The Man Of Steel meets the Lord Of Lies, while a Legionnaire runs headlong into an apple metaphor, in an issue rife with quasi-biblical innuendo.  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Action Comics #378 awaits!

ActionComics378CoverACTION COMICS #378
Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciler: Curt Swan/Win Mortimer
Inker: Jack Abel/Mike Esposito
Letterer: Ben Oda/Charlotte Jetter
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price:  Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $80.00

Previously in Action Comics: As Superman entered his 30th year of publication circa 1969, he was at the very peak of his powers: Invulnerable, immortal, super-strong with a genius intellect and blinding super-speed.  Thus, the challenges that he faced tended to be somewhat more abstract than Batman’s array of lunatics or Wonder Woman’s mystical menaces.

Case in point: This issue, he faces Satan hisownself…


There’s a complex backstory for this devil: A spaceborne wanderer is captured by an alien warlord, who transforms him into a figure from Earth folklore, gives him strange super-magical powers (Superman’s primary 60’s weakness) and sends him down to Earth to vex the Man Of Steel.  It goes poorly for Superman, and soon “Satan” has the upper hand, preparing to dispatch Superman once and for all…


…when coincidence strikes again!  Somehow, nearly everyone who survived Krypton, a planet of BILLIONS, is related to Superman, be it his father, cousin, or enemies of his family name, now we can rope in other planets as well.  Our ersatz Satan explains that his name is Rol-Nac, a cosmic wanderer who settled on Krypton a couple of decades ago, finally finding happiness and belonging there.  His closest friends were the El family, Jor-El and his wife Lara, who loved him so much that they named him baby Kal-El’s godfather.  He was even in orbit near Krypton, returning home from a trip, when he witnessed the planet exploding and saw Kal’s rocket escaping the conflagration.


The final words of Superman’s tale promise that we will “be seeing MORE of Rol-Nac… VERY soon!”

Nearly 47 years later, we’re still waiting for that tale.  Besides, when it comes to this run of Action Comics, the draw isn’t in the lead story, it’s in the backup tale, where we find the Legion Of Super-Heroes hanging out after being ejected from their long-time home in Adventure Comics in 1968.  (Their replacement there was Supergirl, starting the wild adventures where she changed her costume repeatedly, with wackiness ensuing.)  This issue’s Legion tale begins with Brin Londo, the Legionnaire once known as Lone Wolf, living up to his old moniker…


In his defense, the change to Timber Wolf and Legion membership is a very recent occurrence for our hero, and after years of solo adventuring (thinking himself an android monster, thanks to a miscommunication and a very neglectful father), he is perfectly comfortable playing it solo.  He is not, however, invulnerable…


The injury only intensifies his ferocity, and Timber Wolf makes short work of the criminals in an almost feral rage before collapsing to the effects of the Rip Ray.  But, it seems, help is on its way…


Having (somewhat naively) trusted a strange man with a cup of an unknown substance, Timber Wolf is besieged by strange thoughts, snapping at his favorite girl, finding himself unable to focus and feeling compelled to open a window and stand on the ledge, entranced by the moon…


Now, I’ll grant you that seeing a super-acrobat looking down at his city in a beatific reverie may not be quite so disturbing, but imagine it were Christy MacNichol as an average teen, doing the same thing in a ‘CBS Afterschool Special.’  It would be a lot more terrifying, wouldn’t it?  As for Timber Wolf, he stands staring at the moon ALL NIGHT before leaping into the night manically, searching for action.  Leaping across 30th Century Metropolis, Timber Wolf is surprised to hear a stranger calling his name…


Hooked on the Lotus Fruit, Timber Wolf returns to Legion headquarters to fulfill the terrible task of hooking all his teammates on the not-at-all-a-metaphor for drugs, starting with his beloved Light Lass.  (As an aside, I’ve always found her feather chest-symbol to be the single silliest, yet somehow endearing thing in DC Comics history, even more so than the fact that baby Barbara Gordon canonically turned into a superhero on a visit to Smallville once.)  Can our hero betray everything he believes in and hook his girlfriend on drugs the Lotus-Fruit?


Light Lass’ anger reveals the truth of his duplicity, as Timber Wolf quickly snarfs down the fruit meant for her, his not-at-all-an-addiction-because-of-the-Comics-Code-Authority overwhelming him once again…


Brin once again fugues into an extended trip, staring at the pretty colors for hours, barely aware that Light Lass is even there.  When he comes to his senses, he stumbles into the streets, ending up in the same dark alleyway where the “Doctor” revealed the truth about the fruit.  But this time, he’s not alone, as Ayla has followed him…


Remember being a teenager?  Young love?  The sudden hormone-soaked connection between two emotional quasi-adults?  That feeling that another person is SO IMPORTANT, so into you that you’re willing to risk blowing yourself up to help them overcome an addiction to alien fruit?

Yeah, me neither, but Light Lass proves that she has all the teenage faith in her essentially high-school boyfriend, forcing him to choose between her and the junk Lotus Fruit.  Will Brin Londo betray his friends, kill his girl and stay under the thumb of a pusher who wants him to get the whole LSH hooked on the Lotus?


Heroism triumphs, and the madness of teenage hormones and strange emotional connections love conquers all once more.  Written by a 15 or 16-year-old Jim Shooter, this story is one of the more memorable of a quiet period of Legion Of Super-Heroes history, featuring a very clear metaphor for drug use that was both timely and a little bit startling in a comic from the late Silver Age.  This run of stories actually features several such tales, building the mythos and legend of the Legion into the 80s juggernaut to come, and making it even more disappointing that the recent relaunches of the team have been so very wrong-headed.  Action Comics #378 is a weirdie, one of those books that remind you that the best kind of comic books are the ones that take a couple of minutes to explain to your friends, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. 



One of the most notorious stories from a young Jim Shooter, with excellent art and one of the most inexplicable Superman lead-ins of an inexplicable period. This one's weird as heck!

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About Author

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.

1 Comment

  1. This story and the later “Timber Wolf: Dead Hero, Live Executioner!” made Brin one of my favorite Legionnaires before I was 10. The weird period between Adventure 380 and Superboy 200 featured some really good character studies and helped make the Legion real for me. Thanks for highlighting this story. The very weird Superman story was icing on the Krypto-cake…

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