Wednesday, June 6, 2018


It was brought to my attention by reader David P. in the comments to this past Monday's look at SUPERMAN #9 that I had not covered the issue's backup story, "Metropolis 900 Mi". I admitted that the Joker story felt a bit short to me when I read it, but I didn't actually go back to count pages and verify. Well, it turns out that this popular tale was inexplicably omitted from the MAN OF STEEL vol. 6 collection reprinting the issue! Not cool, DC. Not cool at all.

Anyway, I managed to find scans of all seven pages online, so here in a special Wednesday bonus post is the missing material from Monday's review:

Story & Pencils: John Byrne | Inks: Karl Kesel
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Tom Ziuko | Editors: Michael Carlin & Andrew Helfer

The Plot: At a small diner called Ralli's, nine hundred miles outside Metropolis, Lex Luthor presents a waitress named Jenny with an offer to move to the city with him for a month in exchange for one million dollars. Jenny chews Luthor out, but he tells her he'll be waiting in his car outside for ten minutes. The other waitresses discuss the offer with Jenny and, in their own ways, suggest she take it. Jenny makes a phone call to her husband, but hangs up before telling him anything -- then she's told by another waitress that Luthor has left before the ten minute deadline expired.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Luthor brags that he owns "ninety percent of the state" as he hits on Jenny. He also says that he's had eight wives -- something mentioned previously by Lois in THE MAN OF STEEL, but which I think I forgot to note here at the time.

At the story's conclusion, Luthor orders his driver, Cynthia, to return him to Metropolis and "Project Overload", which we'll learn more about when we get to SUPERMAN #10 in a couple weeks.

My Thoughts: Since his reboot began, John Byrne has enjoyed periodically reminding readers of what a creepy guy the new Lex Luthor is. He takes whatever he wants, whenever he wants it -- and that includes women. In issue 2 we saw him spend the night with one of his female employees thanks to the unspoken threat that he would ruin her career otherwise.

But here it's not the woman herself that he's after. He's just playing a twisted game when it comes to Jenny. He may find her attractive, but a month as his mistress, or even a single night, is never actually on the table. He just wants her to seriously consider the offer, to honestly think about betraying her vows to her husband and moving in with a total stranger in exchange for a million bucks. The final page lets us know this is something Luthor does regularly, and it's not surprising. Though he certainly has some creepy sexual tendencies, Byrne's Luthor really gets off on exercising his power and influence for their own sake, testing how far he can push supposedly principled people with the promise of some fast cash (or other incentives as the case may warrant).

Though it was Marv Wolfman who came up with the the concept of post-CRISIS Luthor, I believe John Byrne has put that concept to much better use. Wolfman's version remains a supervillain or sorts, just dressed in a business suit. He's basically DC's answer to the Kingpin. But, while Byrne's version also engages in certain over-the-top villainous behavior, he's also far scarier, since -- especially as we learn more and more in the post #MeToo climate -- sociopaths with his power, resources, and proclivities actually exist in the real world!

Next Week (I'll just copy/paste from Monday's post): Superman and Big Barda, uhh... make a porno in ACTION COMICS #592 and 593.


  1. Thank you! :)

    So that final two panels' exchange. The 1993 film Indecent Proposal has pretty much exactly the same scene as the plot twist, as the billionaire chats about the proposal with his chauffeur and lets also the audience on the fact that it's not a one time thing but he has played the game several times before with other women. The film is based on (and apparently substantially differs from) a novel published in 1988.

    The cover date of the issue is Sept '87 and obviously it hit the newstands already months earlier.

    Did John Byrne Do It First and did they lift it from him, at least for the movie? The scene, but maybe also the whole setup?

    1. Y'know, I caught the similarity with INDECENT PROPOSAL, but having never seen the movie, I decided not to comment. I guess it's certainly possible the novel "borrowed" from this story, but it could also be coincidence. I remember in the late 90s when Chris Claremont was writing FANTASTIC FOUR, he did a story where the group was trapped in a virtual reality world, living different lives. This isn't exactly a unique concept, but the way Claremont presented it was very similar to what happened in THE MATRIX, which was released just a few months later. I still remember watching THE MATRIX at the time and thinking as I sat there in the theater that it was eerily similar to the FF storyline I'd just read.

  2. Thanks for tracking this down (and sorry for unwittingly adding to your workload on this site).

    These days I can better appreciate this story's depiction of subtle yet sadistic (and realistic) abuse of power. I mostly remember reading it as a 15-year-old kid and at the time it wasn't terribly exciting comic books. Maybe part of it was that I was still fairly innocent in terms of the wide world of sexual relationships, so the moral conflict didn't seem like a terribly tough choice, i.e. "why on earth would a good family woman even consider running off with a villain?" (hey, I was reading Superman, I was still a bit idealistic).

    But in any case, it was certainly different, an ambitiously "mature" story, and not a bad outing for a back-up feature. But I'm sure I was glad when "Operation Overload" turned out to be about as "comic book-y" a Luthor plot as one could hope for!

    -david p.

    1. It wasn't a big deal at all... I actually knew of this story and had a general idea of its plot, so I had a pretty good idea in my head of what I'd say about it. I was just waiting to get to it! As I said above, I'd never have known I missed it if you hadn't said something!

      I agree; this is something that would have bored me as a child, and Byrne probably recognized that, hence using it as a backup following a more straightforward superhero adventure. I noticed reading his FANTASTIC FOUR that Byrne was always pretty mindful of making sure there was enough entertainment value for his target audience (kids) in any given issue, even as he explored more mature themes as well.

      While looking for scans of this story, I found a quote from Byrne in which he said this is one of his favorites among the tales he's written because it made him feel like a "real" writer. I can see how he could feel that way about it.

  3. Evidently Luthor's prediction on Jenny's torment came true. She shot him at his presidential election. Unfortunately, not only did she not succeed, the attack brought enough goodwill to win him the election!

  4. What a truly epic short story starring Lex Luthor.