I suppose I’ll have to talk about the whole Big Barda/Superman/Sleez thing eventually.

§ May 13th, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, lex luthor § 20 Comments

Thank you for all the discussion on recent posts, though I didn’t expect George Pérez’s costume design abilities to come up for debate. Granted, even at the time the Luthor Armor Suit was introduced in ’93, I seem to recall a comment or two along the lines of “there goes Pérez again, designing a costume someone else has to draw.”

And Luthor’s suit is…well, I like the design of it, but it was brought up that he doesn’t exactly have peripherial vision in that thing. I presume he has little monitors on the inside of his headpiece there giving him the full 360-degree view. I mean, if my little Hyundai can have a rear-view camera when I’m backing up, surely Luthor can too. And he seems like the kind of guy whose easy solution to a problem is excess engineering.

As to Mr. Pérez’s other costume designs…well, perhaps that’s a topic for another time. But I do like this costume for Donna Troy, though in fairness this one will never be topped…and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the intentional similarity between those covers before. I do have to agree some of his costuming was…pretty wild.

One other rather more unpleasant thing I wanted to point out before it got lost in the shuffle was this observation from Chris about Lex Luthor, Sexual Assaulter. That is an element that, thankfully, appears to have been dropped from Luthor’s characterization. There are a couple of incidents early on that Chris mentions, both in an early Byrne story, and even in an appearance by Luthor in a Rick Veitch issue of Swamp Thing.

There’s also a bit in the side mini-series World of Metropolis #2, which features a flashback sequence where a teenaged Lois attempts to infiltrate Luthor’s offices to find dirt on the man, in an attempt to impress Perry White. She’s caught, stripsearched (off panel) and then apparently given a whipping by Luthor (also off panel) before being sent on her way. After which, Luthor says “I’m gonna watch the tape of the stripsearch again” and…yeah, ew. Luthor, Sex Assaulter and Pervert, is no longer a thing now, but remains a very off-putting element of the Byrne reboot. Maybe that’s the sort of thing a person like Luthor would do in his position, but Superman comics don’t feel like place for it.

Urgh. Okay, so I’m not ending my post on that ugliness, let me bring this up since Deathstroke came up in the “costume design: good or bad” discussion. Take a good look at this cover:


Can you see the…slight problem here?

20 Responses to “I suppose I’ll have to talk about the whole Big Barda/Superman/Sleez thing eventually.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Nice Roger Corman photo, Mike!

    May he Rest In Peace (and thanks for the cheap cinematic thrills, Roger!)

  • Housepig says:

    Hey Mike, long time reader, first time commenter etc etc.

    for that Deathstroke cover, not as much of a problem as you might think. He’s right handed but left-eye dominant (obviously). I’m the same – when I picked up archery a few years ago, I was taught to shoot lefty (with my right hand holding the bow) as it’s easier to learn to shoot “backwards” from your dominant hand than to re-train your “dumb” eye.

    So when aiming, my right eye is closed and my left eye is looking down the arrow.

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    “for that Deathstroke cover, not as much of a problem as you might think”

    except the gun sights are not lining up with his eye

  • Joe Gualtieri says:

    The Lex, sexual assaulter did stick around a bit past Byrne, sorta. In the Bloodlines/Reign of the Supermen tie-in annual (two crossovers for the price of one!), Lex strangles and kills pre-powers Myriad. It is at least coded as a sexual assault, after she embarrasses him in front of Supergirl and Lois.

  • Thom H. says:

    Ugh — I’d forgotten a lot of the “Lex Luthor, rapist” stuff from the reboot. I’m so glad it fell by the wayside. Superhero comics aren’t well equipped to handle material like that. And if you’re not going to address it head-on, then it can come across as gratuitous and/or titillating, which is gross.

    Byrne was definitely working through something in the latter half of his career with the Big Two. Non-consensual or exploitative sexual situations show up in Fantastic Four, Superman/Action, West Coast Avengers. I’m honestly surprised a lot of it got through editorial, but maybe he was a big enough talent that they gave him a free pass?

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Maybe that’s the sort of thing a person like Luthor would do in his position, but Superman comics don’t feel like place for it.”

    Yeah, agreed!

    “Can you see the…slight problem here?”

    Yes, and also that cover sucks! The lady looks… OFF.

    “Nice Roger Corman photo, Mike!
    May he Rest In Peace”

    Yes. 98 is a pretty good run.

    “Byrne was definitely working through something in the latter half of his career with the Big Two. Non-consensual or exploitative sexual situations”

    Same thing about Steve Engelehart. AND moreso, Alan Moore.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I was just reading some old Marvel Spotlights from circa 1974 through ’75 featuring The Son of Satan, and it got me to thinking how difficult was it to get those stories approved by the Comics Code Authority? They are definitely not comics for kids, and might have been better suited to Marvel’s black and white magazines of the era. But I suppose that films including “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” “Burnt Offerings,” “The Omen,” and “Kolchak” were all part of the popular culture at that time. Anyway, Steve Gerber was writing some fairly intense stuff there. And the letters pages are interesting to read as well…there were more than a few disgruntled Christian readers writing in. Also a cool letter from Jo Duffy before she entered the
    comics field.

  • David says:

    @housepig “for that Deathstroke cover, not as much of a problem as you might think. He’s right handed but left-eye dominant (obviously)”

    He doesn’t have a left eye. He lost the eye and wears a patch out of costume

    https://images.app.goo.gl/w4fpBs4fGNEmj1dc6

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    “Byrne was definitely working through something in the latter half of his career with the Big Two. Non-consensual or exploitative sexual situations”

    “Same thing about Steve Engelehart. AND moreso, Alan Moore.”

    Not to be an apologist for these writer’s unfortunate crutches, but rape-as-a-plot-device was a fairly common (and grotesque) feature in the 70s and 80s. I suspect Byrne, while he undoubtedly has some baggage, thought it was an acceptable feature of the “mature” and grimdark comic writing of the era.

  • Oliver says:

    Byrne’s approach to sexuality has always been adolescent, and more than once tipped into outright misogyny. On the other hand, he could come up with some amusingly naughty lines — “When you turn into Sasquatch, EVERYTHING enlarges?!”

  • ScienceGiant says:

    Great Rao! Can you imagine if “Identity Crisis” had Lex Luthor as the rapist instead of Doctor Light?

  • Thom H. says:

    In a strange coincidence, Brian K. Vaughan just shared the icky Lex Luthor scene from Swamp Thing. He owns the original art:

    https://explodinggiraffe.substack.com/p/spectators-part-107

    (scroll to bottom)

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    Add Jim Shooter to the list of “maybe gender politics and sexual assault are not topics you should write about” list. By total coincidence, “Unity” by Operation Ivy came up on my playlist as I write this.

    Comic book writers as a whole are not very good at handling delicate topics, and the fact that all the people we’ve listed are (presumably) straight males * who grew up in an earlier era has something to do with it. Depicting about sexual assault can result in exploitation and misplaced edginess (which is what I think the instances with Luthor were going for) without consideration for the victim.

    The victims in most of these stories tend to be one-off characters, or the assault becomes their motive to become a vigilante/ super-hero/ villain. I think we’ve made progress on this front- the most recent sexual assault story in mainstream super-hero comics that was handled in this manner that I can think of was Kate Bishop’s origin in the mid-Aughts. Hopefully, we won’t be subjected to such fare in the future.

    * same as me, so if I might be off the mark with anything I write here.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    When I think of “Operation Ivy” I think of “Healthy Body, Sick Mind”–perhaps the band’s best tune!

    Re:Jim Shooter and Feminism, I read an old Jim Shooter Silver Age Legion story from Adventure Comics awhile back that was a hoot! All the girl Legionnaires start dominating all the boy Legionnaires, due to the “evil influence” of a “female supremacist” outside agitator…or was she a diplomat from another planet? In the end, Supergirl’s love for Brainiac 5 gives her the will power to defeat the baddie and the patriarchy becomes status quo once again. But it was fun to see the girl Legionnaires being liberated for a bit…
    I don’t think any bra burning happened, however. Of course, Shooter was probably 15 years old when he wrote this goofy story. Gotta love the Silver Age!

  • Jon H says:

    David: “He doesn’t have a left eye. He lost the eye and wears a patch out of costume”

    He doesn’t have a *right* eye. On the cover he’s holding the gun in front of the missing right eye, rather than the intact left eye.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “it got me to thinking how difficult was it to get those stories approved by the Comics Code Authority?”

    I did wonder how they approved something called SON OF SATAN.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Snark Shark

    From what I’ve read the fact that Marv Wolfman’s last name was “Wolfman” was one of the first things that helped ease up the Comes Code Authority’s grip on the industry…they had to let the word “Wolfman” appear in comics in the early Bronze Age as a result, and then what with the Spider-Man and Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues which dealt with the social ill of substance abuse, the licensing of Conan, etc., it seems a tipping point was reached –and Marvel went all in with supernatural/”horror” characters by the early ’70s, what with Dracula, Morbius, Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, Man-Thing,
    Frankenstein, The Mummy, Son of Satan,
    Satana, etc. A very interesting time in comics…Steves Gerber and Englehart, Doug Moench, Don McGregor, Jim Starlin et al pretty much paved the way for Alan Moore and others to follow.

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  • Snark Shark says:

    “Wolfman”

    Oh, that’s right!

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Clap for the Wolfman!” *clap*clap*clap*

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