Alternative versions of Lex Luthor

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Alternate versions of Lex Luthor
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Action Comics #23 (April 1940)
Created by Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
See also Lex Luthor in other media

The fictional character Lex Luthor has appeared in a number of media, always as an enemy of Superman. Each version of the work typically establishes its own continuity, and sometimes introduces parallel universes, to the point where distinct differences in the portrayal of the character can be identified. In addition, the DC Universe has been rewritten a number of times, establishing additional versions of the character. This article details and lists various versions of Lex Luthor depicted in works including DC Comics Multiverse, Elseworlds, television and film.

History in DC's mainstream continuity[edit]

Lex Luthor versus Alexander Luthor, Jr.
  • The Silver Age Lex Luthor met Superman in his youth as Superboy. They both grew up in Smallville, and their rivalry continued as adults. This version of Lex Luthor is a classic evil genius and a widely known super villain and criminal. He frequently joined forces with Brainiac and eventually donned green battle armor to be able to physically engage Superman.
  • Earth-Two introduced Alexei Luthor. His appearance is similar to the character's first appearance in the Golden Age (known only as "Luthor"), without his trademark bald head, instead having a full head of red hair. As Superman's nemesis, they met as adults and had many encounters until his death at the hands of Earth-One's Brainiac during Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • The Man of Steel is the 1986 reboot of Superman continuity which introduced the Machiavellian version of Lex Luthor. A self-made billionaire, Luthor employs the majority of Metropolis. His vast resources keep him one step ahead of Superman, and he almost never answers for his crimes due to his massive wealth and connections. Though shown as already being corrupt prior to Superman's debut, Luthor's covert (and later, overt) criminal activity escalates with his hatred for Superman.
  • Lex Luthor II was an elaborate disguise, using a new cloned body. He was taller, more athletic, bearded, and had a full head of red hair (as specified by Luthor) and an Australian accent. Dying of cancer, Luthor faked his death, had his brain removed from his dying body and a new cloned body grown around it. In this new identity as "Lex Luthor II", Luthor passed himself off as his own long lost son from Australia. His new appearance was alarmingly similar to Supergirl's creator from another dimension. He used this advantage to seduce her, after which they began to date. Eventually, his true identity was discovered, which led to the near-destruction of Metropolis. His beard and shaggy hair are similar to those of Smallville 's original character Lionel Luthor.

Alternative continuity[edit]

Earth One[edit]

Main article: Superman: Earth One
Alexandra "Lex" Luthor in Superman: Earth One Volume Two.

In the alternative reality Earth One, Dr. Alexandra Luthor is a genius xenobiologist, happily married to the equally brilliant Dr. Alexander Luthor, an inventor with degrees in many fields, specializing in particle physics. The pair refer to themselves as Lex2 Incorporated. They, like in the mainstream universe, are extremely wealthy. They are hired as independent contractors by Major Sandra Lee, a United States Air Force officer tasked with first guarding and studying Superman's ship, and, after it escapes, neutralizing Superman should he pose a threat to national security. Alexandra is the more aggressive of the two, but, initially, neither actively hate Superman, although Alexandra researches ways of killing him as an intellectual exercise, for instance, trying to determine a way to turn yellow sunlight into red via projected energy to remove Superman's powers. Alexander Luthor is more compassionate and contemplative than the mainstream Luthor and questions the ethical implications of developing anti-Superman weapons, but willingly joins his wife and Major Lee.[1]

Alexander ultimately sacrifices himself helping Superman battle Zod; Alexandra, consumed by rage and grief, blames Superman and vows to dedicate her life to destroy him, claiming that the old Alexandra died alongside her husband and demanding to be henceforth called Lex Luthor.[2]

Superman: Birthright[edit]

In Mark Waid's version of Superman's origin in Superman: Birthright, Lex is shown to be roughly five years older than Clark Kent. His father Lionel is pompous, arrogant, and somewhat distant towards his son. Being an outcast in Smallville, Clark befriends him, but they separate as Lex obsesses with contacting alien civilization. When Clark feels sick due to the Kryptonite being used in his plan, Lex banishes him from his lab and ends up becoming disfigured in an explosion. All of his hair is burned off, and Lionel is killed in the ensuing fire. Years later, Lex comes into conflict with Superman, as he attempts to recreate the accident that cost him his hair to contact extraterrestrials.


Alexander Luthor of Earth-Three, reacting to the death of Superwoman, from Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 (April 1985). Art by George Pérez.

In much the same way that Superman and other heroes have evil analogs on the parallel world of Earth-Three, Luthor had a heroic counterpart there; he reluctantly decides to adopt a heroic identity to combat the evil Crime Syndicate of America. Alexander, who eventually married the Lois Lane of Earth-Three, dies in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but manages to save their son, Alexander Luthor, Jr., the future antagonist of Infinite Crisis.

In the JLA: Earth 2 graphic novel, an updated version of Earth-Three and its version of Luthor were reintroduced to the post-Crisis DC Universe. Unlike the pre-Crisis version, this Luthor does not sport a goatee, resembling more in appearance to the pre-Crisis Earth-One version from the 1980s Action Comics (including the green battlesuit). In this version of events, the heroic Luthor traveled from his Earth (located in the anti-matter universe rather than being an alternative positive-matter one) to the mainstream DC Earth, posed as his villainous counterpart, and subsequently asked the Justice League to help him rebuild his world. However, since "evil always wins" in this alternative world, the attempt failed, and Luthor resigned himself to being the only noble character on his Earth, although the "Syndicate Rules" story arc in JLA featured another group of heroes named the Justice Underground. There was also a mention of the Luthor of Earth Two awaiting a mock trial before his public execution. At the end of the story, the JLA released all the CSA's prisoners before returning to Earth One. It is not known, although very probable, that Luthor was among the released prisoners.

Alexander Luthor, Jr. is the son of Earth-Three's Alexander Luthor. Before his world was destroyed, he was sent to the monitor where he rapidly aged to adulthood. Along with Kal-L, Lois Lane, and Superboy-Prime, he saved the newly formed merged universe before disappearing into a paradise dimension. They later returned as the antagonists of Infinite Crisis.

The Earth-3 concept was later supplanted following DC's The New 52 reboot. In the Forever Evil (2014) series, Alexander Luthor is revealed to be Mazahs, the Shazam of Earth-3.[3] Though he claims to be a hero [3] he is shown as being just as ruthless as the members of the syndicate and is stated to be the father of Superwoman's child. He is slain by the mainstream Lex Luthor, who uses the fact that they have identical voices to depower Alexander prior to killing him. This Lex had the ability to take on the powers of those he killed; how he acquired this ability is unexplained, but it is likely as Shazam of Earth-0 can give powers to others, that Mazahs can take powers.


In the Trinity series, reality is altered so that Superman does not exist. In this alternative timeline, Dr. Lex Luthor is a member of the underground hero group known as The League.[4]

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew[edit]

The 1980s series Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew presented the parallel Earth of "Earth-C-Minus," a world populated by funny animal superheroes that paralleled the mainstream DC Universe. Earth-C-Minus was the home of "Lex Lemur," a lemur counterpart of Lex Luthor who battled his nemesis, the heroic Super-Squirrel.[5]


In the alternative timeline of the Flashpoint event, a young Lex Luthor is alongside his father, Lionel Luthor, touring Sam Lane's facility of aliens. When they are shown Subject 2 held in captive glass, Subject 2 breaks out and attacks the guards and young Lex. Lionel, in an effort to save his own life, uses Lex as a human shield. He is later killed or seriously injured.[6]

Pocket Universe[edit]

In a "pocket universe" created by the Time Trapper,[7] a good version of Lex Luthor existed. Years after Superboy (his reality's only hero) died to protect the pocket universe,[8] Lex accidentally released three Phantom Zone criminals led by General Zod. With no other super-powered beings in his universe to confront them, Lex created his own—a Supergirl composed of proto-matter and based upon the image and memories of a recently killed Lana Lang. Because his artificial Supergirl was not strong enough to fight the three Kryptonians, Lex sent her to the mainstream DC universe to enlist Superman's help. During the final battle with the Kryptonian criminals, Lex was killed while piloting a fighter jet. With the last of his strength, he tells Superman where his Earth's last supply of Kryptonite is located. Superman uses it to execute the Kryptonian criminals, as the villains have killed everyone on that version of Earth.[9]


In The New 52 Multiversity series, Lex Luthor has parented a (bald) daughter, Alexis- her mother is unnamed. Her father is dead and it is implied that he was abusive if she exhibited sub-optimal intelligence. She is involved with that world's Batman, Damian Wayne, but is using him to hack into the artificial intelligence that controls that world's Superman robots, which leads to a rampage across that world as they malfunction[10]


On Earth-17, "Luthex" is disclosed to be working with Darkseid against the Atomic Knights of Justice on that world. Earth-17 experienced a devastating nuclear war in 1963, and although that Earth lacks a Superman, it seems that Luthex's moral compass is still skewed [11]

Earth 23[edit]

The Lex Luthor of Earth 23 is largely similar to his classic incarnation. He appears battling Calvin Ellis, the Superman of that world (who is black) and after being defeated, angrily declares that he is not a racist (this is implied to be an impression most have of him in this world).[12]


On this alternate DC Multiverse Earth, Kal-L's vessel landed in the Ukraine in 1938, not in Kansas. After Josef Stalin dies in 1953, Superman then becomes Premier of the Soviet Union. In the United States, Lex Luthor is a respected scientific prodigy, and married to Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane-Luthor. He gradually become's Superman's nemesis but without criminal inflection and eventually becomes US President. After Superman vanishes in 2001, Luthor presides over a unified world and dies two millennia later [13]


This DC Multiverse alternate Earth is based on the graphic novel Superman & Batman: Generations, in which Superman and Batman begin their heroic careers in the 1930s. In 1938, Superman encounters a red-haired henchman of the Ultra-Humanite. Unknown to Superman, the Ultra-Humanite transplants his own brain into the anencephalic body of Luthor, otherwise in a permanent vegetative state after the first encounter. He then subverts Joel Kent, the powerless elder son of Superman and Lois Lane, manipulating him into killing his sister Kara/Supergirl of Earth-38. In 1991, Superman catches up with Luthor/Ultra-Humanite and albeit inadvertently, kills him [14]


A final alternate Lex Luthor exists on Earth-50, a DC Multiverse alternate Earth on which he becomes US President and murders The Flash. Provoked beyond recall, Superman then incinerates Luthor with his heat vision and declares martial law with the assistance of the Justice League of America, corrupted into the Justice Lords on this dark alternate world.


  • Superman: Speeding Bullets had Superman adopted by Thomas and Martha Wayne and growing up to become Batman. Without Superman to oppose him in Metropolis, Luthor easily takes over. He relocates to Gotham City for a new challenge, but he has an accident that gives him pale skin and permanent smile, like the Joker.
  • Superman: The Feral Man of Steel features an upper-class Victorian Lex Luthor who is a bigoted, opportunistic gentleman explorer, contemptuous of women and non-Europeans. He has an entire African village slaughtered to obtain a unique meteoric crystal (kryptonite); upon discovering its effect on the Indian jungle Superman, Luthor takes him prisoner and tries to force him into assassinating Queen Victoria, clearing the way for Luthor to seize power. This Luthor is eventually killed by Sir Richard Francis Burton, whom he had previously betrayed and left for dead in India.
  • In Superman & Batman: Generations, Luthor appears in 1939 as Ell, a henchman to the Ultra-Humanite, wearing a red wig. After the Humanite's rocket explodes, Luthor's brain is destroyed but his body is intact, the exact opposite of the Humanite (whose body was destroyed while his brain survives relatively intact). Ultra has his brain placed in Luthor's body, and forty years later kills Lois Lane and arranges for Superman's powerless son-the boy having been exposed to power-draining gold kryptonite in the womb and subsequently manipulated to think that his father did it on purpose-to kill his empowered sister, via the use of an unstable serum which kills the boy soon after. Completely and utterly enraged, Superman spends a decade looking for "Luthor", during which time Luthor arranges the death of Superman's other loved ones. When he finally finds him, Ultra reveals his true identity. When he tries to drain Superman's powers, Superman unintentionally kills him when hitting him with a metal bar while near a control console. In the sequel, a cloned version of Luthor's brain is transferred into a robot. Luthor, initially shocked at how long he has been out of action, is quickly brought up to date by his new body, and proceeds to take on the name Metallo. He is defeated by Knightwing, Superman's grandson, Cyborg, the fifth Flash and Hal Jordan.
  • Kingdom Come presents a possible apocalyptic future. An elderly Lex Luthor brings a cadre of supervillains and brash young generation of superheroes together to form the Mankind Liberation Front, a group allegedly devoted to protecting mankind from the superpowered population. In reality, the goal of the MLF is to provoke a war between the U.N and the superhumans, allowing Luthor to seize control once both sides wipe each other out, unaware his goal would lead to Armageddon. Luthor also brainwashes Captain Marvel, who has grown to hate those with superpowers, and has renounced his hero identity. The MLF runs counter to the reformed Justice League, led by Superman, who comes out of retirement. His plans come to an end when Batman betrays him, revealing his plan was to discover his hold over Marvel (in reality a grown up Billy Batson). He attempts to escape but is captured by the Batknights. He is later put to work caring for the injured in Batman's Hospital, an inhibitor collar keeping him from escaping. Post-Infinite Crisis, this has become Earth-22.
Luthor as he appears in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again envisions a United States run by Lex Luthor and Brainiac, who use a hologram named Rick Rickard, which the people think is the real President, as a figurehead. He controls the more powerful heroes like Superman, Captain Marvel and Flash by holding their loved ones hostage, until Batman's underground movement manages to rescue them. When Luthor attempts to trigger a nuclear war after Batman's revolution, Batman arranges for the returned Hal Jordan to shut down Earth's entire satellite defense network, subsequently allowing Luthor to be killed by the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Who were recently killed when Luthor bombed the rainforest where they now lived).
  • Superman: Red Son showed a Superman that landed in Stalinist-era Russia and became the symbol (and eventual leader) of the Soviet Union. Doctor Lex Luthor, an egotistical but ultimately benevolent super-genius employed by the American government, becomes his nemesis and creates a number of enemies for the Man of Steel to fight (including Bizarro, the Atomic Skull, and Doomsday). Later, Luthor is elected President of the United States (as in mainstream DC continuity), and masterminds an economic miracle which rapidly rejuvenates the impoverished and divided country. After Superman seemingly dies and the Soviet Union collapses, Luthor's influence sweeps the world and ushers in a golden age of humanity under a benign one-world government. Due to longevity drugs, this alternate Luthor dies two millennia later. At the end of the comic it is revealed that unknown to both of them, Superman is actually a descendant of Luthor himself, sent not from Krypton, as in mainstream continuity but actually a dying Earth billions of years in the future. Post-Infinite Crisis, this has become Earth-30.
  • Superman: Kal featured a world where Kal-El's rocket landed on Earth in the Middle Ages, Kal being raised as a farmer before becoming a blacksmith's apprentice in an area ruled by Baron Luthor, who sought to force Lady Loisse to marry him after her father's death. Wearing a green gemstone that fell from the sky years ago, Luthor's presence weakens Kal, but he nevertheless secretly wins Loisse's heart. When Luthor discovers the rocket that brought Kal to Earth, although he is unaware of his enemy's connection to the rocket, he forces Kal's master to forge it into a suit of armour for him, the resulting armour being virtually impregnable. Although Kal requests Loisse's hand in marriage, Luthor invokes an old law that allows the lord of the land to take any new bride to his bed on her wedding night to claim her instead, subsequently beating Loisse to death when she tries to resist him. When Kal leads an uprising against Luthor the following day after learning of his love's death, his powers and Luthor's armour appear evenly matched until Luthor realizes that his gemstone can hurt Kal. However, just as Luthor leaps onto Kal to stab him with the gemstone, Kal's sword- forged from the same metal that made Luthor's armour- stabs Luthor right through the chest, killing him instantly, although Kal is left to die slowly from his wounds.
  • JLA: The Nail features a world where Kal-El's rocket was never found by the Kents, allowing Luthor to become mayor of Metropolis based on the strength of his technologically enhanced police unit, established to protect Metropolis in the absence of a super-powered defender. After discovering Kal-El's abandoned rocket and analyzing the DNA samples within it, Luthor attempts to rally Earth's population against metahumans while attempting to use the DNA samples to create a superhuman army of 'Liberators', mindless clones with god-like powers, also carrying out experiments to graft the DNA samples onto another being. The experiment succeeds on Luthor's aide, Jimmy Olsen, but this results in Jimmy being mentally turned into a Kryptonian as well, determined to remake Krypton on Earth, eventually driving him to kill Luthor and turns his corpse as Olsen's puppet so that he can continue with his plans uninterrupted.

Film and television[edit]

  • Superman and its sequels presented Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) as a criminal mastermind and egomaniac. He is obsessed with real estate and his plans usually involve him stealing large amounts of property and land because it is a commodity that will always be in demand. He causes an earthquake on the West Coast in the first movie, negotiates with General Zod for Australia in Superman II, and in Superman Returns (in which he is portrayed by Kevin Spacey), he tries to create a new continent.
  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman presents the CEO version of Lex Luthor (John Shea) from The Man of Steel in live media for the first time.
  • Superman: The Animated Series was created by picking and choosing various aspects of Superman's many incarnations. The Machiavellian Luthor (voiced by Clancy Brown) is also used as the main antagonist for Superman. He also appears in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
  • Smallville begins with a teen Clark Kent saving Lex Luthor. His father Lionel Luthor has most of the personality and ruthlessness of Lex in the comics as an analog of what Lex will become. In the series, exposure to kryptonite can give humans superpowers. During the kryptonite meteor shower that brought Clark to Earth, Lex lost his hair, but gained a super-immune system. Clark and Lex start out as friends, but as the series sees Clark ascend to the hero he appears destined to become, it also shows Lex's descent to the villain he will become, driving him to commit various questionable actions in the belief that he is protecting the world.
  • Lex Luthor reappears in an episode of The Batman, voiced again by Clancy Brown. This version of Luthor is very similar to the one appearing on Superman: The Animated Series. The episode The Batman/Superman Story is filled with numerous homage to the DC Animated Universe as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and Superman are voiced by the same actors who voiced them on Justice League.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Superman: Earth One Volume 2 (October 2012)
  2. ^ Superman: Earth One Volume 3 (February 2015)
  3. ^ a b Johns, Geoff (w), Finch, David (p), Friend, Richard (i), Oback, Sonia (col), Leigh, Rob (let). "Forever Evil Chapter Six: The Power of Mazahs!" Forever Evil 6 (May 2014), DC Comics
  4. ^ Trinity #25
  5. ^ Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #14-15, April–May 1983
  6. ^ Flashpoint: Project Superman #2 (July 2011)
  7. ^ Action Comics #591 (August 1987)
  8. ^ Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3, #38 (September 1987)
  9. ^ Superman vol. 2, #21-22; Adventures of Superman #444 (September/October 1988)
  10. ^ The Multiversity 3 (October 2014): The Just
  11. ^ Multiversity Guidebook (January 2015)
  12. ^ Action Comics (vol. 2) #9
  13. ^ Warren Ellis: Superman: Red Son: New York: DC Comics: 2004
  14. ^ Multiversity Guidebook: (January 2015)