This week Doctor Who/Captain Britain genius Paul Cornell begins his run on Action Comics. Over the course of the next few months Cornell will be chronicling the adventures of Superman's arch-enemy Lex Luthor as he quests for power throughout the DC Universe. Many are lamenting the fact that Superman still won't be featuring in the title that birthed him anytime soon. I, on the other hand, cannot wait to read it. Not only is Cornell responsible for some of the best Doctor Who stories ever seen in print or on the screen, but Lex Luthor is also one of the greatest characters in comics.
I now present to you nine of Lex Luthor's greatest moments.
1. Luthor becomes President of the U.S.A
What better way to say "f**k you" to Superman, guardian of the American way, than to get voted in as leader of the free world? That's exactly what happened to Luthor in 2000. He won it fair and square too, no Florida recount controversy for this Commander in Chief. Luthor did pretty well during his term in office, forging good diplomatic relations with Atlantis and seeing off an alien invasion. Unfortunatley he buggered it all up by going on a murderous rampage in a suit of Kryptonite powered super-armour. I understand that would also have been Nixon's back up plan if Ford hadn't pardoned him.
2. Luthor finally kills a Kryptonian
During the Richard Donner/Geoff Johns penned story, Last Son, Luthor finally got to kick some Kryptonian ass when General Zod led his super powered army in an attack on Metropolis. Unfortunately for Lex it wasn't Superman, but since it was a trained killer with all of Superman's powers we should still all be impressed. As Luthor dispatches the luckless soldier he makes sure his victim is in no doubt as to who has vanquished him;
"I am the greatest scientist on this planet and would be on yours. I am the one destiny has chosen to save humanity. I am Lex Luthor."
3. Luthor owns the Joker
In Outsiders #3 (2003) the Joker tortures Luthor to within an inch of his life. Not exactly Luthor's finest hour you might think. But you'd be wrong, Luthor shines in this issue. Not only does he remind the Joker exactly who he's dealing with...
But he also manages to withstand the torture and then put the Joker in his place with the perfect put down...
Take that you pasty faced bastard!
4. Luthor fakes his own death
Luthor spent much of the late eighties lording it over Superman with a Kryptonite ring. Sadly the good times couldn't last and Luthor discovered that prolonged exposure to the Kryptonite had given him terminal cancer. Most people would have given up at this point, but not Luthor. He did the only sensible thing and faked his own death in a plane crash before having his brain and eyes placed in a younger, stronger clone of his own body. Luthor now had youth, vitality and, most importantly, HAIR! It wasn't long before he was posing as his own son and up to his usual criminal shenanigans. He even started dating Supergirl! Granted it was the shape-shifting, telekinetic blob of goo version of Supergirl rather than Superman's cousin, but it still got on Superman's tits. Once again, the good times couldn't last and his cloned body started to rapidly deteriorate. Luckily for Luthor it was nothing a pact with the Devil couldn't fix and he was soon fit as a fiddle and once again sporting the baldy look.
5. Luthor says "I hate you" while battling a powerless Superman in mid-air
During the Kurt Busiek/Geoff Johns penned tale, Up, Up and Away, Superman is forced to fly through a crapload of Kryptonite to nab Luthor. His momentum takes them both up, up, up before his powers temporarily fade and they start to plummet back to Earth. As their flight reaches its apex, just before they begin their descent, Luthor takes the opportunity to tell the Man of Steel exactly what he thinks of him....
That one panel pretty much sums up Luthor.
6. Luthor unleashes the Joker on his other-dimensional counterpart
During 2005's Infinite Crisis, Lex has to deal with an Alexander Luthor from another dimension posing as him and organising almost every villain in the DC Universe into a Secret Society of Supervillains. Not only that but the cheeky bastard describes himself to Luthor as "you, only better." By the end of the story though Lex has engineered the grisly demise of the imposter but not before he takes the time to remind Alexander of his mistakes. Alexander's biggest mistake of course was not letting the Joker play.
7. Luthor cures his sister
Recently in Adventure Comics we met Luthor's sister, Lena. It would seem that poor old Lena is mentally and physically unwell and confined to a wheelchair. Superboy challenges Luthor to cure his sister and Luthor accepts. He's soon created a potion that cures his sister completely. Just as we're thinking that Lex isn't such a bad egg after all he injects Lena with a counter serum, leaving her just as ill as she was before. Lex had no real interest in curing Lena, he just wanted to prove to Superboy that he could do it. Lex then reminds Superboy that no one is getting the benefit of his genius until Superman is dead.
What a wonderfully spiteful old git!
8. Luthor defeats Superman with a note
WARNING: Spoilers for Superman: Red Son follow.
In Superman: Red Son we see a world where Kal-El's rocket lands in Communist Russia and growing up without the American value for freedom he eventually becomes leader of a worldwide Communist Empire. Only the United States stand against Superman, with Lex Luthor as their champion. Of course, despite being the only hope for Western democracy, Luthor is still a complete shit. By the end of the book however Luthor does manage to take down Superman by showing him a note with a single sentence written on it. I'll leave it to you to read Red Son and find out what that sentence was as I believe explaining it here outside the context of the story would not do it justice. Suffice to say that Luthor defeats Commie-Superman and goes on to turn the world into a scientifically advanced Utopia. It's great to see Lex make good on his boasts and prove that without Superman he really could save the world from itself.
9. Luthor keeps an ape in a Superman suit called Leopold in his prison cell
What further proof do you need that Lex Luthor is the greatest supervillain ever created!? Go and buy Paul Cornell's first issue, Action Comics #890, right now!