The bargain-priced, black-and-white Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes, Vol. 1 is a slice of 1960s comics innocence, 550 pages of the beginnings of the 30th-century supergroup. It begins in April 1958 (Adventure Comics #247), when three teens--Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl--travel through time to meet Superboy and invite him to join their "super-hero club" 1000 years in the future. This volume collects that story as well as the various other appearances the Legion made with both Superboy and Supergirl, introducing new characters (Brainiac 5, Mon-El, Ultra Boy, Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl) and new concepts along the way (the Legion of Super-Villains, the Legion of Super Pets) (Some of the ideas would be tossed out later, such as the idea that Supergirl meets the children of the original Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, and Saturn Girl, and there are a couple of mis-references to the Legion being in the 21st century.) Then in September 1962, Adventure Comics officially became "Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes" in its 300th issue and the Legion became a monthly feature. The series was able to indulge in the decade's love of sci-fi, traveling to strange planets and fighting mad scientists and strange monsters (they still used reel-to-reel tape recorders, though, and women's rights still weren't quite developed in the 30th century).
This period introduced the Legion of Substitute Heroes and the Time Trapper, saw the first Legionnaire die in action, and brought in Bouncing Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, Dream Girl, and others. This volume runs through June 1964 (Adventure Comics #321), and most of the writing is by Jerry Siegel or Edmond Hamilton, and art is handled by John Forte or Superman legend Curt Swan. Like all Showcase Presents volumes, it's in black-and-white, which helps keep the super-low price but the loss of color lessens the impact of the funky worlds and aliens, and makes it harder to tell the Legionnaires apart. Rabid Legion fans who want the stories in color and on high-quality paper should try the hardback DC Archives series, but it's substantially more expensive. --David Horiuchi