Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TOS: Adventure Comics #301

Adventure Comics #301 (October 1962)
title: "The Secret Origin of Bouncing Boy!"
writer: Jerry Siegel
artist: John Forte
editor: Mort Weisinger
reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Mission Monitor Board: 
Bouncing Boy, Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy, Triplicate Girl, Ultra Boy

Synopsis
The splash pages gives us a flashback to Bouncing Boy's first attempt to join the Legion. Beaming with pride, he shows off his power but Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl cruelly dismiss his abilities as useless. Looks like Chuck is in for some disappointment. But maybe not...for we are about to learn the "fascinating ordeal endured by a super-hero who made good the hard way."




Legion try-outs are about to begin, and a crowd of fans watch as the Legionnaires arrive. Lightning Lad in particular loves the attention.
After the last member arrives, Saturn Girl activates a force-shield around their headquarters and the team gets down to business. Cosmic Boy explains that some of their members could not be there today. Colossal Boy is on another planet fighting a giant that has terrorized a town of "normal-sized" people. Phantom Girl is on another planet about to penetrate the impenetrable hideout of some evil-doers. And Ultra-Boy is on another planet about to melt down a berserk lead metal monster.
Cosmic Boy tells the team that its time to examine the applicants, but before they can begin, the try-outs are  interrupted by the arrival of a rocket belonging to Lester Spiffany. Son of the owner of Earth's swankiest jewelry establishment, he tries to buy his way into the Legion, but Cosmic Boy rejects his offer.
The team then welcomes the next applicant, Storm Boy. Bouncing Boy is impressed by his weather controlling powers, but Cosmic Boy detects that there is a small metal device in his pocket where his hand was a moment ago. Cosmic Boy confirms that it is a weather-control device and explains that no one can join the Legion unless they have a genuine super-power.
Cosmic Boy decides that it might inspire the applicants to hear how one of the Legionnaires was able to meet the requirements for membership. The "Selector Machine" randomly chooses Bouncing Boy to tell his tale..
Chuck tells the applicants that he was once an errand boy of a famed scientist. One day, he was instructed to deliver a super-plastic fluid to the science council. On the way, he succumbed to temptation and stopped to watch a robot gladiator tournament. He got so excited watching it that when he reached for soda-pop he accidentally picked up the wrong bottle.
Drinking the super-plastic fluid caused him to immediately expand into his Bouncing Boy form. At first he could not control his movements and his bouncing ruined the game. After reverting to normal, he slipped out of the arena to seek help.

A doctor examined Chuck and found that the fluid gave him permanent bouncing powers. Chuck was initially unsure whether to be pleased or fearful but after seeing Lightning Lad in action, he became inspired to join the Legion. On his first try-out, the Legionnaires did not see how his powers could be useful and he was rejected.

Back in the present, the young applicants are shocked to find out that Bouncing Boy was rejected, but he tells them that although he failed to get in, he refused to give up.
A few days after his rejection, Chuck was walking down the street when he saw a falling globe that he thought might be a bomb. He used his bouncing power to knock the "bomb" away, but then it burst and turned out to just be an ad for a new 4-D movie. He noticed Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl watching from a Legion plane and laughing at his "flop" of a rescue.
Chuck later heard a passerby refer to him as the "bouncing idiot" and he realized he had become a laughing stock. But a few days later, Chuck stumbled onto a robbery at the Museum of Medical Wonders. Someone was taking an invaluable healing urn and no one seemed able to stop him. The thief used special metal gloves to shock anyone who tried to stop him, including Saturn Girl.
Chuck quickly intervened and used his powers to successfully take down the criminal. More Legionnaires arrived, and Cosmic Boy was thankful but confused as to how Chuck was able to do it. The hero explained that he was not grounded like the others so he was not affected by the gloves.
Cosmic Boy took back what he said about Chuck's powers being useless, and several days later Bouncing Boy was welcomed into the Legion. Chuck tells the newest applicants that he hopes they will be inspired by his story, and it appears that they are!

Commentary
There is a certain meta-element to this story. The message is one of encouragement, and the point of Bouncing Boy sharing his origin is to provide inspiration to the applicants, and presumably, the reader. But it is also pretty obvious they picked Bouncing Boy for a reason. His character is one that readers tend to either find lovable or silly. This story is basically designed to sell the latter on the character. I am not saying that was necessarily the intent...for all I know, he may have been one of the more popular Legionnaires. I am just saying that this is how the story reads now, and perhaps at least reflects on the writer's views.

The splash page emphasizes that. Its one that I think readers will have a visceral reaction to, either dismissing the story based on Bouncing Boy's appearance or embracing. Personally, I love the character and it made me excited for the story.

The story opens strong with the beginning of Legion try-outs. The crowds are gathered, and it reinforces that a young team of superheroes like the Legion would likely be big in popular culture. And the scenes of what the absent Legionnaires are up to...there is alot of classic sci-fi comics fun wrapped up in just those few panels. Plus, the suggestion that there are alot of missions that occur that we never see is an intriguing one.

The origin of Bouncing Boy's powers is fairly simplistic but still fun. There are nice little touches here, such as getting a glimpse of futuristic sports entertainment and having him lack control of his powers in the beginning. Having Cosmic Boy be kind of a jerk about it, and having Chuck become a laughing stock after his failed attempt to stop the "bomb," were awkward to read, but fairly characteristic of DC Comics of this era. And hey, kids could be cruel so young readers could probably identify.

Bouncing Boy having become a laughing stock must have been long forgotten because the applicants were shocked to learn he was originally rejected for membership. Not sure about the explanation of Bouncing Boy not being grounded at the end. Yes, it is logical and a good justification for why his powers might be useful. But if he can bounce around quickly, it seems he could just as easily have taken down the bad guy before he ever had a chance to use his gloves. I guess the writer may have felt that was not as interesting or as educational an explanation as they wanted, and something other members could pull off.

Overall, a fun read about a fun character. Forte's art was good, not great, but he did what he needed to do. The ending was a touching one, and it was nice to see the applicants being inspired. It was nice to see Bouncing Boy get his time in the spotlight and to learn how he joined the team.


Science Police Notes: 
  • This is the first appearance of Ultra Boy as a Legionnaire, after being introduced in Superboy #98 (July 1962). His power is still confined to penetra-vision.  
  • Although there are sixteen Legionnaires at this point, there are only ten members shown on Cosmic Boy's Selector Machine. Perhaps it only features those Legionnaires who are on-duty at the Clubhouse. 
  • Although the history of Legionnaires and in what order they joined can be confusing, Bouncing Boy's induction scene includes Shrinking Violet and Sun Boy, meaning they had to have joined before he did. 

2 comments:

  1. "Lovable or silly" Hey, why not both. Read this one when it first came out (9 years old). Leaned about determination. Liked the Luthor story too.

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  2. I also read this when it first came out. To me, the purpose of this story was to answer the question: What the heck is Bouncing Boy doing in the Legion?

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