Alexander Joseph "Lex" Luthor (/ˈlθər/) is a fictional supervillain appearing in publications by the publisher DC Comics. The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Lex Luthor originally appeared in Action Comics No. 23 (cover dated: April 1940).1 He has since endured as an archenemy of Superman.[1]

Lex Luthor
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAction Comics No. 23 (April 1940)
Created byJerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
In-story information
Full nameAlexander Joseph Luthor
Team affiliationsInjustice League
Injustice Gang
Legion of Doom
Justice League
Secret Six
Secret Society
Notable aliasesMockingbird, Kryptonite Man, Superman, Atom Man, Apex Lex
  • Genius-level intellect
  • Expert engineer with exceptional technological prowess
  • High-tech warsuit:
    • Superhuman strength, speed and durability
    • Energy projection
    • Force fields
    • Flight
    • Advanced weaponry

Originally introduced as a mad scientist whose schemes Superman would routinely foil, Lex's portrayal has evolved over the years and his characterisation has deepened. In contemporary stories, Lex is portrayed as a wealthy, power-mad American business magnate, ingenious engineer, philanthropist to the city of Metropolis, and one of the most intelligent people in the world. A well-known public figure, he is the owner of a conglomerate called LexCorp. He is intent on ridding the world of the alien Superman, whom Lex Luthor views as an obstacle to his plans and as a threat to the very existence of humanity.[2] Given his high status as a supervillain, however, he has often come into conflict with Batman and other superheroes in the DC Universe.[3]

The character has traditionally lacked superpowers or a dual identity and typically appears with a bald head.[3] He periodically wears his Warsuit, a high-tech battle suit giving him enhanced strength, flight, advanced weaponry, and other capabilities.[4] The character was originally introduced as a diabolical recluse, but during the Modern Age, he was reimagined by writers as a devious, high-profile industrialist, who has crafted his public persona to avoid suspicion and arrest. He is well known for his philanthropy, donating vast sums of money to Metropolis over the years, funding parks, foundations, and charities.[5]

The character was ranked 4th on IGN's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time[6] and as the 8th Greatest Villain by Wizard on its 100 Greatest Villains of All Time list.[7] Luthor is one of a few genre-crossing villains whose adventures take place "in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended".[4] Scott James Wells, Sherman Howard, John Shea, Michael Rosenbaum, and Jon Cryer have portrayed the character in television series, while Lyle Talbot, Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey, and Jesse Eisenberg have portrayed the character in films. Jackson Beck, Ray Owens, G. Stanley Jones, Michael Bell, Brian Dobson, Clancy Brown, J. S. Gilbert, Kevin Spacey, Powers Boothe, James Marsters, Chris Noth, Anthony LaPaglia, Steve Blum, Fred Tatasciore, Jason Isaacs, Kevin Michael Richardson, Mark Rolston, John DiMaggio, Keith Silverstein, James Woods, Rainn Wilson, Ike Barinholtz, Giancarlo Esposito and others have provided the character's voice in animated adaptations.

Publication historyEdit

Creation and developmentEdit

In his first story appearance, Action Comics No. 23 (April 1940), Luthor is depicted as a diabolical genius and is referred to only by his surname. He resides in a flying city suspended by a dirigible and plots to provoke a war between two European nations. Lois Lane and Clark Kent investigate, which results in Lois being kidnapped. Luthor battles Superman with a green ray but Luthor is ultimately defeated by Superman, and Lois is rescued. Superman destroys Luthor's dirigible with him still on it, implying Luthor may have died, although stories ending with Luthor's apparent death are common in his earliest appearances.[8]

Luthor as he appears in Superman No. 4 (1940).

Luthor returns in Superman No. 4 and steals a weapon from the U.S. Army that is capable of causing earthquakes. Superman battles and defeats Luthor, and the earthquake device is destroyed by Superman. The scientist who made the device commits suicide to prevent its reinvention. In a story in the same issue, Luthor 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. Superman thwarts his plans, and Luthor appears to have been killed by the dinosaurs he created. Luthor returns in Superman No. 5 with a plan to place hypnotic gas in the offices of influential people. He intends to throw the nation into a depression with the help of corrupt financier Moseley, but the story ends with Superman defeating him.

In these early stories, Luthor's schemes are centered around financial gain or megalomaniacal ambitions; unlike most later incarnations, he demonstrates no strong animosity toward Superman beyond inevitable resentment of Superman's constant interference with his plans. Luthor's obsessive hatred of Superman came later in the character's development.

In Luthor's earliest appearances, he 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.[9] The original error is attributed to Leo Nowak, a studio artist who illustrated for the Superman dailies during this period.[10] One hypothesis is that Nowak mistook Luthor for the Ultra-Humanite, a frequent foe of Superman who, in his Golden Age incarnation, resembled a balding, elderly man.[10] Other evidence suggests Luthor's design was confused with that of a stockier, bald henchman in Superman No. 4 (Spring 1940);[10] Luthor's next appearance occurs in Superman No. 10 (May 1941), in which Nowak depicted him as significantly heavier, with visible jowls.[10] 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 1944 Lex Luthor was the first character in a comic book (and one of the first in fiction) to use an atomic bomb. The United States Department of War asked this story line be delayed from publication, which it was until 1946, to protect the secrecy of the Manhattan Project.[11] The War Department later asked for dailies of the Superman comic strip to be pulled in April 1945 which depicted Lex Luthor bombarding Superman with the radiation from a cyclotron.[12]

Luthor vanished for a long time, coming back in Superboy No. 59 (Sept. 1957), in a story called "Superboy meets Amazing Man". A flying costumed bald man probably in his forties appears in Smallville and starts helping people using his fantastic inventions. He later moves his operations to the nearby town of Hadley. Superboy finds he is using his inventions to set the town up so he can rob their bank and stops him. In the last panel, Amazing Man is in jail and he tells Superboy he will regret it as sure as his name is Luthor and Superboy thinks that he will be Superman by the time Luthor gets out and that Luthor's talents might make him an archenemy.

In the origin story printed in Adventure Comics No. 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 it were 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 (It is possible that the sudden change, in personality, of Luthor is also due to the combination of the smoke derived from the fire with the fumes from the spilled chemicals, inhaled by him, in a way similar to what happened to Joker when he fell into a chemical vat, changing permanently his skin's and his hair's color, too). Luthor's revenge first came in the form of grandiose engineering projects in Smallville to prove his superiority over the superhero. However, the gesture proves a failure on multiple levels; for one, Superboy does not feel belittled, but instead is gladly supportive of Luthor pursuing his vindictive goal constructively. Furthermore, those projects also each go disastrously out of control and require Superboy's intervention, which Luthor rationalized as their being sabotaged by the superhero. These mounting embarrassments further deepen Lex's hate for Superboy for supposedly further humiliating him, and he unsuccessfully attempts to murder the superhero.[13] 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. These elements were played up in various stories throughout the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Elliot S. Maggin's novel Last Son of Krypton.[14] 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.


Cover of The Man of Steel No. 4 (1986). Art by John Byrne.

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. Byrne intentionally chose to base this new depiction of Luthor on businessmen Donald Trump and Ted Turner.[15] 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[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] Luthor observes Superman in action, and once the gunmen are dispatched, hands the hero a personal cheque in an attempt to hire him. When Luthor admits that he had not only anticipated the attack, but had arranged for it to occur 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 the Swamp Thing, which jeopardized many lives as the Parliament of Trees attempted to replace him.[19]

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.[20]

Luthor's romantic aspirations toward Lois Lane, established early on in the series, become a focal point of the stories immediately following it.[21] He is shown making repeated attempts to court her during The Man of Steel, though Lois plainly does not return his feelings.[22]

In the Superman Adventures comic line based on the TV series of the same name, Luthor's backstory is identical to that of the Modern Age origin with slight changes. Luthor is shown originating in Suicide Slum, but at an early age already aware of how his brilliance outshone other children and his plans to have all Metropolis look up to him one day. Luthor's baldness is never explained, save for a brief depiction of him with blond hair in childhood; it is assumed the hair loss was natural. Luthor's parents die during his teenage years, however their deaths were indeed accidental and with no foul play by Lex. As in the usual story, Lex uses the insurance payouts to kickstart his future by paying for his tuition to MIT and eventually starting LexCorp. His hatred of Superman is explained as the citizens of Metropolis have had more admiration for the Man of Steel than for Lex.

Modern depictionsEdit

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,[23] 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.[24][25] Waid's original intention was to jettison the notion of Lex Luthor being an evil businessman, restoring his status as a mad scientist. He ultimately conceded, however, 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 him and Superman.[23][26] 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.[27]

Birthright was initially intended to establish a new origin for Superman and Luthor.[28] To Waid's disappointment, however, the canonicity of the series was eventually discredited by stories that followed it.[29] A concise biography for Luthor, later outlined in Action Comics No. 850, first appeared in the 2007 limited series Countdown to Final Crisis No. 34. Luthor's current origin appears to be a synthesis of aspects from the Silver Age continuity and The Man of Steel miniseries. Recent changes to DC Comics continuity were revealed to have been a result of the 2005 Infinite Crisis miniseries.

As outlined in a backup profile in the 52 weekly series, the post-Action Comics No. 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. In the 2009–2010 series Superman: Secret Origin, however, 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. 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 by 700%.

The paper's return is interrupted when the U.S. 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. The crowd turns on the Army, however, 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. Knowing Luthor's role in the Army's attack against him, Superman confronts him and tells him that Metropolis does not belong to him: "You don't own us." Lex objects, since Superman is not 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. 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[30] and remained out of sight for a year, the only thing Luthor accomplished in that time was the self-sabotaged 'Everyman' project, subsequently finding a long-buried Kryptonian warship which he uses to attack Metropolis. This prompted Superman to note that he spent his year without Superman to discover "a big destructive machine so [he] could break things" rather than achieve anything of worth to humanity, all the while claiming that Superman drove him to it.[31] This idea of Luthor's fixation on his hatred for Superman 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.

Fictional character biographyEdit

Silver AgeEdit

In the Pre-Crisis continuity, Lex Luthor's driving ambitions are to kill Superman and enslave Earth as a stepping stone to dominating the universe.[32] In Action Comics No. 291 (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."[33] 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 into complacency by pretending to go straight, although Supergirl then arrests him and he is exiled to the Phantom Zone),[34][35] Luthor routinely manages to escape from prison and threaten the world again.[25]

Despite being a noted criminal on Earth, Luthor is revered on the alien world of Lexor, where he rediscovered the planet's lost technology and rebuilt society for its inhabitants. He apparently lost a fight to Superman so that water could be transported to the desert planet, as he had reactivated digging machines but discovered that he could not find water. He and Superman had originally gone to the world to have a proper fight as Superman did not want to appear cowardly after Luthor over a radio challenged him to a fight, as this planet had a red sun meaning Superman lost his powers there. As a result, he becomes a hero in the eyes of Lexor's people, whereas Superman is detested as a villain.[36] He eventually marries a local woman named Ardora.[37] After its debut,[38] Lexor appears sporadically in various Superman comics as a retreat for Luthor while he continues to wage assaults on Superman.

Bronze AgeEdit

Lex Luthor in his Lexorian battlesuit from Action Comics No. 544 (June 1983). Art by George Perez.

After a disastrous defeat by Superman, Luthor decides to retire and go to Lexor permanently. Once there, he finds he has fathered a son by Ardora, Lex Luthor Jr.. Luthor spends the next several weeks with his new family and acting as guardian and scientific advisor to the Lexorians. When it is discovered that Lexor has the same geological instability that destroyed Krypton, Luthor invents and installs a "Neutrarod" to deaden the planetary core's reactions. However, despite his sincere effort to reform, Luthor's pathological hatred for Superman resurfaces. He soon discovers an underground laboratory, dating from Lexor's technological age. Knowing that Superman will eventually locate him, Luthor uses the equipment to create a battlesuit and goes on a series of secretive marauding attacks, professing surprise at the pillage and plunder reported in the news. Superman ultimately arrives on Lexor to take Luthor back to Earth after one of Luthor's still-active machines threatened mass destruction. Luthor counterattacks with his battlesuit, revealing his true character to the now-disillusioned Lexorian people. During the battle, an energy salvo from the battlesuit accidentally overloads the Neutrarod, resulting in the annihilation of Lexor and all its inhabitants, including Luthor's wife and son.

Luthor eventually returns to Earth, unable to accept his own role in Lexor's destruction and blaming Superman for it, even psychologically blocking the memory, lest he go insane.[39] The Lexorian battlesuit now enabled Luthor to fight Superman in hand-to-hand combat. Luthor's trademark battlesuit from this era—a heavily armored, flight-capable suit with kryptonite fixtures embedded in its gauntlets[40]— was designed by George Pérez[41] as part of the Super Powers toyline in the early 1980s and introduced as Luthor acted as Lexor's sovereign. It has reappeared in recent continuity, most notably during Infinite Crisis.

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.

The Silver/Bronze Age Lex Luthor met his non-canonical end in the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" story line that closed out the Pre-Crisis Superman chronology. Luthor found Brainiac's robotic head and was fused with it. Brainiac took control of Luthor's body and sought to destroy Superman once and for all, teaming up with the Legion of Super-Villains. Fighting Brainiac's control, Luthor begged a super-powered Lana Lang to kill him; she complied by breaking his neck. Although Luthor died, Brainiac was able to retain control of the body for a short period of time before rigor mortis set in, and his head was forced to leave it, eventually running down.

Modern AgeEdit

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) No. 2, Luthor steals it 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 to determine the nature of the connection between Superman and Clark Kent.

Cover of Supergirl and Team Luthor No. 1 (April 1993). Art by Kerry Gammill.

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 someone as powerful as Superman would never choose to live a normal human life.[42] Luthor eventually suffered from severe cancer brought on by long-term radiation exposure from the ring;[43] before this, kryptonite was mistakenly assumed to produce a safe radiation that is harmless to humans. His hand requires amputation to prevent the cancer's spread,[44] but by then it has already metastasized, and his condition is terminal.[45][46]

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.[47] As Luthor II, he inherits control of LexCorp and seduces Supergirl (a protoplasmic clone of an alternate universe Lana Lang), due to his resemblance to her creator (the alternate universe's Luthor).[48] 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;[49] 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 and vitality in exchange for services and his soul. Not believing in the existence of souls, he agrees.[50] 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.[51]

President of the United StatesEdit

Lex 2000 No. 1, featuring Lex Luthor as President of the United States. Cover art by Glen Orbik.

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. 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. This 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. With Luthor having reacquired the kryptonite ring he once used against Superman, Superman, Batman and Lois Lane trick Luthor into thinking that he has thwarted their attempts to replace the ring with a fake when in reality he has been left with the fake. In response to Wayne Enterprises severing ties with his government, Luthor arranges the murder of Wayne's lover, Vesper Fairchild, and frames Wayne for the murder (as seen in Bruce Wayne: Fugitive), the plan being more successful than Luthor anticipated when his chosen assassin of David Cain realized Wayne's identity as Batman and set up a complex frame that also implicated Batman in the crime rather than just framing 'Bruce Wayne'.

An early triumph of Luthor's first term occurs around the time of the 2001 "Our Worlds at War" storyline, in which he discovers Clark Kent's secret identity and 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. This leads to the destruction of Topeka, Kansas, by an Imperiex probe and Luthor takes command of the crisis, hoping to establish his legacy as a great leader.

Presidential appointeesEdit
Cabinet officials
The Luthor Cabinet
PresidentLex Luthor2001–2003
Vice PresidentPete Ross2001–2003
Secretary of DefenseSam Lane2001–2001
Secretary of EducationJefferson Pierce2001–2003
Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Gen. Frank Rock2001–2003
Other appointments
Office Name Term
United States Secretary of Metahuman Affairs Amanda Waller 2001–2003
White House Press Secretary Cat Grant 2001–2003

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. Superman and 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 supervillains, all of whom they defeated. Luthor even attempted to send a team of superheroes after them under the leadership of Captain Atom—the team consisting of Major Force, Black Lightning, Power Girl, Starfire, Katana and Green Lantern, but this plan failed when Katana and Power Girl quickly sided with Superman and Batman and Major Force was apparently killed, Power Girl noting that Luthor had assumed in his arrogance that the heroes would obey him simply because he was President. When the Justice Society's forced attempt to stop them by sending Hawkman and Captain Marvel against them met with failure and resulted in Superman and Batman briefly infiltrating the White House, Luthor, in an enraged and desperate gambit after Superman's rapid defeats of his plans, used 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 Head, 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.[52]

Infinite CrisisEdit

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 to counter Alexander's organization.

Luthor confronts his impostor in Infinite Crisis No. 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 No. 7, Luthor oversees Alexander's execution at the hands of the Joker.


52: Week 39. Cover art by J.G. Jones.

In the opening weeks of the 2006 – 2007 series 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.[53] Although 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.[citation needed]

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 Henry Irons 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.[54]

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.[55]

While investigating Luthor 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.[56] John Henry Irons leads an assault on Luthor's building; despite the destruction of his armor during the fight, Irons 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.[57] Lex is disgraced as a result, and later faces indictment when the members of the Everyman Project realize they have been used.

One Year Later and CountdownEdit

One year after the events of "Infinite Crisis", during the "One Year Later" storyline, Luthor is 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.[58] 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 prevented him 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 to destroy Metropolis. Lex manages to escape custody yet again.[59]

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 period, 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 series 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 Darkseid'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.

Final CrisisEdit

In Justice League of America (vol. 2) No. 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 No. 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 is an honor, but he does not 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.[60] 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, and 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.[61]

New KryptonEdit

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,[62] 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,[62] to study as it had "potential".[63]

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.[64] 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.[65] 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.[66]

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.[67] 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.[68] For his efforts, Luthor receives a presidential pardon for his past crimes.[69]

Blackest NightEdit

During the Blackest Night storyline, when the public learned that everyone who has 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.[70] 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.[71] Luthor engages battle with the Black Lantern versions of Superman and Superboy. However, 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.[72] Luthor is able to use the essences of all of the people he has killed as his own Orange Lanterns, and seeks to add Superman to their numbers.[73] 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.[74] 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).[75]

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.[76]

Brightest Day: Action Comics-"The Black Ring"Edit

After the conclusion of the New Krypton event, Luthor became the lead character in Action Comics and will remain so until issue No. 900.[77] 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.[78]

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.[79] Nava's injuries soon heal, and she reveals herself to be a shapeshifter named Facade, who had murdered and impersonated the real Nava 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.[80]

While searching for the energy of the Black Lantern-simultaneously sending various Doomsday 'clones' created from the original after the other members of the Superman family to distract them, and having been advised by a robotic duplicate of Lois Lane-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 forgiveness, 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 Kryptonian 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 not only about Clark Kent being Superman, but that his defining moment of tragedy is the loss of his human father. Luthor is unable to cope with the fact his greatest enemy was raised by humans, nor his having had a father he would actually mourn, compared to the anguish Luthor endured in his own relationship with his family. 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 was finally and truly beaten when he falls into one of the Phantom Zone portals created by the creature, thus disappearing apparently forever in this timeline[81], as shortly after, Barry Allen, the original Flash, shattered history in a time-travelling attempt to save his mother [82], and his reversal of this ended up creating a whole new timeline.

The New 52Edit

In 2011, DC Comics implemented The New 52, a relaunch of its titles and a reboot of its fictional continuity. Following this, Lex Luthor appears as a representative the government has recruited to investigate and bring down Superman. Based on background signage seen throughout the New 52 books (including Justice League), LexCorp also exists. In Justice League No. 2, Batman notes that he and Superman have at least one thing in common: both of them speak openly of their distaste for Luthor. In the New 52 Action Comics (a series set some time before the events of Justice League #1), Luthor is hired by General Sam Lane to capture Superman by setting a train accident as a trap for him. The younger Superman, who is weaker and inexperienced, barely stops the train and is left unconscious. Lex collects Superman and subjects him to a series of tests to ascertain his strengths and weaknesses. He tortures Superman until the latter manages to escape. Lex is later revealed to have obtained contact with the "Collector of Worlds" through unknown means and was told to say the word "Krypton" to Superman. He later appears when the Collector abducts New Troy as one of the residents in the area. He along with Lois and Jimmy go into Glen Glenmorgan's hotel where Lex calls the Collector and it is revealed that Lex had made a deal with him. It is later revealed that Lex Luthor was the secret caller named "Icarus" that was giving secret information on Glen Glenmorgan to Clark Kent.[citation needed]

The New 52 Lex Luthor on the cover of Superman Unchained No. 4 (Dec. 2013). Art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair.

Sometime later, after his connection with the Collector was exposed, Luthor was fired as a consultant to the U.S. military by General Lane himself. Luthor explained that they had no evidence, and that they needed his expertise as their consultant. Lane refuses to listen and has Luthor thrown off the base, but Luthor was confident that he will be asked back. After Superman's encounter with the K-Man, it was revealed that Lex Luthor had played a major role in the K-Man's creation, also (as revealed in flashback), that he had stolen kryptonite crystals from the government while being employed by them. Luthor then muses about the potential uses of kryptonite on Superman.[83]

One year before the ongoing modern continuity, Luthor arranged an illegal smuggling of war machines in Qurac. Knowing that Superman would intervene, Luthor laces the weapons with kryptonite and nanite technology to acquire a sample of Superman's DNA to create a monster based on the genetic structure of Superman known as the Hybrid. As Superman seemingly defeats the monster with his ice breath, it is later found out that the Hybrid is attacking Metropolis – whilst also having infected civilians with a virus (that was carried by Superman when he in turn was infected by poison from his earlier tussle with the war machines), as Luthor had intended. The plan by Luthor was to show the people of Metropolis that Superman is indeed an alien menace, and only Luthor can save them from the Man of Steel. The final confrontation between Kal-El and Luthor, of course resulting in the defeat of Lex, was, chronologically, the first fight between two of DC's most famous characters. Luthor was arrested for the Hybrid crisis he orchestrated and now later appears in a one-man prison (designed specifically for him) created by the U.S. government.[citation needed]

During the "Trinity War" storyline, Pandora visits Lex Luthor in his jail cell as she tries to get him to open the box. Before Pandora can give it to Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman and her group arrives to retrieve the box. Seeing Wonder Woman's interest in the box, Lex Luthor attempts to grab it, but Wonder Woman gets to it first claiming "I have the box." After being taken over by the box, Wonder Woman quotes "And the box has me!"[84]

Lex plays a big part as one of the protagonists of the "Forever Evil" storyline, having founded the New 52 incarnation of the Injustice League. The members consist of Black Adam, Sinestro (harboring the Parallax entity of fear), Captain Cold, Subject B-Zero (Bizarro), Deathstroke, Black Manta and Catwoman. After the Injustice League and Batman defeated the Crime Syndicate and Lex saves Superman's life from the kryptonite shard Atomica infected him with, Lex deduces that Bruce Wayne is Batman, because of his connection to Dick Grayson.[85]

Lex Luthor in his warsuit as a member of the Justice League. Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis (2014).

In January 2014, Geoff Johns announced that Lex Luthor and Captain Cold would be joining the Justice League. In the wake of the Crime Syndicate's invasion, public opinion of Lex Luthor was incredibly favorable, and he decided that he liked it. Another reason was he believed the entity that destroyed the Earth from the alternate universe which the Crime Syndicate came from was the larger threat and might eventually become a threat to their universe and wanted the Justice League to be prepared for that possibility beforehand.[86] In an effort to continue being regarded as a hero, he tried to convince the Justice League to recruit him, but was initially unsuccessful. The Justice League eventually talked about how Luthor was going to keep on his crusade with or without the help of the Justice League. They let Luthor join the Justice League knowing he could find out information that could put all of them in danger, but Batman figured at least they could keep a close watch on Luthor and LexCorp, and much to the chagrin of Superman, Luthor secured a place in the Justice League, even building a new Watchtower for them and recruiting Shazam onto the team.[citation needed]

In the opening chapter of the Superman: Doomed storyline, when Doomsday was being caught, Luthor intervened, telling that the monster was becoming strong and saying that Doomsday wanted to get stronger using Superman, encouraging Superman to stay away from Earth.

After the death of Darkseid, Darkseid's Omega effect is contained in Lex Luthor, turning him into the God of Apokolips.[87]

When Superman's identity is exposed as part of Vandal Savage's plot to drain his powers, Superman consults Luthor for help, but Luthor expresses disbelief at the idea that Superman could ever be someone like Clark Kent, going along with Superman's request for help just to find out the 'real' plan.[88]

DC RebirthEdit

In DC's 2016 line-wide relaunch DC Rebirth, following the death of the New 52 Superman, Luthor decides to assume Superman's symbol in a new suit of battle armor to protect Metropolis, but he is confronted by the Pre-Flashpoint Superman, who refuses to believe that Luthor's intentions are as noble. This results in a brief conflict between the two, Luthor claiming that Superman's 'unprovoked' attack proves that he is an impostor while Superman counters that Luthor's brutal response proves him right, but the fight is cut short when Doomsday appears. Luthor agrees to help Superman by focusing on evacuating civilians while Superman deals with Doomsday. After the crisis is over, Superman agrees to allow Luthor to continue using his symbol, as Superman concedes that he has no evidence that this Luthor has engaged in criminal activity. Luthor is later attacked by an alien warrior whose visions of the future show him who will commit various acts of death and violence, but Superman appeals to him to let Luthor free by arguing that the future is always changing and he will do his best to ensure that the dark future they foresaw for Luthor will never come to pass.

In the 2017–2018 Watchmen sequel Doomsday Clock, Ozymandias goes to LexCorp to enlist Lex Luthor to help him locate Doctor Manhattan. Both of them are attacked by a seemingly-revived Comedian.[89] After Ozymandias flees from the fight with Comedian, Lex Luthor undergoes surgery at Metropolis General Hospital while "his attacker remains in serious but stable conditions."[90] When Lois goes to confront a recovering Lex Luthor about his role in this (with Superman listening in), he reveals not only is he not behind this conspiracy but he has also been looking into it himself, learning that the person who created these metahumans for the government is not only a metahuman themselves, but also a former member of the Justice League.[91] When Superman gets in a coma after Firestorm's incident in Russia, Lex sneaks into Lois' office to give her the footage about the Justice Society of America, the heroes that "never were".[92]

Year of the VillainEdit

After the Source Wall broke from the events of "No Justice," Luthor formed a new Legion Of Doom where they spent almost a year of issues to get the new elements/forces. In the Year of the Villain special, Luthor committed suicide by self-destructing LexCorp HQ while still inside in order to gain initiation from Perpetua, the Mother of Foragers, and was resurrected by her as her acolyte/child, becoming Apex Lex, a martian/human hybrid, alongside a resurrected Anti-Monitor who was in his pre-Flashpoint form. Apex Lex wouls set out to offer gifts of power to almost all villains of the DC Universe.[93]

Relationships and familyEdit

Pre-Crisis continuityEdit

In the Pre-Crisis continuity, Luthor is shown as having very few personal attachments. Shamed by his crimes, his parents (Jules and Arlene) disown him, move away, and change their name to the anagram "Thorul".

Luthor has a younger sister named Lena, an empath who grows up unaware of her familial connection with the noted supervillain. Lena, like Lex, also attended Regis High School. Protective of his sister, Lex Luthor takes measures to hide his fraternity, and is assisted towards this end by both Superman and Supergirl. Lena Thorul later marries FBI agent Jeff Colby[94] (who had once arrested Lex), later giving birth to a son, Val Colby.[95] Jeff Colby dies some time later.[96] After Lena has brain surgery the decision is made to reveal the truth about Luthor to her. There is some reconciliation between them when Luthor discovers he was an unwitting party to a conspiracy against Lena, which was masterminded by his cellmate "Sam", who wanted revenge against Colby. He is deeply apologetic to Lena.[97]

The Pre-Crisis Luthor also has a niece named Nasthalthia Luthor (apparently Luthor had an older sister who had run away) who is an occasional thorn in Supergirl's side.[98]

Lex Luthor himself later marries Ardora of the planet Lexor and, in Action Comics No. 544 (June 1983), first learns of his infant son by Ardora, Lex Luthor, Jr.. A short time later, Lexor is destroyed and both Ardora and Lex, Jr. die as a direct result.

Post-Crisis continuityEdit

In the Post-Crisis continuity, Lena is the name of Lex's adopted sister when he was living in a foster home. She is accidentally killed by their foster father when she refuses to try to trick Lex out of his inheritance. Lex later names his baby daughter after her.

Following the events of the Infinite Crisis, Luthor's history was again altered, re-introducing Lena as his sister. Unlike the Pre-Crisis version, Lena is well aware of her history with Lex, having grown up alongside him, with only an abusive father. Lex and Lena's mother is named Letitia and is presumed deceased. She has no empathic abilities, and is a paraplegic with a teenaged daughter, Lori, both of whom still live in Smallville.[99] Unlike his Pre-Crisis version, Lex has little love for his sister, having abandoned her with an unnamed aunt after their father dies of a heart attack. Lex even goes so far as to cure Lena's illness, and then immediately undoes the process, leaving her completely catatonic, solely to make a mocking point to Superboy and Superman.[100] Lena is currently under the care of the best doctors from Wayne Enterprises, hired by Red Robin.

In the post-The Man of Steel continuity, Luthor is childhood friends with Perry White and it is revealed that Luthor is the biological father of Perry's dead son Jerry White, conceived during a period when Perry was believed dead, although Luthor, Perry and Alice only learned the truth shortly before Jerry was killed by a gang war that Luthor had triggered due to the timing of events.[101] Lex Luthor has been married eight times, though the first seven marriages occurred off-panel in Luthor's past. His eighth marriage to Contessa Erica Alexandra Del Portenza (a.k.a. the "Contessa") is based on mutual greed;[102] the Contessa buys controlling interest in LexCorp after Luthor is indicted, compelling him to marry her in order to regain control of his company. The Contessa becomes pregnant[103] and starts using the unborn child to dominate Lex into doing her bidding. Luthor's response is to imprison her while she is drugged during childbirth, keeping her in a permanently unconscious state. The Contessa later escapes to an island mansion,[104] but upon being elected President, Luthor targets her home with a barrage of missiles and destroys it.[105] Luthor's daughter Lena was the avatar of The Tech, the remnant cyberware of Metropolis after Brainiac 13's advancing the city to a futuristic state was undone.

James D. Hudnall's Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography further expands on Luthor's origin. The story details how Luthor was sent to live with a foster family following the sabotage of his parents' car. His foster parents, Casey and Emily Griggs, conspire to embezzle his insurance, and coerce their daughter, Lena, into seducing Lex to learn the location of the money. Due to her own romantic feelings toward Lex, Lena refuses, and is beaten to death by her father. Lex is absent from the home at the time of the murder, having been talked into going to a football game by his schoolmate Perry White.[106] Once he has established his preeminence in Metropolis, Luthor takes vengeance on Griggs, secretly hiring him to assassinate Frank Berkowitz, the city's popular four-term mayor, who refuses to knuckle under to Luthor's dominance, then personally killing him once the deed is done.[107]

As an adult, Perry's unwitting 'role' in Lena's death motivates Luthor to begin an affair with Perry's wife, Alice, during a period when Perry is missing and assumed dead. Alice becomes pregnant shortly afterward, though the timing of the conception means an equal possibility of either Luthor or White being the father. The child, Jerry White, later learns of his true parentage during his late teens, shortly before being killed by a local street gang he is associated with. The loss of a potential heir weighs heavily on Luthor's mind, particularly when he is dying of cancer; while mulling over his fate, Luthor visits Jerry's gravesite.[108]

Luthor has shown an unusual level of compassion for Conner Kent, a hybrid clone created from the DNA of Superman and Luthor himself. After Conner's death at the conclusion of the Infinite Crisis, Luthor is shown visiting a memorial statue of Conner in Metropolis and placing flowers there.[109] More than once Luthor addresses Conner as his son. Following Conner's resurrection, Luthor is shocked and decides to locate him. When Brainiac accuses him of showing paternal feelings for Conner though, Luthor denies it, saying that he only wants his property back, and has no fatherly feelings towards Superboy. Apparently, Luthor is no longer affectionate to the Boy of Steel after the event at his sister's house, and now seeing Superboy as a "failed experiment" due to using "a wrong alien DNA" to combine with his own. Luthor creates another binary clone with Brainiac using their genetics, which implies that it would become a threat to Superboy.

In the alternate future timeline of Titans Tomorrow,[110] in which Conner still exists but, along with his fellow Titans, has become an uncompromising and dictatorial successor to Superman, Luthor acts as a caring, fatherly figure to him.[111]

During the "Blackest Night" storyline, Lex Luthor's father Lionel Luthor was featured where it was revealed that he died of an allergic reaction to his medicine during Clark Kent's days as Superboy. He is reanimated as a member of the Black Lantern Corps where he is amongst its members that try to attack Lex Luthor. After the events of "Blackest Night'", Luthor went on to build a gynoid version of Lois Lane using Brainiac technology. His primary purpose for creating her was to have a companion which voiced honest opinions about his plans, and to give him an extra voice of reason to counsel him on his obsessive quest for the Black Lantern energy. Luthor also had a pseudo-romantic relationship with the "Loisbot", and regularly slept with it.[citation needed]

Powers and abilitiesEdit

Lex Luthor has the physical capabilities of a normal adult human with no metahuman abilities. However, for virtually his entire publication history, he has been depicted as the most intelligent human in the DC Universe, and one of the most intelligent beings of any planet. He possesses an eidetic memory and has mastered seemingly every known form of science, including space travel, extra-dimensional travel, biochemistry, robotics, computers, synthetic polymers, communications, mutations, transportation, holography, energy generation, spectral analysis, and time travel. With the exception of the extraterrestrial entity known as Brainiac, Luthor does not view any other being as an intellectual peer.

His genius also extends to business (he is one of the world's wealthiest people) and politics (he was elected U.S. President, and he is the leader of the super villain groups he is involved with). Luthor has had some training in hand-to-hand combat, specifically, Karate.[112]


Over the years, Luthor has made liberal use of kryptonite weapons capable of injuring Superman and other Kryptonians. Since the Bronze Age, he has also utilized various battlesuits in many stories. In current continuity, his suit grants him incredible superhuman strength and durability (enough to withstand a succession of nuclear blasts), and is equipped with rocket-boosters that enable him to fly for days on end. Additionally, it generates a powerful invisible energy shield that protects his entire suit from a majority of physical attacks. The suit is also armed with a collapsible kryptonite sword, axe and staff-cannon, along with dual kryptonite energy cannons. Consequently, Luthor has become extremely skilled in close-range combat.

Additionally, Luthor often wore a kryptonite ring on his right hand in Post-Crisis stories, but abandoned this tactic after prolonged exposure to its radiation resulted in the loss of his hand and poisoned his entire body, leading to terminal cancer and requiring him to transplant his brain into a cloned body to survive. During the Blackest Night crossover, he wore an orange power ring of avarice created by Ganthet, a former member of the Guardians of the Universe.

Other versionsEdit

In other mediaEdit


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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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