Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Promethean Luthor

Cover to Superman 891 by David Finch

Man, I love that cover. I've become obsessed with mad scientists lately.

So, this comic (which I've just gotten around to reading) begins with Luthor fantasizing about being Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and providing it to an impoverished humanity.

His next fantasy (he's being influenced by a huge caterpilarcalled Mister Mind, who's allowing him to indulge all his wildest dreams, mentally anyway) is of being Dr. Frankenstein. He tears the sheet of his creation to find that he has created not Superman, but...himself.

Then he becomes an Old West Sheriff, which isn't so relevant.

Moving on, in Superman Returns, Kevin Spacey's Luthor has following conversation with Parker Posey's Kitty:

“Do you know the story of Prometheus?  No, of course you don’t.  Prometheus was a god who stole the power of fire from the other gods and gave control of it to mortals.  In essence, he gave us technology.  He gave us power.” 
 “So we’re stealing fire? In the arctic?” 
“Actually, sort of.  You see, whoever controls technology controls the world.  The Roman empire ruled the world because they built roads.  The British empire ruled the world because they built ships.  America, the atom bomb, and so on and so forth.  I just want what Prometheus wanted.”
“Sounds great, Lex, but you’re not a god.” 
“Gods are selfish beings who fly around in little red capes and don’t share their power with mankind.  No.  I don’t want to be a god.  I just want to bring fire to the people.  And I want my cut.”
The novel Frankenstein is subtitled "The Modern Prometheus." It's probably the first mad scientist story.

Prometheus formed the subject of my dissertation. It's one of the things that prompted me to write about Superman. I spent three years of my life studying that story, and it hasn't let me quit yet.

The interesting thing about Prometheus is that he fits into both the hero and villain category nicely. If you like Zeus, he's the villainous trickster. If you don't like Zeus, he's a benevolent culture hero.

Or, as in the case of Luthor, a villain who thinks of himself as a hero.

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