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Paul Cornell--"Lex Luthor is almost Tony Stark" He has a point!

Comics - News - Paul Cornell: 'Lex Luthor almost Tony Stark' - Digital Spy

Paul Cornell's run on Action Comic has been great. His comment that Lex Luthor is similar to Tony Stark is true, but also points to the subtle shifts in the characterization of Luthor in comics. I'm co-teaching HIS 235 American Graphic Media in the Fall with my colleague William Svitavsky, so I have begun the process of thinking through the course yet again. Luthor is great example of how comic characters link to historical context. First introduced in the 1940s, Luthor was a "mad scientist" that easily reflected concerns about technological innovation creating chaos.

A common concern since the mid-nineteenth century as U.S. citizens realized rapid industrial and urban change was driven by technological innovation. In this atmosphere critics charged that technology, then as now, was "de-humanizing." You need only reflect on how the public believed the telephone would lead to the end of direct human contact as proof that our current fears digital media may not be as serious as we assume.

Still, Luthor's evolution is noteworthy. He was rebooted with the rest of the DC Universe in the 1980s, and his reboot de-emphasized the mad scientist and he became an "evil corporate mogul." A reaction to the excessive of the 1980s when junk bonds, corporate mergers, and inside trading made Wall Street stock brokers and financial professionals into great villains (yeah, everything old is new again). In that context, it made perfect sense that Lex Luthor was re-imagined as corporate honcho who was rich, smart, and evil. In recent years, the "mad scientist" element has come through a bit more, but his corporate identity has not gone away. The corporate businessman as evil mastermind works too well.


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