Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Luthor-Quintum Update

So I write about All-Star Superman a lot. I like it. It makes people think interesting thoughts. One guy told me that people who don't like All-Star Superman don't have souls. Another guy (actually, several people) seem to think that the character Leo Quintum--invented for the series by author Grant Morrison--is actually Lex Luthor, come back from the future to atone for his crimes by making the world a better place through Science. I wrote about this theory a while back.

What is with this cover?

Interestingly, it showed up in the book Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods as part of Peter Coogan's essay "Genre: Reconstructing the Superhero in All Star Superman." There's a bit about structuralism, a bit about genres, and he goes through the various proofs that Leo is Lex. He even cites some of the comment threads in which the idea appeared online, originally by Cole Moore Odell. (Coogan wrote Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre, a book which I have seen cited a whole lot. It's got an Oedipal analysis of Superman and Luthor, and I have a thing or two to say about that interpretation of the character in my own book--which I hope everyone in the world will get to read some day.)

Denny O'Neil must make a full time job of writing intros now.

People are fascinated by the fact that Morrison himself does not say an unequivocal 'yes' or 'no'.  The whole thing is summed up here. Lurking behind all of this is the notion that Morrison gets the final word on the matter. But does he? People can interpret the stories in whatever manner suits them, even bending the narrative to fit their interpretations, often without realizing they are doing so. Artists tell a story, and people do what they will once they read it.

I'm kind of obsessed with the art of Frank Quitely.
This is really what's at the heart of my study. I spent a lot of hours talking to people to find out just what they think of Superman, how they incorporate him into their lives, and what meanings they find. Some people find it compelling to think of Quintum as a reformed Luthor. They hunt for clues in the manner of conspiracy theorists. They make their arguments. They find meaning there. And in that meaning, we might look for clues as to their own nature, their own worldview. The Quintum-Luthor identity complex is a fascinating look at, perhaps, a need to find redeeming qualities even in the most base of villains. It's the idea that we all can be redeemed in the end.*

More about redemption, though not about Superman, next time.

*It's interesting to note that, while the comic book version of All-Star offers in an off-hand manner the fact that "Even Luthor seemed to find some closure in the face of renewed global calls for his execution", the animated movie of it has Luthor play a more prominent role at the end. The fact that he gives Quintum the formula for Superman that leads to Project and the Superman dynasty suggests a more fully realized redemption, in spiritual if not in legal terms.

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