Lex Luthor

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Luthor redirects here. For other uses, see Luther (disambiguation).
Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor, as depicted in Superman Birthright #5.
Art by Leinil Francis Yu.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Action Comics #23
(April 1940)
Created by Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
In-story information
Full name Alexander Joseph "Lex" Luthor
Team affiliations LexCorp
Injustice Gang
Secret Society of Super Villains
Injustice League
Secret Six
Project 7734
Orange Lantern Corps
Intergang
Justice League
Notable aliases Lex Luthor Z, Mockingbird, Kryptonite Man
Abilities
  • Genius-level intellect, exceptional memory (hyperthymesia, eidetic, mnemonist, etc.), and exceptional technological prowess
  • Access to vast wealth and resources (business magnate and politician)
  • Robotic battle suits grant increased strength, endurance, tactical analysis, various weapons, and flight capabilities

Alexander Joseph "Lex" Luthor is a fictional character, a supervillain appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Luthor is the archenemy of Superman, though given his high status as a supervillain, he has also come into conflict with Batman and other superheroes in the DC Universe. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the character first appeared in Action Comics #23 (April 1940). Luthor is a wealthy, power-mad business magnate of high intelligence and incredible technological prowess.[1] Luthor's goals typically center on killing Superman, the foremost obstacle to achieving the villain's megalomaniacal goals. Despite periodically wearing a powered exoskeleton, Luthor has traditionally lacked superpowers or a dual identity.[2] Lex Luthor has carefully crafted his public persona however, in order to avoid arrest. He is well known for his philanthropy; donating millions of dollars to Metropolis over the years, funding parks, foundations, and medical charities. [3]

Lex Luthor typically appears in comic books and other media as a business magnate with a bald head. However, Luthor was originally depicted as a recluse who, in the vein of pulp novels, wreaks havoc on the world with his futuristic weaponry. The character was later remodeled as a well-known business magnate and philanthropist of Metropolis. In his earliest appearances, Luthor is shown with a full head of red hair. Despite this, the character later became hairless as the result of an artist's mistake. A 1960 story by Jerry Siegel expanded upon Luthor's origin and motivations, revealing him to be a childhood friend of Superman's who lost his hair when a fire destroyed his laboratory, a fire which Luthor blamed on Superboy, who was attempting to save Luthor from a lifeform Luthor had created in vitro that was threatening to kill Luthor.[4][5]

Following the 1985 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, the character was re-imagined as a Machiavellian industrialist and white-collar criminal, even briefly serving as President of the United States. In recent years, various writers have revived Luthor's mad scientist persona from the 1940s. The character was ranked 4th on IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time[6] and as the 8th Greatest Villain by Wizard on its 100 Greatest Villains of All Time list.[7] Luthor is also described as a "megavillain" by comic book critic Peter Sanderson,[2] one of a few genre-crossing villains whose adventures take place "in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended".[2]

Publication history[edit]

Creation and development[edit]

Luthor's first appearance was in Action Comics (vol. 1) #23 (1940). Art by Joe Shuster.

In his first appearance, Action Comics #23 (April 1940), Luthor is depicted as a diabolical genius and is referred to by his surname. He resides in a flying city suspended by a dirigible. Having taken control of several European countries through his machinations, Luthor tries to provoke a war between the two fictional nations of Galonia and Toran with the help of the crooked Galonian General Lupo. He plans to set all the nations of the world at war but is eventually stopped by Superman. Covering the ongoing war between Galonia and Toran, Clark Kent interviews General Lupo. Lupo informs Kent that a temporary truce has been called in order to negotiate. When that truce is broken by the Galonians, Lupo claims it was an accident. Suspecting otherwise, Kent follows Lupo as Superman. In a hidden cave, Lupo communicates with an unseen leader, Luthor. Superman learns of a plan to attack a neutral country and confronts Lupo. Before the general can expose his unseen boss, green rays strike and kill him. Superman stops the attack on the neutral country, and as Kent, he reveals his information to the warring countries. Worried by Kent’s knowledge of his involvement, Luthor captures Kent’s partner, Lois Lane. Lois gets a message to Clark bringing Superman to Luthor’s dirigible base to rescue her. Superman is subjected to Luthor’s green ray which weakens Superman. The Man of Steel is able to escape however and destroy the dirigible. Only he and Lois appear to escape when it crashes to Earth. With Luthor out of the picture, the warring countries declare armistice. Clark delivers the story to the Daily Planet and returns home with Lois.[8]

Luthor returns in Superman #4 and tries to steal a weapon that is capable of causing earthquakes. Superman foils his attempt in stealing the device. Luthor then challenges Superman to a duel of his weaponry against Superman's powers in which Superman wins. However, this is a distraction to allow him to steal the earthquake device. Despite Superman destroying his base, Luthor escapes. Superman destroys the earthquake device, and the scientist who made it commits suicide to prevent its reinvention. In a story in the same issue, he is also shown to have created a city on the sunken Lost Continent of Pacifo and to have recreated prehistoric monsters, which he plans to unleash upon the world after draining oil wells dry. After Clark and Lois fly there, a pterodactyl attacks their plane, killing the pilot. Although Superman defeats it, he sees that shock has placed Lois in a coma. It appears as though Luthor has died from being attacked by his monsters, after which Superman breaks the city's glass cover, causing the ocean to destroy it. Clark then takes Lois to a doctor who revives her and proceeds to cover the story. However, Luthor returns in Superman #5 with a plan to place hypnotic gas in the offices of influential people, intending to throw the nation into a depression with the help of corrupt financier Moseley. By the end of the story, he is once again defeated.

Luthor's appearance in Superman (vol. 1) #4 (1940). Art by Dave Bussink.

In his earliest appearances, Luthor is shown as a middle-aged man with a full head of red hair. Less than a year later, however, an artistic mistake resulted in Luthor being depicted as completely bald in a newspaper strip.[9] The original error is attributed to Leo Novak, a studio artist who illustrated for the Superman dailies during this period.[10] One theory is that Novak mistook Luthor for the Ultra-Humanite, a frequent foe of Superman who, in his Golden Age incarnation, resembled a balding, elderly man.[10] Other evidence suggests Luthor's design was confused with that of a stockier, bald henchman in Superman #4 (Spring 1940);[10] Luthor's next appearance occurs in Superman #10 (May 1941), in which Novak depicted him as significantly heavier, with visible jowls.[10] The character's abrupt hair loss has been made reference to several times over the course of his history. When the concept of the DC multiverse began to take hold, Luthor's red-haired incarnation was rewritten as Alexei Luthor, Lex's counterpart from the Earth-Two parallel universe. In 1960, writer Jerry Siegel altered Luthor's backstory to incorporate his hair loss into his origin.

In 1944 Lex Luthor was the first character in a comic book, (and one of the first in fiction) to use an atomic bomb. The United States Department of Defense (then known as the United States Department of War) asked this story line be delayed from publication, which it was until 1946.[11] The War Department later asked for dailies of the Superman comic strip to be pulled in April 1945 which depicted Lex Luthor bombarding Superman with the radiation from a cyclotron. [12]

Luthor vanished for a long time, coming back in Superboy #59 (Sept 1957), in a story called "Superboy meets Amazing Man". A flying costumed bald man probably in his forties appears in Smallville and starts helping people using his fantastic inventions. He later moves his operations to the nearby town of Hadley. Superboy finds he is using his inventions to set the town up so he can rob their bank, and stops him. In the last panel, Amazing Man is in jail and he tells Superboy he will regret it as sure as his name is Luthor and Superboy thinks that he will be Superman by time he gets out and that Luthor's talents might make him an arch enemy.

In the origin story printed in Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960), young Lex Luthor is shown as an aspiring scientist who resides in Smallville, the hometown of Superboy. The teenage Luthor saves Superboy from a chance encounter with Kryptonite. In gratitude Superboy builds Luthor a laboratory, where weeks later he manages to create an artificial life-form, which Luthor loved as if his own child. Grateful in turn to Superboy, Luthor creates an antidote for Kryptonite poisoning. However, an accidental fire breaks out in Luthor's lab. Superboy uses his super-breath to extinguish the flames, inadvertently spilling chemicals which cause Luthor to go bald; in the process, he also destroys Luthor's artificial life form. Believing Superboy intentionally destroyed his discoveries, Luthor attributes his actions to jealousy and vows revenge. Luthor's revenge first came in the form of grandiose engineering projects in Smallville to prove his superiority over the superhero, only to have each go disastrously out of control and require Superboy's intervention. The mounting embarrassments further deepen Lex's hate for Superboy for supposedly further humiliating him, and he unsuccessfully attempts to murder the superhero.[13] This revised origin makes Luthor's fight with Superman a personal one, and suggests that if events had unfolded differently, Luthor might have been a more noble person. These elements were played up in various stories throughout the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Elliot S. Maggin's novel Last Son of Krypton.[14] This revenge causes Luthor's family to disown him and change their names to Thorul. It also leads to years of Superman, Luthor, and Supergirl concealing the truth from Luthor's sister, Lena Thorul. She was told her brother died in a rock-climbing accident. She has ESP powers due to touching one of Luthor's inventions. Once she found out about Luthor being her brother and briefly lost her memory. However Luthor broke out of prison and gave her flowers he had developed that removed the bad memory from her mind.

1980s-1990s[edit]

Cover art to The Man of Steel #4, by John Byrne.

In the 1986 limited series The Man of Steel, John Byrne redesigned Lex Luthor from scratch, intending to make him a villain that the 1980s would recognize: an evil corporate executive. Initially brutish and overweight, the character later evolved into a sleeker, more athletic version of his old self. Luthor is no longer recounted as having lost his hair in a chemical fire; rather, his hairline is shown to be receding naturally over time. Marv Wolfman, a writer on Action Comics who had one conversation with Byrne prior to Luthor's reboot[15] recalled:

I never believed the original Luthor. Every story would begin with him breaking out of prison, finding some giant robot in an old lab he hid somewhere, and then he'd be defeated. My view was if he could afford all those labs and giant robots he wouldn't need to rob banks. I also thought later that Luthor should not have super powers. Every other villain had super powers. Luthor's power was his mind. He needed to be smarter than Superman. Superman's powers had to be useless against him because they couldn't physically fight each other and Superman was simply not as smart as Luthor.[16]

The Modern Age Lex Luthor is a product of child abuse and early poverty. Born in the Suicide Slum district of Metropolis, he is instilled with a desire to become a self-made man. As a teenager, he takes out a large insurance policy on his parents without their knowledge, then sabotages their car's brakes, causing their deaths. Upon graduating from MIT, Luthor founds his own business, LexCorp, which grows to dominate much of Metropolis.

Luthor does not physically appear in The Man of Steel until the fourth issue, which takes place over a year after Superman's arrival in Metropolis. When Lois Lane and Clark Kent are invited to a society gala aboard Luthor's yacht, terrorists seize the ship without warning, forcing Superman to intervene.[17] Luthor observes Superman in action, and once the gunmen are dispatched, hands the hero a personal check in an attempt to hire him. When Luthor admits that he had not only anticipated the attack, but had arranged for it to occur in order to lure Superman out, the Mayor deputizes Superman to arrest Luthor for reckless endangerment. This, coupled with the indignation that Superman is the only person he could not buy off, threaten, or otherwise control, results in Luthor's pledge to destroy Superman at any cost. As such, he is more than willing to help other businessmen destroy other superbeings. He was instrumental in the apparent death of Swamp Thing, which jeopardized many lives as the Parliament of Trees attempted to replace him.[18]

Despite general acceptance of Byrne's characterization, as evidenced by subsequent adaptations in other media, some writers have called for a return to Luthor's original status as a mad scientist. Regarding the character's effectiveness as a corrupt billionaire, author Neil Gaiman commented:

It's a pity Lex Luthor has become a multinationalist; I liked him better as a bald scientist. He was in prison, but they couldn't put his mind in prison. Now he's just a skinny Kingpin.[19]

Luthor's romantic aspirations toward Lois Lane, established early on in the series, become a focal point of the stories immediately following it.[20] He is shown making repeated attempts to court her during The Man of Steel, though Lois plainly does not return his feelings.[21]

In the Superman Adventures comic line based on the TV series of the same name, Luthor's backstory is identical to that of the Modern Age origin with slight changes. Luthor is shown originating in Suicide Slum, but at an early age already aware of how his brilliance outshone other children and his plans to have all Metropolis look up to him one day. Luthor's baldness is never explained, save for a brief depiction of him with blond hair in childhood, it is assumed the hair loss was natural. Luthor's parents die during his teenage years, however their deaths were indeed accidental and no foul play by Lex. As in the usual story, Lex uses the insurance payouts to kickstart his future by paying for his tuition to MIT and eventually starting LexCorp. His hatred of Superman is explained as the citizens of Metropolis have had more admiration for the Man of Steel than for Lex.

Modern depictions[edit]

Superman: Birthright, a limited series written by Mark Waid in 2004, offers an alternate look at Luthor's history, including his youth in Smallville, and his first encounter with Superman. The story has similarities to the 2001 television series Smallville,[22] which follows Clark Kent's life as a teenager and into early adulthood. One plot element shared by the comic and the show is Lex Luthor's problematic relationship with his wealthy father, Lionel.

Birthright also reinvents the Silver Age concept of Luthor befriending Clark Kent as a young man. During a failed attempt to communicate with Krypton, an explosion erupts which singes off Luthor's hair.[23][24] Waid's original intention was to jettison the notion of Lex Luthor being an evil businessman, restoring his status as a mad scientist. He ultimately conceded, however, that the CEO Luthor would be easier for readers to recognize. In Birthright, Luthor remains a wealthy corporate magnate in contrast to Byrne's characterization; however, LexCorp is founded upon Luthor's study of extraterrestrial life, thereby providing a link between him and Superman.[22][25] In the retrospective section of the Superman: Birthright trade paperback, Waid explains:

Despite my own personal prejudices, I say we leave Lex the criminal businessman he's been for the past 17 years. The Lois & Clark producers liked it, the WB cartoon guys liked it... so clearly, it works on some level. My concern is that, at least in my eyes, the fact that Luthor's allowed to operate uncontested for years makes Superman look ineffectual.[26]

Birthright was initially intended to establish a new origin for Superman and Luthor.[27] To Waid's disappointment, however, the canonicity of the series was eventually discredited by stories that followed it.[28] A concise biography for Luthor, later outlined in Action Comics #850, first appeared in the 2007 limited series Countdown to Final Crisis #34. Luthor's current origin appears to be a synthesis of aspects from the Silver Age continuity and the The Man of Steel mini-series. Recent changes to DC Comics continuity were revealed to have been a result of the 2005 Infinite Crisis mini-series.

As outlined in a backup profile in the 52 weekly series,[volume & issue needed] the post-Action Comics #850 Lex Luthor in this continuity is the son of business mogul Lionel Luthor and his socialite spouse, Leticia. As shown previously in Superman: Birthright and the pre-Crisis stories, he spends part of his adolescence in Smallville, Kansas, where he meets Clark Kent, Lana Lang, and Pete Ross. n the 2009-2010 series Superman: Secret Origin, however, Lex, his father, and his sister Lena Luthor are poor and Lionel is an abusive alcoholic.[volume & issue needed]

In both versions, Lex Luthor leaves Smallville "under a cloud of rumor and suspicion", when his father is mysteriously killed. Luthor leaves behind his sister and migrates to Metropolis, where he founds LexCorp.[volume & issue needed] Luthor becomes so powerful that he controls all the media in Metropolis and uses it to reinforce his public image as a wealthy benefactor. Rival newspaper Daily Planet had always stood free, condemning Luthor's actions in an outrageous editorial signed by Perry White. As a result, when Clark Kent is first inducted into the Planet, the newspaper is almost bankrupt, dilapidated, and unable to afford new reporters. Thanks to Clark Kent's appearance as Superman and Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen being given exclusive interviews and photographs, the paper's circulation increases by 700%.

The paper's return is interrupted when the US Army, led by Lois's father, General Sam Lane, forcibly shuts down the business. General Lane attempts to force Lois to tell them everything she knows about Superman, who is now a fugitive after he fled a military interrogation. Thanks to Jimmy's help, Lois manages to escape to help Superman. Sam arrives and orders Superman and Lois arrested. The crowd turns on the Army, however, and Superman orders the crowd to stop, telling them that they, not the Army, not Lex Luthor, nor himself, are meant to be Metropolis's saviors.[volume & issue needed] Knowing Luthor's role in the Army's attack against him, Superman confronts him and tells him that Metropolis doesn't belong to him: "You don't own us." Lex objects, since Superman isn't from Earth. Superman replies, "This is my home", and leaves. Luthor holds Superman responsible for Luthor losing his complete grip over the people of Metropolis, a grudge that lasts for an eternity. In both "JLA" and "52," Grant Morrison states that Luthor's ego leads him to believe that the only reason Superman commits good deeds is to somehow strike at Luthor and prove who is better, arguing that it is impossible for Superman to be as good as he appears to be.

Many times, Luthor has stated that he could have aided the entire human race if not for Superman's interference, claiming that he gives humanity a goal that they could realistically strive to duplicate, while Superman makes them reach for the impossible. Both Superman and Conner Kent have called him out on the hypocrisy of this statement, noting that he has regularly turned down easy opportunities to willingly help others, simply because he would have sacrificed an opportunity to kill Superman by doing so. They believe this shows that Luthor's ego is more important to him than humanity. Even when Superman was depowered after the Battle of Metropolis[29] and remained out of sight for a year, the only thing Luthor accomplished in that time was the self-sabotaged 'Everyman' project, subsequently finding a long-buried Kryptonian warship which he uses to attack Metropolis. This prompted Superman to note that he spent his year without Superman to discover "a big destructive machine so [he] could break things" rather than achieve anything of worth to humanity, all the while claiming that Superman drove him to it.[30] This idea of Luthor's fixation on his hatred for Superman was further reinforced when Luthor was briefly merged with a near-omnipotent entity that sought peace after its difficult 'childhood'. While merged with the entity, Luthor had the power to bring peace and bliss to the entire universe, potentially becoming a hero greater even than Superman, but Luthor fought against that power simply because he would have had to share that bliss with Superman as well.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Silver Age[edit]

Lex Luthor as he appeared in Action Comics #544.

In the pre-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor's driving ambitions are to kill Superman and enslave Earth as a stepping stone to dominating the universe.[31] In Action Comics #271 (1960), Superman acknowledges that Luthor "could have been a mighty force for good in the world, yet he chose to direct his great scientific brain into criminal channels."[32] Although none of his attempts to kill Superman work permanently (though a classic non-canonical story from 1961 entitled "The Death of Superman" has Luthor finally killing Superman after lulling him by pretending to go straight, although Supergirl then arrests him and he is exiled to the Phantom Zone),[33][34] Luthor routinely manages to escape from prison and threaten the world again.[24]

Though he is a noted criminal on Earth, Luthor is revered on the alien world of Lexor, where he rediscovered the planet's lost technology and rebuilt society for its inhabitants. He apparently lost a fight to Superman so that water could be transported to the desert planet, as he had reactivated digging machines but discovered he could not find water. He and Superman had originally gone to the world to have a proper fight as Superman did not want to appear cowardly after Luthor over a radio challenged him to a fight, as this planet had a red sun meaning Superman lost his powers there. As a result, he becomes a hero in the eyes of Lexor's people, whereas Superman is detested as a villain.[35] He eventually marries a local woman named Ardora,[36] with whom he fathers a son, Lex Luthor, Jr. After its debut,[37] Lexor appears sporadically in various Superman comics as Luthor's base of operations, where he wages assaults on Superman. After a disastrous defeat by Superman, Luthor decides to retire and go to Lexor -permanently. It is then disclosed that Lexor is suffering from the same problem that ended Krypton's existence, but Luthor devises a "neutrarod" to deaden the core reactions. Despite his sincere effort to reform and spend time with his wife & child, Luthor's psychological need to commit crime re-surfaces, especially after his discovery of the power armor dating from Lexor's technological age. He then goes on a series of secret marauding attacks, professing surprise at the pillage & plunder reported in the news. Superman, due to one of Luthor's still active machines threatening mass destruction, flies to Lexor to take care of Luthor. During the ensuing battle, an energy salvo from Luthor's battlesuit accidentally overloads the "Neutrarod"—a spire Luthor had built to counter Lexor's geological instability—resulting in the annihilation of Lexor and all its inhabitants, including his wife and son. Luthor eventually returns to Earth, unable to accept his own role in Lexor's destruction and blaming Superman for it, even psychologically blocking the memory, lest he go insane.[38] The Lexorian supersuit now enabled Luthor to go mano a mano with Superman, on a physical level. Luthor's trademark battlesuit from this era—a heavily armored, flight-capable suit with kryptonite fixtures embedded in its gauntlets[39]— was designed by George Pérez[40] as part of the Super Powers toyline in the early 1980s and introduced as Luthor acted as Lexor's sovereign. It has reappeared in recent continuity, most notably during Infinite Crisis.

During the 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths, Luthor allies himself with fellow Superman foe Brainiac to recruit an army of supervillains spanning the DC multiverse, intending to take advantage of the confusion caused by the Crisis. However, once it becomes clear that it is as much in their interests to save the multiverse as anyone else's, Luthor and Brainiac reluctantly ally their faction with Superman and the other heroes. At the conclusion of the series, reality is altered so that each of the different universes fall into their proper place, converging into one. Afterward, Luthor is subsequently returned to prison with all his memories of the alliance forgotten.

The Silver/Bronze Age Lex Luthor met his official "end" in the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" story line that closed out Pre-Crisis Superman chronology. Luthor found Brainaic's robotic head and was fused with it. Brainiac took control of Luthor's body and sought to destroy Superman once and for all, teaming up with the Legion of Super-Villains. Fighting Brainiac's control, Luthor begged a super-powered Lana Lang to kill him; she complied by breaking his neck. Though Luthor died, Brainaic was able to retain control of the body for a little while before rigor mortis set in and his brain was forced to leave it.

Modern Age[edit]

Cover art to Supergirl/Team Luthor Special#1, by Kerry Gammill.

As part of the continuity changes which followed The Man of Steel and Superman: Secret Origin, Luthor is shown actively participating in the creation of three Superman villains, Parasite (indirectly), Bizarro (the failed result of an attempt to clone Superman), and the cyborg Metallo. Upon discovering that Metallo is powered by a 'heart' of kryptonite rock in Superman (vol. 2) #2, Luthor steals it in order to fashion a kryptonite ring for himself. He wears the alien ore around his finger as a symbol that he is untouchable, even to the Man of Steel, after carrying out a series of kidnappings to try to determine the nature of the connection between Superman and Clark Kent. Although computer analysis of the assembled data revealed that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person, Luthor dismissed the results because he believed that he 'knew' that someone as powerful as Superman would never choose to live a normal human life.[41] Luthor eventually suffers from severe cancer brought on by long-term radiation exposure to the ring;[42] before this, kryptonite was mistakenly assumed to produce a 'clean' radiation that is harmless to humans. His hand requires amputation to prevent the cancer's spread,[43] but by then it has already metastasized, and his condition is terminal.

Luthor decides to fake his own death by piloting a prototype jet on a proposed trip around the world and crashing it in the Andes; this is merely a cover for the removal of his brain from his cancer-ridden body and the growth of a cloned body around it, whereupon he passes himself off as his hitherto unknown, illegitimate 21-year-old son and heir, Lex Luthor II. His deception is benefited by a vibrant new body with a beard and full head of red hair, as well as assuming an Australian accent as part of his fake backstory.[44] As Luthor II, he inherits control of LexCorp and seduces Supergirl (a protoplasmic clone of an alternate universe Lana Lang), due to his resemblance to her creator (the alternate universe's Luthor).[45] Luthor's clone body eventually begins to deteriorate and age (and lose its hair) at a rapid rate, a side-effect of a disease that affects all clones. Meanwhile, Lois Lane discovers proof of Luthor's clone harvesting and false identity;[46] with help from Superman, she exposes the truth, and a despondent Superman helps to apprehend Luthor. In the end, Luthor becomes a permanent prisoner in his own body, unable to even blink, and swearing vengeance on Superman.

Aid comes in the form of the demon Neron; Luthor is offered full health in exchange for services and his soul. Not believing in the existence of souls, he agrees.[47] Returning to Metropolis, Luthor freely turns himself over to the police and is put on trial. He is acquitted on all counts when Luthor claims to have been kidnapped by renegade scientists from Cadmus Labs, who replaced him with a violent clone that is allegedly responsible for all the crimes with which Luthor is charged.[48]

President of the United States[edit]

Cover to Lex 2000 #1, featuring Lex Luthor as President of the United States. Art by Glen Orbik.

Deciding to turn to politics, Luthor becomes President of the United States, winning the election on a platform of promoting technological progress. His first action as president was to take a proposed moratorium on fossil-based fuels to the U.S. Congress.

Luthor is assisted by the extreme unpopularity of the previous administration's mishandling of the Gotham City earthquake crisis (as depicted in the No Man's Land storyline in the Batman titles), and his own seemingly heroic efforts to rebuild Gotham. After six months, Gotham is restored and rejoins America. Ironically, Batman ultimately learns that the entire debacle was the fault of Luthor alone as he attempted to take control of Gotham by forging deeds for the land in his name, which results in Bruce Wayne severing all commercial ties between the U.S. government and his company, Wayne Enterprises, in protest of Luthor's election as President. Luthor responds in turn by arranging for the murder of Wayne's lover, Vesper Fairchild, and framing Wayne for the murder (as seen in Bruce Wayne: Fugitive).

An early triumph of Luthor's first term occurs during the Our Worlds at War comic book crossover, in which he coordinates the U.S. Army, Earth's superheroes, and a number of untrustworthy alien forces to battle the main villain of the story arc, Imperiex. As it is eventually revealed, however, Luthor knew about the alien invasion in advance and did nothing to alert Earth's heroes to it, leading to the destruction of Topeka, Kansas, by an Imperiex probe, letting the destruction happen so that he could be remembered as Earth's leader during such a decisive war.

Removal from office[edit]

The initial story arc of the Superman/Batman ongoing series depicts the fall of Luthor's reign as U.S. President. In "The World's Finest" (more commonly referred to as "Public Enemies"), a cadre of superheroes eventually break ranks from the Justice League to oppose Luthor. Superman and Batman, who had previously forbidden any attempt to unseat Luthor from office by force, led the storming of the White House. This was predicated by an attempt on Luthor's part to link Superman to a kryptonite asteroid that is hurtling toward Earth, claiming that he had 'evidence'- which he declined to share while claiming that it would make the public laud his actions if they knew it- that the asteroid was being drawn to Earth by Superman, offering a billion dollar reward for Superman's capture that pitted Superman and Batman against an army of villains, all of whom they defeated. Luthor even attempted to send a team of heroes after them under the leadership of Captain Atom- the team consisting of Major Force, Black Lightning, Power Girl, Starfire, Katana and Green Lantern, but this plan failed when Katana and Power Girl quickly sided with Superman and Batman and Major Force was apparently killed, Power Girl noting that Luthor had assumed in his arrogance that the heroes would obey him simply because he was President. When the Justice Society's forced attempt to stop them by sending Hawkman and Captain Marvel against them met with failure and resulted in Superman and Batman briefly infiltrating the White House, Luthor, in an enraged and desperate gambit after Superman's rapid defeats of his plans, used a variant combination of the "super-steroid" Venom (a chemical associated with the Batman villain Bane), liquid synthetic Kryptonite, and an Apokoliptian battlesuit to fight Superman directly.

The madness that is a side effect of Venom takes hold, and during the ensuing fight with Superman and Batman, Luthor admits he had traded the creature Doomsday to Darkseid in return for weapons during the Our Worlds at War crisis; in doing so, he inadvertently provides a confession which is captured on video by Batman. Returning to the LexCorp building to regroup after Superman damaged his battlesuit, Luthor finds that the acting CEO, Talia Head, has sold the entire company to the Wayne Foundation, forcing Luthor to escape and go into hiding. Following Luthor's bankruptcy and total disgrace, Vice President Pete Ross briefly assumes his place as President. Luthor serves fewer than three years.

In 2009, the story of Luthor's rise and fall as U.S. President was adapted as a direct-to-video animated film entitled Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.[49]

Infinite Crisis[edit]

Alexander Luthor, Jr. (the son of Earth-Three's version of Luthor) returned to the DC Universe along with other survivors from Crisis on Infinite Earths as part of a scheme to create a perfect Earth, under the pretense of restoring Earth-Two. To this end, he assumed Luthor's identity and created a new Secret Society of Super Villains. In response, the real Luthor took on the identity of Mockingbird and formed the third incarnation of the Secret Six in order to counter Alexander's organization.

Luthor confronts his impostor in Infinite Crisis #3, but is intercepted by Superboy-Prime (a teenage version of Superman from Earth-Prime), who is allied with Alexander. After discovering that his hybrid clone/"son" Conner Kent (Superboy) was injured by Prime, Luthor contacts Robin and gives him the means to help Superboy recover. Later Luthor himself goes to Titans Tower and slips Conner a crystal shard which shows the location of Alexander's Arctic Fortress. At the end of Infinite Crisis #7, Luthor oversees Alexander's execution at the hands of the Joker.

52[edit]

Main article: 52 (comics)
Cover art for 52: Week 39, by J.G. Jones.

In the opening weeks of 52, the Gotham City Police Department finds what appears to be Luthor's body in an alley. John Henry Irons examines the body at S.T.A.R. Labs and notes that the corpse was altered postmortem to make it resemble Lex Luthor. During a press conference, the genuine Luthor publicly states that the body is that of an impostor from another Earth, and the true culprit of the crimes with which Luthor is being charged.[50] Though Alexander's body had a missing finger and a different appearance from Lex at the time of his death, 52 editor Stephen Wacker has confirmed that the body found in Gotham is indeed Alex, and that Luthor had it altered before the police discovered it.[citation needed]

Luthor immediately sets out to build a church, which he names the Luthoran Church; he becomes spokesman for a new procedure, created by the Everyman Project, that engineers ordinary citizens to develop superpowers. During the autopsy of Alexander Luthor Jr., he secretly exposes John to the chemicals involved in his creating his new army of superheroes, turning John into a literal man of steel. When approached by John's niece Natasha Irons, Luthor gladly allows her to be one of his first test subjects. Using Natasha and several other volunteers, Luthor forms his own team of superheroes which are introduced as the new Infinity Inc. In Week 21, Infinity Inc. is in the midst of a battle with Blockbuster (which Luthor has created as well), when he demonstrates that he can 'shut off' the powers of each of his agents; this results in the death of his speedster, Trajectory.[51]

At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, Luthor sets in motion a calculated plot to discredit Supernova, a new hero who has taken over defending Metropolis in Superman's absence. Luthor triggers a mass-shutdown of the powers of everyone who has undertaken the Everyman program, except for the members of Infinity Inc. As multiple flight-powered Everymen plummet to their deaths, underground gas mains rupture from the impact, which adds civilians to the death toll. Millions of dollars worth of damage is caused. Luthor's plot ultimately fails when Supernova is able to minimize the disaster with a spectacular rescue.[52]

While investigating Luthor in order to root out his motive, Natasha Irons discovers that Luthor has been testing himself to see if he is compatible with the artificial metagene treatment.[53] John Henry Irons leads an assault on Luthor's building; despite the destruction of his armor during the fight, he confronts Luthor — only to find himself badly outclassed, as Luthor demonstrates nearly all of Superman's powers. Luthor considers conquering Earth and renaming it Lexor. However, Natasha uses her uncle's hammer to trigger an electromagnetic pulse which shuts down the synthetic metagene long enough for Steel to knock Lex unconscious.[54] Lex is disgraced as a result, and later faces indictment when the members of the Everymen realize they have been used.

One Year Later and Countdown[edit]

Main article: One Year Later

One year after the events of Infinite Crisis, Luthor has been cleared of over 120 criminal counts ranging from malfeasance to first-degree murder relating to the New Year's Eve massacre from 52. However, his role in the massacre has permanently ruined his public image and thanks to the machinations of Doctor Sivana, he has lost most of his wealth and all of his control over his newly reformed LexCorp, which is now being run by Lana Lang. He blames Clark Kent for writing several articles unraveling his schemes and pledges vengeance on Metropolis after an angry mob jeers him on the courthouse steps. After amassing large quantities of Kryptonite, including kidnapping the supervillains Metallo and the Kryptonite Man, Lex uses it to power a Kryptonian battleship controlled through a "sunstone" crystal.[55] Superman manages to destroy the Kryptonite-powered ship and recover the crystal- simultaneously confronting Lex with the fact that, despite his claims that Superman has been 'holding him back' from helping humanity, the only thing he accomplished with Superman being absent for a year was to find a large robot that he used to try to destroy everything-, but Lex manages to escape custody yet again.[56]

Lex later sends Bizarro after the newly arrived "Superboy", only for the creature to be defeated by Superman. Undaunted, Luthor gathers together a new Revenge Squad to fight against invading Kryptonians led by General Zod, leaving Superman alive to provide assistance simply because he believed that this 'invasion' was proof that he had been right about Superman all along and he wanted Superman to live with that knowledge.

In JLA, Luthor (alongside Joker and Cheetah III) gathers together a new "Injustice League" and, outfitted in a new version of his warsuit, sets out to destroy the Justice League with them. On a related note during this section, he was responsible for creating the third Shaggy Man and the third Blockbuster.

Luthor plays a large role in the Countdown to Final Crisis tie-in event, Salvation Run. Having been sent to the prison planet after his Injustice League was defeated, Lex quickly assumes control of the amassed villains, receiving competition only from Joker and Gorilla Grodd, who convince half of the villains to join them. He does fight the Joker until the battle was interrupted by an attack by Desaad's Parademons. After the attack, Luthor manages to get the villains off the planet with a makeshift teleporter, secretly powered by Neutron, Heatmonger, Plasmus, Warp, and Thunder and Lightning. When called a "monster" by Thunder, Luthor claims it is the ones who sent them there who are the real monsters, and that he is the hero. He later sets the teleporter to self-destruct after he uses it, killing the attacking Parademons, and his living batteries.

Final Crisis[edit]

Main article: Final Crisis

In Justice League of America (vol. 2) #21, Luthor can be seen associating with Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains and placed in its Inner Circle. Lex Luthor wanted Libra to prove himself, so Libra sends Clayface to blow up the Daily Planet building. As Lex Luthor attempts to ambush Libra after learning that he is a prophet of Darkseid, Lex Luthor soon ends up surrounded by Justifiers. Libra tells Lex Luthor to make a final choice... swear an oath to Darkseid or become a mindless slave. In Final Crisis #5, Lex Luthor is seen when Libra blames Calculator for cracking the computer codes that will help the resistance. Lex Luthor is silent on the matter, but has been picked to lead the rearguard action against the heroes at Blüdhaven. He assumes it's an honor, but he doesn't look very pleased. Libra later figures out Luthor had been the mole in the Society of Super Villains. Luthor, in league with Doctor Sivana, seemingly destroys Libra and overturns the Anti-Life Equation being broadcast into the Justifiers' helmets.[57] He subsequently assists Superman in leading the assault against Darkseid's forces, noting that Superman can consider this a legendary first team-up between 'good' and 'bad'- with Luthor's side taking the credit for the win-, Superman accepting the deal due to the stakes. Luthor later assists Superman and his remaining allies in constructing the new Miracle Machine to reset the universe and recreate the universe without Darkseid[58]

New Krypton[edit]

Main article: Superman: New Krypton

Luthor ended up imprisoned for his crimes, but rather than going to jail General Sam Lane had him serve out his sentence working for the secretive Project 7734. While still forced to wear chains, Luthor was assigned the job of accessing the knowledge stored within the captured Brainiac,[59] who had recently been defeated by Superman (as seen during the "Brainiac" storyline). Luthor successfully accessed Brainiac’s brain and after Metallo and Reactron were taken to Kandor as prisoners of the Kryptonians who had now settled on Earth he used Brainiac to reactivate the Coluan’s ship that was also being held in Kandor. Brainiac’s robots attacked the Kryptonians, providing a distraction as Metallo and Reactron used their Kryptonite hearts to kill their captors and murder Zor-El.

After his success with Brainiac, Luthor was given the seemingly dead body of Doomsday, who had been defeated by the Kryptonians,[59] to study as it had “potential”.[60]

Luthor later manages to use Brainiac's connection to his ship to kill the soldiers assigned to watch him. Brainiac manages to free himself from Luthor's control, forcing him on board the ship, and the two make their escape.[61] The two are later shown to have entered into an alliance, with Brainiac promising Luthor the Earth when he is done with it. While reading newspapers to catch up on what happened during his imprisonment, Luthor learns of the resurrection of Superboy.[62] Lex quickly returns to Smallville, where it is revealed that his physically and mentally handicapped sister Lena Luthor is still alive, and living with her daughter Lori. In an effort to mockingly prove his abilities to Superboy, Lex agrees to cure his sister's illness. With Superboy's aid, Luthor manages to cure Lena, allowing her to walk and think logically again for a brief moment, before he then quickly reverses the process, leaving Lena completely catatonic, and informs Superboy that so long as Superman is alive, he will never reveal how he did it. Luthor escapes with Brainiac, leaving Superboy, Lori, and Krypto horrified at his cruelty. Because Luthor now sees Superboy as a failed experiment of using the "wrong alien DNA," he and Brainiac create another binary clone with their own genetics for another plan against the entire House of El.[63]

Last Stand of New Krypton and War of the Supermen[edit]

As part of his participation in Project 7734, Luthor sends a robot double of himself with Brainiac on a mission to attack New Krypton. While there, the Luthor robot tampers with the body chemistry of the previously captured Reactron.[64] Shortly thereafter, Reactron kills himself, initiating a chain reaction which ultimately destroys New Krypton and all but a handful of its 100,000 Kryptonian inhabitants. Supergirl's mother Alura (who had assumed leadership of the planet) is among the casualties.[65] For his efforts, Luthor receives a presidential pardon for his past crimes.[66]

Blackest Night[edit]

During the Blackest Night event, when word got out that apparently everyone around the world who have died are rising as undead Black Lanterns, Luthor isolates himself in his safehouse in fear that all the people he had murdered over the years would also reanimate and seek revenge on him.[67] His fear is justified as his victims, including his deceased father, arrive, seeking to feast on his avarice-filled heart. However, Luthor escapes after receiving a power ring fueled by the orange light of avarice and becomes a deputy of the Orange Lanterns. Luthor arrives at Coast City and joins the battle against the Black Lantern Corps.[68] Luthor engages battle with the Black Lantern versions of Superman and Superboy. However, the Agent Orange Larfleeze wants Luthor's ring off, as the alien does not want to share his power with him, resulting in them battling each other for it despite all of the dangers around them.[69] Luthor is able to use all of the people he has killed as his own Orange Lanterns, and seeks to add Superman to their numbers.[70] Luthor is quickly overwhelmed by his greed, and sets out to steal the rings of his fellow inducted Lanterns, taking Scarecrow's yellow ring and attempting to steal Mera's red one, but is held back by the Atom (wielding the ring-staff of the Indigo tribe) and the Flash wearing a Blue Lantern Ring. When deputy Violet Lantern Wonder Woman uses her magical lasso to restrain Luthor, under its spell of truth, Luthor is forced to confess that he secretly wants to be Superman.[71] When Nekron is defeated, Larfleeze takes the ring from Luthor, leaving him powerless, and allows Luthor to remain on Earth with the Green Lanterns (although Sinestro notes that this is the first time Larfleeze has given anyone anything).[72]

In the aftermath of the crisis, Luthor, craving the power of the orange light, recovers and operates on several Black Lantern remains in an attempt to find one with a ring still on its finger. He is then visited by Larfleeze, who demands to know what is important to the people of Earth. Luthor responds with "power", which Larfleeze already possesses, and "land", which intrigues the alien.[73]

Brightest Day: Action Comics-"The Black Ring"[edit]

After the conclusion of the New Krypton event, Luthor became the lead character in Action Comics and will remain so until issue #900.[74] Written by Paul Cornell, the first story entitled "The Black Ring" explores Luthor's more aggressive lust for power in the wake of his exposure to a power ring in the Blackest Night event. After being infused with the Orange Light of Avarice, Luthor begins a universal quest to locate the energy of the Black Lantern Corps.[75]

During the midst of the Brightest Day event, Deathstroke and his new team of Titans are hired to assassinate Luthor while he is visiting Midway City with Nava Mendelssohn, his new personal assistant and bodyguard. When the Titans ambush Lex's convoy and begin killing his hired mercenaries, Nava takes him into the sewers, where she is shot and apparently killed by Deathstroke. It is then revealed that Luthor himself had paid the Titans to fake an attempt on his life, in hopes that it would draw out conspirators within LexCorp.[76] Nava's injuries soon heal, and she reveals herself to be a shapeshifter named Facade, who had murdered and impersonated the real Nava in order to get close enough to Lex to kill him. After a massive battle, Deathstroke and Osiris are able to defeat Facade, and then turn him over to Lex. In the end, LexCorp scientists are shown performing experiments on the captured Facade, while Luthor assembles his staff and reveals that he knows that it was one of his employees who had hired the creature in the first place. Luthor warns them not to try such a tactic again, as he will turn them into his next morbid experiment if they do.[77]

While searching for the energy of the Black Lantern- simultaneously sending various Doomsday 'clones' created from the original after the other members of the Superman family to distract them, and advised by a robotic duplicate of Lois Lane- Luthor encountered Brainiac in space while attempting to alter the last of the Black Lantern energy, acting upon an unspoken theory of his. Brainiac revealed that Loisbot was an unwilling pawn in his bid to hijack Luthor's quest. Luthor then replied that he had anticipated this for some time, and he then attacked Brainiac and snapped his neck, temporarily incapacitating him. Loisbot pleaded for Lex's forgiveness, and he accepted her apology. However, after he altered the four remaining black spheres, he opened a Phantom Zone portal which unleashed an extremely powerful, monstrously large being which prepared to kill all life in the universe, because the negative emotions of sentient creatures hurt it. Luthor promptly impaled Loisbot's head, allowing himself to be infected with Krypontian technology which he used to engage the monster on a mental plane of existence. Grappling with the creature, Luthor's body and mental essence suddenly fused with it, learning that it evolved in the Phantom Zone and now seeks to escape from the grief and anger of the Zone prisoners. Using his new power, Luthor draws Superman to him, attempting to drive Superman mad by forcing him to experience the human emotions that he believes the alien merely fakes to blend in. However, Luthor is outraged when he learns that not only is Superman's mission genuine, but his defining moment of tragedy is the loss of his father. Luthor is unable to cope with the fact that not only was his greatest enemy raised by humans, but he also had a father he would actually mourn, compared to the anguish Luthor endured in his own relationship with his father. As Luthor becomes one with the creature, Superman and Mr. Mind who has been aiding Luthor's search realise that the creature allows Luthor to create a feeling of peace and bliss throughout the entire universe, at the cost of never allowing him to cause any harm to another being at the same time. Superman attempts to appeal to Luthor about the potential of doing something even he never accomplished, but Luthor is unable to let go of his hate for Superman, costing him control of the entity as well as his memory of everything he learned or did while he was merged with it and it departs for another part of the universe. Luthor is ultimately defeated when he falls into one of the Phantom Zone holes created by the creature for the remainder of the timeline.[78]

The New 52[edit]

In 2011, DC Comics launched The New 52, a relaunch of its titles and a reboot of its fictional continuity. Following this, Lex Luthor appears as a representative the government has recruited to investigate and bring down Superman. Based on background signage seen throughout the New 52 books (including Justice League), LexCorp also exists. In Justice League #2, Batman notes that he and Superman have at least one thing in common: both of them speak openly of their distaste for Luthor. In the New 52 Action Comics (a series set some time before the events of Justice League #1), Luthor is hired by General Sam Lane to capture Superman by setting a train accident as a trap for him. The younger, weaker, inexperienced Superman barely stops the train and is left unconscious. Lex collects Superman and subjects him to a series of tests to ascertain his strengths and weaknesses. He tortures Superman until the latter manages to escape. Lex is later revealed to have obtained contact with the "Collector of Worlds" through unknown means and was told to say the word "Krypton" to Superman. He later appears when the Collector abducts New Troy as one of the residents in the area. He along with Lois and Jimmy go into Glen Glenmorgan's hotel where Lex calls the Collector and it is revealed that Lex had made a deal with him. It is later revealed that Lex Luthor was the secret caller named "Icarus" that was giving secret information on Glen Glenmorgan to Clark Kent. Sometime later, after his connection with the Collector was exposed, Luthor was fired as a consultant to the U.S. military by General Lane himself. Luthor explained that they had no evidence, and that they needed his expertise as their consultant. Lane refuses to listen and has Luthor thrown off the base, but Luthor was confident that he will be asked back. After Superman's encounter with the K-Man, it was revealed that Lex Luthor had played a major role in the K-Man's creation, also (as revealed in flashback), that he had stolen Kryptonite crystals from the government while being employed by them. Luthor then muses about the potential uses of Kryptonite on Superman.[79]

One year before the ongoing modern continuity, Luthor arranged an illegal smuggling of war machines in Qurac. Knowing that Superman would intervene, Luthor laces the weapons with Kryptonite and nanite technology in order to acquire a sample of Superman's DNA in order to create a monster based on the genetic structure of Superman known as the Hybrid. As Superman seemingly defeats the monster with his ice breath, it is later found out that the Hybrid is attacking Metropolis - whilst also having infected civilians with a virus (that was carried by Superman when he in turn was infected by poison from his earlier tussle with the war machines), as Luthor had intended. The plan by Luthor was to show the people of Metropolis that Superman is indeed an alien menace, and only Luthor can save them from the Man of Steel. The final confrontation between Kal-El and Luthor, of course resulting in the defeat of Lex, was, chronologically, the first fight between two of DC's most famous characters. Luthor was arrested for the Hybrid crisis he orchestrated and now later appears in a one-man prison (designed specifically for him) created by the U.S. government and is visited by Superman. The details of how and why Luthor came to be in this prison have not yet been explained, although his face shows signs of scarring from his first fight with Superman.

During the "Trinity War" storyline, Pandora visits Lex Luthor in his jail cell as she tries to get him to open the box. Before Pandora can give it to Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman and her group arrives to retrieve the box. Seeing Wonder Woman's interest in the box, Lex Luthor attempts to grab it, but Wonder Woman gets to it first claiming "I have the box." After being taken over by the box, Wonder Woman quotes "And the box has me!"[80]

Lex plays a big part as one of the protagonists of the Forever Evil storyline, having founded the New 52 incarnation of the Injustice League. The members consist of Black Adam, Sinestro (harboring the Parallax entity of fear,) Captain Cold, Subject B-Zero (Bizarro), Deathstroke, Black Manta and Catwoman. After defeating the Crime Syndicate, Lex deduces that Bruce Wayne is Batman.[81]

In January 2014, Geoff Johns announced that Lex Luthor and Captain Cold will be joining the Justice League.

Relationships and family[edit]

Pre-Crisis Continuity[edit]

In the pre-Crisis continuity, Luthor is shown as having very few personal attachments. Shamed by his crimes, his parents (Jules and Arlene) disown him, move away, and change their name to the anagram "Thorul".

Luthor has a younger sister named Lena, an empath who grows up unaware of her familial connection with the noted supervillain. Lena, like Lex, also attended Regis High School. Protective of his sister, Lex Luthor takes measures to hide his fraternity, and is assisted towards this end by both Superman and Supergirl. Lena Thorul later marries FBI agent Jeff Colby[82] (who had once arrested Lex), later giving birth to a son, Val Colby.[83] Jeff Colby dies some time later.[84] After Lena has brain surgery the decision is made to reveal the truth about Luthor to her. There is some reconciliation between them when Luthor discovers he was an unwitting party to a conspiracy against Lena, which was masterminded by his cellmate "Sam", who wanted revenge against Colby. He is deeply apologetic to Lena.[85]

The Pre-Crisis Luthor also has a niece named Nasthalia Luthor who is an occasional thorn in Supergirl's side.[86]

Post-Crisis Continuity[edit]

In the Post-Crisis continuity, Lena is the name of Lex's adopted sister when he was living in a foster home. She is accidentally killed by their foster father when she refuses to try to trick Lex out of his inheritance. Lex later names his baby daughter after her.

Following the events of the Infinite Crisis, Luthor's history was again altered, re-introducing Lena as his sister. Unlike the Pre-Crisis version, Lena is well-aware of history with Lex, having grown up alongside him, with only an abusive father. Lex and Lena's mother is named Letitia and is presumed deceased. She has no empathic abilities, and is a paraplegic with a teenaged daughter, Lori, both of whom still live in Smallville.[87] Unlike his pre-Crisis version, Lex has little love for his sister, having abandoned her with an unnamed aunt after their father dies of a heart attack. Lex even goes so far as to cure Lena's illness, and then immediately undoes the process, leaving her completely catatonic, solely in order to make a mocking point to Superboy and Superman.[88] Lena is currently under the care of the best doctors from Wayne Enterprises, hired by Red Robin.

Lex Luthor himself later marries Ardora of the planet Lexor and, in Action Comics #544 (June, 1983), first learns of his infant son by Ardora Lex Luthor, Jr. A short time later, Lexor is destroyed and both Ardora and Lex, Jr. die as a direct result.

In post-The Man of Steel continuity, Luthor is childhood friends with Perry White and it is revealed that Luthor is the biological father of Perry's dead son Jerry White.[89] Lex Luthor has been married eight times, though the first seven marriages occurred off-panel in Luthor's past. His eighth marriage to Contessa Erica Alexandra Del Portenza (aka the "Contessa") is based on mutual greed;[90] the Contessa buys controlling interest in LexCorp after Luthor is indicted, compelling him to marry her in order to regain control of his company. The Contessa becomes pregnant[91] and starts using the unborn child to dominate Lex into doing her bidding. Luthor's response is to imprison her while she is drugged during childbirth, keeping her in a permanently unconscious state. The Contessa later escapes to an island mansion,[92] but upon being elected President, Luthor targets her home with a barrage of missiles and destroys it.[93] Luthor's daughter Lena was the avatar of The Tech, the remnant cyberware of Metropolis after Brainiac 13's advancing the city to a futuristic state was undone.

James D. Hudnall's Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography further expands on Luthor's origin. The story details how Luthor was sent to live with a foster family following the sabotage of his parents' car. His foster parents, Casey and Emily Griggs, conspire to embezzle his insurance, and coerce their daughter, Lena, into seducing Lex in order to learn the location of the money. Due to her own romantic feelings toward Lex, Lena refuses, and is beaten to death by her father. Lex is absent from the home at the time of the murder, having been talked into going to a football game by his schoolmate Perry White.[94] Once he has established his preeminence in Metropolis, Luthor takes vengeance on Griggs, secretly hiring him to assassinate Frank Berkowitz, the city's popular four-term mayor, who refuses to knuckle under to Luthor's dominance, then personally killing him once the deed is done.[95]

As an adult, this incident motivates Luthor to begin an affair with Perry's wife, Alice, during a period when Perry is missing and assumed dead. Alice becomes pregnant shortly afterward, though the timing of the conception means an equal possibility of either Luthor or White being the father. The child, Jerry White, later learns of his true parentage during his late teens, shortly before being killed by a local street gang he is associated with. The loss of a potential heir weighs heavily on Luthor's mind, particularly when he is dying of cancer; while mulling over his fate, Luthor visits Jerry's gravesite.[96]

Luthor has shown an unusual level of compassion for Conner Kent, a hybrid clone created from the DNA of Superman and Luthor himself. After Conner's death at the conclusion of the Infinite Crisis, Luthor is shown visiting a memorial statue of Conner in Metropolis and placing flowers there.[97] More than once Luthor addresses Conner as his son. Following Conner's resurrection, Luthor is shocked and decides to locate him. When Brainiac accuses him of showing paternal feelings for Conner though, Luthor denies it, saying that he only wants his property back, and has no fatherly feelings towards Superboy. Apparently, Luthor is no longer affectionate to the Boy of Steel after the event at his sister's house, and now seeing Superboy as a "failed experiment" due to using "a wrong alien DNA" to combine with his own. Luthor creates another binary clone with Brainiac using their genetics, which implies that it would becomes a threat to Superboy.

In the alternate future timeline of Titans Tomorrow,[98] in which Conner still exists, Luthor acts as a caring, fatherly figure to him.[99]

During the Blackest Night storyline, Lex Luthor's father Lionel Luthor was featured where it was revealed that he died of an allergic reaction to his medicine during Clark Kent's days as Superboy. He is reanimated as a member of the Black Lantern Corps where he is amongst its members that try to attack Lex Luthor.

After the events of Blackest Night storyline, Luthor went on to build a gynoid version of Lois Lane using Brainiac technology. His primary purpose for creating her was to have a companion which voiced honest opinions about his plans, and to give him an extra voice of reason to counsel him on his obsessive quest for the Black Lantern energy. Luthor also had a pseudo-romantic relationship with the "Loisbot", and regularly slept with it.

In the Smallville (comics) Season 11, Lex Luthor has many deceased relatives which include Lionel his father and Lilian his mother. Brothers Julian Luthor, Grant Gabriel, and Adrian Cross are deceased. Half-brother Lucus Luthor is believed to be alive. Lex's sister, Tess Mercer (Lutessa Luthor), was killed in the original reality but a version from a mirror reality still lives. Another living relative Lex has is one of his clones, LX-15, who previously was named "Alex Jr" by Tess Mercer, but has been renamed "Conner Kent" by his other genetic parent, Clark Kent. Lex's other clone offspring are deceased. Lex has no close relationship with friends or family because he is suffering from amnesia which has made him rather sociopathic.

Powers and abilities[edit]

Lex Luthor has the physical capabilities and limitations of a normal adult with no metahuman abilities. However, he possesses a genius level of intelligence. For virtually his entire publication history, he has been depicted as the most intelligent human in the DC Universe, and as one of the most intelligent beings of any planet or species. He has mastered seemingly every known form of science, including space travel, extra-dimensional travel, biochemistry, robotics, computers, synthetic polymers, communications, mutations, transportation, holography, energy generation, spectral analysis, and more (including time travel in many Pre-Crisis stories). With the exception of the extraterrestrial entity known as Brainiac, he does not view any other being as an intellectual peer.

Over the years, Luthor has made liberal use of Kryptonite weapons capable of injuring Superman and other Kryptonians. Since the Bronze Age, he has also utilized various battlesuits in many stories. Additionally, he often wore a Kryptonite ring on his right hand in Post-Crisis stories, but abandoned this tactic after prolonged exposure to K-radiation resulted in the loss of his hand and poisoned his entire body, leading to terminal cancer and (requiring him to transplant his brain into a cloned body in order to survive).

During the Blackest Night crossover, he wore an orange power ring of avarice created by Ganthet, a former member of the Guardians of the Universe.

Other versions[edit]

In other media[edit]

Live-action films and television[edit]

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in Superman II

Lyle Talbot was the first actor to portray the character in a live-action film, appearing in the 1950 serial Atom Man vs. Superman.[100] The character has appeared in all of the modern Superman films, with the exception of Superman III (1983) and Man of Steel (2013). Gene Hackman portrays Lex Luthor in the 1978 Superman film and two of its sequels, Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). This version of Luthor is a vain, wisecracking money-hungry gangster, with a particular fixation on real estate, who plots outrageous disasters for Superman to try to avert. He is regularly captured by Superman and sent to prison, only to escape—in a manner similar to the comics—at the opening of the next film. This Luthor appears to have little personal dislike for Superman, other than the fact the hero interferes with his criminal schemes. He still displays some scientific expertise that the traditional Luthor exhibited, being able to trace Zod and his cohorts by monitoring their radioactive signatures, and masterminding the creation of the Nuclear Man. Along with surrounding himself with dimwitted henchmen and molls, this version of Luthor also favors hairpieces to conceal his baldness.[101][102]

Scott James Wells played Luthor in the first season of the 1988-1992 syndicated TV series Superboy. Sherman Howard replaced him for the remaining three seasons.

John Shea portrayed Lex Luthor in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as a charming and debonair philanthropist and polymath as well as the owner of the massive LexCorp. He is established as "the third richest man in the world", behind Bill Gates and the fictional Arthur Chow. He is secretly ruthless and power-hungry, involved in many criminal enterprises and obsessed with defeating and killing Superman and plotting to turn the public against him. Lex Luthor is often assisted in his plots by his personal assistant Nigel St. John (portrayed by Tony Jay). Unlike other incarnations of the character, Shea's Lex has a full head of hair for the majority of the series. Shea addressed this by stating, "Hey, this is the '90s. Do you think a billionaire like Luthor couldn't get himself a full head of hair? Lex Luthor has got to be a modern villain."[103] This version of Luthor is also obsessed with Lois Lane and sees Superman as a romantic rival as well as a threat to Luthor's shadier business dealings. At the end of the first season, he devises a Kryptonite trap to destroy Superman so that Luthor can coerce Lois into marrying him. Superman survives the trap, and Luthor's criminal activities are revealed to the world. Luthor commits suicide by jumping off the building rather than submit to justice.[104] Superman is still too weak from Kryptonite exposure and can't save Luthor, and Luthor dies. Though Lex Luthor's body was stolen from the morgue. The subsequent season involves Luthor's ex-wife and scientist Gretchen Kelly conspiring to reanimate his corpse, frame Lois as a criminal psychopath by having one of Mrs. Luthor's female henchwomen undergo plastic surgery, and murder Superman. They fail and the former Mrs. Luthor is sentenced to prison upon her and the Imposter Lois Lane being apprehended by Superman. In "The Phoenix," Gretchen later succeeds in reviving Luthor with the help of Nigel St. John. A side effect of his resurrection is that Luthor completely loses his hair. His personal fortune gone and his criminal empire now controlled by Intergang, Luthor becomes even more obsessed with destroying Superman and forcing Lois to become his wife. After Gretchen is accidentally killed and Nigel and Ramine had defected to Intergang upon double-crossing Lex Luthor, Superman prevents Lex Luthor from taking his life again and hands him over to the police.[105] He repeatedly escapes prison, makes extensive use of clones to gain an illegal pardon with the clone of the President and replace Lois with a duplicate, and plans to disappear with the real Lois on the eve of her wedding to Clark.[106] He forces the Lois clone to divulge Superman's secret identity, but he is still unable to defeat Superman and is killed again in a laboratory accident. Two illegitimate adult sons emerge to threaten Superman, but only Lex Luthor, Jr., is able to rebuild LexCorp; he escapes reprisal by hiring an actor to impersonate him while he operates from a secret identity.[107] He never becomes the threat his father had been.

Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor in Smallville
Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor in Superman Returns

Michael Rosenbaum portrayed a younger incarnation of the character in the series Smallville (2001). Lex is sent to Smallville by his father Lionel Luthor to run the local LuthorCorp fertilizer plant. After driving his car off a bridge, he is saved by Clark Kent and quickly develops a friendship with the farm boy. Lex is a morally ambiguous character and an inquisitive person, driving him to attain greater power as the series progresses and ultimately causing him to become Clark's greatest enemy. He becomes convinced that he is "needed" to protect the world from extraterrestrials and superhumans, which causes him to kill his own father and turn against everyone that he cannot control. He is unable to accept that people with extraordinary abilities might not necessarily be antagonistic. After Rosenbaum left the show, Lex was played by various stand-ins with their faces obscured, or by other actors whose characters were "altered clones" of the original Lex. Rosenbaum reprised the role in the two-hour series finale (which aired on May 13, 2011) in which the memory of his immoral life and his knowledge of Clark's secret identity is erased by his sister Lutessa Lena Luthor. An epilogue set seven years in the future depicts Luthor, now President of the United States, dressed in white with one black glove. This is a reversal of the series character's previously dark wardrobe, and emulates his appearance in the comics after losing his hand to Kryptonite poisoning.

In 2004, Kurt Carley portrayed Luthor in Sandy Collora's fan film World's Finest.

In the 2006 film Superman Returns, Lex is portrayed by Kevin Spacey. Following incarceration during Superman's absence from Earth, he is released due to technicalities and seduces a dying widow in order to marry her and inherit her fortune. The widow dies shortly after Superman's return to Earth, and Luthor immediately sets out to avenge himself. He ransacks the Fortress of Solitude, and later abducts Lois Lane and her son Jason. Spacey's Luthor continues the real-estate fixation of the Hackman version, but also appears to have a real personal antipathy toward Superman. Both the Hackman and Spacey versions of Luthor surround themselves with bungling henchmen and dim-witted molls.

Though Lex does not appear in Man of Steel, he is referenced with the LexCorp logo on various trucks seen in the film. On January 31, 2014, it was announced that Jesse Eisenberg was cast as Lex Luthor in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.[108]

Animation[edit]

Lex Luthor has been voiced in animation by Jackson Beck in the 1960s series The New Adventures of Superman, Stan Jones in the 1970s/1980s Super Friends franchise, Michael Bell in the 1988 Superman animated series, and by Clancy Brown in the 1990s/2000s DC animated universe, as well as a 2007 episode of The Batman and the 2009 direct-to-DVD animated feature Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, among others. Chris Noth portrays the Lex Luthor of a parallel universe (where the character is a superhero) in the animated DVD release Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.[109][110] Luthor is also a playable character in 2008's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, sporting his trademark battle armor (this is also the case in 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us).

In Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series, a character named Rohtul (Luthor spelled backwards) appears in the episode "The Super-Batman of Planet X" portrayed by Clancy Brown. He appears as the Lex Luthor of Zur-En-Arrh and possibly the arch enemy of the Batman of that world. Both Batmen ended up fighting Rohtul and his army of giant robots (resembling the ones from the comics) when Batman discovered that he had superpowers upon being exposed to Rodon. He used his new abilities to defeat Rohtul's robots and apprehend Rohtul. While in jail, Rohtul discovers Earth Batman's weakness and plans to use it against him as Rodon-powered Earthlings are weak against Quartz (in other words, Rodon and Quartz do not mix). Rohtul contacts one of his robots which springs him out of jail while quoting to the guard that he's "done with the room." When Batman confronts Rohtul, he has one of his robots open a compartment that contains Quartz. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh rescues Batman and sprays him with something that protects him from the Rodon's events. When Rohtul tries to take Vilsi Veylar hostage, he ends up defeated by both Batman. The actual Lex Luthor appears in the episode "Battle of the Superheroes!" voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. He robs a museum and kidnaps Lois Lane only to be thwarted by Superman and arrested by the police. When Lois Lane unknowingly receives a Red Kryptonite necklace, it causes Superman to turn evil causing Batman and Krypto to hold off Superman until the effects wore off. They discovered that the real Lex Luthor is at large having been the one who mailed Lois the Red Kryptonite necklace and that the one in jail was a robotic duplicate. When Lex Luthor tries to use his Kryptonite ring on Superman, it does not work due to the fact that Superman was actually Batman in disguise. Lex Luthor was defeated by Batman and Superman. Luthor appears again in the episode "Triumvirate of Terror!", in which he joins the Joker and Cheetah to battle the DC Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman). While Joker fights Wonder Woman and Cheetah Superman, Luthor easily defeats Batman with his battle suit, but Batman tricks him into teleporting them and the others back to their hideout. Once there, he questions Luthor as to whether Cheetah will get control of Metropolis, as she was the one to defeat Superman. Luthor scoffs at this idea, leading to an argument between the three villains. This gives the Trinity enough time to escape from their restraints and promptly defeat the villains.

Lex Luthor appears in Young Justice voiced by Mark Rolston. In the episode titled "Targets", Luthor attempts to arrange a peace negotiation between two warring nations, which he attempts to profit of later on, but is nearly killed by Cheshire and Sportsmaster. A disgusted Red Arrow saves his life, with Luthor attempting to hire him. Later on, the assassins try to kill him and the diplomats again, but are saved by seemingly robotic Mercy Graves. The diplomats, impressed and grateful, negotiate under a weapons deal by Luthor. It is later revealed that Lex Luthor had set up the assassination attempts with Ra's al Ghul in order to further the agenda of The Light (Project Cadmus' Board of Directors). In "Revelation," it is revealed that Lex Luthor is L-3 of The Light. In "Agendas", Luthor manipulates Superboy into releasing the other Superman clone Match, so that the locations of Cadmus' missing Genomorphs could be located. Afterwards, Luthor reveals to Superboy that he was the donor for the human half of his DNA. When Superboy confronts him, Luthor says the words "Red Sun", causing Superboy to "shut down" for an undetermined amount of time. In "Usual Suspects," Lex Luthor learns that Superboy has used the last of the patches and contacts him to meet with him on Santa Prisca. When Superboy arrives on Santa Prisca to meet up with Lex Luthor, he also finds Queen Bee, Sportsmaster, Cheshire, Bane, and Blockbuster with him as Miss Martian and Artemis also arrive. Lex Luthor quotes "Red Sun" to disable Superboy so that he can be ready for the plot Lex Luthor and Queen Bee have in mind. When Miss Martian lashes out against Blockbuster, the rest of the Team arrives to fight the villains. As Superboy fights Blockbuster, Lex Luthor states that the there were other programs that were to be installed into Superboy, but Dr. Mark Desmond never got the chance to add them once Superboy was awakened. After Queen Bee is knocked out, Lex Luthor and Mercy escape into their helicopter with Queen Bee while the Team continues to fight the other villains. In "Auld Acquaintance," Ra's al Ghul, Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Ocean Master, and Brain infiltrate Project Cadmus and steal the clones that they have, one having a preserved Roy Harper.

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]