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Comic Book / The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor

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The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor is a Superman storyline published in Action Comics #332, #333, and #335 (issue #334 was a giant-size reprint), written and illustrated by Leo Dorfman and Al Plastino.

Lex Luthor has escaped from a distant prison planet, forcing Superman to start a galaxy-wide manhunt. As he looks for his enemy on Lexor, the planet where Lex Luthor is considered a hero due to leading a one-man worldwide industrial revolution, Superman accidentally causes Lex's wife Ardora to learn her husband is a criminal. When she tells Lex about it, Luthor becomes incensed and declares he will take revenge on Superman. But he won't kill him. He has a better idea: psychological warfare.

Over the next several weeks, Superman is repeatedly saved from lethal attacks and death traps by Luthor. As he is being driven crazy by paranoia, his powers seem to malfunction, and he messes up every mission he undertakes.


  • 10-Minute Retirement: Luthor's psychological warfare is so efficient that Superman loses his self-confidence and becomes convinced that he is useless, so he considers giving up his career. He changes his mind when he realizes that his failures were a ploy on his nemesis' part.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: A pair of scientists run several tests on a Kryptonian sword, finding out it can slice through steel beams and cut diamonds in half like hot butter.
    Scientist 1: Amazing! This metal is so strong it can shear through a steel beam as though it were cheese!
    Scientist 2: It sliced that diamond— the hardest known substance— like a marshmallow! Since he, too, comes from Krypton, Superman is as vulnerable to this sword as an ordinary Earthman is to fine steel!
  • Antagonist Title: The story revolves around Lex Luthor's scheme to drive Superman crazy and useless.
  • Artistic License – Geology: Luthor builds a weather-altering machine which starts a new ice age, and the people of Metropolis treats the possibility of glaciars burying their city as an immediate danger instead of a future threat (the fastest glacier in the world only advances up to 40 metres per day).
  • Artistic License – Space: The story first refers to the outer space celestial body where Luthor has been imprisoned as an asteroid, even though asteroids drift around the inner Solar System, and are too small to have an atmosphere (let alone the complex plant lifeforms seen in the background). The following panels show the writer is using the words "asteroid" and "planet" interchangeably.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Lex permanently damages a rabbit's brain to test his skills at psychological manipulation.
  • Batman Gambit: After realizing his supposed mental collapse is a Luthor-Brainiac scheme, Superman behaves crazily in public, knowing that both villains will want to come out and admire their work. And they indeed take the bait.
  • Battle of Wits: When Superman realizes that Luthor is gaslighting him into madness, he pretends his mind has truly snapped, knowing that his nemesis will be unable to resist the temptation to come out and gloat, giving him the opportunity to capture him.
  • Big Bad: Lex Luthor (later backed by Brainiac) tries to take revenge against Superman by driving him mad.
  • Cardboard Prison: Superman throws Lex in a distant planet prison where escape attempts are harshly punished, and although Luthor spends several months in prison, he still manages to escape by looting parts of a derelict spaceship. It helps nobody was apparently watching him as he built his gadgets and took off. When Superman hears the news, he seriously wonders if Luthor can even be held.
    Prison Guard: Interplanetary space prison calling Superman. Luthor has escaped!
    Superman: Great Krypton! Can no prison hold him?
  • Continuity Nod: A footnote remembers readers that Van Benson became the Daily Planet's acting editor when Perry White was appointed as a U.S. Senator in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #62.
  • Deadly Environment Prison: The planet-prison where Lex Luthor, Brainiac and three members of the Legion of Super-Villains are serving time is located on a distant planetoid and surrounded by an inhospitable mountainous desert. Even if an inmate managed to walk out of the only inhabited place in the entire planetoid, he would have no way out of the planet and face the possibility of dying from thirst and hunger.
  • Death from Above: A pirate gang are gunning Superman down when one missile drops on them and smashes their vessel in half. Said missile was sent by Luthor, who didn't appreciate their attempt to steal the "pleasure" of killing Superman from him.
  • Engineered Heroics: While trying to drive Superman crazy, Luthor builds a robot to return stolen money to a bank, expecting Superman to misinterpret the robot's purpose, destroy it, and then be criticised by the public.
  • Evil Gloating: When Superman at last figures out the real source of his plight, he lures Luthor and Brainiac out by pretending he has completely lost his marbles, well-aware that they will be unable to resist the temptation to come out to gloat.
    Superman: I realized that my crack-up was part of a conspiracy that you planned, Luthor. I smoked you out by pretending to go amok. I knew you rats would come here to gloat. So I was ready for you!
  • Evil Plan: Lex Luthor schemes to drive Superman crazy by saving his life multiple times and manipulating his powers until Kal-El becomes a nervous wreck.
  • Gaslighting: Lex Luthor plots to destroy Superman psychologically by saving his life multiple times and manipulating people's perception of him. After weeks of demoralization, Superman eventually figures out what's going on and pretends to have a mental breakdown to make Luthor think he finally won.
    Mook: Hey! This rabbit must have flipped! Why is it running in circles?
    Lex Luthor: Because it's trapped in a maze and can't figure a way to get out to eat its food! The creature is so baffled that its brain has been permanently affected! And that's what I'm doing to Superman. I'm using psychological warfare to drive him mad!
  • Get Out!: As he's hunting for Luthor, Superman travels to Lexor and runs into Ardora, who shouts at him to get off the planet while throwing stuff at him.
  • Glacial Apocalypse: Luthor builds a weather-altering machine, ushering in a new glacial period.
    Henchmen: Your dyno-frost machine is terrific, Luthor! It's altering the climate for hundreds of square miles!
    Lex Luthor: Ha, Ha! I've started a new Ice Age. Those advancing glaciers will panic the city and we'll be able to loot to our hearts' content!
  • Heroic BSoD: Lex Luthor spends weeks gaslighting Superman until the Man of Steel becomes convinced that he is cracking up. He becomes unable to do anything because he believes he will inevitably mess it up, and even considers hanging up his cape.
    Mook: Superman sounds awfully sure of himself!
    Lex Luthor: Relax! That rat doesn't know it, but he's on borrowed time...tottering on the brink of a mental collapse! And I'm the guy who's going to push him over!
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Luthor repurposes an abandoned prison island into one of his secret lairs because who would suspect he would hole up in a prison?
    Lex Luthor: This abandoned island prison is one of my secret lairs. It's equipped with my most advanced weapons. Who would suspect I'd use a prison for a hideout?
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Lex breaks Brainiac out to help him carry out his scheme. The evil duo then kidnaps and impersonates a pair of psychiatrists looking to evaluate Superman's mental health and ability to use his powers safely. During testing, though, they ask Superman to use his X-Ray Vision to identify one bomb out of a selection of objects, failing to realize that Superman would recognize Brainiac's tech. Superman stealthily scans both "psychiatrists", and he sees through both their disguises and Luthor's gaslighting ploy.
  • Holographic Disguise: Luthor builds a device which projects a holographic disguise, but he uses it on Superman instead of himself to make people believe his nemesis has turned into a monster.
  • Hypno Ray: Luthor uses a "hypno machine" to convince Superman that Metropolis is about to be engulfed by a gigantic glacier.
  • Imagine Spot: After explaining to two fellow inmates how he plans to gaslight Superman until it drives him crazy, Luthor imagines Superman turned into "a quaking, cowering wreck— a mindless, human vegetable!"
  • Institutional Apparel: Luthor wears a frayed dark-grey jumpsuit as he does road work in an asteroid prison. Amusingly, he is the only prisoner who is seen wearing one.
  • It's All About Me: Luthor thinks everybody should are aware of and abide by his "Nobody is allowed to kill Superman but me!" wishes, as indicated by him shouting "They can't do that to me!" when a gang of smugglers nearly succeed in killing his archenemy.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: A gang of smugglers have outfitted their pirate ships with Kryptonite ray cannons just in case they run into Superman.
  • Latex Perfection: Luthor and Brainiac impersonate General Blade and his assistant after kidnapping them, and their full-face masks fool everybody until they make a mistake which cause Superman to scan them.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: While serving time in an asteroid prison where attempts to escape are punished by turning the perpetrator into a glass statue, Luthor finds a crashed spacecraft. Even though the ship has been smashed by the guards and its fuel removed, Luthor stealthily salvages the wrecked ship for parts, builds one machine which turns the glassified inmates into rocket fuel and a space suit capable of interplanetary travel, and escapes from prison.
  • Living Battery: While trapped in an asteroid-prison, Lex transforms the bodies of several inmates -who had been previously turned into glass statues when they attempted to break out- into rocket fuel for a spacecraft.
  • Made Out to Be a Jerkass: As part of his ploy to drive Superman crazy, Lex Luthor waits until his enemy is off world, and he then announces he has reformed and he is going to return the money he stole from all his bank holdups. When Superman returns, unaware of Luthor's "repentance", and spots what looks right like one of Luthor's bank-busting robots transporting a suspicious bomb-looking object to one bank, he destroys the robot and is immediately berated by everyone for interfering with Luthor's reform.
  • Never My Fault: When Ardora discovers her husband is a criminal, Luthor blames Superman instead of himself for committing crimes or lying to his fiancée about his past life.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and three members of the Legion of Super-Villains -Saturn Queen, Lightning Lord and Cosmic King- are trying to come up with ways to escape from an asteroid prison. When Luthor manages to salvage the remains of a crashed spaceship and build a spacefaring flying suit, his fellow inmates think he has found a way out for them...until he takes off, gloating he only cares for himself.
    Saturn Queen: Luthor! Wait! ... The double-crossing rat took off without us!
    Lex Luthor: It's every man for himself! There's just enough fuel to propel me to my destination!
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: When Lex saves Superman from some smugglers, two mooks ask him why on Earth he protected his nemesis. Luthor replies nobody is allowed to kill Superman but him.
    Mook: Luthor, you wanted to destroy Superman! Those smugglers were doing the job for you. Why'd did you stop them?
    Lex Luthor: Because I wanted the pleasure of doing it myself. No one else will destroy Superman but me...ME...ME!
  • Percussive Therapy: When Ardora reveals she has found out he is a criminal after talking to Superman, Lex Luthor vents his anger by trashing their furniture and smashing chairs into the walls.
  • Price on Their Head: A would-be assassin reveals that the criminal underworld has placed a $1,000,000 bounty on Superman's head.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Superman is seen attacking the Sea-hawk, a pirate ship belonging to a smuggling fleet. The ship's crew are so well-armed than they own Kryptonite laser cannons.
  • Shout-Out: As he's trashing swiftly a Luthor's robot, Superman quotes a variation of Julius Caesar's famous "Veni, vidi, vici (I came; I saw; I conquered)" phrase.
    Superman: He came... He saw... I conquered!
  • Supervillain Lair: When Lex Luthor returns to Earth, he heads towards one of his secret hideouts: an abandoned prison island where he keeps advanced weaponry, guarded by a stand-by crew.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Luthor's surveillance systems can monitor his wife Ardora, who lives in another planet, whenever he wants (in his defense, he switched on his monitor because he was worried about her).
  • Taken for Granite: In the asteroid prison where Luthor, Brainiac and three members of the Legion of Supervillains were serving time, prisoners who attempt to escape get shot with a ray which turns them into hard crystal statues.
    Prison Guard: Escape? Ha, Ha! Forget it, Luthor! Take a look at what our H-3 ray gun did to the last bunch of cons who tried to get away!
    Lex Luthor: That ray must've turned them to solid crystal!
  • Teleport Gun: Superman uses a portable teleport beam to travel from Earth to Lexor -a red sun world where his powers do not work- instantly.
  • Tempting Fate: The story opens with Jimmy Olsen complaining that life has become boring since Superman dumped Lex Luthor in a remote space prison. Not long after that scene, Luthor escapes from prison and puts in motion another ploy to hurt Superman.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: Superman needs to travel to Lexor, so he modifies an experimental teleport ray to work not only on inanimate objects but also on living beings. The scientists who built the prototype warn him that he is running a great risk, but Superman decides to use it without prior testing. Luckily for him, he is teleported safely to his destination.
    Superman: If my plan works, the teleport ray will dissolve my atomic structure and reassemble me on far off Lexor!... Then, after five minutes, this timer on my belt will reverse the action and transport me back to Earth!
    Scientist: You're taking a great risk! If it doesn't work...
    Narrator: But Superman makes the gamble, and as the trigger is activated...
  • Ungrateful Bastard: As soon as Superman makes a series of mistakes (secretly caused by Lex Luthor), the people of Metropolis start laughing at him, mocking him and collecting signatures demanding he gets out of town.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: When their last resort fails, Luthor and Brainiac opt for flying into space to flee from Superman.
  • Villain Respect: Superman does not know why Luthor is saving him from several assassination attempts, but even so he gives Luthor credit for that in an interview. As reading the newspaper, Luthor is forced to admit his enemy is fair.
    Lex Luthor: Superman certainly is fair in this interview! Even though he despises me, he gives me full credit for saving his life!... He's a worthy opponent for my genius. Perhaps I should spare him!
  • Villain Team-Up: Lex breaks Brainiac out of the prison planet to help him carry out his scheme's final part.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The two unnamed mooks who were working for Luthor in the first two issues are conspicuously absent in the final one.
  • Worthy Opponent: As reading a newspaper article where Superman is giving him credit for saving his life, Luthor privately admits Superman is a fair, worthy enemy, and briefly considers ditching his revenge ploy.
  • Zeerust: Luthor brings about a revolution in planet Lexor by introducing scientifical marvels which could not be dreamed up by 1960s' Earth's science. Said super-advanced high tech includes bulky, non-wireless headphones.