Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Many thanks to reviewer Wallace Harrington (

Superman #147

Superman #147

Cover date: August 1961

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Stan Kaye
Cover: Curt Swan & Stan Kaye

"The Legion of Super Villains"

One day, in the Metropolis Prison, Lex Luthor, the world's most dangerous villain entered the warden's office and in an apparent act of benevolence, offered to repair all of the inmate's broken radios. The warden had no reason not to take up Luthor on his offer, but did not realize that he was using the opportunity to scavenge spare electronic parts. In the dark and quiet of the prison night, Luthor meticulously constructed a new radio that he hoped would allow him to contact the future. "I've long believed that if a Legion of Super-Heroes exists in the future," said Luthor to no one in particular, "then a Legion of Super-Villains probably exists in the future, too." Turning on his amazing device, Luthor began to speak, "Calling the future! Arch-Criminal Luthor from 1961 calling the Legion of Super-Villains in the future. Am imprisoned! Need Help! Save me!"

At first there was no response and Luthor fell into a dejected sleep. But when he awoke at dawn, a belt, a helmet and a gun suddenly materialize on the floor of Luthor's cell. Quickly putting on the helmet and belt, Luthor fired the weird ray gun at the cell wall causing it to explode into a million pieces. In a flash, Luthor was out the hole, soaring above the prison walls propelled by the amazing belt. Realizing that Luthor has escaped, guards grabbed up their rifles and fired at him, but the bullets bounced harmlessly off him. "The helmet must be creating the protective shield," thought Luthor who smiled and flew away from the prison as quickly as he could.

Streaking toward the desert, a flying saucer materialized in the sky above Luthor. Through an open door, a voice boomed, "Enter Luthor! We are your friends from the 21st Century who are aiding you!" Flying into the saucer, the entrance closed behind Luthor and he stared in amazement at the technology surrounding him and three humans dressed in futuristic garb. "The Legion of Super-Villains," gasped Luthor, "you've traveled into the past, from the future, to save me."

Stepping forward, one of the villains extended his hand. He was wearing a tight blue costume with a clear-domed helmet. "I am Cosmic King," he said. He explained to Luthor that he had been an alchemist on Venus, searching for a means to change basic atomic structure. After years of work, he finally developed a ray which would do just that, but the strain of his work caused him to suffer a dizzy spell. He fell into the path of the ray and when he awoke found that when if he concentrated rays from his eyes would transmute objects into whatever element he desired. However, the people of Venus found his power evil, and banished him forever from his home. As a result, he decided to use this power for criminal gains.

A second man stepped forward dressed in red and green with lightning bolts on his chest. He introduced himself as Mekt Rannz, Lightning Lord. He told Luthor that he was the brother of Lightning Man, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. The pair had landed on the planet Korbal and were exploring the jungle when a huge Lightning Monster charged them and sprayed them both with electricity. However, rather than hurt them, this gave them both the power to project electricity from their hands. While his brother used this power for good, Lightning Lord used his ability to disrupt alarms, paralyze victims and commit crimes.

Finally, the darkly beautiful Saturn Queen stepped forward to introduce herself. She told Luthor that all of the natives of Saturn possessed amazing mental powers, and that on a visit to Earth, she felt an overwhelming desire to outwit the law. She used her powers to cloud human minds and produce illusions to confuse them and has been doing so ever since.

Forming a circle around Luthor, the trio explained why they had come to the past. "Records were destroyed in an Atomic War," they began. "We do know that you are Superman's greatest foe... therefore it would humiliate the Legion of Super-Heroes if we could destroy Superman."

They put their plans into action next day. Superman arrived at Orphan City to deliver a model of a classic building for a benefit to be held that night. Suddenly, a sneering figure whizzed downward destroying the models with a barrage of lightning bolts. In the blink of an eye, Superman moved to block the flying debris and protect the children. With the disaster averted, Superman took off to capture the strange man only to find him on the street. Electricity arced from his hand to the frame of a city bus. Yelling up, the villain screamed, "Retreat Superman or I'll increase this mild voltage and electrocute everyone on the bus." To protect the innocent by-standers, Superman had no choice but to retreat.

On the second day, Superman opened the festivities of the Metropolis Fair by throwing plastic toy airplanes into the crowd. Cosmic King used his powers to turn the plastic toys to gold sending the crowd into a greedy frenzy, actually fighting over the gold planes. As Superman turned to pursue Cosmic King, he transmuted a statue of Superman into Kryptonite and pushed it at the Man of Steel. The crowd was so intent on the gold planes that they paid no attention to Superman's plight until Cosmic King flew away. Realizing what had happened the crowd pulled Superman away from the statue. From a safe distance Superman arranged to have the statue coated with lead and sunk in the ocean.

The third day, Superman was startled to see a giant creature plodding through the streets of Metropolis. Turning, the beast grabbed up Lois Lane, who was there to photograph the monster, and suddenly soared off into space. Racing after the beast, Superman followed it into another solar system, then down to a small asteroid. As Superman finally closed the gap between them and prepared to save Lois, she suddenly smiled, then laughed, then she and the monster disappear. "Both of them must be illusions," he realized.

Suddenly, Superman found himself encased in a Kryptonite force field, and a lead panel slowly glided upward revealing the three super-villains. "Superman, as punishment for your many brave and worthy deeds, we have voted that you be executed." As an exclamation to their statement, Luthor stepped forward. "For years, you've thwarted my schemes with your super-powers. But now I've got allies, who also have super-powers," he said laughing.

Like cavalry to the rescue, the room was suddenly filled with members of the adult Legion of Super-Heroes. The members paired off to do battle. Lightning Man exchanged bolts with Lightning Lord, Saturn Woman and Saturn Queen tried to gain control of each other's mind, and Cosmic Man uses his magnetism to throw a huge generator at Cosmic King but he used his power to transmute the iron to dust before it could strike him. Basically, there is a stalemate.

Luthor says, "If you Super-Heroes are so blasted heroic, why doesn't one of you volunteer to die in Superman's place?" The heroes huddle, whisper, and then draw straws. Saturn Woman looked at the short straw in her hand and said, "I'll have the honor of dying in Superman's place." The Villains were amazed, and even Superman said, "No, I won't let you do it", but Luthor insisted that if she is foolish enough to want to die for you, so be it.

Superman turned to Luthor and asked for one hour, promising not to escape or to save Saturn Woman. What he wanted was an opportunity to honor her for her deeds and Superman streaked to Saturn gathering fragments of Saturn's rings. Returning to the planetoid, Superman placed those fragments into orbit. "It reminds me of my homeworld of Saturn," Saturn Woman said tearfully.

"Sentimental drivel!" screamed Luthor. "You chose to die, Saturn Woman. So now I'll oblige you." But before Luthor could press the button of his ray projector, Saturn Queen temporarily paralyzed all of the villains. I discovered that the radiation from Saturn's rings cancel people's criminal traits," explained Superman. Her mind cleansed of her villainous tendencies, Saturn Queen tells the Legion of Super Heroes that she will use her power for good, and to make sure that there is no relapse, Superman fashions a piece of Saturn's fragments into a ring.

After the Super Heroes escort the Super Villains back to their own era, Superman returns a dejected Luthor to jail. Later, Luthor builds another device to contact the future and make contact with Legion of Super-Villains but Lightning Man replies, "Don't waste your time on any more appeals to the Legion of Super Villains, Luthor. Its members are all jailed, too!" With a grumble, Luthor sits back, and begins planning his next escape.

3Story - 3: The late 1950's were a time of great creativity and experimentation at DC comics. Not only were many comic characters re-invented, like the Flash and Green Lantern, but any number were newly introduced and strategically tested. Among these were Supergirl, and the Legion of Super-Heroes (LOSH) who first appeared in Adventure Comics #247, (April 1958). Since this is a Superman homepage, and there are many Legion web-pages I will leave it to the reader to explore more about the Legion. Suffice it to say that this group has proven to be very success.

However, from their first appearance in 1958 until Superman #147, in 1961, this story was only the eighth time the LOSH appeared, and this story showed them as adults. Due to that fact, many Legion aficionados have a difficult time putting this story into their continuity.
However, this was the first appearance of a Legion of Super-Villains (LOSV). This was curious since the word Legion means "a very large number" yet this "Legion" was comprised of only three members. The LOSV would soon appear again in JIMMY OLSEN #63 (September 1962). In that issue, Cosmic King and Lightning Lord were joined by Chameleon Chief, and Sun Emperor (Saturn Queen was not in that story) and they were also from the LOSH's future. Over the years, the LOSH became more popular in the DC universe and eventually commanded many series of its own. The LOSV, on the other hand, appeared only a handful of times after this and at one point several of the LOSV become members of the LOSH.
As a story, this one was pretty stiff and not one of Jerry Siegel's better tales. The dialogue was stilted, some of the characters said some fairly "un-characteristic" things and the ending was especially unsatisfying since it implied that the LOSV was "out of the picture". These "time travel" stories always baffled me since you would expect that a group, who lived in the future and traveled through time would have a better handle on history and events unfolding. But then again, this is a comicbook!
There were two other fun stories in the issue including the Great Mento and Krypto travelling through time to battle Titano the super-ape.

5Art - 5: The art from this story was pencilled by Curt Swan and inked by Stan Kaye. To my mind, this is an excellent story, craftfully told with all of the elements that made Swan's art of the late 1950's to mid 1960's so special. The two other stories in this issue were drawn by Al Plastino.

5Cover Art - 5: The cover to Superman #147 is a classic, and a yet swipe at the same time. Curt Swan drew the cover for Adventure #247, featuring Superboy's effort to join the LOSH. On that cover, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl sat in judgement of his membership. This issue used the identical motif with Cosmic King, Lightning Lord and Saturn Woman sitting in judgement on Superman's life. Regardless of the fact that it is a near-duplicate of Adventure #247's cover, this is a classic piece of silver-age are and an excellent cover.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




Compilation Volumes


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