Superman 168 – the hero of Lexor

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Leo Dorfman joins Hamilton, Swan and Klein for an all-Luthor issue of Superman, number 168 (April 1964).

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The story follows on the ending of the previous issue, with Luthor now living on Lexor, and in a relationship with Ardora.  Superman comes to the planet to bring him back to Earth, and sees how the Lexorians idolize Luthor, and despise him.

There are also some colourful crystals which grab Superman’s attention.

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Then suddenly Superman steals them.  Ardora happens to be on the scene, and sends out a cry.  Is just being on Lexor enough to turn Superman into a villain?

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It’s certainly enough to turn Lex into a hero.  He creates a machine to give him temporary super-powers, and adopts the disguise of the Defender, to keep Ardora safe from any criminal reprisals.

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He even captures Superman, although he learns that the reason he was stealing the crystals.  Although pretty, they give off radiation damaging to people’s brains.  This explains the downfall of the previously advanced civilization on this world.  Luthor allows Superman to leave with the crystals, but makes him vow to not reveal his secret identity.

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But the people of Lexor are clamouring for Superman to be captured, and Lex sets out with a spaceship equipped with red kryptonite, to bring the fugitive back for Lexorian justice.  Things do not go as planned, as Luthor winds up heading back in time, winding up in San Francisco at the turn of the century.

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Superman is also hunting for Lex, and, not finding him on Lexor, uses a time viewer to track him.  Superman follows him to the time and place, but cannot actually find Lex.  He gets a job at a newspaper, using the name Clark Kent.  This is so amazingly stupid.  The editor of the paper is Luthor in disguise.  Superman has just revealed his identity, as Luthor knows this newbie reporter is really Superman.  But the story skirts this, having Lex assume Superman was using the name of one of his friends.  Historical personages Lillian Russell and Diamond Jim Brady appear in the tale.

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Superman gets exposed to red kryptonite, painted onto a fire engine.  He loses his powers, but is still alert enough to realize that the red kryptonite must have been brought there by Luthor, who must be aware that Superman is around.

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Luthor captures Superman and brings him out to an island in the bay.  He tries to bring them both back to the present, but the machine malfunctions, and transports only Lex, and a chunk of the island.

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This sets off the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which the powerless Superman is helpless in.

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When the red kryptonite wears off, Superman heads back to the present.  He sees that Ardora is still pining away on Lexor, and eventually finds Luthor on the same island he had been on in the past.  Alcatraz.

The two halves of this story were not intended to be published in the same issue.  The change came about because the story that was meant to be included with the hero of Lexor tale had Superman working with the recently assassinated John F. Kennedy.  The story was pulled, but a few issues later, apparently at the request of Lyndon Johnson, the story was run.

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