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Apr 7th 2013 at 6:39:03 PM

I kind of wanted to expand on the Headscratcher of why Lex Luthor is considered Superman's Arch-Enemy. Honestly I've grown to appreciate Luthor more simply in the ways he contrasts Superman and in a twisted way, is rather relateable.

I wanted to ask, what personally makes Luthor his Arch-Enemy in your personal opinion(or if you disagree, why)? What do you enjoy about his psyche and motivation?

I treat all living things equally. That is to say, I eat all living things
RedM Geek Extraordinaire Relationship Status: You cannot grasp the true form
Geek Extraordinaire
Apr 7th 2013 at 6:42:37 PM

[up]I enjoyed the bonding moments between Clark and Lex in Birthright. It was nice to see Lex meet someone he could actually talk to, and for Clark to meet someone he really needed to help.

And in that way a contrast is built between them. Superman has enormous physical power that he uses for good, while Lex uses his tremendous influence and intellect for evil. Superman is the embodiment of everything humanity wants to become, Luthor is the green-eyed monster that shows humanity exactly how bad we are and can be.

edited 7th Apr '13 6:42:51 PM by RedM

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Apr 7th 2013 at 6:56:08 PM

Both basically fight to preserve the status quo, but while Superman protects the 'law and order' aspect of said status quo and tries to improve on the bad things about it, Luthor only keeps a lawful facade, while exploiting the seedier traits of the status quo that benefit him. That's the social angle I like to look at them from, and I think it defines them well.

Apr 7th 2013 at 7:10:01 PM

For me, I see Lex as someone who with his abilities actually could become someone on par with Superman; his smarts and technology could potentially do it, but it would be a waste. The Shadow Archetype article does put the angle that while Luthor has genuinely worked hard for his abilities, Superman naturally has them. Regardless, I think it's interesting because Luthor doesn't realize that it's Superman's morality that completes him. So while Superman can't necessarily change the public's mind, neither can Lex.

I think someone has compared their relation with religion and science on some level.

I treat all living things equally. That is to say, I eat all living things
Anteres Rebel King Of Here from Here Relationship Status: Don't hug me; I'm scared
Rebel King Of Here
Apr 8th 2013 at 1:24:11 PM

Personally, I've never 'got' Lex. I always felt that he lucked out in getting cast as Superman's arch-nemesis. He always seemed slightly lack luster.

Doom, Joker, Magneto, even Bullseye all have something they did that makes them stand out, events that you can point to and say "THAT'S why they're a big bad". Luthor ?

To me, Lex is Superman's arch-foe because he's always been Superman's arch-foe. But cos Superman is the Big Good, he can never really succeed against him.

Lex is best in someone else's comic. Liked him in No Man's Land. Loved him in Swamp Thing. In Superman ? He's just this guy, you know ?

Obfuscating, Verbose, Humourless
Apr 8th 2013 at 2:26:17 PM

I've always hated the Superman vs Lex rivalry being seen as Brains vs Brawn. Because that automatically makes Superman out to be a bully fighting against a guy who should, quite frankly, be commended for taking him on.

You run into the same problem with any Batman vs Superman argument—if Superman throws a punch, and Batman fails to die the next panel, then Batman did something impressive.note 

Anyway, I personally love when Superman and Lex are considered two different types of power. Mogul!Lex is my favorite Lex because he represented the power of humanity as a whole. Lex's power is humankind's power. His wealth was built on the backs of pretty much all of humanity as a whole (considering that he had one of the furthest-reaching empires in the DCU). Superman, on the other hand, had power that was solely his own. It doesn't belong to anyone else, and he doesn't really have to use it for anyone other than himself. And frankly, I've always seen these two forms of power as inherently equal.

But they both use their powers in the exact OPPOSITE means that they're sourced from. Lex, who gets his power from the rest of his own race, does NOTHING but benefit himself with it. Superman, on the other hand, has power that comes from nothing but his genes, and he uses them for the benefit of everyone.

I love that contrast.

edited 8th Apr '13 2:27:43 PM by KingZeal

Apr 8th 2013 at 5:11:54 PM

[up]

That's honestly an interesting way of putting it. One could say Luthor worked hard for his abilities, but there's also the dark side of his hard work. Sure, he worked his ass off, but he also exploited others and seeks to stand above others.

[up][up]

I can understand that point of view a bit, sometimes it does seem like Luthor's more of a Satellite Character than other Arch Enemies who are still pretty interesting on their own.(and there have been complaints that he's been overused as seemingly Superman's only villain), But I think it's an example of it done fairly well. Lex on some levels is a villain people can relate to. Maybe we could literally throw any Mad Scientist/Corporate Executive character at Superman and call him his Arch-Enemy. But it still wouldn't be Lex Luthor without the determination, hatred and grudging respect.

edited 8th Apr '13 5:13:17 PM by blueflame724

I treat all living things equally. That is to say, I eat all living things
WaxingName from Everywhere
Apr 8th 2013 at 5:23:41 PM

Lex being Supes' Arch-Enemy just because he is has actually been intentionally used in the comics before, in a way. Lex is just so egotistical that he made himself a villain just to go up against Superman, since Lex thinks that he should be the one and only savior of humanity so that everyone will actually fear and respect him.

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HandsomeRob Return of the Gangsta Bear! from Moopet Theatre Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Return of the Gangsta Bear!
Apr 8th 2013 at 7:29:32 PM

Anyway, I personally love when Superman and Lex are considered two different types of power. Mogul!Lex is my favorite Lex because he represented the power of humanity as a whole. Lex's power is humankind's power. His wealth was built on the backs of pretty much all of humanity as a whole (considering that he had one of the furthest-reaching empires in the DCU). Superman, on the other hand, had power that was solely his own. It doesn't belong to anyone else, and he doesn't really have to use it for anyone other than himself. And frankly, I've always seen these two forms of power as inherently equal. But they both use their powers in the exact OPPOSITE means that they're sourced from. Lex, who gets his power from the rest of his own race, does NOTHING but benefit himself with it. Superman, on the other hand, has power that comes from nothing but his genes, and he uses them for the benefit of everyone.

Wow.

Whenever someone calls Superman boring, hit them in the face with this argument.

Once again, wokka wokka!
WaxingName from Everywhere
Apr 8th 2013 at 9:59:55 PM

[up]Err... Actually, that's often the argument people give for Superman being boring: he didn't go through anything to get his awesome powers.

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TobiasDrake Always watching, never seen from Colorado, USA Relationship Status: She's holding a very large knife
Always watching, never seen
Apr 8th 2013 at 10:09:51 PM

The story of Superman coming to terms with his powers can be effectively summarized as, "Superman discovered he had powers. Then he used those powers. Everyone loved him and cheered him on. The end."

As origins go, that's not particularly compelling.

The greatest trick prejudice ever pulled was to convince the world it did not exist.
Apr 8th 2013 at 10:25:08 PM

[up] No no, then he "used those powers to benefit mankind." That's an important point. That's actually kind of the dichotomy of Lex and Superman. If you ignore the nature of their abilities (physical on the one hand, intellectual on the other) and just look at them both as gifted individuals, they parallel each other. Superman uses his gifts to protect and serve humanity, Luthor uses his to further his own ends, demonstrate his superiority, and feed his ego ("You could have saved the world years ago if it had mattered to you.") Luthor feels the need to dominate others, and Superman does not.

And true, Superman didn't actively do anything to get his powers, but he did survive the destruction of his planet. Most superheroes don't do anything active to get their powers; their powers kind of happen to them or are inflicted upon them. Spider-Man getting bitten by a radioactive spider isn't really doing anything to get his powers, either.

edited 8th Apr '13 10:28:01 PM by Robbery

WaxingName from Everywhere
Apr 8th 2013 at 10:57:20 PM

Also, even if Supes didn't do anything to get his powers, he still had to learn how to use them right (I'm not just talking about Smallville here). He had to develop a sense of control of them so that no one can get hurt.

This is what I love about Clark-before-Superman stories.

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Apr 8th 2013 at 11:04:22 PM

To the people who think Superman doesn't work hard; why would he even bother with the Clark Kent persona? With his abilities and control, he could perhaps get a job of higher status even if he didn't fully exploit his powers. But, as one trope page noted, he's in a profession where he can't cheat. Okay, sure he can hear stories more quickly, but when it comes to writing he's relying on his own hard work.

I treat all living things equally. That is to say, I eat all living things
WaxingName from Everywhere
Apr 8th 2013 at 11:19:55 PM

Also, Lex makes a great archenemy because he's got more ways than one of dealing with Superman; whether it's Kryptonite, red sun radiation, or just enough sheer firepower to take him down. Superman often needs to outsmart Luthor or find a way around his weaknesses.

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Anteres Rebel King Of Here from Here Relationship Status: Don't hug me; I'm scared
Rebel King Of Here
Apr 9th 2013 at 3:01:47 AM

Luthor too often, in his evil business man persona, comes across as a scaled-up Kingpin... (Well, scaled-down psychically tongue). He's never really beaten but he rarely gets any solid hits in. He's like the embodiment of street crime. Always there, but more to give Superman something to do. And because his persona is tied to being a public figure, he can't do anything truly heinous to Superman.

He can be a great villain, but I've never seen his arch-enemy cred, except being the villain that Superman fights the most. Where's his "Death in the Family" or "Killing Joke" ? Where's his "Born Again" ? He was president of America and that just fizzled out. Norman Osbourne was more threatening. For all his brains, for all his power, for all his money, how has he ever really HURT Superman ?

It doesn't seem PERSONAL for Superman, the way a true arch-villain should. Superman hates Darkseid. He executed the original Zod. Lex just doesn't have that.

Compare with Loki. Pretty much ALL of Thor's problems are caused, or exacerbated by Loki. He's his main villain. He's brain's to Thor's brawl. But the fact they're family ? THAT gives it it's edge, it's bite.

Obfuscating, Verbose, Humourless
Nightwire Humans inferior. Ultron superior. Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Humans inferior. Ultron superior.
Apr 9th 2013 at 3:18:23 AM

I find it interesting that Luthor is pretty much Superman's enemy by choice. The guy chooses to spend up all of his time and resources attempting to destroy Superman (both figuratively and literally) because he just hates him that much.

[up]That is why Superman: Birthright is my favorite origin story. It actually gives Luthor and Superman much of the personal relationship they had back in the Silver Age (without the silliness/stupidity, of course).

edited 9th Apr '13 3:21:01 AM by Nightwire

Bite my shiny Vibranium ass, Avengers.
Apr 9th 2013 at 3:21:47 AM

No, no. Hell no.

Luthor does not need an A Death In The Family, or a The Killing Joke or a The Man Who Laughs or a The Laughing Fish or a The Last Laugh or an Arkham Asylum or an Emperor Joker or any other other billions of DO YOU GET IT, THE JOKER IS REALLY BAD!

The fact that the Joker hasn't been instantly been subjected to "kill on sight" orders is one of the biggest copouts of the DC Universe.

And don't give me bullshit about due process or the fact that Batman doesn't kill. I'm not talking about Batman or due process. Batman shouldn't have to kill—the state should do it for him. In the DCU, the Joker is the biggest proof available that the entire point of the due process system (to protect the people) doesn't work. You can't put Real Life justice values into it anymore, because in real life, we don't worry about a killer clown that can poison an entire city. The Joker is not a criminal—he's Al Qaeda in one man's body. The fact that people bothering arresting the motherfucker at all after all he's done has irreparably made the Gotham mythos unrealistic to me.

We do not need Luthor getting the same treatement.

Nightwire Humans inferior. Ultron superior. Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Humans inferior. Ultron superior.
Apr 9th 2013 at 3:24:44 AM

Yeah, it is silly, comparing Luthor to the Joker. They are very different kinds of villains.

edited 9th Apr '13 3:25:01 AM by Nightwire

Bite my shiny Vibranium ass, Avengers.
ShadowScythe from Australia
Apr 9th 2013 at 3:26:59 AM

Where's his "Death in the Family" or "Killing Joke" ? Where's his "Born Again" ?

It's called "Lex Luthor: Man of Steel" Written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, nowadays it's compiled as a hardcover as simply "Luthor". It's fucking amazing, you can thank me later.

Also that book is basically the definitive analysis of Lex so it's practically required reading for understanding the character.

Anteres Rebel King Of Here from Here Relationship Status: Don't hug me; I'm scared
Rebel King Of Here
Apr 9th 2013 at 4:56:35 AM

[up][up][up]I wasn't saying that they should make Luthor like the Joker. We already have a Joker. (And there's no point arguing that the Joker should be killed. We all know the real reason he won't be.) Making Lex a mass murder wouldn't fit the character nor his strengths. It's be like Morrison's Magneto. Just not getting the character.

What I meant was that Luthor hasn't got his big arch-nemesis story. "Born Again" is a better example as it's a similar character. Kingpin broke Daredevil, intelligently, systematically. Only to later realize why that was such a terrible idea. Someone asks why is Kingpin a contender for Daredevil's arch-nemesis, you point them to that. With Green Goblin, it's the "Death of Gwen Stacy" and with the Joker, it's "Killing Joke" or "Death in the Family".

Luthor doesn't need to kill Lois or something, but he does need to show he can hurt Superman, not physically, but emotionally, psychologically because that's what Luthor is. But Superman, being the core of Super-Hero, doesn't get hurt like that either. So Lex attacks and attacks and Superman walks away unfazed.

Even something smaller, like putting a loud factory RIGHT next to the Kent farm to get at Clark. He can legitimately say he's providing jobs to a small town and keeping his labour in America. He looks like a good guy and any objections are just NIMBY. Superman/Clark Kent can't touch him, but he's taken away Clark's (and unknowingly Superman's) refuge. He's won. My problem is, if they did run that story, Superman would discover that Lex Corp were making killer robots in there or something and the factory would be closed and dismantled. Lex loses.

I'm not saying that alone would be his moment, but a series of that kind of thing and you see Lex's smarts and he's got victories under his belt and he's earning his arch-enemy status.

I do think Lex can be great. Swamp Thing, where he's paid for 30 seconds consultation and he gives the villains exactly how to take down Swampie ? Brilliant. But I don't think he earns his status in Superman.

[up] I've not read "Luthor" so maybe that is his story. I'll see about hunting it down.

[up][up][up][up] And is Lex and Clarke being friends in Smallville cannon again ? I'm not up on my New 52, so what the current status is, I don't know. But the Clark/Lex/Superman dynamic is one that I've seen done well, with Lex at least respecting Clark.

edited 9th Apr '13 4:57:30 AM by Anteres

Obfuscating, Verbose, Humourless
Apr 9th 2013 at 5:17:39 AM

Luthor doesn't need to kill Lois or something, but he does need to show he can hurt Superman, not physically, but emotionally, psychologically because that's what Luthor is. But Superman, being the core of Super-Hero, doesn't get hurt like that either. So Lex attacks and attacks and Superman walks away unfazed.

Even something smaller, like putting a loud factory RIGHT next to the Kent farm to get at Clark. He can legitimately say he's providing jobs to a small town and keeping his labour in America. He looks like a good guy and any objections are just NIMBY. Superman/Clark Kent can't touch him, but he's taken away Clark's (and unknowingly Superman's) refuge. He's won. My problem is, if they did run that story, Superman would discover that Lex Corp were making killer robots in there or something and the factory would be closed and dismantled. Lex loses.

This has all been done before. Depending on the continuity, Luthor often has as much personal vendetta/grudging admiration for Clark Kent that he does Superman. Lex has bought the Daily Planet. Lex has hurt the Kents. He's hurt the Lanes. Superman has been pushed to a Despair Event Horizon or two, often caused by Lex's machinations.

The reason this is harder to pinpoint than Batman/Spider-man/Daredevil stories is because it never sticks. Nor should it. Superman is not "intended" to be a downer hero. The other three are (or, more accurately, were repurposed to be as such). I suppose you can reinvent Superman the way that those three were, but frankly, I find stuff like Frank Miller's Born Again to be overrated drivel. (Oh look! The primary love interest is a sex worker of some type!)

This, again, is why I prefer Mogul!Luthor over Science!Luthor. Mogul Luthor does more than just menace Superman—he exposes Superman's main imperfection: he's not human. Human beings are afraid. We hurt. We need. Luthor understands this, and he exploits it. But Superman is "above" that. In Post Crisis continuity, the entire reason he hated Superman was because he couldn't be bought or bullied. He's an ideal. However, this is both a strength and a weakness, because though he lacks the typical human vices, he's also powerless to stop them. Because of the nature of comic books, this is one flaw no writer will never be able to fix. No matter how perfect and powerful he is, Superman will never eliminate the war on drugs or hunger or poverty, no matter how hard he tries. Luthor, however, can solve them (he's flat out said as much, and in one story, he cured his own sister's paraplegia just to prove he could), but he won't.

But that's Luthor's strength. He has more resources than Superman, he has more technical knowledge than Superman, and he has more human weakness than Superman. Because of that, people trust Luthor more than Superman. Superman can get nations to believe in him, but Luthor can convince them to give him their money, because he's more of a "devil you know" than a flying bulletproof alien.

edited 9th Apr '13 5:21:54 AM by KingZeal

Apr 9th 2013 at 5:20:22 AM

He hurts Superman as perhaps the one person he can't convince or destroy. As you stated, he hates Zod and Darkseid enough to actually kill them, while Lex is an embodiment of the things he's supposed to protect and nurture and yet it's produced someone who utterly hates him.

edited 9th Apr '13 5:21:32 AM by blueflame724

I treat all living things equally. That is to say, I eat all living things
Apr 9th 2013 at 5:22:44 AM

In addition to Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, I recommend reading Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, if you still can find it.

WaxingName from Everywhere
Apr 9th 2013 at 3:36:56 PM

I cite Superman For All Seasons as an example where Lex tries to attack Superman psychologically.

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