Comic Book: Lex Luthor

Superman is not smiling right now...

"I'm the only sane inmate of Asylum Earth. I'm not eager to hand tomorrow over to an interplanetary extremist with laser eyes. There's only room on this world for one leader, Superman. When I'm finished with you, every last gibbon out there will know you for the menace you are... and they'll realize that Lex Luthor is their savior."

The Super Villain, according to many, Alexander "Lex" Luthor is the archenemy of Superman, and one of the oldest villains in comic book history, making his debut in Action Comics # 23 in April of 1940. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the same team who created Superman himself, Luthor was an instant success, and ensured himself a permanent place in the Last Son of Krypton's Rogues Gallery. Since then he's gone onto be a major player in the DC Universe, serving as one of its most iconic villains, alongside the likes of the Joker.

Originally portrayed as a red-headed war profiteer who aimed to gain World Domination by playing various political factions against each other, Luthor was reimagined as a bald, egomaniacal Mad Scientist after an illustrator confused him with the Ultra-Humanite. This conception of the character stuck, and for the remainder of the Silver Age and the Bronze Age of comics, Luthor was written as a Card-Carrying Villain who used his technological prowess to match Superman's phsyical might, regularly allying with other villains, like Brainiac, Bizarro, and the Joker in order to vex the Man of Steel and his allies. One thing that did change about Luthor was that as time went by, he became progressively younger and more physically active. The paunchy man in his fifties was replaced by an exceptionally fit man in his forties, and was then retconned again into being only a few years older than Superman and possessed of a warsuit that allowed him to fight the Kryptonian hand-to-hand. He also gained his own supporting cast, including his sister and Morality Pet, Lena, and the planet of Lexor, which hailed him as a hero after he saved it from destruction, and a number of alternate universe doppelgangers, including Alexei Luthor of Earth-2 (based on his original, Golden Age appearance) and the heroic Alexander Luthor Sr. of Earth-3. This version of Luthor, along with the rest of the existing DC Universe, was erased from continuity following the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

After the Crisis, John Byrne was given the job of re-imagining Luthor for the new DC Universe. Byrne, aware that Luthor's Mad Scientist portrayal was becoming dated, chose to reinvent Luthor as a Corrupt Corporate Executive, who was able to control the city of Metropolis' criminal underworld from behind the scenes, avoiding any responsibility for his actions by maintaining a good public image and employing legions of lawyers. As one of the richest and most politically influential men in the DCU, Luthor was able to become a perpetual thorn in Superman's side, as the one criminal whom the Man of Steel could never bring to justice. As a planner and criminal financier second-to-none Luthor also became the main backer and organizer of the various Injustice Gangs and Secret Societies of Supervillains that have plagued the larger DC Universe, making him a problem for not only Superman, but the entire Justice League as well. Possessed of a "tenth level intellect", Luthor is easily the smartest human being alive, and is a formidable adversary for any hero who thinks of crossing him. It has been said that while other supervillains might fear the Joker, they want to be Lex Luthor.

He has since gone back and forth in terms of characterization, at times the CEO of LexCorp, at times a Mad Scientist, at times a classic Diabolical Mastermind, and sometimes a combination of all three. He has faked his own death, and impersonated his supposed son, revealed himself as one of Superboy's genetic donors, and met Death. He's been the mastermind of numerous plots against the heroes of Earth, a participant in General Lane's genocide of New Krypton, and briefly, President of the United States of America. He's even starred in his own spinoffs, serving as the Villain Protagonist in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, the "Black Ring" story arc in Action Comics, and Forever Evil. In any incarnation, Luthor is driven by his burning hatred of Superman, which is frequently put down to envy over the fact that, no matter how rich Luthor becomes, no matter how much political power he attains, and no matter how hard he schemes, he will never, ever be Superman. His current characterization is a balanced medium between all his incarnations: he is the ruthless and savvy corporate executive, the formidably brilliant mad scientist and the egomaniac conqueror in equal measure. This makes him one of the more complex and multifaceted villains in all of comics, which helps cement his enduring popularity.

Luthor has appeared frequently in other media, featuring in video games, the original Superman films, Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, Superman Returns, and the television series Smallville. He has also appeared in the animated films Superman: Doomsday, and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. He is easily the most recognisable, and best known, member of Superman's Rogues Gallery, and was rated IGN's "4th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time." Comic book critic Peter Sanderson has described Luthor as one of the few genuine megavillains, whose adventures cross genres, putting him in a league alongside Professor Moriarty, Count Dracula, Hannibal Lecter, Doctor Doom, and Darth Vader.

If you want to hear Lex's take on all of this, click here.


Notable Pre-Crisis comics
  • "Europe at War (Part II)" [Action Comics #23]: Debut of Luthor as a character
  • "How Luthor Met Superboy!" [Adventure Comics #271]: The Silver Age origin story of Luthor
  • "The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman!" [Superman #164]: Introduced the planet Lexor; very frequently reprinted and considered a landmark in the characterization of the Mad Scientist Luthor
  • "Luthor Unleashed!" [Action Comics #544]: Lexor is destroyed; introduces Luthor's distinctive green and purple Powered Armor
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths

Notable Post-Crisis comics

Notable New 52 comics

Film (Live Action)

Live Action TV

Video Games

Western Animation

Tropes associated with Luthor:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: Sometimes written as someone who hates all alien life and wants it destroyed or enslaved.
  • Abusive Dad: Luthor's father (eventually named Lionel) has at best been characterised as a fellow criminal, and at worst as an abusive, alcoholic monster. Smallville's portrayal of him is probably the best known, showing him as a domineering, tyrannical narcissist and Corrupt Corporate Executive who wants Lex to turn out as badly as he has.
  • Affably Evil: Luthor tries to present this way, and Depending on the Writer, may actually be fairly reasonable when he's not dealing with Superman. One thing that is often noted is that Lex is actually quite sincere about how he treats his employees, and he has respect for blue-collar people who go beyond their means to get ahead (since he used to be one as well).
    • Faux Affably Evil: More often than not, Luthor's revealed to be this. It's worth noting that of all the supervillains out there, the one he gets along with the best is the Joker.
  • Alliterative Name: LL, just like Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and his father, Lionel.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: As prominent non-powered humans with megalomaniacal intentions and a suit of Powered Armour, he and Marvel's Dr. Doom have become this for one another, occupying a very similar place in their respective universe's supervillain fraternities.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: Luthor saved the world of Lexor Pre-Crisis, and is the greatest superhero on the Crime Syndicate's homeworld, Pre-and-Post-Crisis. Superman: Red Son also has a heroic, alternate universe Luthor, who manages to stop a Stalinist Superman from taking over the world. It's actually kind of a running theme that, when Superman's bad, Lex Luthor is the one who steps up as humanity's greatest hero. Same thing happened in Injustice: Gods Among Us.
  • Archenemy: Luthor is the longest running contender for the title of Superman's archnemesis, and is the character who most readily springs to mind when you hear "Superman villain". Brainiac and Zod are also in the running, but Luthor is the one everyone thinks of. In fact, this status carries over to alternate universes: on the Crime Syndicate's homeworld, Luthor's Good Twin, Alexander Luthor Sr., is the archenemy of Ultraman, while on the Pre-Crisis Earth-2, Alexei Luthor was the rival of the Golden Age Superman, Kal-L.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Towards Superboy who was created at his instigation from his and Superman's DNA.
  • Axe Crazy: Luthor's usually fairly stable, but when he cracks it is always in a violently psychotic manner.
  • Bad Boss/Benevolent Boss: Depending on the Writer Luthor may be a tyrannical boss, or a master manager who takes careful care of his underlings' needs.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: He certainly does in New Krypton, where he renders the Kryptonians functionally extinct and is rewarded for it by the American government.
  • Badass Boast: The page quote. Also...
    "I am Lex Luthor. I am the greatest scientist on this planet, and would be on yours as well."
    "I raise my voice, and Satan himself is on bended knee. I am The Leader of the free world, you impotent little psychotic. I've had the most powerful beings on this or any planet gunning for me for years, and you think you're going to scare me?"
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: When he's not in prison togs or an exoskeleton, Luthor is usually in his business suit.
    • Exemplified in the finale of Justice League Unlimited when he shows up to the final confrontation with Darkseid having ditched his battle fatigues for his "power suit" so it's what he's wearing when he saves the world.
  • Badass Normal: Luthor's only consistent power is his vast intellect. Has become an Empowered Badass Normal on occasion, either by donning his warsuit, gaining an Orange Lantern Ring, or other means.
  • Bald of Awesome: Lex is an evil SOB, but he can certainly inspire awe when he wants to.
  • Bald of Evil: Perhaps the iconic example. Pre-Crisis he was evil because he was bald, blaming Superboy for the accident that cost him his hair.
  • Battle Butler: His Amazonian bodyguards Mercy and Hope.
  • Beware the Superman: More modern interpretations often have Luthor preaching a pro-human/anti-metahuman line, claiming that Superman will eventually go rogue.
  • Big Bad: If somebody is screwing with Superman's life, the odds of it being traced back to Luthor stand at somewhere around ninety percent. He's also a prominent figure among the DC villain community as a whole; most DC villains may fear The Joker, but they want to be Luthor.
  • Body Horror: When he was forcibly fused with Brainiac during Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?.
  • Brains: Evil; Brawn: Good: Superman is far from stupid, but he usually solves his problems with his fists, an option that Luthor doesn't have open to him. Moreover, as a "tenth level intellect", Luthor is still orders of magnitude smarter than Superman.
  • Cardboard Prison: Whether it's through legal or illegal means, Luthor will always be out of prison in a matter of days, if not hours.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Pre-Crisis, and in some adaptations.
  • Care Bear Stare: Forced to this when fused with the Zone Child, who would not allow him to do anything negative. He eventually lost his godlike powers when he tried to kill Superman anyway.
  • Cassandra Truth: Flatly refuses to believe that Clark Kent is Superman.
  • Characterization Marches On: He's gone from being a stereotypical war profiteer to a pro-human extremist, with plenty of stops in-between.
  • The Chessmaster: Lex's schemes always involve vast amounts of forethought and planning, and there's inevitably a back up plan or three.
  • Chronic Villainy: Luthor simply cannot give up on supervillainy so long as Superman is alive and loved.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: His daughter Lena hasn't been heard from since he was impeached as President and she was put in foster care.
  • Chubby Chaser: He may be this for Amanda Waller.
  • Civilian Villain: He's faked reformation on a few occasions. One of those occasions let him become President.
  • Clark Kenting: The only reason a brilliant mind like Lex's hasn't figured out Clark Kent is Superman is that he can't conceive of a powerful being like Superman even having an alter ego, let alone a mere human like humble Clark.
  • Classic Villain: The total opposite of the hero he fights, with pride, envy, and a dose of wrath as his major sin.
  • Cloning Gambit: In the early '90s, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, he faked his own death and came back as a younger clone, posing as his identical son. This led to...
    • Clone Degeneration: He eventually contracted a degenerative illness due to a flaw in the cloning process.
  • Contemplative Boss: Fond of the pose.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: His default since the eighties.
  • Cultured Badass/Wicked Cultured: Loves classic literature, philosophy, classical music, and art, seeing them as proof of his superiority.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Inflicted one on one of General Zod's soldiers in Last Son, leaving the guy a smoking corpse after a few seconds of combat. Luthor with Kryptonite gas grenades and a red solar rifle, vs a Kryptonian who doesn't know about any of his race's weaknesses? Not even close to fair.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Lex is the Trope Namer. He's the smartest man in the world, but he wastes his resources on fighting a flying alien in blue spandex because he's angry that there's someone out there that's better than him. Lampshaded by Superman after Big Blue returns from a prolonged absence. Superman comments that if it really mattered to him Lex could have cured cancer and generally made himself an even bigger hero than Superman ever was, but instead he spent all his time obsessing over Superman's inevitable return.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: His abusive childhood is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: In the early '90s, he contracted terminal cancer from the kryptonite ring he wore. Later, after his Cloning Gambit backfired into Cloning Blues, he was left a shriveled husk suffering from locked-in syndrome—though by wiring himself into Superman's Kryptonian battlesuit he was still able to be a serious threat.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Has used Superman's picture as one before.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has a very dry, caustic sense of humour.
  • Deal with the Devil: In Underworld Unleashed, he sold his soul to the demon lord Neron in exchange for a cure for the degenerative illness afflicting his cloned body.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Has this as his life's goal. While he's yet to succeed, he has come very close, and has bested several other nigh-godlike beings, including the Crime Syndicate's Ultraman.
  • Demoted to Dragon: This occasionally happens to Luthor, though it usually doesn't turn out well for his would-be employers.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: For Lex gaining control is what matters, and everything else is just secondary.
  • Determinator: Nothing keeps Lex down permanently.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: He began as one, and retains aspects of the trope to this day, though he usually tries to operate with at least a pretense of legality in the modern era.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: So Silver Age Lex, you tried to kill Superman for making you bald? To be fair, that story had Luthor's revenge being initially restricted to Luthor trying to show up Superboy with grandiose public works projects. When they went disastrously wrong and forced Superboy to intervene, Luthor was publicly scorned and sought to kill him in revenge.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Both Alexandra Luthor of Superman: Earth One and Wonder Woman villain Veronica Cale can be said to be female versions of our Lex.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: During New Krypton he was this to General Sam Lane, whose plan could not have functioned without Luthor's technical expertise and supervillain credentials.
  • The Dreaded: By superhero and supervillain alike.
  • Driven by Envy: Lex was the most beloved figure in Metropolis before Superman arrived, and he will never forgive "the alien" for taking that from him.
  • Enemy Mine: Has regularly allied with Superman against various alien threats.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His sister, Pre-Crisis.
    • Subverted Post-Crisis. He kept his wife in a medically-induced coma after she gave birth to their daughter and later had her assassinated so she couldn't make trouble for his presidential campaign. And the aforementioned daughter? He sold her to Brainiac 13 for control of the 64th century technology he brought to Metropolis.
    • In the New 52, played straight again with the first Bizarro, and with his sister.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Depending on the Writer.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: This is why Lex will never truly understand that Superman doesn't have an ulterior motive.
  • Evil Former Friend: To Clark Kent.
  • Evil Genius: Almost goes without saying.
  • Evil Is Petty: Lex's entire supervillain career is based around a need to be better than others.
  • Evil Plan: Kill Superman.
  • Evil Redhead: Luthor was originally a redhead and still has red eyebrows. His Earth-2 counterpart, Alexei Luthor, kept the Golden Age Luthor's full head of red hair.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Luthor has regularly clashed with the DCU's other major villains, most notably in The Black Ring when he took on Mr. Mind, Gorilla Grodd, Larfleeze, and Brainiac in rapid succession, and in Forever Evil when he took on the Crime Syndicate. His war with Alexander Luthor Jr. in Infinite Crisis is also notable.
  • Evil Uncle: To his niece, Laurie, Post-Crisis.
  • Eviler Than Thou: If there is another contender for the title of Big Bad in the storyline, Luthor will at some point try to take the position from them.
  • The Extremist Was Right: He certainly wasn't wrong about what would happen if a whole army of Kryptonians landed on Earth during New Krypton. Even without Lane and Luthor's interference, the Kandorians (or at least their leadership) quickly showed themselves to be arrogant supremacists who flouted human laws and felt themselves to be immune to any form of corrective behaviour. Luthor finds the entire affair extremely gratifying.
  • Fantastic Racism: Towards aliens.
  • Fat Bastard: In the Silver Age. He lost the weight throughout the Bronze Age.
  • Fiction 500: One of the richest, if not the richest men in the world, alongside the likes of Bruce Wayne.
  • Fictional Political Party: Represented the Tomorrow Party as President.
  • Final Solution: Was complicit in genocide when he, Sam Lane, and Reactron destroyed New Krypton.
  • First Name Basis: When written by Byrne.
  • Five Stages of Grief: More like three stages. When he met Death, he experienced the first three stages and then, having realized what he was doing, faked depression to manipulate her (it didn't work). As he said, he doesn't do "acceptance".
  • Flat Earth Atheist: On moral rather than scientific grounds. It's been pointed out that it's not because Luthor can't believe in something bigger than humanity. It's because he can't believe in something bigger than him.
  • Foil: Superman and Luthor stand, respectively, atop the pinnacles of physical and intellectual perfection, have a vast array of powers at their disposal (Superman's innate, Luthor's technological), and understand what it's like to be isolated from society.. Yet where Superman tries to use his powers (which are uniquely his) to help the rest of the people around him, Luthor uses his (which are at least partly owed to his workers and the various alien races he's lifted concepts from) to exploit people for his own gain. Throw in the fact that Superman is an alien who nevertheless represents the best of humanity, and Luthor is a human who represents the worst of humanity, and you've got a solid contrast.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Rebelled against his father in the most extreme ways.
  • For the Evulz: Some of his Kick the Dog moments fall under this.
  • Freudian Excuse: In modern continuity, Luthor is usually portrayed as having had a truly miserable childhood at the hands of parents and foster families who abused and exploited him.
  • Funny Animal: His Earth-C-Minus counterpart, Lex Lemur, archfoe of Supersquirrel.
  • Good Twin: Alexander Luthor Sr. of Earth-3 Pre-Crisis, and the Antimatter Universe Alexander Luthor Post-Crisis.
  • Greed: The Orange Lantern Ring was right: Luthor does want it all.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Superman. No matter what Lex does he will never be as powerful, as loved, or as good as Superman.
  • Green Eyes: To represent his envy of Superman.
  • Grandfather Clause: For anyone else, being a Supervillain archenemy of ostensibly less physical power than the Super Hero is an uphill battle to establish credibility. Luthor however has been precisely that since The Golden Age of Comic Books and has never had been questioned as the nemesis of Superman.
  • Guns Akimbo: He's done this a few times in the comics, and in various adaptations like Smallville and Justice League Unlimited.
  • Heel Realization: In All-Star Superman.
  • A Hero to His Hometown: A hero on the planet Lexor, actually.
  • Heroic Build: Starting in the eighties.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Towards the end of Batman No Mans Land, he was revealed (read: Retconned) to be The Chessmaster behind the events of the entire Story Arc and then, at the last minute, was himself hijacked by The Joker.
  • Humongous Mecha: Once used Superman's Kryptonian warsuit to attack the hero, after he himself had been left crippled by Clone Degeneration. Silver Age Luthor was also fond of giant robots of various abilities.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: The root of his loathing of superhumans.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Why he especially loathes Superman.
  • Insistent Terminology: Calling Superman "the alien".
  • Insufferable Genius: Will always remind people that he's the smartest man alive.
  • Ironic Hell: Post-Crisis Luthor was ultimately left stranded in the Phantom Zone, with all the Kryptonian criminals he hates.
  • Ironic Name: "Lex" means "the law".
  • Irrational Hatred: His hate for Superman is based on nothing but his own personal prejudices.
  • It's All About Me: Other people simply don't matter to Lex. He's at the centre of the universe, and everybody else is irrelevant.
  • Kick the Dog: Constantly. Most notably when he healed his (Post-Crisis) sister of a neurological disease, then gave it right back to her.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Whether it's handing Alexander Luthor Jr. over to the Joker, setting up Toyman to be executed by a robot assassin, or gunning down Gor from behind, Luthor has regularly inflicted horrible abuse on the DCU's other villains.
  • Lady Macbeth: His alternate universe counterpart on Earth-One has little interest in killing Superman, and considers the concept unethical. His wife, Alexandra, on the other hand, is fascinated by the concept, and pushes him towards doing it. One begins to wonder which of them is really Earth-One's version of him.
  • Large Ham: Always.
  • The Leader: Of a number of supervillain collectives over the years.
  • Legion of Doom: If one exists, he will be running it.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Lex can and does end up here in conflicts with other villains. This is most notable when he faces Alexander Luthor Jr. in Infinite Crisis, when he allies with Superman against Zod in Last Son, in The Black Ring, where he is up against a virtual who's who of DC's worst, including Venusian parasite Mr. Mind, brain eating primate Gorilla Grodd, immortal psychopath and conqueror Vandal Savage, living embodiment of greed Larfleeze, and omnicidal computer mind Brainiac, and in Forever Evil, where he takes on Earth-3's Crime Syndicate.
  • Lust: For power. No matter how much he has, Lex will always want more.
  • Mad Scientist: Was an archetypal one in the sixties and built his fortune on his technology in the modern era. Occasionally he'll revert to form, particularly if LexCorp is unavailable to him for whatever reason.
  • Man of the City: Considers himself(and most citizens consider him to be it also) the first citizen of Metropolis.
  • Mercy Kill: Receives one from Lana Lang in Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?.
  • Morality Pet: His sister Lena during the Silver Age and the Bronze Age. Luthor went out of his way to shield her from any knowledge of his criminal lifestyle. It appears she's this again in the New 52; he tried and failed to save her when she fell ill, leaving her an invalid.
  • Muggle Power: Goes on and on about leveling the playing field, and preaches a xenophobic, pro-human/anti-alien form of extremism. This is especially notable in Last Son and New Krypton, when he's given the chance to "save the world" from evil Kryptonians led by Zod.
  • Narcissist: Probably the best diagnosis for Lex, given his inability to see others as anything other than extensions of himself, his pathological need to be the most important person in the room, and his identification with beings like Brainiac and the Joker.
  • Naytheist: Refuses to acknowledge any of the setting's gods.
  • Never My Fault: Always refuses to take responsibility for his actions, typically blaming Superman. This especially goes in Luthor's Silver Age origin when his first revenge of grandiose public works projects went disastrously wrong and Luthor blamed Superboy for humiliating him when the superhero was forced to intervene.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When Superman accidentally destroyed Lexor in the Bronze Age, intensifying Luthor's (already extreme) hatred of him.
  • Noble Demon: When written by Elliot S Maggin in the Bronze Age.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Still heavily involved in running LexCorp, and that's in addition to being a supervillain.
  • Not So Different: From Brainiac, as New Krypton points out. Both are obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, though Lex considers the alien's omnicidal mania to be self-defeating.
  • Obvious Trap: See here.
  • Off on a Technicality: Again and again and again.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Nobody else gets to take down Superman. Not Zod, not Brainiac, not even Darkseid. Only Lex.
  • The Pardon: Given one after New Krypton.
  • Physical God/Reality Warper: Luthor briefly attained godlike powers at the end of The Black Ring, when he fused with the Zone Child.
  • Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills: Luthor interacts with Superman face-to-face all the time, and in a good number of continuities is also childhood friends with Clark Kent (and at the very least sees him often through Lois), and he's among the most intelligent men in the entire world. Somehow in spite of these three facts he never, ever figures out Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. Various explanations for this have cropped up over the decades, but the fact remains that Luthor only figured out Clark's true identity when it was spelt out for him via looking through Superman's memories. Even then it took him a minute.
  • Powered Armour: His green and purple warsuit, which he gained in the eighties, and uses in various forms to today.
  • The Power of Hate: His hatred of Superman has kept him going on many occasions.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Lex can't rule the world if everybody is dead.
  • President Evil: The Trope Namer, in fact.
  • Pride: Supremely hubristic, to an almost Greek level.
  • Psycho Serum/Super Serum: Luthor has experimented with chemical enhancement on several occasions, including a Kryptonite-laced variant of Bane's Venom steroid, which heightened his strength and reflexes to near-superhuman levels.
  • Rags to Riches: Luthor is usually portrayed as growing up poor, be it in Metropolis or Smallville. It was selling his inventions that made him a millionaire, and the construction of LexCorp that turned him into a multibillionaire.
  • Robosexual: A few times, typically with his own creations.
  • Robot Master: Luthor's had legions of robotic minions since the Silver Age, and regularly uses them to even the odds between himself and Superman.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!!: What money cannot buy, political influence and business connections can.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: There's not a lot of things Lex's money can't buy.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: During his time as President, Luthor violated many, many laws.
  • Secondary Color Nemesis: As Superman's archnemesis, Luthor directly contrasts his primary colors with secondary colors purple and green.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Engineered the deaths of his parents so that he could collect the insurance money for start up capital.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Often depicted this way.
  • Smug Snake: In the Silver Age, when he had all the arrogance of his modern day incarnation, but none of the success rate. They started to undo this in the Bronze Age, and as of the 1980s, he usually falls into MB territory.
  • The Sociopath: Often referred to as such, though he doesn't necessarily hit all the requirements for the psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Towards Superman, resulting in many different clones.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Whether Luthor believes his pro-human rhetoric, or whether it's a cover for his hatred of Superman is a case of Depending on the Writer.
  • Super Intelligence: Brainiac described him as a "10th Level Intellect", making his intelligence superior to the combined IQs of everyone on Earth, both now (6th Level) and in the 31st Century (9th). He is also smarter than almost every individual on Colu, a planet renowned for the computer like minds of its inhabitants (8th on average). In the DC Universe as a whole, only Brainiac himself (a 12th Level Intellect) is known to be smarter than Lex.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Whatever Lex is paying his security team, he should probably cut it.
  • Take Over the World: This was usually Luthor's end goal Pre-Crisis, and it occasionally resurfaces as a motivation even today.
  • Teen Genius: Was an inventor even in high school.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Had a violent streak even as an adolescent.
  • ‹bermensch: He certainly thinks he is.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: No matter how many times Superman saves his life, Lex will never get over his grudge. Justified, as he sees Superman helping him as just another form of "the alien" condescending to him.
  • Unholy Matrimony: He once entered into a marriage of convenience with fellow Diabolical Mastermind Contessa Erica Alexandra Del Portenza after she seized control of LexCorp while he was indisposed. They alternated between being partners and trying to eliminate each other until Luthor decided to run for President, at which point he had her assassinated.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Sometimes goes on about how much better the world would be under his rule.
  • Villain Protagonist: Of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, The Black Ring, and Forever Evil. The latter ended up turning him to a Heel-Face Turn, at lest for a time.
  • Villain Team-Up: An expert at getting other villains to get together.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: For most of the post-Crisis era.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Always spectacular when it happens.
  • Villainous Friendship: He and The Joker are probably the closest thing the other one has to a friend Post-Crisis. Pre-Crisis he considered Brainiac a friend, but the robot eventually betrayed and bodyjacked him.
  • Villainous Rescue: Lex and the Superman Revenge Squad freed Metropolis from General Zod's control, saving the JLA and the world during Last Son.
  • Villainous Underdog: Grant Morrison once noted that a part of you almost has to cheer for Luthor, as he goes up against a demigod armed with nothing but his intellect and his arrogance.
  • Villainous Valor: He's a man with no real superpowers. Superman can benchpress planets. This is part of Luthor's character by default.
  • We Can Rule Together: He says this to Amanda Waller while explaining his plan. He concludes this with a Forced Kiss. It's unknown if he has feelings for her or he was too delusional from the kryptonite injections.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Several comic book origin stories have suggested that Lex Luthor and Clark Kent both attended Smallville High, and were friends. Smallville took this interpretation and ran with it.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Usually has one.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Played with. In his own mind, Lex is quite sincere in his desire to uplift humanity and serve as an example of all they can accomplish. In reality, that philanthropy only extends to how much gain he can get out of the situation, and he'd be more than willing to slit every human on the planet's throat if it will further his vendetta with Superman.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Most notably when he beat the tar out of Supergirl.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Doesn't like to hurt kids, but will do it.
  • Wrath: Towards anyone who aids "the alien".
  • You're Insane!: Been on the receiving end of this a few times.