So in the Year 2000 DC Comics decided “Hey, let’s make Lex Luthor President” and it was this whole big thing that influenced almost all the comics that came out for the next five or six years.
It was one of those weird things that happened in Comic books. Maybe it happened because of creative intuition, or maybe it was just a desperate plea for attention- ultimately fruitless of course because ever since the 2000’s Comic book sales have plummeted- they’re not even hiding their concern anymore. Jim Lee, one of the biggest influencers at DC Comics has openly said, and I’m paraphrasing; “Yeah guys… we’re kind of fucked.”
Now they’re fucked for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s due to a very small market of consumers that has gradually diminished over time- which is understandable, Comic books aren’t exactly the fastest medium of entertainment around.
I mean, most books get released monthly- sometimes even face delays because the artist needs more time. If they try to publish weekly or bi weekly you’ll see a very diminished quality of Artwork. Most Story Arcs take five or eight issues to wrap up- which basically means you’re reading a story over the course of eight or so months, which doesn’t even take into consideration memory lengths. A lot of shit can go down in a month, are you really going to remember what the hell is happening when you pick up the next issue?
Its the equivalent of watching five minutes of a movie, then leaving the theatre, and then watching the film again like a year later at that exact scene you left it. How the hell are you supposed to know what’s going on?
Some people will complain that Comics have become “too political” which is a very dumb argument for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, Comics have always been political- Captain America was created by two Jewish guys so that he could Punch Hitler, one of the most critically acclaimed Comic Series is of Green Arrow and Green Lantern going on a roadtrip across America to present the flaws of Capitalism, Wonder Woman was literally created by a Gay Guy who wanted to spread Feminist Propaganda- Fuck, in the “Death in the Family” -which is single-handedly the most influential Story Arc in Batman history in which DC Comics fans literally VOTED to kill Robin- this happened;
Also can we all just remember that the Batman Serials in the 1940’s was literally just Anti-Japanese propaganda? Created for the sole purpose of diminishing the fact that the American government incarcerated tens of thousands of their own citizens because they were of Japanese descent?
But no, Mockingbird wearing a T-shirt with the word “Feminism” on it is the worst thing ever.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sympathetic to the criticism. I myself have noticed many cases in which Comics handle political concerns poorly- especially issues that take place in real life. Take Batman: White Knight for example.
The story takes place in an alternate universe in which the Joker overdoses on a bunch of Anti-depressants and becomes Sane. He gets acquitted of all his crimes and ends up becoming the most influential Politician in the city. Sounds…weird, right? Its true. Things like this are said;
God that was just clunky. It feels forced. Sociopolitical commentary that’s a little too on the nose. Which is a very bad sign. When you want to criticise the real world in Fiction, particularly Fantasy or Sci-Fi narrative so detached from the real world, then you can’t go about it as if it were the real world. You need subtlety.
Take that movie Bright for example, it tries to create a fantasy world while also giving relevant commentary on sociopolitical issues- and it fails on both grounds.
The world building is shallow, the rules don’t make sense so it’s hard to believe- belief in fiction is integral to the narrative. But the main issue is with the political commentary which is also shallow and somewhat offensive. The orcs are supposed to represent the black community- and the orcs gained their oppression due to a mistake their ancestors made 2000 years ago, so it’s kind of offensive to suggest that it’s black peoples fault that they’re oppressed through the medium of the orc narrative.
Also there’s a lot of clunky dialogue, the entire movie feels like the first draft of a script. People keep throwing around Race baiting terms like “Diversity Hire” following it up with a “Y’know what they say; once with the Dark Lord, Always with the Dark Lord” all the while the writer believes that this garners critical social commentary, when in fact it’s just comes off as plain lazy- as if it were written by a guy who read a few headlines before he opened up Microsoft Word.
This on the nose kind of commentary would be appropriate if the narrative was about a White cop and a black cop, not some dumb fantasy bullshit.
There’s very few films that can feel clunky sometimes and yet pull it off. The best example I can think of would be that Horror movie Get Out. The entire story is about a Black guy’s perspective and having to deal with weird or casually racist remarks that well meaning white people say- this is believable because it’s our world, most of the audience have heard about the different experiences Black people face through Comedians or through their friends- we believe it because we know it to be true.
What wouldn’t be believable is if this Movies main character was an Elf, and have the Elf character go through similar experiences to insinuate “Oh this is what Black people have to put up with” you couldn’t swallow that Clunk because it feels forced and ultimately cowardly, as if the writer didn’t have the nerve to put a Black character in this story in case he’d get hate for it.
It’s important to recognise that no matter what you write, good or bad, you will always get hate for it. Just make sure that you get the right kind of hate for it, which means getting death threats from racists instead of accusations of racism from the very community you were trying to garner sympathy for.
When writing fiction that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, it’s important to make your sociopolitical commentary nuanced. You don’t want to alienate anyone who has different political perspectives- that’s why everyone rejected Bright, some people thought it was too Woke while others thought it wasn’t Woke enough. What you should do is develop a fictional problem and apply real world thinking to it, give it some grit, something tangible that you can think about.
An example of good Sociopolitical commentary would be Captain America: the Winter Soldier. There’s this scene in which Steve and Nick Fury are arguing about the merits of this new program S.H.I.E.L.D has, which basically means that the Hellicarrier from the Avengers has been produced on such a massive scale that they could level the entire country. Fury believes that it’s a deterrent to ensure peace and protect people, Steve argues that it violates people’s rights to freedom even going so far as to say “You can’t hold a Gun to the world and say you’re protecting it“.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Personally I interpret this entire argument as a commentary on the American government, more specifically the extensive spying and wire tapping that the NSA did on their own citizens. It presents the argument of security, but also ensures that the counterargument is heard as well- Security at what cost? Once you open this door anyone can go through. That’s why this is so concerning, because what happens when the person you don’t like becomes President and they get to go through this door? Same thing that happened to the Hellicarriers when Hydra infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D; all hell breaks loose.
That wiretapping thing is fucking crazy though. I mean just watch this interview with John Oliver and Edward Snowden. Oliver shows him a video of a woman asked if she worries at the NSA tapping their phone and she’s like; “No, I mean- it’s not like they’re looking at our nude photos” and Snowden just smiles. That personally scared the hell out of me.
But anyway, back to the issue at hand.
So as I said above in the early 2000’s DC Comics made Superman’s nemesis Lex Luther become President of the United States. The reason of course was almost purely out of spite for Superman.
I’m basing a large portion of this article as a review of the “Superman: President Luthor” Trade Paper Back (TPB). Now if you’re not familiar with comic books, TPBs are essentially a collection of multiple Comic book issues-mostly concerning the same story arc- and piling it up into one book.
This is a popular option for the type of people who want to read a story all in one go instead of every other month. It’s handy enough, however it’s worth noting that TPBs aren’t perfect. Many of them don’t include relevant issues for the story or sometimes the story is divided up into three different TPBs- so you essentially have to buy three different books just to know what the hell is going on.
And we haven’t even gotten into the whole tie-in dilemma- books that only exist so they can promote another story and squeeze some money out of it. Which would be fine if these stories were good, but they’re almost always shit.
I’ve actually read books who have had to stop their own storylines, their own character progressions- just so they can take part in this stupid Crossover-Epic.
And people wonder why the Comic book industry is dying.
So the TPB I’m reviewing includes Secret Files: President Luthor, Superman #162-163, Superman: The Man of Steel #110, Superman: Lex 2000, Lex Luthor: the Unauthorized Biography and material from the adventures of Superman #581 & 586, Superman #164-165 and Superman: The Man of Steel #108-109.
That sounds like a lot of books, but keep in mind the average crossover event would feature up to fifty different books and would require well over a dozen TPBs to cover everything.
So the story starts off by answering the reason why Luthor wants to run for president. The reason of course is that he’s an egomaniac and he’s envious of all the attention and adoration Superman gets- so he decides to run for President just to piss him off.
Now there’s a lot of issues with this plan. Mainly because if you want to be liked, then the President of the United States isn’t the job for you. There hasn’t been a President who had over a 60% approval rating at the end of their term in decades.
Then of course there’s the evil genius plan of “trying to take over the world” which can ultimately be done a lot faster and a lot easier outside of Government and inside of a multi national corporation, like LexCorp.
I mean to be President you actually have to give up all your business interests. You’re under high scrutiny all the time, you have to talk to people and pretend to care about things- this is not a suitable role for a Billionaire.
But of course that doesn’t matter because Lex Luthor is nothing but a sassy little bitch who lives for the drama. Just check out this panel;
In Comics you’ll find that Superheroes and Villains are some of the most theatrical beings in existence. It’s made worse by the simple fact that they don’t hang out with normal people, just people as dramatic as they are- so they end up trying to out do eachother for the aesthetic. It’s quite funny, really.
So Luthor runs for President purely out of spite. The way the book is laid out is quite fascinating. It divides the chapters up into “The Why” and then “The Campaign” followed by “Election Night” which of course leads to “Inauguration Day” and finally ending on “The Unauthorized Biography of Lex Luthor” the whole thing is roughly 300 pages long.
So we first meet Superman while he’s doing some weird Kryptonian Yoga in the desert, completely oblivious to the fact that Luthor is currently giving a press conference to launch his presidential campaign.
Luthor is wearing this…thing.
It looks like something Ip man would wear.
Of course this is a comic book and there has to be a bit of action all the time so Luthor gets kidnapped by some D-list Supervillain I’ve never heard of and Superman saves him in the nick of time.
Honestly it barely influenced the story one bit and it’s bound to confuse new readers, especially people unfamiliar with Superman or DC Comics in general.
So Clark is obviously pissed that Luthor has the nerve to run for President, Jimmy Olsen (Daily Planet photographer and Clark’s best friend) thinks the whole thing is a joke but Lois Lane worries that Luthor would actually have a chance at winning.
Now at the time I imagine people had a lot of difficulty stretching their suspension of disbelief with this story arch, thinking to themselves; “Really? Is America REALLY that Stupid that they’d elect Lex Luthor as President?” You’d laugh at the idea. But in the last two or three years we’ve reached the shocking conclusion; Yes, yes they are.
So the writers understand a bit about how Government works so they end up having Luthor give up the rights of his company and handing it over to Talia Al Ghul.
Talia of course is a Batman villain/love interest, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, an Eco terrorist who leads a Secret Society of Assassins called “The League of Assassins” …a little on the nose but they debuted in the 80’s and DC Comics is terrible at naming things.
The place where Batman lost his parents is known as “Crime Alley” and Luthor grew up in a place called “Suicide Slum” … and they say this with a straight face.
So Talia is now exiled from the league and she’s not on speaking terms with her father so She refers to herself as “Talia Head” that last part is pronounced “Heed” in case you’re confused. Apparently that’s how the British pronounce it. Ra’s Al Ghul is Arabic for “The Head of the Demon” so that explains her name.
Talia of course doesn’t trust Luthor so she initially turns down the offer. She’s later attacked by a battalion from the “League of Assassins” and has to fight her way out. Luthor’s bodyguards help her escape. She meets Luthor again and says “It’s a little suspicious that a bunch of Assassins started coming after me a few hours after we met” and Luthor explains that he wouldn’t just kill twenty men to convince someone to do what he wants. So she agrees to be his CEO, thats really the last we hear of her.
I was kind of surprised by this issue for a multitude of reasons. Firstly I was taken off guard by the sheer 90’s-ness of the issue. But mainly I was surprised at how the artist drew women;
They’re incredibly athletic, very toned muscles, Talia herself looks like Sarah Connor from Terminator 2. They actually look like they could take a punch- I’m not gonna lie, I was caught off guard by this.
Comics in general is seen typically as a male dominated market, so the art panders to guys and that revolves around overtly sexualising female characters. Which often involves these women being remarkably skinny and yet they somehow have DD tits and an absurdly big ass. Following it up with the fact that they all have pretty faces that all look identical.
And they’re always doing these weird poses, even when they’re fighting. It’s just weird. The worst case for this is Power Girl;
There’s actually this story I heard once about her. In which the artist deliberately drew her tits bigger in every panel just so he could complain to the company about his wages. It’s become a running gag in the comics, the “Power Girl has big tits” joke, it’s quite amusing.
The canonical reason for why there’s a big Fucking gap in her costume exposing her tits is because Power Girl used to be Super Girl, but she wanted to be her own person so she got a new name and costume. But when she was creating the costume she wanted her own symbol to define her, but she couldn’t think of one so she just left the hole unfilled until she could think of one- but she never could. It’s quite sad.
I mean it’s a bullshit excuse. Firstly because she’s willingly exposed a place where you could stab her in the heart, not to mention the various arteries around the thighs- which if severed and left untreated could lead to her bleeding to death.
Secondly, even if we take the fact she left open a boob-window for the sake of a metaphor, there’s no way that she’d keep this outfit for more than a week. I mean, just think of the flies.
She’s flying around the earth at incredibly high speeds, she’s going to hit some bugs along the way- that’s just unavoidable. So every night she’ll have to head home and wash the dead bugs off of her tits- it’s just not worth it.
And most of the guys don’t even give a shit about how these women look, no one is buying a comic book to jack off to it- they want to read a story with decent art. But I think one of the biggest reasons we see this weird depiction of women is that many of the artists don’t know how to make women look presentable without giving them massive tits-it’s really pathetic.
I have an issue with how men are portrayed in comics as well, especially since they’re almost indistinguishable. I mean, just look at Batman and Superman;
They’re both really tall body builders with square jaws and black hair, alongside perfect noses and faces that look as if they’ve never been punched in their lives.
That’s how all the male Superheroes are depicted and I just think it’s stupid. Mainly because it doesn’t make sense to me. Why would Batman want to be as bulky as a Rugby player? He spends most of his nights running across rooftops- he’d be better off with the physique of a Free Runner. I understand why Superman would look like that because he lifts things for a living so it’s bound to leave an impact.
And Why the hell do these people have to be so Goddamn Handsome? You seriously want me to believe that Bruce Wayne is a Detective genius, Strategist, Martial artist, Engineer, Linguist, Actor, Gymnist, Billionaire and looks like an underwear model? That’s just too much shit to believe.
Why can’t Superman have a receding hairline? Why can’t Batman have an Owen Wilson nose? Why the fuck does the Flash have gigantic biceps? He’s a runner for Christ sake and on top of that he’s a fucking Nerd- he’s not looking to be Mr. Universe.
That’s one of the few areas in which the live action TV Shows and Films are doing better than the Comics; the Physical diversity. Y’know? Some people are short, some are tall, some are bulky and some are skinny- and they all look like different people. That’s all I really want.
The flash is being played by a Skinny Dork and Ben Affleck maybe built like a brick shithouse, but he has a big ass forehead so it balances out.
So of course this whole “Luthor Running for President” thing takes a bad toll on Clark as he’s shown the underbelly of America; a land so stupid they could literally vote a Super-villain into Office.
Reading this book reminded me of one of the Comic books industries greatest flaws; they’re too goddamn complicated.
I mean I know a lot about Batman and I have a decent knowledge of the DC Universe but even I had difficulty keeping up.
I mean first off you have to have a decent knowledge of who and what the justice league are, which includes knowing the names of six or seven different Green Lanterns. Then you have to know who the Teen Titans are- and their splinter group; Young Justice. For that you need to differentiate between at least four different Robins, three different Kid Flashes, two different Superboys, two different Wonder Girls, two different Aqualads, two different Power Girls- and be able to differentiate between Speedy, Arsenal and Red Arrow- even though they’re the same person.
And we haven’t even gotten into the different incarnations of Superman and the various other characters with “S” on their shirt- such as Supergirl, Steel, Cyborg Superman, Bizarro and Lex Luthor.
Went from President to Superman… not sure if that’s an upgrade, but it’s impressive none the less.
To understand why anyone would even consider Lex Luthor at all Presidential, you’ll need to know about what went down in Gotham during the No Man’s Land story arc- in which Gotham City got hit by a major earthquake and the US Government refused to help them rebuild or recover- so for like a year the entire city was just a massive shit hole with supervillains running amuck.
Luthor would help Gotham rebuild, but it was all just a ploy so that he could buy real estate under several different names but eventually Batman found him out and told him to get to fuck. But America doesn’t know that, most of Gotham doesn’t know that so they think that he’s just a good dude.
Then of course there’s the fact that Braniac (Superman villain) tried to invade Metropolis by implanting it with B13 Technology- which essentially turned a normal looking city into the kind of futuristic city you could imagine i.e. cool buildings, flying cars, flying prams etc. Luthor helped Superman fight off Braniac and later copyrighted the technology so he essentially owns the city.
So all in all, the people of America think that he’s a pretty good guy. He’s smart as well since he deliberately made Pete Ross his Vice President- who was one of Clark’s old friends and was presently married to his Ex-Girlfriend Lana Long- which is super fucked up considering Lex tortured her.
Luthor of course is only interested in Pete Ross to ensure he gets the Mid West vote, but I think also to take the piss out of Clark- even going so far as to campaign in Smallville.
I’m not too sure that Lex knows that Clark and Superman are the same person- in fact very few people know that Superman has a secret identity. It get’s made fun of a lot the whole “Oh I’ll just wear glasses and no one will recognize me” thing- but there’s a Genius in Superman’s secret identity.
Particularly that no one on earth would even begin to think that Superman actually has a Secret Identity. They know who he is- he’s Kal-El from Krypton, a Refugee who has super powers that helps people. He doesn’t even hide his face- unlike Batman, so it doesn’t even cross peoples minds that he actually leads a double life as a Reporter.
Think of it this way; imagine if Morgan Freeman was your neighbor. But he had a different name and had a thick London accent. You’d think “Huh, that guy looks like Morgan Freeman” because the notion that a movie star would move next door to you to pursue an ordinary life all the while pretending to be someone else is completely ludicrous.
And that’s why Clark Kent is the best secret identity.
A lot of shit goes down in this story that just…doesn’t make sense.
I mean it’s plausible that Luthor would run for office purely out of spite, it’s plausible that he could mind fuck Talia Al Ghul into being his replacement at LexCorp- but would he actually stage his own attempted assassination to booster votes?
If being shot on the campaign trail made you look more Presidential then that Racist bastard George Wallace would have his face on Rushmore by now.
Then there’s that dumb shit that went down with Atlantis and Aquaman. Apparently LexCorps oil drilling caused sea monsters to go crazy so that pissed off Aquaman- who may have been influenced by that oil drilling as well.
So during the campaign trail Aquaman kidnaps Luthor so he could put him on trial in Atlantis, Superman tries to stop him and this happens;
Garth (the first Aqualad) hits Metropolis with a goddamn Tsunami and there are no repercussions. None.
That is the equivalent of pulling off two dozen 9/11’s and the American Government just shrugged like “Eh, shit happens“- fucking Superman was even like “You’re lucky I’m the only person that came down here” the- THE ONLY ONE?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
Atlantis is like the North Korea of the Sea and you’re seriously telling me that after Aquaman pulled a goddamn Water-world that the Americans wouldn’t fuck with them??? This is a Nation so Goddamn jingoistic that if you sent a Rocket up to the moon for the sole purpose of knocking over the American Flag, they’d send a $2 million dollar space crew to put it back up.
But of course nothing happens. Luthor talks his way out of trouble, no one died (B13 technology flushed all that water back to the ocean) and everything was safe and sound. Batman showed up and said “Yeah, that Tsunami destroyed all evidence of Crimes committed by Luthor” which…doesn’t make sense, but just roll with it.
The whole thing makes Luthor look more villainous, like he’d willingly fuck with Atlantis just so he could clear his name. It would have been a good issue if the goddamn writer knew anything about Comic Book structure. You see that yellow speech box on the left in the image above? That’s Lois Lane speaking.
There was at least two of those little boxes on each and every panel. Which is incredibly distracting because you’re trying to read all the shit about Superman and Aquaman and there’s just Lois in the corner talking about writing an article for the Daily Planet and it just…it’s hard t read. It’s the literary equivalent of listening to two conversations at the same time- it’s damn near impossible.
What the writer should have done is make a few of these panels on the first few pages (where there’s little to no dialogue to distract from) and then add a few more panels at the end to add an emotional impact. That’s basic Comic Book Structure.
Luthor has this weird dream in which he loses a Presidential debate to the Joker and Two Face and the entire audience consists solely of other Super-villains. It’s a weird dream, personally I interpret it to show Luthor’s resentment towards the super-villain community and the identity many people put upon him- he worries that he’ll never be able to shake off his past, and he’s right. Even as President Super-villains approach him so that they can start some fuckery- but he doesn’t want that.
He wanted to be President just to fuck with Superman, just to say “the American People chose me over you” and of course to fulfill his evil master-plan to take over the world. Superman gets this weird dream-visit from these people that control the space time continuum or whatever and they showed him the future, in which Lex Luthor spreads the B13 Technology across the world meaning that he owns literally everything and everyone and therefore he’s the de facto world leader- but eventually he fucks up and like a Computer virus takes over the world, killing everyone and then presumes to wipe out the entire universe.
It’s not the nicest dream to receive on Christmas eve. Especially since he spent the day going around and giving his fellow Justice League members Christmas presents and having nice conversations with them. He stops by to talk to Aquaman about trusting Luthor and his duty to Atlantis, he hangs out with Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) and talks about their faith in the political system and American democracy in general, he has a “Race” with Flash and talks reaffirms that he’s going to put his grievances with Luthor beside so that he can get elected and respect the will of the American people and then he has a sparring session with Wonder Woman and talks about his emotional well being and his concerns.
All of his interactions were pleasant, nuanced and ultimately beneficial to his well being…then he hangs out with Batman.
I love this panel- it’s probably my favorite scene in the entire book. Like Aquaman and Superman had some issues with Luthor because Arthur is the king of a Sovereign Nation and he’s like “Look, I don’t like the guy but Lex is the only one showing me any respect right now” and everyone else was pretty supportive- But Bruce Wayne doesn’t have time for that shit.
He’s pissed. He’s pissed that the guy who tried to buy his city got elected, he’s pissed that he stole his Kryptonite Ring and he’s pissed that his friend held him back from taking Luthor out of the race. I just love these panels, that awkward silence filled with tension- it just goes to show that weird dynamic between Batman and Superman, personally I think this panel sums up their relationship entirely;
I love Batman, he’s just such a Bastard.
So as I said before this book is divided up into four distinct chapters; the Campaign explains why Luthor wants to be President, his campaigning in Smallville, the various super villain subplots that add a little bot of action to the narrative (because God forbid we depend on Political Drama to add a level of tension) some very questionable conspiracies and finally we get to election night.
Luthor wins, Superman congratulates him, Lex goes on a whole Parade that is bombarded with protesters from Suicide Slum (apparently their region doesn’t benefit from the B13 Technology, possibly it could be interpreted as a Criticism of Globalization- how some people benefit but a lot of people suffer) but of course Luthor says “Eh, I’m not head of LexCorp anymore. NMFP- Not My Fucking Problem” and we see how Superman and the other heroes deal with this whole dilemma; the answer of course is poorly.
Batman actually breaks into Luthor’s house and demands that he return his Kryptonite ring, Luthor acts like a smug cunt and threatens Batman by setting all the intelligence agencies on his ass. He’s undoubtedly loving all of this.
Meanwhile back at the Daily Planet everyone is just coming to terms with how much of a major fuck up this whole election has been, I actually really liked this panel;
Yeah that’s…too close to home for me.
The really fucked up thing was that Perry White and Luthor were childhood friends, growing up together in Suicide Slum. Lex actually bought the Daily Planet and sold t to Perry for a Dollar- a single dollar! So to see this grown ass man with tears in his eyes when he learns his old friend is the President of the United States…Goddamn that’s powerful.
The Inauguration Day is undoubtedly the weakest part of the book. I mean, it’s nice to see Steel but the story just sucked. Basically this creature that causes earthquakes is pissed off at Luthor so he almost wrecks Metropolis and then tries to kill Lex at his inauguration ceremony, but of course a bunch of superheroes are present to fight him off and nothing of consequence happens.
We get a few interesting stories but nothing worth talking about. Honestly the only thing that I took away from this section is that Lex was smart enough to get Amanda Waller on his Cabinet.
If you don’t know who Amanda Waller is, then you’re missing out. She’s this complete and utter sociopath, she’s this covert Military operative called the Suicide Squad- which basically means she bullies Super-villains into doing the US Governments dirty work. She fucks with everyone; Super-villains, Superheroes, Secret Societies, Terrorists, other Intelligence Services, Aliens- you name it.
For me personally the worst thing that the New 52 had done was make Amanda Waller this skinny pretty woman. That’s…that’s not who she is. Amanda Waller is possibly one of the greatest examples of Physical Diversity in all of comics; she’s not supposed to be this Picturesque Action Hero- No.
Amanda Waller is a Short, Fat, Middle Aged Black Woman who scares the living shit out of Batman- that’s who she is.
Other members of Luthors cabinet include General Sam Lane, who of course is Lois Lane’s Father, he’s the head of Defence. Then we have Jefferson Pierce as the head of Education, Jefferson of course is the Superhero Black Lightning and was once a School Principal- so he’s actually very qualified for the role.
Outside of that the Inauguration Day chapter is quite forgettable. We don’t learn much and what we do learn is quite arbitrary.
What is truly the saving grace of this TPB is the final chapter of this book; Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography.
Holy Fuck is this book good. It came out in the late 80’s but they threw it into this TPB and by God it makes the entire thing worthwhile. The story starts out with Lex Luthor in this winter cabin and he’s about to fuck this Model but he’s like “You go get changed, I’m gonna watch this VHS tape” and he puts it on. It’s a recording of Clark Kent being interviewed by the police- they think he killed a guy called Peter Sands.
Now Peter Sands is a journalist and a severe alcoholic, he’s struggling to pay his rent and none of his former colleagues are willing to help him out because they think (quite rightly) that he’s a boozing backstabbing bastard that’s not worth a nickle.
Fortunately for Peter, a tabloid publisher in LA calls him up asking if he’s got anything in the works. Desperate for cash, Peter looks around the room for anything and spots a newspaper headline and says “Uh yeah, I’m writing a Biography of…Lex Luthor” so he manages to squeeze some money out of the publisher and we get this panel that really doesn’t age well.
The art is good, considering it’s from the 80’s. That’s not even the last time Luthor and Trump are referenced side by side, we get this lovely gem in the 2016 Green Arrow run;
You see anything? Hold up, I’ll zoom in for you;
So Peter Sands thinks this whole biography business will be simple enough, he reads Lex’s own biography which he says is “Oozing with Narcissism and Arrogance” not unlike the Art of the Deal. But he notices something weird; the biography feels as if the author is holding back on something- and he is.
Peter of course begins investigating, visits one of Luthor’s old teachers in Suicide Slum (where Lex and Perry White grew up together) and he found this scared old lady that started shaking at the mention of his name. She recounts at how calculative, cruel and maniacal Luthor was, even as a child. How he was a bad influence on Perry, how he taunted the other children- particularly the girls. Then she told him about this one time in which Luthor got bullied by these two other boys, so he hired a local gang to follow them home and beat the shit out of them.
Then of course he learns about the mysterious circumstances in which Luthor’s parents died, he discovered that Lex had cut the brakes of their car so that they’d die and he’d get the insurance money. He would then proceed to pay off the investigator and mechanic to make the whole thing look like an accident. He murdered his parents because they were very abusive and he resented their stupidity- it’s kind of a Mixture of Jay Gatsby and Charles Manson.
Peter later interviewed one of Lex’s ex girlfriends and discovered that he was quite the abusive boyfriend, a cold hearted misogynist, more sadist than any business man alive. He drove his competitors to suicide with the blackmail he collected. When she eventually did leave him, Luthor used all of his resources to ensure that she’d never get a good paying job in her life ever again.
Then Peter would interview one of his old drinking buddies, a war veteran who happened to work for Luthor. He said that he saw some fucked u shit, how Lex treated his employees and how loathsome and corrupt he truly was. Peter would then see his friend get run over by a car, he came to the conclusion that Luthor found out about his investigation and had sent his henchmen to silence him.
Panicked, Peter calls Clark Kent and says “Hey, I need you to get Superman- Luthor is trying to kill me” and Clark is very concerned- but at that very moment there was an Earthquake in Japan so he had to leave. Then Luthor’s henchmen kidnap Peter and bring him to Lex, where they get a one on one interview. Luthor answers all of his questions, including why he does what he does;
He then has his henchmen kill Peter. The police arrest Clark because he was officially the last person that saw Peter alive, but of course he’s eventually released- Luthor framed one of his former bullies for the Murder. The tape finishes and Luthor presumes to fuck the model.
The whole book is fantastic. I just love these stories in which an outsider, usually a journalist, decides to fuck with one of these Super-villains and all hell breaks loose. Personally I found this story incredibly relateable because I’ve gone down a rabbit hole so many times when I’mm writing for this blog- in which you spend an inordinate amount of time researching and thinking about a person, uncovering so much shit that most people don’t even know- it’s hectic.
But I love this comic simply because it showcases how excellent of a villain Lex Luthor is. He’s not just a mad scientist or a greedy bastard, he’s the manipulative egomaniac who thinks he’s in the right- it just goes to show villains can be incredibly compelling when written well.
That shit eating grin says it all.
Of course Luthor would eventually get kicked out of office in his third year as President. He tried to frame Bruce Wayne for Murder and then presumed to make Batman and Superman Public Enemies- in which the military and all the heroes and villains started coming after them. But of course Batman recorded Lex admitting that he sold weapons to Darkseid so that he could counteract another alien invasion.
He then admitted it publicly and he was impeached and later arrested, couldn’t buy his way out this time because Talia had sold all of her LexCorp shares to Wayne Enterprises- Luthor was essentially broke.
Luthor’s administration was rank with corruption, but he used his genius to make sure that for a time America was a prosperous nation. Crime went down, the Economy was stable and he found a way to balance the budget. He was a Good President, it’s just a shame he wasn’t a good man.
The story in my opinion ultimately wasted a lot of potential. Instead of getting some very thought provoking social commentary we get a cash grab with a few nice panels, forgettable action sequences to replace the desperate need for political tension. On top of that it’s going to alienate a lot of new readers who have no fucking clue what the hell is going on- you shouldn’t have to spend two or more hours reading a dozen Wikipedia articles just to follow the plot. I believe this TPB shows both the worst and best aspects of comic books.
It shows how shamelessly greedy and confusing the industry can be; how they’re willing to create meaningless stories all so they can create a few tie ins that can garner some extra cash. But also it shows that occasionally, occasionally, you can get some of the best told stories that you could ever come across. And that’s why I stick around, for those diamonds in the rough.
All in all we get a good representation of the community in the DC Universe. All the characters are true to their personalities. Luthor shines throughout and we see why he is the ultimate Superman villain.
A good villain parallels the hero, some people interpret that to mean that the villain is a version of the hero that went down the dark path- but what I think it means is that it shows the conflicts and contradictions of the hero, they don’t necessarily have to look similar or have similar abilities- or be ideologically similar.
No, what makes Superman and Lex Luthor work is that they’re both incredibly powerful men. While Superman is physically powerful, Lex is financially and politically powerful- both men have the power to change the world for better or for worse. So many of Superman’s villains are aliens or monsters or robots that can take a punch and can be thrown across a city- but not Luthor. Lex shows us that Superman’s powers have limits, you can Punch a man- but you can’t punch a Corporation.
Luthor resents Superman because up until this point he lived in a world in which he controls everything, but then Superman comes along- he meets a Man that he cannot control. A man with such strength and speed so great that he could bring the world to its knees- but he doesn’t. Because Superman chooses to what’s right and Lex hates him for that, because he knows deep down if the roles were reversed he wouldn’t.
All in all it was an interesting story, but I think DC squandered it. I think the Justice League cartoon did the story more justice, I don’t think we’ll see this scenario come to the movies anytime soon.
But then again the world is getting stranger by the day, jokes become policies, lies become truths, the most absurd thought you could possibly imagine could one day come true- so keeping all that in mind, why wouldn’t the people of America vote for Jesse Eisenberg to be President?