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

“Mr. Barton, is the defence ready to proceed?”


“We are, your honour.”


“In that case, before we begin, the court wishes to issue a word of warning to the plaintiff.  Young Luthor, in my thirty years on the bench, I’ve seen more than my share of litigants who are arrogant, headstrong, and contemptuous of anyone who disagrees with them.  So I know what to expect from you when the defence presents its case, and I don’t intend to put up with it.


“I warn you now, Luthor.  There will be no protests, no insults---not even a muttered sound of derision---to come out of your mouth while the defence presents its case.  You will not interrupt the proceedings.  One peep out of you, I will have you removed immediately, and you will sit out the remainder of the trial in your cell at the state reformatory.  Is that clear, young man?”

"My client understands, your honour.”


“I want to hear it from him, Mr. Aldrich.”


“It’s clear . . . sir.


“Very well.  Mr. Barton, you may call your first witness.”


“Your honour, my first, and only, witness is the defendant himself---Superboy!”



Testimony of Superboy:


“Superboy, tell us how you met Lex Luthor.”


“I had heard that the Luthor family had moved here, and one morning, I adjusted my daily patrol to take me over their house.  I wanted to welcome them to Smallville.  As Lex stated in his testimony, he was using a bulldozer to level out the road to their home when I spotted him.  I landed so I could get acquainted with him.”


“What happened then?”


“Just as I touched down, a large kryptonite meteorite struck the earth within feet of me.  Immediately I was affected by the kryptonite radiations.  I collapsed to the ground, helpless.  Fortunately, Lex saw what had happened.  He used the bulldozer to push the kryptonite over a deep ravine, where it fell into quicksand and was sucked under.”


“The radiations from green kryptonite are fatal to you, are they not?”


“Yes, sir.”


“Then, if not for Lex Luthor’s actions, you would have died.”


“Very likely, yes.”


“What was Luthor’s response to saving your life?”


“He seemed pleased to have been able to help, and I certainly was glad he did.”


“What were your first impressions of Lex Luthor, Superboy?”


“He was pleasant and friendly, and I could tell right away that he had a sharp mind.  I knew that from the quick action he took to save me from the kryptonite.”


“And how did he feel about you?”


“Objection!  Calls for a conclusion.”




“O.K., then did Luthor state anything about meeting you?”


“Yes, he did.  He said it was ‘about the most thrilling thing that ever happened’ to him.”


“Was that the end of your encounter?”


“No.  Lex invited me into their barn.  He had taken over most of it.  There was one section that he had turned into a sort of showcase for an assortment of Superboy souvenirs he had collected.  But a huge space had been converted into a working scientific laboratory.  I was impressed, especially because most of his equipment was old or obsolete, yet he had found ways to make it effective.”


“How did you respond to what Luthor showed you?”


“I was flattered by his admiration and, of course, grateful to him for saving my life.  When he told me of his ambition to become a great scientist, I wanted to repay him.  So I constructed a new laboratory for him and outfitted it with modern scientific equipment.”


“Anything else?”


“I stocked the lab with all the elements and chemicals he might need in his experiments.  And, well, I wanted my new friend to have a leg up in his career as a scientist, so I included a few rare chemicals that hadn’t been classified, yet.”


“So, you considered Lex Luthor a friend?”




“And, in your opinion, did Lex Luthor return that friendship?”


“He did.  I visited his lab often, where he enjoyed showing me the results of his recent experiments.  I remember times when I confided problems to him or sought his advice.  Lex was constantly helpful and supportive.”


“Were you ever envious of his scientific knowledge or afraid that his fame might someday eclipse your own?”


“Absolutely not.   There was that time when my super-vision was causing monsters to appear in town.  The people of Smallville were riding me out on a rail---until Lex figured out what was causing the problem and showed me how to cure it.  You bet I was glad that Lex was so brilliant and I would have been proud if he had become more famous than me.”


“It sounds like Lex Luthor was a true friend to you, indeed.  What ended that friendship, Superboy?”


“Everybody knows that, Mr. Barton.  It’s why we’re here in court to-day.”





“Tell us about the incident.”


“That morning, I was on my usual daily patrol and happened to be flying over the Luthor home when I saw flames and smoke coming from one of the windows of Lex’s lab.  Then I saw him at the window.  He was calling my name and crying for help.”


“What did you do?”


“I flew down at super-speed and immediately sent a gust of super-breath through the open window, to blow out the fire.  The flames extinguished immediately.  I then went into the lab to make sure that Lex was all right.”


“Was he?”


“Well, he wasn’t injured, but he was completely bald.  All of the hair on his head had fallen out.”


“Yet, he was alive.  Was he grateful to you for that?”


“No.  He was angry with me.  ‘Enraged’ would probably be a better word.  He told me that he had created an artificial life form and it had been destroyed.  He blamed me for that and for causing his hair to fall out.”


“He blamed you for both things?”


“Yes.  Even though he said that the artificial life had been destroyed by the fire he accidentally started, he still held me responsible.”


“And what about the loss of his hair?”


“He said that my blast of super-breath had caused a bottle of acid to topple and break against a bottle of kryptonite antidote he had invented.  The acid and the antidote formula combined to make a corrosive cloud that caused his hair to fall out.”


“Could that have happened?”


“Yes.  Anyway, I believe that’s what did happen.”


“You said that Luthor was angry.”


“Yes, he was consumed with rage.  Given his shock over what had just happened, I can’t blame him, really.  But he ranted at me, claimed that I had deliberately caused the accident.”


“For what reason?”


“He said it was because I was jealous that his genius would make me more famous than me.”


“Were you jealous of him?”




“Did you deliberately cause those unfortunate events to happen?”


“No.  The creation of the corrosive cloud was completely accidental.  And as Luthor himself stated, the artificial-life protoplasm was destroyed by the fire he started inadvertently.”




“Superboy, when you built the new laboratory for Lex Luthor, did you include shelves with restraining brackets, the kind used to keep containers holding dangerous substances secure?


“Yes, I did.”


“How did you know to do this?”


“I have a laboratory of my own, and with my power of total recall, I also remember my father’s lab on Krypton.  I’m aware of the proper safety protocols.”


“So if that bottle of acid had been properly secured in one of those shelves, then your super-breath never could have caused it to fall, is that correct?”


“Yes.  That’s the whole point in having a restraining bracket.”


“So it was careless of Luthor not to have stowed the bottle of acid properly.”






“I’ll rephrase the question.  Superboy, one of the reasons that the acid bottle was not properly secured might have been that Luthor was too careless to do so.  Is that possible?


“It is.”


“Now when Lex Luthor testified, during cross-examination, it was brought out that the two inventions he developed for the citizens of Smallville---the weather tower and the super-growth seeds---had serious shortcomings.  Are you familiar with these, Superboy?”


“Yes, I am.  In those instances, the tower and the seeds were successful, at first, but then went haywire.  I was forced to destroy both inventions, in order to save lives and property.”


“You didn’t interfere with either of those inventions, did you?  I mean before they began to endanger the town.”


“No, sir.   I did not.  Initially, when Luthor’s inventions worked properly, they were a boon to Smallville.  I was pleased for him.”


“Earlier, you heard Luthor admit in testimony to design flaws in the inventions that caused them to become dangerous.  Do you agree with his statements on that matter?”


“Yes, I do.”


“In your opinion, did Lex Luthor tend to be careless in his scientific experimentation?  Based upon your personal experiences.”


“Well, all scientific experimentation carries a certain amount of risk . . . .”


“But the properly trained scientist takes precautions to minimise that risk, does he not?”


“He does . . . yes.”


“And, in fact, the incident involving the artificial life-form and the loss of his hair was not the first time you had to deal with a potentially fatal accident in Luthor’s laboratory, was it?”


“No, sir.  There was one earlier occasion.”


“Tell us about it.”


“It happened about a month after I met Lex.  He had created a substance he termed ‘Gas X’, as a potential antidote to protect me from the effects of kryptonite.  Gas X, in a confined space, was lethal to ordinary humans, and unfortunately, one morning, the deadly vapour escaped from its container.”


“Do you know what caused that to happen, Superboy?”


“Only from what Lex told me, afterward---that the vapour inside the bottle was highly compressed and the extreme pressure pushed the cork stopper out, releasing the Gas X.”


“Go on.”


“The Gas X erupted from the bottle, and Lex couldn’t avoid breathing it in.  He was able to cry out for help just before succumbing to it.  I happened to be passing by and saw his predicament.”


“What did you do?”


“I used my super-breath to blow the Gas X fumes out of the lab and into the upper atmosphere, where they dissipated harmlessly.  Thankfully, I was able to do this before Lex inhaled enough of it to be fatal.”


“You say you used your super-breath.  Did that cause any unintended accidents, such as what happened later when you blew out the fire in his lab?”


“No, sir.”


“So based upon your experience with the Gas X incident, as far as you knew, it was safe to discharge your super-breath into Luthor’s laboratory.”


“It appeared so, yes.”


“It appears that there have been a number of potentially deadly mishaps connected with Luthor’s experiments.  In your opinion, Superboy, could Luthor have prevented them?”


“I suppose he could have taken more precautions.”


“One last question, son.  The day of the incident, when you saw young Luthor’s laboratory on fire, when you heard him call for help, and you started down, what was going through your mind?”


“My only thought was to help my friend.”


“Thank you, Superboy.  Nothing further.”

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I think even without the accident Lex's jealousy of Superboy would have carried him over into being a bad guy.

Maybe not, Mark. I'm inclined to agree with the imaginary story where Lex gets taken in by the Kents, that there was a long stretch where he could have gone either way.

Lex was clearly fixated on Superboy before the accident and that kind of admiration can always turn dark.

It's also possible he could have become an arrogant jerk without the accident (making world-shattering science discoveries in your teens can do that) rather than a villain.

Philip Portelli said:

It still would have been great to see a series of five or six "Superboy's Buddy, Lex Luthor" stories before the fire. It could have shown Luthor's more negative traits yet still have him wanting to be heroic. It would have made the accident more tragic.

Agreed.  That was one of the best parts of the early seasons of "Smallville".  They did an excellent job of building the friendship between Clark and Lex.  Because we all knew that it was eventually going to fall apart, there was an awful sense of foredoomed inevitability.  At times, it felt to me almost like a Greek tragedy was taking place.

I tried watching Smallville when it first came out and quickly realized that I wasn't part of its target audience. *SOB*

Don't you mean "choke"?

Philip Portelli said:

I tried watching Smallville when it first came out and quickly realized that I wasn't part of its target audience. *SOB*

I wasn't the target audience, but I greatly enjoyed Buffy and Smallville.

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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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