Or – “All The Powers At Once???”
When I began the Hero Histories of the Legion of Super-Heroes, my initial intention (after eulogizing the recently-dead-again Karate Kid) was to defend the honor of a couple of my old favorites, which is why we began with Matter-Eater Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Blok. It was some time before I really realized what this particular project needed to be about, indeed what the Legion itself is implicitly about. As we progressed through the history of the Legionnaires, I realized that the point of it all was that anyone, that EVERYONE can contribute to a better world, if given a chance. As the Histories continued, it became both easier and harder to do them, as it’s relatively easy to find something to say about a high-profile Legionnaire like Lightning Lad, but it’s hard to find something that hasn’t been said a dozen times before. This is the reason why I’m glad that we are where we are today… Naysayers may claim that today’s Hero History is the easiest of all, what with the undeniable awesomeness of the subject matter. Indeed, when Jor-El began the firing sequence that sent that fateful rocket into the sky, there was no way that he could have seen what was to come for the universe overall. It is thus that we are finally ready to examine the greatest achievements of the dead planet Krypton, the heroic legacy that keeps it alive in our memory, the very HEART and SOUL of the Legion and all that it eventually came to represent. It is truly the Major Spoilers Hero History to end all Hero Histories…
This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of Comet the Super-Horse, of Earth; Krypto the Super-Dog of Krypton; Streaky, the Super-Cat of Earth; Beppo, the Super-Monkey of Krypton; and Proty II of Antares…
THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS!
Hey, I SAID I was going to be covering Krypton’s greatest achievement, didn’t I? We’ll get to that Welling kid soon enough.
The origins of this Legion range far and wide, and cover a lot of turf, so stay with me here. (They also take place in issues that I don’t own and can’t afford, but that’s neither here nor there.) The first of the LSP, and literally the blueprint for the other members was Krypto, originally Kal-El’s puppy, until Jor-El got the bright idea to test his planetary escape rocket on his son’s beloved pet. (Father of the year he was not…) The hapless mutt was lost in space for decades until he arrived on Earth (as all Kryptonian detritus did) and was reunited with his master. Streaky, on the other hand, started as a perfectly normal cat until exposed to a special form of “X-Kryptonite,” a by-product of Supergirl’s experiments to neutralize the deadly rock. Beppo was another Jor-El lab experiment, a Kryptonian primate used to test early versions of the rocket ship that saved Jor-El’s son, who then stowed away in Kal-El’s escape ship. As for Comet, he was a centaur in ancient Greece who tried to become human and ended up getting turned into a super-powered flying horse. He eventually became Supergirl’s pet, and also (while transformed into human form) her boyfriend (which is creepy in roughly a dozen different ways.) Each of these Super-Animals popped up occasionally to assist/torment/woo the various members of the El dynasty, but it wasn’t until a certain morning in Smallville that the fates conspired to create true greatness. It began as Kal and Krypto sprang into action to save a small plane in jeopardy.
Clark comes to his senses and apologizes to the invulnerable cur, but something is obviously up. The Boy of Steel is troubled by his actions, but quickly forgets about it as the Legion appear on his doorstep. Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl have a favor to ask of their old friend…
The founding Legionnaires whip out Kryptonite rings and quickly immobilize their 20th century member, destroying his robots out of pure spite before the truth behind their out-of-character actions. The Legionnaires have been mind-controlled by alien overlords of the worst kind: FLOATING BRAINS FROM SPACE! These Brain-Globes, from the planet Rambat, are controlling the Legion, and are responsible for Kal’s bout of Krypto-cidal behavior…
The Brain-Globes have Kal on the ropes, but the sudden intervention of Krypto turns the tide, and the Dog of Steel engages the Brain-Globes to free his invulnerable master from their floating lobey evil. Krypto fails to free his boss, but he does succeed in breaking the creatures’ telepathic hold on the Legion, and Saturn Girl realizes that the space-organs cannot control Krypton’s canine mind. The Legionnaires leap into their time-globe and set about traversing the timestream to find additional allies against the eeevil Brain-Globes of Rambat…
I believe I must quote our dear friend Adriana when I say, “Oh my god. GET OFF THE DOG!” At least Cosmic Boy has the dignity to go into battle ALONGSIDE the Kryptonian monkey (remember, if it doesn’t have a tail, it’s not a monkey, even if it has a monkey shape) rather than get little hats and play space-organ-grinder or something. Lightnin Lad’s ridiculousness aside, the quadruple threat of the animal kingdom make short work of the monstrous floating (and for some reason, hairy) space brains, who quickly fly away for no raisin. Our fourteen legged cavalry then checks on the status of the irradiated Boy of Steel…
Clark , as always, gets in the last word, using his super-breath to return the planet to its proper orbit, and the Legionnaires apologize and exit, stage 1000 years thataway. Given the type of threats that the Legion faces, though, it isn’t long before another galaxy-shattering threat arises. When all the female Legionnaires (except for Supergirl) are stricken with a mysterious crimson plague, the LSH seeks out the culprit, only to find that the mysterious Satan Girl is behind it all. Satan Girl confounds the team at every turn, taking particular pleasure in attacking Supergirl. When all seems lost, the Legionnaires call in their big guns.
Satan Girl is unmasked as an evil Red Kryptonite duplicate of Supergirl, who disappears when the Red K wears off, but once again, the Legion of Super-Pets easily overcame a menace that the entire assembled Legion could not, and they did it with only four opposable thumbs between them. Of course, back in the day, the greatest threat to Superman never seemed to come from Brainiac or Luthor, but from the girls who professed to love him. When Lois and Lana conspire to reveal Clark’s identity, the Super-Pets would easily save the day, but they’re focused on honing their act for television.
The day is eventually saved for Clark in an unusual way. When none of the usual people who could double for Superman were available to cover for him during a television broadcast, he turned to the one man that even Superman could trust: the President of the United States, John. F. Kennedy. Of course, no one at DC could have foreseen the poor timing on this issue, which hit the stands during the last week of November, 1963. (Look it up, Faithful Spoilerites.) Presidential misfortune notwithstanding, the Legion of Super-Pets take several traditions from their human counterparts, but as Chameleon Boy’s faithful sidekick Proty II finds out the hard way, one of those traditions is the torturing of potential applicants for membership…
Unfortunately, the pride of Antares isn’t a quadruped, nor is he invulnerable, so the Super-Pets insist that he prove his worthiness to join their group with a series of tests. His first mission is a difficult one: impersonate Tom Welling and successfully finish his next mission before he can. Lacking the full-scope of Kryptonian abilities, Proty is hard pressed when Brainiac 5 asks him to fly across the universe and acquire a special mineral called Vorium to power a time-sphere. Still, the little blob knows he has what it takes to join the Legion, and hops a spaceship across the galaxy. When he finds the Vorium field and the animals who mine it as part of their daily routine, he slips into their herd unnoticed…
How do you foil the telepathic powers of Titan’s finest space cadet? If you’re Proty, you pretend to be Chameleon Boy, then turn into Proty during the mission with the careful aside, “I’ll even think like Proty to fool them!” The real question is this: how does Streaky manage to tie his cape in a knot like that with no fingers? Beppo the Super-Monkey probably has to help him. Of course, that same Super-Monkey gives poor Proty II the most difficult test of all: keep the Legionnaires out of their own headquarters for one hour. But how to do it?
With only his wits and his cunning, Proty II assembles a mishmash of spare parts from Brainiac’s lab and sprawls out on the floor of the clubhouse…
The Super-Pets are mildly impressed by the efforts of Proty, but Krypto (the alpha-dog, you should excuse the expression) comes up with the most difficult test of all: track Krypto himself wherever on Earth he may go using his awesome array of Kryptonian powers. (Y’know, to me it sounds remarkably like they really don’t WANT Proty in the team at all…)
Oh no! Krypto has been saved, but has poor Proty overtaxed even his amazing shape-shifting abilities? Is this the end of Proty II?
Naaaah… But it seems that the moral of the story is this: To get into the Legion of Super-Pets, you have to prove that you’re just as mean-spirited as they are. The More You KNOW! Not long after the Super-Pets gain their fifth member, the LSH accidentally flies their cruiser through the jaws of the legendary Gorilla Nebula, causing the team to believe that they are jinxed. Hearing their thoughts, Proty turns into a legendary Jinx-Stone, which freaks out Chameleon Boy. To prove that there’s no such thing as bad luck, the LSHers all touch the stone…
Cham’s misfortune causes the rest of the Legionnaires to get very paranoid about their own fortunes, and suddeenly the heroes worry that somehow, they’ve all been cursed, even wondering about unlucky things they’ve done in the past. Bouncing Boy apparently set a clock before losing his powers, and even Lightning Lad stepped on a new planet with his left foot, which is unlucky…
“Was it bad luck that we all prepared these visual aids for just such an emergency?” The Legionnaires continue to encounter bad luck, and misfortunes pile up in their wake before the team finds that things are being manipulated by the Luck Lords of planet Ventura. the Luck Lords use their powers to put the heroes on the ropes, and bad luck threatens to destroy the entire Legion of Super-Heroes. Who can save the super-heroes from the vicissitudes of cruel fate?
The Legion of Super-Pets refuse to be superstitious, because everybody knows that’s unlucky. And get a load of Comet’s game face in that second-to-last panel. He looks like he’s about to cut a promo on Triple H… Intense! But, it’s not all rushing in to save the day for the Super-Pets, my friends. The greatest heroes of the 20th and 30th century also like to hang out and do what super-pets do best…
The super-pets quickly take out the murderous missiles, tearing through the alien devices like a chainsaw through Proty, then report back to the LSH what they’ve discovered. It is here that things take an unsavory turn…
Man, Brainiac 5… I want to say this, as a friend. There are a lot of decaffeinated brands on the market that are just as tasty as the real thing. With their masters’ seemingly disapproving of their superheroic awesomeness, the five spurned super-pets set off angrily to find someplace where they will be appreciated, a sanctuary which they discover on the far-off planet Thanl…
The Legionnaires, for their part, discover after a space battle that the alien ships they lambasted their pets for not following couldn’t have BEEN followed (but it never occurred to them that excoriating a horse, monkey, dog and cat for lack of tactics was somewhat less than logical) and seek out their wildlife buddies to apologize. But the Legion of Super-Heroes soon find that sorry don’t pay the bills.
You wanna know what you can do with your “can’t desert us,” Kara?
Streaky got your “can’t desert us” right here. The Super-Pets easily take down their human counterparts (but given that the LSHers use tactics like the brilliant “turn into a piece of wax paper with your own face on it” gambit, I don’t know that it’s so surprising) and return to Thanl to live in opulence, renouncing their masters and being pets no more as the newly-minted Legion of Super-ANIMALS. But it seems that their new Thanlian friends may not have the team’s best interests at heart…
And thus, this becomes not just a five-way Hero History, but in fact a SEVEN-WAY Hero History, as Blockade Boy and Biron the Bowman (whom Supergirl recognizes as looking like her ex-boyfriend, who is also her pet horse and was a centaur who becomes a man) are admitted to the Legion as their newest members. (But, wait, isn’t there a rules about having super-powers, and another about carrying a weapon? Keep readin’, Faithful Spoilerites.) Biron and Blockade Boy realize that they ARE being played, but it’s NOT by their former masters as they suspected…
The Legion of Super-Animals are caught by surprise as the Thanlians (how would one even pronounce that, anyway?) are revealed to be behind the mysterious Crime Machines, and both Legions are forced to work together to take down the aliens.
The Super-Pets return to the Legion fold, but the unpleasant events of this adventure seem to have soured the team on working together for a while. It is many months before the Legionnaires find themselves mysteriously marooned on a lost planet, with every escape attempt failing, and multiple disasters dogging their every move. But when a mysterious whirlpool saves the life of Bouncing Boy and Triplicate Girl, team leader Ultra boy realizes that something more is going on. He uses his powers in one last desperate attempt to save his team, and they return home just in time to see duplicates of themselves horribly killed in a ray blast. What’s going on here? Cue the “brothers” El, Mon and Kal, with the details…
“You guys are our pals, and all, but this situation was so desperate that we really needed SERIOUS help. So, we got a dog, a cat, a horse and a monkey for backup and stuck you on a distant moon and stuff. Sorry about that!” You heard it right from the horse’s mouth… Well, technically, from the horse’s owner’s first cousin’s mouth, but bygones. Four super animals are easily the match for an entire LEGION of human heroes. A few months later, the Legion discovers that United Planets bylaws will force them to pay taxes on all of their equipment and the donations they receive from the U.P. if they exceed 25 members. One Legionnaire must quit, and each team member wants to be the one to be noble. But when Supergirl tries to be the one to quit, the LSP is once again moved to emergency action…
Rather than lose the Legion of Super-Pets, the team accepts the resignation of… TOM WELLING. Let me say that again. In order to maintain the services of the LSP, the Legion of Super-Heroes instead gives up the powers of the man who would be Superman. It’s pretty telling that the team would rather dispense of their idol, their inspiration, than give up the power and the companionship of their four-legged and/or amorphous counterparts. The Legion of Super-Pets never came together again after this last-minute save, though, and the landscape of the 30th century was forever lessened because of it. Though they came from different planets, different backgrounds, even different centuries, they still managed to prove the point of all incarnations of the Legion: Every person has something to contribute, even if they’re not a person at all. Put simply (in deference to Stephen):
Four red towels: 10 credits.
One bag of oats, two bags of Purina, one bunch of bananas, and whatever it is a mobile snot blob eats: 75 credits.
A legacy of heroism that transcends even species: Priceless.
**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:
Invisible Kid II
Karate Kid II
The White Witch
Or you can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page… Collect ’em all! Next time, I give up on the swerve, and rocket myself back to the dead planet Krypton, for an in-depth look at the hero who inspired it all. His parents named him Kal-El, his adoptive parents Clark Kent, and I call him Tom Welling: Join us for the history of The Boy Who Would Be Superman!