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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

NEAR MYTHS: "THE LEGION OF SUPER-MONSTERS" (ADVENTURE COMICS #309, 1963)

Once more, a quick reiteration of my definition of "near myth:"

..."a near-myth" is a part of a narrative that sustains a mythic kernel of meaning, but does not become unified into a fully-developed "underthought" throughout the narrative. [the latter being the definition of a fully consummate myth]
A quick personal note about this week's "near myth:" although as a sometime Legion fan I was rather hyped to see this story when I read old ad-hype for it, I never found a decently-priced copy of the original issue until recently, nor did I happen to buy the relevant Archives collection with the story. I'm rather glad I waited, because it's the sort of appealing but cheesy story that should be read in its original form.

"Legion of Super-Monsters" loses the cover spot to a much shorter Superboy story. Said tale's only interest is that it speaks to a psychological myth that DC Comics had exploited since the Golden Age and used heavily in the Silver Age: the fear-of-replacement myth. Comics-stories of this ilk usually focused on the starring heroes about to be replaced or marginalized in some manner, and they tend to be fairly one-note.




Closely related to the "replacement myth," though, is the "exclusion myth," in which a starring character finds himself left the odd man out in some desirable group of society.  Indeed, the first story in which the Legion appeared dealt with Superboy being excluded from potential membership.


Superboy's exclusion is naturally overturned by story's end as a Big Misunderstanding. In "Super-Monsters," though, the Legion decides to exclude a candidate, one Jungle King, because he shows a lack of caution in the use of his power to control animals:



Jungle King gets mad and decides to form his own Legion, made of wild alien beasts who are compelled to obey his commands. Taking the alternate cognomen Monster Master, he embarks upon a career of crime, using the fabulous powers of his creatures against society, thus provoking the Legion of Super'Heroes to come after him.



In their initial encounters, the human Legion has no small trouble in dealing with the monster-Legion...



 ..and to make things seemingly worse, one of the members who passed the group's standards, Bouncing Boy, messes up by exposing himself at a critical point. However, he gets to redeem himself in a sense, using strategy to defeat a beast of much greater power.




I said that the replacement myths were usually one-note, and Edmond Hamilton's "exclusion-myth" script isn't much better. Not only are the Legion's standards validated by Bouncing Boy's success, Monster Master is shown to be a hypocrite who makes a snap judgment about one of the beasts that "auditions" for the monster-legion. The villain rejects a "gas creature" because the critter's not impressive enough, but the beast gets pissed about its exclusion and subjects Monster Master to a fatal "gas attack."



Still, though "Super-Monsters" is a little preachy in this regard, it does have some pleasingly bizarre sci-fi monsters, and that makes up for a lot.

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