Lex Luthor is the world's greatest criminal mind and a former President in the DC Universe. He is primarily known as Superman's archenemy, but has clashed with Batman on several occasions, primarily during his term as president. His company, LexCorp, is among one of Wayne Enterprises biggest competitors.
Silver ageEditIn the pre-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor's driving ambitions are to kill Superman and enslave Earth as a stepping stone to dominating the universe. 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. 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),He eventually marries a local woman named Ardora, with whom he fathers a son, Lex Luthor, Jr. After its debut, 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 battlesuit 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.
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—has reappeared in recent continuity, most notably during Infinite Crisis.
As part of the continuity changes which followed The Man of Steel and Superman: Secret Origin, Luthor is shown actively participating in the creation of three Superman villains, Parasite (indirectly), 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, after carrying out a series of kidnappings to try and determine the nature of the connection between Superman and Clark Kent. However, although computer analysis of the assembled data revealed that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person, Luthor dismissed the results because he believed that he 'knew' that someone as powerful as Superman would never choose to live a normal human life. Luthor eventually suffers from severe cancer brought on by long-term radiation exposure to the ring; 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, 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. As Luthor II, he inherits control of LexCorp and seduces Supergirl (a protoplasmic clone of an alternative universe Lana Lang), due to his resemblance to her creator (the alternative universe's Luthor). 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; with help from Superman, she exposes the truth, and a despondent Superman 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.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 with which Luthor is charged.
President of the United StatesEdit
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 officeEdit
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 forbidden 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, claiming that he had 'evidence'- which he declined to share while claiming that it would make the public laud his actions if they knew it- that the asteroid was being drawn to Earth by Superman, offering a billion dollar reward for Superman's capture that pitted Superman and Batman against an army of villains, all of whom they defeated. 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 after Superman damaged his battlesuit, Luthor finds that the acting CEO, Talia Al Ghul, has sold the entire company 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.
Alexander Luthor, Jr. (the son of Earth-Three's version of 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 the third incarnation 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 (a teenage version of Superman from Earth-Prime), who is allied with Alexander. After discovering that his hybrid clone/"son" Conner Kent (Superboy) was injured by 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.
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. 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.
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 Alexander Luthor Jr., he secretly exposes John to the chemicals involved in his creating his new army of superheroes, 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.
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.
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 metagene treatment. 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. 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 CountdownEditOne 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. Superman manages to destroy the Kryptonite-powered ship and recover the crystal- simultaneously confronting Lex with the fact that, despite his claims that Superman has been 'holding him back' from helping humanity, the only thing he accomplished with Superman being absent for a year was to find a large robot that he used to try and destroy everything-, but Lex manages to escape custody yet again.
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, leaving Superman alive to provide assistance simply because he believed that this 'invasion' was proof that he had been right about Superman all along and he wanted SUperman to live with that knowledge.In JLA, Luthor (alongside Joker and Cheetah III) gathers together a new "Injustice League" and, outfitted in a new version of his warsuit, 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.
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. Libra later figures out Luthor had been the mole in the Society of Super Villains. Luthor, in league with Doctor Sivana, seemingly destroys Libra and overturns the Anti-Life Equation being broadcast into the Justifiers' helmets. He subsequently assists Superman in leading the assault against Darkseid's forces, noting that Superman can consider this a legendary first team-up between 'good' and 'bad'- with Luthor's side taking the credit for the win-, Superman accepting the deal due to the stakes. Luthor later assists Superman and his remaining allies in constructing the new Miracle Machine to reset the universe and recreate the universe without Darkseid.
Luthor ended up imprisoned for his crimes, but rather than 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, 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.
After his success with Brainiac, Luthor was given the seemingly dead body of Doomsday, who had been defeated by the Kryptonians, to study as it had “potential”.
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 on board the ship, and the two make their escape. 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. 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 against the entire House of El.
Last Stand of New Krypton and War of the SupermenEdit
As part of his participation in Project 7734, Luthor sends a robot double of himself with Brainiac on a mission to attack New Krypton. While there, the Luthor robot tampers with the body chemistry of the previously-captured Reactron. Shortly thereafter, Reactron kills himself, initiating a chain reaction which ultimately destroys New Krypton and all but a handful of its 100,000 Kryptonian inhabitants. Supergirl's mother Alura (who had assumed leadership of the planet) is among the casualties. For his efforts, Luthor receives a presidential pardon for his past crimes.
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. 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.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 in them battling each other for it despite all of the dangers around them. 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. Luthor is quickly overwhelmed by his greed, and sets out to steal the rings of his fellow inducted Lanterns, taking Scarecrow's yellow ring and attempting to steal Mera's red one, but is held back by the Atom(wielding the ring-staff of the Indigo tribe) and the Flash wearing a Blue Lantern Ring. When deputy Violet Lantern 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. When Nekron is defeated, Larfleeze takes the ring from Luthor, leaving him powerless, and allows Luthor to remain on Earth with the Green Lanterns (although Sinestro notes that this is the first time Larfleeze has given anyone anything).
In the aftermath of the crisis, Luthor, craving the power of the orange light, recovers and operates on several Black Lantern remains in an attempt to find one with a ring still on its finger. He is then visited by Larfleeze, who demands to know what is important to the people of Earth. Luthor responds with "power", which Larfleeze already possesses, and "land", which intrigues the alien.
Brightest Day: Action Comics-"The Black Ring"EditAfter the conclusion of the New Krypton event, Luthor became the lead character in Action Comics and will remain so until issue #900. Written by Paul Cornell, the first story entitled "The Black Ring" explores Luthor's more aggressive lust for power in the wake of his exposure to a power ring in the Blackest Night event. After being infused with the Orange Light of Avarice, Luthor begins a universal quest to locate the energy of the Black Lantern Corps.
During the midst of the Brightest Day event, Deathstroke and his new team of Titans are hired to assassinate Luthor while he is visiting Midway City with Nava Mendelssohn, his new personal assistant and bodyguard. When the Titans ambush Lex's convoy and begin killing his hired mercenaries, Nava takes him into the sewers, where she is shot and apparently killed by Deathstroke. It is then revealed that Luthor himself had paid the Titans to fake an attempt on his life, in hopes that it would draw out conspirators within LexCorp. Nava's injuries soon heal, and she reveals herself to be a shapeshifter named Facade, who had murdered and impersonated the real Nava in order to get close enough to Lex to kill him. After a massive battle, Deathstroke and Osiris are able to defeat Facade, and then turn him over to Lex. In the end, LexCorp scientists are shown performing experiments on the captured Facade, while Luthor assembles his staff and reveals that he knows that it was one of his employees who had hired the creature in the first place. Luthor warns them not to try such a tactic again, as he will turn them into his next morbid experiment if they do.
While searching for the energy of the Black Lantern- - simultaneously dispatching various Doomsday 'clones' created from the original to distract Earth's heroes by sending them after the other members of the Superman family- with the aid of a robotic duplicate of Lois Lane created to give him an honest opinion on his actions, Luthor encountered Brainiac in space while attempting to alter the last of the Black Lantern energy, acting upon an unspoken theory of his. Brainiac revealed that Loisbot was an unwilling pawn in his bid to hijack Luthor's quest. Luthor then replied that he had anticipated this for some time, and he then attacked Brainiac and snapped his neck, temporarily incapacitating him. Loisbot pleaded for Lex's forgivness, and he accepted her apology. However, after he altered the four remaining black spheres, he opened a Phantom Zone portal which unleashed an extremely powerful, monstrously large being which prepared to kill all life in the universe, because the negative emotions of sentient creatures hurt it. Luthor promptly impaled Loisbot's head, allowing himself to be infected with Krypontian technology which he used to engage the monster on a mental plane of existence. Grappling with the creature, Luthor's body and mental essence suddenly fused with it, learning that it evolved in the Phantom Zone and now seeks to escape from the grief and anger of the Zone prisoners. Using his new power, Luthor draws Superman to him, attempting to drive Superman mad by forcing him to experience the human emotions that he believes the alien merely fakes to blend in. However, Luthor is outraged when he learns that Superman's defining moment of tragedy is the loss of his father. Luthor is unable to cope with the fact that not only was his greatest enemy raised by humans, but he also had a father he would actually mourn rather than the anguish Luthor endured in his own relationship with his father. As Luthor becomes one with the creature, Superman and Mr. Mind- who has been aiding Luthor's search- realise that the creature allows Luthor to create a feeling of peace and bliss throughout the entire universe, at the cost of never allowing him to cause any harm to another being at the same time. Superman attempts to appeal to Luthor about the potential of doing something even he never accomplished, but Luthor is unable to let go of his hate for Superman, costing him control of the entity- as well as his memory of everything he learned or did while he was merged with it- and it departs for another part of the universe. Luthor is ultimately defeated when he falls into one of the Phantom Zone holes created by the creature, seemingly forever.
In the Post Flashpoint DC Universe, Luthor appears in Action Comics as a representative the government has recruited to investigate and bring down Superman.
Signifigant Interactions with BatmanEdit
- Batman takes possession of Luthor's Kryptonite Ring.
- Luthor uses the No Man's Land to make a power play in Gotham.
- Luthor hires David Cain to frame Bruce Wayne for murder.
- Batman, along with Superman, helps remove Luthor from the office of the Presidency.
In other mediaEdit
Lex has encountered Batman in numerous animated television shows and films.