Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis Superman Comics
Superman #292Cover date: October 1975
Writer: Elliot S! Maggin
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: Bob Oksner
"The Luthor Nobody Knows!"
Reviewed by: Justin "NotSuper" Adams
The scene opens up with Superman helping to repair an airport damaged during a battle between himself and Luthor. A man named Mr. Hales directs Superman where to move a glove from the ground. After finishing, Superman flies to the ground to speak with the man. Mr. Hales is very nostalgic about the airport, and saddened that it's been turned into shambles. As Superman moves the sidewalk with his hand (at super-speed), Mr. Hales tells Superman that he can see how much he (Superman) hates Luthor's kind now. Superman silently reflects on this, thinking that "resignation" is closer to his feelings toward Luthor than "hate."
Superman thinks back to yesterday when, in the guise of Clark Kent, he was in the cafeteria with Roy Raymond. Perry White soon joins the duo and mentions that Luthor has once again escaped from jail. Thinking quickly, Clark uses his heat vision to give Roy Raymond a very short feeling of indigestion. Clark feigns a stomach ache as well, and quickly excuses himself, and then changes into Superman.
The scene changes to two pilots flying in the sky. In a humorous moment, one of the pilots mentions that there is a strange flying object in the air. The other pilot responds, saying, "Just another flying saucer forget it!" But it isn't a UFO; it's the escaped Luthor, who uses a device on the plane. The plane spirals down, with Superman suddenly appearing to catch it. Superman sets the plane gently on the ground while a man at the airport explains over a microphone that everyone should proceed with emergency evacuation.
Superman confronts his nemesis, but Luthor uses the same device he used on the plane on Superman. Superman is suddenly unable to control his muscles and inadvertently destroys part of the airport. Not willing to move and cause more disaster, Superman shakes his body on the ground, causing the airport itself to quake. Luthor is knocked unconscious by falling debris and the effects of the blast wear off soon, allowing Superman to take Luthor back to prison.
The scene once again comes back to the airport, where Superman has just about finished repairing part of the airport. Mr. Hales asks Superman if hate was all Luthor ever had. Superman thinks back to his days in Smallville, where he had befriended Lex Luthor in BOTH of his identities. He remembers one particular incident where Luthor animated chemicals in the lab, to the delight of his classmates. He then remembers the fateful day when Luthor's life, and his own as well, changed forever. Luthor had invited Superboy to his lab to show him something. The ingenious Luthor had created a living being of protoplasm and made a cure for Green Kryptonite from part of it. Lost in the excitement of creating life, Luthor accidentally knocks over a flask, which starts a fire. Luthor tries to carry his creation to safety, but Superboy sees the smoke and sends a blast of super-breath at the lab. Unfortunately, Superboy accidentally blows two flasks of chemicals onto to the protoplasm, destroying it. The fumes from the destroyed life even cause Lex's hair to fall out. As Superboy confronts Lex, he is the immediate target of the scientist's rage. Luthor blames Superboy for his destroyed creation and the loss of his hair. Superboy thinks back to what happened next: Lex's failed experiments to help Smallville, the army of animated Kryptonite he tried to kill Superboy with, being disowned by his family, and finally being placed in reform school by Superboy.
Superman thinks back to the time when Luthor actually stole an atomic bomb and threatened a city with it. In trying to apprehend Lex's helicopter, Superboy triggers a mechanism that causes the bomb to detonate. He quickly wraps Luthor in his cape and carries him to safety. He then takes care of the shock wave with a super-yell and draws the fallout and bomb debris into space. Luthor once again goes on a rant against Superboy, swearing that he'll be back and will one day kill Superboy.
The scene changes back to the present, where Superman tells Mr. Hales that hate isn't always what Luthor had, but how it's all that he has left.
Story - 5: Many people consider Elliot S! Maggin's portrayal of Lex Luthor to be one of the best (including many writers and artists in the comic book medium), this story is one of the examples why. While other writers portrayed Lex as an evil counterpart to Superman, Maggin's Lex had a sort of nobility about him. He was certainly a villain, of that there is no question, but he had a tragic quality about his character. Luthor could've been the greatest humanitarian in the world, if only the accident-involving Superboy didn't happen.
Indeed, had he been born in some other time, where there was no Superboy, he may have been Earth's "Man of Tomorrow." Alas, that's not what happened. If Luthor couldn't be the world's greatest humanitarian, he would be its greatest villain (something Superman was incapable of being).
This story is short, but it perfectly condenses Luthor's origin into a format that can be easily read and understood. Maggin really shows Superman's regret that things turned out the way they did, and makes Lex's isolation from the world very clear. We don't just sympathize with Superman, the hero, but also with Luthor, the villain. Few writers can accomplish that feat.
However, it should be noted that Maggin was not the first writer to portray Luthor in a sympathetic light. Edmond Hamilton in particular portrayed Luthor as less of a one-dimensional villain and more of a real person. So, while Maggin was not the first, many consider him to be the best.
Perhaps the most important scene in this story is the accident that cost Lex his hair. While some may think the loss of hair was Lex's sole motivation to destroy Superman, that isn't the case. The scene is actually reminiscent of Frankenstein, in which Victor Frankenstein creates life. What other act could make a person like God than creating life? Luthor wanted to create life and cure Superboy, thus making him the most famous scientist in the world. Instead, his creation is destroyed. Unlike the story of Frankenstein, the scientist (Lex) becomes his own monster. The hair loss was minor in the face of the other issues: among them was the fact that while Superman was around, Lex would never be the best. How would you feel if you had the greatest mind on Earth but were overshadowed by an alien who could do almost anything?
Of all the pre-Crisis retellings of Luthor's origin, this one is perhaps my favorite. I give it my highest recommendation.
Art - 4: The art here is good, but nothing really special. Swan's art on the various Superman comics was always great, but this doesn't really stand out too much. Still, it is better than average.
Cover Art - 5: This is a great cover. It really jumps out at you and tells you what's in the comic itself. Superman and Luthor's muscles are drawn quite nicely and they both look realistic. To be honest, I prefer art like this to the big, cartoony muscles some super-heroes are drawn with, but to each his own.
The cover features a panel where Luthor blames Superboy for the accident, while the larger panel has an adult Luthor firing a weapon at Superman. Below this, a question is proposed: "What causes a boy genius to become the world's greatest villain? Find out when you meet "The Luthor Nobody Knows!"" And, sure enough, we find out in the comic. What more could you ask from a cover?
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- 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
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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