This is the Great Comic Book Detectives, where readers send in requests for the names of comic books that they remembered reading years ago and I try to find them for them! Send any future requests to firstname.lastname@example.org!
My buddy Adam Knave (who is currently co-writing the awesome series “The Once and Future Queen” for Dark Horse Comics – our own Steve Morris interviewed them about it a while back), wrote in with this one:
There was an issue of Superboy (or Superboy and the Legion) where the Legion fought a robot that was named like … Uthlor or something, an anagram of Luthor and they didn’t know it was Luthor and it was just one of the first Legion stories I ever read and can’t ever find it.
The story you’re thinking of, Adam, was “The Face Behind the Lead Mask!” from “Adventure Comics” #300 (by Jerry Siegel, John Forte and Al Plastino), which was the start of the Legion of Super-Heroes having their own ongoing series (the cover is the famous shot of the various Legionnaires in various panels on the cover).
The story opened with the Legion hanging out at their clubhouse when, one by one, their powers go crazy. This being the Legion, they naturally first figure that each of them has gone evil for no reason. But when each of their powers go haywire, they figure that something else must be up. Of course, as soon as the Legion show any weakness at all, the government shows up to tell them to get out of town. They then meet the bad guy who is causing all of the problems, the mighty Urthlo.
Eventually, Superboy and Saturn Girl work out a plan where Mon-El will come out of the Phantom Zone (which he has been in for a thousand years due to the fact that if he showed up on Earth outside of the Phantom Zone, he would die from his lead poisoning weakness) to surprise Urthlo…
Oh man, how could anyone guess that Urthlo was connected to Luthor?! It was impossible! Man, Jerry Siegel used to think that you could do anything with tapes. Tapes were, like, his version of Stan Lee’s transistors (transistors could do ANYthing).
Okay, that’s another case solved! Thanks for the request, Adam! If anyone else has a comic book from their youth that they can’t recall now, drop me a line at email@example.com and I’ll see if we can find out the comic you’re missing!