|Specifics: Luthor's various incarnations.|
Lex Luthor was a powerful businessman and criminal mastermind. He was widely considered to be one of Earth's most brilliant minds and the greatest enemy of Superman.
Little is known about Lex Luthor's origins, but he was an admirably self-made man. With the aid of his natural genius and his general lack of conscience, Luthor assembled a vast fortune and founded LexCorp. Through a combination of Luthor's ruthless business tactics and genuine ingenuity, LexCorp quickly became one of the largest corporations in the United States. Now clearly the most powerful man in Metropolis, Luthor's ego and pride drove him to try and position himself as the face of the city, donating millions to charity and erecting libraries, schools, and hospitals in his name.
However, at heart, Luthor was devious, shrewd, and cold. Metropolis was to be an empire, with Luthor as absolute ruler. LexCorp forced virtual monopolies on public works, technology, transportation, and even became a major defense contractor — all with the underlying goal of collecting more and more power for the greedy Luthor.
Challenged By An Alien
It was this lust for power that eventually made him the sworn enemy to Superman. From the start, the very idea of an alien who appeared to be human possessing incredible power disturbed Lex. However, that reasonable suspicion soon erupted into personal jealousy and malicious intent. The fact that Luthor could not bribe or hire the newcomer, or alter the public's perception of Superman's actions, angered Lex all the more. Luthor would soon scheme against Superman on a regular basis; attempting at various times to ruin Superman's reputation or destroy him outright. The attempts often painted Luthor in an unflattering light, but he managed to cover his trail often enough to avoid prosecution. In the early years, perhaps Luthor's most horrific plan involved collecting a drop of blood from a Kryptonite-weakened Superman and using it in cloning experiments. No successful clones were created — in fact many were inhumanely destroyed. One massively flawed clone would escape after mutating into the white-skinned Bizarro.
Luthor took to carrying a small piece of Kryptonite on his person at all times, as a precaution against any potential encounters with Superman. However, not even Luthor realized how damaging the radiation could be to humans and after a few years, he developed Kryptonite poisoning. Driven mad by the sickness, Luthor became angrier than ever at Superman, and attempted to kill him publicly. For this crime and others, Lex Luthor was finally convicted and sent to prison.
After The Fall
In prison, he teamed up with Ultra-Humanite, enabling their escape. However, the criminal masterminds were recaptured when their attempts to form an Injustice Gang were foiled. The party responsible was the Ultra-Humanite, who sold Luthor out to the Batman (in exchange for a sizable monetary donation to public television, of all things). However, despite that failure Luthor received a chest plate that prevented the Kryptonite poisoning from worsening, and a he acquired a battle suit powerful enough to fight the Justice League directly.
Lex returned again, taking sides with a supersoldier-type cyborg called Amazo. After tricking Amazo into doing his dirty work and destroying the Justice League, Amazo copied all of the Justice League's powers and nearly killed them. But when Amazo acquired J'onn J'onzz's mind-reading capability, he discovered Luthor's true intentions. Amazo decided to spare Luthor's life and flew off into space.
Luthor was later pardoned for helping the Justice League strip the Justice Lords of their powers, and claimed (falsely) in a press conference that he'd sworn off violence against Superman and the Justice League in order to concentrate on more noble aspirations. To this end, Luthor was now looking into politics — more specifically, he sought the U.S. Presidency.
However, he later said his bid for president was nothing more than ploy to anger Superman and destroy the League. During this time he teamed with Amanda Waller and funded Project Cadmus. This plot failed when Luthor destroyed Cadmus HQ and tried, unsuccessfully, to frame the League.
All of this was to distract the League long enough for Luthor to create an android based on Amazo to spend the rest of eternity in. However, Batman convinced Waller of Luthor's intentions, and she destroyed the android. Planning to kill Waller, he was confronted by the founding members of the Justice League, who came to arrest him. However, at that point, Brainiac emerged from within Luthor. It was revealed that Brainiac had placed a nanite copy of himself within Luthor years ago, and protected Luthor until Brainiac was ready to be transferred to another body. Escaping from the League, Luthor asked Brainiac what he intended to do. When he learned that Brainiac merely intended to acquire all knowledge, Luthor offered to merge with Brainiac and use that knowledge to achieve true godhood. However, Flash, going faster than he ever went, managed to destroy every piece of Brainiac in Luthor, returning Luthor to normal. 
Return To Form
After failing to destroy Superman and the Justice League while merged with Brainiac, Luthor was exposed as a criminal to the public at large. Compelled by a mental form of Brainiac, Luthor escaped prison and was recruited into Gorilla Grodd's super-villain army in order to resurrect Brainiac from his last remaining peace and regain his godhood. Ultimately, he planned on turning on Grodd and usurp leadership of the Legion and accelerated his plan when he learned that the items he had collected for Grodd were to turn all humans into apes, which was foiled by the League. Luthor also made extra insurances in case any one of his subordinates would try to betray. One example was Dr. Polaris, who attempted to take control when Luthor switched bodies with Flash, only to learn that Luthor had installed fail-safes in his augmentation.
Luthor's obsession for reviving Brainiac made him distant from the rest of the Legion. He soon learned of the remnants of Brainiac's old base in outer space and modified the Legion's base into a faster-than-light spacecraft. However, Tala had released Grodd, who lead a schism in the Legion. The insurrection was put down and Luthor jettisoned Grodd into space. He then placed Tala in a machine specifically meant to use her to reconstruct Brainiac. However, the attempt failed and instead revived the fallen Darkseid, who vowed to destroy Superman and conquer Earth once and for all. Reluctantly teaming with arch-rivals Superman and Batman to stop Darkseid, Luthor was recruited by Metron of New Genesis, who directed Luthor towards the resting place of Darkseid's most valued prize: the Anti-Life Equation. Using the power of the cosmic Anti-Life Equation, Luthor stopped Darkseid from killing Superman, and in effect saved the Earth. In doing so, he and Darkseid disappeared from this plane of existence completely in an explosion of light and energy.
Despite their disappearance, there is no evidence that Luthor or Darkseid actually died in the climactic explosion in Metropolis. Lex Luthor may indeed return one day in some form or another.
Powers & Abilities
Although a normal human, Lex Luthor possesses a keen intellect as well as a photographic memory. At his peak, his vast intelligence and technological know-how is matched only by notables such as Mr. Terrific and Bruce Wayne, though Lex is not quite as skilled a combatant. He rarely wades into combat without some sort of weapon; be it a power suit, gun, or a chunk of Kryptonite to deal with Superman. Perhaps his greatest asset is his ruthlessness, as he will go to absolutely any end to get what he wants, regardless of the consequences.
Early in Superman's career, Lex proved reluctant to directly engage Superman, preferring to leave physical confrontations to the hired help (most notably chauffeur/bodyguard Mercy Graves.) However, as his obsession with Superman grew, Luthor employed more destructive and elaborate technology in his pursuit of the Kryptonian, to the point where he would attempt to engage Superman in combat on several occasions. He would later personally develop numerous customized devices that would neutralize enemies and allies alike; a talent that enabled him to hold sway over even the most powerful members of Grodd's Legion of Doom, most notably Grodd himself.
He was also not above resorting to magic, as evidenced by his acquisition of a certain mystic medallion (similar to one belonging to the Phantom Stranger) in order to defend himself from magic-users such as Tala. However, he does not like using magic, as he feels it is "unknowable, unpredictable and not to be trusted", preferring the more refined, controlled nature of science to solve problems.
Lex Luthor is intelligent, successful, and likes nothing better than for "lesser beings" to recognize and admire him as a leader of men. Lex's enormous legitimate accomplishments are dwarfed by his own egotistical view of himself. Lex sees himself as a modern renaissance man and the standard for human personal achievement. He has the charisma of a natural leader and the education to take advantage of this trait; however his ambitions almost always undermine the trust and faith of his allies and subordinates, and often lead to dismal failure.
Failure infuriates Luthor more than almost anything in the world; his entire existence revolves around the idea of success and superiority. His goals of being seen as the "savior" of Metropolis and his later failed bid for the power of Brainiac clearly demonstrate Lex's obsessions. Once Lex's mind merged with that of Brainiac, his desire to become a superior being reached immeasurable heights. The temptation of almost god-like power and knowledge tormented Lex for months as he tried to reconstruct and reactivate Brainiac by any means necessary.
Though Luthor usually demonstrates great restraint and self-control, he never forgets a slight. When angered, Luthor's rage is uncontrollable and will only subside when it is properly sated by success or revenge. Because of this super-heated temper, it is Lex's ultimate undoing that his position in life is (in Lex's mind alone) threatened by the mere existence of Superman. Luthor's true villainy was and is heavily fueled by his sheer envy of Superman; the hero was born with abilities far beyond those of mortal men like Lex and overshadowed Luthor as Metropolis's favorite son from the day of his first public appearance. Had Luthor never acted upon his jealousy of Superman, he might have been no more than an extremely high-powered (if corrupt) captain of industry. However, Luthor's reckless attempts to destroy Superman (and later, the Justice League) made him instead one of the most dangerous criminals in existence.
Luthor's air of superiority affects all of his relationships, including his romantic entanglements. After briefly dating Lois Lane prior to Superman's first appearance, the reporter broke it off with Luthor due to a severe dislike of his personality.
Bodyguard Mercy Graves seems to have had a romantic relationship with Lex, however she too was often at odds with Lex's cold and domineering manner. It is not known if their on-again/off-again personal relationship continued up to Lex's time as leader of the Legion of Doom, though Mercy's career with LexCorp continued seemingly uninterrupted during their personal disagreements.
Most recently, Lex Luthor was very nearly done in by the sorceress Tala, who finally rebelled against the verbal and even physical abuse that occurred regularly during their brief affair. In fact, the happiest Tala ever found herself with Luthor is when the criminal's mind was swapped with that of the playful and humorous Flash for a few hours.
Luthor's friendships and partnerships are equally dysfunctional; largely because Luthor views himself as being without equal — even compared to beings such as Superman, The Joker, Grodd, and to a certain extent even Darkseid. Only Brainiac — a non-organic being — has ever truly awed Lex Luthor with its pure intelligence. Though this egotistical view of himself boosts Luthor's confidence and enables him to control most situations, in the long run his immeasurable smugness inevitably causes friction. As a result, almost all of Lex Luthor's partnerships — be they professional or personal — eventually end badly.
After being infected by parts of Brainiac, Lex Luthor's body was fully restored to health and artificially enhanced from within by the Kryptonian supercomputer. The result increased Luthor's strength significantly (making him more than a match for The Question and the Batman) and increased his intellect. This was reflected later on when he was able to access the Anti-Life Equation despite Metron's caution that it was an object that only a "12th Level Intellect" could claim. Luthor dismissed the warning by simply stating: "Then I'm over-qualified."
Though his mind still retained elements of Brainiac's thought patterns for a time, Luthor seemed to have returned to a normal level of human strength following his separation from Brainiac at the hands of the Flash.
In the 30th Century, Brainiac 5, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, claims that his "ancestor" is the original Brainiac of Krypton. Brainiac 5 claims a 12th-level intellect, and mentions that the first Brainiac discovered a way to reproduce himself biologically. In theory this could be related to the merging of Brainiac's thought patterns with Lex Luthor's human brain. This also raises the possibility that Brainiac 5 is a direct descendant of Luthor himself.
Lex Luthor: You work for me, Peterson, don't forget that! There shouldn't be an opinion in your head that I haven't put there!
Lex Luthor: I control everything in this town, Superman. Your cooperation is not really necessary. The offer was merely a courtesy.
Lex Luthor: Metropolis can be such a dangerous city, Peterson. I'd hate to wake up tomorrow and find out that something terrible had happened to you...
Lex Luthor: I have a luncheon to attend, but I expect to hear the tragic news about him just before dessert.
The history of the Lex Luthor character outside the DCAU is far too extensive to be listed here in great detail. However, here are some important bits of information regarding Lex Luthor in DC Comics continuity and beyond.
- Lex's career as a successful businessman was an alteration made to the character in the 1980's. Prior to that the character had almost always been depicted as the stereotypical mad scientist (except for the Superman movies, which showed a Luthor that was essentially a malevolent land-snatcher with a talent for invention.)
- While Luthor began as a stereotypical mad scientist, he was hardly the prototype as far as comic books were concerned. The original bald and villainous super-scientist of DC Comics was actually the Ultra-Humanite. When Luthor (initially red-haired, made bald to more resemble the Humanite) eventually surpassed the Ultra-Humanite in popularity, the slightly older villain was re-imagined as the evil genius with the body of a super-ape that exists today.
- Lex's appearance in the DCAU was partially based on actor Telly Savalas. This somewhat influenced the stylistic approach of Clancy Brown, though it is far from an imitation.
- Lex's green combat suit is a trademark of the character; since the suit was introduced in 1980's DC Comics, most animated and DC Comics versions of the character have worn a similar suit in some form or another.
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|Grodd • Lex Luthor|
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- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Superman: The Animated Series, The Last Son of Krypton, Part III
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Justice League, "Injustice For All"
- ↑ Justice League, "Tabula Rasa"
- ↑ Justice League, "A Better World"
- ↑ Justice League Unlimited "Panic in the Sky"
- ↑ Justice League Unlimited "Divided We Fall"
- ↑ Justice League Unlimited, "Destroyer"
- ↑ Justice League Unlimited, "Far From Home"