Deck Log Entry # 168 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Two)



“Good morning, all.  Baliff, are all of the parties present?”


“They are, your honour.”


“Very well.  Mr. Aldrich, your client may re-take the stand.”


“Yes, your honour.”


“I remind the witness that he is still under oath.  You may begin your cross-examination, Mr. Barton.”


“Thank you, judge.”




Cross-Examination of Alexis “Lex” Luthor:

“Good morning, young Luthor.  Or should I address you as ‘Doctor Luthor’?”


“I don’t have a doctorate degree.”


“No doctorate?  Well, can you tell us in what field you obtained your master’s degree?”


“I don’t have a master’s degree, either.”


“The field of your undergraduate degree will do, then.”


“I haven’t been to college at all.”


“No college degree.  The fact of the matter is that you haven’t even graduated from high school yet, have you?”




“Yet, you sit there and expect us to believe that you, Lex Luthor, created a form of artificial life---how did you put it?  ‘Unlocked the secret of life itself’---something that has eluded the greatest scientific minds of our time, and you haven’t even finished high school, yet?”


“Yes, because it’s the truth.”


 “But, you must admit, it’s difficult to accept your claim.”


“Difficult for a simple mind, maybe.”


“Well, my ‘simple’ mind would be more likely to believe you, if you could produce even one item of proof of your creation.”


“Weren’t you paying attention?  I said the protoplasm was destroyed, along with my notes.”


“So you did.  Did anybody else see this living protoplasm?  Did Superboy see it when he rescued you?”


“I know he did---with his X-ray vision.  That’s why he destroyed it.  He knew it would make me more famous than him and that colossal ego of his couldn’t handle it!”


“You aren’t going to raise an objection to that statement, Mr. Barton?”


“No, your honour.  I’ll let the plaintiff’s answer stand.”


“Very well.  It’s your call, counsellor.”


“Let’s go back to fire in your laboratory, Mr. Luthor.  How did it start?”


“I accidentally knocked over a flask containing an inflammable chemical solution.  The lab table caught on fire and the flames spread before I could do anything.”


“Clearly, this was a hazardous chemical.  Wouldn’t it have been prudent to keep such containers of dangerous substances safely secured, under proper storage?  Isn’t that the normal protocol---at least for a trained scientist?”


“I had just completed work on another experiment.  The materials I had been using were still on the lab table.”


“So it was an oversight.”


“I didn’t have a chance to put them away.”


“You seem to overlook a lot of things, Mr. Luthor.”


“What are you talking about?”


“A few weeks after the incident didn’t you design a solar tower that was installed over Smallville, and didn’t the intense heat from that structure cause more than a dozen residents to suffer from heat stroke?”




“May we approach, your honour?”


“Come on up.”

“Your honour, Mr. Barton’s question is immaterial to the matter before the court.”


“Mr. Barton?”


“Sir, I am establishing a pattern of carelessness on the part of the plaintiff.  Young Luthor’s lack of caution has a direct bearing on this case.”


“I’ll allow it.  Objection overruled.  The witness will answer the question.”


“I designed that weather-tower to keep Smallville warm and comfortable during the winter.”


“But, instead, you almost burnt the town to a crisp!  Isn’t that right?”


“It was an unseasonably warm day.  The automatic rheostat on the solar mirror should have compensated for that, but it didn’t.”


“Another oversight?”


“Unless Superboy sabotaged the mechanism.  I wouldn’t put it past him.”


“And a few months after that debacle, you persuaded some of the townspeople to plant seeds that you had developed, did you not?  I believe you called them ‘miracle seeds’.”




“And what happened when they did?”


“Cherry and pear trees grew overnight in backyards.  The farmers had fully grown crops in a single day.  They should have appreciated it.”


“But they didn’t appreciate it, did they?  Why was that?”


“Everyone in this courtroom knows why.”


“Refresh our memories.”


“It rained especially hard that night and the plants became overnourished.  They grew to gigantic size.”




“The trees expanded so swiftly that several houses and barns were torn apart.”


“Another mistake, Mr. Luthor?  Or was that Superboy’s fault, too?”


“I didn’t anticipate the effects of an oversaturated water table on the seeds.  O.K., I screwed up!  Is that what you wanted to hear, Mr. Barton?”




“Earlier, you testified that, after you accidentally started the fire in your lab, Superboy happened to flying overhead.  Were you aware of this at the time?”


“Yes.  I spotted him in the air from an open window.”


“In fact, you called to him for help, didn’t you?”




“And in response to your cry for help, Superboy discharged a blast of super-breath into the lab, to extinguish the fire.  Is that correct?”


“Yes, that’s what he did.”


“And you stated that the gust of wind created by Superboy’s super-breath knocked a bottle of acid into a flask containing a formula from another one of your experiments.”


“That’s right!  Both containers broke on impact and when that happened, the acid and my formula mixed together, creating a corrosive cloud.”


“You believe my client did this on purpose.  What reason could he possibly have for doing such a thing?”


“How many times do I have to say it?  He was jealous of my genius and afraid that I would become more famous than he was!  He wanted to destroy my creation to keep that from happening.”


“Your creation.  You mean the protoplasm you claim to have brought to life in your lab?”


“Of course.”


“But isn’t it a fact, Mr. Luthor, that you told Superboy that the fire destroyed the protoplasm?  The fire that you started by your own carelessness.”


“Er . . . um . . . I don’t remember.”


“Come, now, son.  The truth is that this artificial life---if it ever existed---was destroyed by the fire you caused, and not by the corrosive cloud created by my client’s super-breath.  Isn’t it?”


“All right!  All right!  Maybe it was the fire.  But what about my hair?  That was his fault!  Because of that alien creep, I have to go through life as a hairless freak!


“Young Luthor!  I warned you about those angry outbursts of yours.  One more temper tantrum like that and I’ll charge you with contempt of court!”


“Once more, I apologise for my client, your honour.  It won’t happen, again.”


“It had best not, Mr. Aldrich.”


“I’m almost done with my cross-examination, anyway, judge.  Mr. Luthor, I’m curious about something.  When you were standing in front of the open window, calling for Superboy to rescue you from the fire, why didn’t you just jump out the window?”


“I ran back into the lab, to try to save the protoplasm.  By the time I turned to the window again, the fire had spread to that wall.  I was cut off.”


“So, at that point, you were trapped, with no way to escape.”




“And that gust of super-breath that Superboy sent through the window, did it put out the fire?”




“So Superboy saved your life!


“ . . .  “


“I’m done with this witness.”

"This looks like an appropriate time to call a recess, gentlemen.  We'll resume at the next session.  Court is adjourned!"

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True, but Lex would still be bereft of his artificial-life creation, due to Superboy's carelessness.  That was the primary source of his rage.  Even with his hair back, Luthor would still have it in for the Boy of Steel.

I'd buy Lex as being enough of a genius to know "If this mix causes hair loss, the effect is permanent!"

He'd probably say "Sorry to disappoint you, Superboy, but my hair is growing after all."

Now, Commander, you just had Lex admit that, perhaps, his creation was destroyed in a fire that he himself accidently started. And you've had Lex spout several times over his lack of hair. I've always theorized that however angry Luthor was over the loss of his creation and his chance at scientific immortality, it was his baldness that would not allow him to move on. It was a constant and daily reminder of his anti-Superboy feelings. If his hair was capable of growing back, there was the slight chance that maybe Luthor could have gotten over it As Froderick Frankensteen said, science teaches us to accept our failures as well as our successes with quiet grace and dignity.*

*You Super-Son of a.......!!! You cost me my hair!! How could you do this to me! I don't want to live! I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE!!!! *sob...sob...sob!"


Commander Benson said:

True, but Lex would still be bereft of his artificial-life creation, due to Superboy's carelessness.  That was the primary source of his rage.  Even with his hair back, Luthor would still have it in for the Boy of Steel.

Philip Portelli said:

Now, Commander, you just had Lex admit that, perhaps, his creation was destroyed in a fire that he himself accidently started.

True enough, on page 7, panel 1, of "How Luthor Met Superboy", Lex does state that the fire destroyed the protoplasm. But if you examine the complete exchange between the two lads immediately after the incident, Luthor's attitude is to still hold Superboy responsible for the protoplasm's loss.  Perhaps Lex is in denial over his part in the artificial life's destruction, but he does make one valid point:  maybe the protoplasm itself was destroyed by the fire, but the notes containing the formula for replicating the creation were destroyed by the corrosive cloud that Superboy caused.

So, setting aside Luthor's emotionally charged bias, the Boy of Steel bears some responsibility for depriving Luthor of his shot at scientific fame.

It's a shame Lex wasn't prescient enough to store his notes in an asbestos-lioned box.

... or, say, invented an electronic device that would allow him to store information in a remote location and retrieve it at will from anywhere ... 

By Silver Age standards, that was almost unthinkable. Computers were huge and slow and complicated and the idea of data storage rather than just number crunching would have been radical even for Luthor. My favorite example of the Silver Age perspective is Iron Man's first battle with the Mandarin: when he has to make a life-and-death split-second calculation, the world's most high-tech hero relies on his armor's built-in slide rule.

He could have made duplicate notes and kept them someplace else. Did they have carbon paper in the1930s?

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I was reminded of this delightful series of columns when I was searching for something else. Links to the whole collection are below:

Deck Log Entry # 166 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part One)

Deck Log Entry # 168 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Two)

Deck Log Entry # 169 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Three)

Deck Log Entry # 170 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Four)

Deck Log Entry # 171 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Five)

Deck Log Entry # 172 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Six)

Deck Log Entry # 172 Supplemental: Luthor v. Superboy Reference Key

As noted over here, one thing we were lacking was the opportunity to read the story from which these events are drawn: "When Luthor Met Superboy!", in Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960), written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Al Plastino. I mentioned that I wanted to link to the story, which was posted on the wonderful Superman Through the Ages fansite -- but at the time, the site was down because it was festooned with viruses and the webmaster was in the painstaking process of rebuilding it from scratch. 

I say this to say that the story is once again available, here: "How Luthor Met Superboy!" However, it should be said that a jury, in its deliberations, is supposed to consider only the testimony and evidence presented in court ... as we did when we read these columns. 

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