Over the course of the past 70 years, few comic book villains have had as much of an impact as Lex Luthor
’s long time arch nemesis has forever been one of DC Comic
’s greatest rogues; let alone one of the greatest comic book characters of all time. This month, Lex’s most recent adventures in the storyline ‘The Black Ring
’ from the pages of Action Comics
will be coming to a close with the release of Action Comics
#900, so who could possibly be better to be our Comic Booked Character Of The Month for April 2011!
Alexander Joseph “Lex” Luthor is one of the comic book industry’s longest lasting villains; but what truly makes him special is that he essentially has no powers. Lex Luthor first appeared in Action Comics
#23 (way back in 1940!) and was created by Jerry Siegel
and Joe Shuster
. He was initially conceived as a highly intelligent, power-hungry evil scientist with a knack for technology. Everything Lex does is based around science. Luthor uses his super-genius mind and his immense wealth to come up with a seemingly never ending series of evil plots to A) take over the world and B) defeat his arch-nemesis, Superman. Lex’s lust for power is second only to his extreme hatred for the Man of Steel; who he considers to be an alien that needs exterminating. He has been eternally jealous of Superman’s extreme level of power.
After the Crisis on Infinite Earths
crossover event restructured the DC Universe
with a new continuity in 1985, Luthor was re-imagined as less of a mad scientist and more of a white collar criminal sociopath with Machiavellian tendencies. He used his high corporate position to commit crimes without personally implicating himself, although he does occasionally get back to his mad scientist roots. He has made himself appear so clean to the public that he was elected the President of the United States of America for a time. Another thing that sets Lex apart is his lack of a dual-identity. Luthor doesn’t hide behind a mask, and the world is well aware of most of his actions; he is simply just so cocky and sure of himself that he doesn’t care who knows he’s a villain. While taking on super-powered enemies, Luthor often wears a powered exoskeleton suit to boost his own abilities and give himself some firepower.
When he first appeared, Luthor had a full head of red hair, but later became hairless due to an artist’s mistake. It was later explained in a 1960 story by Jerry Siegel, where it was revealed that Luthor was a childhood friend of Superboy (who later became Superman) because he spent many of his teen years living in Smallville with his Aunt Lena. Lex lost his hair when Superboy accidentally destroyed his laboratory, which is what initially lead to his extreme hatred for the hero.
In his earliest appearances, Lex was seen committing various acts of terrorism so that he could achieve his main goal of world domination; but as expected Superman always foiled his chances of actually succeeding. After not too long Luthor learned about Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite
and did his best to exploit it by constantly using it against him. Luthor even went as far as to reveal Superman’s secret weakness to the public so that other enemies of Superman may be able to use it against him.
Many years later, Luthor would learn of the Multiverse’s existence and join forces with his Earth-One counterpart (also Lex Luthor) to attempt to conquer Earth-Three. The two of them managed to recruit Earth-Three’s most powerful villain, Ultraman, to their cause. Ultraman was essentially an evil version of the Superman of Earth One. Unfortunately and unexpectedly, the trio was defeated by Earth-Three’s first and only superhero, Luthor’s Earth-Three counterpart, Alexander Luthor. Alexei Luthor (Lex Luthor of Earth Two) was recruited by Brainiac
during the first massive comics crossover event, The Crisis on Infinite Earths
. During the event Brainiac selected Earth One Luthor (Lex) to be a field commander during a mission, and Alexei immediately confronted him over the decision, proclaiming “I’m better than that labrat! You don’t need two Luthors!” Brainiac, being the logical one, agreed with Alexei about this. He then proceeded to disintegrate Alexei on the spot, leaving Earth One’s Lex Luthor the only Luthor on the team, and effectively eliminating him from history. No one on the New Earth remembers that he ever existed.
Luthor was effectively re-invented in the Silver Age of comics. In this new continuity, Luthor grew up in the suburbs of Smallville, Kansas on a farm with his family. Although he was raised by his family to be a farmer, Luthor’s dream was to become the world’s greatest scientist. As a teenager he was a huge fan of Superboy, the local superhero of Smallville; even going as far as to build a shrine to the hero. One day Luthor saw Superboy’s seemingly limp body near a large green rock while out plowing a field. He immediately used his tractor to move the rock away from Superboy, who was eternally grateful. Superboy returned to Lex’s workshop with him so he could thank him for saving his life. Upon arrival he discovered the shrine Luthor had built in his honor, and was so touched that he constructed a brand new high tech laboratory for Luthor to use.
Luthor used his new lab to experiment with various chemicals, trying to derive an antidote to Kryptonite poisoning for Superboy; should he ever run into the material again. Eventually Lex discovered a cure, but in his excitement he knocked over a beaker containing dangerous chemicals which immediately set his entire laboratory ablaze. Superboy quickly realized what had happened, but couldn’t rush in to help Lex because of the amount of Kryptonite Luthor had kept inside to experiment with. Superboy decided his only option was to put the fire out with his super-breathe. While his plan worked and the fire was brought under control, Superboy also managed to accidentally knock over other chemicals, which combined to create a toxic gas that caused Luthor to lose all his hair and go permanently bald. Luthor was devastated with the loss of both his laboratory and his hair; blaming Superboy for the entire thing and swearing vengeance upon him.
Lex tried time and time again to destroy Superboy with various weapons over the years, but ultimately he would continuously be defeated by the hero and sent to the Smallville Juvenile Detention Center. His family ultimately abandoned him; moving away from Smallville and changing their last name as to distance themselves from Lex. His plans continued up until the Crisis on Infinite Earths where he teamed up with Brainiac and soon witnessed the death of his Earth Two counterpart, Alexei. Lex and most of the other villains ultimately opted to side with the heroes temporarily during the Crisis when the Anti-Monitor resurfaced after its apparent death. Lex managed to survive the Crisis but was essentially destroyed and replaced by a new Luthor that was a composite of all the previous iterations of Luthor in one body; with the exception of the heroic Luthor of Earth Three.
Lex Luthor was again reinvented for the Modern Age of comics. This time around Lex was raised by parents who realized that he was a veritable genius at an early age. They supported him in his endeavors knowing that he could make them incredibly wealthy, but in the process they destroyed his soul and created the sociopath that comic book fans know today. Lex spent the majority of his younger years searching for extraterrestrial life and eventually ended up in Smallville, Kansas around age 18; where he befriended a young man named Clark Kent (who is actually Superman, unbeknownst to Luthor). An accidental fire destroyed Lex’s lab and all of his experiments went up in flames, but Lex refused to accept that any of it was his own fault. He grew to hate Smallville and blames it for his early failures; although he now denies having ever set foot in Smallville to begin with.
Lex went on to form his multi-billion dollar company, Lexcorp, years later in Metropolis. The company was a huge success and gained Lex a lot of political power and respect. Luthor was widely considered the most powerful man in Metropolis, but his stay at the top was short lived. Not long after Lex placed himself atop the political ladder, reports started streaming in about a man soaring through the skies. Superman had come to Metropolis, and suddenly Lex was no longer the man with the most power. To make things worse for Lex, Superman openly accused Lex of his criminal actions, destroying the reputation that Luthor had worked so hard to build up. Somehow Luthor never managed to connect the dots and realize that this ‘Superman’ was none other than his former boyhood friend from Smallville.
Death and Rebirth
For years Luthor tried to destroy Superman. He spent the better part of his life committed to killing the Man of Steel; but little did he know that he was in turn actually killing himself. After years of constant contact with Kryptonite (Superman’s one weakness), Lex discovered that he now had Cancer from overexposure to radiation. Luthor had to have his hand removed after wearing a ring made of Kryptonite for too long, and soon after his condition only worsened. Luthor eventually faked his own death and had his brain transferred into a perfectly healthy clone body. He set up a new identity for himself as his own heir, taking on the name Lex Luthor II. To differentiate himself from his past, he grew a full beard and long red hair and adapted to speaking with an Australian accent. He used this new identity to trick the world into thinking that he was nothing like his ‘father’ and could never be capable of the crimes associated with him.
Once he had gained control of LexCorp again in his new body, Luthor set a slew of new plans into motion. He seduced Supergirl
(who was a clone of an alternate universe’s Lana Lang
) and convinced her to become a hero of Metropolis. Aside from instating Supergirl as Metropolis’s new protector, he created a strong police force of LexCorp shock troopers to aid in controlling crime throughout the city.
Eventually his new clone body began to deteriorate and age at a rapid rate as a side effect of the untested cloning technology. Lois Lane
uncovered proof of Luthor’s clone harvesting and fake identity and exposed the truth about his ‘death’ to the public with the help of Superman. His mind became trapped in his dying body as he was imprisoned, only to be saved by making a deal with the demon Neron
; who offered Luthor full health and exchange for services and his soul. Luthor quickly agrees, not believing in the existence of souls, and promptly returned to Metropolis where he turned himself over to the police. He was put on trail and acquitted of all charges when he claims that he was set up by rogue Cadmus
Labs Scientists who had replaced him with a violent clone that had committed all of the crimes he had been accused of.
With his name cleared of all criminal charges, Luthor decided to make his next move by turning to politics. Luthor became the President of the United States after using the unpopularity of his predecessors against them and promoting technological progress. Millionaire Bruce Wayne
severed all commercial ties between the U.S. Government and his company, Wayne Enterprises, as a form of protest against Luthor winning the election. Subsequently, Luthor responded by having Wayne’s girlfriend murdered and having Wayne framed for the whole thing (as seen in the Bruce Wayne: Fugitive
Early in his first term as President, Luthor successfully lead a team up of the U.S. Army and Earth’s superheroes to fight off the villainous alien Imperiex
. After the menace is defeated, it is revealed that Luthor actually knew about the forthcoming alien invasion before it ever happened and held the information back from Earth’s heroes; inadvertently leaving himself responsible for the destruction of Topeka, Kansas which was destroyed by an Imperiex probe.
Luthor’s stay in office was indeed a short one. Not long after the Imperiex incident, Luthor tried to link Superman to a giant kryptonite asteroid that was hurtling towards earth. Certain members of the Justice League decided that enough was enough and took matters into their own hands, planning to remove Luthor from office by force. When Superman and Batman made their final attempt to take Luthor down, Lex overplayed his hand by using a combination of liquid synthetic Kryptonite, the super-steroid “Venom” (most commonly used by the Batman rogue Bane
) and an Apokoliptian battle suit to try and fight the two of them directly in hand to hand combat. Unfortunately for Luthor, the side effects of the Venom kicked in during the fight and while in his crazed state he revealed that he traded the Doomsday
creature (which had previously ‘killed’ Superman) to Darkseid in exchange for weapons during the Imperiex Incident. Batman (being Batman) caught the whole confession on video, which forced Lex to resign from office. Luthor immediately went back to LexCorp to try and regroup and figure out his next move, only to find out that the acting CEO, Talia Head
, had already sold the entire company to the Wayne Foundation. Lex soon after went into hiding following his bankruptcy and complete loss of political power after serving less than three years as President.
Infinite Crisis and One Year Later
In the DC Comics’ event Infinite Crisis
, Alexander Luthor Jr
. (the son of Earth-Three’s Luthor) made his return to the DC Universe alongside the other survivors of the Crisis on Infinite Earths
. Alexander planned on creating the perfect Earth under the pretense of restoring Earth-Two. Alexander secretly replaced Lex and started up a new Secret Society of Super Villains
while the real Luthor took up the mantle of Mockingbird and formed a new iteration of the Secret Six
to counter Alexander’s next move. Luthor eventually confronts his imposter but is stopped by Superboy-Prime
. At the end of the Infinite Crisis event, Lex Luthor personally oversees Alexander Luthor’s execution by the Joker
, who had been upset with Alexander for not including him in his Secret Society.
Jump to one year later, where Luthor has been cleared of over 120 criminal charges including his involvement with the New Years Eve Massacre from 52
. On top of his part in the massacre permanently destroying his public image, he lost the majority of his personal wealth and control of his newly reformed LexCorp thanks to the plotting of Doctor Sivana
. Luthor highly blames Clark Kent for revealing many of his misdeeds in a series of articles in the Daily Planet and has since swore vengeance on all of Metropolis.
After losing it all once again, Luthor went back to his usual past time of trying to destroy Superman. Some plans of note include the use of a Kryptonian Battleship that is fueled by Kryptonite and the creation of a new Revenge Squad. Luthor also starts up a new Injustice League
with the Joker and Cheetah
, planning on destroying the Justice League entirely before they were promptly defeated.
Final Crisis and New Krypton
During the Final Crisis
event, Luthor is seen in the inner circle of the Secret Society of Supervillains. Libra
gives Luthor the option to either swear allegiance to Darkseid
or to become a mindless slave; with Luthor settling with the former. It is later revealed that Lex is actually a mole inside the Secret Society, and alongside Doctor Sivana he destroys Libra and overturns the Anti-Life Equation that was being broadcast into the Justifier’s helmets; effectively saving the day.
Luthor was finally imprisoned for his crimes, but rather than going to jail he was made to serve his sentence working for the top secret Project 7734. He was forced to wear chains while he worked, but Luthor was assigned the task of accessing all of the knowledge stored within his fellow inmate Brainiac; who had recently been captured by Superman. Luthor managed to break into Brainiac’s head and use it to activate Brainiac’s ship which was being held on Kandor alongside the super villains Metallo
and Reactron. Brainiac’s robots aboard the ship providing a distraction while Metallo and Reactron used their Kryptonite hearts to murder their captors and escape. Luthor later escapes after forming an alliance with Brainiac; with Brainiac having promised Luthor the Earth when he was ‘done with it’.
When the Black Lantern
’s invade earth in during the Blackest Night
caused each power ring to replicate itself to find temporary recruits to each Lantern Corps. Of the Emotional Spectrum. The ring belonging to Orange Lantern Larfleeze
, who is powered by Greed and Avarice, replicated itself and selected Lex Luthor as its candidate ring-bearer. Luthor proves to be an excellent fighter and wields his Orange power ring quite proficiently, with his lust for power and greed allowing him to control his ring with ease. He attempts to steal the Orange Power Battery from Larfleeze, but is stopped by Wonder Woman
and her Lasso of Truth. While still under the influence of the Lasso, Luthor admits his deepest secret- he has always wanted to be Superman.
When the Black Lanterns are defeated, Luthor is empowered and his Orange Ring is taken back by Larfleeze. During the Brightest Day storyline, Larfleeze returns Lex’s Orange Ring in exchange for information regarding what the people of earth truly want; to which Luthor tells him power and land.
It’s safe to say that Luthor lives well into old age, as he is still alive in the world of Batman Beyond
. It takes the combined efforts of Batman (Terry McGinnis
) and Superman to defeat him and send him to the Phantom Zone
; which will assumedly be Luthor’s eternal resting place… or will it?
Powers and Abilities
Lex Luthor does not actually have any powers outside of his genius level intelligence and a vast fortune with which to fund various technologies and experiments.