Type Comic
Date None (1940-03)

The Challenge of Luthor

"For the first time in its history, the city of Metropolis is ravaged by a terrible earthquake!", we are told, and Clark is sent out to get some eye-witness accounts. He is suspicious, though, so instead it is Superman who goes out into the city. Superman does what he can to aid those harmed by the earthquake, and later Clark turns in the article about the earthquake and Superman's role in the aftermath. Clark has (somehow) learned that the earthquake was caused by a malfunction of a new weapon the army was testing, and goes out to interview its inventor, Professor Martinson.

When Clark arrives to interview the scientist, the man offers him a seat, then strikes him from behind. Clark temporarily halts his heartbeat, so Professor Martinson, believing that he has successfully killed Clark, tosses him out a window. Superman catches a ledge on the way down, and climbs back up to eavesdrop on the scientist. It is revealed that the man was not Professor Martinson at all, but some interloper who was taking the opportunity of the professor being out to search through his desk.

Somewhere, a man sees an image of Superman eavesdropping, and arranges for an odd plane to drop a bomb directly on him. Luckily, Superman is able to catch the bomb and return it to the plane which dropped it. Upon re-entering Martinson's office, Superman sees an image of a figure that he recognises: "Luthor! The mad scientist who plots to dominate the Earth!". Luthor reveals that he has kidnapped Professor Martinson, but cannot extract the information about his weapon from him. Luthor is not daunted, though: he intends to see if the army will prove an easier target. Superman interrupts some of Luthor's hirelings as they attempt to steal the invention, then follows them back to Luthor's hideout. But Luthor is no fool: watching on a screen, he sees that Superman is following his men, and destroys the autogyro with them inside, to prevent their revealing his location.

Somehow, Luthor communicates with Superman by growing his head out of a tree.

Luthor offers Superman a challenge: Superman's brawn versus Luthor's brains. Superman accepts. Luthor's first challenge: a race around the world, Luthor in his super-strato-liners, and Superman on foot. Superman wins. The second challenge: "to determine who can rise the highest above the Earth and still return safely". Luthor's plane (flown by his hirelings) goes higher, but it is too high--it goes off to space, never to return. Superman's leap carries him very high, and he is able to safely land. 2-0. Third, Luthor challenges Superman to lift a very heavy rock. Luthor does it by nullifying its mass with a gadget, and Superman just picks it up, along with Luthor's plane, for good measure. Finally, Luthor challenges Superman to see who is more vulnerable. The throws a hand grenade at him, shoots him with a cannon, and tries to kill him with poison gas--all ineffective. When Superman asks whether it is now his turn to see whether Luthor can survive such treatment, Luthor admits defeat, returns Professor Martinson, and departs in his plane.

Superman and Martinson wonder at why Luthor would so nobly admit defeat and leave, but the reason soon becomes apparent. After Superman returns Martinson to his lab, they hear on the radio that the weapon has been stolen. Superman deduces that the entire contest was merely a distraction, to allow Luthor's henchmen to steal the weapon while Superman was occupied. Superman goes to confront Luthor, who has prepared a number of traps--none of which are able to stop Superman.

Superman is able to destroy the weapon, but Luthor escapes. Clark returns to find that Martinson has killed himself, which conveniently means his invention will never again be a threat.

Character Type
Lex Luthor Main
Superman Main
Name Role
Jerry Siegel Author
Joe Shuster Letterer
Paul H. Cassidy Inker / Penciller


Relation Sources
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