Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics

Adventure Comics #271

Adventure Comics #271

Cover date: April 1960

"How Luthor Met Superboy"

Writer: Jerry Siegel
Penciller: Al Plastino
Inker: Al Plastino

Cover: Curt Swan & Stan Kaye

Reviewed by: Tom-EL

Click to enlarge

One day Superboy is out flying, and decides to introduce himself to a young man he sees below driving a bulldozer. Just as he is about to land, a kryptonite meteor falls out of the sky and hits the ground right next to him, he immediately begins feeling the effects. The youth yells out "Hold on Superboy, I'll get rid of the meteor!", then he uses the bulldozer to shove the meteor over the edge of a cliff, into a quicksand pit below, and safely away from the Boy of Steel. After he recovers, the introductions are made, and Superboy asks his name. The young man answers "Lex,.. Lex Luthor. Meeting you Superboy is about the most thrilling thing that has ever happened to me!"

Lex invites Superboy to the farm where he lives. He shows Superboy the barn that serves as both his make-shift laboratory and display place for his collection of Superboy pictures and trophies. He admits that Superboy is his hero, and that someday he intends to be a scientist and inventor that will bring him fame and notoriety rivaling Superboy's. In appreciation for saving his life, Superboy rounds up all the junk and other odds and ends on the farm and uses the materials to construct for Lex a pristine, state-of-the-art research lab, including some rare chemicals from beneath the Earth that Lex can use in his research. An eager Lex decides that his first project will be a kryptonite antidote to repay Superboy for his kindness.

Lex begins by constucting a giant claw-arm that he mounted to his bulldozer so that he could retrieve the kryptonite meteor out of the quicksand pit, giving him a sample for his experiments. Next, he grounded a portion of the meteor into a fine powder that he mixed with a liquid form of protoplasmic life he had created. Previously, Superboy had warned him to be extremely careful with those unknown chemicals, but an unconcerned Lex told him "I'm cleverer than you think!" Luthor continues his work, and after weeks of experimentation, he believes he has fully created an artificial protoplasmic life form. Later, he completes his research on the kryptonite antidote, and in his joy, he accidentally knocked over a chemical flask that caused a fire, smoke, and fumes in the lab. Superboy arrives on the scene and decides the quickest way to extinguish the blaze is with a blast of super-breath. With the fire out, Superboy enters the lab and finds not a thankful, but an angry Luthor.

The blast of air knocked an acid bottle into the bottle containing the life-form, destroying it and creating a gas which caused all of Lex's hair to fall out. Enraged at the loss of the life-form, the irreplaceable formula for its creation, and his hair, Luthor vows to have his revenge against Superboy. Superboy's apologies are meaningless to Lex. He claims that Superboy deliberately ruined his work because he was jealous, and afraid Luthor would become even more famous than he is. Nothing Superboy could say was sufficient to change Lex's mind, and after he left, Lex completely destroyed his entire collection of Superboy memorabilia. He vows "Superboy will regret the day he decided to steal the glory of LUTHOR!"

Lex plots the method of his revenge. There is still a small amount of proto-plasm left, just enough to make a very small portion of the kryptonite antidote. He apologizes for his outburst, and tells Superboy the antidote is ready to be tested. Displaying a changed attitude, the now friendly Lex joins Superboy to test the cure. Superboy brings along a space-globe so that Lex can witness the results of the test. They approach a kryptonite meteor field, and Superboy feels no ill affects whatsoever. He thinks "I feel normal! I am immune to kryptonite!" Luthor, inside the globe is thinking "Does he really think after what he has done to me that I would help him?" When they return to Smallville, Lex automatically lets Superboy know that the effects of the antidote were temporary, and there won't be anymore. "You could have had life-long immunity to kryptonite if you hadn't become jealous of me and sought to crush my greatness!" Superboy replies "You won't believe this Luthor, but I only wish success for you" as he flies away.

A determined Luthor still intends to be more famous and admired than Superboy. He approaches the mayor of Smallville with an idea for an invention that would keep Smallville warm, even during the winter. Summer crops could grow the entire year. The mayor agrees and Lex builds his "weather-tower", but later, a problem arises in the mechanism, causing the tower to send scorching heat across Smallville. Superboy intervenes and with a blast of super-cold breath, freezes the tower. Luthor's anger at Superboy is fueled even further. Lex then comes up with a new project, fruit trees that will spring up overnight after being planted. He gives away his latest discovery to many farmers in Smallville, including some seeds that he gives to Lana Lang to be given to her father. The planted trees grow to full height overnight, just as Lex predicted. The problem is that the trees don't stop there, but continue to grow to giant size, smashing several area houses and barns. Again, Superboy comes to the rescue. He rips the trees out of the ground, throwing them seaward, then scorches the remaining unused seeds with his heat-vision. After receiving critcism and disdain from the town, a furious Luthor once more pulls the kryptonite meteor out of the quicksand pit, thinking "I need you again."

Superboy calls on Luthor to offer his regrets over the failure of Lex's inventions. Luthor, still believing Superboy's sympathy is phony, has set a new trap. A section of the lead-lined wall in his house opens, revealing a huge chunk of the Kryptonite meteor. He traps Superboy with the meteor, but Superboy survives by inhaling the last few drops of Luthor's antidote that Lex was holding, just to taunt Superboy. Superboy declares that they are even now, and he owes Luthor nothing, though he refuses to take him to jail and tells Lex to straighten out. Luthor vows that he will someday become more famous than Superboy, and will destroy him. A saddened Superboy leaves, realizing that this is yet another L.L. person in his life, and wondering if Luthor will eventually become a great scientist or a villain?

4Story - 4: This story is reprinted in a 1981 trade paperback of collected stories called "The Great Superman Comic Book Collection", edited by Laurie S. Hutton. (BTW, my copy is autographed by Curt Swan). In the book's intro to this story it says: "The first running villain who matched wits with Superman was the Ultra-Humanite. When he died his brain was transplanted into the skull of a beautiful actress. Jerry Siegel had plans to switch Ultra's brain into different forms as time went on. But something happened to put this villain in limbo. Luthor happened". The intro says that this is the very first story that has Luthor's first name "Lex" mentioned in it, going back to Luthor's first appearance in the 40's. It also indicates that Joe Shuster was fond of drawing bald villains. Fifteen years later, a condensed version of this tale was told as part of the larger story in Superman #292 (10/75).

This is the second silver-age appearance of Lex Luthor, the first was in Adventure Comics #253, as a villain. However, this story would have to be considered the first chronological appearance of Luthor, so the events in issue 253 would have to be at a time after this story took place. Reading this story, I thought one of the obvious comparisons would be with the TV series Smallville, and to be sure, there are similarities. In fact, you have to wonder if this story provided any of the source material for the show. In the story it is Lex, not Clark, who is the farmboy that spends some of his time in the barn. The story illustrates two times Lex does something that gets him in trouble with the town of Smallville, and Lex doing stuff that caused the citizens of Smallville not to like him often happened in Smallville, the series. The main difference being that in the series, the rift between Clark and Lex evolved and expanded a few degrees each time after various incidents that occurred over the first seven seasons. The chasm between them grew over time. In this version, the rift was an immediate 180-degree about-face by Luthor towards Superboy after the lab accident. This one incident causes Lex to go from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other regarding his friendship with Superboy. I thought this story was good, and fairly well-written, but as a basis for a life-long hatred of Superboy, carrying over to Superman, I thought the explanation in Superman: Birthright (influenced by Smallville) was a little more plausable, but this is a good origin story for the silver-age Luthor. In it, we certainly see the paranoia that Lex often displayed, fitting the template of his character in many silver-age Superman stories. After reading this story, you wonder how Lex's life might have gone if the lab accident had never happened. Alas, it was not to be.

4Art - 4: Some time ago I decided that I liked Al Plastino as a Superboy artist better than I liked him as a Superman artist. Maybe it's in part because I've been spoiled by the work of Curt Swan, but Plastino's style works better for me when he's doing the youthful features of characters like Superboy and Lex, as opposed to the way he does them as adults. I see it as a little more cartoony, which should not come as a surprise given that he has a background originally as a comic strip artist, including doing Abbie 'n' Slats. That is not intended as any kind of slight against Al Plastino, he was a veteran Superman illustrator, but that's how his art affects me. Plastino's Superboy looks younger to me than Swan's Superboy, and the plot and scripting of some of the stories struck me as a better fit to a younger Superboy. Plastino did a great job of getting that smirky expression on young Lex's face that perfectly suits the personality he projected. Even in the start of the story when he idolized Superboy, he still in some panels displayed a certain arrogance of expression when he talks about how famous he plans to be.

4Cover Art - 4: Basically, this is standard Swan and Kaye for the early 60's, not quite as definitive as the Swan/Klein team would be later, but pretty well done for the level of cover art in 1960. The cover captures a key story moment showing Superboy happily breaking up a green kryptonite meteor as Luthor watches from a space globe. Superboy believed Luthor had come up with an anti-kryptonite antidote, while Luthor was really thinking that this was a trick, ultimately leading to his plan for vengeance against Superboy.

Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews



  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”




Compilation Volumes


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