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By Thomas Wheeler

Before it became known as "DC Universe Classics", Mattel's main line of 6" scale DC-related super-hero action figures was known as, simply, "DC Super-Heroes", the main difference being that it was distinctly more Batman/Superman-centric.

Apart from this, however, there were few differences in the line. It still featured nicely designed, highly-detailed, highly-articulated incarnations of well-known DC Comics characters. The DC Super-Heroes line is pretty much gone at this point, replaced by its DC Universe Classics successor.

However, a few specimens of the DC Super-Heroes line can still be found here and there, if you know where to look. I happened to find the DC Super-Heroes Lex Luthor figure. I was impressed. It was Luthor as he is likely best known, in his fancy high-tech armor. I ultimately decided to get it, and present -- well, hopefully not TOO belated a review of this excellent figure.

I've reviewed Luthor figures from other lines in the past, so in this instance, I think I'm going to present more of a capsule summary of his history. Luthor was one of Superman's earliest adversaries, even if in his first appearance or so he was barely recognizable, and in fact didn't even have a name to speak of at first. He was a typical mad scientist, in the more simplistic early days of comics, who had no real costume, and a shock of red hair on his head.

Ultimately, this individual would come to be known as the Luthor of Earth-2, when DC made its split between Golden Age and Silver Age characters, and he was killed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths by the more modern Luthor.

The Lex Luthor that we know somewhat better was generally portrayed as a bald, and moderately portly individual, a criminal genius, who was most often seen wearing either a business suit, on those occasions when he'd gotten out of prison legitimately, or in prison greys, when he'd gotten out of prison less legitimately.

His origin was presented that he had always been a scientific genius, and during the days of Superboy, the two had actually been friends. However, when one of Luthor's devices went awry, and Superboy destroyed it to keep it from doing far more damage, the resultant explosion cost Luthor his hair, and scrambled his brains a bit along the way. He blamed Superboy for his loss of hair AND the loss of the device, and turned to evil, regarding Superboy as his arch-enemy.

In the 1970's, it was decided to give Luthor an official costume. Prison greys might have been appropriate, but they weren't exactly colorful. Luthor chose a costume of purple and green -- interesting choices, since these were secondary colors on the color spectrum, and as such could be perceived to be in opposition to Superman's primary colors of red, blue, and yellow.

So Luthor went for a costume that featured a purple shirt with a high collar, and green trousers. He also wore a green harness that included a flight pack and assorted small gadgets with which to commit crimes and battle Superman.

In the early 1980's, Luthor got another overhaul. He had retreated to an Earth-like world that he had visited years before, called Lexor, where he was actually regarded as a great hero. But even in retirement, he could not be content. He constructed a high-tech suit of armor, and began committing acts of terror on his adopted homeworld. This was almost done unconsciously. At the same time, he discovered that Lexor had an instability, not unlike Superman's homeworld of Krypton, but Luthor was able to correct the problem.

Until Superman showed up to take Luthor into custody. Their fight destroyed the device that was keeping the planet stable, and Lexor exploded. The irony was not lost on either Superman or Luthor, and the newly armored Luthor swore even greater revenge and enmity against his longtime foe, whom he blamed for this most recent tragedy.

Several years after this, the entire Superman concept got an overhaul, which to varying degrees it has maintained ever since. One of the aspects that it has largely maintained (although I suppose the forthcoming-as-I-write-this "Final Crisis" might have something to say about it) is that Luthor and Superman never encountered each other until adulthood. Luthor was a prominent businessman, president, CEO, and everything else of LexCorp, a multi-billion-dollar corporation that did just about everything. Luthor was the most prominent citizen in Metropolis -- until Superman came along. Luthor's ego and vanity would not allow him to take second place, and Luthor swore that he would destroy the Man of Steel.

From that point on, Luthor walked a fine line, maintaining an air of being a good guy, even to helping the world's super-heroes in times of crisis, including the "Invasion" and "Final Night" storylines, and all the while this sterling citizen was looking for ways to increase his personal power by any means necessary and destroy the Caped Kryptonian.

He even managed to get elected President of the United States for a time, but his underhanded dealing drove him out of office, and even largely out of LexCorp. In more recent times, he has far more played the role of villain, even to gathering a massive society of villains to combat the heroes of Earth.

Obviously, during much of these times, he did not wear a suit of high-tech armor. He generally wore a business suit. More recently he has turned up in a high-tech suit of battle armor, a modern adaptation of his 80's armor. Where Luthor will end up, and wearing what, these days, is anyone's guess, but one might surmise that it will always be in opposition to Superman.

The Luthor figure that was offered as part of the DC Super-Heroes line is a highly detailed version of the armored Luthor prior to the Superman reboot of 1986. This is a Luthor that has seen at least one previous figure incarnation, in Kenner's "Super Powers" line. However, with all due respect to that very fine line of 1980's action figures, this Luthor is far more detailed and far more advanced than that one.

Luthor stands about 6-1/2" in height, which puts him right in scale with the DC Universe Classics figures. When Mattel changed the name of the line and expanded its offerings outside of the Bat-Super universe, they did not change the scale of the figures, or really very much about the basic construction design, which is a good one.

Luthor's armor is extremely complex and ornate. In fact the plainest thing about the figure is the head. Luthor's bald head is poised front and center in between the protective side plates of the chest and shoulder armor. But as "plain" as it may be, the headsculpt is superbly sculpted and detailed. The facial expression is one of supreme confidence and arrogance. This is a man who believes his intellect makes him superior to all others, including Superman, and doesn't even try to hide it. The painted detailing is excellent, with very fine detail especially on the eyes, right down to green irises. About my only gripe is that while the head turns from side to side without any difficulty, it doesn't move up and down. Granted there's not really a lot of room for it to. It might've been impossible with regard to the design.

The most prominent aspect of Luthor's armor is the huge torso piece, which extends over the shoulders and around the head. This is a heavily detailed and rather angular-looking piece, bright green in color, with plates, rivets, and assorted little gadgetry details sculpted into it throughout. There are two very fine red cables which run from near the head over to the shoulders. There is a symbol in the center of the chestplate, which with a little imagination could be perceived to be a double "L", for Lex Luthor. Here is the only real color other than green and purple on this uniform. The symbol plate has some yellow and red in it. Is Liuthor mocking Superman with this symbol?
Wouldn't surprise me.

There's a sort of "skirt" around the waist, part of the armor design, which does unfortunately hinder leg articulation somewhat. This figure will never sit down. However, the legs are still poseable to a fair degree. The skirt piece is an incredibly intricate combination of bright green and purple. Almost looks like something Luthor might've swiped off of one of the New Gods during their Jack Kirby days.

The armored bodysuit underneath all of this is a rather dark green in color. The lower torso and sleeves appear to be wraparound strips that are riveted into place. The detail level, once again, is amazing. The legs do not have the "wraparound" look to them, but once again, they are very highly detailed and look superb.

The gloves and boots are a metallic purple. I'm pleased to see some metallic finish on this figure, since it is intended to represent a suit of armor. The gloves and boots are rather bulky in appearance -- Luthor is not Tony Stark and this isn't Iron Man, but it's also reasonable to assume that there's a fair amount of weaponry packed into these. As with every other part of this figure, the level of sculpted detail is considerable and very well done. This may well be the most heavily detailed action figures, as far as the sculpting is concerned, in Mattel's DC line-up to date -- Super-Heroes or Universe
Classics. Heck, look at the area where Luthor's head rests and take note of the
gridwork pattern.

There's not a lot of painted detailing on the figure. The greatest level can be found on the "skirt", and it is carefully and meticulouslt done. The gloves and boots are painted metallic purple, but no additional internal details were needed. There's some metallic purple on the bright green torso piece, which I was glad to see, since it makes for better overall composition with regard to the gloves and boots.

Luthor comes with a small gun and a Kryptonite crystal that fits into the gun. This struck me as a little silly. What, this criminal genius builds a high-tech suit of armor and forgets to include a Kryptonite blaster of some sort in its design to take on his most notorious enemy!? I guess they had to include some sort of accessory, but this makes him look a little more absent-minded than he really needs to be.

Articulation of the figure is excellent, and no great surprise here, a lot of the articulation points are designed into the armor. I guess that's something that armored figures can get away with a little better than some. Clone Troopers, Stormtroopers, Lex Luthor... what the heck, it works. Too bad the same level and placement of articulation doesn't always work as well on figures that are designed to look like they're wearing somewhat loose-fitting cloth. Fortunately that shouldn't be much of an issue in a super-hero line.

It's certainly not much of an issue on Luthor, who is poseable at the head, arms, upper-arm swivel, elbows, gauntlet tops (for wrists) mid-torso, legs (admittedly somewhat hindered by the "skirt", upper leg swivel, knees, boot-top swivel, and ankles.

Now let me say one thing about the articulation and figure design here that's a bit of a negative. For starters, there's how they articulated Luthor's feet. It's pretty strange. They worked the ankle articulation into the boot design, but the boot design (and this is just how the character in the comics was designed) allowed for the figure to honestly have a greater range of motion than it really should. You can flip these feet down so far they almost start pointing backwards.

Secondly, and this is something I've noticed in the DC Universe Classics line as well, the legs, especially the lower legs, are somewhat pre-posed into an "action stance". This is not only completely unnecessary with a figure that has the level of articulation that these figures have, but it actually ends up limiting the degree to which the figure can be posed and still stand up on his own. It's something that I hope Mattel gets over real quick as their DC Universe line continues to grow and, I hope, prosper.

However, these are somewhat minor points on an otherwise excellent action figure, inasmuch as I do believe the pre-posed aspect does need to be addressed, and frankly, eliminated.

So, what's my final word here? Well, okay, it's unlikely that you're going to be able to head to Toys "R" Us or Target at this point (and Wal-Mart hasn't carried much DC stuff in over a year) and still find this Luthor figure. And I doubt that every K-Mart is as scattered with its toy department as mine was. That doesn't mean it's impossible to find this Luthor figure out there. Just difficult. And there's always the secondary market. And since Luthor isn't currently planned for the DC Universe Classics line, and since this figure would certainly qualify as a DC Classic given the armor he's wearing, I'd
say that if you don't already own him, he's certainly worth tracking down.

He is, after all, one of the main bad guys of the DC Universe, and most assuredly, this DC SUPER-HEROES LEX LUTHOR figure has my very enthusiastic recommendation!