Real Name:  Alexander Joseph Luthor

Voiced by Clancy Brown

Born into poverty and raised in the Suicide Slum district of Metropolis, the man who the world would come to know as Lex Luthor aspired to greatness in his earliest years.  Growing up resenting his alcoholic and abusive parents, he was nonetheless fascinated by their stories of his family’s more affluent past—one of the founders of the colonial settlement that would one day become Metropolis, the Luthors grew into a prominent family of wealth and privilege until they lost everything in the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  Inspired by the tales of his forebears, young Luthor vowed to restore the legacy of the Luthor name by any means necessary.

A brilliant child, young Luthor possessed an intuitive understanding of the nature of power, as well as the concept of deniability.  To that end, he used this knowledge as a first step on his path to greatness:  at the age of fourteen, Luthor took out a sizable insurance claim on his parents and then paid off a mechanic to tinker with the breaks of their car.  Following their deaths, Luthor collected $250,000 and used that money to become the youngest student to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or MIT), where he amazed his professors and graduated three years later with a master’s degree.

Following his graduation, Luthor immediately began making inroads into the aerospace field by designing and building a revolutionary sub-orbital aircraft.  Dubbed the LexWing, Luthor made international headlines when he personally flew the prototype from Metropolis to Sydney, Australia.  This stunt made him a household name and netted him numerous defense department contracts, which he used to build his fledgling business.  By the age of twenty he was already a billionaire, thanks to the money made on the inventions he patented and from his lucrative ties to the U.S. military.

His childhood goal achieved, Luthor spent the next twenty to thirty years cementing his power base and ensuring his legacy.  Originally an aerospace firm, Luthor’s company—LexCorp—diversified its holdings as it grew in power, purchasing legitimate businesses and creating networks of dummy corporations to hide his shadier dealings.  On the surface, the multinational LexCorp was a sterling example of capitalism and scientific pursuit—making contributions in the fields of advanced robotics, genetic engineering, and defensive systems—but beneath the surface lay ties to organized crime, as well as hostile nations, who were also interested in purchasing Luthor’s wares.  In addition, Luthor systematically blackmailed his detractors and competition to comply with his wishes, and those he could not manipulate either disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances.

This is not to say, however, that Luthor did not have a charitable side, as he single-handedly took Metropolis, a city in decline, and transformed it into a shining city of tomorrow.  Wishing to make his childhood home into a suitable kingdom from which to rule, Luthor oversaw the city’s development every step of the way—his billions financed it, his companies constructed it, and his corporation provided it with industry.  As a consequence, his businesses stimulated the job market, providing roughly two-thirds of Metropolis’ population with employment.  It was due to these works that Luthor found himself regarded as a hero by the citizens of what was now his city.

Finally, after decades of hard work, determination, and various untraceable crimes, Luthor had reached the top.  He had wealth, power, influence, and a skyline in which half of the buildings bore his name.  Idolized by the populace, Luthor kept his hands clean by handing off his dirty dealings to subordinates and, in the odd occasion when an accusation was made, either a bribed city official saw to it that an investigation was stopped before it began, or his phalanx of lawyers ensured that he would be cleared of all charges.  Yes, life was perfect…until Superman made his debut in the skies above Metropolis, and began to meddle in his affairs.

In retrospect, it was another one of Luthor’s brilliant plans:  the rogue nation of Kasnia wished to purchase a Lexoskel 5000—a piloted suit of armor the size of a tank—from LexCorp, but was unable to due to a U.S. embargo against the nation.  Unable to sell the weapon directly without committing an act of treason, Luthor arranged for terrorists to steal the prototype during a press conference, which would provide him with wealth from Kasnia and a military contract to build another prototype for the U.S.  However, due to Superman’s interference, the terrorists were thwarted and the prototype was destroyed.  Initially annoyed by the setback, Luthor still saw the caped newcomer as a potential resource, but this annoyance turned to rage when Superman ignored his overtures and vowed to keep an eye on him.  Realizing the genuine threat that this super-powered alien presented to his continued operations, Luthor vowed to destroy him.

Lex Luthor’s war against the Man of Steel was one fought on many levels, as Luthor attempted to manipulate the public’s opinion about their alien defender even as he sent out newer and exotic weapons to face him.  As for his more direct assaults—operations listed under the heading of Project:  Achilles—Luthor used every trick from his formidable arsenal to hound his rival, and while each offensive proved to be a failure, it did provide him with unexpected opportunities to pursue his vendetta further.  For example, while his discovery of kryptonite did not kill Superman as he had hoped, the Kryptonian blood collected from the scene provided him with a basis for his cloning experiments, and the kryptonite itself provided him with a proverbial cross with which to keep his vampire at bay.  In addition, many members of Superman’s Rogues Gallery—such as Metallo, Bizarro, Luminus, and Livewire—can trace their origins back to Luthor in some way, and the Kryptonian computer program Brainiac renewed his acquaintance with the son of Jor-El at Luthor’s urging.  Through it all, Luthor managed to cover his tracks—the laboratory that created clones of the Kryptonian was destroyed by a bomb, satellites used to block the yellow spectrum of the sun’s light were hijacked by a costumed extremist—but, little by little, these incidents began to pile up, causing public opinion to shift until, finally, Luthor found himself in a situation he could not buy his way out of.  Following a sting operation organized by the Justice League—one that acquired irrefutable evidence that he had sold weapons to terrorists—Luthor was forced to flee for the first time.  However, this would not be his first humbling experience that night.

As the threat that Superman posed to Luthor was ongoing, Luthor had always made a point of keeping a piece of kryptonite close at hand, which proved to be his undoing as kryptonite, while not immediately fatal to humans as it is to Kryptonians, emits a low level of radiation that, over time, can cause cancer in humans.  A seizure interrupted his escape attempt from the Justice League and, while awaiting trial in Stryker’s Island Penitentiary, he began to feel the first pangs of his own mortality.  His reputation destroyed and his assets seized, Luthor turned to the one thing that he had left—the one thing that could keep him going—his undying hatred of Superman.  Utilizing the time he had left, he decided to take his battle with the Man of Steel to the streets, using his scientific genius and the wealth he had hidden over the years to destroy his nemesis and his friends in the Justice League.

For a time, Lex Luthor operated as a supervillain, organizing teams—such as the Injustice Gang—to fight the League directly, or sending giant robots operated by remote control but, as was the case with his more covert attacks, they also came to naught.  A device created by the Ultra-Humanite slowed the spread of his cancer, but it only bought him a little more time to gain vengeance against his enemies.  In the end, Luthor was smart enough to see that this track wasn’t working, and when Superman and the authorities came to him for help in their struggle against the Justice Lords, Luthor agreed to help in exchange for a full pardon.  A free man once again, Luthor presented himself as a man reformed, but secretly began working with the black ops-oriented Cadmus Project, whose mission was to develop weapons to combat the threat that the Justice League now posed.

Working with project leader Amanda Waller and scientist Dr. Emil Hamilton, Luthor supplied them with advanced technology and notes from his Kryptonian cloning experimentswhich Hamilton used to create Galatea and Doomsday—in order to help them combat the Justice League on behalf of government interests.  During this cold war of global powers, Luthor discovered that his cancer had mysteriously disappeared from his body and that he now possessed developed super-strength.  Curious as this was, however, he put it out of his mind, and used his fake political ambitions and the rivalry between Cadmus and the League as a smokescreen for his true goal:  the construction of an AMAZO android body for himself.  However, before he could transfer his mind into the nanotech body, he was confronted by Waller and the Justice League.  The body destroyed, it was at this moment that both parties were surprised to find out that Brainiac was manipulating Luthor—reconfiguring his body and mentally nudging him to create a new, powerful body for the Kryptonian intelligence to house itself in.

Escaping during the ensuing battle, Luthor negotiated with Brainiac, offering his imagination and willpower in exchange for a true partnership between the entities.  Brainiac agreed, and the two merged into one being using the Dark Heart nanotech.  Now a binary, technological god, the Luthor / Brainiac hybrid formulated a plan to absorb the Earth's knowledge all at once—and use it as a stepping stone towards galactic conquest—but they were defeated by the Flash, who literally tore the Brainiac circuitry out of Luthor's body at super-speed.  Returned to prison, Luthor now believes that Brainiac's consciousness still resides within him, and it is this connection that has motivated him to join forces with Grodd's Legion of Doom, where he works for the simian criminal in exchange for the last piece of Brainiac tech on Earth, which Luthor hopes will allow him to remerge with his Kryptonian benefactor.

Luthor hates Superman—he despises him with a passion that cannot be quenched by his other noteworthy accomplishments, but the question of why often puzzles the Man of Steel and his friends.  Perhaps it is the fact that the public’s devotion to Superman came so freely to him, while Luthor had to buy it with charitable works and years of public service.  Maybe he resents the fact that he had to fight for decades to claim his power, while Superman was granted power by a simple twist of fate.  Or, perhaps, the answer is deceptively simple:  he hates Superman merely because he is in his way.  Nonetheless, it is this hatred that will ensure that, as long as he draws breath, Lex Luthor will be a constant thorn in the side of Krypton's last son.

Grant Morrison on Lex Luthor (circa 2005):  He's the part of us that's the most evil, the most human, and the most brilliant.  He's great; he's just really bad.  He's never managed to get rid of Superman because, deep down, he knows that when he does, he'll be forced to prove himself to the world [...] and be found wanting.  This is the subconscious engine that drives his hatred of his 'nemesis' (courtesy of Wizard Magazine)."

Will Dennis on Lex Luthor (circa 2003):  “From Luthor's point of view, we are only one bad day away from disaster.  When Superman gets up on the wrong side of the bed where does that leave us (courtesy of [website name removed])?”

Lee Bermejo on Lex Luthor (circa 2003):  “This isn't the Christopher Reeve Superman where people come up and shake hands with him the day he shows up.  This guy can burn a hole in your chest just by look at you; that's a bit scary.  And, from Lex Luthor's perspective, this guy is an alien—can he be trusted?  Do we really want to put our trust in an alien (courtesy of [website name removed])?”

Kids’ WB on Lex Luthor:  “Lex Luthor is the undisputed master of Metropolis and lord of all he surveys.  Yes, there is a mayor, a governor, and a President of the United States, but Luthor is a law unto himself.  In his mind there is no good or bad, except what's good and bad for Lex Luthor.  If he wants something, he'll have it, either [by] buying it outright, bribing someone to get it for him, or systematically removing all obstacles between him and his goal.  In a world where the corporate web weaves through everything in ever-expanding strands, Lex Luthor is emperor.

"Although he started life as a poor kid in poverty-stricken Suicide Slum, young Luthor's dangerously brilliant mind was already working to find a way out.  When, at age fourteen, 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.  Through his late twenties and thirties Luthor's pace continued unabated; anyone who got in his way was crushed and swept away.  To keep up a benevolent front, Luthor donated millions to Metropolis, buying the city hospitals, parks, opera houses, and art museums, all named for him.  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.  And yet, there's one thing he craves above all else:  the death of Superman.  Because he cannot control or own Superman, Luthor is obsesses with destroying him.  To Lex, Superman represents free will.  Inspired by Superman's selflessness and nobility, the people of Metropolis could begin to think for themselves and turn against a self-styled demigod like Luthor.  And above all, what really galls Luthor is that he had to buy the city's love and loyalty, and Superman got it for free (courtesy of the New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage).”

Bruce Timm on Lex Luthor (circa 2005):  “[Clancy Brown] was like the perfect Luthor to me.  Clancy just had this thing—in my mind, I always saw […] Luthor as being like Telly Savalas [as villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld] in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, one of my favorite James Bond movies, […where he, in essence, portrayed Blofeld as] a cultured thug.  He was basically like this bruiser who wanted to be taken seriously and wanted to be […] treated like a baron and I thought that was like a good way to treat Luthor.  [Luthor] is rich and powerful and kind of elegant, but at the same time—just barely beneath the surface—he’s a brute.  There was something in Clancy’s delivery during his audition that reminded me of Telly, so it was just serendipity; Clancy just nailed it—the voice that I had in my head.  It was no contest at that point (courtesy of the Superman:  the Animated Series Volume One DVD).”

Bruce Timm on Clancy Brown (circa 1996):  "We always have a problem with the show being a little too dialogue-heavy, but whenever Clancy starts spouting, it's like, 'Okay, give him all the dialogue.'  He's suave, but brutal at the same time, and it just comes out of the voice.  He's a slick killer (courtesy of Wizard Magazine)."

Neil Gaiman on Lex Luthor (circa 1994):  "It's a pity Lex Luthor has become a multinationalist [following 1986's Crisis on Infinite Earths]; 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 (courtesy of Hero Illustrated)."

Excerpts from the Justice League Panel at the 2001 San Diego Comic Con:

Bruce Timm:  What we’ve done with Luthor is kind of fun.  Again, going back to James’ concept of being true to the wild DC Comics roots—you either love it or you don’t…we kind of love it.  So, we thought that we’ve done enough stories with Luthor being the corporate tycoon—that was fine in the nineties, but we’ve done it (and then we did it again with Batman Beyond’s Eric Powers).  It’s like:  okay, we need a new take on Luthor.  So, he’s kind of the old mad scientist / supervillain Luthor and, in fact, he’s wearing the Super Powers-era suit, slightly modified.  And there’s a story for why he has to wear the power suit.  And we actually have his other look—his old, classic purple and green outfit.  And there’s even a part in the story where he’s in prison and will be wearing the old [Curt Swan-era] prison garb.  He’s played again by Clancy Brown.

Courtesy of Revolution Science Fiction and Comics2Film.

Cartoon Network on Lex Luthor:  "Driven mad by kryptonite poisoning, Luthor has turned his limitless genius and vast personal fortune to one goaldestroying Superman and the Justice League (courtesy of Cartoon Network press materials)."

Butch Lukic on Luthor's cancer storyline:  “The kryptonite poisoning idea came from the John Byrne series.  Most of the audience watching Justice League has no clue of what’s been going on in the comics for the last 30 years.  It’s about taking plot devices from the comics that a general audience could understand (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”

Bruce Timm on Lex Luthor (circa 2002):  “He starts out being the Luthor from our old Superman show, but he takes a big fall.  From that moment on, he becomes a renegade mad scientist, more like the early comics version of Luthor.  We’ll probably be doing more with him, but we didn’t want to repeat any of our villains.  If we get picked up, Lex Luthor will definitely be back in Season Two (courtesy of Starlog Magazine).”

Rich Fogel on Lex Luthor (circa 2002):  “When we first started talking about ['Injustice for All'], we knew that Lex Luthor was going to be the moving force behind it.  Bruce Timm felt that we had done almost all we could with the evil corporate Luthor in our Superman series and wanted to shift him more toward the classic mad scientist / supervillain Luthor.  The challenge was how to get a character as rich and complex as our Lex to convincingly move into this new role.  Writer Stan Berkowitz had a lot of fun playing out this transformation, and throughout the course of this episode we see Luthor evolve through almost every version of the character that we've seen over the years—including the 50's prison-gray Luthor!

“Although he ends up as sort of a supervillain, Lex's motivations remain very human.  His escalating frustration with his inability to finish off the Justice League is actually very funny.  Producer James Tucker compares it to Chief Inspector Dreyfuss' frustration with Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies.  Clancy Brown really embraced what we were doing and gave a terrific performance here.  We all had a blast making 'Injustice For All,' and it sets the stage for more appearances by Luthor in the coming season (courtesy of [website name removed]).”

Bruce Timm on Lex Luthor (circa 2004):  “One of the things we talked about doing from early on was taking Luthor out of the corporate boardroom and putting him back in the mad scientist outfit; bringing him back to his old-school Luthor when he was the crazed renegade scientist.  In the comics he was always the supervillain.  We had done a lot of stories of Luthor as the corporate evil tycoon—and that’s all well and good—but we did it for a number of years on Superman.  Now it was time to change up, especially versus the Justice League, who are these brightly-colored, larger-than-life individuals.  We thought it would be a tricky thing to have corporate Lex in charge of a group of supervillains convincingly, so we decided to [...] put him back in that damned green-and-purple power suit and have some fun (courtesy of RetroVision CD-Rom Magazine)."

Mighty Isis on Lex Luthor:  “Still voiced by Clancy Brown, this is undoubtedly the same Lex Luthor from [Superman].  In fact, when we [first] encounter him at the top of Part One he’s once again dressed in the familiar black suit, gray vest, white shirt and tie “power combo”—the only noticeable design differences are additional lines and contours to his face and a slight softening of his brow and nose.  We also get a good glimpse of LexCorp Tower and Luthor’s expansive penthouse office—looking the same as they did in [Superman], but events quickly shift and Luthor soon finds several changes of station (and attire) in store.

“This is actually one of the neater nostalgic touches of 'Injustice for All':  at various points during the story Luthor’s costume evokes different eras in the Superman mythos.  The bulk of his screen time is spent in a purple-and-green uniform that [pays homage to] the character’s old Challenge of the Superfriends look.  It’s been updated, thankfully—Luthor trades his 1970s sci-fi bandoleer straps for a sensible shoulder holster and his collar no longer swoops up disco-style but rather buttons down sternly—but the color distribution is identical (purple long sleeved shirt, green gloves, green pants, and black boots).  We even see the arch-villain in his Golden Age gray jumpsuit as well as his supercharged 1980s armor.

“Without giving away fun story details, I’ll say that while this is the same Luthor we got to know in [Superman], his circumstances have radically shifted (this shift unfolds in the opening moments of Part One).  As a result, he seems a little more delusional—in some ways, recklessly dangerous—than he did in [Superman].  It’s all actually quite fun, as we really see the absurdity of Lex’s all-consuming hatred of Superman.  Though he is [still] most definitely a force to be reckoned with, Lex’s life changes dramatically in 'Injustice for All'…and [the creative team] milks it for some humor (courtesy of Toon Zone).”



Lex Luthor Model Design Sheet #1 (STAS) | Lex Luthor Image #1 (Pre-STAS Design)

Lex Luthor Image #2 (STAS Design) | Lex Luthor Image #3 (JL Design - Small) | Lex Luthor Image #4 (JL Design - Large)

Lex Luthor Image #3 (JL Design) | Lex Luthor Image #4 (JL Design) | Lex Luthor Image #5

Lex Luthor Image #6 | Lex Luthor Image #7



"Actually, I'm glad you came.  I have a deal to offer you."

"I'm listening."

"As long as I have the rock, you can't stop me.  But it is bothersome to have you always trying, so the deal is this:  leave me and my operations alone, and Iand my little, green rockwill leave you alone."

"I don't make deals with criminals."

"I control everything in this town, Superman.  Your cooperation is not really necessary.  The offer was merely a courtesy."

"You will never control me, Luthor.  Never."

"Well, then I guess I'll have to kill you."

An exchange between Lex Luthor and Superman from "A Little Piece of Home"

In his time, Lex Luthor has held many distinctions in his sixty-plus years of literary activity—scientist, dictator, author, scholar, con man, statesman, industrialist, warlord, savior—but even through the retcons and revisions, the Crises and the conflicts, this bald super-genius has always held one title above all others:  Superman’s arch-nemesis.  Forget Doomsday, forget Darkseid—if comics’ history and Superman’s appearances in other media are any indication, Luthor will always possess that link to the Man of Steel, and he will forever shadow the character that is considered to be the first modern superhero.

Making his first appearance in Action Comics #23 (April 1940; a year before the United States entered World War II) as a dictator of an unnamed European nation, this incarnation of Luthor possessed a full head of red hair; it would be another six months until an artist for the daily comic strip, reportedly mistaking Luthor for another Superman mad scientist, the Ultra-Humanite, drew Luthor with his more familiar bald head (this discrepancy would later be addressed following the establishment of the Gardner Fox “Multiple Earths” concept, where the red-headed Luthor became the Luthor of Earth-2).  Following the fallow period of the 1950s, where Luthor became an overweight con man, the Silver Age Luthor (now with the first name of “Lex”) was rethought and given an origin tied to Superboy and Smallville (beginning in Adventure Comics #271, April 1960), where the driving force of Luthor’s hatred of the Man of Steel stemmed from Superboy indirectly causing his baldness.  Luthor slimmed down around 1963, which is a good thing, considering that Luthor began wearing spandex in 1974 (made famous from his appearances on Challenge of the Superfriends) until, finally, Luthor acquired a suit of battle armor in Action Comics #554 (June 1983), which allowed him to go toe-to-toe with Superman, a look he retained until 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Following Crisis, Superman scribe John Byrne—charged with reimagining the Man of Steel and his supporting cast from the ground up—took a suggestion from fellow DC writer Marv Wolfman and recast Luthor as a corporate shark who rose from obscurity to rule Metropolis through business dealings both shady and benign (Man of Steel #2, October 1996).  Once again an overweight criminal, this quickly changed as he developed a case of kryptonite poisoning from the kryptonite ring that he wore to keep Superman at bay.  Seeing the writing on the wall, Luthor faked his death and had his brain transplanted into a younger, cloned body—one with a thick head of red hair—and passed himself off as his own illegitimate heir to the Luthor fortune, the Australian Lex Luthor II.  This ruse fooled everyone for quite awhile, even allowing him to seduce an incarnation of Supergirl, but when this body began to deteriorate due to the instability of the cloning process used, he sold his soul to the demon Neron in 1995’s Underworld Unleashed crossover event in exchange for renewed youth and a healthy body.  Blaming his previous indiscretions on a rogue clone that usurped his position, this renewed Luthor resumed his roles as head of LexCorp and bane of Superman’s existence.  Following his successful bid in 2000 to becoming the President of the United States, he successfully protected the Earth during 2001’s mega-crossover event Our Worlds at War, but he overplayed his hand when he went after Superman and revealed that he possessed a secret alliance with Darkseid.  Stripped of his Presidency and his company (he left it in the hands of Talia, Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter and sometime Batman ally, while he was President, who liquidated the assets and sold everything off to Wayne Enterprises), Luthor is currently following in the footsteps of his Pre-Crisis antecedent, not unlike the incarnation currently used on Justice League.

Originally adapted for the Superman animated series, this incarnation of Lex Luthor closely followed the origin established in the Post-Crisis comic books.  Possessing a thicker brow and fuller lips than the traditional visage of the character, this Luthor closely resembled actor Telly Savalas, who Bruce Timm admits above was an inspiration for his version of the character (see here).  Standing slightly shorter to Superman, this Luthor nonetheless possessed a powerful presence, aided significantly by the voice work of Clancy Brown.  Among other things, what made this Luthor interesting—within the context of the greater DCAU—is the fact that, in many episodes, he was portrayed as a character in the tradition of prior Batman characters such as Rupert Thorne, Ferris Boyle, and Roland Daggett.  Unlike Batman’s costumed Rogues Gallery, who were often initially portrayed as victims, Lex Luthor is presented to us as the victimizer.  His hand in the origins of Metallo, Bizarro, Mercy Graves, Aquaman, and Corey Mills (from the Superman episode “Prototype”) is indistinguishable from Rupert Thorne’s role in the origin of Two-Face, Dan Mockridge as the original motivator for the Riddler, or the Joker in the creation of Harley Quinn and, while this decision made Luthor less sympathetic to the viewer, it did reinforce the notion of just how unrepentantly evil Luthor was, making Superman look all the more heroic by comparison.  This would remain the status quo for much of Superman, save for a few episodes (“My Girl,” “Ghost in the Machine”) where Luthor was portrayed in a more sympathetic light.  This would change, however, when Luthor was repurposed for the Justice League series.

For the new series, the creative team—weary of writing stories using white collar criminals like Superman Lex and Derek Powers (from Batman Beyond)—decided to return Luthor to his pre-Crisis, openly supervillain roots.  Not that it is possible to write good League stories using armchair adversaries—Vandal Savage springs immediately to mind—but, in Luthor’s case, they must have grown tired of him as the corporate baron, sitting in his office, laughing and controlling the action from a safe vantage point.  For this show, they wanted a Luthor who got his hands dirty and, fortunately, they knew that he was capable of it.  After all, Lex Luthor has worn many hats throughout comic book history, and his evil has taken many forms.  The only necessary constant is his hatred of Superman.

For Justice League, in addition to trading in his business suit for battle armor, they also retooled Luthor’s physical appearance; compare his Superman appearance to the one from Justice League:  he is taller, with broader shoulders, lighter skin, and altered facial features (a softened brow and pronounced cheekbones; compare here).  As for the battle armor, both it and his Silver Age uniform were modern interpretations of his classic looks but, symbolically, his armor also draws influence from an unlikely source:  Marvel Comics’ Iron Man.  Just as Tony Stark was initially forced to wear the Iron Man armor to keep his injured heart beating, so must Luthor wear the armor (or, at least, the chest plate created by the Ultra-Humanite) to slow the spread of his disease.  This homage is taken further by the fact that Luthor’s armor is collapsible and able to fit into a suitcase, much like Stark’s model was (see here).

As previously stated, it is his hatred of Superman that drives Luthor, but the question of exactly why Luthor hates him is rarely delved into, and often up to debate.  The old, Silver Age standby about him hating Superman for causing his hair loss has thankfully been discarded and forgotten, but it does leave a rather large gap in the character’s motivation.  As a result, different writers will often find their own reasons for the Luthor / Superman rivalry, playing up a particular facet of that loathing for whatever type of story they are trying to write.  Often, this hatred can be fit into one of five categories:

1)       Luthor as a criminal:  Superman is always getting in the way of his criminal activities.

2)       Luthor as a megalomaniac:  Luthor must be in control of every situation, but he cannot control Superman.

3)       Luthor as jealous:  Luthor had to fight tooth and nail for his power, but Superman received his through a simple twist of fate.  Also, while he had to buy the good will of the people through donations and other charitable works, Superman received their devotion for free.

4)       Luthor as a xenophobe:  Superman is an alien; therefore, how can we trust him?

5)       Luthor as a secular humanist:  To Luthor, Superman is big brother, and his presence lulls humanity into a false sense of security.  As a result, the people will wait idly for Superman to save them, rather than try to save themselves.

While all five of these tracks are valid and are capable of producing interesting stories, I must say that it is the fifth example—utilized to great effect in Brian Azzarello’s recent Lex Luthor:  Man of Steel miniseries—that holds the key to the depths of Luthor’s psyche.  As implied above, Luthor shows many signs of following the philosophy of humanism; consider the Greek Protagoras’ claim that “man is the measure of all things,” meaning that humanity is the ultimate determiner of its own morality.  This certainly fits the profile of a man who chose to murder his parents in order to advance in his own life—Luthor isn’t cowed by the edicts of religion or the resulting judicial systems that are invariably tied to them; he possesses his own code of morality that he lives by.  In addition, this mode of thought also ties Luthor into the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.  In his seminal work Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche speaks of the concept of the Übermensch (German for superman or over-man), and how humans may become one by 1) rejecting old morals and ideals (such as family and religion), 2) overcoming nihilism (belief in nothing), and 3) by creating new values (in Luthor’s case, capitalism and domination).  Again, it is this type of thinking that would allow one to murder one’s family, as well as sell their soul to a demon, as Luthor did in Underworld Unleashed (Luthor didn’t believe that he has a soul and, as a Neitzschian thinker, his existence is centered around his life in the here and now anyway).  And while this does force us to categorize Luthor as a textbook anti-social personality, it also gives us what could be a definite reason for Luthor’s vendetta, one that transcends the decades of Luthor stories:  symbolically, Lex Luthor is the personification of the Neitzschian Übermensch, and by his attempts to kill Superman he is trying to claim the Man of Steel’s title for himself.  However, as Grant Morrison alludes to above, Luthor knows subconsciously that he is not a worthy successor, and this inadequacy feeds into his jealousy, which in turn fuels his hatred.  This is the perpetual engine that drives Luthor’s obsession.

Following a brief return to his "corporate" roots for the duration of the Cadmus arc, Luthor is a fugitive once more, on the run and allied with Grodd's Legion of Doom, where he undertakes missions and upgrades supervillains in exchange for Grodd's piece of Brainiac technology.  Now cured of cancer and as sinister as ever, we can expect further developments between Luthor and his red-caped rival because, just as Superman strives to exhibit the best virtues our civilization can embody, Luthor will inevitably gravitate towards the worst and, as a consequence, a future clash between the two of them is inevitable.


Images courtesy of Toon Zone, the New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage, Cinescape, Cartoon Network, DC Animated Archives, Who's Whose in the DC Universe?, DC Comics, Wizard Magazine, Comic Book Resources, Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Official Web Site of Telly Savalas, The Bruce Timm Gallery, the Grand Comic Book Database, and Heroic 'Toons!  Iron Man courtesy of Marvel Comics.  Additional information courtesy of the Luthor page at Who's Whose in the DC Universe?

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