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Should’ve included a little Argh!Yle! figure too.

§ May 15th, 2024 § Filed under lex luthor, misfit toys § 16 Comments

I’ve kind of slowed down on buying action figures for myself…I think I’ve got a couple of Popeye figures pending, and maybe if they do another good Swamp Thing figure that’s different enough from what has gone before, I’ll bite. And someday Funko will do Nancy and Sluggo Pops.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t place an extra order on the forthcoming Ambush Bug figure in case I decide I have to have one:

I mean, look, he even comes with Cheeks the Toy Wonder:

I do still love those old Ambush Bug stories by the late Keith Giffen, and I don’t know that I need a physical manifestation of those comics, but part of me says that I absolutely do. Just standing there, on top of my desk, looking down upon me as I type entries for this very website.

Speaking of action figures, it was pal Andrew who reminded me that the new redesigns for Brainiac and Luthor were specifically more toyetic than the old versions. Not that there was anything wrong with toys of Pink-Shirt Brainiac and Bandolier Jetpack Luthor, but these new versions probably looked like more threatening bad guys for kids to pit against their superhero figures.

In my time-honored tradition of “borrowing” images from the eBays, I present here the classic mid-1980s figures of Luthor:

…and Brainiac:

Beware Brainiac’s “Power Action Computer Kick!”

Don’t think we ever saw that particular move in New Brainiac’s few comic book appearances (“Stop right there, Brainiac!” “Take THIS, Superman!” [kicks Superman right in his Moons of Krypton]).

Anyway, it’ll be nice having a good Ambush Bug figure around. The only other thing that might tempt me at this point is a set of Atari Force figures (the second team), which is highly unlikely but fun to think about.

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 § 23 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?

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.

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

§ September 26th, 2022 § Filed under lex luthor, multiverse talk, superman § 27 Comments

Yup, I’m still addressing comments left on this site from nearly two months ago. What can I tell you?

So Daniel sez

“Byrne’s first meeting of Superman and Luthor in Mos #4 was soooo much more interesting than the pre-Crisis Superboy-causes-Lex-to-lose-his-hair-in-a-lab-accident”

Now let me just step in here for just a sec and defend the “Superman makes Lex lose his hair” thing. I’m not going to say you’re wrong for your position, for reasons I’ll get into, but I think Superboy being at least partially responsible is good actually, and fits tonally with the kind of stories being told in Super-comics of the time.

We’ve all probably seen this sequence, or something like it, from Adventure Comics #271 (1960) by Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino. Lex, the local boy genius who had been fast friends with Superboy, was working in his lab (built by Superboy, in fact) to create a cure for Kryptonite for his super-pal. Suddenly Science Goes Awry and the Boy of Steel blows out the flames and smoke in the exploded lab, only to discover:

This works in the Superman books of the day in that is fits the general low rent level of almost dreamlike myth-making in the stories. Motivations and broad and simplistic, intended to be easy for children to understand. (I’m put in the mind of an early ’60s Green Lantern story where the impetus for Sinestro’s actions was that he losing out in some popularity contest with another villain and he wanted to regain the top position.)

“You did something bad to me” (well, sort of) “and now I hate you forever!” is a plain enough explanation. Plus, it was probably a surprising twist for readers to discover that adult Luthor’s baldness was tied to the actions of a young Superman. It’s all very “closed-circle” kind of stuff. And this doesn’t get into the mythological/Samson-esque implications of a loss of hair equating a loss of strength and virility.

In other words, It Was Good Enough, at least for the time. As the actual stories of Lex vs. Supes played out, it was not so much about “my beautiful curls!” but just Luthor trying to find ways to commit crimes and outwit and/or destroy Superman. So the hair thing didn’t really play that much into the enmity between the two, aside from the occasional flashback. Now, had Luthor spent all his time trying to cause Superman to lose his hair, well, that’d be another story entirely. I think there were one or two stories like that, but it wasn’t, like, Lex’s thing.

When the Superman comics entered the ’80s, it was decided to change things up just a little bit. Not Crisis on Infinite Earths-levels of changing up, that would be a couple years hence, but for Superman’s 45th anniversary in 1983, here in Action Comics #544 by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, Luthor was given all-new reasons to hate the Man of Steel.

Long story short, Lex was living on the planet Lexor, where everyone loved him, and he and Superman were fighting, Lex fired an energy beam at him with his fancy new armor, the beam bounced off Superman and hit a big doodad that was keeping Lexor’s core stable, and everything went kablooie. Lex of course blames Superman entirely, resulting in:

A more brutal origin for an age when comics were, just very slightly, beginning to get a little edgier with their storytelling…not that Superman was going to suddenly become, I don’t know, Frank Miller’s Daredevil or anything. But we were getting to the point where the more fantasy-ish “loss of hair” origin wasn’t enough in comics, where a little more grounding in reality (relatively speaking) was becoming more in vogue.

As it turned out, this New Unleashed More Dangerous Than Ever Luthor only popped up a handful of times before the aforementioned Crisis came along, and frankly things weren’t much different than before except for Luthor having his new space armor suit.

With Crisis and the accompanying sweeping 1986 reboot of the Superman line by John Byrne, all that previous Luthor stuff was cast aside, and a new relationship between the two was forged. “Introduced” in Man of Steel #4, our new Luthor is now a wealthy businessman whose successfully hides his shady side from the public (causing a lot of comparisons to Marvel’s Kingpin in the process):

And yes, he has hair. At least until Lois slings this parting shot at him after an eventful evening:

…which, hey, I don’t know, don’t be hairline-shaming my man William Frawley:

But this being the motivation for Lex to start shaving his head clean (as he appears sans hair in EDIT: his very next appearance Superman #1 – was reminded in the comments he didn’t go Full Yul ’til after the Man of Steel mini was over) is frankly just as silly as Superboy blowing Kid Lex’s hair away after a lab fire. BUT TO BE CLEAR I know this isn’t the argument at hand. Hair is removed as a motivation for Luthor’s behavior…now it’s just a small point being made about his vanity.

Luthor’s hatred of Superman comes from the Man of Tomorrow’s replacing Lex as the most powerful man in Metropolis. This is a more modern, a more…well, using the word “subtle” for anything Byrne works on is bit of a misnomer, but it is a more nuanced take on his hatred for Supes than “I lost my hair.” It rises out of the character’s personality, a change that comes from the increasing demand for the approximation of “realism” and storytelling sophistication in comics.

In a way, though, it still hearkens back to the childlike simplicity of comic character motivations of decades past: “I was the biggest guy, now someone else is bigger, and I hate him.” It probably just comes down to being more relatable…everyone’s been jealous of someone else, but very few people have experienced a friend causing their immediate and total hair loss. Unless, you know, their arch-nemesis is an evil barber or something.

As a small addendum, one of the elements of the Smallville TV show I appreciated is the fact that the meteor swarm that stuck the town, the one in which baby Kal-El’s rocket was enmeshed, was responsible for a young Lex’s baldness. Bringing back the “Superboy was kinda responsible for that” which had been missing from the other live-action adaptations…nicely played.

And now, escapism.

§ November 11th, 2016 § Filed under lex luthor, this week's comics § 7 Comments


While I’ve commented before on the unusually complicated yet compelling premise of the current Superman titles, I haven’t said much about Lex Luthor’s development in these post-Rebirth comics. Picking up on threads from the latter part of DC’s New 52 era, Luthor has seemingly decided to become a superhero…literally, with the New 52’s Superman’s death, becoming Superman, with the “S” logo and everything. It seems apparent that Luthor is trying to force himself into a role for which he is ill-prepared, though via his own egotistical self-aggrandizement he feels he is the better fit for the job than his predecessor.

Now, given Luthor’s portrayals in the past, we, the readers, know this almost certainly can’t end well. From our perspective, we’ve seen how Luthor behaves, we’ve seen the crimes he’s committed, we’ve seen him brag about his misdeeds…we know, despite the many changes he may have undergone over the years, that there is a rotten core that is always present, no matter how respectable the exterior appears. The other characters in the comics know this as well…they of course are limited to whatever experiences they are allowed within the latest permutation of their shared fictional universe, but a Luthor never changes his spots, as it were, and despite any superficial efforts at semi-redemption, the inertia of Luthor’s portrayal over the decades will certainly result in a return to form.

In this week’s issue of Action, this bears out, given that visitors from the future have come back to the present to put a stop to Luthor before he becomes a universal scourge, a tyrannical madman with ultimate power crushing all before him. We don’t have the full story yet about this, of course, but totally within possibility knowing what we know about him.

Interestingly, undermining Luthor’s perhaps spurious attempts at redefinition is a secondary plotline, hinted at in this issue of Action but primarily playing out in Superwoman, is the fact that he is currently under the influence of enemy agency. Specifically, it’s his estranged sister Lena, exerting control over him for her own nefarious ends, while Luthor tries to continue following his own agenda, as tinged as it may be by Lena’s own.

At any rate, we’ll see how these particular plotlines work out over, oh, I don’t know, the next four to eight years.

Now if Lex had a stuffed tiger, that would be a strip.

§ June 25th, 2014 § Filed under comic strips, lex luthor § 4 Comments

Having watched just a few weeks ago the Dear Mr. Watterson documentary on Netflix, and with Bill Watterson’s recent brief return to the the comics page, I was fairly well primed to revisit his famous Calvin & Hobbes strip. Fortunately, I own a set of the slipcased hardcovers reprinting the whole shebang and was able to satisfy this urge in short order. Unlike the esteemed Mr. Isabella, who has the astounding self-control to restrict himself to only a week’s worth of strips at a time, I would read huge amounts at any given opportunity, immersing myself in Mr. Watterson’s imagination for an hour or so.

While the strips’ run concludes with a fairly open-ended Sunday page, essentially indicating that the pals’ adventures will continue, even if we won’t see them for ourselves, there is at least one bit of closure, I think, prior to the end, with Rosalyn the babysitter. All of her previous appearances involve direct, angry (or at least highly annoyed) conflict between Rosalyn and Calvin, but in her final story sequence, Rosalyn and Calvin finally find common ground:

Ah, Calvinball. The great equalizer. It’s the one time the two characters manage to get along peacefully, bringing a happy ending of sorts to the long series of battles they’ve endured over the history of the strip. It’s no Charlie Brown finally saying “hello” to the little red-haired girl, but it’ll do.

• • •

I also recently read a handful of ’70s and ’80s Lex Luthor appearances, because I miss this version of Lex Luthor, the one with the green ‘n’ purple jumpsuit:

…who would also occasionally disguise himself like, oh, say, Kurt Vonnegut:

One of the big losses of the mid-1980s Superman reboot was losing the “fiendish schemes” of the “criminal scientist” era of Luthor, who was in at least some measure occasionally sympathetic and even funny, in favor of the cruel and unpleasant businessman Luthor. There was some slight return to the somewhat goofily-evil in-love-with-his-own-voice Luthor in the last decade or so, even to some extent in the post New 52 DC Universe, but nothing is quite the same as Lex in his green/purple tights and his bandoliers, zipping around in his rocket pack.

images from The Complete Calvin & Hobbes Volume 3 (2005) by Bill Watterson, and Action Comics #510 (August 1980) by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte

Lex Luthor anticipates the specialty podcast…

§ December 3rd, 2010 § Filed under lex luthor § 1 Comment

…or at least satellite radio:

That’s some devoted gang. Do you think they broadcast 24/7, or did they wrap up their broadcast day at midnight, and started up again at 6 or 7 in the morning? Did the gang write up the stories themselves, or just read ’em direct from the newspapers? Did they have a wacky “morning zoo” pair of radio personalities discussing today’s top crime stories along with sound effects and…well, I was going to say “call-ins from listeners,” but if it’s just Luthor, then, well, you know. But then again, maybe Luthor did call in…he’d never get a busy signal, and the call screener would always know who it was.

Anyway, probably still more listenable than most radio programming.

from Action Comics #295 (Dec 1962) by Leo Dorfman & Jim Mooney, as reprinted in Super DC Giant #24 (May-June 1971)

The many (and nowhere near complete) faces of Lex Luthor.

§ September 21st, 2005 § Filed under lex luthor § 1 Comment











Additional linkage:

Superman Through The Ages has a comprehensive overview of our favorite bald villain, as does Wikipedia (at least until Luthor complains and the entry is reduced to just his bibliography).

More “Many Faces of Lex Luthor,” this time from TV and movies. And here’s Kevin Spacey as Luthor from the forthcoming new movie.

DC Comics’ official Lex Takes the Presidency page, complete with Shockwave campaign ad.

Comparing and contrasting the comic book origins of Luthor with his counterpart on TV’s Smallville.

Who will win in the battle of the (previous) century? Khan versus Luthor, or Luthor versus Dr. Doomyou be the judge.

“Bin Laden as Lex Luthor.” Er, um….

Fred Hembeck presents: Brainiac and Lex Luthor!

This lucky fella has a “Baldy Award”autographed by Mr. Luthor himself!

The original Mego Luthor Pocket Super Hero from 1979. And here’s the Super Powers figure.

…And here are some custom figures, including probably the only Earth-3 Luthor figure you’ll ever see.

The Planet Lexor, where Luthor was a hero and Superman was the villain!

Information about the Silver Age Luthor’s estranged sister.

Luthor only made it to number 4 on this list of Evil Geniuses? Bah!

Luthor is also on the Forbes Fictional Fifteen richest characters list.

Here’s a biography that’s a couple years out of date, but gives you an idea of what the post-Crisis Luthor is all about.

The Luthor Hero Clix figure.

A thumbnailed overview of the Super Friends episode “Lex Luthor Strikes Back” (complete with Super Mobile cameo!). (warning: pop-ups)

Luthor as Capitalist Bogeyman. (warning: more pop-ups)

The absolutely genius Lex Luthor mini-bust.