We've been talking several times about Lex Luthor, his origin, his hatred towards Superman and his bald head. He has been the Man of Steel's arch-nemesis since the Golden Age and has travelled with him in every incarnation through every possible medium. He has become a "plum" role for any actor who likes to chew up the scenery. But there are some things that are a bit puzzling about the Genius with the Grudge. To wit:

  • From the Golden Age through the early sixties, Luthor had been portrayed as portly, sinister, sneering and downright weird-looking but under Curt Swan's care, he became handsome, fit and almost, well almost something other than a villain. Was this an editorial change or an artist's fiat?
  • Were Luthor's parents partly to blame for his moral collapse? IIRC, they abandoned him rather quickly, changed their name to Thorul and lied to their daughter, Lena about it. Hardly Parents-Of-The-Year candidates. Makes you wonder what Ma and Pa Kent thought about them!
  • Why didn't Luthor have a Silver Age outfit beyond his prison-grays? Was he proud of his outlaw status?
  • Why didn't Luthor care about the Justice League? He planned on there being a Legion of Super-Villains but never tried to counter Superman's contemporary allies.
  • What was Luthor's ultimate plan? To kill Superman? To take over Metropolis? America? The world? All worlds? Did he have an endgoal?
  • Was his first name ever given as "Alexander"?
  • He was Bizarro's "daddy". Did that ever come up again?
  • Was he DC's Reed Richards? Could he have enlarged Kandor? Cured Metamorpho? Do any of the things that the heroes couldn't do?
  • Was DC trying to reform Luthor by introducing his sister, Lena Thorul, his nephew, the planet Lexor and Ardora? They certainly made him more than just the Evil Mastermind. He became a more rounded character, almost noble at times.

Luthor has seen his fair share of revisions and retcons. He has gone from older than Superman to living in Smallville with him time after time. But during the Silver Age there seemed to be a plan involved that added to Luthor with each appearance that was leading to...something. Thn it stopped. I could list several Bronze Age stories where Luthor shows a vast range of emotions and where he almost wins. But Luthor has his role to play in the Superman mythos and it's an enduring one!

Comments?

 

 

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Luthor's best moments as a character came in 1964, when for a while he was much more than a nemesis and became virtually a co-star in Superman. Weisinger never did anything by accident, but you can find a lot more layers of character motivation in the Edmond Hamilton-written stories than the other writers' stories (even Jerry Siegel's), where Luthor was a master criminal, rather than a tragic anti-hero.

There was certainly some semblance of a reformation going on, though these tended to be in the Imaginary stories (e.g., when Superman and Lex were brothers).

Luthor was most definitely not DC's Reed Richards. A better case could be made that Victor Von Doom was Marvel's Lex Luthor. Lex could probably have invented anything he wanted to, but his hatred for Superman blinded his creative abilities to the extent that he basically wasted his talents on doomed-to-failure schemes to outwit the Man of Steel.

The only JLA member that Luthor devoted even a moment's thought to was Batman (in World's Finest), since Batman was Superman's closest superhero friend. Luthor didn't care about the rest of them, and frankly none of them seemed to care about him, either. That was the case with all the DC superhero books, though, where characters crossed over into other titles under the same editor, but rarely if ever in another editor's title (not counting Brave & Bold).

Luthor didn't wear a costume for the same reason he didn't wear a toupee -- he used his bald, outlaw status to drive his thirst for vengeance upon Superman.

Mr. Blanchard pretty much summed up the handling of the Silver-Age Luthor, and quite impeccably.

 

As to the matter of Luthor's forename, he never had one until Adventure Comics # 271 (Apr., 1960), when we were told it was Lex.

 

Throughout the Silver Age and most of the Bronze Age, as far as DC was concerned, "Lex" was Luthor's full given first name.  That changed in the story "Luthor's Day of Reckoning", from Action Comics # 512 (Oct., 1980).  During his wedding to Angela Blake (actually, her clone), his full forename is revealed as Alexis.

 

 

I've never thought about Luthor's prison-greys before. Imagine him sending them to the dry cleaners!

And that bald head thing was such as pitiful excuse - all that boffin-ery  and he couldn't come up with a decent hair-restorer.

Luthor's prison garb fit his role as Superman's arch foe, which are usually the opposites. Superman was strong and brightly colored; Lex was brilliant and drab looking. The same holds true for Batman and the Joker, but in reverse, as in order/chaos.

That's why I always considered Captain Cold to be Flash's arch foe, rather than Professor Zoom. Zoom ultimately played a bigger role in Flash's life, but Cap seemed the leader of the Rogues and the main pain. Having the same powers as the Flash put Zoom more on par with Bizarro.

Changing their name to Thorul was a pretty drastic step, but I can see that they wanted to avoid his infamy and not open Lena to the abuse she would take. Apparently, Earth-1 people were always fooled when people made anagrams out of their names or spelled them backward to go undercover.

-- MSA

Easier for Luthor to get his prison garb cleaned, than Doctor Doom to change his undies!

I bought this issue when it was on the racks. In a single story we had Lex Luthor (previously only known as Luthor) start out as Superboy's friend, lose his hair, blame Superboy, and become his greatest enemy. I think they gave him the first name of Lex to continue the weird "LL" theme and because you couldn't have a fellow teenager in those days just being known by a single name.

I always figured Luthor never changed out of his prison uniform because subconsciously he knew he would be returned there very quickly.

Commander Benson said:

As to the matter of Luthor's forename, he never had one until Adventure Comics # 271 (Apr., 1960), when we were told it was Lex.

The only time I recall Luthor's father actually appearing in the Silver/Bronze Ages, was in a 1960s Supergirl story, featuring Lena Thorul, where he came across as a totally insensitive jerk.

I just realized that I got some characters mixed up. Lena was Luthors sister, but he also had a niece who bothered Supergirl in Adventure comics for a time. I can't imagine why someone would name a daughter "Nasthalthia" but it fit her. For some reason I thought the two of them were the same character.

Nasthalthia AKA Nasty was supposedly Luthor's niece by his previously unknown/unrevealed older sister who married an "European" man which apparently so scandalized the Luthors that they disowned her too!

Makes you wonder how awful young Lena's life with them was. After all, they lied to her about her brother, changed her name and basically brainwashed into accepting their new "reality".

These are BAD parents!

 

  • Were Luthor's parents partly to blame for his moral collapse? IIRC, they abandoned him rather quickly, changed their name to Thorul and lied to their daughter, Lena about it. Hardly Parents-Of-The-Year candidates. Makes you wonder what Ma and Pa Kent thought about them!

I always figured Luthor's parents did those things because they were afraid of him (with good reason!) and saw him as a bad seed. 

 

  • Why didn't Luthor have a Silver Age outfit beyond his prison-grays? Was he proud of his outlaw status?

I always figured Luthor wore prison greys all the time because he wasn't vain -- at least, not about his appearance. Likewise with the bald head, which was enough of a "costume."

 

  • What was Luthor's ultimate plan? To kill Superman? To take over Metropolis? America? The world? All worlds? Did he have an endgoal?

Luthor's ultimate plan always seemed to be nothing less than Superman's humiliation and nothing more than Superman's death. 

 

  • Was his first name ever given as "Alexander"?

I don't believe I ever saw Luthor's name given as "Alexander" until Crisis On Infinite Earths came along.

 

  • He was Bizarro's "daddy". Did that ever come up again?

Funny, but I don't think it did.

 

  • Was he DC's Reed Richards? Could he have enlarged Kandor? Cured Metamorpho? Do any of the things that the heroes couldn't do?

 

Dave Blanchard said:

Luthor was most definitely not DC's Reed Richards. A better case could be made that Victor Von Doom was Marvel's Lex Luthor. Lex could probably have invented anything he wanted to, but his hatred for Superman blinded his creative abilities to the extent that he basically wasted his talents on doomed-to-failure schemes to outwit the Man of Steel.

 

 I never thought of it that way, but it's completely right. In Superman #650 (May 2006), the first issue in the title launching the "One Year Later" stories, Superman pretty much says that to Luthor: I was gone for a year, so where are your great inventions to save the world? It's not like you had me to distract you.

 

  • Was DC trying to reform Luthor by introducing his sister, Lena Thorul, his nephew, the planet Lexor and Ardora? They certainly made him more than just the Evil Mastermind. He became a more rounded character, almost noble at times.

"Reform" Luthor? I doubt it. Make him more interesting? Yes.

Dave Blanchard said:

Luthor was most definitely not DC's Reed Richards. A better case could be made that Victor Von Doom was Marvel's Lex Luthor. Lex could probably have invented anything he wanted to, but his hatred for Superman blinded his creative abilities to the extent that he basically wasted his talents on doomed-to-failure schemes to outwit the Man of Steel.

Luthor, like Doom, had the ability to create wondrous things for mankind. Except that neither of them cared about mankind.

Luthor didn't wear a costume for the same reason he didn't wear a toupee -- he used his bald, outlaw status to drive his thirst for vengeance upon Superman.

Luthor's idiotic green and purple super costume didn't come along until after I stopped reading the Weisinger books. I don't know what they were thinking.

Dave Blanchard said:

Luthor didn't wear a costume for the same reason he didn't wear a toupee -- he used his bald, outlaw status to drive his thirst for vengeance upon Superman.


Richard Willis said:

Luthor's idiotic green and purple super costume didn't come along until after I stopped reading the Weisinger books. I don't know what they were thinking.

They were thinking the bald head and the prison greys weren't enough of a costume.

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