Lex (Alexei) Luthor made his first appearance as a power hungry criminal mastermind who first tested his genius against the Man of Steel in Action Comics #23. Displayed as a man with red hair, it would be until an accident that Luthor’s character was mistaken for Superman’s main enemy the Ultra-Humanite and was displayed as a bald mad scientist. From there on Alexei Luthor would be seen as a villain who’s a power mad scientist who tested his science against the might of Superman.
At first, Luthor intended to plunge all of the European countries into war starting with the small countries of Galonia and Toran, and used his scientific genius to sabotage a peace conference, but would face his first defeat by Superman. Throughout Luthor’s earliest career, he would find himself committing acts of terrorism in order to find ways to accomplish his goals for world domination, only to find each of his plans foiled by Superman.
Luthor later plagued Kal-L with a gigantic Kryptonite meteor after learning about Superman’s weakness from Dan Rivers. Unable to defeat Superman, Alexei took solace in publicly revealing Superman’s weakness to the world, causing trouble for Kal-L from other various foes. Alexei would return time and time again with elaborate plans to kill Superman, but was defeated each time.
Luthor is a complex man. While he freely admits to being ‘evil’, he considers Abraham Lincoln to be a ‘great man’ (Superboy #85). Furthermore, Luthor has on occasion performed acts of great nobility, such as saving the lives of millions on a dying world for which he is considered a hero there (Superman #164).
Later in his career, Alexei would learn of the Multiverse and teamed up with his Earth-One counterpart Lex Luthor in an attempt to conquer Earth-Three. Recruiting Earth-Three’s primary villain, Ultraman (an evil counterpart to their Supermen) to aid them in conquering Earth-Three, Alexei and Lex Luthor were defeated by their own Earth-Three counterpart, Alexander Luthor, who became Earth-Three’s first and only super-hero.
Alexei would continue on his private quest for world domination of Earth-Two until he was recruited by Brainiac during The Crisis on Infinite Earths. In Issue # 9 Upon confronting Lex Luthor, who had been selected over him by Brainiac as field commander of their amassed gathering, Alexei stated to all present,
“I’m better than that labrat! You don’t need two Luthors!”
Brainiac immediately agreed, and disintegrated Alexei Luthor on the spot, leaving Lex the only Luthor present. Following the end of the Crisis, Alexei Luthor was eliminated from history, and is no longer remembered by anyone on New Earth.
Lex Luthor grew up in the suburbs of Smallville, Kansas with his parents and sister, Lena. Although forced to live the life of a farmer’s son, he never acquired a farmer’s heart. Instead, Luthor’s lifelong ambition was to become the world’s greatest scientist.
As a teenager, Luthor learned about the existence of Smallville’s own hometown hero –Superboy. He followed Superboy’s adventures with great zeal and soon became the young Kryptonian’s greatest fan. Through excessive compulsion and pleading, Lex was able to convince his parents to move to Smallville in order to allow Lex to be close to his hero.
One day, Luthor was plowing a field in his tractor when he noticed Superboy’s limp form wavering in front of him. The Boy of Steel had found himself in close proximity to deadly green Kryptonite, so Luthor moved the rock to a safe distance with his tractor. Afterward, Luthor invited Superboy back to his workshop. Superboy found a veritable shrine erected in his honor, with walls and benches decorated with various souvenirs from Superboy’s many exploits. To show his gratitude, Superboy constructed a brand new state-of-the art laboratory for the eager would-be scientist.
With the new lab equipment at his disposal, Luthor set about experimenting with his many chemical solutions. He even created a non-sentient protoplasmic entity out of some of the more rare chemicals that Superboy provided him. Using the protoplasm as a template, Luthor sought to create an antidote to Kryptonite poisoning. It was his intention to present the antidote to Superboy as a gift, as a means of solidifying their friendship. He succeeded in creating the antidote, but in his excitement, he knocked over a beaker, which set the laboratory ablaze.
Superboy flew past the lab and noticed smoke pouring out of the windows. Noticing that Luthor had exposed Kryptonite in the lab, Superboy remained outside and quickly decided to extinguish the fire in the lab with a gust of his super-breath which would put out the fire and remove the Kryptonite to a safe distance. Superboy successfully extinguished the fire, but the blast accidentally mixed various chemicals together that destroyed all of Luthor’s experiments. These gases passed onto Luthor’s head, destroying his hair and left him completely bald. Enraged at the devastation of his work and his personal appearance, Luthor accused Superboy of destroying his experiments on purpose out of jealousy. From that moment onward, Lex Luthor became the sworn enemy of Superboy.
Lex soon began acting on his criminal impulses to attack Superboy with his ever-increasing array of weapons and devices. But despite their fearsome powers, Superboy always managed to defeat Lex and send him to the Smallville Juvenile Detention Center. Fearing that their son would never reform his ways, Lex’s parents decided to move away from Smallville and changed their last name to “Thorul” in hopes to raise their daughter Lena Thorul in a relatively peaceful life away from the evil Lex. Despite this name change, Lex would later find his sister and find some sort of reconciliation with her and her children despite his evil nature.
Luthor continued in his plans to dominate the Earth and known universe even during the Crisis on Infinite Earths where he once again teamed up with his known ally, Brainiac, who had by this time adopted a more robotic form. It would be at this time that he would witness the death of his Earth-Two counterpart Alexei who dared to challenge Brainiac’s and Lex’s ambitions. Lex and the surviving villains would once again decide to side with the heroes temporarily when the Anti-Monitor resurfaced after being nearly killed by the efforts of the Flash (Barry Allen) and Supergirl who were both killed by the Anti-Monitor.
Lex survived the Crisis but was destroyed and succeeded by a new being in the new universe which was seemingly a composite of all the previous primary versions of Luthor — minus of course the Earth-Three Alexander’s truly heroic heart — as a ruthlessly dangerous and successful business tycoon who tries on numerous occasions to marry his native incarnation of Lois Lane.
For his parents, one look at their son’s I.Q. test results was enough to convince them that he would make them wealthy. Their determination for him to excel however, helped to destroy his soul and create a sociopath. Lex spent years searching for extraterrestrial life and as part of his hunt went to Smallville, Kansas when he was 18. While there, Lex befriended another alienated young man, Clark Kent (Superman). When a fire destroyed his laboratory and his scientific achievements, he refused to take any of the blame. Instead he blamed the people of Smallville for “letting the Luthors burn.” To this day, he refuses to acknowledge he has ever been to Smallville.
Years later, Lex appeared in Metropolis and built his technology company, Lexcorp. The company grew by leaps and bounds. With financial success comes political power and soon Luthor was considered to be the most powerful man in Metropolis. Then came the day when the people looked beyond Luthor’s skyscraper to see a man in the skies above. With the arrival of Superman, Luthor’s world was turned upside-down. Superman openly accused Lex of his criminal behavior, shattering the humanitarian image Lex had created. Luthor was unable (or unwilling) to link the “meddling alien” with the boy he knew years before.
Luthor tried many times to end the “alien menace”, but was thwarted by Superman every time. Lex even fashioned a ring from Kryptonite to use. The constant exposure to Kryptonite radiation gave Lex cancer. It was so bad that Lex had his hand removed and replaced with a robotic prosthetic. Things got so bad for Lex that he eventually faked his death and had his brain transferred to a healthy clone body. He assumed the role of his own, hitherto unknown, heir going by the name Lex Luthor II. He even talked with an Australian accent and had a full beard and long red hair. As the younger Lex he convinced the world that he was a different man and not capable of the kind of crimes his father was accused of.
Lex later convinced the Supergirl Matrix to be a hero of Metropolis and a personal body guard. He also created a force o fLex Troopers to be heroes of Metropolis. He also would resume his battle with Superman with the same lack of success.Lex even sent Supergirl and his Lex Troopers to fight Doomsday when Doomsday attacked Metropolis and killed Superman.
In the aftermath of Superman’s apparent death, Lex planned on replacing Superman with a clone. Unable to clone all of Superman’s DNA he used some of his own and gave the clone powers that mimicked Superman’s. Unfortunately for Lex the clone was released as a teenager by the Newsboy Legion. The clone would take up the mantle of Superman until the real Superman returns, when he then adopts the name of Superboy. It would be a long time before Superboy would discover he has Luthor DNA. When Lois Lane would eventually expose Luthor’s criminal dealings, He then showed his true colors when he triggered explosive devices throughout the city. Metropolis was virtually destroyed by the explosions. Superman and his fellow heroes helped in the reconstruction and the battle between them continued.
Realizing the need to silence his detractors in the fourth estate, Luthor bought the Daily Planet and sold it to Perry White. The sale came with a string, that Lois killed one story of his choosing. Feeling safe from exposure, Luthor ran for President of the United States to gain the power to bring Superman down. He served the U.S.’s interests surprisingly well, forging links with Atlantis and Russia and rallying troops for the Imperiex Invasion. However, unknown to the public and probably most of his administration, Lex also forged ties to Apokolips which had been outlawed on a UN level. As a payment for Darkseid siding with Earth during the Imperiex war Luthor had the Joker unleash Doomsday for Superman to fight and detain as a product demonstration before handing him over to Darkseid.
The tenacious Lois found out that Luthor had known about the threat from Imperiex much earlier than stated. This was the article Luthor tried to kill, however Lois gave her notes to Clark who produced a scathing report. Luthor once again overplayed his hand, as his success at framing Bruce Wayne for the murder of Vesper Fairchild caused him to get arrogant. Even with his Presidential power, Luthor could not bring an end to Superman. When a Kryptonite asteroid was discovered headed towards Earth, Luthor tried to use that to turn the public against Superman. He even sent heroes to arrest him, including John Stewart, Black Lightning, Starfire, Power Girl, and Captain Atom. With the help of Batman, the scheme was thwarted.
In desperation, he used a variant combination of the “super-steroid” Venom (a steroid mainly used by Batman villain Bane), liquid synthetic green Kryptonite, and an Apokaliptian battle-suit to battle Superman directly. Unfortunately, the madness that is a side effect of Venom took hold, and he revealed his true colors during the battle. The final straw was the revelation that Talia Head, the acting CEO of LexCorp, had sold all the company assets to the Wayne Foundation. He has since gone underground, leaving the presidency to his vice president, Pete Ross. During his time underground, Luthor contacted Robin over the internet under the alias Snapdragon and sent a Cadmus genetic file on Superboy, revealing for the first time that Superboy was a hybrid clone of Superman’s DNA and Luthor’s.
One year after the events of Infinite Crisis, Luthor has been 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. Superman manages to destroy the Kryptonite-powered ship and recover the crystal, but Lex manages to escape custody yet again.
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.
In JLA, Luthor (alongside Joker and Cheetah III) gathers together a new ” Injustice League” and, outfitted in a new version of his warsuit (although still green and purple, it no longer has clear design derivations from the pre-Crisis warsuit as the McGuinness design did), sets out to destroy the Justice League with them. On a related note during this section, 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 event, 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 Desaad’s Parademons.
After the attack, Luthor manages to get the villains off the planet with a makeshift teleporter, secretly powered byNeutron, 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.
In Justice League of America #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 attempts to ambush Libra after learning that he is a prophet of Darkseid, Lex soon ends up surrounded by Justifiers. Libra tells Lex to make a final choice … swear an oath to Darkseid or become a mindless slave. In Final Crisis #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’s an honor, but he doesn’t look very pleased. During Final Crisis #6, Libra figures out Luthor had been the mole in the Society of Supervillains. Luthor, in league with Doctor Sivana, seemingly destroys Libra and overturns theAnti-Life Equation being broadcast into the Justifiers’ helmets.
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 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, to study as it had “potential”. 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.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.
During Blackest Night, Ganthet summons a ring from each of the corps leaders, Larfleeze’s ring finds Lex Luthor. With the ring saying that he wants it all, Lex Luthor becomes an Orange Lantern. Although Lex does prove a good fighter in the Blackest Night, the orange light of avarice gets the better of him on many occasions and he even steals Scarecrow’s Yellow Power Ring so that he may use it himself. He also steals the Orange Power Battery away from Larfleeze to gain even more power, until Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to restrain him. Whilst under the Lasso’s influence, Lex admits a secret of his, saying that ultimately, all he’s ever wanted was to be Superman.
After the Black Lanterns are defeated, and the deceased Black Lantern superhumans come back to life, Larfleeze manages to remove Lex’s Orange Power Ring and render him back to his human self. In Brightest Day, Lex Luthor is given the orange power ring by Larfleeze after Luthor tells him that every person on Earth wants power and land.
After Flashpoint Lex Luthor is hired by the government to take down Superman. LexCorp also exists. He is hired by General Sam Lane to capture Superman in his early years. He sets up a trap for Superman with a train. Superman barely stops it and is left unconscious. Lex collects him and puts him through a lot of tests and experiments. Lex Luthor is later revealed to have obtained contact with the Collector 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 information on Glen Glenmorgan to Clark Kent. After he gets fired from General Sam Lane he creates his own project with the two stolen kryptonite rocks. He creates the Kryptonite Man but that also doesn’t work as well as planned.
Set one year before the ongoing continuity, Lex Luthor arranges the illegal smuggling of war machines in Qurac. Knowing that Superman would intervene, Luthor laces the weapons with kryptonite and nanite technology in order to acquire a sample of Superman’s DNA in order 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 Lex can save them from the Man of Steel. The final confrontation between Kal El and Lex, of course resulting in the defeat of Lex, was, chronologically, the first fight between two of DC’s most famous characters.
After the events of Trinity War, the Crime Syndicate has defeated the Justice League and wreaked havoc upon the world. While riding a helicopter into Metropolis, the entire city and the helicopter suddenly lose power and crashes into the Lexcorp tower. Luthor then witnesses a figure whom he mistakes as Superman suddenly flying and crashing into the building. The figure is revealed to be Ultraman of the Crime Syndicate. Ultraman’s powers are powered by Kryptonite (an obvious play on Superman’s own weakness to Kryptonite with Ultraman being Superman’s evil doppelganger from Earth 3). He finds a stash of Kryptonite and proceeds to crush and inhale it.
Luthor also witnesses the unmasking of Nightwing and the reveal of his identity as Dick Grayson on a broadcast the Crime Syndicate put out to the world but notes that he has no idea who Dick Grayson is.
Luthor then notices a figure pushing the moon in front of the sun, the figure is Ultraman and it is revealed that Ultraman is harmed by the ray’s of the sun (a stark contrast to Superman who gets much of his power from the sun) Luthor sits in dismay as exclaiming “This is a job for Superman. So where the hell is he?”
Lex Luthor traverses through the dark and powerless Lexcorp building, he stumbles along with a security guard as Luthor finds his Subject B-Zero experiment (Bizarro) whom Luthor exclaims needs another five years to be completed. He decides he has no other choice but to release Bizarro and tests the creatures obedience out by ordering it to murder the security guard. Luthor eventually meets up with other villains such as Black Manta, Captain Cold, and Black Adam and they form a team in order to combat the Crime Syndicate.
While traversing through the sewers in order to reach a Wayne Enterprises storage facility with the other villains, Luthor notices that Bizarro is reluctant to move ahead due to his fear of the dark. Luthor attempts to comfort Bizarro by telling him about how when he was younger his sister had fallen ill but he was too afraid of the fear of failing to try and save her. Luthor states that his sister died shortly afterwards and that he told himself that he would never again let the fear of failure from stopping him, this inspires Bizarro to move on, much to the surprise of Luthor.
When the team finally reach the storage facility, they have an encounter with Batman and Catwoman, but their encounter is interrupted when Power Ring and his own group of villains attack the facility. Luthor and Batman are both forced to fight alongside each other and are forced to team up, with Sinestro and Deathstroke both joining the team.
The team finally reach the remains of the fallen Justice League Watchtower where they find Dick Grayson being held captive in the Murder Room, a device meant to imprison Doomsday. The room is sealed off with no escape and a bomb is wired to Dick’s heart and the will detonate unless his heart is stopped. Although Batman attempts to disarm the bomb, he is seemingly unable to do so and Luthor makes the decision to blast Batman from behind and seemingly suffocates Dick to death in order stop the bomb. He is successful in doing so with the timer stopping just before detonation. Batman attacks Luthor for seemingly murdering Dick but Luthor reveals that he had given Dick a pill to only make his heart stop temporarily and proceeds to revive Dick.
When the hooded prisoner the Crime Syndicate had been holding is revealed to be Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 who has the ability to absorb powers from others and takes on the form of Mazahs (an Ananym for the word Shazam) , he proceeds to attack all the people around him, including Lex Luthor himself who has realized that person he is fighting is a version of himself. Bizarro attack Alexander in attempts to protect his creator but Alexander kills him and steals his powers. Luthor appears angered and even saddened by the death of Bizarro. Luthor realizes since he and Alexander are the same person, he can also use the Mazahs shout and he does so and reverts Alexander into his normal form, and then proceeds to kill him.
After the Crime Syndicate is defeated, Luthor also manages to save Superman’s life by removing the piece of Kryptonite left in his brain by Atomika. Luthor also manages to discover Bruce Wayne’s identity as Batman by learning of his connection with Dick Grayson, and much to the chagrin of Superman, Luthor even manages to secure a place in the Justice League, builds a new watchtower for them, and recruits Shazam and Captain Cold onto the team.