Alternative versions of Lex Luthor

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Alternate versions of Lex Luthor
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceAction Comics #23 (April 1940)
Created byJerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
See alsoLex Luthor in other media

The fictional character Lex Luthor has appeared in a number of media, always as the archenemy of Superman. Each version of the work typically establishes its own continuity, and sometimes introduces parallel universes, to the point where distinct differences in the portrayal of the character can be identified. In addition, the DC Universe has been rewritten a number of times, establishing additional versions of the character. This article details and lists various versions of Lex Luthor depicted in works including DC Comics Multiverse, Elseworlds, television and film.

Alternative Versions[edit]

Superman: Earth One[edit]

File:Alexandra 'Lex' Luthor (Earth One).jpg
Alexandra "Lex" Luthor in Superman: Earth One Volume Two.

In the Earth One graphic novels, readers are shown a new reality separate from the mainstream DC Comics universe previously designated as Earth-One. In this world, Dr. Alexandra Luthor is a xenobiologist married to Dr. Alexander Luthor, an inventor with degrees in many fields and specializing in particle physics. The pair refer to themselves as Lex2 Incorporated. They are hired as independent contractors by United States Air Force Major Sandra Lee, who wishes to study the ship that brought Superman to Earth and seeks ways to neutralize the Kryptonian hero in case he threatens to national security. Alexandra researches ways of killing Superman as an intellectual exercise, while Alexander is more compassionate and contemplative, questioning the ethical implications of developing anti-Superman weapons when the man has not given cause to be feared.[1]

Later on, Alexander sacrifices himself to help Superman battle Zod. Consumed by rage and grief, Alexandra blames Superman and vows to destroy him. Claiming the old Alexandra died alongside her husband, she now only answers to the name "Lex."[2]

Amalgam Comics Earth[edit]

During the crossover DC vs. Marvel, the realities of DC Comics and Marvel Comics temporarily merged, resulting in the Amalgam Comics universe. In this reality, Lex Luthor's person and history merged with that of the Red Skull, creating the Green Skull. On the Amalgam Earth, an alien rocket ship crashes in Kansas in 1938, carrying a now dead alien child. A green, radioactive meteorite lands nearby. The US government used the alien DNA and solar radiation to infuse a man with super-powers, making him Super-Soldier (a fusion of Superman and Captain America). Super-Soldier comes to realize that famous entrepreneur and philanthropist Lex Luthor, married to war journalist Lois Lane, is a corrupt war profiteer hoping to prolong the war. Luthor acquires the green meteorite and realizes he can use it as a power source, referring to it as the "Kansas Lode" or "Green K." He uses it to build a powerful robot for the Axis powers called "Ultra-Metallo." After Super-Soldier seemingly beats it, Luthor sells nuclear "K-Bombs" to the Americans and the war quickly ends afterward. The K-bomb detonation blankets all of the Earth in low-level K-radiation, though only Super-Soldier is affected.

Luthor creates a serum from the Green-K that extends his life but gives him green skin and a death-like appearance over time. He has his wife Lois murdered and, under the name "Green Skull," founds the terrorist organization HYDRA in the aftermath of the war, hoping to achieve world domination through stealth control of the world's banks and corporations. He is opposed by S.H.I.E.L.D. and its agent Bruce Wayne, as well as Super-Soldier again after the hero is revived from suspended animation by the Judgment League Avengers.[3]

Bizarro Luthor[edit]

In the mainstream DC Universe, the imperfect Superman duplicate called Bizarro (also sometimes called Bizarro #1) eventually created his own Bizarro World inhabited by imperfect copies of many Earth people, who all think and often speak in a way that seems "backwards" to Earth humans. Bizarro Luthor considers himself a hero of Bizarro World and often speaks against its great champion Bizarro #1.[4]

Another version of Bizarro Luthor exists in the universe of Earth-29. This reality is a "Bizarroverse" where everything is a backwards Bizarro-style reflection of something in the mainstream DC Universe. Instead of Earth, there is the planet Htrae, home of Bizarro Luthor and the Unjustice League of Unamerica.[5]

Earth-Three[edit]

File:Alexander Luthor Earth 3.png
Alexander Luthor of Earth-Three, reacting to the death of Superwoman, from Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 (April 1985). Art by George Pérez.

The first parallel world designated Earth-Three was a reverse version of the mainstream DC Universe. On this Earth, the British colonies successfully broke away from the Empire of United States in the 1700s and President John Wilkes Booth was assassinated by the actor Abraham Lincoln. Many who were heroes on the main DC Earth were villains on Earth-Three, such as Ultraman (an evil Superman), Owlman (an evil Batman), and Superwoman (an evil Wonder Woman). Bearded scientist Alex Luthor decides to be a hero, arming himself with a high-tech, flight-capable red, yellow and blue "supersuit." Aided by the Supermen of Earth-One and Earth-Two as well as his world's Lois Lane (who becomes his wife), Alex opposes the Crime Syndicate (an evil version of the Justice League).

In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Alex realizes his universe is dying from an anti-matter attack. He and Lois save their son Alexander Luthor Jr.by sending him to the reality of Earth-One, dying themselves moments later. Alexander Jr. helps the multiverse's heroes defy the villain Anti-Monitor. He later returns as the antagonist of Infinite Crisis, now seeing the DC heroes as his enemy and viewing himself as a lone hero surrounded by villains, just like his father.

In September 2011, The New 52 timeline introduced a new Earth-3 in the crossover Forever Evil (2014). This Earth-3's version of Alexander Luthor is his world's version of Shazam.[6] Called Mazahs, he could take the super-powers of those he killed and was revealed to be the father of the villain Superwoman's child. He was killed by the New 52 version of Lex Luthor.

JLA: Earth 2 - Anti-Matter Earth[edit]

The 2000 graphic novel JLA: Earth 2, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, introduced a version of Earth-Three that inhabited the antimatter universe of Qward. This anti-matter Earth, which acted as a twisted mirror to the mainstream DC Earth and whose humans had their hearts on the right sides of their bodies, was ruled by the sinister Crime Syndicate of Amerika. It had several superheroes, but all died because in the anti-matter reality evil holds greater sway than good and tends to win (a meta-commentary by writer Grant Morrison on the fact that in the main DC Universe, it is accepted that good tends to triumph over evil). The anti-matter reality's Alexander Luthor regularly opposes the CSA. Ultraman, the evil Superman, allows Luthor to live because he provides entertaining challenges.

Donning a high-tech purple and green warsuit, this Luthor travels to the positive matter Earth of the DC Universe, which he labels "Earth 2," and recruits the Justice League to help him defeat the Syndicate. The team discovers their victories result in further evil or new evils rising, and realize they cannot win in the anti-matter reality and may make things worse. The League returns to their proper Earth, leaving it up to the anti-matter Luthor and what allies he can find to see if they can beat the odds themselves and one day free their world from the CSA.[7]

Trinity Timeline[edit]

In the Trinity series, reality is altered to create an Earth where Superman does not exist. In this alternative timeline, Dr. Lex Luthor is a member of an underground hero group known as The League.[8]

Earth C-Minus[edit]

The 1980s series Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew presented the parallel Earth of "Earth-C," a world populated by funny animal superheroes. The native hero Captain Carrot, in his secret identity of Rodney Rabbit, is the creator of the superhero comic Just'a Lotta Animals (an animal version of the Justice League of America). It's later revealed the characters of Rodney's comics are real in the parallel reality of "Earth C-Minus," a world terrorized by the villainous lemur Lex Lemur, nemesis of Super-Squirrel.[9]

Pocket Universe[edit]

In a "pocket universe" created by the Time Trapper,[10] a good version of Lex Luthor existed. Years after Superboy (his reality's only hero) died to protect the pocket universe,[11] Lex investigated the young hero's home and released Phantom Zone criminals from imprisonment, including his universe's version of General Zod. To fight the three Kryptonians, Lex creates a new hero of "proto-matter," an artificial life form matrix imitating the form and memories of the recently killed Lana Lang. Luthor calls this life form Supergirl (later she is also called "Matrix" or "Mae"). This Supergirl is not strong enough to achieve victory, so the pocket universe Lex sends her to the mainstream DC universe to enlist Superman's help. During the final battle with the Kryptonian terrorists, the last surviving humans, Lex included, are killed. Before he dies, this version of Lex tells Superman where to locate his reality's version of kryptonite. After executing the Kryptonians for the crime of planet-wide genocide, Superman takes the pocket universe Supergirl to his own reality.[12]

Earth-11[edit]

An Earth similar to the mainstream DC Earth but with the genders reversed. Here, a female Luthor regularly opposes the heroic Superwoman.[13]

Earth-16[edit]

After spending years fighting Superman, this Lex Luthor raises a bald daughter named Alexis (her mother is unnamed). It is implied he was abusive to Alexis when she exhibited sub-optimal intelligence. After his death, she dates Damian Wayne before revealing that she follows her father's villainous ambitions.[14]

Earth-17[edit]

This Earth experienced a devastating nuclear war in 1963. On this Earth, "Luthex" works with Darkseid against the Atomic Knights of Justice.[15]

Earth 22[edit]

The world of the Elseworlds mini-series Kingdom Come, which presents a possible dark future. After Superman and many of Earth's heroes retire, a new generation of superhumans rise who have weaker principles and less care regarding innocent life caught in their battles. When Superman returns with a group of heroes who become more proactive in not only fighting dangerous superhumans but also imprisoning them, an elderly Lex Luthor argues that this is the first step towards ruling Earth. He gathers a cadre of super-villains and several young superheroes together to form the Mankind Liberation Front, devoted to protecting humanity from being ruled by Superman and his allies. In reality, the goal of the MLF is to provoke a war between the U.N and the superhumans, allowing Luthor to seize control afterward. Luthor brainwashes Captain Marvel into becoming his aid, using mind-control worms, duplicates of the villain Mister Mind.

Earth 23[edit]

The Lex Luthor of Earth 23 is largely similar to his classic incarnation. He is the arch-enemy of U.S. President Calvin Ellis, the Superman of that world. He publicly insists his hatred for the Kryptonian is not motivated by racism (the Man of Steel of this world is black and meant to be a nod to Barack Obama).[16]

Earth-30[edit]

In the Elseworlds mini-series Superman: Red Son, Kal-L's vessel lands in the Ukraine in 1938 and later becomes Premier of the Soviet Union. In the United States, Lex Luthor is a respected scientific prodigy, married to Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane-Luthor, who becomes US President. When Luthor convinces Superman that his presence is halting human progress, the Man of Steel apparently leaves Earth. Luthor leaders a unified Earth into a golden age of "Luthorism," and it is later revealed that he is a distant ancestor to Superman, who came not from another planet but from Earth of the far future, when its sun is red (similar to an abandoned early draft of Superman's origin by Jerry Siegel and artist Russel Keaton).[17]

Earth-38[edit]

The world of the Elseworlds mini-series Superman & Batman: Generations, in which Superman and Batman begin their heroic careers in the 1930s. Luthor is a henchman of the evil scientist the Ultra-Humanite (an earlier foe of Superman's who was also a bald scientist). The two men are mortally injured in a fight with Superman and Batman at 1939 New York World's Fair. The Ultra-Humanite, his body permanently damaged, secretly has his brain transplanted into the brain dead body of Luthor. As Luthor, he spends years battling Superman and his family, causing great pain when he later turns Superman and Lois Lane's son Joel against them.[18] In the sequel mini-series Generations 2 (2008), the Ultra-Humanite's remaining minions are revealed to still have Luthor's brain in cold storage, transplanting it into a robot body later, allowing him to oppose Earth's heroes once more.

Earth-47[edit]

Introduced in Year of the Villain: Lex Luthor #1 (2019). This Lex Luthor studies and uses the Black Mercy, an alien plant that creates the illusion of a new, desired reality around an organism so it can feed off the psychic energy. Through repeated use, Lex experiences multiple lives where he acquires the great power and/or super-powers he's always wanted. Eventually, he realizes that his ambitions are based on ego, while Superman regularly tries to think of the lives and feelings of others and how his actions and existence will affect or benefit them. Changed, this Luthor spends the rest of his life on creating new forms of plant life to help people heal and live better lives.

Earth-50[edit]

First seen in the animated series Justice League in the two-part story "A Better World," this is a reality where a corrupt Lex Luthor becomes the US President and then murders The Flash. Deciding this is the last straw, this world's Superman incinerates Luthor with his heat vision and then leads his version of Justice League of America, calling themselves the Justice Lords, to take over their Earth in order to create a new order where super-villains do not threaten people.

Elseworlds[edit]

DC Comics has published many stories under the Elseworlds label, meaning it is a story that is outside of canon and does not necessarily have a specific universe designation (such as "Earth-3" or "Earth-X"). The point of Elseworlds stories is to reimagine familiar characters in new settings.

  • Superman: Speeding Bullets. A world where Kal-El is adopted by Thomas and Martha Wayne and grows up to become Batman. Without Superman to oppose him in Metropolis, Luthor rules the city through his influence and criminal operations. He relocates to Gotham City for a new challenge and a chemical accident gives him pale skin and a permanent smile, similar to the Joker.
  • Superman: The Feral Man of Steel features an upper-class Victorian Lex Luthor who is a bigoted, opportunistic gentleman explorer, contemptuous of women and non-Europeans. He has an entire African village slaughtered to obtain a unique meteoric crystal (kryptonite); upon discovering its effect on the Indian jungle Superman, Luthor takes him prisoner and tries to force him into assassinating Queen Victoria, clearing the way for Luthor to seize power. This Luthor is killed by Sir Richard Francis Burton, whom he had betrayed and left for dead in India.
  • In JLA: Created Equal, Luthor and Superman are the last two men alive on Earth after a mysterious energy cloud kills every other man on the planet. Refusing to allow Superman's influence to determine humanity's future, Luthor creates genetically engineered infants as part of a scheme to control Earth, but suffers a heart attack in a final clash with Superman (during which his use of kryptonite also rendered Superman 'vulnerable' enough to be treated by an antivirus he'd discovered that would prevent him being a carrier to the disease that wiped out all other men).
  • Superman: Last Family of Krypton depicts a world in which Jor-El and Lara come to Earth rather than only sending their child Kal-El. Jor-El starts a vast corporation JorCorp while Lara set up a self-help group based on 'Raology,' the philosophical principles of Krypton. As JorCorp expands, Lex Luthor is invited to work at the company, but comes to resent the perception that he will always be in Jor-El's shadow and begins to plot against the House of El.
    File:Luthor in Dark Knight Strikes Again.png
    Luthor as he appears in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again envisions a United States secretly run by Lex Luthor and Brainiac, who use a hologram named Rick Rickard to act as President. He controls the more powerful heroes like Superman, Captain Marvel and Flash by holding their loved ones hostage, until Batman's underground movement foils the operation. Luthor is later killed by the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
  • Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl. Lex Luthor is the primary benefactor of the Justice Society who also revolutionized life in Metropolis and acts as a mentor to this world's Supergirl. It is revealed that his high-tech 'solar battery' is based around analysis of the corpse of the infant Kal-El, whom Luthor found and killed in case he posed a threat. It is also revealed that he attempted to have the Waynes killed for unspecified reasons, although this plan fails due to the intervention of Jim Gordon and his wife, resulting in Barbara Gordon becoming Batgirl while Bruce Wayne serves as her aid and financial backer.
  • Superman: Kal. A world where Kal-El's rocket lands on Earth in the Middle Ages. Kal is raised as a farmer before becoming a blacksmith's apprentice in an area ruled by Baron Luthor, who seeks to force Lady Loisse to marry him after her father's death. Wearing a green gemstone that fell from the sky years ago, Luthor's presence weakens Kal. When Luthor discovers the rocket that brought Kal to Earth, he has it forged into a suit of near-invincible armour. Kal later opposes him with a sword made from the same alien metal.
  • Son of Superman depicts a grim future where Superman disappears and Lex Luthor becomes the financial backer of the Justice League. It is revealed that Luthor discovered the Fortress of Solitude and made a deal with the government to take Superman out of the picture so that he could distribute the stolen Kryptonian technology in exchange for discreet control over future political decisions. Fifteen years after his disappearance, Superman is rescued by his son Jon, and the two work with Batman to oppose Luthor.
  • JLA: The Nail features a world where Kal-El's rocket was found by an Amish community in Kansas rather than the Kents, leading to him living in isolation rather than becoming Superman. Without Superman's interference, Luthor becomes mayor of Metropolis is a major leader in an anti-metahuman movement, claiming Earth's heroes and the Justice League are really alien invaders seeking to take control of Earth. Finding Kal-El's ship, Luthor studies its advanced technology and uses DNA samples in it to create a an army of mindless Bizarro clones, presenting them to the public as peacekeeping Liberator "robots" designed to combat the "metahuman threat." Luthor also attempts grafting the Kryptonian DNA onto human beings.
  • Nightwing: The New Order features a world where Nightwing activates a device that depowers ninety percent of the super-powered population. Eventually, powers are outlawed and super-powered beings must take inhibitor medications or be contained. Lex becomes Superman's ally. When his left arm is severed, he replaces it with a robotic limb.[19]

Injustice: Gods Among Us[edit]

The video game Injustice: Gods Among Us features an alternate version of Luthor who is a brilliant and wealthy man of a heroic nature, as well as Superman's best friend. When Metropolis is destroyed by a nuclear bomb, Luthor survives and helps the League with their plans to enforce peace over the world. Superman's adopted parents the Kents ask Luthor to make sure Superman doesn't go too far in his goals, now that he is driven by the traumatic loss of his wife Lois and their unborn child. As Superman and the League become the new rulers of Earth with their new Regime, Luthor becomes a secret mole, feeding information to the new Insurgency organized by his world's Batman. The comic book tie-in series Year Four reveals this Luthor was secretly in love with Lois Lane and believes she would still be alive if she'd chosen him instead. He also has a his firm belief that Lois would not approve of Superman's actions following her death.

In the sequel video game Injustice 2 Luthor is dead and a new prison has been built in his honor. It is revealed that before his death, Lex had Lucius Fox, one of Batman's most loyal allies, send a final message to the Dark Knight. In the message, Luthor says that once Superman is defeated, he should work to restore the Earth not as Batman, but as Bruce Wayne. Lex also arranged to transfer his fortune and resources to Wayne.

Film and television[edit]

  • Superman and its sequels presented Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) as a criminal mastermind and egomaniac. He is obsessed with real estate and his plans usually involve him stealing large amounts of property and land because it is a commodity that will always be in demand. He causes an earthquake on the West Coast in the first movie, negotiates with General Zod for Australia in Superman II, and in Superman Returns (in which he is portrayed by Kevin Spacey), he tries to create a new continent.
  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman presents the CEO version of Lex Luthor (John Shea) from The Man of Steel in live media for the first time.
  • Superman: The Animated Series was created by picking and choosing various aspects of Superman's many incarnations. The Machiavellian Luthor (voiced by Clancy Brown) is also used as the main antagonist for Superman. He also appears in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
  • Smallville begins with a teen Clark Kent saving Lex Luthor. His father Lionel Luthor has most of the personality and ruthlessness of Lex in the comics as an analog of what Lex will become. In the series, exposure to kryptonite can give humans superpowers. During the kryptonite meteor shower that brought Clark to Earth, Lex lost his hair, but gained a super-immune system. Clark and Lex start out as friends, but as the series sees Clark ascend to the hero he appears destined to become, it also shows Lex's descent to the villain he will become, driving him to commit various questionable actions in the belief that he is protecting the world.
  • Lex Luthor reappears in an episode of The Batman, voiced again by Clancy Brown. This version of Luthor is very similar to the one appearing on Superman: The Animated Series. The episode The Batman/Superman Story is filled with numerous homage to the DC Animated Universe as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and Superman are voiced by the same actors who voiced them on Justice League.

See also[edit]

  • Alternative versions of Robin
  • Alternative versions of Superman

References[edit]

  1. Superman: Earth One Volume 2 (October 2012)
  2. Superman: Earth One Volume 3 (February 2015)
  3. Amalgam Comics: Super Soldier #1, 1996
  4. "Escape from Bizarro World" - Action Comics #855-857
  5. Multiversity Guidebook (2015)
  6. Johns, Geoff (w), Finch, David (p), Friend, Richard (i), Oback, Sonia (col), Leigh, Rob (let). "Forever Evil Chapter Six: The Power of Mazahs!" Forever Evil 6 (May 2014), DC Comics
  7. JLA: Earth-2
  8. Trinity #25
  9. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #14-15, April–May 1983
  10. Action Comics #591 (August 1987)
  11. Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3, #38 (September 1987)
  12. Superman vol. 2, #21-22; Adventures of Superman #444 (September/October 1988)
  13. Superman/Batman #23, 2005
  14. The Multiversity 3 (October 2014): The Just
  15. Multiversity Guidebook (January 2015)
  16. Action Comics (vol. 2) #9
  17. Superman: Red Son: New York: DC Comics: 2004
  18. Multiversity Guidebook: (January 2015)
  19. Nightwing: The New Order(2017)


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