Lex Luthor is far and wide known to be among the most iconic Superman villains. However, he wouldn’t be such an enduring character that gets included in most Superman-related media if he wasn’t also brilliantly written. Luthor’s complicated persona and the fact that he helps Clark now and then begs to ask the question, is he truly a villain or rather an anti-hero? This is what we set out to explore today, the depths of Luthor’s character, so let’s see, is Lex Luthor truly a villain or rather an anti-hero?
Lex Luthor is a supervillain, and you will rarely come across a character as purely evil and irredeemable as he is. He is obsessed with power and is often connected with unethical experiments and business practices. He is a murderer and manipulative narcissist, and need I go on? Yes, Lex Luthor was known to be an ally of Superman in some stories, but it was mostly for his own interests, and if Luthor doesn’t display straight-out evil, his actions can only be perceived as morally ambiguous but never heroic.
Now that we’ve covered that there’s really nothing more to Lex than pure evil, it’s time to analyze it in a bit more detail. If you’re interested in all the worst things that Lex has ever done, stay with us and keep reading!
Lex Luthor has no redeemable qualities
Usually, when we do these types of articles, we try to look at the character from all perspectives and find arguments that he could be, in some aspects, considered a villain or a hero, with Lex, is different unless you consider his radical personality and his hatred of Superman and superpowered individuals justified.
Alexander Luthor was raised in Smallville, Kansas, alongside his sickly sister Lena. Their father, Lionel, was a scientist in the Legionnaires Club. The club was formed to uncover various cosmic secrets. Lionel aimed to create a human-martian hybrid, capturing the young J’onn J’onzz for experimentation. Lex, using the alias “Albie,” bonded with J’onn and became friends through telepathic communication. When the Legionnaires faced shutdown, Lex saved J’onn by sending him home and exposing Lionel’s plan.
This event led to Savage shutting down the Legionnaires and erasing memories, including Lionel’s, causing him to spiral into alcoholism and abuse. So, Lex Luthor had a pretty abusive childhood, and this was the first thing that kind of started eroding his faith in humanity until there was nothing left.
Lex did try being decent, but he was ultimately always overshadowed by Superman, and this is probably the most iconic thing about him, his hatred for the Man of Steel.
But besides always plotting to take Superman down, Lex is also obsessed with power. This is what drives most of his villainous activities and most of his criminal dealings. He is arrogant and doesn’t care about the consequences for humanity. He often places himself as the arbiter of what is wrong and what is right, despite being on the evil side more often than not.
He doesn’t shy away from being unethical both in his business dealings and in his experiments, disregarding both the well-being of humanity and his subjects as a whole. Luthor often uses his wealth and political influence to gain even more power, manipulating both society and the economy. Not even his own family is protected from his schemes and manipulations. Ultimately, Luthor seeks world domination, and this is the biggest proof of his villainy.
Luthor is willing to hurt his own family
Luthor’s origin story has been revised numerous times, just like with the rest of the most popular DC characters, and in some versions of his origin story, Lex is responsible for the death of his parents. One of the most common motifs of Lex’s childhood (across all origins) is the fact that he was a miserable child.
He allegedly started hating his parents since he was aware of them and plotted how to pull himself out of the slums. Luthor used his shady connections to take out an insurance policy on his parents without them even realizing it, and before they were to take a trip, a mechanic tampered with their car, which eventually led them to end up in a deadly car accident.
Luthor cashed in the insurance money and used it to fund LexCorp. He managed to pull himself out of the slums eventually.
Luthor has a sister, Lena, and the two of them overall have a strained relationship at best. In ‘Adventure Comics Vol 2’ #6, Lena is living in Smallville, paralyzed and suffering from an undisclosed condition that made her paralyzed over the years. She has a daughter Lori who is a good friend of Superboy.
Lex eventually found out about this and visited his sister for the first time in numerous years since he had worked hard to hide all his connections to Smallville, including his sister. Luthor goes on a huge rant once again about how Superman is holding the world back, and Superboy mentions that Luthor can’t even cure his own sister. Luthor cures his sister (but before he held his niece at gunpoint) but eventually reverses it and lets her suffer once again.
He explained he did it only to prove to Superboy that he could do it, but as long as Superman is alive, he will never reveal how he did it, leaving his sister to suffer because of Superman, pardon, because of his own sociopathy.
As you can see, Luthor is pretty much a lost cause. Even if, by some miracle, he is presented in good light, you eventually figure out that he had some sinister motivation for it. Even when he is fighting against evil, this is because he plans to one-up that evil with his own version of evil. Lex Luthor is a supervillain through and through, and because of his intellect and his unrepentant attitude, he remains the most dangerous of them all.
What is the most evil thing that Lex Luthor did? Let us know in the comments!