Yes, there are some minor cosmetic changes, but it’s still basically the same get-up.

§ May 10th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, lex luthor § 24 Comments

Now in John Byrne’s Man of Steel #3 from 1986, which redefined the Superman/Batman relationship, we get that panel at the end of the issue where Batman says “…in a different reality, I might have called him ‘friend.'” As I said in the post discussing that issue, it was a nod to the pre-Crisis DC Universe that the readers of this comic just saw washed away in, well, Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In Man of Steel #5, we get a much more blatant reference to That Which Had Come Before:

As the mini-series is set up, there are progressively longer jumps in time between issues in order to get the story told in this series from “Superman’s first public appearance” to “the current day DC Universe.” And when we last saw Luthor in issue #4, it was New Businessman Luthor, not the Supervillain Luthor we’d been used to.

But when you see the above image, the very first page of issue #5, you’re meant to think “ah, in the period of time between issues #4 and #5, Luthor has gone back to his pre-Crisis supersuit, maybe things won’t be that different!” Then you turn the page and get:

So no, it was just some poor flunky stuck in that thing, and Lex gets away scot free with his latest hijinks. But once again, the reader is teased with a reference to the old continuity. As time wears on at DC Comics, there’d be more winks and nudges and “hey remember this”-es to pre-Crisis stuff, before just the straight-up efforts to undo Crisis, such as pretty much every big crossover event DC has done for the last decade.

The Luthor super-suit itself wasn’t even around that long. It was introduced in the 40th anniversary issue of Action Comics, #544 from 1983:

…which not only introduced the New Look Luthor, but the New Look Brainiac as well (with the Brainiacs looking like someone’s about to snap a football). We get a few shots of this new suit mysteriously flying around and wreaking havoc, until we get the Full Luthor in this nice, big panel:

And with one or two exceptions, that’s the Luthor we get in Superman stories for the next couple of years, until he’s done away with by the reboot.

Beyond its teasing use in issue #5, the suit continues to be referenced to this very day, including showing up in an animated series. I think the first official post-Crisis usage in comics of Luthor in his armored outfit was in 2004’s Superman/Batman #5 (and shown here on the cover of #6):

…though I haven’t read every single comic so perhaps there was another in-continuity usage that I missed prior to this.

However, this stills holds as a nice example of the journey from “post-Crisis ‘wink’ at pre-Crisis” to “reboot, what reboot?” that DC’s been on for the last three decades.

24 Responses to “Yes, there are some minor cosmetic changes, but it’s still basically the same get-up.”

  • Dave says:

    “Smartest man in the world,” and he designs a suit that won’t let him turn his head or see anything that’s not right in front of him.

  • King of the Moon says:

    I think the suit became iconic because Luthor wore it on his Super Powers action figure

  • Thom H. says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I love George Perez. But someone always needed to come along and simplify his overly detailed costume designs. McGuiness’ version is still probably too fussy, but at least it smooths out all those crazy details on the torso. And puts an “L” on it instead of a “V.” I love that Perez dialed up the “villain color scheme” to 11, though. It’s the least Luthor deserves as one of the best known bad guys around.

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    @King Yup. I didn’t read a Superman comic until 1989 or so, but I knew that suit from the toy (which friends had).

  • Daniel T says:

    I always thought so one talked enough about Pérez’s terrible costume designs. Original Nightwing, Captain Ultra, “traffic light” Wonder Man, New 52 Power Girl, Troia, Pariah…I could go on. And on.

    Loved the guy’s work for almost 50(!) years now but his costumes were mostly atrocious.

    (And yeah, I know Captain Ultra’s costume was deliberate, but how far away is it really from the Wonder Man one?)

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Daniel T.

    Agreed that Perez did design some costume designs that weren’t aesthetically pleasing… especially Troia (and I will always maintain that Donna Troy’s star spangled red jumpsuit Wonder Girl costume was and is the perfect look for her) and New 52 Power Girl–but on the other hand his Starfire costume was excellent and is the best look for her. I don’t know why DC has decided to redesign that costume and her hair style…she looks very bland now. Also, all things considered, I like Perez’s Nightwing costume…but I still maintain that Grayson should have just remained Robin and used the Neal Adams designed costume that Earth-2’s grown up Robin wears. Now there are way too many Robins all because DC had Grayson relinquish the name.

    Anyway, on the flip side, Dave Cockrum was the Bronze Age king of great costume designs. He deserves way more respect and credit.

  • Daniel T says:


    You’ll note I didn’t mention any of the original NTT costumes as they were spot on and the best costumes those characters have had. His Scarlet Witch design for the Busiek run was also great. I also think Terminator works and he had some Wasp designs that were good (though not the orange one).

    I didn’t mean to suggest all his costumes were bad, but even early Image “kewl” costumes were better than his worst.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Daniel T

    Yes, good points!

    Also some good designs/redesigns in Perez’s Wonder Woman run.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read a modern DC comic, but why not just have Lex go full Iron Man, costume-wise. Maybe ditch the purple and green color combination and have his armor be like a Reverse Flash (or Reverse Superman, actually) type thing–with a blue, red, and gold color combinations and a “L” crest on the armor’s chest. Give him Kryptonite-laced “repulsar rays,” and as many gadgets as Batman, etc. Have him become an Ultra-Luthor…

  • Thom H. says:

    Perez’s Nightwing and Scarlet Witch both looked great as long as they were drawn by Perez. Otherwise, they needed to be simplified so other artists could draw them.

    Also — and this is being overly analytical, I admit — was the rest of the team going to wait for Wanda to put on 25 bracelets before they responded to an emergency? Gorgeous, but too fiddly.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    Perhaps Earth-2 villain The Fiddler could cross dimensions, Earths, and comics companies and compel the other Avengers to dance wildly while Wanda was putting on her 25 Perez bracelets…

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    I *love* Perez. His style and storytelling are amazing. The time I met him at a con, he did something awesome, so again, really, I love him.

    His design sense for costumes is *atrocious,* and I’d include most of the Titans and Deathstroke in that that. If you weren’t used to Deathstroke, there’s no way you’d think that was a good design. Nightwing is a good base for a design, as other people have proven with refinements to it, but the original is ridiculous. His design sense was clearly set in the 70s, and it never really evolved.

    Are there some exceptions? Sure (Raven), but they’re a big minority, considering how many characters he designed.

  • Oliver says:

    Are we counting the 1978 ‘Stargod’ version of Man-Wolf among Perez’s bad designs? It’s certainly difficult to draw! (Plus you can’t help but imagine that metal armor chafing up against Man-Wolf’s fur, unless he wears cotton undergarments or something. But I digress…)

  • Thom H. says:

    Yeah, Raven’s original costume design stands out as refreshingly simple. And a step up from the strange, but similar, Zatanna redesign from a few years earlier. To be fair, Changeling’s original New Teen Titans design was great. I wonder if Perez had more editorial input for the NTT costumes.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Here’s a link to a good article on the top 13 George Perez costume designs…I think they are all pretty good, although I’m not a fan of the Scarlet Witch redesign, and Wonder Man’s costume is a bit flashy. I’d probably include Cyborg and Tarra’s costumes instead. I really dislike the way that DC has redesigned Cyborg and Starfire’s costumes for the worse–the Perez designs were perfect, why mess up a good thing? I never cared for Raven much as a character, but her original costume was way better than the New 52 or Rebirth look they gave her. I don’t know why Marv Wolfman wanted to rename Gar Logan “Changeling”– he should have just remained as “Beast Boy.” Basically all of the Teen Titans Silver/Bronze Age costumes and looks were their best…Donna’s star-spangled red jumpsuit, Wally’s Kid Flash costume, Roy’s Speedy costume (his Red Arrow costume is pretty decent as well, but I dislike all of his Arsenal costumes and that lame name, and especially the dumb trucker hat), Aqualad’s original look was way better than his Tempest costume and identity change, Lilith looks best in the green Mod miniskirt, Mal Duncan looks best as The Guardian. If anything, I could see slightly modifying Robin and Aqualad’s costumes so they have leggings, as was done in the recent Mark Waid World’s Finest:Teen Titans mini-series. But I really wish DC would get Steve Skeates to write a new Teen Titans story set in the early ’70s chronology from when he was writing the series, and get a really good artist like Jerry Ordway or Steve Rude to illustrate it…maybe as a Black Label one -shot or limited series.

    Anyway, I think Perez’s Nightwing design only needed a utility belt and maybe some glider wings to improve it.

  • Snark Shark says:

    I LOVE how the Power Suit looks, as drawn by Bryne.

    “I think the suit became iconic because Luthor wore it on his Super Powers action figure”

    I’m sure that’s a good part of it!

    “Now there are way too many Robins”



    LOVE both of their original designs. Both looking lovely, w/opposite styles, Raven 90% covered & Starfire 50% uncovered!


    Is his TECHNICALLY a costume? He IS a Cyborg.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Taskmaster and the Terminator.”

    HELL YEAH! I love ol’ Tasky, and like ol’ Termy.

    Coulda’ done without “Deathstroke” as part of his name, though.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “(with the Brainiacs looking like someone’s about to snap a football”

    They WANTED to play against High School era Clark, but arrived in the wrong time period.

  • Chris Bowden says:

    You know what never gets talked about much with Byrnes reinterpretation of Luthor? Lex Luthor the rapist. In Superman issue two, where Lex is trying to discver Supes secret identity, he coerces his lead researcher to go out to dinner with him. She tries to offer an excuse to get out of it, he reacts by violently squeezing her hand and reminding her that it would be in her best interests to accept. There’s a scene later on the next morning where they are both in their sleep wear, it’s obvious she ‘slept over’. From her earlier reaction to him and her uncomfiort around him it is obvious it wasn’t consensual. Even at the time I thought it was a pretty grimey scene for a Superman comic, Byrne seemed to like to indulge In that sort stuff though, there was that whole porn film thing with Big Barda too. Maybe he thought it made his stories more adult and edgy.

    There was also that issue of Swamp Thimg where Luthor rapes his secretary, I guess that was at least a mature age title.

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    Possibly the worst Perez costume design: Justice, around issue 25 of the Busiek/ Perez Avengers. It’s like the original Nightwing suit without the flair.

    Possibly the most underrated Perez costume design: Firestqr. I love the fire-motif mask.

    George Perez had the ability to make other character designs look good. When Speedy and Aqualad showed up in NTT, they actually looked cool despite their boring costumes. The Peeez version of just about any Marvel or DC character is among the definitive versions. Even his pin-up in Spawn 1 is amazing, and Spawn looks weird drawn by artists who don’t share McFarlane’s sense of aesthetics.

    Anyway, my favorite Lex Luthor look is from the DCAU. Black suit, expression that defaults to “smug,” imposing figure- the power suit is fine for the occasional physical fight, but evil businessman who the law won’t touch is way more intimidating.

  • Thom H. says:

    That’s a good point. His attention to detail elevated otherwise simplistic costumes. You knew if he was going to draw Captain America that he was going to draw every single scale of his body armor.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @ Mike Loughlin

    Agreed that Perez made Speedy and Aqualad (and Tula/Aquagirl) look cool. He added a few aesthetic details to Speedy’s costume, on the front of the tunic, but it actually wasn’t a bad costume to begin with, and generally looked good as drawn by Nick Cardy, Neal Adams, and George Tuska in the original Teen Titans run. But the Red Arrow costume (modeled after Green Arrow’s Neal Adams-designed costume)that Roy had at one point worked well too. I always liked Tula’s Nick Cardy-designed costume, and all that Aqualad and Robin’s original costumes needed at a certain point was a slight tweak so as not to be bare-legged…which the Robin costume finally got in the Tim Drake era.

    The problem with modern DC Comics (well, one of many problems, actually) is that they consistently crap on Roy and Garth…as well as giving them crappy new hero names and costumes–last time I checked, Garth didn’t even look like Garth– he didn’t have the classic black curly hair and they had turned him into an alcoholic, echoing Roy’s chronic dysfunction (Oh, Denny O’Neil what hath thou wrought…). Considering that Roy dates all the back to the Golden Age
    1940s, and Garth back to the Silver Age early 1960s, they sure don’t get much love.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    Regular commenter Mike Loughlin – he is the Mike Mike Loughlin of Wizard letter column fame, right?

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