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Metropolis in the comics represents New York City, but in Smallville Metropolis is apparently in Kansas. According to what I've seen on Smallville so far, Metropolis is apparently only a few hours away. I guess this makes it easier to explain the Kent's presence there from time to time.

Michael Rosenbaum Lex Luthor

the Kents after the dead herd has been discovered

Lionel Luthor pays a visit to Lex Luthor
evil Lionel Luthor, Lex's Father

Lex and Clark prepare to go into the seemingly haunted bedroom

 

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Smallville's Lex Luthor Origins 

The History of Smallville the origins of Lex Luthor
Lana Lang
    Baby  Kal-El  Superboy

Before we begin, you must be aware of the fact that there are really 2 main versions of Lex Luthor in the comic book universe, but in the early years Lex Luthor had went throught many fazes. In fact at first Lex Luthor wasn't even bald. At one point he was bald and fat. He eventually would become the super evil genius who wore the purple looking jump suit we all know from the Super Friends. This is the version of Lex Luthor that had ties to Smallville and Clark Kent. But this version was in the good old days before Superman's origin story was revamped by John Byrne in the 1980's. This was in the day that Superman flew around saving the day as Superboy in Smallville. Check out the link below for the actual comic book story ,pictures and all, of how Lex Luthor lost his hair and gained a terrible hatred for Superman.
Read the Silver Age Origin of  Lex Luthor from the Superman Encyclopedia

The above link will take you the comic book version of Lex Luthor's origin from the 1975 Superman # 292. 
Clark and Lex are shown to be about same age in this story from Superman # 292. Both were living in Smallville and going to the same school. Lex and Clark were shown as friends. And Lex had a full head of hair.

Of course in Smallville, Lex is a few years older and only comes to Smallville to take over his Dad's factory.

In the comic book story Lex turns to the dark side after Superboy makes a small mistake.  Lex tries to invent a cure for kyptonite to help Superboy. When Superboy is on his way to visit Lex he sees smoke coming from Lex's laboratory where Luthor had accidentally dropped a flask and started a small fire.  Superboy blows the fire out with his super breath but also blows Lex's kryptonite cure all over Lex Luthor. Thus causing Lex to lose all his hair.


Clark and Lex at school Superman #292

LEXluthor.jpg (199534 bytes)
click for larger image of Superman # 292 cover

Super Friends fans may remember seeing this Lex Luthor origin story on the Challenge of the SuperFriends Episode "History of Doom"


Lex loses his hair Superman #292

Of course in Smallville's version its not Clark's fault directly ,but Lex's hair loss is due to one of the meteors crashing to Earth during Clark's arrival in the rocketship. The meteors were apparently  debris from Krypton's destruction.


Meteor crash near the young Lex Luthor

Lex in a cornfield after a meteor hits nearby.
From the pilot episode of Smallville

Lex is much younger in Smallville's version when he loses his hair, but is only older than Clark by a few years. Also Lex Luthors father owns a plant in Smallville but the Luthor's do not live in Smallville. Lex grows up in Metropolis.

How does Clark meet Lex Luthor on Smallvile
Since Lex doesn't grow up in Smallville on the show he meets Clark by literally running into him with his car. Clark saves his life and leaves Lex wondering how he himself survived the car crash over the bridge. This is why he is always so interested in the Kents and Clark.

Lex running off a bridge after hitting Clark

Comics Current Lex Luthor
Now as to the current version of Lex Luthor. Since the 1980's revamp, Lex Luthor has been a very rich business man living in Metropolis. Raised in the "Suicide Slums" of Metropolis, he  used his genius to become wealthy.

His parents were killed in a mysterious auto accident, their sizable insurance policy (which conveniently named Lex as sole beneficiary) brought Lex his first quarter-million and the chance to be the youngest student to ever enter MIT. The aggressive young inventor amazed all his teachers and graduated three years later with a master's degree in science. The money he soon made from patenting his inventions made him a billionaire by age twenty. He brought industry and prosperity to Metropolis, eventually employing two-thirds of the city's work force among his many companies.

Now in his late forties, Lex Luthor is generally regarded as a hero. Thanks to his battery of lawyers and "pet" city officials, it would be nearly impossible to connect him to any crime. He's careful to keep his hands clean, delegating the dirty work to subordinates.  Lex learns to hate Superman out of the jealousy of the love of the people of Metropolis for the hero. He also cannot stand anyone who cannot control or own.

Lex Luthor President of the United States

The vision of Luthor in the White House
The biggest shock of all is the fact that the current comic book Lex Luthor becomes President of the United States by using his apparent assistance to the Justice League during the "Final Night" crisis to help super charge his campaign.
None other than good old Pete Ross is Luthor's Vice President running mate.

Check out the article from DC Comics Daily Planet
LEX LUTHOR WINS!
Luthor took office on January 20, 2001

Lex Luthor President on Smallville
The fact that Lex Luthor becomes President is shown on the episode "Hourglass" of the first season. 

In this episode Lex Luthor visits Cassandra, an elderly lady with the power to see visions.  Cassandra sees Lex Luthor in the white house.  She also sees Lex standing in a field of large flowers. In the vision Lex reaches out to touch one with black gloved hand and the flower starts to die and wither away. All the flowers die and are replaced with a bone yard. Lex just smiles in the vision and then drops of blood start to pour down out of the sky onto Lex. The vision is so horrible to Cassandra that the shock kills her.

Overall comparisons
The Lex Luthor of Smallville is an amalgam of both versions of Lex Luthor. I personally believe Smallville picks up on the best of the Superman legend
for the most part for Lex and every other aspect of the show.  The fact that Jeph Loeb ( comic book writer) has been working on the show proves that the Smallville creative team is concerned with staying true to the spirit of the comic book version.

The Big Question
How long before Smallville's Lex Luthor turns evil. He has already shown signs of turning to the darkside. He apparently has no problem in lying to protect his own hide, but yet he still seems to honestly care for his friends the Kents even though Jonathan Kent is often angry and distrustful of him. Only time will tell. The Superman story after all has changed since it's very beginning.  At first Superman couldn't even fly. He just leaped from place to place. Could Lex Luthor's story change? Is it possible that Smallville's Lex Luthor may not become evil? Probably not. But the suspense keeps us watching.