Superman #164: "The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman!"

Superman #164
"The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman!"
October, 1963

Script: Edmond Hamilton

Pencils: Curt Swan

Inks: George Klein

     Ever since he was Superboy in Smallville, Superman's arch-foe has
always been Lex Luthor.  Now, the criminal genius has decided to have a
duel with the Man of Steel, on a planet with a red sun for "The Showdown
Between Luthor and Superman!"

     Lex Luthor sits in his prison cell, mulling over the fact that the
time has come for he and the Man of Steel to settle their feud once and
for all.  Weeks pass, and in the prison workshop, a stamping press has
just broken down.  The temporary warden listens to Luthor, who claims
that he can repair the machine.  Unbeknownst to the administrator, it was
Luthor, himself, who sabotaged the stamping press.  He had waited for the
regular warden to go on vacation, and now works on his plan for freedom.
After days of labor, the temporary warden and an officer watch as Luthor
enters the new press for a demonstration.  The former stamp press is now
an enormous battering ram, and the criminal genius breaks through the
prison walls.

     Bullets bounce off the giant vehicle and heads for off-road terrain,
where the guards will not be able to pursue him.  (Holy ATV, Batman!)  At
night, Luthor leaves his machine behind, and reaches his secret hideout.
Within its lead-lined walls, the criminal scientist creates a
broadcaster-interruptor to announce his plans to the viewers of
Metropolis.  As a Western TV program shows a bandit daring a sheriff to
take off his badge for a fair fight, the image of Lex Luthor interrupts
the show in progress.  He tells the audience that the Man of Steel has
never met him man-to-man in a fair fight without super-powers, and
challenges Superman to a duel.

     At the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent are
watching a televised boxing match, when they hear Luthor's voice
challenging Superman to a fair fight.  While the girl reporter is
confident that the Man of Steel will ignore the criminal genius's
challenge, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent knows that people would lose
confidence in Superman if he didn't accept.  From METV, Superman
broadcasts his acceptance of Luthor's challenge to meet him without his
super-powers.  The two meet on Mount Komo, where the Man of Steel tells
his foe that they will fight on a planet with a red sun.  If Superman
wins, Luthor will return to Earth as his prisoner, but if the criminal
scientist wins, the Man of Steel will be exiled on the alien world.
Superman constructs a spaceship for the round-trip and the craft soon
leaves Earth, carrying two men who will settle their differences once and
for all.

     On a desert planet, a crude ring is constructed from petrified logs,
and both combatants wear "gravity shoes" to enable them to walk in this
planet's harsh gravity.  The Man of Steel has already compressed his
Clark Kent clothes and placed them within the hidden pouch of his cape.
Luthor lands the first punch to Superman's jaw, and the years of
frustration are released.  The Man of Steel knows that he must overcome
the fear of punching back, for fear of killing his opponent.  The
criminal scientist gives him a black eye and prepares to mete out more
punishment.  Superman wonders if it was a good idea to accept the
challenge, but his instincts win out, and he punches Lex out.

     With the end of the first round, the Man of Steel goes for some
water to revive Luthor.  When he returns to the ring, he finds that his
opponent has gone off in the direction of a strange cactus forest.  The
criminal genius is hard at work and sprinkles growth-powder all over the
cacti.  When Superman enters the forest, he finds himself about to be
impaled on the spines.  He remembers being shown a nature film of the
Scarlet Jungle by Jor-el, where the locals would leap into tunnels for

     The Man of Steel digs a foxhole and avoids being crushed by the
cacti.  On the hills above, Lex pulls out a "thermal-detector" rod to
pinpoint his foe's exact location.  He rolls a giant boulder down the
hill, and Superman uses a small rock to deflect the oncoming threat.

     Figuring that Luthor must be using a thermal-detector to find him,
the Man of Steel lights a fire to confuse his foe.  As more boulders are
rolled towards the fire, Superman takes the opportunity to circle around,
and soon finds himself in a sandstorm.  At the height of the storm, he is
unable to make his way back to the ship, and is soon exhausted.  The
criminal scientist waits within his rock shelter for the sandstorm to
pass, then find Superman once more.

     Part II  "The Super-Duel!"

     On a distant planet, the Man of Steel and the criminal genius have
come to settle their feud.  As their fight nears its end, even the
powerless Superman could not begin to guess the conclusion of... "The

     Thirsty and tired, the Man of Steel makes his way towards the
remains of a dead city.

     A once-flowing fountain has long since dried up.  Now delirious,
Superman believes himself to be back on Krypton.  He sees his parents,
but as his hand passes through them, he realizes that they are
hallucinations.  Two water-bearing beasts of the desert planet are
carrying water within their large hollow horns.  The domesticated animals
wait, as the Man of Steel uses a hollow reed to sip some of their water.

     His thirst now sated, Superman takes the opportunity to rest.  With
the sandstorm ended, Lex Luthor goes off in search of the Man of Steel.
The duel will not be won until he has proof of Superman's demise.
Following a different direction than his foe's, the criminal genius comes
across a city.  He watches as the natives gather water from the large
fountain, and knows that this must be their only supply.  As he continues
on towards the fields, Luthor theorizes that this must have been a
scientific civilization, but some ancient war set the people back to the
Stone Age.  He sees the underground water pump and watches as the farmers
carry the water by hand.  Giant birds which the natives call "Dorulg"
threaten the crops but Luthor believes that there is a way to stop them.

     Using his scientific knowledge, Lex modifies the pump, and checks
out the radium battery.  The water-pump is now a weapon used by Luthor to
repel the winged invaders.  The natives gather around him and cheer, but
Luthor has only done this so that they can help him find the Man of
Steel.  Although they have lost their way, the natives know to lead the
criminal scientist to their museum.  After eyeing the ancient machinery,
Luthor uses a lesson machine to learn their language at super-speed.  He
now understands their words and is overcome by the sound of their cheers.

     The water shortage is their greatest problem and the fountain is
their only source.  Fearing that the fountain will soon dry up, Lex
searches for another source of water.  The "automatic building machines"
left by the ancestors of the inhabitants construct electronically
controlled robots.  They dig deep underground for signs of water, but no
other source is found.  Luthor does not want to let these people down
when they believe him to be a great hero.  Superman has been following
Lex's trail and is ready to finish their duel.  When they learn that the
newcomer is an enemy of Luthor, the natives are determined to deal with
the evil one.  Lex tells them to release Superman, for he has vowed to
face him alone in combat.

     He has the natives show the Man of Steel some of their ancient
devices, so that he can use them during tomorrow's duel.  After using the
teaching-machine and going over the ancient machinery, Superman prepares
himself for the coming day.  Luthor learns from the robots that the only
supply of water is from the fountain.  He is determined not to tell them
the disappointing news until after the duel.  Now in the center of an
arena, scientist faces Superman for their final fight.  All are cheering
for Luthor to win, while none are rooting for the Man of Steel.  The duel
begins with the scientist using an anti-gravity tornado, which spins
towards Superman.

     Caught in the artificial tornado, the Man of Steel works the
controls to increase its power, and which now threatens Luthor, as well.
Both devices are turned off, and Superman is once again on the ground.
He fires tiny "shooting suns" towards his opponent, but Luthor counters
them with a ring-projector, which erects a wall of darkness.  The battle
continues until the scientist unleashes a deadly automaton bloodhound on
the Man of Steel.

     The machine has tremendous strength and its jaws are going for
Superman's throat.  His fingers manage to find the control panel and tear
out the battery.  (Holy Energizer Bunny, Batman!)  Luthor is determined
to defeat the Man of Steel with his bare hands.  Now weak from his battle
with the bloodhound, Superman offers little resistance, and the audience
begin to cheer their hero.  One person yells that when he's done, Luthor
will find them the water he's promised them.  Only the scientist knows
that there's no water left to be found, and it is now Luthor who loses
his strength.  As Superman punches him across the jaw, the criminal
scientist surrenders, and agrees to go back to prison on Earth.  As both
men enter the spaceship, the natives ask Luthor if he will remember his
promise to them.  Lex waves to them and vows to keep his word.  The craft
leaves the planet with a red sun and now enters another solar system with
a yellow sun.  Superman is now the Man of Steel once more, and Luthor has
a favor to ask.  They are about to pass an ice world, where Superman
could hurl large masses of ice towards the other planet.  The Man of
Steel agrees, even if they believe him to be a villain.

     The giant masses of frozen water are hurled across space by
Superman.  The electronically-controlled robots are then activated by the
Man of Steel's x-ray vision, where they will soon create canals to send
water to all parts of the planet.  Superman wonders if his arch-foe had
deliberately surrendered, so that he could aid the natives with his
super-powers?  Luthor denies it and tells him that the duel was won fair
and square.  Even though his reasons was guessed at, the criminal
scientist would never admit it.  On the planet, water is now flowing
freely, and the inhabitants know that they owe this feat to Lex Luthor.
Now in his prison cell on Earth, the criminal genius receives a visitor.
Superman shows Luthor a photograph he took through a super-telescope at
the Fortress of Solitude.  He sees the great statue of himself on the one
planet where he is known as a hero.  This sight was worth coming back to
prison for.

     If I remember correctly, Hoy Murphy said that this was one of the
first comics he ever read, and in fact, he read it to pieces.

     "The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman!" was reprinted in
"Superman From The Thirties To The Eighties," thanks in part to Rich
Morrissey, who suggested it to E. Nelson Bridwell.

     The Silver Age Luthor is my favorite version of the character,
especially when rendered by Curt Swan and George Klein.

     Since growing up in Smallville, Luthor has vowed to make Superman
pay for being jealous of his genius.

     His escapes from prison are as memorable as the adventures he
appeared in.

     While Lois Lane may regard Luthor's announcement as some sort of
grudge match, Clark Kent knows that there is much at stake.

      He knows that people look up to him, but might lose faith if he
didn't agree to a fair fight.

      Although Luthor lands several punches on Superman, all it takes is
one punch to send the criminal scientist down for the count.

      Naturally, Luthor had prepared for the fight, with growth-powder
hidden in his belt-buckle and a "thermal-detector" rod in his lead-lined
shirt pocket.

      No horseshoe in the boxing glove for this criminal genius, folks.

     Superman shows that he's pretty brave against the boulder.

     In saving the natives from the "Dorulg," Luthor receives cheers from
a grateful crowd.

     As a scientist, he is determined to solve the water shortage problem
for his new friends.

     Although he doesn't consider himself a hero, Lex doesn't want to let
the people down.

     Since Luthor is their benefactor and Superman is his enemy, the Man
of Steel must be a villain.

     Edmond Hamilton wrote up a fantastic duel between Luthor and
Superman, with Curt Swan and George Klein producing many memorable action

     After going through all the hardware, Luthor learns that he is more
of the "hands-on" type of brawler.

     His hatred of the Man of Steel drives him to develop many fantastic
schemes, but a cheer from a person who believes that he will give them
more water soon has Luthor losing ground.

     Even though he lost, Luthor kept his word to the inhabitants (with a
little help from Superman).

     Even though the Man of Steel guesses his motives, Luthor refuses to
admit that he was going "soft."

     Although he is once again a prisoner on Earth, Luthor learns from
Superman that he is regarded as a hero on a distant planet.

     The statue gives the scientist the recognition he had longed for.

     Sometimes even the "bad guys" can win, too.

     Steve Chung
     "The Review Between Luthor and Superman!"