SECRET ORIGINS #46 and the lost origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes clubhouse

The 46th issue of DC’s SECRET ORIGINS series was dedicated not to the origin of a particular character, but rather, in a bit of a special theme, to the beginnings of the various headquarters used by the most notable super hero teams of the time; The New Titans, the Justice League of America, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. However, the story that saw print was not the origin that was intended to run in those pages, but rather a replacement tale that had been swiftly crafted to take its place.

The original (and now apocryphal) origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes clubhouse was produced by Gerard Jones, Kurt Schaffenberger and Ty Templeton, under teh guidance of editor Mark Waid. And it revealed that the structure was actually a repurposed rocket from Krypton, sent earlier by Jor-El and Lara and containing all of the things their young child might need upon landing on his new home planet. Teh rocket’s flight was diverted for 1,000 years, and it only eventually found its way to ground in the Legion’s time.

So why was this story given the chop? Well, in his 1986 reinvention of Superman, writer/artist John Byrne had done away with the Man of Steel’s earlier career as Superboy, including his membership in the Legion of Super-Heroes. This was a bit of a small flashpoint among Legion fans in particular, as the history of that series was so intrinsically tied to that of the Boy of Steel. Even after Byrne’s departure, the Superman editorial office remained adamant that the twin streams of the world of Superman and the world of the Legion could not cross.

As harmless and inoffensive as this story is, no amount of arguing could convince the Superman office to allow it see print. (In part this was due to the fact that the versions of Jor-El, Lara and Krypton that we see in this story are clearly the Pre-Crisis versions.) So the job was pulled, and Jones was called upon to come up with an entirely different, entirely Superman and Krypton-free beginning for the Legion’s domicile.

The replacement story (illustrated by Curt Swan and Ty Templeton) is itself a bit of an oddball classic. Not only does it introduce Arm-Fall-Off Boy into Legion history, it also reveals that the Legion’s first clubhouse was actually the dead body of a Legion applicant, Fortress Lad, who had become the structure in order to protect the Legionnaires from attack and then had been deprived of his memory and his life. It’s a somewhat morbid idea–though, given that the Avengers are presently operating out of the hollowed-out innards of a dead Celestial, I can hardly throw any stones here.

8 thoughts on “SECRET ORIGINS #46 and the lost origin of the Legion of Super-Heroes clubhouse

  1. It’s hard to not love BOTH stories. And thanks to DC being unable to get any reboot right, it appears we may have both in the newest continuity.

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  2. The second story as a stand alone is tear jerking and very well done, especially the art. I’m glad it came out after the HQ was replaced because thinking of them living within a braindead applicant’s body would have been seriously creepy going forward.

    Oh and his family never looked into his disappearance?

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  3. All that work Paul Levitz did to set up the pocket universe Superboy and then DC still mucked up Legion continuity. It’s suffered ever since. All the more annoying because the Legion’s goodbye to the Teen of Steel was the goodbye the Earth-One Superman deserved and didn’t get.
    I remember they also freaked out a little over Alan Brennert’s story with Supergirl’s ghost chatting with Deadman.

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    1. It took a lot of years but DC finally cleared up most of the mess that occurred in the wake of Crisis… whereupon they threw all that effort away and launched The New 52. In the wake of that decision I drastically reduced the number of DC titles I was following.

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      1. Crisis wasn’t the problem for me as much as “Hey can I reboot a series too?” so we got the non-stop reboots of Hawkman, Doom Patrol and others. Dan Jurgens tried to stabilize things with Zero Hour but failed.
        And after New 52, Rebirth and Convergence. Sigh.

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  4. My memory for the reason the original story got cancelled is different from this version. What I recall was that while I was inking the first story I couldn’t get past the preposterous idea that the second rocket (about five stories tall) was too “flimsy” to carry the family, and was passed over for a teeny rocket that could only carry a baby? So Jor-el had TWO functioning rockets– the second one he didn’t even try to use to save his wife — but what the heck, let’s load it with toys and diapers at a leisurely pace just for shits and giggles?!? It simply strained at suspension of disbelief so terribly the story fell apart. I discussed it with Mark at the time, and we landed on the story being as flimsy as the fictional rocket itself. That’s my recollection as to why there was a second script commissioned. It was the idea Jor-el wouldn’t have put Lara in the second rocket. But…From my point of view I was thrilled, as I got to ink TWO Legion stories over TWO legendary Silver Age artists. I wish the Kurt one was coloured and printed properly, as the poor scans you see on the internet don’t do the line-work justice, silly as the story was. My kids’ favourite super-hero is ARM FALL OFF BOY, though, and it makes them proud I was involved in his creation, as he’s seen originally in the second story and I think I still have the original for it in a box somewhere. I know Waid has the last page of this story, as I gifted it to him when Curt Swan died.

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