Welcome to Comics Wiki Adventures, a weekly deep dive into just how unhinged comics can be. I will randomly select a character from comics and read their wiki each week.
I will then take only the choicest bits and serve them to you, over easy. What does that mean? I don’t know.
Anyway, today’s randomly generated character is:
DC Comic’s Own: Alexei Luthor
When you decide to dig into the history of any comic book character, the first question you have to answer is: what mistakes have I made in my life that lead me here? The second question is which version?
You may think, as I did, that it’s frustrating that there are thousands of Green Lanterns in the mainline DC continuity. But then you remember they live in a multiverse (sometimes). So the terrifying truth is, there are also dozens of alternate versions.
The nature of the comic book business does not help. Marvel and DC started in the Golden Age of comics with bonkers characters like Plastic Man (see here for an exploration of him) and The Human Torch (Not Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four. Or a human. Or a flashlight for that matter. I’ll add a link here when I inevitably write one of these on him).
See, superheroes were first popular in and around World War II. Presumably, it was so much fun to watch people of all descriptions punch Hitler. Unfortunately (more Nazi punching, please. Hitler or not), the novelty had worn off by the war’s end, and the Golden Era of superheroes petered out.
Comics about romance, horror, and crime dominated the market for about a decade and a half. But then, as usual, parents got mad and ruined it for everyone.
There was a massive moral panic, and DC and Marvel developed new rules to stave off criticism. Like “no mushy stuff” and “no monsters allowed,” except written by earnest, somber people instead of with backward letters on a sign outside a kid’s clubhouse.
Later, when continuity was all the rage, they wanted to incorporate those stories. But there was an issue. Namely, by then, giant sandwiches with a whole fish with crosses for eyes were seen as a bit out of touch. So while they brought over the characters, they made little tweaks to bring them up to speed.
Marvel mostly just re-introduced the old characters and ignored the weirder stuff. This was fine since the earliest fans were, at that point, no longer kids and didn’t really care anymore.
But DC took a different path. They had their new Flash meet the old one, who said he was from another world altogether. It was a move that proved so popular that they decided to apply it to all their heroes. So now all Golden Age versions of the heroes were from this Earth-2.
Flash hadn’t had a comic for ten years, so it had been easy to re-introduce him. He was even a different guy altogether, so the differences were apparent.
But Superman had been getting new issues that entire time. So now there was some fuzzy moment between where he and every one of his side characters and villains became new characters.
Which, at Last, Brings Us to Alexei, Comics Worst Luthor.
He is Golden Age Superman’s most common foe. When he first appeared, he had a full head of red hair and was just known as Luthor. We never find out where he is from, though Russia seems a safe bet, given the first name we eventually get for him.
In that first appearance, he plans to use a country he’s taken over to attack a neutral country, plunging the world into conflict. This, seeing as this was published in 1940, seems a bit derivative. From what I can tell, the real Hitler (not the real real one, of course, but the guy with that name in DC comics) kept superheroes out with the Spear of Destiny, a one-of-a-kind magical artifact of nearly limitless power. Luthor thought he could pull off the same basic maneuver with a blimp and a “Green Ray.” Not green Kryptonite, mind you, just green.
So that fails, but Luthor doesn’t give up. Over the next ten years, he tries many different plans and inventions; the Earthquake machine, a silent helicopter, dinosaurs, an anti-battleship handgun, and even a great depression caused by hypnotic gas. I am starting to think he’s not really a top-shelf villain. As one might expect, Superman stops them all. The wiki doesn’t mention him using Kryptonite, but it happened in the Golden Age, so it must have been him. Still, clearly, that didn’t work either.
Is it fair to judge a comic villain by how often a hero with basically every power defeats them? Probably not, but I’m doing it anyway. Sure Lex loses to Superman all the time too, but he also seeks out little wins. He even became president for a good long time. Alexei is just not on that level.
Anyway, having been foiled for a solid decade, our brilliant mastermind Alexei realizes he might have to actually do something about Superman. So he attempts to fire a missile at the Daily Planet to kill all of Superman’s friends.
Now, I’m not a super genius, so maybe this plan is beyond my ken, but how exactly was this meant to deal with Superman? Is the endgame here just to make him sad?
Regardless, it fails, and Alexei ends up in jail as usual. This time, however, his bald counterpart Lex from the Silver Age shows up and frees him. They try to kill each other’s Supermen and, of course, fail. They then conspire together to destroy both of their universes.
Lex, the bald one, gets cold feet since that’s where he keeps his stuff, and together with both Supermen and a good version of Luthor, Alexei is defeated.
He’s later incinerated when he throws a fit because the other Luthor is in charge of a multiversal army Brainiac put together. A fitting end to one of the absolute worst villains in comic books.
I give Alexei two out of forty cakes, the absolute max I feel confident he could steal.
And hey, I know this one barely discussed the subject. But it required a lot of groundwork! Besides, sometimes you get a dud with admittedly great hair, and you just gotta roll with it.
So That is Alexei Luthor!
Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you might also like this previous entry on Ant-Man! Or if for some inexplicable reason, you want to check out something I didn’t write, you can check out this feature on games announced by Level-5. I assume a Dark Cloud 3 trailer is buried in there somewhere.
Let me know in the comments below what you think is the most sometimes bald character in comics and what character I should randomly select next!