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Superman Enemies Lex Luthor Facts

 Main Facts Superman's main enemies list  Allies in conflict   Lesser known foes
Villains from comics in other media  Lex Luthor Books Luthor Toys  Lex Luthor Biography
Lex Luthor Powers and Abilities

Alexander Joseph "Lex" Luthor is a DC Comics supervillain appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Luthor is the archenemy of Superman, and as a high-status supervillain, has also come into conflict with Batman and other superheroes in the DC Universe. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the character first appeared in Action Comics #23 (April 1940). Luthor is a wealthy, power-mad industrialist of high intelligence and incredible technological prowess. Luthor's goals typically center on killing Superman, the foremost obstacle to achieving the villain's megalomaniacal goals. Despite periodically wearing a powered exoskeleton, Luthor has traditionally lacked superpowers or a dual identity.

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 Superman's who lost his hair when a fire destroyed his laboratory; Luthor vowed revenge.

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

The Creation of Lex Luthor and character development
In his first appearance, Action Comics #23 (April 1940), Luthor is an insidious genius who is referred to by his surname. He resides in a flying city suspended by a dirigible. Having taken control of several European countries through his machinations, Luthor tries to provoke a war between the two fictional nations of Galonia and Toran with the help of the crooked Galonian General Lupo. He plans to set all the nations of the world at war but is eventually stopped by Superman. Superman follows Lupo into a cave and watches him as he speaks to a face that appears on a stone slab. Superman springs into action and confronts Lupo, forcing him to reveal who Luthor is by lifting him into the air. Just as Lupo is about to reveal Luthor's role, the face reappears and shoots a green ray at the general, killing him instantly.Luthor describes himself as "an ordinary man, but with the brain of a super-genius." Luthor sends his two henchmen to get Clark, but they find Lois in his room. They seize her to prevent her from speaking and then take her up to the base where she meets Luthor. Action Comics

One of the guards is not under Luthor's command and leaves a note in Clark's room which tells him Lois is in danger. Superman follows the plane to the dirigible. Luthor threatens to kill Lois and then attempts to kill Superman, but despite being weakened by his destruction ray, Superman is able to destroy it. At the end, Superman causes the dirigible to crash with Luthor still on board.
Luthor returns in Superman #4 and tries to steal a weapon that is capable of causing earthquakes. Superman foils his attempt in stealing the device. Luthor then challenges Superman to a duel of his weaponry against Superman's powers in which Superman wins. However, this is a distraction to allow him to steal the earthquake device. Despite Superman destroying his base, Luthor escapes. Superman destroys the earthquake device, and the scientist who made it commits suicide to prevent its reinvention. In a story in the same issue, he is also shown to have created a city on the sunken Lost Continent of Pacifo and to have recreated prehistoric monsters, which he plans to unleash upon the world after draining oil wells dry. After Clark and Lois fly there, a pterodactyl attacks their plane, killing the pilot. Although Superman defeats it, he sees that shock has placed Lois in a coma. It appears as though Luthor has died from being attacked by his monsters, after which Superman breaks the city's glass cover, causing the ocean to destroy it. Clark then takes Lois to a doctor who revives her and proceeds to cover the story. However, Luthor returns in Superman #5 with a plan to place hypnotic gas in the offices of influential people, intending to throw the nation into a depression with the help of corrupt financier Moseley. By the end of the story, he is once again defeated.

In his earliest appearances, Luthor is shown as a middle-aged man with a full head of red hair. Less than a year later, however, an artistic mistake resulted in Luthor being depicted as completely bald in a newspaper strip. The original error is attributed to Leo Novak, a studio artist who illustrated for the Superman dailies during this period.[10] One theory is that Novak mistook Luthor for the Ultra-Humanite, a frequent foe of Superman who, in his Golden Age incarnation, resembled a balding, elderly man. Other evidence suggests Luthor's design was confused with that of a stockier, bald henchman in Superman #4 (Spring 1940); Luthor's next appearance occurs in Superman #10 (May 1941), in which Novak depicted him as significantly heavier, with visible jowls. 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 (April 1960), young Lex Luthor is shown as an aspiring scientist who resides in Smallville, the hometown of Superboy. The teenage Luthor saves Superboy from a chance encounter with Kryptonite. In gratitude Superboy builds Luthor a laboratory, where weeks later he manages to create an artificial life-form, which Luthor loved as if his own child. Grateful in turn to Superboy, Luthor creates an antidote for Kryptonite poisoning.

However, an accidental fire breaks out in Luthor's lab. Superboy uses his super-breath to extinguish the flames, inadvertently spilling chemicals which cause Luthor to go bald; in the process, he also destroys Luthor's artificial life form. Believing Superboy intentionally destroyed his discoveries, Luthor attributes his actions to jealousy and vows revenge. Luthor's revenge first came in the form of grandiose engineering projects in Smallville to prove his superiority over the superhero, only to have each go disastrously out of control and require Superboy's intervention. The mounting embarrassments further deepen Lex's hate for Superboy for supposedly further humiliating him, and he unsuccessfully attempts to murder the superhero. 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.

Luthor's origin is also told in Superman 292 from the 1970's.

 Superman comic

These elements were played up in various stories throughout the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Elliot S. Maggin's novel Last Son of Krypton. This revenge causes Luthor's family to disown him and change their names to Thorul. It also leads to years of Superman, Luthor, and Supergirl concealing the truth from Luthor's sister, Lena Thorul. She was told her brother died in a rock-climbing accident. She has ESP powers due to touching one of Luthor's inventions. Once she found out about Luthor being her brother and briefly lost her memory. However Luthor broke out of prison and gave her flowers he had developed that removed the bad memory from her mind.

1980's -1990's

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

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. Luthor observes Superman in action, and once the gunmen are dispatched, hands the hero a personal check in an attempt to hire him. When Luthor admits that he had not only anticipated the attack, but had arranged for it to occur in order to lure Superman out, the Mayor deputizes Superman to arrest Luthor for reckless endangerment. This, coupled with the indignation that Superman is the only person he could not buy off, threaten, or otherwise control, results in Luthor's pledge to destroy Superman at any cost. As such, he is more than willing to help other businessmen destroy other superbeings. He was instrumental in the apparent death of Swamp Thing, which jeopardized many lives as the Parliament of Trees attempted to replace him.

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.

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


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, which follows Clark Kent's life as a teenager and into early adulthood. One plot element shared by the comic and the show is Lex Luthor's problematic relationship with his wealthy father, Lionel.


Birthright also reinvents the Silver Age concept of Luthor befriending Clark Kent as a young man. During a failed attempt to communicate with Krypton, an explosion erupts which singes off Luthor's hair. 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. In the retrospective section of the Superman: Birthright trade paperback, Waid explains:
Despite my own personal prejudices, I say we leave Lex the criminal businessman he's been for the past 17 years. The Lois & Clark producers liked it, the WB cartoon guys liked it... so clearly, it works on some level. My concern is that, at least in my eyes, the fact that Luthor's allowed to operate uncontested for years makes Superman look ineffectual.

Birthright was initially intended to establish a new origin for Superman and Luthor. However, to Waid's disappointment, the canonicity of the series was eventually discredited by stories which followed it. 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 the Silver Age continuity and the The Man of Steel mini-series. Recent changes to DC Comics continuity were revealed to have been a result of the 2005 Infinite Crisis mini-series.

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

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

The paper's return is interrupted when the US Army, led by Lois's father, General Sam Lane, forcibly shuts down the business. General Lane attempts to force Lois to tell them everything she knows about Superman, who is now a fugitive after he fled a military interrogation. Thanks to Jimmy's help, Lois manages to escape to help Superman. Sam arrives and orders Superman and Lois arrested. However, the crowd turns on the Army, and Superman orders the crowd to stop, telling them that they, not the Army, not Lex Luthor, nor himself, are meant to be Metropolis's saviors.[volume & issue needed] Knowing Luthor's role in the Army's attack against him, Superman confronts him and tells him that Metropolis doesn't belong to him: "You don't own us." Lex objects, since Superman isn't from Earth.

 Superman replies, "This is my home", and leaves. Luthor holds Superman responsible for Luthor losing his complete grip over the people of Metropolis, a grudge that lasts for an eternity. In both "JLA" and "52," Grant Morrison states that Luthor's ego leads him to believe that the only reason Superman commits good deeds is to somehow strike at Luthor and prove who is better, arguing that it is impossible for Superman to be as good as he appears to be.
Many times, Luthor has stated that he could have aided the entire human race if not for Superman's interference, claiming that he gives humanity a goal that they could realistically strive to duplicate, while Superman makes them reach for the impossible. However, both Superman and Conner Kent have called him out on the hypocrisy of this statement, noting that he has regularly turned down easy opportunities to willingly help others, simply because he would have sacrificed an opportunity to kill Superman by doing so. They believe this shows that Luthor's ego is more important to him than humanity. Even when Superman was depowered after the Battle of Metropolis and remained out of sight for a year, the only thing Luthor accomplished in that time was the self-sabotaged 'Everyman' project, where "found [himself] a big destructive machine so [he] could break things", claiming that Superman drove him to it.

 This idea was further reinforced when Luthor was briefly merged with a near-omnipotent entity that sought peace after its difficult 'childhood'. While merged with the entity, Luthor had the power to bring peace and bliss to the entire universe, potentially becoming a hero greater even than Superman, but Luthor fought against that power simply because he would have had to share that bliss with Superman as well.