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!

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I had followed the TV series "Smallville pretty much from the start, but eventually lost interest or got distracted sometime around the death of Jonathan Kent near episode 100.

It's too bad you gave up then, as it definitely had a lull and then picked up again dramatically after they introduced Green Arrow and the other super-heroes, IMO.

Adding GA as Clark's devil's advocate and another perspective on super-heroing was a welcome addition. Clark essentially became a super-hero, calling himself The Blur (because he never let anyone see him) and creating a movie-type costume of all-black duster and shirt with a red S emblem. They also did a couple episodes with the JSA that were pretty cool. We talked about those in depth on the MSA board.

Lana and Lex did leave the series, but unlike with shows like Downton Abbey, they fortunately didn't consider killing the characters to be their only option. Lana was dosed with kryptonite and couldn't get near Clark, so she left Smallville, and Lex allegedly died but was brought back to life without his memory, so he was back to square one in figuring out who this Superman was..

Lex leaving was the tougher problem to deal with, as Lana leaving made the shift to the Clark-Lois story easier to make, and it seemed pretty smooth and natural as he started spending more time in Metropolis and then moved there. I didn't really miss Lana, as she never impressed me that much in the show. Maybe it was the lack of red hair.

Those years when they were in high school, barging into the sheriff's office and hospital (not to mention everyone walking into the Kent farmhouse without notice) made it hard to suspend disbelief. Once they moved to Metropolis and got jobs at the Planet, their nosiness had more justification.

There is a continuation of it now as Smallville:Season 11, written by one of the Smallville writers. In the show's final episode, they put Clark into the Superman costume, albeit only in small doses with no good full-on shot. The comic picks up from there and includes Chloe and GA (who are married), Lex, Tess and others. 

The best part is that, since it's a comic book, they could introduce Batman. He's older than Clark by a bit and as bitter as today's Batman has to be, but it's fun to see them, especially since you can "hear" everyone else's voice from the TV show.

-- MSA

I haven't read SSOSV #7, but I always heard that Gene Hackman didn't want to shave his head, so we only see the cheesy bald appliance briefly at the end. It's a rare make-up person who can make those things look convincing.

Who really pulled off the wig in the comic?

Henry R. Kujawa said:

For the real origin of the Gene Hackman "Lex Luthor", read SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #7 (Jun'77) -- "Luthor's League Of Super-Villains".

I'd heard about this... but it blew my mind when I actually re-read it.

Tom Mankiewicz, who worked on the SUPERMAN movies, said in a scathing interview that the Salkinds "had no idea what they were doing", with regard to movie-making, OR with regard to SUPERMAN!  Re-reading SSOSV #7, it seems all too clear to me that someone involved in that movie read the comic... and then CONFUSED two of the characters.

I mean, for God's sake-- the scene where the guy YANKS OFF his toupee is right there in the comic!!!!!

That would be FUNKY FLASHMAN, Jack Kirby's Stan Lee homage/parody/revenge from Mister Miracle. He was always seen with a full head of hair and a beard but they weren't real. Of course, the implication was that Stan wore a toupee.

Still I doubt that SSOSV #7 had any bearing on the Superman movies. If anything, the attitude of the villainous trio were more in line with the Adventures of Superman TV show. The movie Luthor and Otis would have fit right in!
 
Richard Willis said:

I haven't read SSOSV #7, but I always heard that Gene Hackman didn't want to shave his head, so we only see the cheesy bald appliance briefly at the end. It's a rare make-up person who can make those things look convincing.

Who really pulled off the wig in the comic?

Henry R. Kujawa said:

For the real origin of the Gene Hackman "Lex Luthor", read SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #7 (Jun'77) -- "Luthor's League Of Super-Villains".

I'd heard about this... but it blew my mind when I actually re-read it.

Tom Mankiewicz, who worked on the SUPERMAN movies, said in a scathing interview that the Salkinds "had no idea what they were doing", with regard to movie-making, OR with regard to SUPERMAN!  Re-reading SSOSV #7, it seems all too clear to me that someone involved in that movie read the comic... and then CONFUSED two of the characters.

I mean, for God's sake-- the scene where the guy YANKS OFF his toupee is right there in the comic!!!!!

Several years back I read some fans saying that Gene Hackman was really playing "Funky Flashman" in the movie. "Hollywood" (even when it's England or Italy) has such a tendency to F*** with source material and get things wrong, but when I saw that comic, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Funky actually rats Lex out to the cops at the end of the story... nice guy!  (He didn't want the competition.)

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