Lex Luther

Enlarge picture Lex Luthor : man of Steel # 2 © 2005 DC Comics. COVER ART BY LEE BERMEJO.

Lex Luthor

(pop culture) ( popular culture )

Called “ the maddest of huffy scientists ” by writer/artist John Byrne in his insertion to DC Comics ‘ The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told ( 1987 ), Superman ‘s arch-enemy Lex Luthor— pronounced “ lew-thôr, ” although “ Luther ” is a common variation ( and at least one diction-challenged lackey has been known to say “ lew-tor ” ) —bowed in Action Comics # 23 ( 1940 ), in “ Europe at War, Part 2 ” ( continued from issue # 22 ) by Superman ‘s cocreators, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. A generic, abdominous mate with a shock absorber of red hair, Luthor ‘s audacious actions compensate for his lackluster looks. He plans to dominate the worldly concern by inciting fight, and operates from a sophisticate sky-headquarters kept airborne by a airship. In Superman vol. 1 # 4 ( 1940 ), the red-headed rogue now presides over an submerged city from which he assails the planet with an earthquake-producing machine. As Luthor brazenly challenges Superman to engage him, writer Siegel established the defining dynamic between these arch-enemies : mind versus muscle. contemporary fans may have a unmanageable time imagining the famously hairless Luthor with bolshevik locks ( a colorist ‘s gaff gave the harebrained scientist grey hair in Superman # 5, 1940 ), but in “ The Invisible Luthor ” in Superman # 10 ( 1941 ), by Siegel and artist Leo Nowak, more than Luthor ‘s body had vanished : he was now bald ( although a hairless Luthor had previously appeared in the Superman newspaper strip ). In his filmdom debut, in the fifteen-chapter Columbia Pictures movie consecutive Atom Man vs. Superman ( 1950 ), Luthor ( Lyle Talbot, who one year earlier played another DC character, Commissioner Gordon, in the serial Batman and Robin ), aka “ Atom Man, ” imperiled the city of Metropolis with a ground-shaking “ Directional Cyclotron ” and had perfected teleportation for getaways. fantastic weapons were the hallmark of “ Superman ‘s most chronically hater ” ( as he is described in Action # 47, 1942 ) who, in the comics, besides used electricity to make himself super, then battled Superman for the Powerstone, an artifact that granted illimitable might ( Superman # 17, 1942 ). Luthor was sometimes abetted by “ fumbling underlings ” ( one of whom from Luthor ‘s first venture was bald and wore a white lab coat, the spitting effigy of what Luthor himself became ) for whom he held little attentiveness, even sacrificing their lives to salvage his plans or to escape capture. Luthor relied less upon flunkies beginning in the 1950s, but sometimes partnered with early supervillains—the Prankster, Mr. Mxyztplk, the Toyman, and the Joker—motivated by writers ‘ whims to be chummy ( “ This prospect meeting may be the luckiest thing that ever happened ! ” ) or bum ( “ This is all your defect, you grinning clown ! ” ). The 1950s were unkind to Luthor. He mellowed into a planar, not-so-mad scientist in a business suit, looking more like a gangster than a originator, and was snubbed by producer Whitney Ellsworth from the live-action television series The Adventures of Superman ( 1952–1957 ) ; the read ‘s meager budget limited its villains to humdrum hoodlums—which, ironically, is what Luthor had become. It took Silver Age ( 1956–1969 ) Superman editor program Mort Weisinger to restore Luthor to prominence as “ a quality of boundless ambition, ” as Les Daniels called him in Superman : The Complete History ( 1998 ). In Adventure Comics # 271 ( 1960 ), the villain ‘s origin was finally told, not in a Superman fib but in “ How Luthor Met Superboy, ” by writer Siegel and artist Al Plastino. Smallville resident Lex Luthor, a adolescent scientific prodigy, was friends with the Boy of Steel until Superboy unwittingly caused Lex to permanently lose his hair when using his superbreath to extinguish a fire in Lex ‘s testing ground. Driven delirious by the incident, Luthor irrationally accused Superboy of causing the accident out of jealousy over his intellectual and dedicated his life, and his skill, to proving that he was the Boy of Steel ‘s superior ( his humiliated family slithered out of town, changing their identify to “ Thorul ” ). The Superboy/young Lex kinship inspired the producers of the WB ‘s live-action television drama Smallville ( 2001–present ) ; the series chronicles the adventures of pre-superhero Clark Kent ( Tom Welling ), with Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor, the son of callous capitalist Lionel Luthor ( John Glover ), as Clark ‘s friend and a supervillain-in-the-making. The adult Luthor chose gray prison olive drab as his criminal fashion affirmation in the 1960s, his admonisher of the years of his life wasted behind bars after being arrested by Superman ( an action figure of this translation of Luthor was produced by DC Direct in 2006 ). Luthor ‘s loathing knew no bounds. He wished not to merely vanquish the Metropolis Marvel, he aspired to kill him, launching depraved schemes—turning himself into an irradiate “ Kryptonite Man, ” challenging Superman to a death duel under a red sunlight ( under which Superman has no superpowers ), creating the backwards-Superman duplicate Bizarro, and teaming with Brainiac among them—to bury his enemy, much working from Luthor ‘s Lair, the name given a diverseness of sophisticated headquarters secreted in abandoned museums, observatories, and mines, their lead-lined walls shielding the evil scientist from the prying Xray sight of his arch-foe. In his Lair, Luthor erected statues of some of history ‘s most ill-famed figures— including Genghis Khan, Atilla the Hun, Blackbeard, and Benedict Arnold—from whom he drew inspiration. He frequently kidnapped Superman ‘s friends Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White to lure the hero into his nefarious traps. This version of Luthor was featured in several episodes of Filmation ‘s animated The New Adventures of Superman ( 1966–1970 ). Despite Luthor ‘s malevolence, Superman maintained faith in his former friend, hoping that he would reform and once again devote his genius to the good of world. During the Silver Age, snippets of Luthor ‘s world emerged. He took big strides to ensure that his younger sister Lena Thorul did not discover that he was her disowned buddy, and befriended a besiege planet that regarded him a champion ; on this populace, named Lexor by its grateful inhabitants, Superman was considered a criminal and Luthor had a life separate from his earthly supervillainy, including a wife, Ardora. While Luthor ‘s modus operandi changed very little during the 1970s, his appearance did ; he slimmed down and donned a purple-and-green battlesuit equipped with coal-black boots and weaponry. This costumed Luthor was popularized on Saturdaymorning television receiver on ABC ‘s Challenge of the Super Friends ( 1978–1979 ), as the ringleader of the contemptible legion of Doom. In December 1978, Oscar-winning actor Gene Hackman brought Luthor to life in film director Richard Donner ‘s blockbuster demigod : The Movie. More a operator than a deserter scientist, Hackman ‘s Luthor was a smooth-talking, scene-stealing deceiver, joined by dimwitted accomplice Otis ( Ned Beatty ) and epicurean schoolmarm Miss Techsmacher ( Valerie Perrine ). Hackman was not required to shave his head to portray Luthor ; he wore toupees throughout the movie, entirely doffing his rug at the movie ‘s goal ( and revealing a bald wig ). Hackman reprised the Luthor character in Superman II ( 1980 ) and Superman IV : The Quest for Peace ( 1987 ), the latter film introducing an insipid nephew, Lenny Luthor ( Jon Cryer ). The comic-book Luthor was mentioned in novels produced in conjunction with the first two movies, Superman : last Son of Krypton ( 1978 ) and Superman : miracle Monday ( 1981 ), both by Elliot S ! Maggin, one of the most prolific writers of Superman comics during the 1970s. Luthor ‘s uniform was upgraded into a advanced “ war suit ” as character of Superman ‘s forty-fifth anniversary celebration in Action Comics # 544 ( 1983 ). This new look, conceived by artist George Pérez, made Luthor more on equality with Superman, but this “ robo ” -Luthor was ephemeral. Superman was rebooted in 1986 ‘s Man of Steel miniseries, written and penciled by John Byrne. This modern continuity reinvented Luthor into a multi-faceted, constantly evolving name first gear seen in a role brainstormed by writer Marv Wolfman : white-collar condemnable. The mega-rich technical school whiz behind the omnipresent pot LexCorp, Luthor was the adult man in town until the arrival of Superman ( who no longer began his career as Superboy ) usurped his position as the Daily Planet ‘s chief headline-maker. A basically unsympathetic power broker known for crushing clientele opponents and coercing female subordinates into intimate relationships, Luthor, untrustworthy of the estrange from Krypton who professes to safeguard “ his ” city, has devoted his wealth and intellectual into eliminating this superpowered intruder. In the years since man of Steel, Luthor has created the Superman foes Metallo and Bizarro, developed cancer from wearing a kryptonite resound, had his cancer-ravaged hand amputated and replaced with a sword fist, faked his death, transplanted his brain into a younger ringer he passed off as his red-headed son, transplanted his mind so far again into another cloned body identical to the original, and organized the anti-Justice League team the Injustice Gang. He has committed diverse crimes along the way, always stalemating Superman, who was wise to Luthor ‘s machinations. Luthor ‘s ultimate office play began in 2000 when he was elected president of the DC Universe ‘s United States in a dissentious campaign that rivaled the substantial world ‘s heatedly contested Bush v. Gore election ( Superman : President Lex, 2000 ). In the fib arch “ Public Enemies ” in Superman/Batman # 1– # 6 ( 2003–2004 ), President Lex manipulated public opinion by blaming Superman for a kryptonite asteroid threatening Earth, leading the hero and his ally Batman to work outside of the law to bring down Luthor ‘s presidency. A desperate, near-insane Luthor contend back wearing a battlesuit ( a slightly modified version of Pérez ‘s 1983 design ), but was ousted from position in discredit. In the miniseries Villains United ( 2005 ) Luthor, sans armor, was seen in full control condition of his faculties, working underground as the personal digital assistant of a supervillain conclave called the Society. Was Luthor a rampaging metal-suited supervillain or a crafty condemnable strategist ? Villains United # 6 disclosed the startle coexistence of both versions : The Society ‘s leader was revealed as an alternate-universe Luthor, while ex-president Lex was exposed as “ Mockingbird, ” the mysterious player behind the Secret Six, the condemnable alliance that stood opposed to the Society. This startle revelation created the unusual scenario of Luthor being his own arch-foe, with their struggle unfold in the continuity-rewriting crossing over Infinite Crisis ( 2005–2006 ). With fraudulence and brilliance as his guides, Lex Luthor—no matter his form—remains the most dangerous terror to Superman, and to the earth. Voice actor Michael Bell was the first person to play the post-reboot Luthor, in Ruby-Spears ‘ Superman cartoon ( 1988–1989 ). Luthor has besides appeared in each subsequent television screen adaptation of the Superman caption : the live-action Superboy ( 1988–1992, played by Scott Wells and Sherman Howard ), Lois & Clark : The New Adventures of Superman ( 1993–1997, portrayed by John Shea ), and Smallville ; plus the animate Superman ( 1996–2000 ), Justice League ( 2001–2004 ), and Justice League Unlimited ( 2004–present ), with Clancy Brown voicing him in each. Kevin Spacey brought the bald bad guy to life sentence in Brian Singer ‘s blockbuster movie Superman Returns ( 2006 ) ; an earlier, unfulfilled interpretation of the movie pegged Jack Nicholson for the character. Lex Luthor has been systematically merchandized since the 1978 movie, particularly through a variety of action figures ( including a particular 1989 adaptation whose “ ability punch ” enabled the toy to hit itself in the eye ) ; the classical mad-scientist Luthor was produced as a mini-bust in the mid-2000s, and in the 1950s through the 1980s was depicted on Superman lunchboxes, puzzles, and display panel games.

The Supervillain Book : The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

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