appearance came in an issue of Superboy, after the first appearance of Shrinking Violet, who joined AFTER him.ï¿½ Chalk it up to the vagaries of the timestream, I guess, but either way, when Jo and his associate Marla Latham hit Smallville, their actions seemed just a bit sinister…
Seems like everybody was into figuring out Tom Welling’s secret identity in those days.ï¿½ Pete Ross, Lana Lang, Ultra Boy, with Jimmy and Lois in the wings just a few years later to pick up the torch of pulling back the cape…ï¿½ or however that sentence began.ï¿½ “Gary” infiltrates Smallville High with a fish-story that his academic transcripts were destroyed in a fire, but Pete Ross (who has kept his knowledge of Tom Welling’s secret identity secret from even Tom himself) thinks something is up.ï¿½ His attempts to protect his pal’s identity make Ultra Boy think that PETE is actually Tom Welling in disguise, and sets up a couple of deathtraps to prove it, only to be confounded when the Boy of Steel arrives to save Pete’s not-at-all invulnerable bacon.ï¿½ Pete Ross figures that his knowledge of Clark’s identity is dangerous, and so decides to take his diary and hide it in the Smallville bank safe, but the manager has a heart attack (!) and the door gets knocked shut.ï¿½ Clark can’t rip the save open because it’s protected by an explosive device (!!) and even he can’t see through the lead door, but suddenly, Ultra Boy and Marla arrive.ï¿½ Penetra-vision has no problems with lead, and the lock is quickly opened…
Best… origin… ever.ï¿½ “Eaten by a space whale, Jo Nah became empowered by the sludge in it’s giant cosmic duodenum, and was never quite the same…”ï¿½ Heh.ï¿½ Jo finally lets the other shoe drop, revealing that discovering Tom’s secret identity was his initiation ritual to none other than the LSH (but you knew that already) and that he and Marla are about to head home.ï¿½ Before they do, Ultra quietly thanks Pete for keeping Clark’s secret (penetra-vision and lead, remember?) and gives him a coin that will allow Pete to be a guest at Legion headquarters, even though he’s only been a member for roughly fourteen minutes himself.ï¿½ Gotta love bylaws…ï¿½ Ultra Boy was also at the center of one of my favorite early Legion stories, where the three most powerful members (Ultraï¿½Boy, Mon-El, and Tom) are mind-swapped with Nero, John Dillinger and a vaguely talented Austrian painter whose name doesn’t really need to be searchable on Major Spoilers, so we’re gonna call him Adolf Welling.
Although the Legion has trouble standing against it’s Titanic Three, they manage to make a good showing for themselves long enough for the three immortal evils to double-cross one another with the heroes specific weaknesses (Lead, Kryptonite, and for Ultra Boy, hard radiation) and bring one another down.ï¿½ With his awesome thunderbird chest symbol (supposedly meant to represent the Ultra-Energy Beast whose digestive tract gave him his powers) and unique orange-and-green color scheme, Ultra Boy was one of the most visible Legionnaires during this early period.ï¿½ But even his fellow Legionnaires were surprised when a super-computer spat out a shocking bit of information from the Rimborian science police…
Unfortunately, Saturn Girl is wrong, as the fingerprints and “pore-patterns” (?) confirm that Rann Varal is, indeed, their beloved U-Boy.ï¿½ Worse than that, he doesn’t try to defend himself, instead insisting that he may have been criminal in the past, but his Legion membership should count for something.ï¿½ His friends don’t agree, and unanimously (with the exception of Phantom Girl, who seems to carry something of a torch for him) vote him out of the Legion.ï¿½ Though Mon and Tom may be more powerful, none of the Legionnaires have done much time on the run, and Ultra Boy gives them the slip at ultra-speed.ï¿½ Even on the run, he manages to do good work, leading Mon-El to a race of mutated humans, allowing Mon to use his biophysics genius to save them.ï¿½ Not only that, Ultra Boy knows his pals so well that he’s able to out-maneuver the telepathy of Saturn Girl and the cleverness of Chameleon Boy.
Ultra Boy knows darn well that the “gun” is just Proty II in disguise, and makes a run for it, escaping to a world of phantoms to hide in the den of a group of villains.ï¿½ Unfortunately for him, he can’t escape the power of the human (or Bgztlian) heart, and Phantom Girl tracks him down.ï¿½ They’re both captured, but Ultra Boy bargains that he’ll give the pirates access to the Legion’s most powerful weaponry in return for asylum and a place in their sinister ranks.ï¿½ Returning to headquarters, a horrified Phantom Girl watches as the aliens capture Cosmic Boy and Brainiac 5 and her boyfriend seemingly gives the raiders access to the Legion arsenal…
This is one of the first indicators of Jo’s superior acting skills, a trait that would serve him well in the future, even allowing him membership in the Legion Espionage Squad.ï¿½ Since the rest of the members of the Squad all have stealthy powers, it’s pretty impressive that Ultra Boy was able to hang in such company.ï¿½ His romance with Phantom Girl quickly became an ongoing concern, one of the strongest and longest running Legion romances, right up there with Saturn Girl & Lightning Lad.ï¿½ It’s so strong, in fact, that Legion leader Brainiac 5 is forced to ban romance in the ranks.
Both Ultra Boy and Lightning Lad pop the question to their respective ladies, and all four Legionnaires prepare for their weddings.ï¿½ Unfortunately, due to an obscure bylaw of the Legion constitution, married members must leave the ranks immediately.ï¿½ (If you’re wondering why everyone has a voodoo doll of themself on a stick, you should probably know that on Bgztl, Phantom Girl’s home, it’s apparently tradition.ï¿½ As is getting married in your grungy battle gear right after a fist-fight with alien spies, apparently.)
With four of their own missing (yet still four times the size of most super-teams) the Legionnaires go on a recruiting mission, bringing in Blackout Boy, Magnetic Kid (not the same one who would go on to join the Legion) and Size Lad to bolster their ranks.ï¿½ The three newbies are quickly identified as traitors, and capture several Legionnaires in a not-really-all-that sinister trap.ï¿½ With the Legion seemingly in their clutches, the spies make their play to take over the world, only to find that they were expected all along, and the “weddings” were a sham to flush them out.
Ultra Boy may not have been the most polished or educated of the Legionnaires, but that didn’t stop him from campaigning successfully for Legion leader.ï¿½ Unfortunately for him, once in office, he was forced to oversee one of the saddest moments in Legion history, as Colossal Boy was drummed out of their ranks on charges of espionage and betrayal.
Colossal Boy was being blackmailed with the threat of killing his parents, a long story which I covered previously.ï¿½ Ultra Boy, on the other hand, continued his leadership tenure, and most impressively, won a SECOND term in the big chair.ï¿½ When Dave Cockrum took over the Legion, nearly everyone got a new look, but Ultra Boy’s classic hideously awesome look remained unchanged.
Y’know, given the amount of awesome technology and fortune-telling computers that the Legion has, you’d think they’d have fewer problems with people sneaking up and taking over the world on them.ï¿½ As the Cockrum era gave way to the Mike Grell days of the Legion, the kids grew up a little, but not so much that Tom Welling wouldn’t bring his girlfriend Lana Lang to the 30th century as a birthday present.ï¿½ When they arrive, they find that the Legion is on alert status, as one of their members has gone el bonzo seco, raging across the planet in a hail of destruction.ï¿½ The culprit?
The team explains that Ultra Boy lost his mind somehow, but Tom Welling believes he can help him.ï¿½ Entering the cell, Tom finds that having the ability to use only one power at a timeï¿½isn’t as much of a liability as it might have been if you’re quick andï¿½clever…ï¿½
Jo quickly ties up Tom Welling with his own invulnerable cape, squeezing the life out of him, until Tom falls unconscious.ï¿½ Oh, HELL YEAH!ï¿½ There aren’t many Legionnaires who ever got to put the hurting on the big blue boy scout, folks, so I enjoy this moment on many levels.ï¿½ But once Tom regains consciousness, the team sends him on a wild goose chase and we find that Ultra Boy ISN’T suffering from temporary madness… EVERYONE ELSE is.
Ultra Boy is quickly apprehended, and fitted with a pair of goggles that force him to emit ultra-energy through his eyes, forcing him to drop his invulnerability.ï¿½ Placed before a firing squad, Ultra Boy is seemingly executed when Tom Welling and Lana (as Insect Queen, a short story we’ll get to soon enough) sweep in and make the save.ï¿½ How did they know?ï¿½ When Jo tied up Mr. W, he used the Rimborian Hoax Knot, to let all-knowing Tom in on the fact that he was being hoaxed himself.ï¿½ Ultra Boy manages to turn the tables, taking out the telepathic mastermind controlling the Legion.ï¿½ Unfortunately for Jo, he wasn’t always a step ahead of the masterminds manipulating him.ï¿½ Returning to Rimbor to visit an old flame, Jo found himself rendered unconscious, awakening to find himself surrounded by the Legion and old friend Marla Latham…
Jo has no explanation for these events, and the Legion isn’t accepting his explanation that it’s all a scam, so he’s forced once again to flee from his teammates.ï¿½ Whomever killed An Ryd had to be familiar with the inner workings of the Legion to frame him, and Jo quickly realizes that he has to have been set up by one of his friends.ï¿½ Once again, his rough upbringing gives Jo the edge, as he quickly gives his teammates the slip.
Ultra Boy takes it on the run, baby, ’cause that’s the way they want it, baby, and they don’t want him around, ooooh…ï¿½ For long months, Ultra Boy is forced to hide out from his teammates, until eventually it is revealed that Brainiac 5 framed him to take the heat off the real killer… Pulsar Stargrave!ï¿½ Pulsar had impersonated Brainiac’s own father before revealing himself to be the original Brainiac.ï¿½ (That, too, was revealed to be a facade, and honestly, I have no idea who Pulsar really is…)ï¿½ Confronting the massively powerful Stargrave, Ultra Boy is eventually overpowered…ï¿½ and killed.
In the long months that followed, the team mourned the loss of one of their own, and Phantom Girl tried to overcome the loss of her true love.ï¿½ So when Reflecto, another Rimborian hero who had tried out for the Legion at the same time as Jo did, arrived to join the team, P.G. decided that he had to be Jo in disguise.ï¿½ A battle with Grimbor led to the revelation that Reflecto WAS a former Legionnaire in disguise, just not the one that they thought…
…well, technically TWO former Legionnaires.ï¿½ Tom Welling’s body and Ultra Boy’s mind were somehow smashed together, and the one thing that they held in common was the Legion.ï¿½ But how did Jo’s mind get stuck in the body of a boy who lives 1000 years in the past when he was last seen being annihilated by Pulsar?ï¿½ Stargrave didn’t disintegrate him, instead he threw him outside the timestream, where Jo’s mind did the rest…
His mind was thrust into Tom Welling’s body, and the Ultra/Super hybrid of Reflecto was created.ï¿½ The team went back in time, jumped through dozens of hoops to return Jo’s mind to his own body, only to have him wander off, amnesiac and become a pirate.ï¿½ Not long after, though, Ultra Boy was finally cleared of the murder charges and returned to active duty.ï¿½ As the Great Darkness Saga broke loose across the universe, Ultra Boy once again began campaigning for leader, only to find himself beaten by Dream Girl.ï¿½ Their particular management styles were somewhat less than compatible, and Ultra Boy found himself repeatedly sidelined by Dream Girl’s plans, until finally his patience was at it’s end.ï¿½ In a very Popeye moment, Jo let her know that he’d had all he could stands and he couldn’t stands no more.
Heh.ï¿½ No longer in the leadership race, Ultra Boy settled comfortably into his position as team powerhouse and first-responder, forging a friendship with fellow pseudo-Kryptonian Mon-El, and enjoying his time with Phantom Girl.ï¿½ When the war with the Legion of Super-Villains suddenly erupted, Ultra Boy was all over the place, and not an issue went by that the man in orange didn’t take out a villain in his inimitable style…
Oh, that had to hurt…ï¿½ Lazon’s not too bright, is he?ï¿½ At the end of the LSV saga, Ultra Boy was among the five Legionnaires who were lost somewhere outside our universe, and forced to find their way home.ï¿½ When they discovered a strange planet full of weapon factories, the team stops to figure out what’s going on, only to find the world full of Ultra Boy’s particular ‘kryptonite.’ï¿½
The team is stunned to discover that the entire planet is nothing more than a Controller breeding ground for Sun-Eaters, just like the one that killed Ferro Lad.ï¿½ Facing down the Controller, it’s Ultra Boy who gives the smackdown to both the Controller AND the planet (with a little help from the transformation powers of Element Lad.)
Unfortunately, it turns out that the Sun-Eater in question was being specifically bred to deal with an even BIGGER threat: the warworld of Tyrraz, led by the Warlord Tyr, an old Legion enemy.ï¿½ Some time after the five Legionnaires returned home, they were gathered again by the Controllers to fight the enemy that they inadvertently left unchallenged.ï¿½ With his teammatesï¿½ (Phantom Girl, Element Lad, Chameleon Boy, and Shrinking Violet) more suited for espionage activities, Jo quickly leapt into action, shouldering most of the ass-kicking duties.
The Legion takes out Tyr’s Warworld, and returns home, but they keep finding their world growing darker and more violent.ï¿½ As most of the team members struggle to adjust, Ultra Boy’s upbringing allows him to deal more easily with the new world, with only a costume upgrade of pure awesomeness to assist him.
The Magic Wars signaled the end of the Legion as we knew it (and they felt fine… well, no, not really, but I was on a roll.ï¿½ Just go with it…) and the entire universe changed in it’s stead.ï¿½ During the events of the Five-Year Gap, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl finally did decide to tie the knot, only to have Glorith blow up Phantom Girl’s shuttle on the eve of their wedding.ï¿½ Jo quit the Legion, returning home to Rimbor and his previous life as a bootlegger/pirate,ï¿½movingï¿½a cheaper alternative toï¿½the government-sponsored Silverale (which may or may not be an alcoholic beverage.)ï¿½ ï¿½ï¿½
The Han Solo comparison has never been stronger, and Jo’s smuggling ring is the most successful in years, thanks to competent leadership and Legion tactical training, but unbeknownst to Mr. Nah, the Dominators have put out hits on the former members of the LSH, and two giant androids converge on his home, killing his new girlfriend and destroying the building, with Jo inside.ï¿½ Thinking Ultra Boy dead, the androids prepare to head for home, seconds before they get a visceral explanation of why you do not #&$@ with Ultra Boy.
He quickly rips the creatures to shreds, and since his smuggling ring is finally destroyed, rejoins the newest incarnation of the Legion.ï¿½ After the murder of Blok by the Dominators, Rokk (Cosmic Boy) Krinn and Reep (Chameleon Boy) Daggle reformed a new LSH, and reforms on Winath at the Ranzz family plantation.ï¿½ When Roxxas the Butcher attacks, he manages to badly injure several Legionnaires before being pounded by Jo, switching quickly from Ultra-strength to Ultra-speed…ï¿½ Jo berates him for hurting his friends, and tells him he will pay for everyone he’s ever hurt, before Roxxas nearly signs his own death warrant.
The weapon doesn’t destroy Jo, instead thrusting him through the timestream (he has a real history of getting nearly blowed up real goodï¿½and instead sent back in time) landing on Dominator world in the distant past.ï¿½ Using his ultra-powers to build a ship, he flies towards Winath, only getting as far as Earth before crashing.ï¿½ Unfortunately for him, he finds that Earth is several CENTURIES away from any technology that might get him home, but once again his cleverness and skill at blending in allow him to survive.
What are the odds?ï¿½ A Bgztlian female on Earth in the early Egyptian period, who just happens to be found by a man who was in love with a Bgztlian female?ï¿½ Of COURSE, it’s a ruse, but he doesn’t find out for several years, building a home and a life with Asherya.ï¿½ Luckily (though he doesn’t think so at first) Jo runs afoul of Lord of Order Nabu (later the presence that empowers Doctor Fate) and his “girlfriend” Asherya is revealed to be a Lord of Chaos in disguise.ï¿½ Nabu destroys her, and realizing that Jo is out of his time, sends him back where he came from, to Winath in the 30th Century.ï¿½ His time in the past has finally allowed him to come to terms with losing Phantom Girl, and Ultra Boy finally faces his REAL Kryptonite…ï¿½ emotion.
Returning to his friends in the Legion, Ultra Boy again serves as Daxamite wingman in the forward battalion, though, in this case alongside Laurel Gand rather than her forebear Mon-El.ï¿½ The discovery of the SW6 Legion leads to a younger Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl returning to action with the young Legionnaires (and coincidentally torturing the older Jo.)ï¿½ The emotion torture aside, it’s not long before the Dominators make another attemptï¿½to undermineï¿½the Legion, this time by framing them for crimes they didn’t commit, and forcing the team underground.ï¿½ Jo left the Legion just as all hell broke loose, and the remaining Legionnaires took on new names and identities.ï¿½ On the run from the United Planets, the LSH find themselves on Rimbor, and are captured by a strangely familiar gang leader called Emerald Dragon…
Quelling the riots on Rimbor, the Legion and the newly minted UltraGreenBoyDragon find strange events occurring across the timestream.ï¿½ Time and space begin bending, and old friends disappear and are replaced, with Ferro being replaced by Bouncing Boy, and the timestream altering before their very eyes.ï¿½ When Mon-El suddenly remembers details of his long-lost past, he suddenly remembers a very familiar Bgztlian who worked with him 1000 years ago in Vril Dox’s L.E.G.I.O.N.ï¿½ Ultra Boy suddenly explodes, grabbing his best friend by the collar and accosting him.
Credit goes to Mon for calming Ultra Boy down, there…ï¿½ With the blessings of his new girlfriend Wave (the artist formerly known as Spider-Girl) Jo takes a time bubble and returns to the past, only to find that things aren’t exactly what they seem, and that HIS Phantom Girl is not the Phase that Mon worked with in the past.ï¿½ Returning to the future, he finds his world unravelling at the seams, but without his Tinya, Jo really doesn’t care.ï¿½ As the Legionnaires begin disappearing from the timestream, Jo returns to his teammates, and they finally come face to face with their old enemy, the Time Trapper.ï¿½ The Trapper is revealed to be none other than Rokk Krinn (somehow) and uses his powers to finally undo a great wrong for our Mr. Nah…
Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl fade from view, and the entire 30th Century resets itself in a retcon of cosmic proportion.ï¿½ A brave new world dawns, and the Legion is reformed under the auspices of the United Planets as a quasi-military force.ï¿½ Drafting the official powered representatives of dozens of planets, the U.P. doesn’t really notice some of the less…ï¿½ how shall we say…ï¿½ socially acceptable heroes out there, including a young lad from Rimbor who knows his way around a fight.
Ultra Boy, in his classic togs, makes a beeline for Legion Plaza.ï¿½ Though employed by Leland McCauley’s superhuman Work Force, Ultra Boy has found a fascination with a certain dark-haired intangible girl, and wants to try and talk to her.ï¿½ Unfortunately, founding Legionnaire Livewire (though I much prefer the name Lightning Lad) doesn’t take kindly to being spied upon, and starts a fight.ï¿½ In this, or indeed, any incarnation, Jo Nah is not the kind of boy to back down from a fight.
Livewire HAS figured out Jo’s weakness, but unfortunately he caused massive property damage andï¿½got drummed out of the Legion in so doing.ï¿½ Ultra Boy recruits him for the Work Force and finally gets his first date with Apparition (also a less interesting name than Phantom Girl) even though she doesn’t really understand why she’s fascinated with the strange boy from the wrong side of the Stargate…
Ultra Boy quits the Work Force soon after, realizing that McCauley is a lying, backstabbing, double-dealing, larcenous perverted worm for whom death is too good, and is given his shot in the big leagues with Legion membership.ï¿½ But when Shrinking Violet is possessed by the Emerald Eye of Ekron, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl are thrown back in time with roughly half the Legion’s number, forced to live in the nearly prehistoric 20th Century for almost a year.ï¿½ While in the past, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl find themselves growing even closer, and finally taking the ultimate step…
Man, the Archie Legion has some weird art…ï¿½ In any case, Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl were separated during the events of Legion Lost, with Tinya stuck on Rimbor and Ultra Boy far across the galaxy.ï¿½ Luckily, Phantom Girl and their baby (a story which I’ll get to when we talk about Tinya in a few weeks) were protected by a rival gang-lord of Jo’s, a man called Timber Wolf.ï¿½ Eventually reunited, Jo and his phantom bride lived happily ever after (barring some resentment of Timber Wolf) until the 30th century was, once again, rebooted by a crisis in time.ï¿½ The new Threeboot version of the Legion has returned to classic form, with a new twist: the team is less about authority than it is about the flaunting thereof, fighting as much against the generation gap as against villainy and injustice.ï¿½ When Triplicate Girl asks the threeboot Ultra Boy out on a date, she is a bit surprised to find that instead of a time-bubble or a flight ring, his mode of conveyance is a bit more unconventional.
I really enjoy most of this version of Ultra Boy, taking into account his roguish nature and relatively simple world-view, and folding in a nice helping of narcissism.ï¿½ There are still some rough edges (I don’t think of Jo as being as much of a musclehead) but at the very least, the basics are still there:ï¿½ Han Solo, super-powers, cool Thunderbird chest symbol, lather, rinse, repeat.ï¿½ When asked why he does these things, Ultra Boy has a simple answer.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve stolen that particular line a time or two, as it’s a pretty good one.ï¿½ Not long after, Ultra Boy and Trip are making out, and he goes for the Championship Belt, by urging her to triplicate…ï¿½ It’s something that ALL of us have thought, a time or two, but only Ultra Boy would have the guts to come out and say it.ï¿½ I have to say that, while I enjoy Mon-El and Tom Welling, Ultra Boy makes having Kryptonian-level powers seem as much fun as you’d imagine they would be.
Among the Legion, there are many who are book-smart, many who are learned, even a bonafide genius or three, but Ultra Boy still provides the teamï¿½a unique (and important)perspective on the world.ï¿½ His street-smarts allow the LSH access to a world that most of them have never even considered, and his greatest talent is less in his Tom Welling punches than it is in his subtle smarts and self-confidence.ï¿½ If the LSH were a high school, Ultra Boy would be the popular quarterback, self-assured and physical, but never as much of the ‘dumb jock’ cliche as others would have you believe.ï¿½ The rogue with the heart of gold, and fists of steel, Ultra Boy is the heart of the Legion, proving that no matter what your background or previous crimes, you can still make good and make a difference in the universe.
**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:
Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all!ï¿½ Next time around, the history of the Reboot Legion’s most acerbic insectoid life-form, the teleporter known only as Gates…