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The untold truth of Lex Luthor

When you think of Lex Luthor, Superman's greatest enemy, what comes to mind first? The mad scientist with outrageous schemes? The smooth billionaire behind the scenes? He's all that and much more, and his raw hatred for his Kryptonian nemesis has driven him to do some outrageous things over the years. Lex has had a planet that worshipped him as a hero, carved out a surprisingly illustrious political path, and created a score of artificial life forms. He's hatched twisted plans and been happy to kill innocents along the way. Lex's hatred for Superman has been felt across the DC Comics multiverse, with Lexes of many Earths experiencing successes and failures of their own against their arch-rival. Every now and then, a heroic Lex has even appeared — although that's usually because the universe in question was so twisted that good and evil were reversed. 

No matter what reality he's in, Luthor is a calculating genius whose main weakness is his own stubborn pride — but there's more to the story than that, and even if you're a DC diehard, there are probably parts of the story that you've missed. This is the untold truth of Lex Luthor.

Paging Dr. Luthorstein

Even as a teenager, Lex loved making things, and his super-genius led him to come up with some wonderful creations. Thanks to his then-pal Superboy, he got a lab that allowed him to make his first intelligent life form. Unfortunately, when Superboy accidentally destroyed it, it kicked off years of pathological hatred. Luthor later created one of the many versions of Superman's delightfully "perfect imperfect duplicate" Bizarro. Of course, he escaped Lex's clutches and kidnapped Lois Lane, putting her through danger in order to save her. More horrifically, Lex took the dead, glowing skeleton of Doomsday, patched him up, and had him attack Washington, D.C. Was Lex mad at the government? Nope! He just wanted to prove to Darkseid that Doomsday was fixed before handing him over. He had a debt to pay, after all. On a more positive note, an alternate Earth version of Luthor created the Matrix that later became a new version of Supergirl.

Creating his own worst enemy

Throughout his teenage years, Lex Luthor would invent a wacky device to commit a crime, get caught by Superboy, and be thrown into juvenile detention. Fortunately for Lex, even his repeated schemes didn't cause him to get tried as an adult, but his luck ran out when he turned 18 after a surprisingly mundane scheme involving illegal withdrawals from ATMs, and he went to prison this time. That motivated Lex to take things to a much more murderous level, launching satellites into orbit that gave him superpowers as well as the ability to destroy the Earth. He demanded a showdown with his old foe, but Superboy beat Lex with his wits instead of just his powers, giving him the confidence to change his persona to Superman and become the leader of Earth's heroes. That was not the outcome poor Lex was hoping for. Just as Superboy accidentally turned Lex evil, so too did Lex make Superboy more capable than ever.

Angela Blake, or I Hate Everyone, Especially Me

Possibly Luthor's most demented scheme was the Angela Blake affair. Superman rushed off to try to save this woman from an incurable disease, and while Lex had him dead to rights with a new super-weapon, he just couldn't stand to kill her too. Lex naturally kidnapped her, cured her, and they fell in love. (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?) Love conquered all, including his hatred of Superman, and they teamed up to rid Metropolis of crime and protect the Earth from invaders.

When it came time for Lex to marry Angela, she and Superman disappeared in a flash of light. What fiend would ruin this happy day? Why, it was Lex himself! Over his protests, some Lexbots captured him. They explained that he had killed the real Angela, cloned her, gave her a disease that he knew he could cure, and then gave himself amnesia about the whole thing. Why? As a byzantine trap for Superman, of course. Lex hated Superman so much that he wouldn't even let himself have happiness.

New Luthor, goodbye Lexor

The people of Lexor named their planet after Lex after he saved them from extinction by accident, even building a statue in his honor. After one particularly ugly loss to Superman, Lex left Earth and decided to drink in Lexor's adulation, even marrying a native and having a son. He kept stewing over Superman repeatedly besting him despite his otherwise happy life. After finding an ancient battle suit, he tested it out on his own people as the "Mystery Marauder" — and when Superman showed up to take him back to jail, Lex was not only revealed to be a villain, he shot a beam at Superman that bounced off and destroyed the planet. (Whoops.) At least it gave Lex an excuse to hate Superman even more. Lex kept the battlesuit as part of his "New Luthor" identity that made him a more even match for Big Blue.

Pocket full of pride

Over and over, Luthor's overwhelming weakness was his overwhelming pride. Even the heroic Luthors of other realities fell prey to their own ego. For example, the Alexander Luthor of the Pocket Universe (created by the Time Trapper — don't ask) never met Superboy and thus never had the accident that warped him into becoming a criminal. In an effort to help the missing Superboy's parents find him, he accidentally unleashed criminals from the Phantom Zone. Rather than use the Green Kryptonite he found to weaken them and then Gold Kryptonite to take away their powers, Alexander insisted on trying to beat them with his own ingenuity. He failed, getting everyone on his planet killed, though at least he got Superman to help win the day. He also made sure his greatest creation, the Supergirl Matrix, lived on. Just because you're the smartest man on your planet doesn't mean you know everything.

President(s) Luthor

In 2000, a nation tainted with scandal turned to the man who restored an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City: Lex Luthor. His presidential platform saw him promising to use his technology to better humanity and eliminate fossil fuels — and he won in a landslide, only being removed from office when he was caught confessing to trading arms with Darkseid in order to beat an otherwise invincible foe. Batman outsmarted him and even managed to strip Lex of his fortune. The only unrealistic part of this storyline? Luthor had to leave office.

In the DC "Elseworlds" story Superman: Red Son, Superman grew up in the Soviet Union and eventually came to rule it. Meanwhile, Luthor put his genius to good use in opposing the Soviet super-menace, and they had a standoff until Brainiac came along to force them to cooperate. When Superman sacrificed himself to save the world, Lex was finally able to rule it. However, this Lex's world was free of violence, need, hunger, and disease as life expectancy increased exponentially and the state withered away. It's the best of Adam Smith and Karl Marx!

Alan Moore and the Luthor-Brainiac Team

As the self-professed two smartest beings in the galaxy, Lex Luthor and Braniac often teamed up, and their plans often went awry as they tried to double-cross each other. In "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,"' the classic iteration of the team reaches a horrifying conclusion. Luthor found the remains of his old ally in the snow and planned on studying them; instead, Brainiac's head reactivated and took over Lex's body. What worse fate could Luthor face than to be mentally dominated by someone else? Later, Lex temporarily got control of his body back and begged his old friend Lana Lang to kill him. After she snapped his neck, Brainiac managed to move around Luthor's grotesque corpse until rigor mortis kicked in. Even Luthor deserved a kinder fate. This is legendary writer Alan Moore at his most twisted, bringing a fitting if demented end to the man who hated Superman more than any other.

Spawn of Luthor

Even the best-meaning children of Luthor have eventually turned to a life of crime. His daughter Alexis Luthor of Earth-16 was viewed with suspicion in part because on this Earth, Lex was successful in killing Superman. All she wanted was a happy life with her boyfriend Damian Wayne, the Batman of that reality, but even he wasn't willing to admit he was dating her in public. So like any Luthor driven to the edge, she reprogrammed a bunch of robots to go on a rampage.

Alexander Luthor, Jr., the son of the heroic Lex of Earth-3, played a huge role in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, even seeming to save the Superman and Lois of Earth-2 and Superboy-Prime in a paradise pocket dimension. Well, paradise wasn't all it was cracked up to be, so he escaped and caused the Infinite Crisis in a bid to re-establish the Multiverse. Eventually, he was defeated and the Lex of our reality tracked him down, killed him, and framed his other-dimensional self for his crimes.

Lex Luthor's pets were dastardly, too. In the Krypto The Superdog cartoon, Lex's pet iguana Ignatius was quite intelligent and petulant — not as evil as his master, but perfectly willing to hurt others on a whim. He was also as likely to use a pointed verbal zinger as a laser beam.

Luthors of many Earths

The Multiverse was always one of the more entertaining aspects of the DC Universe, especially when different versions of the same character would meet each other. The "real" version of DC was Earth-1, while Earth-2 housed the Golden Age versions of the characters. Earth-3 was the reality where good and evil got flipped. Superman was Ultraman here, and his evil pals Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring were constantly battling against the protector of humanity, red-bearded super-genius Alexander Luthor. On a world where he was the only hero, he kept fighting even though he knew he had little chance of winning.

Whereas Superman often met and teamed up with his Earth-2 counterpart, Lex never quite got along with his other-dimensional selves. Take Earth-2's Alexei Luthor. Whereas Earth-1 Lex mostly just wanted to rule the world and receive praise, Alexei Luthor enjoyed killing just for the fun of it. When Lex realized that Alexei and Ultraman were teaming up to destroy Earth-1 and Earth-2, even Lex wasn't ready to annihilate his home universe. Reluctantly, he turned against them and sided with Superman to save the day.

Lex Luthors you may not have heard of

A truly fearsome version of the character wasLex Lemur, the arch-foe of Super Squirrel and the Just'a Lotta Animals of Earth C Minus. That's an alternate world of Earth C, where Captain Carrot drew the adventures of the JLA as his day job.

Leslie Luthor was a distaff version of Lex created by 5th-dimensional imp Mr. Myxzptlk to bother Superwoman after he grew so peeved at Superman for loving Lois Lane that he gender-flipped the entire world. Alexandra Luthor, meanwhile, was married to Alexander Luthor, but when he sacrificed himself to help Superman, she became twisted, sought revenge, and started to refer to herself as Lex.

Lexo is the secret identity of Lex on Earth-64, where was greatly aided by Lois Lane, who was not only in love with him, but helped him with his villainy. Lex of Earth-51 had a legitimate beef with Superman. Just as Lex was ready to give up a life of crime and marry Lana Lang, Superman came waltzing in to stop the wedding and swept Lana off her feet. Like any person would after being faced with this situation, Lex opted to become a space pirate.

Finally, the Lex of Earth-34 got even on the romance score by marrying Lois Lane, having a son named Larry, and making Superman miserable.

Whole lotta Lexes

On Earth-167, Lex gave himself superpowers with some chemicals on a world where Clark Kent had no special abilities. Lex became Superman and Clark became Batman in a special Brave and the Bold team-up, and the heroic Lex wound up sacrificing himself in the end.

Earth-148's Lex was also a good guy, and with his partner Clayface, teamed with Earth-1's Batman and Superman to help stop their world's evil Batman and Superman. In the end, Lex hypnotized the bad guys into thinking that they were good, and the plan worked. If only it were that simple...

In Superman: Speeding Bullets, Superman was raised by Thomas and Martha Wayne, leaving Lex unopposed in Smallville and Metropolis. Moving to Gotham for a challenge, he came into contact with some chemicals that gave him a permanent smile and a pale complexion that should be familiar to any DC Comics fan.

The most successful Lex of all time? Why, that's the Lex Luthor of Earth-149, the villain of the Death of Superman story. He managed to fool Superman into thinking he finally went straight as he developed a cure for cancer. Repeated attempts on his life by the mob only reinforced the idea that Lex was reformed. Instead, he was simply waiting for an opportunity to corner Kal-El on a satellite and zap him with Green Kryptonite. Poor Lex wasn't aware there was a Supergirl who was ready to take her cousin's place, and he was sent to the Phantom Zone as punishment.