On Superman

Brains Vs. Brawn

The Many Lives (and Minds) of Lex Luthor, the World's Greatest Villain

By Bob Batchelor

“Luthor–sinister ultra-scientist who plots the enslavement of mankind! He and Superman have clashed on many occasions. Now–once again– the champion of all that is fine and good confronts the Master of Evil!”

–SUPERMAN SUNDAY COMIC STRIP (1941)

A man that can fly–better yet–an all-powerful hero with good looks, smarts and a red cape! Bullets bounce off his chest, and even death rays and lasers have no effect. He’s invincible, right? But who wants to root for a character that has no flaws?

As a little kid, I read every Superman or Batman comic book I could get my hands on. I watched black-and-white The Adventures of Superman reruns on Saturday afternoons in my grandparents’ living room. George Reeves played Superman with comic flair, but still embodied strength, power and righteousness. As a matter of fact, Superman seemed too good.

I wondered how I would act if I had similar super-powers? My ten-year-old brain weighed whether, given such abilities, I would do only noble things like Superman or use my brawn in ways that would mortify our hero.

The answer seemed obvious back then. I would have used my superstrength to become the Barry Bonds of my little league. A single leap would put Michael Jordan to shame on the basketball court. Let’s not even discuss what I would have done with x-ray vision. Yet Superman stood on the sidelines as a youngster. He bumbled about as Clark Kent as an adult, masking himself for the greater good of a race that wasn’t his  …

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