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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Now that I see it spelled out I do remember that Lex believed Superboy intentionally destroyed his triumphant experiment. Jealous, vindictive people have a way of attributing the same motives to others.

Yeah. I don't see how Superman's powers make boxing a farce, because Superman isn't a boxer. Now, tell me Olympic runners are unhappy when they see Superman or The Flash show up, and that makes sense to me.

 

Hmmm.  I don't see the difference between boxers and runners in your illustration there, Clark.  Both strive to be the best at something that Superman could do without breaking a sweat.  Superman doesn't take part in boxing matches, just as he doesn't take part in Olympic athletics either.

Agreed. You can't be the best when Superman is around. No ordinary r even extraordinary athlete can compare to him. He automatically makes you feel inferior. It can't be helped and it ties in to another little theory about Luthor that I have!

The difference is that boxing isn't just about being strong; it's about skill and technique. That's why Superman went to Muhammad Ali for training. But runners train to be as fast as their bodies can stand, and Superman does that easily.

To offer a different example, I have no doubt that, if strength and invulnerability were taken out of the equation, Shang-Chi, Karate Kid, Lady Shiva -- and maybe even Captain America -- could give Superman a royal beatdown, because he doesn't have their skills, technique or training. Heck, look at the cover illustration at the top of this thread -- Luthor is in the middle of giving Superman a thorough thrashing!

In short, as I see it, in some specialties, extraordinary athletes can be better at some things than Superman can,

I always like Luthor's green & purple outfit, far better than his prison grays. At least it gave him the capacity of carrying some super-weapons around.

I really disliked the green and purple suit, not only for its bad fashion sense but because it diluted Lex's message. He always carried a super-weapon with him--his brain. And he didn't need big, bold colors and the ability to fly to draw attention to himself. Once he got that costume, he was just another super-villain.

Also when he got a costume, they started making action figures of him! :-)

True, but he wasn't Lex any more. Although technically, I don't believe they were making many action figures earlier. If Lex had still been wearing prison gray when the Super Powers line came out, they might've made him anyway.

Now, tell me Olympic runners are unhappy when they see Superman or The Flash show up, and that makes sense to me.

I don't think so, as it's clear they've been enhanced in ways beyond human capabilities.

I don't know that if Barry Bonds had been banned from baseball, the homerun king that year would've felt bad because he knew he probably would've hit the second-most home runs. On the contrary, there are a lot of people pissed off at Bonds because he cost clean guys the MVP trophy.

I'm not sure the guys who get all those Tour de France awards are going to feel like they weren't really the best cyclist. True, they might have to give the award to my paperboy before they find a clean cyclist, but that's another story.

I imagine in a world where super-powers are prevalent and regularly obtained, if only temporarily, there have to be more rules about this. But there have to be more rules about everything, especially in court, so that's not anything special.

Mort liked those Under a Red Sun stories because they showed that Supes was more than just his powers. A lot of stories had him using his powers in tricky ways to overcome a puzzle, because beating something just with strength or speed was too easy.

Although I have to say, the notion that Lex was a better boxer than Superman still seems to be stretching things. He could have learned in prison, but I always considered Lex to be an older guy. He never seemed as muscular and powerful as he does in that boxing ring. And Superman was no slouch at battling guys with super-powers, so he had to know a few things about fisticuffs.

BTW, Jimbo, he's not out if a guy in the stands catches the ball. That's fan interference, and the umpire awards however many bases in his judgment the batter should get. And I think his index finger is circling.

-- MSA

I forget, was the deal with gravity on Lexor? Heavy gravity, like on Krypton (since Superman didn't have super-powers there)? Did Lex have to compensate for that somehow?
Superman may not have been that experienced with punching out bad guys. Monsters, inanimate objects and robots, maybe. I searched the first volume of Showcase Presents Superman once, to see how often he punched anyone out. The total was one -- He tapped a gangster on the head to knock him out in a sectet identity protection move. I don't think he got serious about fisticuffs until Jim Shooter started introducing more physical threats, such as the Parasite. And by the time Doomsday came around, things had changed a bit.

Superman gave Lex gravity shoes so he could negotiate Lexor's strong gravity

It's true that Superman didn't usually box his foes, even when they were Phantom Zone escapees or other super-powered people. That kind of close-in fighting didn't pay off, and I don't think Mort liked showing Superman punching a guy in the face, even when he wasn't superpowered.

Although he ended up boxing another guy when he had no powers only seven issues later, so maybe that Lex-Supes match did well in sales. Showing Superman getting beat up by two guys so close together is a little strange, but it's better than having Supes throwing the punch. 

But keep in mind, EVERY Superboy (and, um, Superbaby) story took place before that SP volume you looked through. And Kal-El has had a long time to work on his fighting skills.

-- MSA

If you look at the cover above again, Craig, you'll notice that Luthor's shoes are glowing. They had anti-gravity devices in them to let him function on Lexor. Jimmy and Lois (and Luthor too) had to do the same when they went to either Krypton in the past or Kandor in the present.

As for Luthor's outfit, I thought it was neat that the main colors were green as in Green Kryptonite and purple, the combination of Superman's red and blue.

And sure, you take away his super-strength and invulnerability plus his speed and flying, Superman gets beat by any good boxer but it's because of his super powers that any athlete would feel inferior, even Batman. And his fight with Karate Kid lasted as long as it did because he didn't want to hurt him.

Actually I think that Superman would initially have a hard time duking it out with either the Hulk or Thor because they are fighters and used to getting extremely physical. Superman's not. In fact, Superman's approach to violence is minimal. Normally it takes very little effort so he would never be classified as a brawler.

Still he did receive some hand-to-hand combat training from Karate Kid and Batman plus even without his powers, he's a pretty big guy. As the story above shown, once he gets over his "can't use his strength against a normal person" phobia, he thrashes Luthor soundly!

Glad you brought up Luthor's physique as it was part of DC Silver Age revising of Luthor as a portly, bulky older man to a more more fit and attractive contemporary adversary of the Man of Steel!

BTW, Jimmy would have been banned from the stadium after that!

 

Mr. Silver Age said:

It's true that Superman didn't usually box his foes, even when they were Phantom Zone escapees or other super-powered people. That kind of close-in fighting didn't pay off, and I don't think Mort liked showing Superman punching a guy in the face, even when he wasn't superpowered.

Even when Superman was shown using fisticuffs, it seemed that he was usually shown in a formal boxing match rather than today's barroom brawls.

Stan Goldberg, who colored many of the seminal Marvel super-hero comics, says the formula was pretty simple: Heroes were done in primary colors, red, blue and yellow; villains done in secondary colors, greens and purples mostly. The notable exception being the Hulk, but he was an anti-hero from the start. So, Luthor's costume follows that tradition.

Mr. Silver Age may recall the topic I brought up in his CBG column regarding the colors of Spider-Man's costume.

Anyone who has originals (not reprints) of the earliest ASM comics will see the coloring was different. Like the X-Men, what was later blue was supposed to be black with color highlighting it (like Superman's hair). The X-Men's highlighting color was always blue, but Spider-Man's was more purple. Also, instead of the plain red color his costume was what Crayola called red-orange.

Then colors used in the early Silver Age Marvel superhero books were thematically like those of their monster books. After I raised the question in CBG I saw Stan Goldberg at the San Diego convention and as luck would have it the subject came up. He said that the color palette changed due, I think, to the printing company being used.

Given the Lex and Clark grew up together, that's an interesting observation. I'm guessing it's one of the side-effects of Lex's baldness--that he appears older.

Also, I assumed Lex's physique was more like that of a burly wrestler than a chiseled Adonis.  Still capable of being quite strong and muscular, just not svelte.

Mr. Silver Age said:


Although I have to say, the notion that Lex was a better boxer than Superman still seems to be stretching things. He could have learned in prison, but I always considered Lex to be an older guy. Given-- MSA

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