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Did We Not Mention That Superman and Luthor Knew Each Other For Years?

This is "Foundationed Deep," a feature where we look at particular odd/strange/interesting instances of retroactively connecting different comic book characters (for instance, Uncanny X-Men #268 retroactively established that Wolverine knew both Captain America and the Black Widow from World War II).

Today, we look at how it bizarrely took almost TWENTY YEARS before the Suprman comic books decided that, "Oh yeah, Superman and his arch-nemesis? They totally knew each other back in the day."

Obviously, this revelation is a huge retcon, since there is no way that Superman and Luthor knew each other when Luthor first showed up in Action Comics #23.

In that 1940 story (by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and Paul Cassidy), Luthor is a man working behind the scenes to force two countries to go to war with each other so that Luthor can profit from selling them both munitions. Clark Kent discovers the existence of Luthor and so Luthor then sends one of his henchmen to get him Clark Kent, but the henchmen instead finds Lois Lane. It is important to note what Luthor's chief henchmen looks like here...

Superman comes to rescue Lois and we see the first example of Luthor using his super-scientific know-how to take on Superman's, well, you know, superpowers....

Clearly, as soon as they introduced Luthor, Siegel and Shuster knew that they had a great character idea. I mean, the notion is just perfect, it really is a case of brains vs. brawn, only in most stories with that dichotomy, the reader roots for the brains (who is often seen as the underdog) while here, the brainy side of the equation is the villain!

They leaned so much into Luthor that right after the villain debuted in Action Comics #23, Luthor was featured in most of Superman #4 (which came out a month later), which was still a big quarterly anthology at the time, so for Luthor to appear in multiple stories in the issue meant that they were so confident that people would go for Luthor as a villain that they just went right into featuring him prominently. However, notice again who Luthor's chief henchmen is...

That henchmen became a major issue because when artist Leo Nowak took over drawing the Superman anthology, he incorrectly assumed that the henchmen guy who was so prominently featured in those early Luthor stories WAS Luthor, so in Superman #10, a story of Luthor developing an ability to turn himself invisible, Superman tracks down the villain and now Luthor is bald!

Obviously, someone said, "Hey, this is a cooler look than the red hair" and so it stuck. Or heck, for all I know, no one noticed and they all just started following Nowak's lead.

Just like the Joker in the Batman titles of the era, Luthor appeared pretty much every month at the time. Over time, that slowed down, but just like Joker, Luthor continued to be a recurring foe for Superman. As an example, let's fast forward a decade and Luthor is still giving Superman trouble in Action Comics #166 (by an unknown writer and artists Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye)...

However, in 1960, things would change between Superman and Luthor forever!

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