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the Tragedy of Lex, part II

I've been getting some really thought-provoking comments on the last rant on this, enough to want to compose a follow-up to place the blame where it really belongs. It's not really Clark, asshat or not. It's poor writing.

I said before that "Asylum" was Lex's most tragic moment, for being his most noble. The first time I read the recap of "Asylum" I was furious at Clark. But watching the episode itself, I honestly don't blame him. It's an incredibly tough position he's in. He knows firsthand how dangerous Lionel is, so much so that he's not sure how to save Lex from him; he's grateful that Lex's brain didn't get totally fried, and terrified that next time it might be, or worse. Not to mention, he's only 16 or 17 years old, and mental illness is scary. Especially when it's your cool, reliable, older friend who has always only ever been in control of every situation. Even knowing Lex's psychosis was initially drug-induced, it's still beyond Clark's understanding, beyond the limits of even his strengths. I honestly believe Clark doesn't tell Lex about those lost seven weeks then because he's worried about Lex, and not his secrets at all.

"Memoria", though, is pretty unforgivable. Going to Lionel, fully knowing what Lionel did to Lex before, what Lionel's love for his son means in practice...it doesn't even make sense. Except that Clark Kent has apparently read the comic books like everyone else, and knows Lex is doomed to be his enemy.

Ultimately? The biggest tragedy of Lex is that the SV writers wrote themselves into a corner. In the very beginning, having rewatched the pilot, they wrote Lex quite ambiguous - maybe he was a sincere friend, or maybe he was just using people, seducing them for his own ends. But then they made it clear that Lex's feelings went far beyond slick sociopathic manipulation, and ultimately damned themselves.

There was a way out, and I don't know why they didn't take it. "Memoria" is a crux already. The shocking revelations about Julian's death pretty much cement Lex's place as victim as much as perpetrator of his future crimes: abuse victims become abusers themselves, it's not moral as much as psychological, and after enduring the childhood implied by Lillian's murder, it's frankly amazing that Lex turned out as well as he did.

Instead of that confession, what if the episode had gone completely differently? By the end of third season, it would have been reasonable for the good Lex of the earlier series to start slipping down into the darkness that is destined to claim him. So what if Lex had regained his memories of Clark and his powers - and had turned on him? Had pulled an Onyx!Lex and sought to get control over Clark, had threatened blackmail or exposure or worse? And then at the episode's end he could have lost the memories again, returned to the status quo none the wiser - but Clark would have been, and we viewers as well.

Then Clark's reluctance to ever tell Lex the truth would make sense. Then Clark rejecting Lex's friendship at the end of season 3, and tentatively accepting it back in season 4, would have been an act of great, if foolish, generosity, wanting to believe in Lex even knowing better. Not the smartest thing to do, but the right thing to do, as a friend.

And yes, it would have made Lex a far less sympathetic character - but he's the villain. You're not supposed to sympathize with him that much, certainly not at the hero's expense. And every time Clark lies to Lex afterward, it would have been justified. Maybe not totally right - it's still lying - but understandable.

But the writers didn't do this. I guess they couldn't do it. Because even as late as third season, it wouldn't have been in character for the Lex Luthor they had been writing, the Lex Luthor who risks or offers anything for his friends, the Lex Luthor who suffers guilt to the point of recklessness, who would instantly exchange himself for a roomful of hostages, who would test an experimental cure on himself rather than risk someone else under his care dying. The Lex Luthor who knows his self-proclaimed best friend is lying to him, and yet still is willing to throw all his questions away for the sake of that friendship. This Lex, you can't see betraying Clark, not at that point in the series, not for any reason. Having written this Lex, they had no choice but to write Clark as inexplicably petty and selfish with his secrets as he is, or else they never would have been able to fulfill the demands of comic-book destiny. They developed a Lex Luthor with such a strong or desperate heart that he would not walk away from Clark Kent - and left themselves no choice but to write a Superman who would walk away from Lex Luthor, even when he reaches out for help.

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
naye
Jan. 23rd, 2007 09:07 am (UTC)
Hey, I've seen those two episodes! Or most of them, anyway, since I've only ever watched Smallville when I've come across it channel-surfing on a boring day... I remember liking them. I remember thinking that if Smallville could only be more of this, it could be a good show. Possibly even an awesome show - what you're describing is something that holds the potential to be something great. And even though I've long been convinced that Smallville sucks, reading your posts on Lex and Clark and the choices the writers have made makes me genuinely sad. The wasted opportunities, that they had a chance to explore this, make Clark a likeable hero, make you ache for him... and instead they went for the teenage melodrama and making you ache for Lex! Now what's all that about?

Seriously. Any idea why they've been writing Lex so... unambiguous? Is it because he's the more interesting character of the two, and his driving forces and nightmares are more fun to explore, but they can't do that if he's half-evil? Or what?
xparrot
Jan. 23rd, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
The "Shattered"-"Asylum" set, and "Memoria" completing the trilogy (it's much later in the season) are, from what I've seen, about the best SV has to offer. They're pretty darn good! Potential, as you say. They're heart-wrenching and genuinely tragic. "Asylum" is the most painful because it's not Clark or Lex's fault, but Lionel and various meteor mutants, and they're both trying their hardest, and fail anyway. But at least they try...

I don't know why they wrote Lex that way. The last couple seasons he's gone pretty completely evil (I haven't seen most of those yet, so don't know why) but he was definitely not faking it the first few. My guess is that the series got so much attention for the revolutionary take on Lex Luthor, it was the most successful part of the show, that they decided to run with it, without taking into account where they eventually might want to bring the character. Thinking ahead is not a typical TV producer's strong point...(casting Michael Rosenbaum didn't help their cause, either - he's really good at playing vulnerable. He's really good at playing slickly deceptive, too, but...)

(in other news I love that icon! *pats the Aoshima-puppy*)
yma2
Jan. 23rd, 2007 02:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what I can say to this except a general 'yeah, you're right.'
Having not seen these two episodes (though I desperately want to, Especially Asylumn) I can't give that much of a comment.
However... I think part of the difficulty is that (and this is the impression I have from what little I've seen,) they're still trying to keep Lex slightly ambiguous. They want us to be rooting for him, even now in the sixth season. They want us to cheer along and hope, HOPE that he'll do the right thing. It's quiet compelling and it works, but it does make Clark look like a bit of a... er... idiot.
But then, there's nothing wrong with a hero with flaws. IMO Superman could use more of them.
xparrot
Jan. 23rd, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, they definitely are stringing along the emotions of the audience with Lex. And I can't fault them for that; villains and anti-heroes in shades-of-gray are terribly appealing. But they could've made Lex a little more evil, and Clark a little less asshat-ish...or stupid. Yeah, the other way to interpret most of what Clark does is to think he's so dumb he can't see how he's hurting people with his lies. Which is in some ways the more satisfying explanation; a hero who's well-meaning but not too bright is still more heroic than one who's petty and selfish.

And agreed, that flaws make any char interesting. Though I admit to having a fascination with Superman-as-ideal, and what that means when set on the base of a human being (or reasonable facsimile thereof). But Clark as shown in SV doesn't even suffer for his flaws - he doesn't seem that hurt by losing Lex's friendship, for instance - and that's just frustrating.
yma2
Jan. 23rd, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)
I think that last point is the one I really agree with. I would like to see that element of regret, from either Clark or Lex, and from what I've seen of the sixth season that just doesn't seem to be there.
Although, for reasons beyond my comprehension, Lyonal actually is becoming... er... nicer?
It's quite good in a way, as it's utterly swapping round teh cleche. I can't think of another example off hand where the Evil!Father is redeemed but is son sinks into evil.
I suppose I should commend SV for that, but for some reason I'm not quite sure..
Oh, a good (and spoiler-less) line in a recent ep..

Guy 1: I want a lawyer!'
Lex: And I want a ponytale, dissapoinment abounds.'

I can't imagine Lex with a ponytale...
jakrar
Jan. 23rd, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
This is strictly my own opinion; I have no special insight into what TPTB are planning. That said, however, I don't believe for a minute that Lionel Luthor is really 'good' now. I think he wants Clark under his thumb and Martha in his bed, and his best chance at getting both of those things is to convince Clark and Martha that he truly is reformed, that he has their best interests at heart. So he's playing a role, trying to look like a loyal and caring friend to the Kents, all the while planning who knows what kind of underhanded things. Lionel is evil; he has always been evil; he will always be evil. Of that, I have NO doubt.
yma2
Jan. 23rd, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
Mmm.. I'm not sure. You may be right. Then again... one of the things that is getting me into this show is actually the ambiguity of Lex and Lional. It's wonderfully well done I'll give them that, and I honestly can't tell whether or not he is reforming. I kind of hope he is, because it would make a delicious twist, but on the other hand you could well be right.
I honestly can't say.
I think it either helps, or doesn't help, that I'm really starting watching this show from the sixth season, which gives me a bit of a skewed vision.
It's leaving things very open, which is very entertaining.
jakrar
Jan. 23rd, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
Ah, Lex. I honestly don't see SV's Lex as 'evil' at all. He's obsessive, certainly, and capable of doing questionable things for the sake of what he sees as the greater good, but he's not a vicious, sadistic monster (like, say, Oliver Queen), no matter what some of the other SV characters might think.
yma2
Jan. 23rd, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
I think I'll agree with you there, but I'll also agree with X-Parrot in that the creators of SV are almost trying to make him that, which he's not. To be fair I think he's more than a little pragmatic, and could be vicious if need be, but I don't think he's neccesarally... evil.
He's just... driven to be great.
I'm not sure about Oliver Queen though, I don't actually mind him that much. I can't say he's ever going to be a favorite character any time soon, but he's OK.
Oh, and here's a vid for both you and X-parrot. It was recced by a friend and when I saw it... well, it made me start watching Smallville again. It's sorta Clex and it's VERY good.
http://obsessive24.imeem.com/video/rVnM7nZt/sv_change/?ct=glKh9x
jakrar
Jan. 24th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
I utterly LOATHE Oliver Queen (at least the one we've seen on SV). As we were shown in flashbacks, Queen has long been a sadistic monster who enjoyed preying on those weaker than himself (such as Lex and his friend Duncan back in their school days at Excelsior). After Duncan was killed, Oliver realized that people might finally come to see him as the monster he truly was, and the thought bruised his ego, so he decided to don a more 'heroic' image: he chose different victims -- people he could claim were 'evil' and deserved everything he might do to them -- and preyed upon them instead. He got the same thrill out of tormenting these new victims as he had out of tormenting the old ones, but now Oliver could openly villify his victims to public applause while stealing from them as the Green Arrow, and then -- since he had no need of the money himself -- he could turn over whatever he stole to charity and look like a 'good guy' in both his guises. In Queen's eyes, it's the perfect solution: he still gets to torture people, yet the more gullible sections of the public think he's a 'hero.' Frankly, I'm deeply relieved that the bastard is off the show. I just hope it's for good.
yma2
Jan. 24th, 2007 12:57 am (UTC)
Now you see, I don't get that at all. I think that, sure, he was a bit of a bastard when he was younger, and sure, he's got problems now, but I don't think he's a bad person any more. I think he's trying his best to do better.
He's never going to be one of my favorite characters but I don't have a problem with him.
Having said that I do very much see where you are coming from here. I don't agree, but that all just comes down to interpretation I guess.
It's interesting how two people can interpret a character so tottaly differently, don't you think?
jakrar
Jan. 24th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)
It is interesting. So much is subjective.
jakrar
Jan. 24th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
Whoops! I meant to thank you for the link to the vid; it sounds interesting, and I look forward to watching it.
xparrot
Jan. 24th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC)
Lex is doing some naughty things now but no, fundamentally he's not evil. But then even Lex Luthor of the comic books or JLU is not entirely evil, at least not in the sociopathic sadistic way of, say, the Joker. He's a criminal, ruthless, arrogant, and utterly convinced that the ends justify any means, but he's not out to destroy the world or hurt people for the sake of hurting people. More amoral than unmoral. It sort of depends on one's definition of "evil." Lex himself doesn't cast himself as the villain, while the Joker does, and enjoys every minute of it. But then the tragedy of Lex always has been that he has the potential to be one of the greatest men - and heroes - in history, if only his motives were a little different...

I haven't seen any of 6th season except "Justice" so I can't comment on Oliver Queen - he was rather cute in that ep but I don't know anything about his char. (I'd worry that my opinion would be biased anyway, because I flipping adore Green Arrow in JLU; he's hysterical...!)

And eee, I love that vid! I've had it for a while, it's one of my faves. Isn't it gorgeous? I love the use of the comic book shots, they emphasize it all so tragically...
yma2
Jan. 24th, 2007 03:56 am (UTC)
It is a great vid. Can you recommend me any more good vids? Ones that are accessable via stream-load if possible. I like watching AMVs but finding good ones is kinda like looking for needles in haystacks.

Green Arrow... I feel kinda meh about him. He's OK. Nothing to write home about. Justice was a good ep, but I'm getting tired of the 'Wow, this boy has a secret he won't share now I hate him!' Why is it always girls that pine after boys with Mysteroius Alter Ego's then get pissy when they're not around to have dinner with them or something. Do you see guys doing that?
Oooh, commitment! ::female swoon::
Sorry, I'm not an ultra feminist or anything, but that does annoy me a bit.
You are right, btw. The romance angle is Smallville's weakness, though I'm actually quite interested in what they're doing to Lana. She seems to be becoming evil, which is kinda fun.
I think villains, really good villains, come in two categories. 1: Utterly Irrideemably Evil, (AKA Joker (to an extent), Apocolypse, Zork, quite possibly Legato Bluesummers, Voldemort, ect...) and Evil With A cause So the could Almost be Good. (Lex, Magneto, Bakura (**arguably,** not sure about this one myself but...) Millions Knives, Snape, ect...)
Generally I find the latter category more interesting, though the former is fun too. But teh latter has more possiblity for character exploration. These tend to be the characters I'm interested in, anyway.
BTW, in case you're interested... I've written a entry in my LJ on character hatred, sort of inspired by Jakrar said. I'd be interested on your opinions, if you can spare them.
Thanks!
xparrot
Jan. 24th, 2007 06:07 am (UTC)
Ah, I've been d/ling vids like mad lately! ^^ A few not to be missed:
http://theclexfactor.livejournal.com/tag/vids If you haven't seen these, they're ummissable. I don't know how to describe them; they're fanfic and vids at once, using footage to tell their own (marvelously Clexy) story.
http://www.somedistantgalaxy.com/vidsindex.htm - you can look here. Especially look for vyperman7 (aka Ryan Deffley; he's got more here: http://superkain.net/?cat=3) - he does fantastic work, beautifully timed and active. And "Brothers by Destiny" is one of the most lovely Clex vids I know, even if he claims it's not slash.
http://community.livejournal.com/sv_vids/68857.html - for anything else, try here. It's like a Clex masterlist!
(and if you're looking for non-Clex...er, sorry. I'm very...singleminded ^^;)

I am proud to call myself a feminist, and the femme chars in SV...drive me up a wall. They pine and primp and barely have any purpose beyond their love lives, and they cannot move past those for anything. Chloe just annoys the hell out of me, because she's awesome and funny and smart, but will not let go of the Clark thing and that just strikes me as unbelievable. I don't know any girls myself who'd carry a torch (er, pardon the pun) for six years for a guy who continually strings them along, no matter how hot he may be. It's just pathetic. Platonic friendship, guys - yes, it can happen. And high school crushes rarely last past high school (thank god). Yargh. Blech.
*ahem* Sorry. Like I said. Drives me up a wall ^^;

Read your lj post! Interesting thoughts, I left my own there...
xparrot
Jan. 24th, 2007 03:47 am (UTC)
I just wish the show creators had your certainty! One of my problems with Smallville is that I get the idea that TPTB never really think any of this through...later, they may well decide that Lionel's been evil and plotting all along (that's what I think, too) but I don't know if he's actually being written that way now or not. Either way, it drives me nuts that everyone is trusting him now, at least sort of, I mean, dudes, what has he done to deserve that trust? While as Lex did quite a damn lot and you never extended him as much courtesy. Grrrr.

They could be playing the "turned to the right side for love of a Good Woman" card with Lionel, though man, I hope not. I love my Lionel twisted and eeeevil, as Obi-wan would say. Though I think his feelings for Martha might be genuine. Which scares me, considering his love for his son is also genuine, and look what that meant for Lex...

--Ah, one last thought - TPTB might be making Lionel good solely to make Lex's murder of him more eeeeevil, when it actually happens. Which it has to eventually, right? The whole series's been leading to that ultimate Oedipal showdown...
jakrar
Jan. 24th, 2007 05:39 am (UTC)
Everyone being willing to trust Lionel drives me crazy, too -- especially since no one ever really gave Lex the benefit of the doubt, no matter how many favors he did, or lives he saved. *growls* Lex once complained that Jonathan never saw him as anything but a Luthor, and Jonathan snidely retorted that Lex had never given him reason to see him as anything else. What gets me is that this exchange took place AFTER the episode "Jitters," in which Lex risked his life to save a bunch of people, most of whom he didn't even know. Yet that wasn't enough to prove him worthy, according to the Great and Holy Jonathan Kent. *more growling* (Or have I ranted about that to you before?)

I'm pretty sure Lex will kill Lionel at some point in the series, and frankly I'm looking forward to it. TPTB will no doubt want it to look like an evil act, and Clark and everyone else will no doubt see it that way. I, however, will remember everything Lionel has done to Lex, and -- whatever the immediate circumstances might be -- I will see Lex killing his father as an act of justifiable self-defense, and I will absolutely cheer Lex on.
xparrot
Jan. 24th, 2007 06:25 am (UTC)
No comment on Jonathan Kent. I love the Kents, but I have this problem that my internal view of them is...inconsistent with what is shown on the show itself. But then they're inconsistent in the show itself; Jonathan does trust Lex, about half the time. "You'd've made one hell of a farmer." Really Jonathan suffers from a terrible case of screenwriter schizophrenia, in which in one ep he'll be stubborn but willing to change, and the next he'll be a total redneck asshole. Sigh.

What worries me is that killing Lionel might be the final straw for Lex. Once he sees himself as capable of, guilty of, patricide (however justified) he might decide that there are no lines left to cross. I don't know if you've ever read the Yu-Gi-Oh manga? My favorite char in that, Kaiba, is very much like Lex in a lot of ways, including suffering a stint as a deranged supervillain (though he's getting over it). But the primary catalyst for Kaiba going dark side was his "triumph" over his foster father - the CEO of KaibaCorp, who 'trained' Kaiba to be his heir by way of torture (I told you he & Lex had a lot in common). When Kaiba does a hostile takeover of the company, his father suicides, saying "This is what a loser deserves" - and thus turns Kaiba into exactly the heir he always wanted, an amoral monster whose only code is that losing equals death, and thus he will win at any cost. I fear that Lex killing Lionel, as just Lionel murdered his own parents, will in the end prove to be Lionel's final victory over his son...
jakrar
Jan. 24th, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)
I fear that Lex killing Lionel, just as Lionel murdered his own parents, will in the end prove to be Lionel's final victory over his son...

Mmmmm. You may be right (always assuming TPTB have as much sense as you're giving them credit for), but -- even if it costs him dearly to do it -- I can't help seeing Lex as far safer in a world without Lionel. (Physically, any way.) And with no one to help Lex stay in the light (as Clark might have, if he hadn't betrayed and abandoned Lex, over and over again), it may finally be that turning to the darkness will be Lex's only chance of survival. Poor baby....
(Deleted comment)
xparrot
Jan. 23rd, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC)
Heeeee~ See, this is what fanfic is for! To make you believe in a happy ending, or to show you just how tragic it actually is (which is pretty darn tragic. Awww. Poor, poor Lex...)

The joy of fiction is that no matter how stressful your own life is, there's always characters who have it worse. At least you're not doomed to become a supervillain! Though still, I hope things get easier for you *wishes for magic unstressing rays of sunshine in your life*
stitcher2ficcer
Jan. 24th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
She does have a way of doing this, doesn't she? She almost makes me want to watch this damn show to get to know this tragic Lex myself... and I reeeeallly don't. want. to watch Smallville! Or read Smallville fic, even. Ron and I are convinced she would make a damn good reviewer, of either film or TV, if she were only willing to watch everything out there instead of only the shows/movies that grab her fangirl heart. Maybe she should try to make it as a newspaper essayist columnist? Any papers out there looking for columns to draw in the fandom readership?
(Anonymous)
Feb. 27th, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
Couldn't agree more
I read both of your rants and I've never read a more fitting or eloquent assessment of the Smallville storyline. I've watched Smallville with an almost religious fervour and I've always loved the Clex, whether in the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) HoYay way or just the deep friendship. My heart actually breaks over the fact that Clark and Lex are barrelling down this path to becoming enemies and that it could have been either avoided or better written to better justify it as you said, It doesn't help that I absolutely hate Lana and therefore hate the tool she has become to further aid the breaking up of their friendship. in fact, it annoys me so much that I haven't been keeping up with Smallville as much as i used to, partly because of a more hectic schedule but honestly partly because I just don't love where its going, or rather (since we knew how it was going to go), how it's getting there. I also love your stories, please keep writing and sharing your talents with the world.
xparrot
Feb. 27th, 2007 08:55 am (UTC)
Re: Couldn't agree more
I get terribly frustrated with SV, because it has such incredible potential - the premise is great, the cast is overall strong, a lot of the ideas are inspired, there's Lex - but ultimately it fails to follow through. Which makes it an ideal fanning series - series which are perfect leave less room for fans to explore, I've found; SV leaves you itching to 'fix' canon, which is great inspiration.

But it's still frustrating. Especially when it comes to the Clex. They never were going to stay friends, it wasn't written in the stars (or the comics.) But they could've become enemies in much more interesting and believable ways...(ones which didn't involve Lana. I have rarerly detested a character as much as her. I won't go so far as to say she's everything that's wrong with the show, but...I'm kinda tempted to. :P)
dogwoodblossom
Mar. 10th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
Hi, I realize this post is pretty dang old, and I'm sorta spamming your journal lately, but I'm curious bout your thoughts, and none of my friends will take Smallville even remotely seriously. I watch most episodes and pass the time make derisive comments about Lana or alternately yelling at Clark for screwing Lex over. I agree 100% with your interpretation of Lex as a tragic figure and that a lot of what happens in the show is the result of the writers just not thinking stuff through.

What's really interesting to me though, is that this treatment of 'Luthor' is by no means unique to Smallville. It's in the comics too. Not just with little Lex as Superboy's buddy in the Superboy comics, but in other Silver Age stuff too. In the plotline where he and Superman go to have a goofy fist fight to the death (or whatever) on the red-sunned planet that will eventually become Lexor, Lex discovers a race of people whose technology has become lost and are on the verge of extinction. There is not really any reason for Lex to help them, but he does. Then the writers stick in this thought bubble that says, "I'm doing this because I have an eeeevil ulterior motive! Really!" But later when he and Superman have their fight, he throws it because Superman is the only one with the power to keep everyone on the planet from dying. Lex isn't stuck on the planet, and it'd be easy enough to kick Superman's ass if he's without his powers. Everybody does it. Lex could have defeated his arch enemy and gone back to Earth and become even more powerful, but he's willing to swallow his not unconsiderable pride to save this world.

Later there's another storyline where Lex goes back to Lexor and it's revealed that he's been leading a double life and has a nice family and kids there and is beloved by the populace as the savior of their world. He's always planning to settle down but his hatred of Superman always draws him back to Earth (slash anyone?). This time though, he's going to stay for good. Until for some reason that is confusing and unclear he decides to be a bad guy and wreck up the place. The reader is supposed to by it because, you know, "He's evil." Later Superman comes for a visit and they have another battle and accidentally destroy the planet and everybody, including Lex's family, dies. He blames Superman just like with the whole hair fiasco. The writers sort of try to pin the blame on Lex, but it's really just a total horrific accident.

So, even in the early days when the writing was cheesy and formulaic (how things have changed!) and there was no such thing as characterization, Lex Luthor has been this conflicted figure. He's always amoral, but never convincingly evil. The writers even made him a sympathetic figure in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel when he stages a 9/11 type disaster and kills a bunch of kids for the express purpose of making the general populous vaguely dissatisfied and irritated with Superman. His actions are monstrous, but you can still by his reasoning. In Superman: Red Son (frigging fantastic book! OMG) Lex is the savior of humanity. Not even taking into account all the 'good' Crisis incarnations of Lex (including the evil real one).

It's like the writers back at the dawn of time (the 30's) accidentally made the bad guy a more interesting and complex figure than the hero and now they're sorta stuck with him. Just when everybody gets sucked in and starts liking Lex too much they tack something on to remind us that he is evil and that our loyalties are to the big S.
xparrot
Mar. 10th, 2007 06:51 am (UTC)
Eee, I love spamming, don't worry about it! Especially when it's discussions I'm still all obsessive about (I'm planning a part 3 to this post now, actually ^^)

You're totally right about the trouble with Luthor always having been that he's conflicted and thus more fascinating a char than his heroic nemesis. The trouble is, as far as I can tell, because Luthor always was a supergenius* - from the beginning Luthor vs Superman was the ultimate case of Brains vs Brawn. Intelligence is not, by nature, an evil quality, and it's Luthor's prime trait, even more than a thirst for power or vengeance or psychopathy or whatever drives most supervillains. So they give him the Superman obsession to explain his wickedness...and then SV flubs even that up, by rooting that obsession in true love friendship, making it almost impossible not to sympathize with him...

(* SV's version seems to have lost a few IQ points, I suspect they were stolen by the movie!verse's inexplicably dumb Lex. gnine maintains that Lex is still smarter than anyone else in SV, it's just that this bar is not set terribly high...)

I haven't read many of the early comics - now I wanna see more of that Lexor stuff. I'd heard a bit about it, sounds sad, really. I have seen some of Elliot S! Maggin's stories and novels, he's got an amazing Lex, the ultimate version of his mad scientist incarnation. His Lex is pretty tragic because he has the potential to be amazing - he's got the greatest mind in the world, he could solve world hunger and cure cancer and anything, he would be a hero himself, except, as always, for the Superman obsession which puts him by default on the side of evil. (one of Maggin's novels has a version of the 'Lex's baldness being Superboy's fault' story that makes it not silly/crazy but really more tragic, in that it's not about the hair at all but about the experiment which was destroyed; it was Lex's greatest work and he starts hating Superman because it's the only way for him to remain sane after losing it...) I like Maggin's version especially because Superman himself totally sees this and gets it and even tries to help Lex get over his issues, because he realizes the potential in Lex (and also wants to be friends again, as Lex is one of the only humans going who Supes can really see as an equal).

So Red Son is worth checking out? It looked pretty fascinating. I just read LL: Man of Steel and quite enjoyed it, with reservations (I'm a big manga fan but only passing familiar with American comics beyond Gaiman's Sandman, despite a longtime love of superhero cartoons...)
dogwoodblossom
Mar. 10th, 2007 07:21 am (UTC)
Oh man, Red Son is so fantastic. It was just a good thing that I was alone when I read it because I made high pitched squeaking noises and danced around for a solid hour after reading it. Seriously. It's pretty much all about Lex and the way his potential would have run had he never met Superman (or Superboy, rather) in Smallville.

One of my favorite things about Lex is his propensity for overly complex and highly circuitous plans. Red Son has the most complex and circuitous plan ever, taking a good 60 years to come to fruition. Lex's motivation? Bizzaro, Superman's imperfect double, beat him at chess. All sorts of world shattering stuff goes on in the story, but Lex doesn't care about that. He's just out to prove that he's Superman's intellectual superior. It's basically DC admitting that Lex gets kind of shortchanged in every other Superman story ever.

Also, the Silver Age stuff is totally worth looking into, as it is gut wrenchingly hilarious. There's one storyline where Lex fills the atmosphere with kryptonite dust and possibly also some satellite mounted lasers (pretty cool technology for the early 50's). He forces Superman to leave Earth. Superman, not to be so easily defeated, builds a lead suit to shield himself. He can't see through the lead to fight though, so he uses the astonishing new technology of 'Television.' He puts a screen inside the suit so he can see what the hell is going on (it takes a couple sad defeats before he thinks of this) and mounts a camera outside. Now the logical place to mount a camera would be at eye level right? That way what he saw on the screen at eye level would sinc with what was going on outside. Baring that, the massive chest logo would be a good spot.

Instead this thing is mounted directly over his crotch. And, it's a telescoping camera. It has this little upward bend to it too. It could not possibly look more like Superman had an erection. The best part is that you have to imagine what parts of Luthor the crotch cam films. It's not aimed at his face. That one panel alone made it worth the $30 I paid for the Best of Silver Age Superman Book. That and all the shots of Superman thrusting the very phallic giant golden key into the lock on the Fortress of Solitude.

Also, doesn't it kinda weird you out to watch the JLA cartoon (JLU?) and hear Michael Rosenbaum voice the Flash facing off against Lex Luthor? I always have to kind of shake my head to get over it.
xparrot
Mar. 11th, 2007 12:18 pm (UTC)
That's why I love JLU!Lex! Because he's totally capable of coming up with immensely twisty and circuitous plans no one else has the IQ to fathom (his whole presidential campaign) but he also, when need be, will just pull out a gun and shoot Gorilla Grodd and take over. He does what he needs to, to get the job done, and it makes him more believable a supergenius than ever, because he's got common sense, too.

A 60 year plan because he loses a chess game, though? Oh, Lex <3

Also, O.M.G. What is the chance of you posting a scan of this crotch-cam? Your description just about killed me. XDDD

Heh, I love MR's Flash! (I think he's got a crazy sexy voice, so... ^^) Did take some getting used to...did you ever see the ep Flash & Lex switch brains? So MR is voicing Lex (and Clancy Brown does a dynamite job with Flash) and Lex shows just how much more havok he could wreak when he has powers, too...
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