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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – So WHEN Did Clark Kent First Meet Lex Luthor?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at how Lex Luthor and Clark Kent’s relationship was handled after Crisis…

It is interesting to note that Lex Luthor and Superman already had a retcon in their relationship. In Adventure Comics #271, we learned that they knew each other when they were teens together back in Smallville. That would almost be worth an abandoned an’ forsaked, except they never really said that Superman and Luthor DIDN’T know each other back in Smallville, ya know?

Anyhow, that was the status quo for Superman and Luthor. They knew each other as teens and were briefly friends before Superboy caused Luthor to lose his hair (and in the process, also destroyed Luthor’s experiment where he basically created a new lifeform)…

And they were enemies ever since…

In any event, their relationship was drastically changed with Crisis on Infinite Earths. When John Byrne rebooted Superman with Man of Steel, Luthor and Clark Kent (and Superman) were now meeting each other for the first time as adults.

Here is their first meeting from Man of Steel #4…

As you might note, Luthor is also noticeably older than Clark. This was also a Post-Crisis thing, that Luthor was a good deal older. In the Unuathorized Biography of Lex Luthor by James Hudnall and the late, great Eduardo Barreto, it is actually established that Luthor was childhood friends with Perry White…

The White/Luthor relationship was a key plot point in a couple of Superman stories circa 1990 (Luthor, as it turns out, had an affair with Perry’s wife and was the biological father of Perry’s son).

Like the changes in last week’s Abandoned an’ Forsaked with regards to Superman’s birth (you can read that one here), things changed in 2003, during Mark Waid and Leinil Yu’s Superman: Birthright maxi-series, as the Man of Steel stuff with regards to Clark and Lex is pretty much completely abandoned and forsaked (and yes, it is worth noting that the Smallville TV series had recently debuted, and Clark and Lex were contemporaries on that show and both lived in Smallville, so there was a goodly amount of outside pressure to work in the Smallville set-up into the Superman titles).

Here is Clark and Lex now meeting as adults in #6…

Including a flashback to their time together growing up later in the issue…

In #7, we see that the pair met in ninth grade, while also noting that Luthor IS older than Clark, just not by a lot…

In 2009, Geoff Johns made the next subtle shift, in his Superman: Secret Origin series with Gary Frank. In it, he gives the two a new first introduction…

but more importantly, establishes Lex as being concurrent with Superboy, which Johns reworks into Superman’s origins in this series (Superman as Superboy was still off-limits when Waid did his revamped origin)…

I like the idea of one of Superboy’s first acts being saving Luthor’s father from his son’s attempt to kill him (As an aside, Luthor’s family history also changed in each of the three Post-Crisis revamps).

There’s one more Superman: Birthright bit that works well for Abandoned an’ Forsaked. I’ll get to it some time in the future!

60 Comments

Of course this is all logically explained by Superboy Prime’s super retcon punch.
I enjoyed the Johns reworking and I need to get around to birthright but the Byrne revamp still gets lots of love from me.

I never understood why Byrne felt the need to do away with anything related to the Superboy stories. Still, all three retcons were done nicely. I like Johns’ take the best although I’m sure Waid would have delivered the goods if Superboy had been on the table at the time.

I suppose “DCnU” has now wiped the slate clean a fourth time?

I waited for Birthright to be labeled an Elseworld, then dropped the Superman books when John’s took over Action and I realized the goofy 70s-80s Superman was back and ‘mine’ was gone.

I really think the ‘everyone was in Smallville’ is dumb. Why some writers need to tie everything back to a characters origins I will never know. It is not at all original, and it robs the characters of some observable development.

Byrne’s version was much more realistic and natural (and yes, I know it is a science fantasy comic about a flying alien…)

I don’t have a problem with Lex and Clark in Smallville together. That plot goes back to the Silver Age and updating it is an homage to the past.

What I do mind is copying that formula to other characters, notably Green Lantern, where now young Hal and young Carol were friends. Totally ruins the “adult” vibe of their relationship.

I preferred the Silver Age version of the Lex/Clark relationship that developed in the sixties and onward–that without Lex’s hate for Superman, he’d have turned out okay (but at the same time, he can’t let go of it and start over). Not that the corrupt businessman Luthor is bad, but I prefer the earlier take.
“Interestingly, I don’t know if teen Clark ever met teen Lex back then. “–Brian, didn’t you just show them meeting? I don’t get it (and they had multiple more stories where they locked horns).
So how did Lex’s family change? I know they purged away Nasthalthia and Lena with the Crisis reboot but after that?
And why doesn’t he remember Clark? It seems like he’d remember one of his few friends from his youth (even though the bits I’ve seen of Birthright show it ended badly).

Paul, agreed. Johns’ revamped origin also squeezes Hector Hammond into Hal’s origin which feels even more gratuitous.

Byrne FTW. I think his Lex / Superman relationship is soooo much more believable than the others, and distributes ability across the DCU better, which is nice.

Fraser, I think Brian meant Lex meeting Clark Kent, as opposed to Lex meeting Superboy.

“Of course this is all logically explained by Superboy Prime’s super retcon punch.”

“Logic” and “Superboy-Prime’s retcon punch” do not belong in the same sentence. Ever.

Brian: I’m not sure if you mean “back then” as before the accident or “back then” as pre-Crisis in general, but Clark and Lex were well acquainted in Smallville and interacted a lot in 1960s Superboy stories. (It was a small town after all.) They were the two smart kids in science class before Lex lost his hair, and after Lex became a teen criminal there were a number of plot devices to get them together because Pa Kent was on the local parole board,

Brian, I know this is really all about the comics themselves, but isn’t the “Smallville” TV show worth a reference here? I find it significant because I believe when the TV series came out, some people thought it was a silly idea to cram Lex Luthor into Clark’s past.

Plus, isn’t there a pretty good chance DC allowed that plot point to return because of the TV show?

Did Clark originally grow up in an orphanage in Metropolis? If so, then isn’t everything in Smallville an example of Abandoned and Forsaken?

I think my first exposure to the rivalry’s origins was Challenge of the Super-Friends, which showed the original story with minor tweaks. With a cynical adult eye, I can see the slash fiction possibilities, what with Superboy willing to do anything to help his new best buddy. Seriously, look for the episode. It also includes the origin of Apache Chief, whose name was “Apache Chief” when he got his powers. Because the Seventies, that’s why.

Man, was that some A+ Byrne Art. He really was at the top of his game on Man of Steel.

Hmm, are those Byrne panels reprinted from a later collection? I would have sworn he gave her that brown hair when this first appeared. Could be wrong.

Lois had the traditional black hair in Man of Steel, Mike. They didn’t start giving her brown hair until the regular Superman series.

Mike, in the original Man of Steel comics, Lois’ hair was black (like in pre-Crisis continuity). In the Superman ongoing series, it was changed to brown. They also changed it to brown when they reprinted Man of Steel in the TPB.

I think you’ll find that a lot of the changes to Superman continuity attributed to John Byrne in Man of Steel actually came down from the DC higher ups.For example, I understand John was quite willing to accommodate Superboy into his storyline so as not to up-end LOSH continuity but was told ‘that was already taken care of’ by Dick Giordano et al. Same with Luthor who was mainly revamped based on an idea of Marv Wolfman.

I never liked “Clark/Superboy knew Lex Luthor growing up”. The rivalry between Superman and Lex Luthor is philosophical, not the result of a past slight or a common origin. It’s not necessary for them to have known each other previously in any way. The fight between them is personal, but not because they know each other on a personal level, but because they stand for different things.

As you might imagine, the TV show Smallville was something I abhorred. Everyone meets in Smallville? Give me a break. That goes even farther by expecting us to believe Clark met the Flash, Cyborg, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and others in Nowhere, Kansas. Absurd to the extreme.

Just another reason to prefer Byrne’s Man of Steel to garbage like Birthright and Secret Origin.

Don’t get me started on the concept of “Superboy”. It’s sickening.

If I remember correctly, Byrne said he regretted ret-conning Superboy. I believe he intended the first couple of years to show a Superman learning how to be a hero and that DC wasn’t really interested in having him learning the ropes, so to say.

Him being Superboy completely destroys the tension of him debuting as Superman. If he’s already known to be a superhero, showing up as Superman is just, “Oh hey, I guess Superboy grew up!” Ruins the impact. Superman needs a strong foot forward, and that means skipping all that teen superhero nonsense. He’s Clark and then he’s Superman.

There’s actually a good reason for why authors keep adding to the backstory; there wasn’t really a backstory in the first place. These characters were never meant to last this long, and were created to have isolated serial adventures. The background was left to the requisite origin story (about one page in Action Comics), and the rest was made up as they went along.

This is especially problematic for Superman, whose early life doesn’t go beyond “Raised in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere by one-dimensionally kindly old folks”. Hence the addition of more stuff, admittedly not all of it good, to flesh out the character.

More killer Byrne art there.

Like I said, penguin, I prefer the personal to the philosophical approach. But each to his own.
Jason, yes, that is a very neat episode.
Matt, all Action Comics #1 says is that he was turned over to an orphanage–then it fast-forwards to adulthood. So adding him as raised by the Kents is an expansion more than abandoning anything.

I like Waid’s compromise most of all. It should have appeased fans of the “Clark and Lex knew each other in Smallville” camp as well as the “Clark and Lex meet for the first time in Metropolis” camp. The dynamic the two shared in that series made a lot of sense to me, and I was one of the biggest haters of the idea that Lex and Clark knew each other before Metropolis.

It’s referenced in Birthright, but I think I remember reading a full “Lex Luthor builds the coal furnace” story in full somewhere else much later, but I may be mistaken. In a Secret Files maybe. Anyone know where that was?

Eduardo Barreto died? That stinks!

Skeets, it was a short story in a Superman Secret Files one-shot.

http://supermanthrutheages.com/tales3/young/

Is there any hero with more “official” origins than ol’ Supes? I shudder to think.

I was going to post what Bill did. Now I can only say “I read that too.”

John wrote:
“Mike, in the original Man of Steel comics, Lois’ hair was black (like in
pre-Crisis continuity). In the Superman ongoing series, it was changed
to brown. They also changed it to brown when they reprinted Man of
Steel in the TPB.”

Thanks, John. I happen to have within reach the trade that caused my confusion. It’s not the MoS collection where I most recently read this story, but the “Superman vs. Lex Luthor” one. The hair color is changed to brown in that reprint as well.

Always hated the “Clark and Lex knew each other as teens and he became mad at Superman he lost his hair because of him” stuff, call it writers having a lack of imagination, they wanted a Superboy story, they put Superman.s arch enemy in there too. But whether their goal was pure not(I figure they wanted to rip-off Ultimate Spider-Man or wanted to copy the Smallville tv show), Waid made a believer out of me on the issue with his maxi-series. Because it digs deeper into Lex’s origin and makes him a super-brain early on and it becomes quickly a brain vs strength thing between Lex and Clark and different philosophy. And it can make their rivalry more organic beyond the usual “Lex wants to own everything, Supe wants to stop him” that became the norm since Byrne revamped him.

Just curious. If the gas fumes made Lex’s hair fall out, why didn’t it do the same thing to his eyebrows?

Though the show was often a mess, “Smallville” did okay with the Clark and Lex relationship for a while there. I was in the camp of “watching everything involving Superman” so I suffered through a lot of that series. Still, Clark and Lex were one of the strongest parts of it.

BUT, I must say I was fine with the changing of that back story with the Man of Steel series. There are many changes writers make that I hate, and are just made for the sake of shaking things up. On the other hand, I am kind of aggravated by the fans and/or writers who later seemed to get into the thought process that every old Silver Age thing, no matter how goofy, must be brought back, mostly because they were nostalgic about it.

Much prefer to see Lex and Clark meeting as adults per the Byrne version or the animated series. In Tom DeHaven’s “It’s Superman!” they meet as adults and Lex is a NTC Alderman. That’s a fun one.

Haven’t read “Birthright” and actively disliked “Secret Origin”, which might be the last Geoff Johns comic I ever read.

Did Clark and Lex know each other as children in the new DCU?

I missed the issue when it came out: Was it explained WHY adult Lex discounts Clark’s claim of knowing him back in Smallville?

Johns brought back Superboy and Clark and Lex being from Smallville? Ugh. DC really needs to fire him. I’m so sick of him trying revert the DCU back to the Silver Age. Fanboys like him should NOT write official comics. Him turning DC into a Silver Age wankfest is one of the main reasons I stopped reading DC.

First, it seems too convoluted that the two most well-known figures in Metropolis happen to come from some random obscure town in Kansas. Second, the idea of Clark and Lex knowing each other as teenagers adds NOTHING whatsoever to the relationship between Superman and Luthor. Third, I hate the concept of Superboy. It’s too corny, and I really dislike the idea of Clark’s original superhero identity NOT being Superman.

Superboy, as a concept, is stupid. It would be like seeing Justin Beiber in the costume with him being plastered all over Dolly and Teen Hits magazines. The character loses all dignity.

As for Luthor’s motivations for hating Superman stemming from hair loss and child abuse/ neglect. He loses all sense of malevolence when you desperately try to give him a reason for being that way. “Dad didn’t hug me enough, wah, wah, now I’m going to be a super villain!” Byrne’s version was way better- a king-shit, suddenly deposed in the eyes of Metropolis and replaced by some ludicrous man in spandex, being only one reason for his hatred was much better motivation. Add in Superman’s meddling in schemes that were largely left untouched for years provides even more motivation for him wanting to destroy Superman. “I hate you because of hair-loss!” is pretty stupid.
Man of Steel was the perfect way to revitalise a convoluted origin. Waid and Johns screwed it up with silly retcons.

I like how after his best friend threatens to destroy him someday, the first thing Superboy thinks about is how Lex Luthor and Lana Lang have the same initials.

Commander Benson

January 9, 2013 at 2:33 am

[i]“I hate you because of hair-loss!”[/i]

I’ve said it before—and Mr. Cronin stated it at the beginning of his piece above:

The reason that the pre-Crisis Luthor hated Superboy/man was [i]not[/i] because Superboy caused Luthor to lose his hair. As shown in [i]Adventure Comics[/i] # 271 (Apr., 1960), Luthor regarded the loss of his hair as collateral damage to what he considered the Boy of Steel’s major transgression against him was.

Commander Benson and Brian are right; the hair-loss incident shown in the panels is only part of the story, where Lex is shown trying to help Smallville with various inventions that go wrong. Superboy feels compelled to destroy them to quell the disasters.

It’s reminiscent of the Von Doom-Richards relationship in college, where he blames Reed for his own failure.

Commander Benson

January 9, 2013 at 8:51 am

True enough, Mr. Blake, and frankly, that’s an aspect to it which I had never considered.

However, there was even a greater wrong which Luthor held Superboy responsible for. I’ve discussed it often in my Deck Log column over on the Captain Comics site . . . .

____________________________________________________________________

The Myth: Lex Luthor Hates Superman Because, as Youths in Smallville, the Boy of Steel Caused Him to Go Bald.

This is often touted by fans of the post-Crisis Superman mythos as to why the current Luthor’s opposition to Superman makes more sense. The loss of his hair, while certainly traumatic, doesn’t balance with the intensity and duration of the Silver-Age Luthor’s hatred for Kal-El of Krypton. And that makes the pre-Crisis Luthor seem ridiculously puerile.

It does, but only to those who never read the story that first told how it all began, “How Luthor Met Superboy”, from Adventure Comics # 271 (Apr., 1960). Lex Luthor had been an on-going presence in the Superman stories for decades, but this was the first tale to link the two characters in their boyhood. As “How Luthor Met Superboy” describes, the young Luthor had been a great admirer of the Boy of Steel, and shortly after the Luthor family moved to Smallville, fate provided Lex with the opportunity to save his hero’s life from the deadly effects of a kryptonite meteor. Learning of Lex’s ambition to become a great scientist, Superboy constructs for him a modern experimental laboratory. This leads to a friendship between the two lads. (Occasionally, there would be a Silver-Age Superboy story set during this period, when the readers got to witness that friendship for themselves.)

After “weeks of feverish experimentation”, young Luthor accomplishes a scientific wonder—the creation of artificial life. It’s only a crude protoplasmic creature in a vessel, but it lives. With the rest of his afternoon free, and feeling grateful to Superboy for having provided him with his new lab, Lex invents an antidote for kryptonite poisoning. In his excitement over his second accomplishment, Luthor accidentally overturns a chemical flask, which starts a fire in his lab. Flying by on patrol, Superboy spots the flames, and sends a blast of his super-breath through the window to extinguish the blaze.

When the Boy of Steel checks on Luthor, he finds out that he has screwed up big time. His gust of super-breath knocked over a bottle of acid, spilling the contents over Lex’s green-k antidote, creating a cloud of caustic fumes. The corrosive cloud destroys the crude protoplasmic being, along with all of Luthor’s notes pertaining to its creation. And, yes, its caused Lex’s hair to fall out.

This is the birth of Luthor’s intense hatred of Superboy. But as the story clearly depicts, his rage is primarily over the loss of his artificially created life-form, along with the notations without which, he cannot duplicate the experiment. The loss of his hair is almost incidental. Superboy, Luthor insists, used his super-breath to deliberately overturn the acid to destroy the protoplasm. As the first creator of artificial life, Luthor certainly would have received the acclaim of the world, and blind with rage, Lex believes the Boy of Steel was jealous that his fame would be eclipsed by Luthor’s.

So it was the destruction of his artificial-life experiment that ignited Luthor’s hatred of the Caped Kryptonian, not the loss of his hair. DC bears some of the blame for the misconception, however, Most Silver-Age stories featuring Luthor included a one-panel flashback of the scene showing Luthor’s hair falling out. The business about the destruction of the protoplasm was omitted.

When the whole incident is examined, the pre-Crisis Luthor’s intense hatred is much more understandable, and frankly, as, or even more, plausible than the post-Crisis Luthor’s antagonism toward the Man of Steel. After the Crisis, Luthor was remoulded into the standard “evil millionaire businessman”; he hates Superman out of jealousy and there is some psycho-babble about the Man of Steel being “the one thing he cannot control.” On the other hand, the Silver-Age Luthor’s hatred was spurred on by feelings of resentment, victimisation, and betrayal—far stronger motives, if you ask me.

Add to that the fact that the Silver-Age Luthor has some justification for his bitterness. Yes, he’s wrong about Superboy doing it deliberately, but there’s no getting around that the Boy of Steel was careless in precipitously sending a super-blast of wind into a laboratory filled with potentially dangerous chemicals.

___________________________________________________________________

Hope this helps.

Commander Benson

Thank you commander. As I said upthread, I much prefer the idea of Luthor as a potentially decent man warped by hate and resentment.

It’s reminiscent of the Von Doom-Richards relationship in college, where he blames Reed for his own failure.

Or rather, the Doom/Richards relationship was reminiscent of the Luthor/Superboy relationship, which was established two years before Doctor Doom was invented.

I used to love Gary Frank’s work. But now he just draws weird ass faces. What is going on with both Clark and Lex’s upper lip to nose area?

Welcome to “Superman”, the comics where events don’t line up, and continuity doesn’t matter!

This just goes to show that, while it is kind of annoying that The Big Two have to do “reboots” every ten years, it’s sort of an unfortunate necessity. Any character (or, this case, entire WORLD of characters) that has been actively written about for 50-70 years is going to have a lot of BS that just doesn’t make sense after a while. Different creators, various established origins, hundreds of forgettable extra characters, etc…

In other words, it sucks to have your favorite stories “Abandoned and Forsaked” every so often, but it would suck way more to have to wade through thousands of issues worth of continuity every time you wanted to read a new issue.

TJ, there were lots of loose end and A&F stories before system-wide reboots become in–they just ignored stories that didn’t fit, or occasionally retconned to explain them away. So no, I don’t think reboots are a necessity. And very few issues really require reading tons of issues to catch up.

Of course Lex’s history is very iffy. As you can already see MOS Lex is this balding fat guy(before he just fully balds). But then after the whole clone deal, no one questions why he is so young and muscular. But whatever. I really dislike Superboy because to me it’s just kinda too much that Clark tries being a superhero as a preteen to teen. And of course, Superman is from smallville! How can no one put two and two together?

I prefer if Lex doesn’t know Clark. I am not to fond of heroes being so personally connected to their bad guys. It worked in Smallville but the comics never play that angle. They just happen to know each other.

Well I assume we are in for yet another origin with new52 but at least it’s basically a reboot.

I’m with TJ above. I’m FINE with reboots so long as its handled well. Obviously a lot of the New52 has NOT been handled very well, but aside from the underpants on the outside I think Mark Waid’s Birthright can pretty much still be regarded as “official” because Johns’ “Secret Origin” is really lacking. Obviously DC may disagree with me but I’ll pick my “origin” story based on the quality of the tale, thank you very much. Only found it recently and it blows away pretty much every other origin of Superman I’ve ever read/seen. Maybe not quite the opening 3 part episode of The Animated Series, but pretty close.

It goes beyond the “wading through thousands of issues” though. It comes back to message baords and discussion (not unlike this one) where people pull out issue #75 and issue #875 and claim that the Metropolis Bank has changed its logo, or that Superman’s boots are too tall, or Lois’ hair has changed colour, or some other meaningless crap and thereby giving an excuse to drop all Superman comics until this is explained. Hell, the best reason to have said to Mark Waid “reboot away, sir” would be to get rid of the awful fashion and design elements of the 80′s in the Byrne book. Great pencils but they SCREAM of being of their decade, and a reboot is totally called for just to get rid of Lois’ shoulder pads.

@John thanks for bringing up the eyebrows, and making me picture a Lex Luthor who has lost ALL body hair.

There are certainly lots of details like that to take into consideration. That is a nice point to deliver up. I supply the thoughts above as normal inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you deliver up where an important thing will likely be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if finest practices have emerged around things like that, but I’m certain that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the impression of only a second’s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

The set-up with Superboy saving Lex from a lab fire but accidentally making him bald and crazy/evil still has potential. Did Superboy feel guilty about what had happened? Did he blame himself for flipping Lex to the dark side? And maybe the chemicals did more than just make Lex bald: maybe they seeped into his brain and created physical changes, meaning that Lex is a victim really not responsible for his personality transformation. Has any writer explored these angles?

Good questions, Adam, except the idea of Lex being chemically changed. He’s more interesting as someone who makes conscious (or unconscious) choices.

Commander Benson

April 15, 2013 at 10:13 am

“Did Superboy feel guilty about [the incident which destroyed Luthor's protoplasmic creation and caused his hair to fall out]? Did he blame himself for flipping Lex to the dark side?”

“The Luthor Nobody Knows”, from Superman # 292 (Oct., 1975)—the definitive Luthor story, for my money—suggests that Superman, at least, knew he screwed up in the careless way he rescued Luthor from the lab fire. (And there’s no question; it was careless. Not deliberate, as Luthor insisted, but, indeed, careless.)

Other tales from around this time hinted that the reason Superman never really went all out to ensure Luthor never caused trouble again was because of his guilt over his irresponsibility then.

However, whatever regret the Man of Steel may have felt for Luthor ended at the conclusion to a remarkable three-issue story that was published in Action Comics # 510-2 (Aug. through Oct., 1980).

This story tells of a Luthor who has seemingly reformed over the love of a girl, Angela Blake. All tests—even those by Kryptonian mind-probing devices—confirm that Luthor has, indeed, reformed. The last issue of the tryptich features his marriage to Angela Blake.

However, the girl Luthor marries is only a clone of the real Angela Blake, and the method by which Luthor was able to show a complete change of heart to all tests and examinations was part of the most diabolical scheme that he had ever concocted.

Of all the evil deeds ever committed by the pre-Crisis Lex Luthor, what he did in the furtherance of this scheme marks the most heinous act he ever committed. At least to me. And within the fictional conceit of the story, Superman felt the same way. It completely erases any lingering guilt or sympathy he may have felt for Luthor.

I’ll tack on a big, honkin’ SPOILER alert here for anyone who wants to run down this story; believe me, it’s worth it.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

At the climax, Superman, after coming within an eyelash of being killed by Luthor’s insidious trap, invades the villain’s stronghold in time to catch the tail end of a recording outlining the details of Luthor’s scheme. What the Man of Steel learns turns his stomach.

We see a angry Superman here, filled with cold rage. Whatever sympathy he may have felt for Lex Luthor is gone now, overwhelmed by the reprehensible act that Lex committed in his desire for revenge. Superman had put together all the pieces of Luthor’s plot, except for one thing . . .

What was the fate of the real Angela Blake?

The answer to this, the Man of Steel learnt when he overheard the audio feedback of the mind-control device restoring Luthor’s memories:

“. . . Once you were secure in the knowledge that the clone would function perfectly, you had no further use for the original Angela Blake, so you ended her life in a painless and humane fashion . . . .”

Superman’s grim, disgust-filled words to Luthor say it better than I could.

Still, I’ve got to hand it to you, Luthor—”Project Angela” was your most inspired masterpiece of diabolic genius, yet! To think you were actually willing to turn yourself into an “unsuspecting victim” of your own insidious plot!

To think that you were willing to manipulate yourself into reforming . . . giving up all your criminal ways . . . all for the sake of making your plan a lethal reality!

And the least surprising of all—to think that you’d be cold enough to extinguish the life of a terminally-ill twenty-five-year-old girl with all the thought you might give to blowing out a match!

Only then, once the cold-blooded deed was done . . . only then did you apply your scientific genius to study the disease and discover the cure that would’ve saved the real Angela Blake!

That, it sickens me to say, is typical of the true Lex Luthor . . . the Luthor I have grown over the years to despise and detest!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

And even that wasn’t the final kicker to the story. But I can’t give away everything.

I think one of my favorite pre-crisis moments was when Lois and Lana had both been infected by a deadly disease so Superman asks if Lex would be willing to save them in return for a favor from Supes. Luthor looks at the vial of bacteria, announces he’s 99.9 percent confident he can cure it, then throws the vial against the wall. Superman catches it and Lex laughs hysterically–if Superman had just let it shatter, Lex would have no choice but to find a cure, but the Man of Steel can’t resist saving him, even if it means the two women die.

Well, he could always find the cure for himself…and then just not give it to anyone else. Then Superman has to decide if he’ll steal to save lives.

I love Lex….

Byrne’s version shits all over the others. Much more logical. Artwork is also a WHOLE lot better than the hacks that worked on Birthright and Secret Origin. I miss the days when comic artists actually knew how to draw,

Mark Waid’s writing ranges from very good to fanzine level bad. Birthright was much of the latter. Geoff Johns is the same way except he sometimes has a run of good stories(Flash). Secret Origin read like someone pandering to the overweight Silver Age man-children that dominate the target audience of today’s comics. Superboy always felt like a stupid concept but the Silver Age fanatics at DC can’t seem to let him go. Always felt the Legion was more interesting WITHOUT him. And, if you think about it, Superboy as a character is flawed. What’s the point in creating stories about someone you know will grow up to be Superman? Because of this paradox, you know no harm will come to him. Superboy was a nice gimmick when he was created but linking the character to Superman in the modern age is pointless waste of time.

Byrne’s version lacks any real pathos, which is why writers keep going back to past ideas involving Lex , because in the Silver and Bronze Ages he wasn’t just one-dimensional: he could be vile, noble, manipulative, tragic, but always kept you guessing. Byrne’s Luthor, in contrast, was just a misogynist, entitled bully–that’s a lot less interesting and complex than the pre-Crisis Luthor.

It’s not a case of nostalgia that makes writers keep coming back to Superboy, it’s because Superboy was and is an idea that works. It’s why so many attempts to remove the character only result in badly patched continuity (just look at the Legion). The complaints about Superboy have always felt suspect to me, “you know he’s going to live” especially. Ever seen “Doctor Who”? You know the Doctor is going to prevent the past from being changed because if he didn’t his companions wouldn’t exist due to changes in the timeline. But that doesn’t make the stories even less suspenseful.

So no, it isn’t nostalgia that makes Superboy stick around–it sticks around because good ideas have a way of surviving and re-emerging, whereas bad ideas (Superman being born on Earth in a birthing matrix, protoplasmic Supergirl, Superman and Big Barba starring in a porno–huh, all of those were Byrne ideas, funny how that works) tend to only exist as footnotes. Ironic that those who have 80s/90s nostalgia tend to accuse others of having nostalgia. Then again, they probably think their favorite ideas are modern and everyone else’s are outdated.

I think alot of it comes down to when you started reading comics also as to which “origin” you like best. I started in 2002 mostly due to the show “Smallville”. I love Birthright and think it’s by far the best even having gone back and read Byrne’s. The nice thing about comics is no one is going to take away your fav books. Just hold that one as the real story and consider others “Elseworlds”

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