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Alexander Joseph "Lex" Luthor

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/lex_890.png
If there was ever a job for Superman... this is it.

Species: Human

First appearance: Action Comics #23 (April 1940)

"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."

Diabolical Mastermind. Mad Scientist. LexCorp CEO. Evil Genius.

The Supervillain.

Alexander Joseph "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.

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Luthor has had various hats over the years. He was originally portrayed as a red-headed war profiteer who aimed to Take Over the World by playing various political factions against each other. He was then 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 physical 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.

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By The '80s, Lex Luthor was due for another revamp. 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, helping codify the President Evil trope in the process. 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 (2013). In any incarnation, Luthor is driven by his burning hatred of Superman (not unlike Doctor Doom and Reed Richards), 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, Justice League, Superman Returns, the television series Smallville and the DC Extended Universe. 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 The Joker, 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.


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Appearances:

    Notable Pre-Crisis comics 
    Notable Comic Book/Post Crisis comics 
    Notable Imaginary Stories and Elseworlds 
    Notable New 52 comics 
    Notable DC Rebirth comics 
    Notable Prose Literature 
    Film (Live Action) 
    Live Action TV 
    Video Games 
    Western Animation 

Tropes associated with Luthor:

    A-F 
  • 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 characterized 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.
    • And Lex himself with his own children, such as selling his own daughter, or treating Conner Kent as an extension of himself.
  • The Ace: When Lex claims that he is an example of humanity's peak potential, there is some validity to it in spite of his ego. He's one of the most intelligent men on the planet, on par with Bruce Wayne on that front, a hugely successful and revolutionary businessman, an accomplished inventor, well-educated on various topics and subjects, an adequate fighter, a great leader when he has to lead, and very impressionable and socially flexible. He's up there as one of the most talented individuals in the DC Universe. He's also an interesting Deconstruction of the trope in that due to his belief that he is one, his hatred for Superman is because him also being this trope clashes against Lex heavily, and he can't stand to see an alien be seen as an ace like him.
  • Actually a Doombot: Lex knows how to use a good deception by using duplicates. He's an Evil Genius after all.
    • New Krypton featured a Luthor robot who did Lex's dirty work for about half of the saga.
    • Following Final Night, a revitalized Lex Luthor is arrested for the destruction of downtown Metropolis back in The Fall of Metropolis. He successfully argues that it wasn't him, but a clone of him created by Dabney Donovan to ruin his image. This is Metaphorically True as it was a clone of Luthor, but he was the clone the entire time.
    • In 52, Luthor claims that the insanity he was caught up in after losing the presidency in Public Enemies was caused by an evil, alternate dimension Luthor. He's able to present his evidence in the form of the altered body of Alexander Luthor, Jr. Steel realizes something's up, but he can't pin it down.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Pre-Crisis Lex was usually pudgy and physically unassuming in appearance. Post-Crisis onwards, Lex has been sporting sharper facial features, making him look more handsome in comparison as well as having a Heroic Build.
  • Adaptation Name Change: While most Post-Crisis versions of Lex have it be short for "Alexander", "Lex" was originally short for "Alexis" in Earth-One and "Alexei" in Earth-Two.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • While Lex has always been a formidable foe, his physical prowess and abilities are a lot more impressive from Post-Crisis onward, having been trained in martial arts and applying them to foes whenever he has to directly defend himself. Beyond that, the potential and power of his technology have also been amped up to planetary levels.
    • The versions from the DCAU and Smallville were both significantly more dangerous in hand-to-hand combat than almost any comic incarnation of the character. This was particularly true of the Smallville version, who was shown to be a physical match for Green Arrow, and one of the most consistently dangerous fighters on the show, despite his total lack of superpowers, or most of his comic counterpart's gadgetry.
  • Adaptational Wimp: For some reason, none of his live-action film adaptations give him credit as a Mad Scientist whose inventions are deadly. Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey's Luthor have him as a "criminal mastermind" who hijacks nuclear weapons, partners with Kryptonian villains or use Superman's fortress against his foe. Jesse Eisenberg's take is a very convoluted mastermind even pettier than the usual interpretation lacking Lex's magnificent bastard traits and his central plan is using Kryptonian machinery against Superman and the finale implies that he's a Darkseid cultist and a herald. None of them have Luthor actually inventing anything spectacular, deadly and fiendish or portray him as a human being whose inventions and scientific acumen puts him, alone among humans, on Brainiac-level playing field.
  • Alliterative Name: LL, just like Lois Lane, Lana Lang, his sister Lena 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 Doctor Doom have become this for one another, occupying a very similar place in their respective universe's supervillain fraternities.
    • He can also be considered an Evil Counterpart to Iron Man: a very rich genius and a Badass Normal who has a Powered Armor. Lex's good counterparts of other universes can be even closer, as they share Iron Man's morality. On the other hand, evil versions of Iron Man are also close to mainstream Lex. It also helps that both Lex and Iron Man were involved, at some point, with Italian villainesses (Contessa Erica del Portenza and Madame Masque, respectively).
  • 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, although Superman had altruistic reasons to take over, and Luthor's good deeds are shown to be for his own ego. Injustice: Gods Among Us also features a heroic Luthor. 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.
  • Always Second Best: From the Post-Crisis era onwards, Lex may be one of the richest men on Earth, but if it comes to money, Bruce Wayne tends to have him beat.
  • And Then What?: Lex has achieved everything he ever wanted except killing Superman, and really has no idea what he'd do if "the alien" went away one day. For all the grand plans he supposedly has on hold until Superman is defeated, he really doesn't care about saving the world or lifting humanity up, only helping himself. He's already rich and powerful, and only getting wealthier by the day, Superman's existence is the only bruise on his ego. When Superman disappeared for a full year, Lex did nothing. It's one thing he has in common with The Joker, except Joker admits he'd be nothing without Batman.
  • Anguished Outburst: During Forever Evil, Lex and Bizarro grow a close relationship with each other, akin to that of a father-son duo. When Bizarro is killed by Mazahs, Lex is devastated and grieves for his surrogate son. His moment is interrupted by Captain Cold, who dismisses Bizarro as "just a monster", where Lex bitterly snaps back by claiming that Bizarro "was my monster".
  • Antagonist in Mourning: After Superman met his demise protecting the world from Doomsday, a quite distraught Luthor donated a mausoleum to house the superhero's remains, commenting that if he could not kill Superman, then he at least wanted to bury him.
  • Anti-Hero: A Nominal Hero in those stories where he serves as the protagonist, mostly due to the nature of the people he is up against.
  • Anti-True Sight:
    • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, his giant mecha has a lead shield to protect itself from Superman's X-Ray Vision.
    • Upon becoming the United States President, he somehow manages to get the White House repainted with white lead, despite lead-based paint being banned since 1977.
  • Arch-Enemy: 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. Luthor displays a fairly unhealthy sense of ownership towards Connor, going so far as to hijack his mind at one point. He eventually casts Connor off as a failed experiment due to Superman's prevalent influence on him.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: He's as sharp with his wit and intellect as he is with whatever questions he'll throw.
    • In one Batman storyline, the Joker has Luthor tied up and has been torturing him. But it's Luthor who does the most damage when he asks: "Does it bother you... bother you at all, really... that Batman likes Catwoman better?" The Joker is visibly stunned and immediately drops his clownish demeanor to become full-on furious'' and plan to outright murder Luthor without any tricks or gimmicks. See it here.
    • In H'el on Earth, after Superman is done gathering information from Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor gives him something to think about.
      Lex Luthor: Why can H'el do much more than you? Is he more powerful than you... or have you just failed to make yourself as powerful as he? And if that is the case... what are you so afraid of, Superman?
    • He's also been on the receiving end of the trope. In an encounter with The Riddler, Edward Nygma asks Lex about what he plans to do about Superman. It's the only time Lex is completely out of control.
    • Another receiving end comes from Superman himself in a few separate stories where he bluntly tells Lex that if he had really cared about saving the world, he'd have already done it, or asked about whether there was a cure for cancer. Lex can't come up with a response.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: During Forever Evil, he manages to deduce Batman's secret identity from a few clues.
  • Ax-Crazy: Luthor's usually fairly stable, but when he cracks it is always in a violently psychotic manner.
  • Bad Boss: Depending on the Writer Luthor may be a tyrannical boss, or a master manager who takes careful care of his underlings' needs. He has respect for blue-collar people who go beyond their means to get ahead (since he used to be one as well). He's played slightly more on the "benevolent" side whenever he's leading the Legion of Doom, as most of the villains tend to respect him on a professional level and Lex will usually keep his end of the bargain with them to the best of his abilities. Even when he gets into conflict with some of them, Lex will generally be portrayed as being justified. During Salvation Run, he got into a fistfight with the Joker because Joker was causing nothing but chaos while Lex was legitimately trying to keep the villains together and escape their prison world. During the Drowned Earth storyline, he also abandons Black Manta to die but beforehand, Manta had deliberately disobeyed his orders and took control of the Death Kraken which went wild and wanted to destroy all life on Earth.
  • 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.
    • Also, in President Lex when he spins all his good press from No Man's Land and takes advantage of the chaotic 2000 elections to snag the White House. And Superman can do nothing about it.
  • 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. It's 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, but he's managed to pose a threat to Superman of all people regardless. Has become an Empowered Badass Normal on occasion, either by donning his warsuit, gaining an Orange Lantern Ring, or other means.
  • 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.
  • Bastard Understudy: Paul Cornell's backstory in Action Comics Annual established that a young Luthor had apprenticed himself to, and subsequently betrayed both Ra's al-Ghul and Darkseid.
  • Battle Butler: His (possibly literally) Amazonian bodyguards Mercy and Hope.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: One of his most notable traits is that he hates Superman for being an alien. However, Lex would eventually go on to take on god-like alien powers just to fight Superman. While him becoming an Orange Lantern can be handwaved away since an Orange Lantern ring is simply a weapon of great power that didn't take away his humanity, his transforming into the alien Zone Child and Apex Lex is more glaring because attaining those powers fundamentally transformed Lex's DNA and biology into something totally alien and non-human.
  • Berserk Button: Due to his pride and ego, Lex has a few sore spots that he doesn't react kindly to...
    • Superman, just Superman's presence is enough to make Lex go from cold composure to feral snarling. Clearly, the fact that an alien has more love and adoration from others than Lex is something he's never felt comfortable about.
    • Losing. Lex does not like to be on the short end of the stick and got a karate teacher gravely injured under his orders because she had the gall to beat fair and square. In a sparring match.
  • Beware The Supermen: More modern interpretations often have Luthor preaching a pro-human/anti-metahuman line, claiming that they (Superman especially) 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. If someone is combining the DC villains into a Legion of Doom, it'll be Lex Luthor. Even the Joker knows he's the leader, even he doesn't follow him.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: This is more common in crossovers, but Lex has seen a lot of days with him collaborating with a fellow villain as the main antagonist. He had one with Doctor Octopus in Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man. In just the DC Universe, he occupies this role twice in the New Krypton saga, working with Brainiac in Last Stand of New Krypton and General Sam Lane in War of the Supermen.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: He's this with General Zod in War of the Supermen, with both of them having their own plans on dealing with each other and Superman. Lex comes out the ultimate winner in the end.
  • Big Bad Friend: In many continuities, he starts out as a friend of either Superboy or Clark Kent in Smallville. Even when this wasn't the case, he was Perry White's childhood friend gone wrong.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Pre-New 52 Luthor had Mercy Graves (who is a Canon Immigrant from Superman: The Animated Series) and Hope Taya, two towering super-strong women who were implied to be Amazons.
  • Black Sheep: In the Silver Age. His parents, horrified by his villainy disowned the teenage Lex, moved away, and changed their name to "Thorul". Modern incarnations of his parents aren't as morally upstanding, to say the least, however.
  • Body Horror: When he was forcibly fused with Brainiac during Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. His clone degeneration during the nineties may qualify as a more mundane example.
  • 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.
  • Breakout Villain: He was originally a minor, yet powerful adversary, but when he became so popular the creators decided to make him the primary nemesis of Superman.
  • Broken Ace: A powerful, highly successful man with almost everything he wants at the reach of his fingertips, but the darkness inside him prevents him from truly being one of our best.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Sometimes he'll don a warsuit to even the odds against Superman, or he'll even get superpowers himself. Regardless, Lex would always end up losing those at the end of a storyline. Even then, he remains a competent and dangerous adversary for Superman and the superhero community.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Luthor's warsuit often features a large "L" on the chest. During DC's "Rebirth" event he borrowed Superman's "S" as part of a new suit of armor.
  • 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. Lampshaded in the novel Superman: Miracle Monday when it's stated that Luthor once broke out of prison, then broke back in to fetch something he had inadvertently left behind.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Pre-Crisis, and in some adaptations, where he was proud and unabashed about his villainy and was also very open to his jealousy and contempt for Superman. Nowadays, this is downplayed, or averted, in the current main universe where Lex is a Villain W Ith Good Publicity instead.
  • Care-Bear Stare: He was forced into this state 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 regardless of how reliable the source or irrefutable the evidence is, including Superman himself.
  • 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.
  • Chest Insignia: Often puts an "L" or "LL" on the chests of his warsuits. In the "Rebirth" event, he wore the Superman shield instead.
  • Child Hater: During "Trinity War" Lex internally admits to having never liked children. That said, he's never really enjoyed seeing them hurt either.
  • Chronic Villainy: Luthor simply cannot give up on supervillainy so long as Superman is alive and loved.
    • This is especially apparent in Luthor Unleashed, where Lex suffers one painful defeat too many at Superman's hands, and decides to throw in the towel. He retires to the alien planet where he had once taken a wife (whom he had, till then, shamefully neglected) and tries to settle down to be a model citizen there. He even has a child. But despite his best efforts, he can't stop obsessing over the fact that Superman beat him. He finally builds a suit of Powered Armor in anticipation of Superman tracking him down, but then uses it to relieve his tensions by using it to wreak havoc on his new home, becoming it's first supervillain. Superman does indeed arrive, and in the ensuing fight, Lex accidentally detonates a powerful gizmo and blows up the planet, killing his wife and infant son. He blames Superman and ends up more obsessed with his destruction than ever before. This is a pretty defining point about Lex Luthor and one of the best and most tragic examples. In many stories, Lex is a man who genuinely wants to do right by humanity and use his intellect for good. It's just that he can never get past his hatred of Superman. It also leads into the selfish spect o
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • His daughter Lena hasn't been heard from since he was impeached as President and she was put in foster care.
    • His niece Nasthalthia's last appearance was in Adventure Comics #424 published in 1972. A Post-Crisis version showed up in All-Star Superman and faded in comic limbo right afterwards.
  • Chubby Chaser: He may be this for Amanda Waller.
  • 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 sins.
  • 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.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: This is essentially the function of the warsuit, which Lex wears to physically match himself against Superman. Originally it was found by Lex on his adopted home planet of Lexor while he was living there. In Post-Crisis continuity, it was forged in Apokolips with help Darkseid for the sole purpose of killing a certain alien from Kansas. The Warsuit gives Lex immense power and strength over Kryptonians, as he can beat up Superman when wearing it and even impale the Nigh-Invulnerable Supergirl. In DC Rebirth Lex gets a new suit which better mimics Superman's powers additionally it doesn't rely on kryptonite which makes the suit's capabilities that more impressive on Luthor's part.
  • Colour Coded Eyes: His green eyes represent his envy of Superman.
  • Compensating for Something: It’s not hard to look at Lex’s towering skyscraper; broad-chested mech suits and massive, overpowered guns and suspect he feels deeply inadequate. Not necessarily sexually, just in general.
  • Condescending Compassion: Even more humanist takes on Luthor tend to frame his
  • Contemplative Boss: Fond of the pose.
  • Control Freak: In his mind, he needs to be seen as the one in control of the situation at all times. If anyone or anything threatens his position at the top, Lex will brutally eliminate them, which is one of the reasons why he hates Superman so much.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: His default since the eighties. In addition to engaging in a wide variety of unethical business practises, LexCorp is deeply involved with the illegal arms trade in Metropolis and beyond, with tendrils reaching deep into the DCU underworld, and that's without getting into the number of times that Luthor has used its resources to fund organizations like the Injustice Gang.
  • Crossover Villain-in-Chief: In DC's Crisis Crossover events that involve a lot of villains, like Salvation Run and Forever Evil (2013), Luthor usually fills this role along with The Joker.
  • 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.
    • His brutal beatdown of Supergirl during one of her first Post-Crisis outings is also a standout. Within about a minute of engaging Luthor, the normally overconfident Kara realizes that she's in way over her head. She ends up comparing it to Superman's first fight with Doomsday.
  • Cure for Cancer:
    • In the mainstream universe, Lex's scientific contributions to LexCorp have actually allowed him to develop a cure for cancer. Because his sister, Lena, who opposed him, had cancer, Lex decided to cure her condition... only to give the cancer back to her solely out of spite.
    • In a What If? storyline, Lex manages to have a change of heart, and starts using his brain for good, and he finds a cure for cancer.
  • 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 he. 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. Also happened in All-Star Superman where Superman points out he could've saved the world years ago if he'd wanted to. Lex actually admits he's right.
  • Depending on the Writer: Wether he's a businessman or mad scientist first tends to vary wildly, with some versions being pretty much white collar criminals, while others are notorious super criminals, designing elaborate death machines to kill Superman.
    • What his general reason for hating Superman is also depends heavily, the most common ones are that he blames Superman for his baldness, grew to hate him because he couldn't control him, or because he genuinely sees Superman as some sort of alien threat he has to "protect" the world from.
  • Depending on the Artist: What Lex looks like aside from his baldness has varied considerably, even within the same continuity. Sometimes he's a heavy-set, middle-aged man, other times he's tall and thin, and sometimes, he's even shown to be in peak physical condition, courtesy of his raging narcissism.
    • Whether he dresses in nice suits, or in green and purple armor/tights also depends on who's drawing him.
  • 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 humor.
  • 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.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: His characterization as someone who wants to be humanity's best example and prove his race's potential is challenged and questioned in The Black Ring. He claims he wants to save humanity from Superman and other superheroes who are keeping mankind back. Some of the other villains don't seem to buy it. Throughout the entire arc, it is shown that Luthor does not have humanity's best interests at heart despite his lofty goals; he is only after power and has an intense dislike for authority other than his own but insists, even to himself, that he is the hero of the story. Yet he allows people to get killed as pawns, shoots an employee so that he can't be used against him as a hostage and whenever anyone turns their back on him he flips out. He does not believe that Superman empathizes with humanity at all and it is possible he's projecting this trait on Superman. Darkseid says he only wants to rule others and be "the biggest fish". Brainiac outright states that he is doing it for power and mocks his lack of introspection. Even Superman is surprised that Luthor's first act as a physical god is to come after him. Only the Joker believed he had any real potential to do good and feared this as Joker needs to believe that life is pain and has no meaning. Superman and Mr Mind attempt to reason with him by appealing to his desire to do good but his need to destroy Superman destroys his chances to do any real good as he promised himself he would. All this underscores just how much of a wasted opportunity Lex Luthor's life was. Mr Mind's parting words are more than apt: "I'll leave you to your tragedy."
  • 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.
    • Ironically, Superman sometimes sees Luthor as "the undefeatable" thanks to Luthor's mastery of legal Loophole Abuse; Lex is often portrayed as the one criminal Superman can't bring to justice.
  • Deflector Shields: His warsuits are equipped with a nigh-invulnerable, invisible force field that completely covers the entire suit from head to toe—emphasis on the head, which he keeps bare out of sheer arrogance—to protect himself in fights against much more powerful opponents like Superman. A second force field generator located in the left gauntlet can serve to augment his already considerable defense even further.
  • Demoted to Dragon: This occasionally happens to Luthor, though it usually doesn't turn out well for his would-be employers.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Given who his Arch-Enemy is, Lex would certainly make sure the weaponry he develops is either forged with Kryptonite or have Kryptonite embedded within them to maximize their effectiveness in challenging Superman (and other Kryptonians) in direct combat.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Old Man: In the Post-Crisis era, especially seen commonly surrounded by attractive young ladies in his company building to do his bidding. When a fifteen-year-old Lois Lane breaks into Lexcorp to get some dirt on him, Luthor has her strip-searched, personally spanked, and makes a point of keeping the security footage of the strip search for himself.
  • 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. Elliot S. Maggin also later added a retcon where the experiment where Luthor lost his hair was aiming to create artificial life, so in Luthor's twisted views Superboy had killed his 'child'.
    • He's also had people murdered (or killed them himself) merely for embarrassing him in front of others.
  • 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.
  • Domestic Abuse: In Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, Lex is shown to be highly abusive to his mates, even becoming more cruel and spiteful when they try to opt out of the relationship strictly to flaunt his sense of power. Made even more apparent when he had his wife the Contessa murdered.
  • 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. Anyone who can go up against Superman and come out even time and again tends to earn the fear and respect of every cape, cowl, and criminal out there.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Golden Age Alexei Luthor is killed partway through Crisis on Infinite Earths simply because Brainiac felt he was redundant.
  • 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. As a result, Lex will keep fighting Superman until he comes out on top and gets back the reputation that he supposedly held as a paragon for humanity.
  • Easily Forgiven: Even after the public revelation of years' worth of his various murders and manipulations, and a nearly successful attempt to destroy Metropolis just to spite Superman, Luthor manages to make himself a Villain with Good Publicity again by taking credit for saving the world during Final Night.
  • Egopolis: Lexor, in the Pre-Crisis universe, and LexCorp Post-Crisis.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Lex has found himself being given superpowers on a few occasions.
    • In Blackest Night, he was specifically chosen to become the second Orange Lantern during the attack of the Black Lanterns. Lex quickly came to enjoy his newfound power a lot, which makes sense as an Orange Lantern ring represents Greed and this happens to be a major character trait for Lex, who continues to chase after fame, adoration, and power, even if he has enough of it.
    • At the climax of The Black Ring, Lex manages to obtain omnipotence, becoming one of the most powerful characters in the entire DC Universe and having the power to do literally anything that he desired... except harming others. Lex wastes this power by attacking Superman, signaling the end of his time in Post-Crisis.
    • In Post-Flashpoint, during events centered around on Perpetua, Lex managed to transform into a higher being, being dubbed as "Apex Lex", where, in addition to alien powers, he also hit the Superpower Lottery.
  • Enemy Mine: Has regularly allied with Superman against various alien threats. In the "New 52" this extended to joining the Justice League for a time after defeating the Crime Syndicate.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His sister, Lena in 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, whom he sees as a son and is devastated at his death, and with his sister.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Depending on the Writer.
    • A notable example was when during the "Rock of Ages" storyline in JLA (1997) featuring Luthor's first Injustice Gang taking on the Justice League, Luthor bashes The Joker with the Worlogog to express his disgust at Joker tampering with the bodies of child victims. Later in the same storyline, Lex tricks Joker - who is currently holding the Worlogog and having a "My God, What Have I Done?" moment induced by the Martian Manhunter's telepathy - into undoing all the murders the Injustice Gang had caused. Though this resulted in there being nothing the Justice League could charge Luthor and the rest of the criminals with, Superman still said he believed it was because some part of Lex drew the line at killing innocent children and that it wasn't just to save his own skin.
    • In Green Arrow, it is revealed that Lex Luthor was offered membership in The Ninth Circle - a financial group built on laissez-faire capitalism - and turned it down. While one might think this is because Lex refuses to be part of any group he isn't in charge of, even Lex drew the line at a Satanic bank that abducted children and sold them into slavery or to be used for medical experiments.
    • Final Crisis sees Luthor disgusted with Libra to begin with, but with his disgust coming to a head when Libra offers Luthor the chance to be the first to, what's implied, rape Supergirl.
    • In a pre-Crisis story, his respect for Albert Einstein was so great, he couldn't allow someone to be seriously hurt on his birthday. Similarly, in another comic he's shown to have a great respect for Abraham Lincoln as well, and when he accidentally prevents a time-traveling Superboy from stopping his assassination he's horrified when he realizes what's happened.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: This is why Lex will never truly understand that Superman doesn't have an ulterior motive. In one of the early John Byrne stories, Luthor commissions a study on Superman and Clark Kent that soon deduces they're the same man. Luthor, however, purges the study and fires those involved as he refuses to accept that anyone with the power of Superman would pretend to be a normal human being.
  • Evil Counterpart: He's one to Bruce Wayne. Both are multi-billionaires and one of the most influential people in the world, complete with large amounts of technology, resources, and associates being granted to them for numerous uses, and they have a quite the personal connection with Superman. They even spend a good deal of their fortune on charities. However, Bruce uses his wealth to help others publicly and to create gadgets and tools that he uses as Batman in the night and when operating as a Justice League member, whereas Lex uses his money to cover up his criminal tracks, create weapons and establish criminal connections and invest his technology with the specific goal of taking on Superman. His donations to charity are one of many calculated schemes meant to maintain Lex's prominence and positive reception to the general public.
  • Evil Cripple: For a time in the nineties when his clone degeneration left him in a coma, unable to so much as close his own eyes. He still managed to take control of Superman's Kryptonian warsuit, and wearing it as a suit of Powered Armour, nearly beat the hero to death. After his defeat he was confined to an intensive care unit; one of his henchmen helped him escape and eventually restored him to full health.
  • Evil Former Friend: To Clark Kent, in the Silver Age and some modern versions.
  • Evil Genius: Lex is one of the smartest characters in all of DC, an Omnidisciplinary Scientist in everything from closing to rocket science and he's definitely as evil as they come.
  • Evil Is Hammy: It comes in the territory of being a narcissistic egomaniac after all. Lex would often wax about how superior and magnificent he is in comparison to every human being in existence and would try to make his speeches as dramatic and boisterous as possible. Case in point...
Lex Luthor: "You've made a mistake, Superman. A big mistake. A potentially fatal mistake. I run this town, Superman. Metropolis belongs to me. The people are mine, to nurture, or destroy, as I see fit. And they've forgotten that. They've looked at you, with your costume, and your flashy superhuman powers... and they've forgotten who their master is. Who is number one! And I intend to remind them, Superman. I'm going to show them you're nothing, Superman. A cardboard cut-out. One day, very soon now, you're going to die, Superman. You're going to be destroyed and you'll know who's doing it. Everyone in Metropolis will know. But no one will ever be able to prove it. I'll not be arrested, Superman. Not ever again. Remember, Superman. You're a dead man. It's just a question of how soon!"
  • Evil Is Petty: Lex's supervillain career is based on a need to be better than others. Especially Superman. He cannot stomach the idea that he, a person who worked his entire life to become a billionaire influencer, business mogul, and genius inventor, could be upstaged by Human Alien simply because he has flashy powers. He also doesn't like being bested in a fair match either.
    • To list a demonstration of Lex's petty acts, he once frequented a diner for a week so he could court a particular waitress. Then he offered her a life of fame and luxury if she would be his lover. But he drove away in his limo before she could make a decision, leaving her to ponder opportunities lost. Just something to amuse himself with.
  • Evil Plan: His plans usually revolve around killing Superman, or at least ruining his reputation so that he could go back to being the most beloved man on Earth. In Pre-Crisis where he was a Card-Carrying Villain, his plans were the typical Take Over the World scheme.
  • 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 (2013) when he took on the Crime Syndicate. His war with Alexander Luthor Jr. in Infinite Crisis is also notable, as are his various conflicts with Darkseid.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: On any occasion where Lex joins forces with Superman, this is the likeliest reason. Sure he hates the Man of Steel, but he can't get the love and adoration of Earth if it's been destroyed and he's not going to let that happen. So he begrudgingly allies with Superman, knowing that he's among the best chance Earth has in surviving against a planetary and/or cosmic threat. Of course, Lex makes it clear that their alliance is self-serving and that he'll go back to being foes once the crisis is done, which is what exactly happens.
  • Evil Uncle:
    • To his niece, Lori, Post-Crisis.
    • And to his equally evil niece Nasthalthia 'Nasty' Luthor in Pre-Crisis and All-Star Superman continuities. 'Nasty' tried to help him kill Supergirl and when their plot failed, she tried to prove that Linda Danvers was Supergirl every so often.
  • 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.
    • Sure villains like Metallo, Sam Lane, and General Zod are formidable in their own right, Lex manages to outsmart and outlast them in New Krypton, ultimately coming out as the biggest winner in the said storyline.
    • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, he pulls this on Doctor Octopus. While Otto Octavius wants to defeat Superman and Spider-Man to assert dominance, Lex wants to destroy Earth, solely to spite Superman and he shocks Doctor Octopus on just how far Lex is willing to go to antagonize his Arch-Enemy.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: He has acted to protect Earth and Metropolis from various threats, including Doomsday, the Sun-Eater, and Brainiac, if only because they would leave him nothing to control.
  • Expert Consultant: While it's not usually his main line of business, Luthor has occasionally taken consultancy gigs when the price was adequate. For example, in Swamp Thing #53, when the eponymous character was holding Gotham City hostage until his lover Abby was freed, enemies from the Sunderland Corporation brought Luthor in to map out how to destroy the plant elemental. Luthor finished his presentation 10 seconds early, just so the Sunderland people had enough time to write out his check for a million dollars.
    "Mr. Wicker, believe me, you don't know from invulnerable. I know from invulnerable... ...and this refugee from a canned sweet-corn label isn't it."
  • The Extremist Was Right:
    • Lex has it in him to be one of the greatest men in all human history and the capacity to solve nearly all the world's problems. The problem? He is so murderously jealous and obsessed with Superman that he won't do any of that until after he kills "the alien", and has frequently endangered the planet trying to do so. And unlike, say, Doctor Doom, he doesn't even pretend to himself that if he did this, it would be for humanity's benefit; no, he just likes to show everyone just how much smarter than them he is.
    • As All-Star Superman puts it, if Lex had truly cared about the world, he would have saved it years ago.
    • After spending a year without powers and out of sight in Superman: Up, Up and Away!, Superman showed up again and called Luthor on all the great things he didn't do without his nemesis around to "stop" him. "Where's the cure for cancer, Lex?"
  • Faking the Dead: During his "Lex Luthor II" phase, when he impersonated his previously unheard-of son.
  • False Flag Operation: In Superman: Birthright, he fakes a Kryptonian invasion, with his mooks and war machines all wearing Superman's symbol. It almost works, as the public thinks Superman is with the invaders, but then Jimmy Olsen takes a picture of Superman protecting a child from them and spreads it.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: He's faked reformation on a few occasions. One of those occasions let him become President.
  • Fantastic Racism: Towards aliens and meta's in general, Kryptonians in particular.
    • The Resenter: During the Forever Evil (2013) event he admitted this was driven out of envious resentment not only towards Superman but to a great many SPB's (Super Powered Beings) who could fly farther, move faster and hit harder than he ever could, he kinda got over it eventually.
  • Fat Bastard: In the Silver Age. He lost his weight throughout the Bronze Age. Beginning in the '80s Post-Crisis Reboot, he was portrayed this way again, but slimmed down in the '90s first thanks to cloning and then after making a deal with Neron.
  • Faux Affably Evil: More often than not, Luthor's revealed to be this. He appears charming and pleasant but he is a cruel, ruthless, manipulative narcissist and sociopath. It's worth noting that of all the supervillains out there, the one he gets along with the best is the Joker.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Luthor doesn't hate Superman for always interfering with his evil schemes. He hates Supes with a passion for continuing to exist. The idea that an alien has been called the "super-man" instead of him is a wound to his ego that Luthor simply can't ever let go.
  • Fiction 500: One of the richest, if not the richest men in the world, alongside the likes of Bruce Wayne.
    • In one strip, Lois Lane mentions that she once calculated Luthor's annual income. Taking into account his investments, interest on his savings and his actual salary, it came to 150 dollars a second! Meaning, if he was walking along the street and saw a $100 bill on the ground, it wouldn't be worth his time to pick it up.
  • Fictional Political Party: Represented the Tomorrow Party during his campaign for President and is the reigning political party during his presidency.
  • Fiery Redhead: Well, he was a redhead so you wouldn't know, but Lex has always had a temperamental side going for him since his childhood.
  • Final Solution: Was complicit in genocide when he, Sam Lane, and Reactron destroyed New Krypton. In "Birthright" he acknowledges that since Superman is the last of his kind, murdering him has always had genocidal undertones.
  • 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.
    • World's Finest, Superman/Batman, and other crossovers love to draw attention to the similarities between Luthor and Bruce Wayne. They're two of the richest, smartest men on the planet, who have aimed their obsessive personalities and immense resources at different targets. Luthor lampshades it in the New 52, telling Batman: "We're in the same club, you and I. Just two incredibly rich, mere mortal boys playing dress-up in the end."
    • On the criminal side of things, Luthor and The Joker are as diametrically opposed as their respective archenemies, with Lex constantly working within the system, while Joker tries to burn it down. The contrast between their motivations is even greater, with Luthor having to convince himself that he has noble intentions, while Joker cheerfully admits to being as evil as they come. Their regular team-ups only serve to emphasize these contrasts all the more.
    • He could also be seen as one for Doctor Octopus. They're both Mad Scientists who have an All-Loving Paragon as their Arch-Enemy and they've faced a lot of misfortune before using their scientific intellect for villainy. However, despite their enmity and his own admission to being a villain, Otto sees Spider-Man as a Worthy Opponent at times and their relationship with each other is mostly impersonal. Lex, on the other hand, despises Superman and makes as much effort as possible to make their enmity as personal as possible. Their similarities and differences are highlighted in Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man where the two acknowledge their similarities and work together to defeat Superman and Spider-Man. The climactic battle showcases their biggest difference; Otto has a sense of honor whereas Lex doesn't, as the former is appalled with the latter's intent on destroying the world and promptly jumps ship to stop Lex from enacting on his true goal.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Rebelled against his father in the most extreme ways, especially when dear old daddy was an abusive asshole who demanded big expectations for Luthor and he never received any signs of respect for anything Lex did. And of course, Lex wanted to carve his reputation first-hand, so he prevented his father from interrupting him... by killing him off.
  • For the Evulz: Normally, Lex tries to subvert this, being laser-focused on the completion of his goals, but, combined with a need for useless sadism, some of his Kick the Dog moments fall under this. He once thrashed Supergirl around simply because the "S" symbol on her outfit reminded Lex of Superman, who Lex sees as a Berserk Button.
  • Freak Lab Accident: He's on the receiving end of this trope in Pre-Crisis and this serves as the reason why he hates Superman (or Superboy when the event occurred). He turned villainous after Superboy's "interference" in a Freak Lab Accident resulted in his life being saved, his experiments being destroyed, and his hair loss. Furthermore, when Luthor tried to retaliate with grandiose tech projects to show up Superboy, they went wrong disastrously enough to force the superhero to intervene, embarrassing Luthor enough to hate him even more.
  • 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.
    • His Silver Age blames Superman/Superboy for his baldness, which, while an accident genuinely was Superboy's fault to a degree. Blaming Superman for his subsequent descent into criminality, and his parents' abandonment of him is less fair, however.
  • Funetik Aksent: Golden Age Alexei Luthor often had a very pronounced Oirish accent.
  • Funny Animal: His Earth-C-Minus counterpart, Lex Lemur, archfoe of Supersquirrel.

    G-L 
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: In the climax of The Black Ring, Lex merges with a powerful Energy Being from the Phantom Zone that grants him godlike power. As a demonstration of his new power, he sent a wave of pure bliss through all of creation. Of course, it didn't last. One of the conditions for keeping this new power was that it couldn't be used to do anything negative, such as killing Superman, and Luthor being Luthor couldn't accept that.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: One storyline by Elliot S! Maggin has Lex always escaping on a certain date each year; eventually Superman figures out he's trying to celebrate the birthday of Albert Einstein, one of his heroes. Superman arranges for himself and Luthor to have a private tour of the Einstein section of the Smithsonian. Luthor actually tears up as he sees the statue. As Luthor is taken back to jail he tells Superman, "Thanks for everything!"
  • A God Am I: He has tried to fulfill this trope on behalf of Superman. A John Byrne story establishes that Luthor knows how extremely likely it is that Clark Kent is Superman, but he refuses to believe that someone as powerful as Superman would deign to pretend to be a normal human.
  • Good Twin: Alexander Luthor Sr. of Earth-3 Pre-Crisis, the Antimatter Universe Alexander Luthor Post-Crisis, and the Pocket Universe Lex Luthor from The Supergirl Saga.
  • Greed: Lex has long had greed as one of his defining vices. The Orange Lantern ring that he gets in Blackest Night ends up worsening his greed, leaving him with a yawning gulf inside when he loses it.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Superman. No matter what Lex does he will never be as powerful, as loved, or as good as Superman, something that Lex vehemently refuses to consider, let alone admit.
  • 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.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: In the Post-Crisis continuity, when Lex first appears, he's balding when Superman begins his career.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Especially in animated adaptations, Lex doesn’t handle failure or inconvenience well, if things aren’t going completely his way, his smooth and confident persona slips away and he goes ballistic. A common scene is for him to smugly lecture Superman about how untouchable and smart he is, then start yelling and throwing things when the Man of Steel refuses to be baited or intimidated.
  • Hate Sink: Zig-Zagged; How likable or detestable Lex is as a character depends. His mainstream version usually averts this as he's proven that, in addition to being likable, he shows honorable traits and even has been a hero at one point. He tends to be more hateable with alternate or Elseworlds versions, especially with his appearance in Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl where he callously revels in murdering a baby alien (Kal-El himself) and disregards Supergirl's grief for it, and his appearance in The Feral Man of Steel and Kal where his misogynistic tendencies are ramped up to absurd levels.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Is a member of the Justice League in the New 52 and Rebirth after defeating the Crime Syndicate in Forever Evil. Despite maintaining his somewhat snobby attitude, he seems to genuinely want to help Metropolis this time around in honor of the New 52's Superman death. It doesn't last, though.
  • Heel Realization: In All-Star Superman, and Forever Evil.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: More like Helmets Are Hardly Villainous. Even though he wears his iconic Powered Armor, the suit itself is lacking a helmet. DC made up for it by including a helmet with the suit in the New 52 comics.
  • A Hero to His Hometown: A hero on the planet Lexor, actually.
  • Hero Killer: Against anybody other than Superman he typically gets treated this way, since there's not much any lesser heroes can do to touch him.
  • Heroic Build: Starting in the eighties and a product of Adaptational Attractiveness. Lex has a well-built physique in Post-Crisis and it's furthered by the fact that he exercises often to keep his physical body in check and be prepared for a threat, even if in a direct confrontation.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Towards the end of Batman: No Man's Land, he was revealed (read: Retconned) to be The Chessmaster behind the events of the Story Arc and then, at the last minute, was himself hijacked by The Joker.
    • Done In-Universe in Superman Villains Secret Files and Origins where he tells his infant daughter a bedtime story that (falsely) suggests that he was secretly behind nearly every major villain Superman ever faced.
  • 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.
  • Hypocrite: A frequent issue in more pro-humanist takes on the character. He likes to view himself as a champion of ordinary, unpowered humans against a godlike alien who renders all human accomplishment and achievement worthless... while being perfectly willing to sacrifice any number of those same ordinary, unpowered humans in order to achieve victory over said alien. And that's not even getting into how Lex, on several occasions, has taken on god-like powers of alien origin himself, including that of an Orange Lantern, the Zone Child, and Apex Lex, to fight Superman, making him anything but the mortal man underdog he likes to think he is in comparison to Superman.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: The root of his loathing of superhumans.
  • I Just Want to Be You!: Why he especially loathes Superman. When he was bound by the Lasso of Truth in Blackest Night, it caused him to admit it.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Despite being a man of science, he can reject cold hard logic and facts staring him in the face if it doesn't conform to his own prejudices, like the time he rebuffed the findings of a supercomputer that concluded Clark Kent was Superman on the basis that anyone with the powers of Superman would never condescend to live life as a mere mortal.
  • Immune to Bullets: He temporarily gains these in ''The Girl with the X-Ray Mind as part of acquiring a new set of powers and abilities. One of the first things Lex does with them is to demonstrate his invulnerability and flaunt about how he cannot be stopped by a bunch of guards.
Lex Luthor: Ha, ha! Shoot, you fools! I'm invulnerable! Those bullets don't even tickle me!
  • Insistent Terminology: Calling Superman "the alien".
  • Insufferable Genius: Will always remind people that he's the smartest man alive.
  • Iconic Outfit: His green and purple power suits, and his expensive business suits.
  • Ironic Hell: Post-Crisis Luthor was ultimately left stranded in the Phantom Zone, with all the Kryptonian criminals he hates.
  • Ironic Name: "Alexander" and its derivatives mean "Defender of Mankind," and "Lex" is Latin for "the law". The historical Alexander the Great while a megalomaniacal conqueror with a god complex was also a man with a far-sighted multi-cultural worldview while Lex Luthor is a xenophobe who hates Superman for being an alien.
  • 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 center of the universe, and everybody else is irrelevant.
    • He reforms the Injustice Gang solely because Superman is now leading the Justice League, which Lex believes can only be Superman deliberately trying to escalate their conflict.
    • During 52, a new superhero called Supernova shows up. Lex comes to the conclusion that it's Superman pretending to be someone else, just to mess with him. He even has Clark Kent abducted and dosed with a truth serum just to "confirm" this, and is incensed when Clark answers, in all honesty, that it's not Superman (and he'd know). It never occurs to Lex to ask the right questions, and Clark gets out scott-free.
    • Lex Luthor's refusal to believe any claims that Clark Kent is Superman is based on the logic that if Luthor had powers like that, he would never hide himself away as an average person. Luthor's thinking seems to go, "I am a genius. Superman is a genius. Therefore, Superman must think like I do!"
  • Jerkass: Most depictions of Lex are him being an asshole of the highest order: egotistical, narcissistic, condescending, and ill-tempered when on his worst days. He's more than willing to treat his employees like shit in case he's proven wrong or has been slighted.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: He actually makes large sums of donations to charities. Seems like a pretty awesome move, but given Lex's egotistical and borderline-sociopathic nature when at his worst, these donations are a move to maintain his public image of being a renowned philanthropist and be acclaimed for the work he's done to Metropolis, effectively a move to conceal his true character.
  • Joker Immunity: He's just as annoying as The Joker in that regard. No matter how many times he's bested, retreated, or even killed, Lex will find a way to resurface and continue his feud against Superman. Being one of DC's biggest villains, he can't be put down indefinitely.
  • 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.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: A subversion; shortly after coming back as his own evil clone (don't ask), he is shown training in martial arts in his gym. After his trainer hands him his ass in front of witnesses, he later tracks her down and murders her in cold blood. Inverted in his last days as President, when he is using Venom (a kind of super-steroid most notoriously utilized by Bane) to muscle up.
  • 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: Lex's egomania means that there's always a theatric and bombastic side to his actions and personality. The guy loves making epic monologues describing his relationship with Superman and his position as Earth's greatest figure for potential and aspiration. Adaptations have followed suit, becoming one of the most consistent character traits of Lex to this day.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A few times over the years, when he's not a Karma Houdini.
    • Luthor's Kryptonite ring allowed him to keep Superman at bay and get away with all sorts of crime, but eventually he learned it had given him fatal cancer.
    • After returning in a clone body, he kills his personal trainer just to prove he can get away with it; this eventually puts Lois Lane on his trail when the trainer's father asks her to investigate his daughter's disappearance, which costs him his Villain with Good Publicity status for a few years of real time.
    • After trying to eliminate the geneticist who cloned him, Luthor belatedly discovers that a disease that destroys clones is starting to affect him... and the geneticist he betrayed is all too happy to leave him to his fate.
  • The Leader: Of a number of supervillain collectives over the years. It should come as little surprise that he tends to be The Mastermind type.
  • Legion of Doom: If one exists, he will be running it. After all, he's the one who kickstarted this trend and the main reason why he's in charge is that is leadership is effective and inspiring for any villains who join along with any Legion of Doom. While typically villainous in nature, it serves as an Anti-Hero Team during Forever Evil
  • Let's You and Him Fight: In the Superman-Spider-Man crossover in Pre-Crisis, he collaborates with Doctor Octopus to manipulate Spider-Man and Superman into fighting each other, with Spider-Man being given red sun pulses to even out the odds, all in an attempt to take out Superman and leave Spider-Man as an easier threat to dispose.
  • 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, a living embodiment of greed in Larfleeze, and omnicidal computer mind Brainiac, and in Forever Evil (2013), where he takes on Earth-3's Crime Syndicate.
  • Likes Clark Kent, Hates Superman: The Trope Namer and probably the most famous example. Lex's animosity towards Superman is vast, but he has deep respect for Clark Kent and has told Kent such on several occasions, often because Clark represents the ordinary, average people that Luthor views himself as the protector of. Depending on the Writer, as this can sometimes take the form of Condescending Compassion and at other times, Lex will view Clark with the same contempt as he does everyone else he considers beneath him.
  • Lust: For power. No matter how much he has, Lex will always want more.

    M-R 
  • 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.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Befitting of someone as an example of the above trope, Lex had one in Pre-Crisis where he conducted much of his mind into creating weapons against Superman. He still has labs scattered around his buildings in later incarnations, though the "mad scientist" part is toned down in favor of Lex's more businessman side being given more prominence.
  • Mun Danger: Some modern incarnations, most notably John Byrne's version. Although technically, he's pretty much always depicted as an otherwise normal human, going up against the alien god that is Superman, though his more out-there versions do tend to be a little more than just mildly unrealistic.
  • Man of the City: Considers himself (and most citizens consider him to be it also) the first citizen of Metropolis.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Befitting for a billionaire businessman, Lex's main attire is fancy-looking suits with a black or grey color scheme. He's also a fan of classical music.
  • Memory Gambit: He tries to pull one of these in the Bronze Age. It backfires horribly, as his erasing of his memories of the scheme causes him to actually fall in love with a woman whose life was going to be sacrificed by the scheme. When she gets irretrievably dimension dumped in a futile attempt to get rid of Superman, Lex completely breaks down.
  • Mercy Kill: Receives one from Lana Lang in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? after Brainiac's control over him wanes and Luthor begs Lana to off him.
  • Mob-Boss Suit Fitting: Lex has been shown in this kind of scene.
  • 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. Then it turns out Lena despises him, and would quite gladly kill him given the chance.
  • 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.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Lex is not the sort of person who likes to have his secrets revealed, or allow employees to exit his company whilst knowing the man well enough. As a result, he orders anyone he deems an annoyance or an obstacle discreetly assassinated, thinking that murder is the best way to silence them.
  • My Grandson, Myself: During the time he faked his own death because of his Kryptonite ring-induced cancer, he transferred his brain into a clone body and came back pretending to be his own son until said body fell under Clone Degeneration and Luthor suffered a rather bad Sanity Slippage.
  • 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. When under the influence of the Lasso of Truth and asked why he wants to join the JLA he is forced to admit "Because I'm an egomaniac."
  • Naytheist: While he acknowledges that there are gods in the DC Universe, he refuses to accept any of them.
  • 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.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Businessman Luthor from the 80s was modeled on prominent tycoons of the time, such as Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump. More recent incarnations have also borrowed from Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Noble Demon: On his better days, Lex does have a sense of honor and would uphold his bargain anytime he accomplishes something. This side of Lex is best shown in stories 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-Well-Intentioned Extremist: 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 against Superman.
  • Obvious Trap: Clearly marked as "Luthor Trap To Capture Superboy".
  • Odd Friendship: With the Joker. While they've fought, the two work surprisingly well together and tend to display mutual respect toward each other. One of the best examples of this comes from Underworld Unleashed. Recruited as part of a team of five villains to serve to demon Neron, Luthor and Joker immediately conspire with the others to steal Neron's power, only for it to be revealed as a successful scheme to get rid of the other three villains. Luthor and Joker understood each other so well they managed to put this together without even speaking about it. They even high-five afterward.
  • Off on a Technicality: Again and again and again.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Lex's ego and pettiness mean even in a room with his alternate counterparts, he'll still look down his nose at them. Case in point, Silver Age and Golden Age Lex during Crisis on Infinite Earths. Lex doesn't blink an eye when Brainiac reduces Alexei to a pile of ash.
  • Omnidisplinary Scientist: Lex has studied, is very knowledgable, and partakes in nearly every field of science possible, highlighting the fact that his intelligence is abnormally superior to everyone else. In fact, LexCorp started off as an aerospace company before it expanded to several fields of science, and Lex's biggest scientific talent lies in astrobiology. Still, the most frequently shown science Lex partakes in comics is based on robotics, engineering, and physics.
  • Omniglot: He's capable of speaking several languages, which makes sense as Lex is an extreme genius and has an extensive academic history.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: He has always gone by "Lex", but what it's short for has varied. For the record, Golden Age Luthor is Alexei, Silver/Bronze Age Luthor is Alexis, and Post-Crisis Luthor is Alexander.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Nobody else gets to take down Superman. Not Zod, not Brainiac, not even Darkseid. Only Lex.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Stories by Elliot S! Maggin emphasizes this with traces of his past self, back when Lex was Superboy's friend. Any time Lex had a kind moment, it represented his earlier decent nature showing through, and (rightly or wrongly), it gave Supes hope that someday he might come back to the side of the angels. One of the very last Pre-Crisis stories, Superman (Volume 1) #416: "The Ghost of Superman Future", indicates that in at least one possible future, Lex did eventually reform and they became friends again in their old age.
    • Lex working together with Superman is this. His disdain and jealousy for the Man of Steel are still there, but Lex has enough self-control to keep it in check and whenever there is a threat that threatens worldly or universal destruction, Lex admits that he needs Superman if the world, and especially Lex, have a chance for survival.
  • The Paragon: Of course, he's not one, but his greatest desire is to be seen as one for the world, but mainly Metropolis, and some people do think of Lex as a paragon. His jealousy and hatred towards Superman are based on the fact that a majority of the world sees him as a paragon, and not Lex.
  • Parental Abandonment: Initially being his father figure and creator, Lex ultimately disregards and ditches Superboy the moment the young superhero finds acceptance from other superheroes and remains in their company.
  • Parental Substitute: In the Post-Flashpoint timeline, where Lex is about the closest thing to a father Bizarro has. Surprisingly, he turns out to be a positive one and their alliance proves instrumental in opposing and defeating the Crime Syndicate during Forever Evil.
  • The Pardon: He is given one at the end of New Krypton, being rewarded for destroying New Krypton, hence giving humanity a massive victory as well as getting back ownership of LexCorp.
  • Patricide: Usually kills his father, sometimes kills his mother as well.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • In Lex Luthor: Man of Steel he helps his janitor's son get into a prestigious school by using his influence with the headmaster. However, this is averted in that his assistant points out that doing so takes away an earned spot from another student. Luthor also "gifts" the janitor and his son with an invitation to the opening of his new skyscraper, which he destroys as part of a plot to discredit Superman.
    • At the end of Forever Evil he turns down Ted Kord's offer to buy his business and tells Ted he will gladly be there to advise him if he ever needs it.
    • He sees Bizarro, who is a mentally deficit clone of Superman, who is childish and has difficulty grasping morality, as a son and proves to be quite protective of him during Forever Evil. Bizarro's death at the hands of Mahzahs is one of the few events that left Lex genuinely emotional and when Captain Cold dismissively calls him a monster, Lex calls him out for it, claiming that Bizarro was "my monster". He even goes as far as to create another Bizarro clone, not to have an anti-Superman weapon, but to find a way to bring back his surrogate son.
  • Photographic Memory: It has been established on a number of occassions that Luthor has an eidetic memory. It's a gift that has been invaluable in both science and finance and which has helped made him be one of the most intelligent human figures in the DC Universe.
  • Physical God/Reality Warper: Luthor briefly attained godlike powers at the end of The Black Ring, when he fused with the Zone Child. This has also happened in adaptations like the DCAU.
  • 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 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In his early Post-Crisis appearances, in which he takes special pleasure in belittling women or threatening them into sleeping with him, and taunting Maggie Sawyer regarding her sexuality.
  • 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: In addition to being the Trope Namer, the Post-Crisis storyline, President Luthor is about Lex's political campaign to become the United States president, which he succeeds at. His platform was that he would spread advanced technology from Metropolis (which had become even more futuristic than normal at the time) around the country, but once he was elected, he mostly ignored this plan in favor of using the government's resources to cause trouble for superheroes and other people he doesn't like. One of his first acts as President is to have his ex-wife murdered with missiles. He remains president for several years and becomes more involved in the rest of the DCU (for example, framing Bruce Wayne for murder in Bruce Wayne: Fugitive). In Our Worlds at War, he invites Imperiex to invade Earth so he can look good using the military to repel the invasion (making him partly responsible for the deaths of numerous humans including American citizens). While innocent in the main story of Joker's Last Laugh, its tie-ins saw him try to kill Superman while trying to stop a Jokerized Doomsday, hand Doomsday to Darkseid, and become Jokerized himself. Then in Public Enemies, he tries to frame Superman for a Kryptonite comet heading to Earth and then loses it — this is what gets him impeached. Going on a killing spree with your old Apokoliptian powersuit will do that.
  • Pride: Supremely hubristic, to an almost Greek level. This affected even the Pocket Universe Lex Luthor in The Supergirl Saga, who, although he knew about the various Kryptonite isotopes hidden in Superboy's lab that could have stopped the Phantom Zone criminals before they started their reign of terror, refused to use them because he wanted the defeat of the criminals to be by his own hand. He regretted this decision upon his death long after his Earth suffered a Class 6 on the Apocalypse How scale.
  • Primary-Color Champion: As part of DC's "Rebirth" event, Luthor, currently acting as a superhero, gained a blue-and-red version of his usual power armour, complete with Superman "S" and red cape.
  • Psychological Projection: In some continuities, like the New 52, he presumes Superman is the one obsessed and conspiring against him. It's also part of the reason he can't work out Superman is Clark Kent, even when told. Not only can he not accept that he hasn't figured it out, but he also can't believe that someone with Superman's powers would want to hide anything.
  • Progressively Prettier: Silver Age Luthor was a fat, rather ugly middle-aged man, as was John Byrne's interpretation. Ever since the 90s, however, Lex has been thin and decently handsome,
  • 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.
  • Purple Is Powerful: His warsuits almost always have purple accents and those suits were specifically designed to combat Kryptonians, making them powerful by default.
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: Averted in Post-Crisis; The chronic health problems that plague Luthor are a result of exposure to the Kryptonite ring he wore for quite some time. While it certainly hurts Superman very quickly, having it around you for years will have the same effect any kind of radiation will have.
  • 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.
  • Red Right Hand: From 1988-1990 in the comics, he had a cybernetic prosthetic covered by a glove for his right hand after the original was amputated due to radiation poisoning from his kryptonite ring.
  • 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.

    S-Z 
  • Sadist: While a man defined by his cold pragmatism, Lex does have his moments of hurting others just to be a dick.
  • Save the Villain: He's been on the receiving end of this a number of times, courtesy of Superman himself. Of course, Lex does not appreciate the times when the Man of Steel has to save him from certain death, feeling that he's being patronized.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: What money cannot buy, political influence and business connections can.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Considering he's a multi-billionaire with an endless wealth of resources and connections, there are 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.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: Despite being Superman's greatest archenemy, he rarely bothers to uncover Superman's secret civilian identity. In fact, he doesn't believe Superman has a secret identity because he couldn't fathom the idea that Superman would prefer living as a normal human rather than ruling as a god.
  • Selective Obliviousness: He has a particularly bad case of this, bordering on Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. Despite his genius-level intellect, several times he's discovered the secret identity of Superman, but disregards it as a mistake since he cannot fathom that a Physical God could be living a normal life as the meek, mild-mannered Clark Kent.
  • Self-Made Orphan: In many origin stories, Luthor got his start by taking out a life insurance policy on his parents and cutting the brake lines to their car while both were taking a trip, leading to their immediate death and Luthor collecting the insurance money for start-up capital to his company.
  • Self-Made Superpowers: In 52, his "Everyman" initiative is ultimately revealed to be a trial run for giving himself superpowers.
  • Shadow Archetype: To Superman, both are extremely gifted individuals that can do great things for the world, but while Superman is humble and charitable Lux only uses his gifts for his his own benefit.
  • Shooting Superman: Lex has been on both ends of the trope.
    • On the giving end, he gave a try, even though he of all people should know better. In The Death of Luthor, he picks an ordinary machine gun, shoots at Supergirl and then he swears because the bullets bounce off.
    • On the receiving end, which occurs in The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, he gets Superman powers and breaks out of his cell, several guards futilely attempt to stop him, even after seeing he has become invulnerable.
    First Guard: It's Luthor! He shattered that cell to smithereens!
    Second Guard: It's no use trying to stop him! Our bullets bounce off him like raindrops!
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: While he's now bald, he had flaming red hair as a kid, and retains red eyebrows to go with his envious green eyes. As for significance, he's The Hero's archfoe.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Often depicted this way to illustrate his devious, manipulative nature.
  • 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.
  • Smug Super: Make no mistake, Lex is an extremely arrogant man. This does not change the fact that he is one of the most dangerous adversaries one could ask to contend against and a lot of points that he makes are legitimate. While he does have a nasty habit of overestimating his foes, especially Superman, Lex does come close to being the victor multiple times, so his boasts and proclamations aren't entirely lip-service.
  • The Social Darwinist: This is the public justification that Lex uses for his Fantastic Racism towards Superman and subsequent attempts to murder him. Luthor argues that humanity has come to rely on Superman to protect them instead of fending for themselves (ignoring the fact that Superman fights threats that could wipe out all of humanity and possibly the universe without a thought), and that if wasn't for Superman humanity could be an intergalactic empire on par with all the other alien races that visit Earth all the time; therefore, it's okay for Luthor to cause deadly collateral damage in his war against Superman. Like everything else Luthor says or thinks, it's really a self-serving lie — when Luthor says that "Humanity is weak because it loves and respects Superman", what he means is that "Humanity sucks because it doesn't love and worship me".
  • The Sociopath: Often referred to as such, with symptoms including malignant narcissism, shred manipulative tendencies, having vindictive and violent outbursts and attacks out of spite, and being unable to properly relate with others on a moral level. Though he fits most of the requirements for the psychiatric diagnosis in the Pre-Crisis version. However, Post-Crisis incarnations and those that followed tend to hit every requirement trait.
  • Sore Loser: Lex is, simply put, not a good sport. Because of his nature of seeing himself as the best that humanity has to offer, he doesn't like to lose and feels humiliated and patronized in case he does. He's such a sore loser that when a karate teacher defeated him in a sparring match, Lex ordered her to be assassinated. And let's not forget the times he throws a temper tantrum whenever Superman defeats him.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Towards Superman, resulting in many different clones, one of which being Kon-El aka Superboy.
  • Stating the Simple Solution, In Last Son, when Superman, after asking Lex for help, puts himself in such a perfect position to be killed that he asks Luthor why he hasn't done it yet. Luthor responds that he doesn't want to make a martyr of him right now and would like to prove that Superman is a danger to humanity first.
  • 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, but his actions show he doesn't care for humanity as much as he says.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: This happens to Lex during The Black Ring; Luthor's battlesuit allows him to face Slade, Larfleeze, and finally Brainiac. In each case, the suit seems just strong enough to allow Luthor to battle his adversary of the moment. Of course, it's possible they are different models.
  • Superpower Lottery: During his time as Apex Lex, Lex possess a vast wealth of powers and abilities that are on par with and, in a few cases, greater than Superman's, though given that this form is derived from Martian physiology, he's more comparable to Martian Manhunter. Among those powers include Super Strength, Super Speed, Extreme Endurance, Flight Telekinesis, Invisibility, Telepathy, Size-Alteration, Shapeshifting, and, Phasing.
  • 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. He utilizes his superhuman intellect to concoct plans that require near-omniscient predictive ability and to invent all manners of super-tech ranging from Superman-level power armor to teleporters to (in the Pre-Crisis era) time machines.
  • Superhero Paradox: Subverted in the Silver Age; Lex told Superman that if not for him then he would rule the planet.
  • Supervillain Lair: He's built several hideouts that he retreats to if the situation calls for it. After all, a billionaire supervillain has to be resourceful if he has to persist.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Whatever Lex is paying his security team, he should probably cut it.
  • Tailor-Made Prison:
    • During the events of New Krypton, Lex creates a specific sort of prison cell meant to house any Kryptonians that they could find, defeat, and subjugate. And he's made a number of them.
    • In H'el on Earth, he was betted by Superman to create a prison that even a genius like Lex couldn't break out of. By the story's events, he the only one inside said prison.
  • 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. In Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, he was said to be cruel in his youth, especially towards girls, and killed his parents to cash on a life insurance policy he put on them.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Invoked; In The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor, he manages to gaslight Superman so efficiently that Kal-El had lost his self-confidence and becomes convinced that he is useless, so he considers giving up his career. He changes his mind when he realizes that his failures were a ploy on his nemesis' part.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Post-Crisis, he stopped Metallo from doing in Superman and was extremely frustrated when Doomsday seemingly slew Superman because that meant Luthor wouldn't get to do it himself.
  • Tragic Villain: The fact that Luthor could have done great things and benefited the world in a very real way, is at the core of much of his modern portrayal, with Superman often lamenting his inability to turn Luthor around.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Yup, Pre-Crisis Lex Luthor's original reason for turning evil was that, whilst he and Superboy were friends, one accident causes Lex Luthor... To lose all of his hair prematurely! "Oh no, my life is ruined! I'll get you for this, Superboy!" It's not nearly that simple. Lex had just created living matter in the lab, and with it he was preparing a treatment to immunize his friend Superboy to Kryptonite. A lab fire and Superboy's precipitate action to extinguish it destroyed the matter, and the fumes rendered Luthor bald. He resented both, but the destruction of his artificial life and the kryptonite cure was what really unbalanced Lex (and maybe all those weird fumes had something to do with it...).
  • Trope Codifier: He is seen as this for comic book supervillains in general. Considering that he's the Arch-Enemy of the trope codifier for superheroes this would make sense.
  • Trumplica: As noted earlier, one of the inspirations to depict him as a businessman was Donald Trump. Amusingly, the arc that would depict Luthor as President of the United States came 16 years before the real Trump's own victory.
  • Übermensch: He certainly thinks he is.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • No matter how many times Superman saves his life, Lex will never get over his grudge and plan again to destroy Superman. Justified, as he sees Superman helping him as just another form of "the alien" condescending to him.
    • In Action Comics #286, Supergirl saved Lex Luthor's life. He yelled he hated her and he tried to kill her again. It didn't help that Supergirl informed him that she saved him because she wants him to pay for his crimes. He declared, "[He] loathed [her] '''more''' than '''Superman'''"
  • 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.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid:
    • Subverted in Pre-Crisis; Lex used to be a friendly, extremely intelligent kid until he -unfairly- blamed Superboy for a lab accident and started hating him. Nonetheless, before the accident, Lex was already showing subtle hints of the kind of hubris, jealousy, and hair-trigger temper which led him to become a villain.
    • Played straight in Justice League (2018), where its shown that Luthor was once a kind, loving child and that he was the one who freed Martian Manhunter from captivity. A combination of these memories being erased and the years of parental abuse Lex suffered after this turned him into the monster he is today. Ironically, his final words to J'onn before sending him back to Mars were "Remember we weren't all bad."
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Sometimes goes on about how much better the world would be under his rule, or just how if Superman was gone he'd make a utopia. Superman justifiably calls him out on doing next to nothing of worth while Superman was gone for awhile despite all his boasting and in All Star Superman points out the only one stopping Luthor from making the world a better place is Luthor himself.
  • Villain Has a Point: 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 affair extremely gratifying.
  • Villain Protagonist: Of Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, The Black Ring, and Forever Evil (2013), as well as his during his time as a JLA member.
  • Villain Team-Up: An expert at getting other villains to get together, typically in counterpoint to the JLA.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: For most of the post-Crisis era.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Always spectacular when it happens.
  • Villainous Crush: In The '80s and The '90s, he had one of these on Lois Lane. The Lois & Clark incarnation in particular was obsessed with her.
  • 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. In Forever Evil (2013) he does it again, defeating the Crime Syndicate and then freeing the JLA.
  • Villainous Underdog: As said by Grant Morrison, "It's essential to find yourself rooting for Lex, at least a little bit when he goes up against a man-god armed only with his bloody-minded arrogance and cleverness."
  • Villainous Valor: He's a man with no real superpowers. Superman can benchpress planets. This is part of Luthor's character by default.
  • War for Fun and Profit: In his very first appearance, Lex was a weapons dealer trying to start a war between two Ruritanias. Even before that, the first two issues of Action Comics in which Superman appeared involved him stopping a war in South America that was started by munitions companies to boost sales.
  • 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.
    • In some iterations of Superman, he always starts out offering Superman the chance to work for him. It's usually after Superman rejects his offer and Lex realizes he can't control him in any way that Lex's grudge against Superman becomes very personal.
  • 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.
  • Wicked Cultured: He has some appreciation for classical music. Given that he's a multi-billionaire mogul, its to be expected.
  • Will Not Be a Victim: One of Lex's biggest resolves is to never be helpless or a victim to the might of another and he will fight to the bitter end to make sure that he can come out on top. He once had an ex-employee of his company assassinated in front of his family for striking Lex in the face before being fired. According to Lex, for a second he was made weak and helpless, and for that offense, the employee could not be allowed to live. In Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography he had a former bully of his framed for the murder of journalist Peter Sands. Not for the bullying — which was ended when Lex hired some thugs to beat him and another bully up — but because said bully had the temerity to spit in his face when Lex offered him a job.
  • World's Smartest Man: Lex Luthor is typically regarded as the pinnacle of unenhanced, human intelligence in the DC universe, with the only other being Luthor considers an intellectual equivalent to being Brainiac who possesses Super Intelligence. In fact, Lex himself has Super Intelligence - Brainiac deems him a 10th-Level Intellect, which is to say Lex is smarter than every Coluan, who are a race known for their 9th-Level Intellect.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Most notably when he beat the tar out of Supergirl out of the fact that she donned the ever-familiar "S" shield emblem on her clothing.
    Lex Luthor: There was a time when I wouldn't sully myself with the pedestrian art of fisticuffs. Striking a woman — worse, a girl — reduces me to the level of some thug — a hooligan—on the street. Then, I see that "S" that you so brazenly decided to wear on your less than impressive chest. And I can almost forgive myself.
  • Would Hurt a Child: He doesn't like to hurt kids as it's a certain way to ruin his credibility and popularity towards others in-universe, but he will do it without regrets if they become too much of an inconvenience.
  • Wrath: Towards anyone who aids "the alien" or damages his sense of power. Lex is a man internally defined by his jealousy of Superman and his inability to consider the fact that the world loves him more than Lex. As a result, he tends to possess an immeasurable amount of disdain and scorn toward the Man of Steel to the point where even a reminder would set him off. While Lex is formal, approachable, and rational on the outside, they're covers for the deeply wrathful madman he is on the inside, trying to hide the fact that Lex does not take kindly to being seen as an inferior.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Superman has pointed out on multiple occasions that Luthor has the intelligence to revolutionize the world and benefit everyone, but he's too focused on himself and 'revenge' on Superman to ever do it.
    • Reaches its zenith during the Brightest Day storyline. Lex Luthor gains near omnipotence and is given the opportunity to become the greatest hero in the universe, even greater than Superman. Passively, his power soothes the anger and hatred of everyone, causing even the red lanterns to be at peace. He could turn the universe into a literal paradise. The only caveat to this is that the being that gave him these powers requires that he not harm Superman in any way. And that is simply a bridge too far for Lex, who was already furious from the revelation that Superman and Clark Kent were in fact the same person all along. He attempts to attack Superman and loses everything.
  • You're Insane!: He's been on the receiving end of this a few times. |Most notably, in a crossover featuring Superman battling and then working alongside Spider-Man, he's called out as this by Doctor Octopus, of all people, when he realizes that while he's okay with defeating Superman and Spider-Man to showcase their superiority, he's not okay with Lex being willing to destroy the world out of spite, causing him to defect Lex and temporarily work with Superman and Spider-Man in stopping Lex's attempt on ravaging the world.

Alternative Title(s): Lex Luthor

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