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Comic Book / The Death of Luthor

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The Death of Luthor is a Supergirl story published in Action Comics #286 (March, 1962). Plotted by Jerry Siegel and penciled by Jim Mooney, it features the first bout between Supergirl and Lex Luthor.

Kara Zor-El has gone public after the events of The Unknown Supergirl, and the world is still reacting to her presence. Though, Lex Luthor does not believe in her existence, and is determined to prove Supergirl is a hoax concocted by Superman. After finding out Supergirl is really a Kryptonian girl, he is just so resolute to prove his superiority.

Luthor's scheme to destroy Supergirl does not go as expected, though, and he is himself accidentally killed off with an experimental ray gun as he's trying to shoot Supergirl. His accidental but very convenient death, though, does not sit well with Kara. Luthor was supposed to rot in a prison cell for decades after being sentenced to life, and she would not want him to miss out on that singular experience.

Since Luthor used an experimental weapon powered by a strange energy source, maybe it is not too late to revive him? And then rubbing the fact that he owes his life to her into his face?


  • Antagonist Title: The story is named after of the villain who attempts to get rid of Supergirl.
  • Apocalypse How: While looking for a way to restore Luthor back to life, Supergirl visits a planet which was destroyed during a space war several eons ago. Its atmosphere was frozen into crystal, killing all lifeforms.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: After Supergirl reveals her existence to the public, Lex Luthor refuses believe she is real, despite notoriously and repeatedly clashing with a Kryptonian. He is utterly certain that Superman is hoaxing the underworld with a robot.
  • Baby Carriage: Subverted. The Maid of Might is chasing Lex Luthor's gang when she sees a baby carriage rolling down the street. Kara gives up the chase to try to stop it and finds out too late it is another of Luthor's traps.
  • Back from the Dead: Luthor dies, but Supergirl brings him back to life so that he is forced to serve his full sentence.
  • Bank Robbery: Luthor and his gang rob a bank by shrinking the building to move it to somewhere else, wherein they can enlarge it back and break into the safe leisurely.
  • Batman Gambit: Subverted. Luthor declares he will use his knowledge of feminine psychology to get rid of Supergirl, but his chosen method to lure her into a trap — a baby buggy dashing down the street — would work with any male hero.
  • Big Bad: Lex Luthor sets out to prove Supergirl is a Superman-fabricated hoax, and endeavors to destroy her when he ascertains she is real.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: After having one of his minions to toss one piece of Kryptonite at Supergirl, Luthor and his gang leave instead of staying around to make sure that she dies instead of crawling away or throwing the rock far away from her...which is exactly what Kara does.
  • Captain Obvious: After Lex Luthor explains he believes "Supergirl" to be a hoax created by Superman, one of his underlings exclaims: "A hoax!"
  • Cardboard Prison: Lex boasts he will escape from prison within 48 hours, and he does so by using mouth-wash, aspirin tablets and radio parts to create an invisibility serum.
  • Complexity Addiction: Lex Luthor builds a shrinking ray, a gravity-manipulating device and a darkness grenade to rob a bank.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Downplayed due to being a plot-irrelevant instance. Supergirl and her Atlantean friends Jerro and Lori are looking for a rare isotope. Supergirl lifts a sunken ship to collect some samples, and it just happens that ship was sitting onto an Atlantean hero's long-lost tomb.
  • Cruel Mercy: Kara revives Luthor because she doesn't want him to escape his life-term jail sentence through death.
    Lex Luthor: Before I was respected! Now the other criminals will laugh at me behind my back because I was saved by you!
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Supergirl takes two seconds to trash a pack of robotic soldiers who attack her during her quest in a frozen alien world.
  • Death by Depower: Invoked. Luthor pulls a depowering ray-gun to shoot Supergirl down as she is flying, expecting her to fall to her death, but he has no opportunity to use it.
    Lex Luthor: This nuclear Kryptonite ray-gun will steal away her powers! Rendered vulnerable, she'll fall to her death, ha, ha!
  • Disguised in Drag: One of Luthor's henchmen disguises himself as a woman to lure an unwary Supergirl into a trap.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Lex Luthor's criminal gang includes one man with dwarfism.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Luthor believes Supergirl brought him back to life so that everybody laughs at him for owing his life to her, and he refuses to believe otherwise. The reality is that Supergirl saved him because she wanted him to serve his full life sentence, and an early death would be too good for him.
    Lex Luthor: You made me live again, so I'd be a gangland laughingstock! — Before, I was respected! Now the other criminals will laugh at me behind my back because I was saved by you!!— Drat! The bullets only bounce off!
    Supergirl: You're wrong, Luthor! I did it so you'd finish paying your incompleted debt to society!
    Lex Luthor: You LIE!!
  • Evil Is Petty: At the start, Luthor wants to kill Supergirl because she is his nemesis' powerful ally. After being saved by her, Luthor wants to kill Supergirl because his hubris cannot take the fact that he has been both beaten and saved by an alien teen girl.
  • Evil Plan: Luthor devises a Supergirl-killing scheme by exploiting her emotions: While his gang rob a bank, two of his henchmen pose as a woman pushing her baby cart. When Supergirl shows up to arrest Luthor, the minion impersonating a woman pretends to lose control of "her" baby cart, forcing Supergirl to forget about Luthor to rescue the "baby". When she approaches the cart, the dwarfish minion hidden inside the vehicle hurls a piece of Kryptonite at her.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Supergirl revives Luthor when he accidentally kills himself because she wants him to rot in prison for decades instead of escaping punishment. After being brought back, Luthor makes clear he would rather stay dead than owing his life to her.
  • Fiendish Fish: Jerro tells Supergirl the story of a sea monster which attacked Atlantis long ago. Said monster looked like a Megalodon-sized cross between a catfish, an anglerfish and a dolphinfish.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: As she is lying on the street beside one piece of Kryptonite, Supergirl notices one nearby fire hydrant. Despite the debilitating, lethal radiation hurting her, she manages to unscrew the cap, and a stream of water sweeps the Kryptonite away.
  • Flashback: A single-panel flashback shows Luthor creating giant solar spheres to drive everyone out of Metropolis, thus allowing him to plunder the city leisurely.
  • Getaway Driver: Lex himself becomes his gang's getaway driver when they make off with the Metropolis National Bank.
  • Glacial Apocalypse: Supergirl visits a planet whose atmosphere was crystalized eons ago by an enemy army.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: While trying to murder Supergirl, Luthor accidentally shoots himself with his own ray gun.
  • Hollywood Darkness: When Luthor triggers his darkness bomb and plunges several city blocks into darkness, buildings and people are bathed in shades of blue, violet and purplish-grey. Supergirl and Luthor's gang can see just right (thanks to her X-Ray Vision and special googles, respectively), but everybody else are as blind as bats.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Luthor's ego does not take well the fact that he has been both beaten and saved by a girl. He picks a machine-gun and (obviously, uselessly) fires at Supergirl, crying out she has turned him into the underworld's laughingstock.
  • Inconsistent Coloring:
    • In one panel, Supergirl's legs are colored blue, making it look like she is wearing pants.
    • In another panel of the penultimate page, Supergirl being drawn in an awkward angle causes the colorist mistaking one third of her face for her cape's rim and coloring it red.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Luthor's shrinking ray temporarily turns several bank guards into ant-sized men.
  • Invisibility: Luthor concocts an invisibility serum to escape from prison.
  • Kill the Lights: Luthor uses a darkness grenade, which darkens several city blocks, to cover him and his gang up as they rob a bank.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Not only has Luthor Kryptonite enough to hand over chunks of it to his minions, but also, he has built a nuclear Kryptonite ray-gun.
  • Left for Dead: After taking Supergirl out with a piece of Kryptonite, Lex and his gang drive off rather than staying and making sure that the radioactive rock finishes the job. Hence, they are absolutely shocked when a few minutes later she is swooping over them.
  • Mook Horror Show: Luthor's mooks are not overly concerned about the police car chasing after them, but they become frightened out of their wits when they notice Supergirl flying towards them.
  • Mugging the Monster: A squad of robot soldiers see Supergirl flying out of the frozen planet which they are watching over, and unaware of her power, fire at her. Two panels later their broken bodies are scattered all over their ship's floor.
  • Mundane Utility: Linda uses her Super-Breath to prevent a soup pot from boiling over.
    Linda: (thinking) Oh-Oh! The soup pot's boiling over and will scald mother! I'll use my frigid super-breath...! There! My super-cold breath froze the overflowing soup before it could make a mess!
  • No-Sell: When Lex Luthor's big cannon hits but fails to harm Supergirl, Lex and his gang realize she is the real deal.
    Crook: You electronically moved aside those fake rocks, and made the buried big gun blast away at her! B-but the bursting shells aren't harming her!
  • Orbital Bombardment: Supergirl visits an alien world which was destroyed by an enemy spaceship shooting freezing beams which literally glassed the atmosphere.
  • Raised Hand of Survival: When Supergirl wraps Luthor in a special cocoon, the first sign that her method to revive him has worked is Luthor's hand breaking out of the shell and grasping upwards.
  • Reverse Polarity: Supergirl finds an alien world whose atmosphere has been crystallized by the beams of a hostile spaceship. After trashing the robots who were manning the ship, Kara restores the atmosphere to normal by studying their equipment and flipping a switch which causes the crystallized air to dissolve.
  • Right in Front of Me: While watching a news report, Dick Malverne gushes over Supergirl, as Linda is sitting next to him.
  • Sadistic Choice: When Supergirl comes along to stop Luthor from robbing a bank, Lex says she can arrest them...or she can stop a baby buggy which has slipped out of one woman's grasp and is rolling down the street. Supergirl chooses to save the baby, but she realizes too late that it is another Luthor's trap.
  • Schmuck Bait: Supergirl is about to catch Luthor and his gang when a baby cart suddenly and conveniently slips out of one woman's grasp and starts rolling down the street. Kara flies to save it and realizes too late that it was a trap. Both the "woman" pushing the cart, and the endangered "baby" were Luthor's minions in disguise, the latter of which hurls one Kryptonite rock at Kara when she gets close enough.
  • Seahorse Steed: Supergirl, Jerro and Lori ride three giant seahorses while searching the sea bottom for a rare isotope called "element z".
  • Shipshape Shipwreck: Supergirl, Jerro and Lori look for a rare isotope beneath a long-sunken Viking ship which looks relatively fine despite spending hundreds of years underwater (one broken mast and some holes in the hull is the only visible damage).
  • Shooting Superman: Even though he should know better, Luthor picks a machine gun, shoots at Kara and notes furiously that "The bullets only bounce off!"
  • Shrink Ray: Luthor builds a portable shrinking ray, which he uses to steal a bank...literally, the whole bank.
  • So Proud of You: After Kara has turned Luthor over to the police, her adoptive parents state how proud they are of her.
    Edna Danvers: I'm so proud of you! You're not only the most famous girl in the world, but a darling daughter!
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: Subverted. Luthor hurls a "grenade darkness", which blankets several city blocks with darkness, to loot a bank and get scot-free, but Supergirl — whose X-Ray Vision lets her see through the dark — steps between his gang and the getaway car.
  • Taking You with Me: Many ages ago, an Atlantean warrior saved Atlantis from a sea monster by tying a bomb to himself and crashing into the monster.
  • There Was a Door: When Supergirl is attacked by a hostile warship while leaving an alien world, she crashes herself through the hull to swiftly tear apart the robots manning the ship.
  • Third-Person Flashback: At one point, Jerro recounts via flashback the story of the battle between the Atlantean hero Garr Rindaz and a sea monster, which took place long before Jerro was born.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When he realizes that Supergirl is chasing after their getaway car, Luthor (who is driving) turns around to shoot her while keeping one hand on the steering wheel. Inevitably, his car crashes into a guardrail, Luthor bangs his arm and shoots himself. A fate which could have been averted if he had ordered one of his underlings to shoot her as he focused on driving.
  • Underestimating Badassery: After verifying that Supergirl is real, Luthor declares he will destroy her easily. By the end of the story, he has been bested (repeatedly), humiliated and once again jailed.
    Lex Luthor: With my great knowledge of psychology, I'll destroy her by playing on her feminine traits!
    Lex Luthor: You made me live again, so I'd be a gangland laughingstock! — Before, I was respected! Now the other criminals will laugh at me behind my back because I was saved by you!!
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Luthor does not react well to learn he has been revived by Supergirl.
    Lex Luthor: Supergirl! Blast you! Why didn't you die?!
    Guard: What a rotten way to talk, Luthor! She just brought back to life! Where's your gratitude?!
    Lex Luthor: What? This miserable female brat saved my life? Give me that machine-gun!
    Guard: Have you gone crazy? You actually hate her for bringing you back from the dead!
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Lex Luthor learns he has been defeated and revived by Supergirl, he completely loses his mind, to the point he picks a firearm and shoots at her madly, despite knowing bullets are useless. He then bursts into tears and declares he loathes her even more than Superman.
  • Villain Cred: Luthor blows up when Supergirl saves his life because he, who used to be respected by all criminals, will become the gangland laughingstock from now on thanks to her.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: When Supergirl interferes with his gang's bank heist, Luthor tries to keep her distracted with a false emergency as they try to get away.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Kara brings Lex Luthor back to life shortly after trashing a trio of robot soldiers without a care.