Actually a reprint of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #195 (June 1973) and #201 (March-April 1974), this issue of Tales of the Legion actually takes us through two, count 'em, TWO Legion try-outs. And both involve Wildfire, or as he was originally known, Erg-1.
I'll give you a second to review yesterday's Legion try-out clichés...
Ready? Ok, let's go. "The One-Shot Hero" is a 70s Legion story, which means everyone is wearing the most garish costumes in the history of comics. Check out this lot:
Colors that don't go together, insignia that have nothing to do with their powers, holes in weird places, silly haircuts... The 2970s were as bad as the 1970s, fashion-wise. Of course, these are superheroes who, in their first appearance, wrote their names on their shirts in plain Arial.
Erg-1 is trying out for the team with a costume that's better than most, but it does remind me of a motorcycle suit and the Doctor Who serial The Ambassadors of Death, all at the same time. What are his powers? Well, he's made of antimatter energy, which only his suit can contain. It seems to give him the powers of Superboy, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Chemical King and Phantom Girl, so of course they can't accept him as a member. So what if he's as powerful as 5 Legionnaires combined? Club rules say you must have one power no one else has, and rules is rules.
Then Bouncing Boy comes into the room and tells the team about an S.O.S. That's right. Bouncing Boy. The guy who can turn into a bouncing ball. He made the team. Wildfire did not. Now let me act as his lawyer for a second. The Legion actually has a number of members with the exact same powers: Superboy, Supergirl, Mon-El and Ultra Boy are all pretty much the same. Turns out they made an exception for the two Kryptonians because they're icons from the past or something. So only Mon-El counts as a Kryptonian-like powerhouse. Ultra Boy? He's got "flash vision" instead of "heat vision", but these are the same. I believe his actual "unique" power is that his x-ray vision can see through lead (actually penetra-vision), whereas the others' cannot. Can you believe that? Why don't they just count the fact that energy comes out of Wildfire's feet to allow him to fly? Or that without a body, he's probably immune to a ton of things? BEING MADE OF ENERGY! Heck, I'd count that as a unique power.
But no. Thanks for trying out though. Back to the S.O.S.: There's this giant renegade "eating machine" that's sucking up all the crops on planet Manna-5. Just the kind of food emergency Bouncing Boy would bring to the Legion's attention. So a cadre of Legionnaires head for that world (but not Bouncing Boy - it's a lazy day for him) and Wildfire/Erg-1 tags along as a stowaway. However, the Legionnaires are defeated by the giant vacuum cleaner of death, and as it's about to suck in Colossal Boy, Wildfire shows off his one unique power:
He shoots himself at the machine, destroying it. And when the Legion finds his empty suit, they leave him for dead and put his suit on display in their personal cemetery (population at this point: Ferro Lad).
Cut to one year later, and the Legion's holding try-outs again. The three candidates are first shown a video of Wildfire biting the big one, so that they know that 1) it's a dangerous business and 2) that he'll be back to life by story's end. First up is Porcupine Pete:
To me, funny. Superboy is worse than Simon Cowell as he rejects Pete's application, even as he shrugs off a bunch of quills with his eyes (without a single doubt in my mind the inspiration for that scene in that Superman movie). Next up is Infectious Lass whose power is to give you any disease she likes. She uses Star Boy for a demonstration:
Never a good idea to give a Legionnaire explosive diarrhea at your Legion audition. She gets summarily rejected too. Third is Molecular Master, who can apparently create a giant atom and then boast about how big and powerful it is.
I know he told us to watch his hands, but it's very hard to concentrate on anything but the gazillion quills covering the Legion's audience chamber. I'm really glad Pete at least made it to the Legion of Substitute-Heroes. Meanwhile, Wildfire IS back, this time as energy. See, they left with his suit before he could return to it and it took him a year to get back to Earth to get physical again. To make matters worse, the Legion's put the suit behind a force field that prevents him from getting it. He can sort of possess the bodies of other living beings, but the Legionnaires' flight rings create the same kind of force field around them. (This all begs the question: Isn't there ANYONE on Manna-5 which could have been possessed long enough for him to make a call back to Legion HQ?) Anyway, Molecular Master isn't a Legionnaire yet, right? So Wildfire tries to possess him. Doesn't work: He's a robot sent to destroy the Legion and steal the "Dream Machine", a gadget from a previous adventure that grants the user any wish he cares to make.
Not only are they not using the thing to fight evil, but it's not protected by a force field because Wildfire can get into it. He possesses it to wish the Legion back to life and himself back into his suit. (So he can possess machines? So why not Molecular Master?) Anyway, a battle ensues between the evil robot and our boy Wildfire, a battle which ends with one of the best super-powered martial arts moves I've ever seen:
One rocket-fueled kick to the noggin splits Molecular Master's head in two! Told you that was his unique power.
TRY-OUT CHECKLIST: A, B, B2, C2, D