We all have our own demons, tragedies, challenges and obstacles that we face everyday but I think it’s safe to say that for most of us, we can handle them or learn to cope with them by consuming copious amounts food and alcohol…. I mean, by working out and eating healthy on a regular basis and maintaining healthy social relationships with our loved ones.
But Lex Luther doesn’t want to learn how to cope, Lex learns how to dominate and crush his adversaries by any means necessary.
The Lex Luthor and Superman relationship and dynamic is one of the greatest pairings in comics. Superman is Lex’s obstacle, without Superman, Lex feels as if he could easily rule the world, and for a wealthy, genius level mastermind and manipulator who will stop at nothing such as Luthor, he may be right.
Lex is smarter than Superman but Superman is stronger than Lex. On the surface that sounds simple, but when you look deeper, it can become very complex and interesting.
When I think of Luthor, I think of the famous reference to Superman in Kill Bill 2. A lot of fans have criticized this scene, because they don’t agree with how it portrays Clark Kent and Superman, but if you look at it from the point of view of Lex Luthor, “Bill’s” vision of Clark Kent lines up perfectly.
Lex is human, and Superman is an alien. This simple fact is the core of Luthor’s hatred toward Superman. Superman is not a man, he’s not human. When Superman wins, it makes Lex feel like an Ant, because that’s exactly what he is compared to Superman. Superman makes Lex feel something that humans don’t make him feel. Superman makes Lex feel weak and unsure of himself. Superman makes Lex feel like a coward.
Another cool thing about that clip from “Kill Bill”, is that what Bill is doing to Beatrix Kiddo, is what Lex wants to do to Superman. Lex doesn’t just want to kill Superman, Lex wants to poison Superman with Kryptonite and make sure that Superman knows that he is better than him before he dies. Lex wants to explain to him that even though he is the strongest being on Earth, it means nothing, because Lex is even smarter and more powerful. He wants Superman to know that he is not weak, or unsure of himself, and he’s definitely not a coward. Then he wants to harvest Superman’s body and create monstrosities that would help him to rule the world, but that comes later.
There have been many amazing villains throughout the history of comics and Luthor is one that has stood the test of time. Driven by his hate and jealousy towards Superman and his abilities, he will he will stop at nothing to destroy him. His hate for Superman fuels his rage and it goes so deep that he would cure cancer just to kill him.
Below are just some of my favorite Lex Luthor stories. These stories explore the many characteristics and complexities of his character, while always keeping his most important traits constant. (PS, I tried my best not to completely spoil the stories….)
“Metropolis 900 MI” Superman Vol. 2 #9
Other than killing Superman and manipulating the world, what does Lex like to do with his free time? He likes to play games with the “Normal” people. In one of the greatest and cruelest comic book panels in history, Lex chooses to offer an ultimatum to a waitress, one that she will think about for the rest of her life, and Lex will forget within minutes of leaving the diner. It’s revealed at the end of the comic that Lex has played this game with countless others and it’s no secret that he enjoys it. The execution and art of these panels is classic and perfect.
“The Death of Superman” Superman Vol. 1 #149
You know that line, “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses on, would you?”. How about, “You wouldn’t hit the guy that cured cancer, would you?”. In a great story, Lex proves why he is such a threat to Superman and exploits Superman’s weaknesses at every end. He even torments the Man of Steel’s supporters, forcing them to watch his plans unfold, leaving them completely helpless.
“The Gospel According to Lex Luthor” All-Star Superman #5
This take on Luthor not only humanizes him, but also manages to keep him clearly evil, and sinister and with a point. He not only outsmarts Superman but he makes him look like a fool. Lex knows more about Superman’s current condition and health than Superman himself, and a frustrated and completely surprised and distracted Clark Kent is the one that he chooses to give the exclusive news report too. It’s also fascinating to read on and watch as Clark keeps Luthor out of danger throughout the comic, only to realize that Luthor has had a bigger plan at play the whole time. Once again, exploiting Superman’s weaknesses and reminding him that trusting Lex Luthor is never a smart move.
“The Secret Revealed!” Superman Vol. 2 #2
This is a great comic, with some amazing and classic artwork and storytelling. It shows the lengths that Luthor will go to, in order to figure out Superman’s secret identity. The fun thing about this comic for me, is that it shows that Luthor’s idea of Superman is so exaggerated in a sense, that even when the truth slaps him in the face, he doesn’t believe it.
Superman: The Black Ring
Black Ring is a great comic arc that takes Luthor out of many of his normal settings and dives deeper into his psyche, not only through his yearning for more power, but also through mental hallucinations that depict Luthor in many different settings and roles. It’s also a great character study with many guest appearances from some of the biggest characters in DC Comics, which proves that Luthor’s interactions with the wider DC universe can be just as interesting as his relationship with Superman. Plus, there is an appearance from my favorite character of all time, The Joker.
This is an amazing comic, and probably my favorite on the list. It paints a picture of Lex’s mindset and true feelings towards Superman and the public. It feels almost as if you had a chance to sit down with Lex in his living room and listen, as he tells you that Superman doesn’t stand for hope, and how he’s a threat because he isn’t one of us, he isn’t human. The plan that Lex creates to bring down Superman is classic Lex Luthor, but the overall look and feel that Azzarello and Bermejo created is a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I will stop here, but this is definitely a comic that is worth checking out.
There are many, many, more great Lex Luthor stories out there, far to many to list in one article. I look forward to reading more of them and to being entertained by this fascinating character for years and years to come.
I can’t wait to see Luthor brought to life on the big screen next year.
Thanks for reading, sound off in the comments!
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits Theatres on March 25, 2016