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Lex Luthor
Luthor bright.png
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
Legion of Doom (Super Friends)
Secret Six
Project 7734
Agent Orange
Notable aliases Mockingbird

Alexander Joseph "Lex" Luthor is a fictional character, a supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics. He is the archenemy of Superman and first appeared in Action Comics #23 (April 1940), and was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Luthor is described as "a power-mad, evil scientist" of high intelligence and incredible technological prowess.[1] His goals typically center on killing Superman, usually as a stepping stone to world domination. Though he periodically wears a powered exoskeleton, Luthor has traditionally lacked superpowers or a dual identity.[2]

The character was originally depicted as a mad scientist who, in the vein of pulp novels, wreaks havoc on the world with his futuristic weaponry. 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 Superboy's who lost his hair when Superboy accidentally destroyed his laboratory; Luthor vowed revenge.[3][4]

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 as the 8th greatest villain by Wizard on its "100 Greatest Villains of All Time" list.[5] IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villians Of All Time List ranked Lex Luthor as #4.[6]

Contents

Publication history

Creation and development

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

By some accounts[citation needed], the seeds for Luthor's character first appeared in The Reign of the Super-Man, also written by Siegel and Shuster. In the original short story, a bald scientist uses a piece of alien meteor to give a vagrant named Bill Dunn telepathic abilities, which Dunn abuses for personal gain. Although Luthor would not appear until two years after Superman's debut, a central theme to his character—a dichotomy of science versus superpowers—was in place.[7][8] The character's original incarnation, as drawn by Joe Shuster, appeared only twice between 1940-1941. In his debut, "Luthor" (who is referred to only by his surname) is a wily genius who resides in a flying city suspended by a dirigible. Having taken control of several European countries through his machinations, he tries to provoke a war between the two fictional nations of Galonia and Toran, but is stopped by Superman.[9][10] He describes himself as "an ordinary man, but with the brain of a super-genius."

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 goof resulted in Luthor being depicted as completely bald in a newspaper strip.[11] The original error is attributed to Leo Novak, a studio artist who illustrated for the Superman dailies during this period.[12] 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.[12] Other evidence suggests Luthor's design was confused with that of a stockier, bald henchman in Superman (vol. 1) #4 (1940);[12] Luthor's next appearance occurs in Superman (vol. 1) #10 (1941), in which Novak depicted him as significantly heavier, with visible jowls.[12] 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 the origin story printed in Adventure Comics #271 (1960), young Lex Luthor is shown as an aspiring scientist who resides in Smallville, the hometown of Superboy. 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 form of life. 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;[8] 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. That 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 attempted 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]

In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Alexei Luthor is killed by Brainiac[15] and subsequently erased from History with the rest of the DC multiverse.

1980s-1990s

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

In the 1986 limited series The Man of Steel, John Byrne rewrote 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. In an example indicative of Byrne's realistic approach, 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[16] 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.[17]

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. [18] Luthor observes Superman in action, and once the gunmen are dispatched, hands the hero a personal check in an attempt to hire him. But 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.[19]

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.[20]

Luthor's romantic aspirations toward Lois Lane, established early on in the series, become a focal point of the stories immediately following it.[21] He is shown making repeated attempts to court her during The Man of Steel, though Lois plainly does not return his feelings.[22]

Modern depictions

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,[23] which follows Clark Kent's life as a teenager and into early manhood; among the elements shared with 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.[24][25] Waid's original intention was to jettison the notion of Lex Luthor being an evil businessman, restoring his status as a mad scientist. However, he ultimately conceded 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 himself and Superman.[23][26] In the retrospective section of the Superman: Birthright trade paperback, Waid explains:

Despite my own personal predjudices, 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.[27]

Birthright was initially intended to establish a new origin for Superman and Luthor.[28] However, the canonicity of the series was eventually discredited by stories which followed it, to Waid's disappointment.[29] A concise biography for Luthor, later outlined in Action Comics #850, first appeared in the 2007 limited series Countdown to Final Crisis. Luthor's current origin appears to be a synthesis of aspects from Silver Age continuity and 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 proflie in the 52 weekly series, the post-Action Comics #850 Lex Luthor of current 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. It is here that Luthor comes into acquaintance with Clark Kent, Lana Lang, and Pete Ross. He is described as having left Smallville "under a cloud of rumor and suspicion." He later resurfaces in Metropolis and founds LexCorp. Luthor's rise to the Presidency and his removal from office are also recounted in this biography, however contrary to Birthright his hair is once again shown to have naturally receded over time, as also shown in The Man of Steel.

Fictional character biography

Silver age

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.[30] 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."[31] 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),[32][33] Luthor routinely manages to escape from prison and threaten the world again.[25]

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. He and Superman had originally gone there to have a proper 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.[34] He eventually marries a local woman named Ardora,[35] with whom he fathers a son. After its debut,[36] Lexor appears sporadically in various Superman comics as Luthor's base of operations, where he wages assaults on Superman. During one such battle, an energy salvo from Luthor's battle suit accidentally overloads the "Neutrarod"—a spire Luthor had built to counter Lexor's geological instability—resulting in the annihilation of Lexor's 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.[37]

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. Luthor's trademark battlesuit from this era—a heavily-armored, flight-capable suit with kryptonite fixtures embedded in its gauntlets[38]—has reappeared in recent continuity, most notably during Infinite Crisis.

Modern age

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

As part of the continuity changes which followed The Man of Steel, Luthor is shown actively participating in the creation of two Superman villains, 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.[39] Luthor eventually suffers from a severe cancer brought on by long-term radiation exposure to the ring;[40] 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,[41] 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.[42] Luthor II inherits control of LexCorp and seduces the then current Supergirl, Matrix, due to his resemblance to her creator.[43] 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;[44] with help from Superman, she exposes the truth, and a despondent Matrix 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.[45] 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 Luthor is charged with.[46]

President of the United States

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.

Removal from office

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. Batman, who had previously forbade 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. In a desperate gambit, Luthor uses 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, Luthor finds that the acting C.E.O., Talia Head, has sold the entirety of the company assets 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.[47]

Infinite Crisis

Alexander Luthor, Jr., the son of Earth-Three's Lex 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 a supervillain version 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, who is allied with Alexander. After discovering that his clone/son Conner Kent, was injured against 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

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.[48] 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.[49]

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 Alex Luthor, he secretly exposes John to the chemicals involved in his creating his new army of super-heroes, 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.[50]

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.[51]

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 meta-gene treatment.[52] 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.[53] 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

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.[54] Superman manages to destroy the Kryptonite-powered ship and recover the crystal, but Lex manages to escape custody yet again.[55]

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.

In JLA, Luthor (alongside Joker and Cheetah III) gathers together a new "Injustice League" and, outfitted in a new version of his warsuit (although still green and purple, it no longer has clear design derivations from the pre-Crisis warsuit as the McGuinness design did), 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

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. During Final Crisis #6, Libra figures out Luthor had been the mole in the Society of Supervillains. Luthor, in league with Doctor Sivana, seemingly destroys Libra and overturns the Anti-Life Equation being broadcast into the Justifiers' helmets.

New Krypton

Luthor ended up imprisoned for his crimes, but rather that 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[56] 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[57].

After his success with Brainiac, Luthor was given the seemingly dead body of Doomsday, who had been defeated by the Kryptonians[56], to study as it had “potential”[58].

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 onboard the ship, and the two make their escape.[59] 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.[60] 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 to against the entire House of El.[61]

Blackest Night

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.[62] 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.[63] 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 them battling each other for it despite all of the dangers around them.[64] 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.[65] Luthor is quickly overwhelmed by his greed, and sets out to steal the rings of his fellow inducted Lanterns, taking Scarecrow's ring and attempting to steal Mera's, but is held back by the Atom and the Flash. When 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.[66]

Relationships and family

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. Protective of his sister, 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[67] (who had once arrested Lex), later giving birth to a son, Val Colby[68]. Jeff Colby dies some time later[69].

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 and trick Lex out of his inheretance. Lex later names his baby daughter after her. However, 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. She has no empathic abilities, and is a paraplegic with a teenaged daughter, Lori, both of whom still live in Smallville.[70] 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.[71] 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.

The Pre-Crisis Luthor also has a niece named Nasthalia Luthor who is an occasional thorn in Supergirl's side.[72]

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[73]. 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;[74] 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[75] 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,[76] but upon being elected President, Luthor targets her home with a barrage of missiles and destroys it.[77] Luthor's daughter Lena is vanished in recent years, and what became of her is currently unknown.

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.[78] 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.[79]

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.[80]

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.[81] 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 [82], in which Conner still exists, Luthor acts as a caring, fatherly figure to him.[83]

Powers and abilities

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 renegade Coluan scientist Brainiac, he does not view any other being as an intellectual peer.

Since the Bronze Age of Comics, he has utilized various battlesuits in many stories, often equipping them with kryptonite weapons capable of injuring Superman and other Kryptonians. 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 (requiring him to transplant his brain into a cloned body in order to survive).

Other versions

In other media

Lyle Talbot was the first actor to portray the character in a live-action film, appearing in the 1950 serial Atom Man vs. Superman.[84] The character has appeared in a total of four Superman films, with the only exception being Superman III (1983). In the original Richard Donner films, 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 version of Luthor appears to have little personal dislike for Superman, other than the fact the hero interferes with his criminal schemes. Two-time Academy Award winner Gene Hackman portrays Luthor in the 1978 Superman film, along with two of its sequels, Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). In 2004, Kurt Carley portrayed Luthor in Sandy Collora's fan film World's Finest.

In 2006, the role was inherited by Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey in Superman Returns, set sometime after the events of Superman II. Following another stint in jail, during Superman's absence from Earth to investigate the remains of Krypton, Luthor is released on a string of 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, first by ransacking the Fortress of Solitude, and later through the abduction of Lois Lane and her son Jason. Spacey's Luthor continues the real-estate fixation of the Hackman version, but does appear to have a real personal animus toward Superman. Both the Hackman and Spacey versions of Luthor surround themselves with bungling henchmen and dim-witted molls.

Other actors who have portrayed Luthor include Scott James Wells and Sherman Howard in the television series Superboy; John Shea in the 1990s series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; and Michael Rosenbaum in the 2000s Smallville. He has also been voiced in animation by Stan Jones in the 1970s/1980s Super Friends franchise and by Clancy Brown in the 1990s/2000s DC animated universe, a 2007 episode of The Batman and the 2009 direct-to-DVD animated feature Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, among others. Chris Noth portrays Luthor in the animated DVD release Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. [85][86] Lex Luthor is also a playable character in 2008's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, sporting his trademark battle armor.

Notes

  1. ^ Siegel, Jerry (w), Sikela, John (p,i), Ellsworth, Whitney (ed). "The Skeletons in Armor" Action Comics (47): 1 (April 1942), Detective Comics
  2. ^ Sanderson, Peter (2007-02-24). "Comics in Context #166: Megahero Vs. Megavillain". QuickStopEntertainment.com. http://www.quickstopentertainment.com/2007/02/24/comics-in-context-166-megahero-vs-megavillain/. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  3. ^ http://theages.superman.nu/encyc/entries/index.php?entry=luthor
  4. ^ http://www.comics.org/details.lasso?id=15604
  5. ^ McCallum, Pat (July 2006). "100 Greatest Villains Ever". Wizard (177)
  6. ^ Lex Luthor is Number 4
  7. ^ Daniels, Les. Superman: The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Man of Steel. Chronicle Books, 1998, pg. 66. ISBN 0811842312
  8. ^ a b Superman Enemies: Lex Luthor. UGO Networks. Retrieved on 2008-11-19.
  9. ^ Siegel, Jerry (w), Shuster, Joe (p, i). Action Comics #23 (1940). DC Comics.
  10. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 13.
  11. ^ Siegel, Jerry (w), Novak, Leo (p, i). Superman (vol. 1) #10 (1941). DC Comics.
  12. ^ a b c d Cronin, Brian (2006-11-26) Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #79. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved on 2007-7-18.
  13. ^ Siegel, Jerry (w), Plastino, Al (p). "How Luthor Met Superboy!" Adventure Comics #271 (1960). DC Comics.
  14. ^ Callahan, Timothy (2008-09-04). "Elliot S! Maggin's Noble Humanity". Comic Book Resources. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?id=17934&page=article. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  15. ^ Crisis on Infinite Earths # 9, 1986
  16. ^ Who created the "new" Lex Luthor for MAN OF STEEL?
  17. ^ Freiman, Barry (2005-11-15). Interview with Marv Wolfman. Superman Homepage. Retrieved on 2007-7-7.
  18. ^ Byrne, John (w, p), Giordano, Dick (i). The Man of Steel #4 (1986). DC Comics.
  19. ^ appearance in Swamp Thing #52-53; consequences in #65-75
  20. ^ Neil Gaiman Interview (December 1994) Hero Illustrated #18
  21. ^ Adventures of Superman #424, January 1987.
  22. ^ Byrne, John (w), Giordano, Dick (i). The Man of Steel #2 (1986). DC Comics.
  23. ^ a b Singh, Arune (2004-03-11). "Super-Stars (Part 1): Mark Waid's "Birthright," The Official Origin". Comic Book Resources. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=3256. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  24. ^ Waid, Mark (w), Yu, Leinil Francis (p, i). Superman: Birthright #8 (2004). DC Comics.
  25. ^ a b Scifipedia - Lex Luthor. Retrieved on 2007-7-18.
  26. ^ Waid, Mark (w), Yu, Leinil Francis (p, i). Superman: Birthright #6 (2004). DC Comics.
  27. ^ Waid, Mark (2005). Superman Birthright - The Origin of the Man of Steel. DC Comics. ISBN 1-4012-0252-7
  28. ^ Singh, Arune. (2004-3-11) Super-Stars (Part 1): Mark Waid's "Birthright," The Official Origin. Comic Book Resources. Retrieved on 2008-9-10.
  29. ^ Kistler, Alan. (2005-10-30). Mark Waid Talks “Superman Returns” and “Birthright”. Superman Homepage. Retrieved on 2008-10-09.
  30. ^ Action Comics #294 (1962)
  31. ^ Action Comics #47 (1942)
  32. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 109.
  33. ^ Siegel, Jerry (w), Swan, Curt (p), Moldoff, Sheldon (i), Wray, Bill (col), Weisinger, Mort (ed). "The Death of Superman" Superman (149) (November 1961), National Periodical Publications
  34. ^ Superman (vol. 1) #43, November/December 1946: “The Molten World!”
  35. ^ Action Comics # 318, November 1964: "The Death of Luthor".
  36. ^ Superman (vol. 1) #164.
  37. ^ Action Comics #544, June 1983: "Luthor Unleashed".
  38. ^ Superman Homepage - Who's Who In the Superman Comics: Lex Luthor. Retrieved on 2007-7-18.
  39. ^ Superman (vol. 2) #22, February 1987
  40. ^ Action Comics #600.
  41. ^ Byrne, John (w), Byrne, John (p), Beatty, John (i). "The Power That Failed!" Superman 2 (19): 12 (July 1988), DC Comics
  42. ^ Action Comics #670.
  43. ^ Action Comics #677.
  44. ^ Superman (vol. 2) #77.
  45. ^ Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #3.
  46. ^ Action Comics #737
  47. ^ Press Release For "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies" Direct-To-Video Animated Feature
  48. ^ 52: Week 3
  49. ^ Newsarama interview with Stephen Wacker [1]
  50. ^ 52: Week 21
  51. ^ 52: Week 35
  52. ^ 52: Week 39
  53. ^ 52: Week 40
  54. ^ Action Comics #839
  55. ^ Action Comics #840
  56. ^ a b Action Comics #871 (January 2009)
  57. ^ Action Comics #872 (February 2009)
  58. ^ Action Comics #873 (March 2009)
  59. ^ Adventure Comics #0
  60. ^ Adventure Comics #2
  61. ^ Adventure Comics #5-6
  62. ^ Blackest Night #4 (November 2009)
  63. ^ Blackest Night #6 (February 2010)
  64. ^ Green Lantern (vol. 4) #50 (January 2010)
  65. ^ Green Lantern (vol. 4) #51 (February 2010)
  66. ^ Blackest Night #7 (February 2010)
  67. ^ Action Comics #317 (October, 1964)
  68. ^ Adventure Comics #387, (December 1969)
  69. ^ Revealed in Superman Family #211, (October, 1981)
  70. ^ Adventure Comics (Vol. 2) #5 (December 2009)
  71. ^ Adventure Comics (Vol. 2) #6 (January 2009)
  72. ^ Adventure Comics #397 (September, 1970)
  73. ^ The World of Metropolis #1
  74. ^ Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #5.
  75. ^ Superman (vol. 2) #119
  76. ^ Superman: The Man of Steel #77.
  77. ^ President Luthor: Secret Files & Origins #1.
  78. ^ Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography (1989)
  79. ^ http://www.supermanhomepage.com/comics/who/who-intro.php?topic=griggs-casey
  80. ^ Superman (vol. 2) #49.
  81. ^ Action Comics #837
  82. ^ Teen Titans (vol. 3) #17-19 (2005)
  83. ^ Teen Titans (vol. 3) #51 (2007)
  84. ^ Daniels (1998), p. 75.
  85. ^ http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/VoicesFromKrypton/news/?a=11344
  86. ^ http://www.supermanhomepage.com/news.php?readmore=7273 "Chris Noth Talks Crisis on Two Earths"

References

  • Daniels, Les. Superman: The Complete History: The Life and Times of the Man of Steel. Chronicle Books, 1998. ISBN 0811842312

External links


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