Today, I’ll be looking the four versions of Lex Luthor in these origins. He’s considered to be Superman’s greatest enemy as well as a cool enemy himself. He’s “so bad”! He appears in all four origin stories though the one he least appears in is MoS. I’ll start out with some basic information on each one and then I’ll do a comparison/decision.
MoS – Lex Luthor is the rich business mogul of Metropolis. We get a glimpse of him eyeing Lois Lane in an early part of the story. We then get formally introduced the man on his yacht in the fourth part of the book…and he has hair! After Lex tries to woo Lois and ends up on the losing side, a group of terrorists try to take his boat. Luckily, they are stopped by Lois and Superman. It turns out that Lex knew about them coming and he let it happen to see what Superman could do. Everyone decides to lock the loon up. After he's released, Lex decides to wage war on Superman. He’s in the fifth part of the book and his scientists create a clone of Superman that ends up being a little “Bizarre”. He also has one of the ugliest hair-dos here as well.
Birthright – We pretty much get an origin for Lex here. In flashbacks, we see him in Smallville trying to prove his smartness but getting put down everywhere. The only friend he really has is Clark, who relates to Lex in that they love astronomy. That friendship ends with a big accident involving kryptonite. His father died in the accident and Lex disappeared from Smallville. We then skip ten years and see that Lex has made his own empire in Metropolis. When Superman first shows up, it’s pretty much on. Lex plots and schemes to get Superman hated and feared by saying that Supes is the first wave of an alien invasion. He even cooks up a mass fake-invasion. Of course, it all doesn’t go to plan as Superman still wins the day.
Secret Origin – He still starts out in Smallville. He also has an abusive drunkard for a father and a sister. He also treats everyone like they’re beneath him including Clark. He even succeeds in killing his father by messing with his truck and then leaves Smallville. Skip to a few years later and Lex has an empire in Metropolis. At this time, he is Metropolis. He’s controlling everything, even the media. When Superman shows up, he tries to scheme and plot to get Superman out Metropolis. He even gets the government involved. He also is responsible for the creation of Parasite (sort of anyway) and Metallo. Of course, his plans don’t work out and he is left with egg on his face.
Nu52 – Lex Luthor has been contracted by the government to capture the Man of Steel. He pretty much treats Superman like a parasite like calling him “it”. His plan works out as Superman is captured and put under torturous tests by Luthor. Superman eventually breaks out, but it’s let out that Superman is an alien, which hurts Superman’s image. Afterword, Lex pretty much becomes a supporting character instead of a villain. He even has the Collector on speed dial. He tries to work with the Collector to save the Earth, but it turns out that the Collector has other plans. We also find out that Lex is “Icarus”, Clark’s insider on the corruption of Metropolis.
The only thing that ties all these Lex’s together is their ego. They all have it. Lex from Man of Steel thinks he can win Lois and stay out of jail because he is Lex Luthor. He does get away with some unknown crime in part five. The Lex’s from Secret Origin and Birthright have big egos because they believe that they are "soooo better" than everyone else, especially Johns’ Lex. When you have a day set aside to give some "average Joe" the biggest dream of their life, you might have an ego. When you build a podium and have two gorgeous women at your side and act like a god among men, you DO have an ego. Anyway, Nu52’s Lex has the same issue. He’s pretty ego-driven, especially when trying to hunt down Superman.
So, with all that in mind, which Lex is the best? To me, Lex is best when he is not only rich but smart as well. That throws MoS Lex out, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the character. He still has a threatening feel about him. Nu52 Lex is rich and smart but he’s not the only villain is in this piece. He's not even the biggest villain that shows up during this origin. If anything, this is his origin for this universe. Also, he’s not that threatening after the torture scene. In a way, he turns into the Lex Luthor from Superman 2. He spouts out this and that and doesn’t do much, but he’s still hilarious. He’s probably one of the best parts of that origin.
The ones who try to cause the most damage in these origins are the Lex’s from Secret Origin and Birthright. These two match up real well. They both lived in Smallville, they both found Kryptonite there, they both went to Metropolis and made names for themselves, and they hate Superman with a passion. One thing that definitely separates them is that Secret Origin Lex is pretty bad from the start. As I said earlier, he treats everyone like crap and kills his own dad. This is not a sympathetic character. Birthright Lex’s time in Smallville is about the same, but he and Clark are actually friends. This Lex gets obsessed with finding life on other planets though. This not only leads to a rift between him and Clark but it also causes the accident.
As adults, the Lex’s try to plot and scheme to get everyone to hate Superman. Through different means, they find out that he’s an alien and they use that to their advantage. Lex from SBR is the one who goes all out with this idea. He has a machine that basically receives images from Krypton and he uses those images to stage a fake invasion on Metropolis. He even hires mercenaries to dress up in fake Kryptonian armor. He also uses the Kryptonite to emit some field around the city to make Superman weak. The Lex from Secret Origin uses the Kryptonite only for Metallo and some radioactive chemicals. Of course, they both lose the day though Secret Origin Lex’s loss is embarrassing is and a little better in my opinion.
Luthor: Oh $#*$. Oh well...hey, you there! Yeah, you with the dog! Today's your lucky day!
So, who get the point? This is a tough one, but Birthright’s Lex gets the point. I like his beginnings a little better than Secret Origin 's Luthor. He starts out as a kid who can’t catch a break and he’s not all that bad. He just was different. It was his obsessions that made him the villain in his adult years. Secret Origin's Lex was pretty bad and non-sympathetic from the start. I do like him in his adult years though. Also, Birthright’s Lex really did go pretty far trying to oust Superman from Metropolis. That machine, the unique use of Kryptonite, and his interactions with Clark, Superman, and Lois are what cements my decision in stone.
NEXT TIME: MORE VILLAINS!?!?!?!?!?!
Man of Steel (MoS): 0
Superman Birthright : 1
Superman Secret Origin : 0
Superman and the Men of Steel (...Nu52): 0
NEXT TIME: MORE VILLAINS!?!?!?!?!?!