No less than 7 months earlier, DC foreshadowed the Legion of Super-Villains and now we get their first appearance of the LSV in Superman #147 (June 1961). In prison, Luthor offers to repair other inmate’s radios, cobbling together a super-scientific device that can project his voice into the future for this hypothesized evil Legion to hear. How he knew the right year, frequency, location remains a mystery, but it works and they send him futuristic devices that help him escape prison.
The LSV then join Luthor in the 20th century. Continuity-wise, the writers got lazy and didn’t do their research, saying the evil legion is from the 21st century, not the 30th century.
A couple of pages of exposition explain the identities, origins, and motives behind the three LSV members: Cosmic King has the power of transmutation. Lightning Lord is the brother of Lightning Lad. Saturn Queen is an evil woman from Saturn with mental powers.
The LSV + Luthor trick Superman into joining them on a planetoid where they imprison him with a kryptonite field.
In a throw-back to the first time the Legion of Super-Heroes met Superboy, the Villains vote that Superman must be executed for his “many brave and worthy deeds”.
But luckily the grown-up Legion of Super-Heroes arrives in the present to battle their evil counterparts. Why couldn’t they have shown up a couple hours earlier? Anyway, it’s cool to see Superman meet his Legionnaire friends for the first time as adults.
Evenly matched, the two Legions battle for a couple panels until Luthor gets frustrated at the impasse and threatens to kill Superman here-and-now, then he taunts the LSH that one of them should take Superman’s place and be executed. Make up your mind, Luthor! The Legion of Super-Heroes jumps at the chance and draws straws – Saturn Woman gets the short end of the deal.
Superman asks that he be allowed to perform one super-deed in Saturn Woman’s honor, promising not to save her. He scoops up fragments from the rings of Saturn and brings them to encircle the planetoid. Suddenly Saturn Queen turns on her villainous cohorts and hypnotizes them to surrender.
You see, Superman was able use super-deduction from hearing Saturn Queen’s origin story that it was the rings of Saturn that “cancel out Saturn people’s criminal traits”. Now Saturn Woman has to keep a chunk of Saturn’s rings with her at all times to be “normal”.
Like a few other Superman stories sprinkled throughout the 1960s, I have a soft-spot for this one, since it was included in a Superman paperback I had as a kid alongside the Return of Lori Lemaris.