√ 50 Light Years to Lexor

by Jimmm Kelly

myffchecklist.neg

curt swan, ardora

The Death of Luthor, ACTION COMICS 318 (November ’64) art by Curt Swan and George Klein

 Storylines in Publication OrderSynopses and Discussion * About Edmond Hamilton

. . . looking back at the world where Luthor is a hero–50 years after SUPERMAN 164: Hindsight is 50/50.

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The Lexor Storylines in Publication Order

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A] <click for more>

SUPERMAN 164 (October ’63) on sale August 1 ’63

The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman/The Super-Duel [17 pages]
— by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein

reprinted in: SUPERMAN 239/G-84 (June-July ’71);  SUPERMAN IN THE SIXTIES (’99); SUPERMAN: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD, Vol. 1 (2004); SUPERMAN VS. LEX LUTHOR (2006); SHOWCASE PRESENTS SUPERMAN, Vol. 4 (2008)

— On a dying planet, orbiting a red sun, Superman and Luthor meet on equal terms for their final showdown.

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another version of A] <click for more>

Newspaper Sundays, September – December ’63

— by ? and Wayne Boring

— There was a Sunday newspaper strip version of the Showdown Between Luthor and Superman.

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B] <click for more>

SUPERMAN 167 (February ’64) on sale December 19 ’63

The Team of Luthor and Brainiac: The Deadly Duo/The Downfall of Superman/The Hour of Kandor’s Vengeance [27 pages]
— by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein

reprinted in: SUPERMAN 245/DC-7 (December-January ’71-’72); SUPERMAN: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD, Vol. 2 (2007); SUPERMAN VS. BRAINIAC (2008)

— Luthor discovers that Brainiac is a computerized machine and not human; the two conspire against Superman; they stop briefly on Lexor where Luthor meets Tharla; after being defeated by the people of Kandor, the two villains are allowed to go free and Luthor is returned to Lexor and Tharla.

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C] <click for more>

SUPERMAN 168 (April ’64) on sale February 6 ’64

Luthor–Super-Hero/Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor [25 pages]
— by Edmond Hamilton, Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan and George Klein

— Tharla is now called Ardora; she and Luthor are in love; Superman comes to Lexor and tries to steal some mulit-coloured crystals, only to be stopped by the Defender. A month later Lex travels from Lexor and arrives on Earth in 1906.

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D] <click for more>

ACTION COMICS 318 (November ’64) – 319 (December ’64) on sale September 24 and October 29 ’64

The Death of Luthor/The Condemned Superman [2 x 12 pages]
— by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein

reprinted in: BEST OF DC [Blue Ribbon Digest] 27 (August ’82)

— Luthor escapes to Lexor and marries Ardora; Superman comes to Lexor to bring Luthor to justice, but is seen to kill Lex; Superman is put on trial for Luthor’s murder.

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prologue to E] <click for more>

SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 86 (July ’65) – 87 (September ’65) on sale May 27 ’65 and July 8 ’65

The Team of Olsen and Brainiac/The Arena of Doom [6 + 8 pages]
— by Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and George Klein, and Al Plastino

— This is a non-Lexor story, although Brainiac summons Lex from Lexor; it sets up events in ACTION COMICS 332. Brainiac gives Jimmy a computer brain; Superman discovers that Brainiac is an android; the five members of a Convention of Anti-Superman Gang (Brainiac, Luthor, the Legion of Super-Villains) try to get Jimmy to kill Superman.

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E] <click for more>

ACTION COMICS 332 (January ’66) – 333 (February ’66) and 335 (April ’66) on sale November 25, December 30 ’65 and January 27 ’66

The Super-Vengeance of Lex Luthor/Superman’s Boos-Boos/Luthor’s First Victory over Superman [12 + 13 + 13 pages]
— by Leo Dorfman and Al Plastino

— The five members of the Convention of Anti-Superman Gang are now on a prison planet, but Luthor escapes; Ardora discovers Luthor’s criminal past; Luthor embarks on a vendetta against Superman to defeat him psychologically; Luthor and Brainiac team up again but are defeated; Luthor returns to Lexor and Ardora

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context of F] <click for more>

ACTION COMICS 362 (April ’68) – 366 (August ’68) on sale between February 29 ’68 and June 27 ’68

The Head of Hate/The Leper from Krypton/The Untouchable of Metropolis/Superman’s Funeral/Substitue Superman [13 + 13 + 12 + 12 + 13 pages]
— by Leo Dorfman, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

— Superman is infected by Virus X  and is dying, due in part to the machinations of Lex Luthor

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F] <click for more>

ACTION COMICS 365 (July ’68) on sale May 28 ’68

Superman’s Funeral [12 pages]
— by Leo Dorfman, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

— Infected by Virus X and dying, Superman is launched toward a distant sun, where his body will be cremated; in its course through the galaxy, Superman’s bier passes near Lexor.

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G] <click for more>

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS 238 (June ’76) on sale March 23 ’76

The Angel with a Dirty Name [17 pages]
— by Bob Haney, Dick Dillin and John Calnan

reprinted in: SUPERMAN/BATMAN: SAGA OF THE SUPER SONS (2008)

— The Super Sons meet Luthor’s daughter who has come to Earth to free her father, so he might cure the Lexor people of a plague.

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recap prior to H] <click for more>

BEST OF DC [Blue Ribbon Digest] 27 (August ’82) on sale May 6 ’82

The Luthor Story [3 pages of text with pictures]

— by E. Nelson Bridwell, plus reprinted pictures by various

ENB recounts Luthor’s greatest stories and attempts to explain the Lexor rebellion.

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H] <click for more>

ACTION COMICS 544 (June ’83) on sale March 24 ’83

Luthor Unleashed [28 pages]
— by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson

reprinted in: BEST OF DC [Blue Ribbon Digest] 50 (July ’84); SUPERMAN VS. LEX LUTHOR (2006)

— After another all-out fight with Superman, Luthor goes to Lexor to nurse his wounds; discovering he’s a daddy, the scientist turns over a new leaf and resolves to stay with his family on his adopted homeworld; but leopards can’t change their spots so easily.

 Storylines in Publication OrderSynopses and Discussion * About Edmond Hamilton

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Jerry Ordway Superman recreation

Jerry Ordway’s reimagining of the cover for SUPERMAN No. 164 (October ’63), for Eddy Zeno, published in THE KRYPTON COMPANION (TwoMorrows, 2006), p. 220.

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An Extended Synopsis and
Discussion for Each Lexor Storyline

SUPERMAN 164 (October '63). Cover by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 164 (October ’63). Cover by Swan and Klein.

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A] As usual with Luthor, the criminal genius escapes from prison by his own cleverness and heads to his underground hideout. From there, he interupts TV broadcasts to challenge Superman to a final showdown on equal terms. The two will go to a planet where Superman has no super-powers, so they can fight man to man. If Superman wins, Luthor will serve his time in prison; if Luthor wins, he’ll abandon Superman on that world.

Superman builds a rocket to take them to a unnamed planet that orbits a red sun. It’s a twin of Krypton with the same mass. So Luthor has to wear special boots to adjust for the heavy gravity. This is a point that is ignored in all the following stories–but I suppose there might be some good explanation to excuse those other apparent mistakes, if the editor had thought of it.

SUPERMAN 164 (October '63), art by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 164 (October ’63), art by Swan and Klein.

The two strip off their shirts for their bare-chested brawl. Swan draws each adversary in realistic fashion. In the wrestling matches on TV, that I watched with my dad in the ’60s, the wrestlers had the same physique. Unlike Jack Kirby or Neal Adams, Swan didn’t give his heroes impossible body-builder proportions–he kept it real. Superman would slim down in the future, but his body in this issue would have been considered admirable by ’63 standards.

Luthor has lost weight. He’s no longer the fat Luthor we saw in most of the ’40s and ’50s. I imagine that all that time in prison was put to good use working out. No doubt, this showdown was a long-range plan and Lex made sure to be in fit fighting condition before issuing his challenge to the Man of Steel. In other adventures, by other artists, like Boring or Plastino, Luthor would still be rendered as overweight. As well, Swan gives Lex a more youthful appearance–and given his relatively new origin as a contemporary of Clark Kent’s, he should look about the same age as Superman.

Lex gets in a few good jabs and gives the Man of Tomorrow a black eye. But Superman lays him out at the end of their first round. As they take a break, Luthor wanders into a cactus forest on the strange planet. Superman follows, but gets croweded out by growing giant cacti and is reminded of how people survived in the Scarlet Jungle’s moving forest on Krypton, by going underground.

This part of the story becomes a game of survival as Superman must use his wits to evade Luthor’s attacks, until both combatants are separated by a sandstorm at chapter’s end.

SUPERMAN 164 (October '63), art by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 164 (October ’63), art by Swan and Klein.

Memories of Krypton haunt Superman on this lonely, desert twin. The story has put him through his paces–first through hand to hand combat, then through survival and now through psychological stress. Through all these varied experiences the creative talents take Superman out of his element, the better to show the nobility of his character.

SM164.PHANTOMS

Meanwhile, Luthor discovers a city on this desert world, where live the people of a once great civilization, but who now must struggle to survive in an inhospitable climate. The scientist helps them to drive off monster birds from attacking their crops, by reactivating a water pump. The grateful citizens show him the surviving technology of their ancestors, which they have forgotten how to use, but Luthor’s genius allows him to unlock the secrets of that once advanced civilization, as he uses a lesson machine to teach himself their native language.

Rebooting ancient machinery, Luthor seeks to bring water back to this thirsty planet, but his efforts can only bring temporary relief–the planet is dying.

Superman comes to the city and the people would kill him, but Lex decides that the two foes should finish their showdown. They will both employ the advanced weaponry in their final battle. Superman is given time to prepare and then they begin their duel in an ancient arena. It’s a stalemate and after their technology has been exhausted, the two wrestle on the ground, but Superman gets in a lucky punch and Luthor is defeated.

They leave the planet in their rocket ship, Luthor now in Superman’s custody, returning to prison on Earth. But once they are beyond the influence of the red sun, Luthor asks Superman to land on a frozen world, so the Action Ace might use his super-strength to throw masses of ice toward the desert planet, where they will have water again.  The Man of Might rightly deduces that Lex let Superman beat him, so he could rescue this planet from certain death.

SUPERMAN 164 (October '63), art by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 164 (October ’63), art by Swan and Klein.

In his prison cell on Earth, Superman shows Lex a photo of the planet he helped save, where the people have erected a statue to their hero–Luthor. And this reward seems enough for all his trials.

There’s a lot to be admired in this story. Most of all I admire its economy. There’s many different concepts in its 17 pages, yet it never feels like scenes are squeezed in. Swan and Klein’s open artwork sets a nice pace. We get many of the basics about Superman–a few scenes at the DAILY PLANET with Clark and his friends, Luthor in prison, flashbacks of Krypton.  We have three different kinds of fights–a bare fisted boxing match, a fight for survival and a gladiatorial duel with advanced weapons. Gee Ed, what did we do to deserve so much?

Although the story is very specific, the single story can stand for the whole of Superman and what he’s about.

The idea of Lex challenging Superman to a battle on even terms is a simple idea, but an ingenious one. It’s a challenge Superman can’t refuse without looking like a chump–and Superman must be a light to humanity.

Hamilton brings everything down to its most basic level–the fight between Superman and his enemy. And through this story, we see Superman tested and beaten, but never counted out. At the same time, Lex redeems himself. He’s not a black and white characters, there are shades of grey.

The story is an archetype. Hamilton’s Jungle Cat-Queen (another comic book story that’s at the top of my list) uses the same structure [in DETECTIVE COMICS 211 (September ’54)]. The hero, taken out of his element, must confront not only his foe but a hostile environment and the hero emerges from the experience the better for it–having gained a better understanding of his foe and himself.

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another version of A] It was common for the Superman newspaper strip to adapt the same stories appearing in Superman magazines for the dailies and Sundays. A version of the Showdown Between Luthor and Superman ran from September into December ’63, in the Sundays. Wayne Boring did the art instead of Swan, but I don’t know for certain who wrote it, although examples of the Sundays indicate that Hamilton’s original script was followed.

SUPERMAN Sunday by Wayne Boring ('63) from CURT SWAN A LIFE IN COMICS (2002, Vanguard), p. 48

SUPERMAN Sunday by Wayne Boring (September 29 ’63) from CURT SWAN A LIFE IN COMICS (2002, Vanguard), p. 48

Eddy Zeno describes this storyline in CURT SWAN: A LIFE IN COMICS (2002, Vanguard, p. 48):

By 1963, a flipflop had occurred. Curt Swan was now the main penciler of the SUPERMAN comic book while Wayne Boring was the primary newspaper artist . . . It was strange to see Wayne’s two-tiered interpretation  of a barrel-chested Man of Steel and a barrel-bellied Lex Luthor fighting under a red sun . . . Though Swan had modernized Luthor by making him formidable  physically as well as mentally, Boring had not. The emotion, excitement and power Wayne brought to the strip’s various scenes did not compare to what was produced for the comic book, released during Curt’s first zenith. Though, to be fair, the Sundays, if a bit more open than the dailies, were still more restrictive than the comic magazines in terms of panel dimensions and layouts. Interestingly, some of the scientific gadgets used by the combatants toward the end of the story looked similar enough that the two artists might have shared some of their visuals.

Superman Sunday by Wayne Boring (November 7 '63)

Superman Sunday by Wayne Boring (November 7 ’63)

Note: Having not read the whole strip, I can’t say much about it at this time. With IDW reprinting the Superman newspaper strips, hopefully these Sundays will become available soon–at which point I will review this version in a little more detail.

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Special Announcement in SUPERMAN 167 (February '64)

Special Announcement in SUPERMAN 167 (February ’64)

B] The Team of Luthor and Brainiac, at 27 pages, is one of the longest stories published in a regular-sized (32 page) Superman comic–and for good reason! There’s a lot that Edmond Hamilton has to squeeze in, thanks to editorial dictates.

An agreement was reached between National Periodical Publications and the maker of the Brainiac Computer Kit (as explained in the Metropolis Mailbag for this issue), whereby National shared the trademark with the manufacturer. As a quid pro quo, they made their Brainiac a kind of computer, as well, to promote the Brainiac product.

ANNOUNCEMENT.SM167

Editor Mort Weisinger and writer Hamilton come up with a clever but involved plot to explain this reset of the villain. And they use Luthor as their main expositional device. Which also contributes to the ongoing redefinition of Lex Luthor–that began with his new origin story [How Luthor Met Superboy–by Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino–in ADVENTURE COMICS 271 (April ’60)] and other tales, reaching a new level with SUPERMAN 164 and continuing to evolve in the Lexor adventures to follow..

In fact, for such a long and epic story as this, Superman appears very little in it. Luthor is the central protagonist in the first two of the three chapters. As per usual, Luthor uses his genius to break out of prison and then flees to Luthor’s Lair II. The Lair is inside an astronomical observatory built by an unknown benefactor–which is really Luthor. In the ’70s and ’80s, Elliot S! Maggin establishes that Luthor has made several investments under assumed identities and in fact controls a lot of legitimate capital for his criminal ends. In the reboot of the late ’80s, Luthor is established to be an outright capitalist. But here we already see indications of Luthor’s enterprising nature.

Inside his Lair, Lex muses upon his vendetta against Superman. Using an astonishing device that allows him to probe all time and space, Luthor seeks out the greatest intelligence in the universe.

This device allows Hamilton to recount the new origin of Brainiac: In the past, in another solar system, an advanced race of green-skinned humanoids created computer machines to do their bidding. While the humanoids were of sixth level intelligence, the machines were raised to a tenth level intelligence and, considering themselves superior, the machines elected to rule over the humanoids. They then created an android–humanoid in appearance–to work as their spy in the rest of the galaxy. This was Brainiac.

In the next chapter, Luthor uses his wits to free Brainiac from his confines on the planet Kronis, where Superman has imprisoned him. Luthor knows how to raise Brainiac’s intelligence to an even higher twelfth level, but when he operates on Brainiac Lex makes sure to implant a fail-safe device so the computer villain can’t reneg on his bargain with Luthor. The two seek to create a formula which will rob Superman of his powers and they search through the cosmos for the vital elements they need. Which brings them to the one planet where Luthor is hailed as a hero (still yet unnamed).

SUPERMAN 167 (February '64) , art by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 167 (February ’64) , art by Swan and Klein.

One citizen, Tharla, embraces and kisses Lex, which touches his heart. Even though the radioactive substance he needs for his formula is on their planet, Luthor refuses to rob them of this resource.

SUPERMAN 167 (February '64) , art by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 167 (February ’64) , art by Swan and Klein.

As the two villains continue on their journey, they pass over the planet of Brainiac’s origin, where they see that the humanoids rebelled against their computer masters and destroyed them–leaving Brainiac as “the last of the mighty computer minds.”

Having perfected their serum gas, when they are discovered by the Caped Kryptonian in Luthor’s Lair II, Brainiac and Lex rob Superman of his powers and shrink him down to doll size. The tiny Superman attempts to escape his captors, but Brainiac renders him inert with a paralyzing ray. Meanwhile, Kandor’s Emergency Squad flies out of the bottle city to defeat the criminals and free their hero.

Happy Ending, SUPERMAN 167 (February '64), art by Swan and Klein.

Happy Ending, SUPERMAN 167 (February ’64), art by Swan and Klein.

Brainiac and Luthor are held prisoner in Kandor. Nor Kann (Superman’s friend from previous Kandor stories and a contemporary of his father, Jor-El) prosecutes Brainiac for crimes against the Kandorian people. Luthor defends Brainiac, arguing that the computer criminal saved Kandor from the fate that met Krypton. Nor Kann argues that there’s no way of knowing that–Kandor might have saved itself as Argo City did.

So Brainiac is found guilty, but he holds the trump card, since he’s the only one who can free Superman from his paralyzed state. The people of Kandor decide to free Luthor and Brainiac in return for Superman’s revival. Once he has regained consciousness, Superman must stick to the bargain and the two criminals are allowed to leave Earth in Brainiac’s saucer ship. Luthor is dropped off on Lexor to be welcomed again by Tharla.

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C] The woman called Tharla in SUPERMAN 167, is called Ardora in the next issue and all following appearances. There’s no mistaking that this is the same woman, the beautiful lover of Luthor. Her name-change is never explained in story, but it’s easy to conceive of possible explanations. I’m sure that Lexorians have more than one name. Perhaps, the name change reflects a change in her status. Tharla might indicate that she’s a woman without any chosen mate. Ardora might indicate that she has chosen a mate–the hero of Lexor, Luthor.

Ardora and Lex, SUPERMAN 168 (April '64), art by Swan and Klein.

Ardora and Lex, SUPERMAN 168 (April ’64), art by Swan and Klein.

Issue 168 is divided into two parts–the first part written by Edmond Hamilton and the second part by Leo Dorfman (with Swan and Klein art for all). The action picks up on the planet where Lex is a hero–which is here named Lexor for the first time. There Ardora stands by Luthor as he works on one of his latest inventions.

Meanwhile, Superman has come on a covert mission to find Lex and bring him back to Earth. When the Man of Steel sneaks into a museum that is being decorated in celebration of Luthor, he discovers mult-coloured crystals that Lexorians traditionally use for lighting their homes. All of these crystals have been gathered and placed in the museum.

Ardora surprised by Superman, SUPERMAN 168 (April '64), art by Swan and Klein

Ardora surprised by Superman, SUPERMAN 168 (April ’64), art by Swan and Klein

Superman forgets about trying to capture Luthor and decides to steal the crystals, but he’s caught in the act by Ardora. The Caped Kryptonian makes a run for it.

At the same time, Luthor has devised a special ray to give himself super-powers– now donning a disguise and calling himself the Defender, he goes after Superman.

The Man of Steel is captured and put in prison, but just like Luthor in other circumstances, Superman is able to use his wits to escape. Yet again he’s caught by the Defender, who reveals himself as Luthor. Before the scientist can kill him, Superman pleads to explain why he stole the crystals–revealing that they emit a vibration that deteriorates brain activity, which helps to explain the relative primitive nature of the Lexorians. Luthor then allows Superman to leave Lexor with the crystals, so he might destroy them.

SUPERMAN 168 (April '64). Cover by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN 168 (April ’64). Cover by Swan and Klein.

Luthor’s reason for taking the Defender disguise is rather thin. He wants to protect Ardora (just like Clark protects Lois), should anyone want to get to him through her–but on Lexor, where everyone is devoted to him, this fear seems baseless.

In the next part, a month later on Lexor, Luthor is brooding over Superman. Ardora begs him to be happy on Lexor with his palace, his splendid laboratory and her.

However, Lex can’t be at peace until he’s destroyed Superman. He’s created an artificial red Kryptonite and intends to use it on the Man of Steel. Luthor rockets from Lexor to Earth, but his ship accelerates too fast, sending him back into Earth’s past, in the year 1906. Landing in San Francisco, Lex ends up as the editor of the SAN FRANCISCO DAILY PLANET.

Meanwhile, Superman discovers that Luthor is hiding in the past, so he flies back in time to San Francisco and, going undercover, assumes the identity of Clark Kent (without glasses), seeking a job at the DAILY PLANET, not realizing that the editor is Lex in disguise. Once exposed to Luthor’s red K (painted on a horse-drawn fire-wagon), Superman/Clark loses all his super-powers except his vision powers (for 48 hours).

As the two stand on an island across the water from the city proper, the now undisguised Luthor attempts to use a teleportation device that will bring them to Lexor–but the power is too great and triggers a great earthquake (the famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906). Luthor vanishes, but Superman rows a boat back to the city to help out in the emergency.

Together with Lillian Russell, Superman/Clark helps out in the recovery, before his full powers return and he is able to fly back to the present. With his telescopic vision, the Man of Steel sees that Ardora is crying over Luthor who has not returned to her. Superman then has a hunch and flies to Alcatraz where he finds Luthor in a cell in the abandoned prison.

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D] This two part story gives the greatest detail on Lexor and its people.

Luthor again manages another clever escape and rockets back to Lexor. A great celebration is held, as the hero stands with his true love, Ardora. She confesses her desire to marry Lex and this is also his wish. According to the ancient traditions of Lexor, the two are joined as husband and wife.

Luthor marries Ardora, ACTION COMICS 318 (November '64). Art by Swan and Klein.

Luthor marries Ardora, ACTION COMICS 318 (November ’64). Art by Swan and Klein.

But, of course, Superman comes to the planet again, to track down the fugitive. He attempts to make his way to the city incognito but is recognized by a hunter in the panet’s weird jungle. [I imagine that Luthor’s scientific genius has succeeded in restoring these jungles, as Lexor was a desert planet when Lex first came to it.] The hunter attempts to lead Superman into a trap, but a Lexorian Truth Beast forces him to confess his true intentions. Superman finally arrives in the city, in an area decorated with megalithic statues, where Luthor confronts him.

Lex has promised Ardora that he will not kill Superman. As the two fight, Superman lands a punch that sends Luthor to the ground, hitting his head on a statue. The Man of Steel sees that Lex is dead and, before he can do anything, he is attacked by an angry mob–who pelt him with the carved stones from the Field of Gods. Superman falls into the Living Lake, where the mob would leave him to die. But Ardora, always the voice of reason and justice, begs for his life to be spared so he might be held to account for his crimes in a court of law.

In keeping with the Soviet style imagery of these stories–like the statue of Luthor seen in every adventure that resembles statues of Lenin in the U.S.S.R.–the body of Luthor is put in a glass coffin, like that which holds Lenin. Even the universe’s worst criminals (including Brainiac) come to pay homage to the great leader as he lies in state.

Meanwhile, Superman is bound over for trial and Vel Quennar is assigned to defend him. Swan and Klein give each character very specific looks–and Vel Quennar is a striking character. Reluctant to defend Superman, Vel still believes in the rule of law and that everyone is entitled to a fair trial. With Superman now in prison for Luthor’s murder, the story continues over to the next issue.

ACTION COMICS 319 (December '64)

ACTION COMICS 319 (December ’64)

The next issue begins as Superman goes on trial. The jury is made up of three generations–a boy, an adult woman, and an old man–so that no matter the age of the accused, one of his own age group should sit on the jury. The prosecution brings forward its witnesses. Then Vel Quennar puts Superman on the stand. The Man of Steel tells the truth as he knows it–that Luthor is an escaped criminal from Earth, he came to Lexor to take Lex back to prison.

ACTION COMICS 319 (December '64), art by Swan and Klein.

ACTION COMICS 319 (December ’64), art by Swan and Klein.

The Lexorian people refuse to believe this. When the trial is adjourned for the day, back in his cell, Superman sees a prisoner led to the Stone Room for execution, where the convict is turned to stone.

The next day, when Superman has a chance to lie and say that he was under the influence of a Madness Flower, he speaks the truth. This convinces Vel Quennar that Superman really is innocent. That evening Vel goes to Superman’s cell, where he allows himself to be overpowered by the Man of Steel, who escapes in the guise of his lawyer. Gaining access to Luthor’s laboratory, Superman finds coma drugs and a shock restorative chemical. Putting two and two together, he realizes that Luthor has faked his death.  At the glass coffin, Superman uses the shock restorative chemical to revive Lex.

ACTION COMICS 319 (December '64), art by Swan and Klein.

ACTION COMICS 319 (December ’64), art by Swan and Klein.

When the people of Lexor see that their hero has come back to life, they believe it was a mere accident and not a plot by Luthor.

The criminal scientist had hoped to manipulate Superman’s execution, instead of killing him himself, so he could keep his promise to Ardora.

Given that the Man of Steel has brought their great leader back to life, he is allowed to leave Lexor a free man. Yet, Luthor stays behind with his new bride–their happiness continues for the time being.

They don’t write stories like this anymore. Edmond Hamilton gives free range to his imagination and takes us behind an iron curtain into another world. And the team of Swan and Klein are at their best, bringing all these concepts to life.

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prologue to E] Not an actual Lexor story, but Lexor is mentioned in the second part.

Depending how you look at them, Jimmy Olsen stories from the classic Weisinger era could be either goofy, funny romps that mocked the conventions of super-hero comics or grotesgue horror tales or supense filled adventures. The first part of this tale, although featured on the cover, was the third of the three stories in this issue–and the two other stories were maybe a bit better (Jimmy as Congorilla, Jimmy in Nazi Germany). In this adventure, Jimmy suffers a blow to the head, causing brain damage. With life slipping away, Superman cannot save his friend and prepares to send him into the Phantom Zone, as a last ditch effort to preserve Jimmy’s life. But at that moment Brainiac intrudes on the scene.

It should be noted that, at this point in continuity, no one yet knew that Brainiac had a computer mind, except for the reader. Luthor found out in SUPERMAN 167, but in the final chapter of that issue, Brainiac had used an advanced device to remove Luthor’s memories of that information. So Superman believes Brainiac is human when he arrives on the scene and offers to save Jimmy, so long as the Man of Steel will allow a temporary truce.

 SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 86 (July '65). Cover by Swan and Klein.

SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 86 (July ’65). Cover by Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff.

Superman agrees to Brainiac’s conditions, but on board his space ship the android removes Jimmy’s human brain and replaces it with a computer brain. Despite the brain transplant, when returned to society, Jimmy acts like his old self–except that he is able to do high-level thinking. At the end of this part, Brainiac has Jimmy summon Superman into a trap and the tale ends on this cliffhanger.

In the next issue, Brainiac fails to kill Superman and the Man of Tomorrow detects that the villain isn’t human. At last, Superman realizes that Brainiac is an android [he so easily uncovers this fact that it makes one wonder why he couldn’t have discovered it before]. Superman uses that knowledge to temporarily short-circuit Brainiac; however, the computer villain promises to restore Jimmy’s original brain, if the Metropolis Marvel will allow him to escape.

On board his spaceship, Brainiac switches back brains–having repaired Jimmy’s old one. The android then uses his advanced technology to bring Luthor from Lexor and the Legion of Super-Villains (Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen and Cosmic King) from the future. They form a Convention of Anti-Superman Gang. And Saturn Queen uses her mental powers to send Jimmy into the Fortress of Solitude to retrieve a large chunk of green Kryptonite.

SUPERMAN'S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 87 (September '65). Cover by Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff.

SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN 87 (September ’65). Cover by Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff.

In a remote valley, the five foes get Jimmy to summon Superman with his signal watch and then threaten to kill Olsen if he doesn’t do as they say. They propose to have Superman’s pal execute the Man of Steel with the large chunk of green K, but Superman begs for his life, promising them great rewards if they will let him live.

Luthor and Brainiac vote thumbs up to spare Superman’s life, but the LSV vote thumbs down and the majority rules. Jimmy smashes Superman with the green K and he appears to be dead–but not so. In fact the bottle city of Kandor is hidden inside the fake green K, and the Kandorians use their super-science to trap the criminals in individual pearl prisons.

The first part was illustrated by Swan and Klein, while the second is by Al Plastino who continues to draw the fat Luthor. Plastino is also the artist on the three-parter that follows after these events–so we again get a big-bellied Lex.

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E] Now all five villains are being held on a prision planet as the story in ACTION COMICS 332 begins. But Luthor discovers a substance he can use as fuel to blast off from the planet in a space suit. The other four villains feel betrayed that Luthor should leave them there on the prison planet.

ACTION COMICS 332 (January '66), art by Al Plastino.

ACTION COMICS 332 (January ’66), art by Al Plastino.

Back on Earth, when Superman is warned of Luthor’s escape, he heads to a top secret science lab, where a transmaterialization transport device is under development. The scientists there warn the Man of Steel that it’s not safe for humans yet, but with a few adjustments the Kryptonian makes it transport his body for a five minute window.

Transmaterializing on Lexor, Superman sees no sign of Luthor, but finds a hidden cache of Luthor’s souvenirs. As Ardora discovers the hated Superman he fades away–his five minutes are up. Ardora sees her husband’s hidden souvenirs and watches a mento-record disc for one of Luthor’s past crimes.

Just then, Luthor arrives on Lexor, after his escape from the prison planet. But Ardora is heart-broken over his criminal past. In a fury, Lex swears vengeance on Superman for ruining his happy home life. He apparently does not hear Ardora when she states she still loves him in spite of everything.  Lex rockets to Earth to get back at the Man of Steel. When others seek to kill the Metropolis Marvel, Luthor’s super-science saves Superman. The hero is at a loss to explain why the villain would help him, but it’s all part of Luthor’s master plan.

In the next issue, as he peeks in on Ardora with his view screen, Luthor resolves to proceed with his plan of psychological warfare against Superman. The following day, two scientists are examining the Super-Sword of Krypton [this sword may have provided inspiration for the Sword of Superman in SUPERMAN ANNUAL No. 10 (’84)]. Made of Kryptium, the sword was hurled into space before Krypton exploded. The sword has the potential to slice through Superman. At that moment, out for vengeance on his brother’s behalf, Tom Vance breaks into the lab and takes the sword to Superman as he arrives. But from long distance, Luthor uses a mini-projectile to defeat this threat, as well.

In the next phase of his plot, the criminal scientist projects a 3-D image onto Superman’s form making him appear as a monster to everyone else–although the Caped Kryptonian cannot see the change in his appearance. In search of relief from his stress, Superman finds peace lying on the cloud plants of a remote world. When the Metropolis Marvel returns to Earth, he witnesses one of Luthor’s robots entering a bank carrying a large, red ball. Smashing the robot, Superman doesn’t realize that the robot is returning some of Luthor’s ill-gotten gains to the bank as a sign of good faith from the reformed criminal.

Action333-10Now not knowing whether Luthor has turned good or not, Superman rescues a runaway train filled with radioactive waste, after receiving a radio transmission from Luthor warning of the danger. Superman tows the train to Venus. In fact, the sealed train is transporting international law enforcement, who aren’t too happy about being dragged all the way to another planet [apparently Venus is not so inhospitable to human life].

Luthor’s next plot is to start a new ice age, but now Superman can’t trust what he’s seeing and turns away rather than interfere.

Speical feature page in ACTION COMICS 333 (February '66), art by Curt Swan.

Speical feature page in ACTION COMICS 333 (February ’66), art by Curt Swan.

This issue has a special feature page by Curt Swan showing the many expressions of his Superman. The next issue is an 80 page giant starring Supergirl. The story of Luthor’s mind games picks up again in 335.

Rather than clean up a spill of radioactive bricks, Superman puzzles over what action to take.

In between this issue and 333, Perry White has become a senator (in SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE 62), so now Van Benson is the acting editor at the DAILY PLANET. At the PLANET offices, Lois, Jimmy and Clark are summoned to Washington, D.C., to meet with Senator White.

Perry is contacted by the President and then conveys to the three reporters the  President’s concerns about Superman. Clark is asked to contact Superman and get him to meet with government scientists, who will conduct tests on the traumatized hero.

The Metropolis Marvel complies with the tests, but fails the psychological examination. However, Superman’s two analysts are really Luthor and Brainiac–Luthor having apparently rescued Brainiac from the prison planet.

Each of the three parts in this mutli-parter has a different pair of scientists meeting with Superman. This might’ve been intentional, so the reader wouldn’t suspect the final pair of  scientists when they show up.

But the Man of Steel was not really so easily fooled either and lures them into a trap. Shrunken down to miniature size inside Brainiac’s mini saucer ship, so they might covertly surveil Superman, they are easily nabbed by the Caped Kryptonian. Yet they manage to escape Superman’s grasp, fleeing in the saucer ship. Brainiac returns Luthor to Lexor, but Lex doesn’t look forward to seeing his wife, who must hate him. However, she embraces and kisses him when he arrives, having forgotten all his misdeeds. Brainiac deduces that Superman deliberately exposed Ardora to an amnesia gas, so she would forget any unpleasant memories.

Action335.end

Superman looks on at the two lovers with his telescopic powers, revealing in his thoughts that he let Luthor escape because Ardora is “too fine a girl to be hurt so deeply.”

Superman’s action, while merciful, is probably not the best for anyone, if considered from a realistic perspective (always a risk when dealing with these funny books that exist in their own paradigm). A marriage based on a lie cannot thrive.

It would have been better for Luthor to face Ardora and cop to all his wrong-doings and earn back her trust. We readers know that Ardora will forgive him, because she said that she still loves him in spite of everything. And where there’s love there’s hope. It would be better for Luthor to come clean and gain forgiveness from his wife. That might have helped redeem the villain in the long run. Superman has spared Lex some pain, but he might have helped Luthor become a better person, if he only let those chickens come home to roost.

That Ardora believes so quickly her husband is a criminal also seems questionable. All the other times in the past when Superman has made accusations against Luthor, Ardora and the Lexorians have not accepted this proof and continued to believe in Luthor as a hero.

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context of F] Ventor the ventriloquist brain-washes Clark Kent into hating Superman and wanting to kill him. In prison, Lex Luthor manufactures a vile of Virus X and slips it to Ventor, when the ventriloquist is performing at the prison (by throwing his boot at the entertainer). Ventor then gives the vile of the deadly virus to Clark. The reporter goes to an apartment where he remembers seeing Superman (in his altered mental state, he doesn’t realize this is his apartment and that he and Superman are one and the same).

In his effort to infect Superman, Clark accidentally infects himself and the shock restores his mind and his memory. Now infected with Virus X and having no cure, Superman’s body turns a sickly green. In a weakened state and slowly dying,  the Caped Kryptonian asks to be launched in a funeral capsule toward the distant star Flammbron, the hottest sun in the galaxy.

The hand of assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell is evident throughout this five-parter. In issue 364, in his last will and testament, Superman makes good on the promise he made all the way back in ACTION COMICS 241 (June ’68)–exactly ten years earlier–a special sports car for Jimmy and a string of priceless pearls for Lois.

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F] As Superman flies through the galaxy toward his final funeral pyre in the sun of Flammbron, his space ship bier passes by other worlds, including the planet Lexor. The people are enraged that Luthor has caused Superman’s death as they bring down his statue, rebelling against all of the super-scientific inventions he gave them. Ardora begs them to see reason and consider what Luthor has done for them, but they dismiss her pleas, given she is his wife.

Superman's Funeral, ACTION COMICS 365 (July '68), art by Andru and Esposito

Superman’s Funeral, ACTION COMICS 365 (July ’68), art by Andru and Esposito

Inside his funeral rocket, Superman flashes back on his life story. He recalls how Luthor first lost his hair and swore vengeance on Superboy. This issue of ACTION came out thirty years after the first issue, so these flashbacks and glimpses of different adventures in Superman’s life are probably meant as a celebration of that history.

ACTION COMICS 365 (July '68). Cover by Andru and Esposito.

ACTION COMICS 365 (July ’68). Cover by Andru and Esposito.

One of the last planets that the bier passes by is the Bizarro World, where the Bizarros hurl red and white Kryptonite at the capsule.

The effect of the white K is to kill the Virus X, as we see in the following issue, and Superman is cured. The Caped Kryptonian, in his weakened state,  might still have died in the Flammbron sun, if he was not rescued by the living flame Flammbronians. They owe him a debt, because he saved a fire-breather of a related race, when he was Superboy. Now full-powered, Superman returns to Earth only to find that there’s another Superman doing his job. At first he’s confused by who might be posing as himself, until he figures out that it’s the Justice League. Supergirl got them to share in the job of pretending to be Superman, until Kandor had decided who might be his permanent replacement.

Dorfman again portrays the Lexorians in a way that doesn’t agree with how Edmond Hamilton characterized them. On other occasions, when confronted with Luthor’s crimes, the Lexor people refused to believe that he was a villain. Why they would so quickly turn against Luthor and all his works that saved them from certain death is unaccountable. Furthermore, in his previous Lexor story, Leo Dorfman had Ardora lose faith in Lex–it’s ironic that this time she’s the one who keeps faith with her husband. [For more on this see the recap prior to H.]

However, on a pure story level, the reactionary fervour of the Lexorians reminds one of the same mob mentality in real world politics.

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G]  The Super Sons stories are deliciiously kooky by nature. In this adventure we see them heading out on the road, EASY RIDER style. But instead of each having his own hog, they both share the same motorbike. The story has a decidedly ’60s feel, yet it was published in ’76 and supposedly takes place in the future. On their travels, they encounter a hippy style chick named Dora Redson, who travels around in a psychedelic van. She gets them to help out with charitable work providing entertainment for down and out people in ghettos and prisons.

Doing a performance at a prison, the two young heroes dress up in clownish outfits as Gog and Magog–unaware that this is all a ruse of Dora’s to help Luthor escape. When Dora has fled the prison without them, the warden accuses the two of aiding and abetting the prison break out. They themselves get out of there, so they can hunt down Dora. Meanwhile, she has driven Luthor to an interstellar spaceship. Catching up with their quarry, the Super Sons stow aboard the spaceship and overhear her revelation to Lex that she’s his daughter, Ardora. Luthor never knew that his wife, Ardora, had had a daughter–the younger Ardora was born while Luthor was on Earth.

The Angel with a Dirty Name, WORLD'S FINEST COMICS 238 (June '76), art by Dick Dilin and John Calnan.

The Angel with a Dirty Name, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS 238 (June ’76), art by Dick Dilin and John Calnan.

Dora has freed Luthor so he can return to Lexor to find a cure for a plague that has afflicted many of the people there. The plague causes the sufferer to grow to giant size and will eventually kill anyone with the ailment. When they arrive on Lexor, they see that Dora’s mother, Luthor’s wife, has come down with the disease.

In fact, Lex created the plague himself as insurance that the Lexorians would free him from prison so he could use his super-science to cure them. He never imagined that his own wife would be infected. And now Luthor discovers that the antidote he had prepared in advance was destroyed by a meteorite.

Dora promises to work with her father to make a new cure, but they need the venom of a Terror Lizard, which can only be found in the Lost Zone on Lexor.

Superman’s Son offers to find this for them, even though he’s powerless under a red sun. However, Lex is able to filter out the effects of the red sun, so Superman’s offspring can regain his powers temporarily.

Batman’s Son insists on going along. While in the Lost Zone, Superman’s Son shows signs of the giant plague, but he’s cured by the venomous bite of the Terror Lizard. Returning to the city, Luthor is able to create an antidote for the plague from the blood of Superman’s Son.

The two Super Sons then take Luthor with them back to Earth, to pay for his crimes–with the hope that he will some day return to his family, having paid his debt to Earth.

It’s interesting that even though Dora comes from a planet which should be Krypton’s twin–with a heavier gravity orbiting a red sun–when she comes to Earth, orbiting a yellow sun, she doesn’t show signs of having any super-powers–except the power to make the Super Sons fall in love with her at first sight.

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recap prior to H] E. Nelson Bridwell had a long memory.

Immediately following the events in ACTION COMICS 265 (July ’68) [see F], the letter columns had reactions to the scenes shown on Lexor.

In the Metropolis Mailbag for 268, Kevin Zimmerman of Brooklyn says that Superman couldn’t have used his telescopic vision because of Lexor’s red sun. ENB answers that they goofed.

In 269’s letter column, frequent contributor Gary Skinner of Columbus, Ohio, can’t believe they had the Lexorians rebel against Luthor and warns that this needs to be fixed or else. Bridwell promises future developments.

But it seems like, other than a few reprints and a Super Sons story that doesn’t count because it’s not a part of ongoing continuity, Lexor has been forgotten as one of the concepts in the Luthor-writers’ tool kit. Yet an ENB never forgets.

In the Metropolis Mailbag for SUPERMAN 296 (February ’76), Bridwell brings up Superman’s Virus X vision of Lexor, in the context of Luthor’s battles with the Caped Kryptonian:

True, hatred is all Luthor has left—on Earth! But he has more on the planet LEXOR, where he is a hero and has a beautiful wife, Ardora. No, I haven’t forgotten the story some years back in which the LEXORIANS supposedly turned against Luthor. But that was apparently seen by SUPERMAN with his telescopic vision while passing through LEXOR’s star-system in a spaceship—and since LEXOR has a red sun, SUPES would have had no super-vision there!

LEXORTEXT.ENB

BEST OF DC [Blue Ribbon Digest] 27 (August '82). Cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano.

BEST OF DC [Blue Ribbon Digest] 27 (August ’82). Cover by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano.

The digest-sized BEST OF DC 27 (August ’82)–featuring Superman Versus Luthor–reprints the two parter from ACTION COMICS 318 (November ’64) – 319 (December ’64) [see D].

And the digest includes a new 3 page text piece by Nelson on the Story of Luthor, wherein the editor recaps some of Luthor’s  exploits on Lexor.

When getting to the Virus X controversy, he again addresses the matter of the rebellion that Superman witnessed in ACTION 265. And here he dismisses the episode entirely. Picking up on Gary Skinner’s complaint, ENB argues the revolution was not in the character of the Lexorian people. It must have been  a hallucination, concludes Bridwell, after all those years.

The Story of Luthor, by E. Nelson Bridwell, in BEST OF DC 27 (August '82).

The Story of Luthor, by E. Nelson Bridwell, in BEST OF DC 27 (August ’82).

And this only a year before Lexor made a comeback!

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ACTION COMICS 544 (June '83), art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

ACTION COMICS 544 (June ’83), art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

H] After another grueling battle with the Man of Steel, battered and bruised, Luthor escapes from Earth to Lexor.  Recovered from his injuries, he is greeted by his wife Ardora who presents him with a son, Lex Jr.  Luthor did not know that his wife had given birth to a child or he would have returned sooner. Still it’s indicated in this story that in the intervening years between the previous adventures and this one, Luthor has spent a good deal of time on his adopted world.

Lex resolves to stay on Lexor with his wife and son for the rest of his days and leave behind his criminal past. Ardora is fully aware of her husband’s crimes, but has long ago forgiven him. The family seem to be on a happy track, as the people of Lexor rejoice over the return of their hero.

Meanwhile back on Earth, Superman has destroyed the technology in Luthor’s Lair, but one robot clings to life long enough to remotely activate a satellite above the Earth. This was one of Luthor’s potential devices of attack which now casts a force-field around Metropolis, cutting it off from the rest of the world.

On Lexor, Lex receives a signal that this device has been activated and he knows that it will eventually bring Superman calling. He worries that he will be dragged back to Earth, away from his family and his happy life on Lexor. But Luthor has not been able to give up all his old ways. He still nurses a deep hate for Superman and one day discovers an underground installation, part of the advanced technology from the ancient civilization that once occupied Lexor.

To ensure that Lexor’s core will remain stable [this is not fully explained in the text, but perhaps being a twin of Krypton, the planet would likely succumb to the same doom] Luthor has erected a giant Neutrarod which towers above the planet and descends all the way down to the core.

Swan and Anderson art for ACTION COMICS 544 (June '83) in R.C. Harvey's THE LIFE AND ART OF MURPHY ANDERSON (2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 141.

Swan and Anderson art for ACTION COMICS 544 (June ’83) in R.C. Harvey’s THE LIFE AND ART OF MURPHY ANDERSON (2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 141.

When Superman comes to capture Luthor, as was always going to happen, the Man of Might manages to retain his powers by wearing a kind of sun screen that filters out the red sun energy. But this sun screen can only last for so long and the Man of Steel gradually loses power as he engages in battle with Luthor.

Lex has donned Lexorian battle armour he found in that underground installation and now uses its powers against his old enemy, but a force beam aimed at Superman bounces off the Caped Kryptonian and is channeled down the Neutrarod causing a chain reaction at Lexor’s core.

The planet explodes killing everyone, including Ardora and Lex Jr. Superman is helpless to save anyone and believes that Lex must’ve also been killed in the holocaust. Yet, in his battle armour, Luthor clings to a chunk of what was his adopted home, floating in space. Having lost everything, Luthor’s hate for Superman surpasses anything he has felt before.

ACTION COMICS 544 was a giant-sized 45th anniversary issue. The Luthor story, together with the Brainiac story that follows it in this issue,  was meant to bring new vitality to Superman’s two main arch-rivals.

And Luthor Unleashed is a beautifully executed story, even if it manipulates its actors a little too much in fulfillment of the destiny written for them. Swan and Anderson do an impressive job of depicting Lexor and the lovely Ardora. But it all seems such a waste. Yes, by taking away everything from Luthor, this tale succeeds in giving the villain a darker and grittier tone. Yet there is so much potential in Lexor. It’s aggravating to see Cary Bates pick up this concept after having totally ignored it for so many years, polishing it off and making it run–just to blow it all up in the end. It’s positively evil.

 Storylines in Publication OrderSynopses and Discussion * About Edmond Hamilton

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The Best Man: About Edmond Hamilton

edmond hamiltonI figured out that Edmond Hamilton was one of the best Superman writers, when his stories started to get reprinted by E. Nelson Bridwell in various giants, Super Spectaculars and 48 pagers.

Not all these stories had writer credits (usually ENB gave credits for the artists, like Curt Swan and George Klein, but he had no way of knowing who wrote every story).

Yet most of Hamilton’s scripts had a certain quality that defined them: the studied portrayal of alien cultures, the deep longings and reflections of the characters, the balanced plotting.

The Jungle Cat Queen--story: Edmond Hamilton; art: Dick Sprang and Charles Paris--as reprinted in BATMAN 198/G-43 (January-February '68) from DETECTIVE COMICS 211 (September '54).

The Jungle Cat Queen–story: Edmond Hamilton; art: Dick Sprang and Charles Paris–as reprinted in BATMAN 198/G-43 (January-February ’68) from DETECTIVE COMICS 211 (September ’54).

In the years since those stories were reprinted and as I’ve read other back issues, more credits for Hamilton’s work have been revealed, and I keep discovering that another story I admired, when I didn’t know the author, turns out to be a Hamilton.

Not only did Ed write many of the best Superman stories but he wrote some of the best Batman stories, as well. And all of those great WORLD’S FINEST team-ups of Superman and Batman. Then there’s his work on the Legion of Super-Heroes in ADVENTURE COMICS–their first great age when Hamilton and Jerry Siegel were setting the tone for the Legion and laying down the fundamentals of the team. Plus the various other comic books Ed wrote for–like the Julius Schwartz science fiction anthologies: MYSTERY IN SPACE and STRANGE ADVENTURES.

For all that, Edmond Hamilton did not establish his name in the funny books but rather in the arena of science fiction pulps.

When Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz were just teen-age science fiction fans, they started up their own science fiction fanzine, which brought them into contact with many of the science fiction writers they admired. Likewise they got to know the editors of the science fiction pulps that published those writers. In ’29, Mort and Julie saw an opportunity to help them and help themselves, by representing writers to editors. Their first client was Edmond Hamilton–

Our first submission came from Edmond Hamilton, a well-known science-fiction writer from New Castle, Pennsylvania, whose published stories we had enjoyed reading. The 7,000-word story was titled “Master of the Genes” and clipped to the manuscript was a dollar bill–our very first reading fee!

Mort and I opened the envelope, excited about its contents, and looked at the dollar bill, then at each other. We broke out in laughter.

For years we had bought magazines to read Hamilton’s stories, literally paid for the privilege, and now he was paying us a dollar to read a new one!

–Julius Schwartz, MAN OF TWO WORLDS (2000 HarperCollins), p. 25.

Hamilton was born October 21 ’04,  in Youngstown, Ohio and considered a prodigy when he was growing up. At only 14 years of age, he got into Westminster College in New Wilmington, Penn. But he never completed his studies, washing out at 17.

The August ’26 issue of WEIRD TALES published his first science fiction story, The Monster God of Mamurth. Hamilton quickly became a WEIRD TALES regular–his stories appearing alongside Robert E. Howard’s and H. P. Lovecraft’s–in the anthology edited by Farnsworth Wright.

Besides Mort and Julie, who lived in the Bronx, another young fan of Hamilton’s lived in Cleveland–Jerry Siegel, who began corresponding with him in the early ’30s. As his career flourished, Ed tried his hand at other genres, but science fiction remained his meat.

Captain Future and the Seven Space Stones by Edmond Hamilton, CAPTAIN FUTURE No. 5 (Winter '40). Cover painting by E. K. (Earle) Bergey?

Captain Future and the Seven Space Stones by Edmond Hamilton, CAPTAIN FUTURE No. 5 (Winter ’40). Cover painting by E. K. (Earle) Bergey?

Hamilton is closely associated with the science fiction hero Captain Future, as he wrote the bulk of those stories; however, it was really Mort Weisinger who created the character, when he was an editor for Better Publications in ’39, having left the literary agency he shared with Julie Schwartz. But Schwartz played a role in Captain Future’s creation, as well, by association. Mort came up with Captain Future at the first Science Fiction WorldCon, which Julie helped to organize, meant to coincide with the New York World’s Fair that year.

Captain Future was written to appeal to younger readers and his adventures appeared in the CAPTAIN FUTURE magazine throughout the ’40s. The hero is Curtis Newton, a brilliant scientist and exceptional athlete  of the future, raised by a scientist, a robot and a shape-shifting android, after his parents were murdered on the moon when he was a boy. Shy of the public eye, Newton takes the name of Captain Future and devotes himself to helping others throughout the solar system.

Schwartz and Hamilton had become very close friends and made a road trip together in ’41, driving from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, where Ed hoped to sell his car and Julie intended to give a cheque to a very young Ray Bradbury for his first sale as a writer. Bradbury was good friends with another of Julie’s clients, Leigh Brackett. Ray’s literary mentor, Brackett would hang out with Bradbury at Muscle Beach and they would toss around ideas for stories.

In MAN OF TWO WORLDS (p. 35), Julie tells of a time he was visiting Ed in California, where Hamilton was now living, when Schwartz was still his literary agent–

Ed would usually write during the afternoons, and I would nap on a nearby couch. Back in those days, way before word processors, typewriters used to make a ping (like a small bell) whenever the typist came to the end of a line. I was familiar enough with Ed’s scripts to know that he was averaging roughly ten words a line and that, since Hamilton was being paid the princely sum of a penny a word, the sound of each ping meant another penny for me since I was collecting a ten percent commission.

Each ping was followed by my exultation: “Another penny!”

Leigh Brackett had one of those names that you couldn’t tell if she was a man or a woman. But she was a woman. Still, with that name, she probably was able to sell more stories in the male-dominated science fiction genre. And Brackett would branch out to other masculine genres, like detective and mystery.

Brackett’s first novel, NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE, published in ’44, was a hard-boiled mystery and it got the attention of movie director Howard Hawks. Leigh had started work on a novella–LORELEI OF THE RED MIST–but only completed the first half, turning it over to Bradbury to complete–because she had to start work on the screenplay for THE BIG SLEEP (based on the Raymond Chandler novel). Hawks was surprised to find that this Leigh was a she and not a he, but he liked the Raymond Chander style of her novel and gave her a chance.

Leigh gained work from the success of that movie and became an established screenwriter, working on other Hawks movies, as well as writing for television.

On December 31 ’46, Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett were married, and Ray Bradbury stood up for Ed as the best man.

The Lone Wolf Legionnaire--story: Edmond Hamilton; art: John Forte--as reprinted in SUPERBOY 178 (October '71) from ADVENTURE COMICS 327 (December '64).

The Lone Wolf Legionnaire–story: Edmond Hamilton; art: John Forte–as reprinted in SUPERBOY 178 (October ’71) from ADVENTURE COMICS 327 (December ’64).

Also in ’46, Mort Weisinger had just returned to DC after his service in World War II, and he hired Hamilton to write Batman and then branching out to other DC features.

At first, Hamilton entered the new field with some trepidation, but then realized that comic scripts were just like the screenplaywriting that his new wife was doing.

Leigh and Ed moved into a 150 year old farmhouse in the Ohio countryside, where they lived and wrote, when they weren’t travelling around the world. He plotted his stories for Mort over the phone, but for the first few years they couldn’t get a private line and had to share a party line. With little old ladies listening in, Mort and Ed would concoct their thrilling crimes.

I sort of got some queer looks around the village in those days. But after we got a private line, my reputation improved.

–Edmond Hamilton, Fifty Years of Heroes: A Career Perspective, reproduced in THE LEGION COMPANION (October 2003, TwoMorrows Publishing), p. 42.

Every year, because of his fondness for bock beer, Ed liked to make a trip to New York around April. Bock beer was produced for Lent and you could only get it for a few weeks during that time. On these annual visits, Ed and Leigh would visit with Julie Schwartz and his wife, Jean.

On one visit, Julie and Jean took Ed and Leigh out to dine at the Blue Ribbon Café, the in place for all the Broadway stars. Young artist, Gil Kane came along–a big fan of Hamilton’s science fiction.

Of course, at DC, Schwartz was also one of Hamilton’s editors–along with Weisinger and Jack Schiff.  The fact that they were friends made no difference to Julius Schwartz the editor, who was firm with all his writers, no matter who they were.

Ed’s favourite script was Superman Under the Red Sun, for ACTION COMICS 300 (May ’63.)

It’s difficult to make up a suspenseful story about Superman, who’s invulnerable to ordinary harm, unless he’s vulnerable to something. And green kryptonite is a great help, as is the fact that Superman loses his powers when he is under the rays of a red sun.

–Edmond Hamilton, THE LEGION COMPANION, p. 41.

Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton, '76.

Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton, ’76.

In ’66, wishing to go globe trotting with Leigh to places like India and Egypt, Hamilton realized he wouldn’t be able to meet his deadlines at DC and so he retired from the funny book business.

For director Robert Altman, in ’73, Brackett wrote the screenplay for THE LONG GOODBYE, based on another Chandler novel.

Edmond Hamilton passed away on February 1 ’77.

Leigh Brackett completed the first draft of her screenplay for STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, but died March 18 ’78, a little more than a year after her husband.

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[A lot of the above inside info on Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett was gleaned from MAN OF TWO WORLDS: MY LIFE IN SCIENCE FICTION AND COMICS, by Julius Schwartz with Brian M. Thomsen, published by Harper Collins (2000) and from Hamilton’s own article Fifty Years of Heroes: A Career Perspective, reproduced in THE LEGION COMPANION, published by TwoMorrows (October 2003), originally printed in WEIRD HEROES, Vol. 6, published by Pyramid Books (1977).]

 Storylines in Publication OrderSynopses and Discussion * About Edmond Hamilton

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SUPERMAN created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster © 2013 DC Comics, used here for educational and review purposes.

All on sale dates might be approximate, as provided by Mike’s Amazing World of Comics (The Newsstand) and by other sources.

All characters, logos, and images are owned and © 2013 by current copyright holders. They are used here for educational and review purposes.

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