Something that occurred during a discussion at the Superman "Headscratchers" page. The physical fight between Superman and Batman in issue #3 seems to come out of nowhere and would seem to act as a perfect example of everything Lex Luthor trying to warn the world about Superman — that he's dangerous and irrational, he's a God pretending to be a man and we only have his word he won't completely snap and attack us without reason, and so forth. It works to convince Batman, and it also works to convince many of the readers to accept Luthor's viewpoint as well, and if they don't it's often explained as Superman being mind-controlled or driven to act out of character for whatever reason — but there's an alternate explanation. Earlier in the same issue, Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne held a business lunch which ended with Luthor giving Bruce Wayne a chunk of Kryptonite as a 'gift'. This essentially means that one of Superman's closest allies — one who, at that, has a history of acting in an underhanded and secretive fashion towards his allies, to the extent of coming up with secret plans to destroy them if necessary — has essentially just gone behind his back and accepted something that could theoretically be used to kill Superman. And worse still, he's accepted this from Superman's worst enemy, someone who is constantly trying to kill and undermine Superman. Is it really that surprising or unforgivable that Superman might be feeling a bit angry and betrayed towards Batman by all of this, and might lash out? Either way, Luthor has managed to drive a wedge between the two heroes, which was probably his intention all along — and he's also managed to drive a wedge between Superman and the reader. You devious bastard, Luthor. ~ Doctor Nemesis
Even though Batman kinda beat him to that last part on his own.
I love the idea that Luthor is succeeding in smashing down the fourth wall and making the readers of Earth Prime turn on Superman as well, but wouldn't this mean Luthor knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman in the first place?
And you think he doesn't?
During most of the story Luthor argues from a humanist prospective, talking about the great things that humanity is capable of and how that is threatened, cheapened, and rendered useless by the presence of Superman. How Superman invalidates it all, makes people stop trying to stride further and accomplish more because it'll never measure up to what Superman can do without any effort whatsoever. Sounds fair enough. However, at the very end when Superman and Lex have their brief "conversation" this suddenly gets abandoned and Lex' lines can even be taken as a Breaking Speech about how Humans Are Bastards. Here are the lines in question:
Lex Luthor: ... there's not a soul in Metropolis who watched Hope drop the monster, and given the same opportunity? Wouldn't have done it themselves. Not a soul. How does that make you feel... You arrogant alien bastard? Superman: [silence] Lex Luthor: Your silence speaks volumes. You understand my words but you refuse to believe what they mean. Is that because you see something in humanity that in truth isn't there, or that you're blind to what truly is?
So why has Lex suddenly turned on a dime and gone from pitting himself against a Physical God for the sake of humanity to mouthing off to said Physical God about how rotten humanity is? Because Luthor doesn't really care about humanity, he cares about beating Superman. And with Superman, the source of his true passion right in front of him, all of Luthor's cute philosophical rationalizations go flying out the window. In the end it's not very different from this exchange in All Star Superman,
Lex Luthor: I could have made everyone see! If it wasn't for you, I could have saved the world! Superman: If it had mattered to you, Luthor, you could have saved the world years ago. Luthor: ... (quietly) You're right.
or how in 52, with Superman out of comission for a year all Luthor did was be his petty, evil self and didn't do a thing to benefit humanity, which Supes lampshaded when he returned. ("Where's the cure for cancer, Lex?") Luthor doesn't care about benefitting humanity, not even in this story. What he cares about is his own ego. He's not afraid of Supes overshadowing humanity and making its accomplishments seem like nothing, he's worried of Supes doing that to him personally. He doesn't care about humanity, he probably doesn't even like it. (Humanity after all is so stupid and messy and chaotic and perpetually making the same mistakes over and over again while Luthor is a superhumanly intelligent Control Freak.) While the idea of uplifting humanity and being its savior would probably appeal to his ego, if Luthor really cared he'd be doing it anyway instead of putting all his effort into discrediting Superman. Even if he was the genuine article in his concern about humanity and also believed Superman to be a threat, he'd be an example to show the way and make his case in public instead of engineering elaborate ruses to discredit Superman while destroying good things that humanity is capable of, such as Hope and the Science Spire. He'd use those things to uplift and inspire, instead of a cheap ploy to bring down an enemy. Luthor's soul really was there for Superman and the reader both to see... and it's rotten.
This story was actually able to show Luthor as the perfect Foil to someone who wasn't even there! Regardless as to whether you genuinely believe what Luthor says or otherwise (personally, this troper thinks that while he has many legitimate arguments, he was really just using them as an excuse to hate Superman for hogging the spotlight, But I Digress) he clearly believes that mankind is capable of great things. Unlike another villain who's stared in a graphic novel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. A man who, in direct contrast to Luthor, thinks a lot less of humanity, and that they're all no better than him, they just need a little push. That everyone is just one bad day away from being the monster he is. You know who I mean. Their VitriolicVillainous Friendship just took on a whole new level.