Superman’s greatest foe, Lex Luthor is one of comics most well-known and feared villains. An idealist billionaire, Lex has used his ruthless intellect to combat Superman in every way possible. Known for his cunning as well as his wealth, Luthor has remained one of DC’s most active villains. With a history almost as long as Superman's, Luthor continues to cause trouble for Superman and probably will for years to come.
However, there are a few things some people may not know about this bald-headed mastermind. With Jesse Eisenberg’s upcoming interpretation of Lex in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice garnering some mixed reactions, it’s important to really understand who this character really is.
So without further ado, here are Screen Rant’s 10 Things You Need To Know About Lex Luthor.
Lex Luthor is a man with incredible wealth. As one of the most cutting-edge minds in science and business, Luthor has been able to amass a fortune greater than most others in the DC universe. In fact, Forbes ranked him as the fourth wealthiest fictional character.
Similar to other heroes and villains, Luthor’s massive fortune allows him to buy influence and to fund his entire evil operation. Lex's financial independence allows him to work in secrecy and buy all the good press he needs. All of the power that stems from Luthor's wealth has allowed him to become a universal threat to all of the heroes within the DC Universe.
Many remember Lex Luthor for his shiny bald head, but Lex Luthor wasn’t always the bald-headed evil scientist and business tycoon we know. As originally created in 1940, Lex Luthor was depicted as a redhead with a full head of hair. This version of Luthor lasted for less than a year before an artist made a mistake and printed him bald in one of the comic strips, resulting in a permanent change for the character.
This little mistake would lead to an eventual in-canon explanation for Luthor’s baldness. While developing a Kryptonite cure, Luthor’s lab caught on fire. Superboy, Luthor’s idol at that time, came to the rescue. Using his super-breath to put out the fire, Superboy accidentally caused the Kryptonite cure to land on Lex’s head. This caused Lex’s hair to fall out, thus triggering Luthor's resentment of Superman. After these two pivotal moments in Lex Luthor history, he became well established as the bald-headed super-villain we now know.
Luthor has done some of the most horrendous evil acts imaginable, but Lex’s idealism always gives him a warped sense of justification. He lives by the mantra that “the ends always justify the means.” Luthor believes that what he does is for the greater good, and nothing will stand in the way of him trying to shape the world in his own image.
While some villains do their evil deeds for greed and others for the sheer enjoyment they get from evildoing, Lex Luthor almost always tries to better the world. Even if most others don’t share in his views, Luthor sees himself as the good guy the world often needs. Luthor even recognizes himself as “evil” but still believes that no matter how evil the deed, it should be done if it will better humanity as a whole. He might not be a “typical” villain, but this mantra helps distance him from some of the other most famous rogues in the DC Universe.
While Luthor has dominated a lot of his competition in business, he didn’t stop there. He also conquered his political rivals. In 2000, Lex Luthor became the President of the United States of America (within the DC Universe, of course). By manipulating the public, he was able to convince them that he was the perfect candidate, due to previous administration’s inability to respond to a national crisis in a timely fashion, even while he was responsive and organized.
Luthor not only became president, but he also spearheaded coalitions to combat superpowered beings. Usually a front for a more nefarious plot, Luthor would use his position as leader of the free world to influence both international diplomacy and public opinion.
Luthor can sometimes be portrayed as a hero when he is manipulating public opinion, but there have been times when Luthor is written as a true hero. For instance, Luthor eventually comes across a planet called Lexor. Here, Luthor battles Superman and is victorious. With the planet’s red sun, Luthor is able to best Superman in hand to hand combat, winning over the people of Lexor. Not only did they herald him as a hero, but they revered him like humans revere Superman on Earth. Luthor even became a part of their society and tried to reform his villainous ways, although it didn't last for long.
More recently, Luthor is written as a hero in the current Justice League comics. While there are suspicions of his eventual turn to villainy, he remains a hero in the ranks of the Justice League. He even recruits other like SHAZAM and Captain Cold to the League.
Since the creation of the DC Universe, there have been several incarnations of Lex Luthor that have existed, but not all are the same. When the DC Universe was in its infancy, Lex Luthor was actually Alexei Luthor. DC eventually separated these older heroes and villains from the contemporary ones by saying they were from Earth-Two, another universe, so Alexei became the evil scientist who would battle against Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-Two. Alexei was just as brilliant as his other counterparts and even learned of the Multiverse. This led to an eventual team-up with the Earth-One Lex Luthor that we would come to know more about. This alliance was made in order to conquer Earth-Three, but they would be thwarted by that universe's Lex Luthor, named Alexander Luthor.
Alexander Luthor is one of the standout Luthors in that he is truly heroic. He spent years battling Ultraman, an evil Superman doppelgänger, and was the lone hero of Earth-Three, where the roles had been reverses between the usual good and evil characters of DC.
As stated previously, the first Luthor, Earth-Two's Alexei, was much more of a mad scientist than the present incarnation. While the Earth-One Luthor became much more of a business tycoon, he retained his scientific intelligence. Being one of the most intelligent people within the DC Universe, Luthor constantly uses his scientific mind to combat Superman and other heroes, but also to invent new and interesting objects.
In many of his appearances, Luthor invents weapons, like his iconic Ray Gun. Even with all of this, his scientific mind really shines when he partners with Brainiac, a living computer. Lex’s ability to collaborate with him is impressive in and of itself.
For a man known for his brain, Luthor’s Warsuit has allowed him to go toe-to-toe with Superman on numerous occasions. The Warsuit has gone through several redesigns and has several different origins as well. While the Warsuit isn’t always used to battle his enemies, it is a massively important piece of his arsenal. The suit does have its drawbacks, however. It is sometimes seen as destructive to Luthor, either harming his mental capabilities or even harming his body due to the connections it has to his body.
The suit is incredibly sophisticated, and has been modified many times over the years. It almost always has some device that allows Luthor to fly, and is stocked up to the teeth with weapons. It has the capacity to shoot controlled energy blasts and, like some of Batman’s suits, the suit usually has Kryptonite lining it so that Luthor may weaken the Man of Steel while they do battle. The Warsuit itself is also immensely durable, able to withstand punches from Superman.
Like most evil villains, Luthor’s backstory is a bit tragic. While Luthor didn’t begin as an evil genius, he was always incredibly intelligent. Once he had the fateful encounter with Superboy that resulted in his baldness, Luthor began to use his mind for evil deeds. This entrance into the criminal world devastated Luthor’s parents. Fearing the future that awaited their now evil son, Lex’s parents disowned him. Trying to distance themselves from him as much as possible so that they may raise Lex’s sister in a healthy environment, his parents changed their name from Luthor to Thorul.
Like Lex’s Multiverse counterparts, Lex is concerned with legacy, seeing as he essentially created his name himself. He eventually has a son with an alien woman during his stay on the planet Lexor and, like the other Luthors, he named his son after himself.
For a man as ruthless and evil as Lex, there have been several important women in his life. He has even had several children with different women. As previously stated, Luthor had a prolonged relationship with an alien woman from Lexor named Andora. He and Andora would marry and have a child together. One of the more successful relationships he had, Luthor and Andora’s time together was cut short due to Lexor being destroyed, which killed both Andora and their son, Lex Luthor Jr..
In another iteration, Lex has a relationship with the wife of Daily Planet editor Perry White. From this affair, Lex fathers another child named Jerry White. Lex’s seduction of Perry’s wife was nothing more than revenge. He didn’t love her, but blamed Perry for the loss of his original love, Lena, a foster-sister he had fallen in love with. Lena shared the same feelings for Lex, but was murdered by her father for refusing to steal money him.
His Earth-Three counterpart is married to that world’s Lois Lane. An odd pairing, the two are actually a loving and successful couple that are reminiscent of Superman and Lois Lane from Earth-One.
As one of the more complex villains in the DC Universe, Lex Luthor is a bit more layered than your average evil genius. Lex Luthor’s idealism and intelligence help make him, probably, the most threatening villain in the DC Universe.
Hopefully, Jesse Eisenberg’s rendition of Lex Luthor will be just as layered and complex as his comic book counterpart. Perhaps with all of this information, we will be able to better understand the motivations of this legendary villain.