Secret Origins #47: Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, and Chemical King

Fallen Legends of the Legion of Super-Heroes! First Ryan Daly and Tim Wallace review the story of Ferro Lad from Secret Origins #47. Then, Ryan and Anj cover the path of Karate Kid. And finally, L’il Russell Burbage joins Ryan for the tragic tale of Chemical King.

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“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music: “Only The Good Die Young” by Billy Joel; “You’re The Best” by Joe Esposito; “Death Is Not The End” by Bob Dylan.

Thanks for listening!

29 responses to “Secret Origins #47: Ferro Lad, Karate Kid, and Chemical King

  1. Thanks again for having me on the show Ryan. Despite being on the show I have a number of comments!

    Glad Russell was able to talk about LSH 300 and the story where Douglas Nolan does head to the dream world.

    As for Ferro Lad, I am a big fan of the character and got that ‘Ferro Lad’ trade as a hard cover at Newbury comics for $7! Well worth it.
    I will say that he does appear in the one-issue timeline where Mordru ruled the universe in the 5 Year Later run. Here is a link to my coverage of that issue:

    And for Chemical King, well I don’t love him as much as Russell. But in a weird bit of cosmic synchronicity, Superboy and the Legion 211 is a hugely important comic for me as well as I consider it my first comic ever! I talk about it here:

    And Superboy and the Legion 212 is also very important as it is the first appearance of Calorie Queen. (Swoon)

    My top three Legionnaires!
    1) Wildfire
    2) Lightning Lass
    3a) Chameleon Boy
    3b) Shrinking Violet

    Thanks for having me on!

  2. And what a great show, we can never have enough Legion coverage. Well, unless Earth Man comes into it. And Atmos. And…

    Well done to all the guests, such enthusiasm, knowledge, wit and charm.

    I never cared for Karate Kid, he made for a dull visual. I want to see power beams!

    It’s a shame Paul Levitz never got to write Chemical King regularly, he was great at figuring out power usage plotlines. Still, he did give is the fun Chemical Kid in the pre-Flashpoint Adventure Comics Legion Academy.

    Ferro Lad had a great character arc, we got just enough Andrew Nolan stories. The aforementioned Legion #300 is an utter classic spinning out of the famous Adult Legion tale.

    Cute as they would have been, I can’t see how an Invisible Kid/Chemical King romance can be extrapolated out of this origin story, given it starts from Lyle’s death – Lyle died because he was seduced by a ghost woman (what a *&$%!). So even if he was bi, he wasn’t focusing on Condo,

    My fave Legionnaires are many, so here are three of them:
    Ultra Boy, for what Tom and Mary Bierbaum did with him, and the ingenuity with which he got around his power limitation.

    Sensor Girl – I’m a sucker for new uses for old powers, and I can pretend it all made sense.

    Saturn Girl – just because she rules.

  3. Curt Swan and Mark Badger are an interesting combo! Took guts to pair those two up, I assume that was Waid’s work.

    Was LSH a huge seller? They got a lot of play in Secret Origins. You’ve gone over the fact that Waid was left alone at this point, so maybe that didn’t matter…

    I chuckle at the idea that of all the Legion members, it was Karate Kid who got a solo series. Amazing what a fad can do if you’ve got the right name at the right time.

    Good episode, and nice to hear Russell on a podcast.

    1. Notorious slavering madman hater that you are, it’s got to sting to find out Legion outsold the Justice League throughout the Silver & Bronze Age.

      When the Legion became a regular feature in Adventure Comics, sales initially dropped by 45K, but then rose by 105K to 520K in 1965. By comparison, JLA sold 75K less copies in 1962, and 131K less in 1965. By 1969, the Legion shed 166K and were dropped from the book, but they had the last laugh, because sales continued to fall without them for the rest of the run. But see, when they moved to Superboy, that title dropped by 88K, although it at least stabilized as Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes with modest year-to-year declines for the rest of the run. 1979, the last year with Superboy’s name in the title, sold 162K to JLA’s 128K.

      Unfortunately, Superboy and the Legion needed each other, since the former was down to 103K by his second year and 80K by the end of his solo run in 1984. Legion of Super-Heroes peaked in 1983 following the Great Darkness Saga at 166K, compared to X-Men’s 336K , Superman 126K, & JLA’s 122K.

      Yes, I wish I had early Titans numbers, too. Tales of the Teen Titans sold 182K in 1985, versus Tales of the Legion’s 109K, Power Man & Iron Fist’s 102K, Superman’s 98K, and X-Men’s 449K.

      I don’t have total circulation numbers for 1989, but Capitol City Distribution sold a bit under 34K on the first issue of the Five Years Later Legion, down to 18K by issue #12. Secret Origins itself was selling on the lower end of 11-15K in its last year. Justice League America & Europe were in the mid-30s. Byrneless Superman was in the early 20Ks, New Titans even lower. X-Men was doing about 75K at Capitol, and total distribution of 408K. Unsurprisingly, Batman jumped to that range in the summer of 1989, and Capitol doubled even X-Men’s numbers for “Lonely Place of Dying.” Wow, Tim Drake was HUGE. That’s about five times what they ordered “Death in the Family,” though that went through multiple printings and a bestselling trade…

  4. I actually loved that Karate Kid moment with Grimbor’s giant chain (in which he was displaying the ‘find weakest spot in anything’ superpower that he sometimes had in order to qualify for the legion.) But my favorite Karate Kid moment happened in the first rebooted legion, at the end of the first long-form story in which we saw Val holding his own against Daxamites and facing them down with a broken leg…

  5. Great episode, and I’m finally glad to hear Lil’ Russell’s voice. You did a great job Russell! Tim and Anj did too, but we knew that.

    Ferro Lad has always fascinated me. It is a great look. I can’t say I care for Badger’s inks over Swan. It smacks of DC trying to “edgy up” an established, traditional comic artist with someone with an inconoclastic style, like putting Bill Sink-o-vitch over Jim Aparo, for rather ugly results.

    I wrongly assumed Karate Kid was far more important to Legion history due to two comics: The Brave & The Bold #198 where he teamed with Batman (and wrapped up plot threads from his solo book), and Legion of Superheroes Annual #2, where he and Projectra get married. So when I found out he was killed in the unattainable Baxter series, I was very surprised. His Dave Cockrum suit never appears in this issue, does it?

    I have almost no connection to Chemical King, but I had heard of the hinted-at relationship with Invisible Kid I. I had no idea that this was a Post-Crisis retcon.

    I don’t have this issue, but now I feel like I have a really good idea of what it was like. Great job team!


    1. Oh, I forgot my Legion list. I’m going to exclude Superboy and Supergirl, for obvious reasons.

      1. Lightning Lad
      2. Mon-El
      3. Wildfire

      And thanks for plugging Super Mates Ryan!


  6. Don’t forget Superboy 206, with the unstable clones of Lyle and Andrew that exploded after 48 hours.
    Daddy Nolan’s crash is what police write up as a “single car accident” to cover up a suicide. Although Legion parents aren’t the best pilots, the Ranzzes died in a similar way.
    Liked the art, Badger gave a very different look to Swan’s usual stiffness.

    Valor, Inferno, Timber Wolf all had solo series. as well as Superboy and Supergirl.
    Action 382 is when KK became leader
    I think I read that samurai sequence in Usagi Yojimbo as well. It’s probably a standard trope for samurai films.
    Bad inking over Mike Parobeck.
    It makes sense that Val and Jeckie would be drawn to each other, as they both embody cultures from the past.

    CK and the rest of the dead Legionnaires showed up as Mordru’s zombies in the 5YL run.

    Top 3 Legionnaires:
    3. TMK Matter-Eater Lad
    2. Lightning Lad
    1. BLOK!
    Fave non-Legionnaire is Color Kid, since my first classic Legion story was the 100 page reprint of Adventure 350-351.

    I think my post got lost, but the Secret Sanctuary was the home of the time lost Legion, and one of the JSA teams as well.

    You could always cover the Secret Files & Origins from around 2000.

  7. I don’t own this issue in part because I somehow found this cover so hideous that it makes me long for architectural design schematics. Why couldn’t they be full color holograms with indications of projected light/translucency? I can rationally see statues if I stop and stare for a moment, but all the times I’ve flipped past it in longboxes, it just looks like three jackasses mugging for the camera.

    I quite liked Ferro Lad the only time he was part of my Legion reading, in the… um… twoboot? I did need him to die, however, and when they flubbed that to flagrantly alter Legion (re)history, I could not abide. I would have been much more accommodating if he wasn’t just another white kid on a Wonder Bread team with mayonnaise and egg sans yolk. He also calls into question why a millennium from now he couldn’t be outfitted with headgear that looked more prosthetic and less medieval dungeon. In a team lousy with mild mannered optimists, he didn’t much stand out. Back in ancient times when you could count the major deaths in comics on your fingers and they were all notable and permanent, Ferro Lad mattered. In a world where Bucky, Gwen Stacy, and Marvel Girl are all featured in monthly titles, he’s just another stunt that got recalled. R.I.P, Menthor, the last man left in the grave. From what I heard here, Ferro Lad was a meaningful martyr in an exception Legion short story, but that’s undone if he keeps on truckin’ through a rebooted continuity.

    I think I discovered Karate Kid in a back issue bin in 1989, and was like “How does this relate to the movie?” I assumed not at all, because nobody in Hollywood cared about comic book characters who weren’t Superman or Batman. Yet, sure enough, I eventually caught that disclaimer while the credits rolled after a viewing (back when television allowed credits to roll legibly and unmolested save perhaps an audio break-in to announce what was airing next. Beyond noting that trivia fact, I didn’t care about Karate Kid, his lame short-lived series, or his crumby costume and “powers.” I was glad to hear he was dead. When he came back as an Asian and a member of the “Archie” Legion, I acknowledged that he was the best martial artist in the DC Universe (them disallowed further exploration of him in debates on the subject because he ruined the grading curve for everyone else.) That version looked alright, and I tried not to groan to hard when he judo’d Lar Gand in a fight. I don’t care about an ant’s center of gravity or precision strike, I’m still going to kill it nigh-effortlessly and instantaneously, then cope with any aftereffects once it’s gone. On his best day, Karate Kid is dumb, and I have to admit tuning out for chunks of the origin recap. I got stuck in terrible Houston traffic for two hours worth of wild wrong turns onto endless winding roads going in the wrong direction and almost ran out of gas on a freeway. Karate Kid couldn’t compete with that as well as his fellows.

    I don’t recall ever having direct contact with Chemical King in a story, and the early Chris Sprouse art on this looks a bit wonky. That said, both Ferro Lad and Chemical King laid on the heavily whipped melodramatic lather extra thick. Whatever creative workshop rules that breaks, it’s an intrinsic aspect of the appeal of the Legion of Super-Heroes. So long as I can get out of the way of my smug cynicism, both these stories sound like they’d kick my heart square in the ass. Just the preview pages with (whatever Chemical Not Kid King’s real name is)’s melting down over chemical reactions in the face of personal loss chokes me up a little. It sounds like the right kind of manipulative.

    Obviously I’m also on-board with allowing Chemical King to manifest whatever sexual orientation he’s inclined toward. It does get me though that Legion has always attracted more women and gays than the average mainstream super-hero franchise via female representation and a strong fan community reading and requesting coded homosexuality going back to the Silver Age. It’s no new revelation that X-Men took the exact same formula and expanded upon it fantastically, but part of their improved results was through embracing racial representation and subtext that the Legion outright refused or handled in, y’know, the worst ways possible. It reminds me of the bubbling conversations about how minority representation used to be looked at as everybody versus the oppression of straight white men. Now we’ve got, say, straight white females womansplaining for all of feminism without consulting the voices of minorities within their own movement. Take your allies where you can get them, but X-Men is still the voice of universal inclusion as written almost exclusively by middle class CIS males and Legion is the “I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men” of progressive comics.

    My top three Legion rejects:

    6) Shrinking Violet
    Obviously did the basic power set, but Vi’s personality and abilities have been all over the place, and beyond the color I don’t particularly like any of her costumes.

    5) Cosmic Boy
    This guy was in the top 3 when I was first breaking it down, but the more I thought about it, the less Rokk held up. I like his costume of recent decades and the androgyny of some earlier cuts, and he’s a sound stoic leader type, but there’s not much else to go with. He’s the Captain America or Cyclops or hell Leonardo type without any of the pesky quirks or complications that would make him more human. He’s just a type in a venue where that’s good enough to serve.

    4) Brainiac 5
    Everything I like about Brainy works better in his ancestor Vril Dox or on other members of the team. The flip side would be that he encompasses the best qualities of those other characters, except he doesn’t, because he has two different personalities Pre-vs.-Post-Crisis. The basically good but imperious, impatient and tactless brain of a group is too much of a cliche.

    My Legionnaires 3:

    3) Chameleon Boy
    Reep Daggle used to own shapeshifting (non-elongated division) as a super-hero power. He’s non-human in a charmingly naive and non-threatening way, despite some creepy elements to his culture/abilities. He’s simply one of the best members to put the concept of a 30th century super team over.

    2) Invisible Kid (Lyle Norg)
    The Legion is a rare instance where I view the whole of a team as greater than the some of its parts. Usually, I come to a team because I like specific members within, but in this case the concept is most important. My primary Legion reading was the first, post-Zero Hour reboot, and Lyle was the team member that I liked and related to the most. I wouldn’t buy an Invisible Kid comic, but I enjoyed Legion stories more when he was on the team, and I didn’t mind his taking the spotlight (where I would with many other members.) On a team where I was open to most any configuration of members so long as they were in a proper Legion story, I was more likely to miss Invisible Kid than most. Also, a lot of what I liked about Pre-Crisis Brainiac 5 ended up going to reboot Lyle.

    1) Saturn Girl
    Nothing says “Legion” like a member named after a planet instead of their powers or really anything but randomly associating them with something sciencey. She’s one of the most powerful exemplars of one of my favorite terrifying super-powers, I like most of her costumes, and she’s one of the few Legionnaires I can enjoy seeing drawn by Curt Swan. She’s a strong leader when so inclined but has the needed personality and flaws Cosmic Boy lacks. I really dug her redesign for the animated series that made her look more alien, so she better represented the Legion over a White Triangle’s wet dream. She’s also everything I liked about Jean Grey (but the hair) with a better color scheme and without the interstellar radioactive baggage of the Phoenix Force.

    Finally, I just Sunday got a tiny Hank Heywood III head shot as part of a jam commission that I’d also labeled “Hank Henshaw” on the space-saving Post-It. It’s an alliterative malapropism I’ve struggled with for as long as I’ve been aware of both characters’ existence. It is my sincere hope that we never hear the name Hank Henshaw on the Supergirl TV-show again, at least not unless the Cyborg Superman shows up (who need not be Hank Henshaw, as he’s always been a garbage character. I will discuss this at length when DC Bloodlines returns in October for its second “season.”)

  8. Listening to Secret Origins with Ryan talking about his evolving feelings for the Legion of Super-Heroes I’m filled with optimism for the evolution of his feelings for Hawk and Dove.

    With a bit a persistence, patience and a lot of love from me, I’m confident that Ryan and I will be announcing a new podcast: “Give Me Those Bird Themed, Romatically Linked Agents of Order and Chaos”. Look for it in 2017!

  9. Funny enough, my first Legion comic was Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #228, with the death of Chemical King (well, I picked up 229, just before visiting my cousin, who had 228.). He was given a great ending, even if he wasn’t used well before (or much, rather). One thing the Legion did well was kill off characters. Most actually stayed dead.

  10. I cannot convey my confusion as a child when I saw the Karate Kid and wondered a) how does this tie-in to the LSH (there was a “Thank you” or something to DC Comics during the closing credits, and b) was Daniel the same Ralph Macchio from Marvel Comics?

    I was a pretty stupid kid.

    But KK is probably one of the greatest movies of its era. I would have preferred to hear more about Daniel Larusso, but that’s not your fault.

  11. Another quick “I’m loving this show”. Also my top three legionars:
    Brainiac 5
    If I have more time I’ll explain why… But mostly for the obvious reasons…

  12. Nemesis Kid’s favorite musical is Annie Get Your Gun. It absolutely has to be. How do I know this? Because I promise you that during his fight with Karate Kid, in his head he is singing “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you!”

    Holy crap on a cracker, you expect me to be able to narrow down the entire Legion to my three favorites? Oh man, this is heavy. Um…..OK, ignoring Superboy and Supergirl (obviously)
    3. three-way tie (yes, I know it’s cheating; shut up!) between Cosmic Boy, Lightning/Light Lass and Sensor Girl
    2. Ultra-Boy
    1. Mon-El

  13. Excellent show Ryan and guests. I found it interesting that a lot of the guests were recommending the Threeboot version of the Legion – I found it ok, but for me, the best jumping on point was the post Zero Hour version of the Legion, especially as it was setting up the Legion from the start, whereas the Legion Threeboot version was fully formed when it began. I just mention the Post Zero Hour version as it was the one where the revised Ferro Lad came in to the Legion when a number were stranded in the 20th Century. I enjoyed his introduction and he had some good tales during that part of the Legion. There was one story with Triad (the updated name for Triplicate Girl) which was quite poignant.

    My favourite Legionairres from the Zero Hour version, created for that run if I recall correctly are:

    1. Kinetix
    2. Xs (Bart Allen’s Cousin – good to have the Flash legacy carried on) and
    3. Monstress.

    Favourite Legionairres Originals:

    1. Phantom Girl
    2. Chameleon Boy
    3. Brainiac 5

  14. Another great episode!! Exceptionally first podcast outing for Little Russell Burbage!! So happy he was able to make it on the show!! Having all these Legion stories and no Russell wouldn’t have felt right.

    In one of the reboots, they gave Ferro Lad short sleeves, so there was no mistaking his ethnicity after that.

    One of the great things about Karate Kid, is that Columbia Pictures had to acknowledge DC Comics in the credits for the Ralph Macchio movie since DC held the copyright on the name! Crazy!

    I’m really going to miss seeing Secret Origins in my feed every Monday morning. However, I’m going to enjoy e-mailing Ryan every Monday morning and asking, “How does it feel to be one of the regular people again?”

  15. If Karate Kid’s story truly shows 30th century Japan, Val must’ve been better prepared than most to live on 20th century Earth or the even more primiitive Orando.

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