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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #320

Welcome to the three hundredth and twentieth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we examine the national “holiday” invented by a comic creator. Plus the bizarre story of the man who bilked the government for more than $100,000 so that he could…buy comics? Also, just when DID the Legion start having that pesky “no duplicate powers” rule?

Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and nineteen.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Sadie Hawkins Day was invented by Al Capp in his Li’l Abner comic strip.

STATUS: True

Every so often, I will come across a legend that I have avoid because I think it might be too well known, and I am reminded each time that that is a dumb idea of mine, as a good comic legend is a good comic legend is a good comic legend. And this is a good comic legend, so here we go!

Alfred Gerald Caplin, better known as Al Capp, began his legendary comic strip, Li’l Abner in 1934. Written and drawn by Capp, the strip continued until 1977, when he retired (Capp passed away two years later). The series followed the misadventures of a group of hillbillies living in the poor town of Dogpatch, Kentucky.

While the strip was certainly an ensemble (Capp created many interesting characters over the years), the titular character was Li’l Abner himself (Abner was, in fact, quite a big guy). One of the recurring plots in the comic is how the beautiful local girl, Daisy Mae, desperately wants to marry Abner, but he is routinely either oblivious or downright not interested in committment.

In any event, in a 1937 strip, Capp introduced an interesting concept – Sadie Hawkins Day!

Clearly intended as a one-off bit, the idea was a massive hit. So much so that Capp, who hated any sort of structure to his stories (preferring to play things as they went) was “forced” to make Sadie Hawkins a regular occurrence in the strip (Sadie Hawkins Day takes place sometime in November).

Li’l Abner was a successful strip right out of the gate, but when Sadie Hawkins Day debuted in 1937, the strip was in the midst of a boom in popularity – all of these new readers soon got quite attached to the Sadie Hawkins idea.

Just two years after the original strip, Life Magazine had the following story about students at a Texas university…

Even after Capp had Abner and Daisy Mae get married in the early 1950s, the Sadie Hawkins Day strips continued. Here’s one from the mid 1950s, just a couple of years after Abner and Daisy Mae got married…

Nowadays, Sadie Hawkins Day mostly survives through the use of the term in relation to school dances where the girls are the ones who ask the boys to the dance. However, the “holiday” is also still celebrated by some, but not in November. Instead, February 29th (Leap Day) is chosen. Leap Day is part of a similar tradition, where, during Leap Years, women were “allowed” to propose to men instead of the other way around (this was the basic plot for a weak Amy Adams movie from a couple of years ago). I personally doubt Capp had Leap Year in mind when he conceived Sadie Hawkins Day.

Thanks to Life Magazine for the article and thanks to Stephen Worth for the mid-50s strips.

COMIC LEGEND: A worker for the Colorado Department of Revenue stole over $100,000 to spend on comic books.

STATUS: True

Reader Jeff wrote in to ask if it was true that an IRS employee bilked the IRS out of a chunk of money to spend on comic books.

The story is true enough for a true, only the fellow in question was not an IRS agent.

You see, Aron Stubbs went to work for the Colorado Department of Revenue in the 1980s. Stubbs was a computer whiz and soon worked his way up the ladder until he was the chief computer programmer in 1990. However, Stubbs’ familiarity with the system turned out to be very bad for Colorado. You see, Stubbs made a notable discovery. The State frequently would have to send refunds to residents who overpaid on their estimated taxes. However, what if the person in question died before the refund could be sent? The State would not send the refund out (waiting for the estate to apply for the refund instead, which often would not happen since the estate would not know about it). So all of this money was sort of secretly floating around in a bank account somewhere.

This was too much for Stubbs, a longtime comic book fan and collector. He began having checks sent out from this account. Sometimes to himself, but typically he would have the money sent to the dead person’s address, only Stubbs would cut the letter off before it was opened and then endorse the check inside to himself. He didn’t take large chunks of money at first – just small amounts so as to not draw attention to himself.

And with the money, Stubbs would fill in the gaps in his extensive comic book collection.

However, after awhile, Stubbs – like most criminals – began to get sloppy. Earlier on he made the point of always cashing the checks and then paying for the comics with cash. Eventually, though, he would start to pay with the ACTUAL checks from the Colorado Department of Revenue! One dealer he bought some comics from got a little suspicious – not that Stubbs stole the money so much as the check possibly not being for real. So the dealer called up to see if the check WAS good and that quickly launched into an investigation (especially when it was discovered that the name on the check belonged to a person who had died!). The investigation was not a long one – only a certain amount of workers could have pulled off such a scam and only one of them would have used this scam to buy comics – Stubbs.

No one knows for sure how much Stubbs took, but it was likely over $150,000. Stubbs actually managed to avoid going to jail for his crimes – he was sentenced to four years probation and he had to give up his collection to help the Department of Revenue to recoup their losses. They sold off the collection all at once to the comic book dealer, RTS Unlimited.

RTS began selling the books complete with a certificate of authenticity to prove that it came from Stubbs’ collection. The collection has been mistakingly referred to as “the IRS collection” for years, despite the IRS not really being involved at all, and RTS refers to it as such, as well…

Thanks to Mike Richardson and Steve Duin’s book, Comics: Between the Panels, for the scoop! And thanks to Jeff for the question!

COMIC LEGEND: During the Silver Age, there was a rule against duplicate powers in the Legion of Super-Heroes.

STATUS: False

As part of our When We First Met month, which features the first appearance of different parts of comic book lore, reader Michael C. asked to see when “the Legion’s ‘No Duplicate Superpowers’ rule begin.” Off the top of my head, I thought it was when Lightning Lad’s sister, Lightning Lass, got new gravity powers (and the new name, Light Lass). You will see as much written on a number of comic book sites about the Legion (including a number of really good sites).

This is untrue.

After serving by herself when Lightning Lad was “dead,” Lightning Lass served WITH her brother for a number of issues before she had her powers changed, and her powers were changed by Dream Girl not because duplicate powers were not allowed but as part of some convoluted scheme Dream Girl had to save the lives of a bunch of the Legion.

Dream Girl (who had precognitive powers) had seen a group of Legionnaires destined to die (her plan was to get them all kicked out of the Legion so that they could not have been killed – her task with Lightning Lass was to seemingly take away her powers so she couldn’t be a Legionnaire, but in actuallity just giving her new powers).

(This was back when Legionnaires constantly went through convoluted and sometimes cruel plans to save each other. Sort of like “the only way to save you from stubbing your toe is for me to stab you so you aren’t walking by that box where your toe would be stubbed”).

There is no doubt that Mort Weisinger and/or Edmond Hamilton made the change from Lightning Lass to Light Lass because THEY wanted to have diversity of powers, but it was not mentioned in the comic when she made the change (after all, she is Lightning Lass in the issue with no proble, so obviously there was not a rule against duplicate powers) and the duplicate powers rule was not mentioned at ALL until Superboy #195. And that was in 1973!!!

(eventually the Legion learns thar ERG-1 – later known as Wildfire – IS unique and he becomes a member of the team)

A little while later, they clarify what they mean by this rule…

So, surpisingly enough, there was not a “no duplicate powers” rule in the Legion until after the Silver Age.

I can’t hardly believe it myself – I was so sure that was why Lightning Lass made the change, but it was not. And there ya go, Michael – you have the answer to your “When We First Met” question!

EDITED TO ADD:

Reader The Crazed Spruce wrote in to argue:

I’m pretty sure the “no duplicate powers” rule first came up when Star Boy applied. At the time, he had powers identical to Superboy’s, except for “electrical vision”, which he used in the 20th century to jump-start an old truck.

Here’s when Star Boy joined in Adventure Comics #282….

So nope, they just let him in no problem.

Crazed Spruce wondered about Ultra Boy, as well, but no, when he debuted in Superboy #98, they made no mention of any duplicate power rule.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

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Also, be sure to check out my website, Legends Revealed, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can find here, at legendsrevealed.com.

Here’s my book of Comic Book Legends (130 legends – half of them are re-worked classic legends I’ve featured on the blog and half of them are legends never published on the blog!).

The cover is by artist Mickey Duzyj. He did a great job on it…(click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

81 Comments

That “ERG-1″ story introducing the Legionnaire later called Wildfire was cleverly combined with the plot of the Nemesis Kid intro for an homage story featuring the League of Infinity in an issue of Alan Moore’s Supreme.

…Kids, as overpriced as comics are today, the real surprise about the IRS guy is that they haven’t caught half the IRS workers pulling the same stunt this year alone.

The Crazed Spruce

June 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

I’m pretty sure the “no duplicate powers” rule first came up when Star Boy applied. At the time, he had powers identical to Superboy’s, except for “electrical vision”, which he used in the 20th century to jump-start an old truck. It also came up when Ultra Boy applied. He only got in because his “penetra-vision” could see through lead.

Sure, the rule was basically ignored by the tme Mon-El joined up, but it was still on the books. (And I’m pretty sure they let it ride for Mon-El mainly because he created the anti-gravity metal in their flight rings. Lightlning Lass got in because Lightning Lad was presumed dead at the time, and it would’ve been a slap in the face to give her the boot when he revived.)

The Crazed Spruce

June 24, 2011 at 10:15 am

(To be fair, Ultra Boy’s “penetra-vision” may have been a retcon from after the ERG-1 issue. I stand by Star Boy, though.)

I edited it to show you that nope, they just let Star Boy in no problem.

And I edited it again to show you the same for Ultra Boy.

that ERG-1 story was the very first story I ever read about the Legion, and it was in a comic bought at a church rummage sale, no less. The first new issue that I found on a comic rack was the death of the original Invisible Kid. Two very good introductions to a team with a long legacy, unusual at that time for a DC comic. I’ve been a fan of the Legion ever since. The Legion Showcase volumes are almost to this story – I hope that we get at least one more Showcase volume, as that would take me up to where I began buying the book.

oh, and as to the Sadie Hawkins legend, I too would assume that most people wouldn’t doubt this one, but since Li’l Abner has been gone from the comic pages for what, 40 years now?, about the only way most people today would know the strip and its history might be from the frequent high school versions of the Broadway musical.

It’s very easy for even the most popular characters to drift off into the void if there’s no regular venue for them. After all, we all know Skippy peanut butter, but who’s read the “Skippy” comic strip outside of a few strips reprinted in various “history of the comics” books? they still sell Buster Brown shoes, but who remembers the popular comic strip that they used to sell the shoes originally?

Legends like this one help keep that history and legacy alive. Keep up the good work.

The Crazed Spruce

June 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

@Brian Cronin: I bow to your superior comic book knowledge. :)

Post Superboy #195, did anyone complain/bring up Ultra Boy and Mon-El in regards to the “no duplicate powers” policy? Were they grandfathered in?

oh, and as to the Sadie Hawkins legend, I too would assume that most people wouldn’t doubt this one, but since Li’l Abner has been gone from the comic pages for what, 40 years now?, about the only way most people today would know the strip and its history might be from the frequent high school versions of the Broadway musical.

Yeah, that’s my exact thinking, Jim. That the fact that it is well-known to a bunch of us doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be shared with the even greater number of people who DON’T know about it. It’s something I frequently overlook.

causticgnostic

June 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

Aron Stubbs was an interesting guy. I worked with him for awhile after he was sentenced. He also used that money to build up and incredible video collection, too. He was an encyclopedia, especially when it came to Golden Age comics.

I understood it always that it wasn’t “no duplicate powers”, but that each Legionnaire had to have a power unique to themselves. Mon-El was invulnerable to kryptonite, unlike Superboy, whereas Ultra Boy could see through lead (with his “penetra-vision”), which neither Mon-El or Superboy could do. That’s how they justified those three being in the team together. Star Boy had his mass-inducing powers that separated him as well.

That’s what I recall the rule being, at least.

Take care
Don

@Brian Cronin: I bow to your superior comic book knowledge.

Ha! Really, though, the reason I’m featuring it as a legend is BECAUSE it is so hard to believe, ya know? I couldn’t believe it at first myself! I thought for sure that it had come up earlier, but I kept reading and reading and it just wasn’t showing up!

So, the Legion one is only untrue because it didn’t happen during the Silver Age?

So, the Legion one is only untrue because it didn’t happen during the Silver Age?

Yep.

As you saw from the comments, people think it happened then when it did not.

Wow; outside of that first appearance, I don’t know that I’ve seen Wildfire use any of those powers besides flight and energy blasts.

He was just making stuff up because he wanted to be in the Legion so badly.

I have ff 17 from the irs collection. He must have had, one hell of a collection.He could still be pulling the scam today, had he not got so brazen at it.I suspect that a fare ammount of the big comic book sales, are either done with such pillfered funds, or part of money landering efforts by the big drug dealers.

I’ve got a couple of comics from the IRS collection, too, though I can’t remember which ones off the top of my head. Probably either Flash or Teen Titans, since those are the main series I’ve collected as back issues from the silver and bronze ages.

When I was a kid in the 70s, my mom bought a paperback reprint of some Li’l Abner stories for a dime at a garage sale. Loved the strip then, love seeing them now.

And I strongly recommend the 1959 movie starring Peter Palmer; it’s a pretty good Technicolor musical comedy which still makes me wonder how could Leslie Parrish be so overtly sexy and so wholesome at the same time?

That’s a pretty interesting fact about the Legion, I never knew that it wasn’t necessarily true. I was in elementary school when that early ’70′s Erg-1/Wildfire story came out, it was one of the first I read, so I took it as word. I’ve been hooked ever since. Thanks for enlightening me! Luckily, I had some friends who had a bunch of Legion back-issues, so they let me read them, but they wouldn’t trade them. I found out more about the ’60′s Legion through back-issue bins and reprints. Their stories were fun, and not all of them were silly like people might think, and Jim Shooter’s stories were pretty good. I’m from the Missouri Ozarks, so I’m very familiar with Hillbillies and Hillbilly lore. I grew up on Hillbilly Bread, good stuff! I’m not sure they still make the bread, but I do remember the amusement park Dogpatch USA, I think it was in Arkansas, not sure if it still exists any more. I live in Los Angeles now, and people here bust up when I tell them that Hillbillies are real. California people need to get out state more, and learn more about American cultures. America isn’t Mexico, the Middle East, and the Orient.

You know, when I worked at Time Warp Comics in Boulder, CO, I encountered a number of the IRS Collection books…I remember when they came in it was a bit of big deal…but I don’t think I knew the actual story.

Thanks!

I’m with Anonymous above. I always read the LoSH rule as a unique power, regardless of whether or not they have other powers that duplicate another members.

After all, many members can fly under their own power and they were never disqualified?

In fact, I think in the Ultra-Boy story it is even specifically teased that he has a power even Superboy does not possess. Or maybe it’s a blurb on the cover. I just seem to remember that being a teaser in the story somewhere.

Yeah, the rule is stupid. Who wouldn’t want a hundred Daxamites as a reserve force? But I think the idea was that the LoSH was supposed to be a sort of United Nations like deal where many(but not all) of the heroes were there as representatives of their planet. IIRC that’s a plot point in a story with the guy who came in second in the Imsk competition and lost to Shrinking Violet.

I seem to recall that there’s a mention of something about this in the story with Sir Prize and Miss Terious. That one brings back a few people who been seen for awhile and gives the reasons they left and why they can come back now.

I wonder if Dream Girl’s line, while explaining what happened to Lightning Lass’s powers:

“Since your power wasn’t needed because it’s the same as that of your brother, Lightning Lad, I used Naltorian science to cause that electric explosion which changed your super-power!”

…contributed to the belief about the no duplicate powers rule.

Bought your book a few weeks back Mr. Cronin — it’s great reading. I was initially expecting it to be layed out like the blog (which I greatly enjoy) — I like the changes for the book where one legend smoothly roles right into the next.

Hey, Brian.
It appears you were oblivious to this typo: oblibious
LOL. Just kidding. You rock. I look forward to reading CBLR every Friday!
-Paulo

@Rick

Check out this gallery of the ruins of Dogpatch, USA: http://www.undergroundozarks.com/dogpatch.html

Kurt Mitchell

June 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm

The only rule I can remember regarding Legion membership in the Silver Age was that the member’s power had to be intrinsic, in other words it couldn’t be the result of a weapon or other device.

The only rule I can remember regarding Legion membership in the Silver Age was that the member’s power had to be intrinsic, in other words it couldn’t be the result of a weapon or other device.

Yeah, that was a big one. Of course, there is just a general “you have to have A power,” as well. And I guess we can count all the obscure rules that Dream Girl cites in the above-mentioned issue (like you can never accuse a fellow member of something without proof – if you do, you’re expelled from the team).

The 30s-50s were a terrible time for a lot of reasons… but damned if people weren’t so much sexier.

I know Cary Bates’s name isn’t held in as high esteem by Legion fans as Levtiz and Shooter, but he wrote some pretty good stories. Of course, he was working with Dave Cockrum — who created Wildfire and some other great characters for that run — including Devilfish, Molecule Master, Infectious Lass. The stories were simpler, but were effective at introducing younger readers like myself to a big cast.

I have been wondering about that Sadie Hawkins thing, I have read one L’il Abner collection which did feature the first Sadie Hawkins story and have since seen it namedropped in other popular culture too (in those high school and college films and series), but I wasn’t quite sure if it really started form the strip.
Then again, the preface of that collection did mention several other publicity stunts associated with L’il Abner and other strips of the day like Blondie…

(Oh, and indeed it was an old custom at least in Finland and presumably in other countries as well that women could propose in February 29th, though the man could buy himself free by giving her fabric for a dress…it’s not an active custom nowadays though)

During the story about the stolen money, was anyone else thinking of Richard Pryor from Superman III? Didn’t he do something alot like that?

Jason Barnett

June 24, 2011 at 5:02 pm

It’s pretty clear it’s not a rule against duplicate powers, it’s a rule against lack of unique powers, which seems pretty different

The Legion’s Senior Advisor is named Marla?
Is transgendered-ness a superpower?

One of the reasons you assumed the Legion rule stemmed from the Light Lass story, Brian, may be because she refers to it herself when she regains her powers in the early Baxter Legion issues. She goes on a long rant about rejoining the team, and that she wasn’t going to let the rule stand in her way, before learning that her brother had already left to raise his family. If memory serves, she even tells Dream Girl not to muck with her powers again, which certainly implies that the rule was the original reason for the change. I suspect you’re right, in that it was an editorial edict that caused the change, and kept the Legionnaires’ powers from being duplicated, which was later adapted as an in-story rule. Pretty interesting nonetheless.

Hey Brian!

i found a typo in the description. Here it is:

Plus the bizarre story of the man who bilked the government for more than $100,000 so that he could…but comics?

i’m thinking that should read…’, so that he could…BUY comics?’

As always, great column!

“Wow; outside of that first appearance, I don’t know that I’ve seen Wildfire use any of those powers besides flight and energy blasts.”

The reason he doesn’t use those other powers is that he can’t because it was the suit that gave him those powers and when the “experimental” suit was destroyed it couldn’t be recreated. So now he only does the energy blast and flying thing.

It wasn’t just the guy from Imsk — one story concerned a whole slew of wannabes called the Legion of Super-Rejects who insisted that they should replace their similarly-powered counterparts in the LSH. While each Reject supposedly had a physical advantage over their counterpart Legionnaire, they lost because they had no concept of teamwork, being hypercompetitive narcissists to a one.

Esper Lass, Magno Lad, and Micro Boy later became members of the Legion of Super-Villains, with Esper Lass in particular proving a bloodthirsty sociopath. Micro Lad was played as a 30th century IRA man, leading Imskian terrorist groups while spouting off separatist politics and being given the surname Muldoon. Another two Rejects, Chameleon Kid and Phantom Lad, simply never appeared again.

Calorie Queen, on the other hand, was revived by Keith Giffen and was a beloved minor character in the 5 Years Later continuity. She was also the only Super-Reject who arguably should have had a shot at Legion membership anyway, since she had a power that was unique: in addition to Matter-Eater Lad’s talent, she gained superstrength from the excess calories.

Rereading the early LSH, I’ve noticed how many rules they seemed to have. It made me wonder if this was modeled after the way kids’ organized their own clubs back then , or just a useful tool for stories.
As for the rules on membership, Action 387 introduced a new one–no more than 25 members–to get rid of Superboy (as the strip was no running as a backup to Superman’s stories, they didn’t need him). IIRC, Superboy admitted one reason he chose to leave was that Mon-El could do everything he could do, but that was practical, not because it was mandatory. I think the Wildfire story went on to say that Superboy (who was back in the group by then) and Supergirl were given a special exemption.
Superboy 212 (a couple of years after the Wildfire story) brought up the no-duplicate power rule to explain why they didn’t have more than one Imskian, Durlan, etc. (a group of rejects challenge Chameleon Boy, Shrinking Violet and other members with racial ability to replace them on the team).

It’s pretty clear it’s not a rule against duplicate powers, it’s a rule against lack of unique powers, which seems pretty different

Soon after they clarify that it is a rule against duplicate powers.

During the story about the stolen money, was anyone else thinking of Richard Pryor from Superman III? Didn’t he do something alot like that?

It was true that Pryor, like Stubbs, was a computer whiz which allowed him the access to steal the money, so I did think of mentioning his character, but Pryor’s character’s scheme was more complicated, in that it was money that was almost literally forgotten about and that only the computer system could tell existed.

Travis Pelkie

June 25, 2011 at 2:09 am

As I believe Mark Waid said when he rebooted the Legion, why the hell would a bunch of teenagers be so rule bound and have this big group and have the constitution and all the rules? You’re a teen with cool powers, and you want to be bound by not just rules, but clauses and sub-clauses. Oy.

That said, I do loves me the Legion.

That IRS Collection story is really cool. I know I’ve heard of “Yellow Dog” (the comic listed on the certificate), but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any, or known it went at least 17 issues. It’s an underground thing, right?

I’d point out that I mentioned Sadie Hawkins Day in a comment on a post in the past week or so (something about the Leap Day/women proposing bit), but I can’t find what post it was on. I am curious, though, why you’re pretty confident that Al Capp didn’t have the Leap Day thing in mind when creating Sadie Hawkins Day. Anything in particular that leads you to that viewpoint?

I may have read those “Boyless” strips in a book from the early-mid ’60s that collected some Abner strips with commentary from a professor. I’m actually wondering if that’s one of the first “scholarly” works on comics. I’ll have to find the book and give more info.

I am curious, though, why you’re pretty confident that Al Capp didn’t have the Leap Day thing in mind when creating Sadie Hawkins Day. Anything in particular that leads you to that viewpoint?

Sadie Hawkins Day eventually turned into a variation of Leap Day, but if you look at how Capp originally presented it, he seemed to be thinking of it solely as a gag about a guy just desperate to marry his ugly daughter off. It doesn’t seem as though he was putting much thought into it beyond that simple joke. I think it was the adaptation by the public that turned it into a Leap Day variation, as the public as a whole softened the basic idea of Sadie Hawkins Day (which was simply “women chase men and if they capture one he has to marry them”) into “women get to ask men out,” which is, indeed, just a smaller scale version of Leap Day.

Travis Pelkie

June 25, 2011 at 2:30 am

Hmm, sounds reasonable.

Did Sadie Hawkins Day appear again in 1938? The Life article is, presumably, from ’39, and it seems odd that 2 years later, college kids would be celebrating a 2 year old gag from a comic strip.

I guess what I’m getting at is that while I believe you’re accurate with the bit about Capp not wanting to get caught up/tied down with a plot, the Abner strips I’ve read seem to show that Capp wasn’t above using and re-using an idea again and again (Sadie Hawkins Day, Shmoo, Abner’s got a lookalike, etc).

He was fine with using characters over again, he just didn’t like being tied down to a specific time WHEN to use them. You know, like “Okay, it’s November, time for a bunch of comics about Sadie Hawkins Day.” But the reaction to the initial strip was so great that he figured he had to do it again when the next year came about, so yes, the bit was used again in 1938.

I know so little about Li’ Abner that I was only vaguely aware of the Sadie Hawkins Day thing (it is however a hilarious idea. :D ) so like Kosmicki I’m glad that you keep unearthing these facts for us, Cronin. Thanks!

I find it ironic that by stealing government money to buy comics, Stubbs made the comics he bought even MORE collectible! (Also, makes you wonder how much money must get “lost in the system” never reaching people who truly need it.)

I think what confuses people about the Legion’s power rule is that it was never stated *for how long* that rule cited in the Erg-1 story had been in effect before, and since the majority of the Legionaries came from whole planets where *everybody* had the same power, logically they must have had some reason for not having say, ten Daxamites on the team.

Besides there are some silly Legion laws that WERE indeed in effect in the Silver Age that it’s not hard to believe that the Unique Powers rule had to be one of them. Remember when Supergirl had to leave the team because Red Kryptonite temporarily made her an ADULT? As if they didn’t know it was *her* or knew she would be back to normal in two days! And why couldn’t adults join anyway? (answer: because the whole Legion idea was simply a SF adaptation of the teenage fan clubs that were such a cool thing in those days, complete with yes, complicated sets of rules- a fact Waid fails to get, or the fact that teenagers were not like they are today 1000 years ago and may not be the same 1000 years in the future either.)

Btw WHY were Superboy & Supergirl so special they could be excluded, other than The Legion always fawning over them? Oh and has the *entire* Legion Constitution been collected somewhere? I believe so, but I have never seen it.

If any and all duplicate powers got someone booted from the Legion, it’s hard to see how any pair from the trio of Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and Superboy were ever members simultaneously given how much overlap their powersets have. It almost has to have been a rule against possessing ONLY powers that duplicated those of a current member. It seems it was fine to duplicate some of another Legionnaire’s powers as long as you had an extra or unique power ALSO.

But then, no rule of the Legion’s ever really held; they all got “exceptions.” Karate Kid broke the “must have powers” rule; Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy repeatedly broke the “no duplicate powers” rule. Later on, Polar Boy was given a special exception to the age limit.

I never understood why Calorie Queen was one of the Super-Rejects, anyway. Her super-strength means that she should have been able to serve alongside Matter-Eater Lad, since she was as different from him as, say, Mon-El was from Ultra Boy or Superboy or Supergirl.

IIRC, Dc’s Amazing World of DC Comics from the seventies did an all-LSH issue that included the team constitution. I’ll have to go dig that up.
Superboy and Supergirl got the exception because they were living legends who inspired the concept of a team super-hero team 1,000 years later.

But Calorie Queen did not have a power that no one else did, so she was excluded. Still dumb, but makes perfect sense according to the retroactive rule.

There was a Silver Age Legion tale that referred to a ‘no duplication of powers’ rule, ‘The Secret Power of the Mystery Super-Hero’ in ‘Adventure Comics 307. The first panel reads: ‘In the Legion of Super-Heroes, that glamorous band who champion justice in the 21st century, each member has at least one different and unusual super-power!’.

That is repeated on Panel 4 of Page 3, which says: ‘All applicants must have at least one unique super-power to be accepted…’.

It wasn’t mentioned in the Legion’s Constitution in issues 325 and 326 but the editor — or whoever wrote it — specifically mentioned in both comics that only “passages” were being published.

Thanks, Ajit, that’s definitely an interesting reference, but as you know from the issue, the usage could not have meant “no duplicate powers,” because each of the powers that Mystery Lad’s fellow Legionnaires think he had during the issue were powers that other Legionnaires already had (invulnerability, super-strength and heat vision). If they really had a rule saying the power had to be unique so as to mean “no duplicate powers,” then they would not have been guessing stuff like that, right? The usage of “different” and “unique” was just set-up for the mystery of what Mystery Lad’s power was (you know, “we know he has a super-power, because you have to have one to be in the Legion – so what is it?”).

Of course, not to mention, as already noted, the Legion did have a number of members who had duplicate powers (like Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass) so they obviously did not have a rule against it.

Did you read the entire series, from Adventure #247 through Superboy #195, to verify when the duplicate-power rule appeared?

It seems you checked all the issues where members joined. But what about roll-call sequences that introduced the heroes to the readers? I could easily imagine a footnote saying, “A Legion rule prohibits more than one member with any power [or from any planet] .”

The rule also could’ve come up in a Legion guest-star appearance in Superman, Action, Superboy, or another title. Or in the letters pages, which were canonical enough to determine the Legion leaders by voting. So I’m not totally prepared to concede it was a long-time myth.

Did you read the entire series, from Adventure #247 through Superboy #195, to verify when the duplicate-power rule appeared?

Yes. Superboy #195 is the first time it is mentioned. And, again, they had members with duplicate powers back then, so clearly they had no rule against members with duplicate powers.

EDITED TO ADD: I just did a quick web search and I found a great article by Commander Benson over at Captain Comics where he goes through a bunch of Legion myths, and this is one of them! And he came to the same exact conclusion I did. He even brought up another great point, that the Legion tried to recruit another Kryptonian, Dev-Em, so obviously they had no problem with adding more people like Superboy (and that was after they had already added Mon-El and others with powers like Superboy). He also makes an amusing point when he notes that it wasn’t like the Legionnaires had a hard time rejecting possible members for flimsy reasons, so why did they need to have a rule regarding duplicate powers?

Donald Harington, in his memoir/travelogue “Let Us Build Us a City,” travels to where Dogpatch USA was and interviews people from the surrounding area. Basically, it lost out to Silver Dollar City for the Ozark amusement park business. Given that Harington writes about the Ozarks and hillbillies (without calling them that) with great empathy, the whole “Li’l Abner” legacy gets a mixed response.

I’ve heard the same thing about Deliverance–the rural folks where they made the movie weren’t terribly happy about how they were portrayed.

I know one of the guys who was on the actual canoe trip that Deliverance was based on. Here’s what actually happened: Four Atlanta businessmen, including James Dickey, went up north to canoe the river, got lost, got rescued by some backwoodsmen, invited back their hut, fed a wonderful meal, and sent home. On their way back to Atlanta, one of them asked, “Gee, what if those backwoodsmen _hadn’t_ been so nice to us…” Dickey realized that that would make for a good novel. Now the very idea of “North Georgia” is synonymous with “squeal like a pig!” No good deed goes unpunished.

Commander Benson

June 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

Mr. Cronin,

Much obliged for the shout-out on my Deck Log article on the fallacy of a Silver-Age Legion rule prohibiting the duplication of powers. I’ve been slack about keeping up with your last few entries here, so I didn’t see this one until a little while ago.

Re-reading my piece again, following your link, also made me realise that there were a couple of typos and sentence fumbles that needed to be corrected, so I went ahead and did that.

I greatly admire the level of research and degree of accuracy that you put into your column, so I was tickled when your conclusions on this topic—arrived at independently—mirrored mine.

Again, thanks for the tip of the hat.

Commander Benson

But Calorie Queen did not have a power that no one else did, so she was excluded. Still dumb, but makes perfect sense according to the retroactive rule.

The problem is that the retroactive rule in this “strong” form could virtually never have applied in the past, and certainly didn’t by the time the Super-Rejects story was published. Unless someone can explain Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and any Kryptonian being on the team simultaneously, as had been the case for several years by that point?

Calorie Queen’s power to convert consumed matter into super-strength gave her a unique powerset by any standard that allows the multiple Superboy-types to be members simultaneously. Oddly enough, the Super-Rejcts story ends with Matter-EaterLad being dragged off to Bismoll because he’s been drafted into their compulsory political system, and he recommends that the Legion give Calorie Queen another tryout since he’s leaving anyway. It was never followed up on.

Exceptions to the rule suggest that writers forgot the rule or applied it inconsistently. They don’t prove the rule never existed.

“Unless someone can explain Mon-El, Ultra Boy, and any Kryptonian being on the team simultaneously”:

Superboy: Kryptonian-style powers with a vulnerability to kryptonite.

Mon-El: Kryptonian-style powers with a vulnerability to lead. Powers under a red sun and no vulnerability to lead with antidote.

Ultra Boy: Limited Kryptonian-style powers plus Penetra-Vision, but usable only one a time.

There you go…three slightly different SETS of powers. None of them have exactly the same powers as a whole.

The main difficulty is explaining Superboy and Supergirl or Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass. But that’s covered under the little known “relative with same origin” exception to the “no duplicate powers” clause.

Just kidding, sort of.

Exceptions to the rule suggest that writers forgot the rule or applied it inconsistently. They don’t prove the rule never existed.

Examples contrary to the existence of the rule (such as Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass being on the team together for a number of issues without incident) and the rule never being mentioned until years later does.

Is anyone else as impressed with how much comics reading Cronin does for these features? That was, what, several hundred Legion comics to read to prove this? I shudder (in fear AND pleasure) at the thought of how many long boxes of goodness there are at casa del Cronin.

It really wasn’t that many. Probably roughly 110 comics, and spread out over a couple of weeks. The craziest amount of comics I read for the When We First Met feature (which is what I was doing when I came across the interesting legend that there was no duplicate powers rule until 1973) in one day was earlier today. We’re talking roughly one hundred and fifty comics, but at least I have answers! You’ll see them before the month is over!

Travis Pelkie

June 27, 2011 at 1:38 am

You so crazy!

Just be careful that you don’t become like Flaming Carrot, at least according to the Jeff Rovin Encyclopedia of SuperHeroes.

(and maybe this is worth a legend) (if so, feel free to put it in moderation for now)

According to that book, Flaming Carrot was a bum or hobo or something, and made a bet to read 5000 comics straight. In doing so, he “became simple” and turned into the Carrot!

How can you not love an origin like that? If you don’t love that origin, why read comics, man?

Oh, they reprinted the Carrot’s origin at the start of every issue, so it’s not much of a legend. As I recall, Rovin’s ecnclopedia had a lot of errors, but that wasn’t one of them.

Commander Benson

June 27, 2011 at 3:30 am

Certain Silver-Age myths—”Adam Strange was a honorary JLA member”, this one about a Legion prohibition against duplicate powers, and “Hawkgirl was not originally admitted to the JLA because of a similar rule”—some fans cleave to so strongly, they grasp at straws to preserve.

I’ve heard before the argument insisting that the minor differentiations of weaknesses between Superboy and Mon-El and Ultra Boy results in them having different powers and thus, do not violate the prohibition. Those are straws. They are straws because: under the premise that the Silver-Age Legion DID have a prohibition against duplicate powers, two of those three still wouldn’t have been admitted.

In the Bronze Age’s “Last Fight for a Legionnaire”, from SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES # 212 (Oct., 1975)—in which the prohibition rule DID exist (we know that because it’s a central point of the story)—the Legion rejects Calorie Queen for having the same power as Matter-Eater Lad. This is despite the fact that, unlike M-E Lad, Calorie Queen can divert the energy absorbed by her consumption into providing her with super-strength.

That’s certainly the same type of minor difference as the argument which insists that Superboy and Mon-El have “different” powers; yet, the Legion rejected her anyway. Obviously, the no-duplication-of-powers rule applies to the BASIC SUPER-POWER, and disregards any minor differences. So IF the Legion did have that rule in the Silver Age, then it would have disallowed the additions of Mon-El and Ultra Boy and Supergirl.

Now, sure, someone could come up with some more “Well, maybe . . . .” excuses to get around this, but doing so brings the level of verbal contortions to the point where Occam’s Razor clearly comes into play: that is, the simplest answer for Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy being admitted to the Legion (and Dev-Em being invited to join) is that no duplication-of-powers rule existed, or was even considered to exist, in the Silver-Age Legion stories.

Commander Benson

I’m used to the Legion being elitist dicks, but that line Chameleon Boy says above about Superboy and Supergirl being “special” just seems extra dickish and cliquish, at least when read out of context.

The only way I can make that Rejects story make sense is if the Legion made up a “no close duplications” rule to politely and swiftly reject six people who were aggressive, super-powered narcissists. Considering that half of them joined the super-villains later, the Legion had a point.

Of course, the truth is that Jim Shooter simply invented or erroneously inferred an existing rule that can’t be sensibly made to fit earlier stories in order to get a good plot going.

I read that as Cham being sarcy!

As regards the Supergirl/Suberboy membership business, I thought it was partly because they’re both part-time members, so they time-shared the membership …though they did occasionally appear in the same strip. Never mind.

Commander, I’m going to have to find your piece on the Adam Strange thing. I thought he WAS an honorary member of the JLA, with it being mentioned around the time he got married in a JLA comic. I’m thinking maybe that doesn’t count as we nevers saw a formal induction, did we? Ditto Phantom stranger?

Commander Benson

June 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

“Commander, I’m going to have to find your piece on the Adam Strange thing. I thought he WAS an honorary member of the JLA, with it being mentioned around the time he got married in a JLA comic. I’m thinking maybe that doesn’t count as we nevers saw a formal induction, did we? Ditto Phantom stranger?”

Mr. Gray,

The matter of honorary memberships in the Justice League is one, for much of the fanship, replete with Neat Ideas, “but I always thought . . . .” misperceptions, and spurious information put out by DC itself.

As to the matter of Adam Strange, there is no pre-Crisis story, in no issue, that shows Strange being awarded an honorary JLA membership, or that states such, either in text, dialogue, footnotes, or editor’s responses in the lettercol. This was corroborated by Craig “Mr. Silver Age” Shutt in one of his CBG columns last year.

Since someone will mention it, I will go ahead and state that THE AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS # 14 (Mar., 1977) does insist that Strange is an honorary JLAer; it also bestows the same status on a number of other super-heroes. It does not reference specific issues in which these honours were bestowed (since there were none); rather, AWODCC # 14 states that it was a general conference based on assistance those heroes gave to the JLA.

As a reference, AWODCC # 14 is poor. It is riddled with errors and misstatements of fact. Besides that, its insistence that those heroes were honorary members is internally flawed, since it conspicuously omits Robin, the Boy Wonder, who appeared in at least three pre-Crisis JLA stories. But, if someone wants to take AWODCC # 14, with all of its flaws, as some sort of revisionist document, then I cannot argue.

But, as far as the Silver Age goes, Adam Strange was never an honorary JLAer, and no pre-Crisis story at all ever showed that to be the case.

I suspect this belief comes from a couple of things. One, many fans glom onto it as a Neat Idea. Two, it probably stems, in part, from a misremembering of a thought-bubble from the Flash in “The Planet That Came to a Standstill”, from MYSTERY IN SPACE # 75 (May, 1962). At the conclusion, when Adam explains his defeat of Kanjar Ro, the Scarlet Speedster reflects that he is going to nominate Strange for JLA-hood at the next membership meeting.

In fact, Adam Strange was nominated at two JLA membership meetings—in JLA # 4 (Jun.-Jul., 1961) and # 42 (Feb., 1966). But he never got past the nomination stage.

As for the Phantom Stranger, the same sort of confusion exists. Only, in his case, the Stranger was not a honorary member of the JLA, but a full-fledged one!

At the conclusion of the Phantom Stranger’s first encounter with the JLA—”A Stranger Walks Among Us”, JLA # 103 (Dec., 1972), the Justice League members vote him in as a regular Leaguer; however, he disappears without informing the group whether or not he accepts the honour.

The Stranger remained mum on the point for his next couple of appearances with the League, creating a certain degree of fuzziness as to his status. Then, in JLA # 146 (Sep., 1977), the entire JLA assembles to tackle a menace, and the Phantom Stranger shows up, as well. When he interjects his opinion into the discussion, the Green Arrow objects, to which the Stranger responds: “I AM a member of the Justice League, am I not?”

Hope this helps.

Commander Benson

Commander, very interesting. Thanks for filling in the details re: Adam and the Stranger.
On the Legion, Cham only says that they don’t accept people with duplicate powers, not that it’s written into the constitution. Which could just mean it’s an unofficial standard for when they hold membership tryouts–possibly one that evolved over time as more people from Durla, Braal, etc. tried out (“I’m sorry, we already have one guy with magnetic powers.”).
My guess about the behind-the-scenes reasoning is that given how many of the Legion’s powers were racial (Phantom Girl, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Triplicate Girl, Matter-Eater Lad, Shrinking Violet, Saturn Girl, and so on), the idea of Why Them? (as the story points out, none of them are the exemplar of their race) occurred to someone.
Regarding Karate Kid, I think arguing he doesn’t have a power is taking a very technical definition of power. The fact that technically he “only” shatters vault doors and steel girders by skill rather than say, super-strength, is no less a power than Brainy being really, really, really, really smart.

Yeah, I always loved the Phantom Stranger’s JLA membership because he’d just pop in whenever he felt like it, which was seldom. After all, he’s the freaking Phantom Stranger. That’s his whole shtick. He must remain … a stranger..

Regarding Karate Kid, I think arguing he doesn’t have a power is taking a very technical definition of power. The fact that technically he “only” shatters vault doors and steel girders by skill rather than say, super-strength, is no less a power than Brainy being really, really, really, really smart.

Brainiac 5’s powers weren’t even revealed in Action Comics #276’s ‘Supergirl’s Three Super Girl-Friends’. (Unlike those of Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, and Sun Boy, whose powers were written on their placards, his just read ‘Brainiac 5’. But how difficult could it have been to guess what a ‘brainiac’ does?)

According to the Legion: “You were selected, Brainiac 5, for your noble courage in helping Supergirl, though it could have cost you your own life!”

As to Karate Kid, he seems to have got in both because the Legion was short of members and because he held off Superboy in a duel for about a minute or so.

Which buttresses the point that the Legion was making up the rules as it went along since “noble courage” is hardly a ‘power’, leave alone more obviously useful in battle than Sun Boy’s.

As to the ‘no duplicate powers’ rule, the Legion might have amended its constitution at some point after the introduction of Element Lad as the document in Adventure Comics 325 and 326 has at least one other obvious amendment.

Why the Legion then went back to the old nutty rule is another question! Probably, to quote Commander Benson, for no better reason than Cary Bates thinking it would be a “Neat Idea”.

Travis Pelkie

June 28, 2011 at 6:18 am

@buttler: something about your comment makes me want to see a Marvel/DC crossover with the Phantom Stranger and the Watcher together. It seems to work somehow.

@fraser: I have several issues of the Flaming Carrot, but I don’t remember that the “5000 comics made him simple” part is in that origin in the inside front cover. I do remember “horse”, but that’s something else.

I’m trying to help Brian get a Legend out of this somehow!

Man, after looking through the gallery link Gavin posted above, I am really sad they shut that “Lil’ Abner” theme park down. It sounds awesome. Where else do you have a family theme park with bosomy chicks (and big strappin’ dudes for the ladies) being paid to walk around half-naked and speak in stereotypical Hillbilly accents? And all the rides and attractions sound goofy and ridiculous in the coolest way! You can catch and cook your own fish!

If only I would have known about it when I was a kid and it was still open. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to settle for a visit to that Dracula theme park in Romania (if they ever finish building it).

Hank Gillette

July 31, 2011 at 3:07 pm

What I don’t understand is how Triplicate Girl ever got accepted. How is the power of being able to split into three normal human beings any better than grabbing three people off the street (or adding three rejects with actual super-powers)?

If you want a fun look at theme parks in the days before Orlando become the center of the vacation universe, there’s an excellent book “Dixie Before Disney” on the subject–Dogpatch is just one of the places described.
i’ve always wondered if the emphasis on the rules in the early LSH stories reflected kid clubs of the day (did they all make up their own rules?). Or it could have been just a convenient tool to help the plot along, of course.

Edmond Hamilton said in an interview that he always had a hard time working Triplicate Girl into the script.

Rick, if you think not knowing about hillbillies is bad, try this: A friend of mine had a college roommate from a very small, very Christian town who believed that Jews didn’t exist: They’d all died or been converted around the time of Jesus. She was flabbergasted to learn otherwise.
I had a friend myself who converted to Judaism and was asked by a cousin “So is it Catholics or Jews don’t believe Christ is the Messiah?”

Ironically, Superboy was allowed to join *because* he duplicated the powers of existing members.

[...] the concession stand. Class favorites, Mr. CHS and Miss CHS will be announced at the dance. The Sadie Hawkins dance originated from a comic strip by Al Capp in [...]

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