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?”

 

“No.”

 

“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?”

 

“Objection!”

 

“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’.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“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.”

 

“And?”

 

“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?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“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.”

 

“Yes.”

 

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

 

“Yes.”

 

“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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I've seen one or two stories of pre-accident Luthor and I don't think they show him as secretly jealous of Superboy at all.

As for the laws and risks concerning a lab like this, the attitude back then was very different. Various histories I've read point out that a book on kid's experiments would note casually that Experiment X could explode the test tube so you should be careful, or that you should work with open windows because Experiment Y produces toxic gas as a side product (the excellent Radioactive Boy Scout goes into this some). Of course, anything Luthor did would be a quantum leap beyond an average home chemistry set, but I think the lack of safety precautions is right in keeping with the attitude of the day.

This story shows that Luthor had an entire room filled with Superboy souvenirs and posters and that he wanted to be a famous scientist. That is he wanted to be as famous as Superboy.

Of course, at no point does he say that he wants to be a hero!


Fraser Sherman said:

I've seen one or two stories of pre-accident Luthor and I don't think they show him as secretly jealous of Superboy at all.

 

I have to side with Mr. Sherman on this, Philip.  There were a handful of stories that were set in that small frame of time after Superboy became friends with Luthor but before the incident in Lex's lab. They appeared in:

Superman # 173 (Nov., 1964)

Superboy # 120 (Apr., 1965)

Superboy # 125 (Dec., 1965)

Superboy # 139 (Jun., 1967)

In most of these, Lex had a fairly prominent rôle and he was not shown to display jealousy or any other questionable personality trait.  He was depicted as a tried-and-true pal to the Boy of Steel.  Now this doesn't obviate your point that Luthor had a huge ambition to be a famous scientist.  None of the pre-bald Luthor stories contradicts this, but they don't lay any groundwork that Lex had any issues with Superboy before the incident.

And Mr. Sherman is also spot-on with his statement that general safety precautions were less stressed in those days.  You don't even have to go all the way back to the 1930's to find that attitude. When I was a boy in '50's the expectation was that the safety of the child was his parents' responsibility.

There were no standards requiring children to wear safety helmets when riding bicycles and playgrounds weren't built with considerations for safety.  (I remember the monkey bars at school and in the local park where I grew up were set on concrete.  That's what broke your fall if you fell.)  There were no car seats or laws mandating them for children.  (Back then, seat belts weren't legally mandatory for adults, either.)

In other words, the social catechism of "society must make everything safe for the children" hadn't grown to encompass every aspect of life, at that point.  Most things were left up to the parents.  As Mr. Fraser mentioned, even chemistry sets for kids didn't preclude potentially hazardous things; the instructions simply included a note to the effect of "do not attempt this experiment without an adult present".

On vacations, my siblings and I would stretch out in the back of the family station wagon when Dad was driving and sleep or eat or whatever. No thought of any risk, nor was that considered a dangerous practice.

Here's one that would never pass muster to-day for a host of reasons . . . .

In those days, my mother was a smoker, and many times, she'd give me the money and send my eight-year-old self, alone, to walk the half-mile to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes (Pall Malls) for her.  I had to cut across the multi-lane state bypass to make the trip, and when I got to the store and told the clerk what I wanted, he never batted an eye.

My wife was sent to the store with a note from her mother to buy cigarettes.

Commander Benson said:

Here's one that would never pass muster to-day for a host of reasons . . . .

In those days, my mother was a smoker, and many times, she'd give me the money and send my eight-year-old self, alone, to walk the half-mile to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes (Pall Malls) for her.  I had to cut across the multi-lane state bypass to make the trip, and when I got to the store and told the clerk what I wanted, he never batted an eye.

Yes, I used to buy my father cigarettes all the time when I was a boy. Now I have to proof 30 year olds!

I wasn't aware that there were even that many pre-bald Luthor stories! I'll have to try and find them now. (I vaguely recall a SuperBABY story that included toddler versions of both Lex and Pete Ross which contradicted their origins as moving to Smallville as teens).

But going by this single story and the speed that Luthor goes from admiring fan to lifetime nemesis, there must have been some deep-rooted and subconscious resentment, envy and/or feelings of inadequacy. Granted that's not the way stories were done then but maybe a few more "Luthor, Superboy's Pal" tales before the fire would have been warranted.

I don't remember buying cigarettes for my parents, but I do remember a cigarette vending machine not far from our house (pretty much in an alleyway) and it was a stone's throw from the elementary school. I also remember sitting on my father's lap and steering the car when I was about five, just like in Springsteen's song.  This would be mid 1970s.

My uncle had a station wagon and piled over a dozen kids into it to go to see The Empire Strikes Back.  No one blinked an eye.

Use to ride in the back of pick-ups!


Philip Portelli said:

I vaguely recall a SuperBABY story that included toddler versions of both Lex and Pete Ross which contradicted their origins as moving to Smallville as teens.

That was "The Amazing Tots of Smallville", from Superboy # 102 (Jan., 1963).  I omitted it from my list of pre-bald-Luthor tales for the reason that we were discussing the teen-age Luthor's personality and "The Amazing Tots . . ." had no bearing  on that.

My Dad managed his own grocery store in the 1960s.  He'd sell cigarettes to kids, provided they had a signed note from the parents requesting same, and the family was known to him.  Maybe he was more cautious than most.  I don't recall any policy regarding beer.

Of course, sometimes a kid would sive him a forged note, one too illiterate to have possibly been written by an adult.  I wonder if that would work today.
 
Commander Benson said:

Here's one that would never pass muster to-day for a host of reasons . . . .

In those days, my mother was a smoker, and many times, she'd give me the money and send my eight-year-old self, alone, to walk the half-mile to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes (Pall Malls) for her.  I had to cut across the multi-lane state bypass to make the trip, and when I got to the store and told the clerk what I wanted, he never batted an eye.

Here's something that I just thought of: How was Luthor so sure that his hair wouldn't grow back? We know that it didn't but everyone came to that conclusion very quickly.

Just Imagine how different Lex's  and Superman's lives would have been if he woke up with some stubble the next day!

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