DCAU #282: How Much Can One Man Hate?

IN THIS ONE... There's a new hero in town - Superior Man!

Written by Mark Millar; art by Aluir Amancio and Terry Austin.

REVIEW: This issue has a lot going on, and makes you think it's about a replacement Superman based on Rob Liefeld's Supreme who turns out to be Metallo in disguise, until you realize it's actually about Lex Luthor and why he hates Superman so much. And while all the Superior Man stuff gets the reader's attention, it's really the Luthor character study that makes the story rise above even mainstream Superman tales of the era.

From the first page, I love Luthor's nonchalance when Superman delivers mercs armed with LexCorp battlesuits to his office. As usual, he's covered his bases legally. The untold stories then referenced put me in mind of the show I was promised and didn't really get, in which Luthor is a much more nagging thorn in Superman's side, week in and week out. He certainly has the budget for it. But it's the ending that really does it. After Metallo is exposed and turns against Lex, Superman asks an important question: Why do you hate me so much? We flash back to Lex's childhood when he was already planning his business empire, and the tower from which he would look down on Metropolis, and everyone else... would look up at him. Cue Superman flying above, in the face of that childhood ambition. Is that as glib as "you made me bald"? It might be, but there are subtle hints that Lex learned he needed power over other people at a young age - he doesn't want to play baseball with other kids which he might have experienced as a bullying environment, and his father is seen with a bottle in his hand.

Superior Man may be Metallo under synthetic skin, but he's really Lex's proxy, a superior man dethroned by somehow who isn't actually a (hu)man. And rather than learn his lesson and quit spending billions of dollars on destroying Superman, these events only affirm that he should be spending more. Lex is superior only in the amount of hate he can muster.

IN THE MAINSTREAM COMICS: Mercy mentions two anti-Superman projects that didn't work out. These untold DCAU adventures are the Galactic Golem from Superman #248 (1972), an artificial being drawn to the solar energy that imbues Superman; and the Hammer of Hate from Action Comics #423 (1973) by which means Luthor transferred his own hatred into Superman, making the Man of Steel lose control. As already mentioned, Superior Man is based on Supreme, which started out as a selfish Superman rip at Image (first appearing in Youngblood #3, 1992) before Alan Moore turned him into a Silver Age Superman tribute. The name, red costume and silver hair really give this game away.

REREADABILITY: High - Superman vs. anti-Superman is nothing new, but this issue hits a home run by saying something important about Lex Luthor.


Andrew said...

I'll give you the white hair as a Supreme shout-out, but while pondering the notion that the good Ethan Crane's suit is primarily white, I was struck by a sudden bit of fridge brilliance. Red is a common main color for Superman analogues--Captain "SHAZAM!" Marvel, Marvel's Gladiator and Hyperion, Astro City's Samaritan, and DC's own Valor/Mon-El/M'Onel/whatever he's calling himself this week--therefore Superior Man's only logical choice.


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