In Other Media
Lyle Talbot was the first actor to portray the character in a live-action film, appearing in the 1950 serial Atom Man vs. Superman. The character has appeared in all of the modern Superman films, with the exception of Superman III (1983). In the original Richard Donner films, Luthor is a vain, wisecracking money-hungry gangster, with a particular fixation on real estate, who plots outrageous disasters for Superman to try to avert. He is regularly captured by Superman and sent to prison, only to escape—in a manner similar to the comics—at the opening of the next film. This version of Luthor appears to have little personal dislike for Superman, other than the fact the hero interferes with his criminal schemes. He still displays some scientific expertise that the traditional Luthor exhibited, being able to trace Zod and his cohorts by monitoring their radioactive signatures, and masterminding the creation of the Nuclear Man. Along with surrounding himself with dimwitted henchmen and molls, this version of Luthor also favors hairpieces to conceal his baldness.
Gene Hackman portrays Lex Luthor in the 1978 Superman film, along with two of its sequels, Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). In the films, Luthor is established as an elusive, high-profile criminal who has taken refuge in an extensively restored abandoned subway station under the streets of Metropolis. He is initially fixated on making billions from a massive real-estate swindle, but after being foiled by Superman, shifts his focus to the history and biology of the Kryptonian himself. Unlike in most other portrayals, Hackman's Luthor appears to view Superman as a respectable and challenging foe rather than a subject of intense hatred and is portrayed as somewhat light and comical, resembling a fast talking con artist more than a criminal mastermind; often attempting to talk his way out of trouble. As a result, Luthor is initially not taken seriously by General Zod or Ursa. Although he attempts to kill Superman on multiple occasions, he also expresses his pleasure with Superman's genius intellect and ability to "keep up with" Luthor's speeches and schemes.
John Shea portrayed Lex Luthor in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as a charming and debonair philanthropist and polymath as well as the owner of the massive LexCorp. He is established early on as "the 3rd richest man in the world", behind Bill Gates and the fictional Arthur Chow. However, he is secretly a ruthless and power-hungry individual involved in many criminal enterprises and obsessed with defeating and killing Superman and plotting to turn the public against him. Unlike other incarnations of the character, Shea's Lex has a full head of hair for the majority of the series. Shea addressed this by stating, "Hey, this is the '90s. Do you think a billionaire like Luthor couldn't get himself a full head of hair? Lex Luthor has got to be a modern villain." At the end of season one, he manages to acquire a rare piece of kryptonite. He then devises a trap for Superman that almost kills him, but Superman narrowly escapes when Luthor leaves him to his fate. Just as Luthor is about to marry Lois Lane, the truth about his evil nature is exposed and he takes his own life by jumping off a building rather than face imprisonment. Ironically, due to exposure to Luthor's Kryptonite Cage, Superman's powers are too weak and he cannot save him. During season two, Lex's corpse disappears from the coroner's office. The body then resurfaces in a lab where his ex-wife Arianna Carlin (Emma Samms) with the help of devoted scientist Gretchen Kelly (Denise Crosby) freezes Luthor's remains and labors to bring him back from the dead. Blaming Superman and Lois for Luthor's death (Superman for not saving him and Lois for "driving him to his death" by saying No to him at the altar), Arianna uses subliminal messaging to turn part of Metropolis against Superman and uses plastic surgery to make a henchwoman look like Lois. Lois is then framed for several acts of law-breaking and she tries to make it seem like Lois is having a mental breakdown. Lois is then kidnapped after meeting her double, bound and gagged by Arianna and drugged before Superman arrives. Superman is shot by a Kryptonite bullet and the criminal places the gun in Lois's hands, hoping to frame her for the murder. Superman uses his heat vision to send water from a fish tank onto the face of Lois, reviving her and enabling her to remove the Kryptonite. Arianna and the double are then jailed leaving Gretchen behind to care for Luthor's body. The scientist eventually succeeds, but as a side effect of his resurrection, Lex loses his hair (bringing him in line with his comic book counterpart's usual look). But the effect was only temporary and a year later his hair grew back. He is quickly disenchanted with the changes that have happened during his absence, particularly the emergence of Intergang as well as the loss of his personal fortune. Lex hides underground again seeking Kryptonite. But after kidnapping Lois in an attempt to reclaim her, he is traced to his sewer lair by Superman. But Superman prevents Lex from taking his own life again to "cheat justice" and sends him to prison to serve a double life sentence. At the end of "I Now Pronounce You", Luthor escapes after a whole year in prison thanks to an elaborate plot involving clones. After using a clone of the President to grant him a pardon, Lex kidnaps Lois and replacing her with a clone just before her wedding to Clark. In "Double Jeopardy", Luthor hopes to transfer the minds of himself and the genuine Lois into clone bodies so they may never be found. Although he tricks Lois' clone into divulging Superman's secret identity, Lex still fails in destroying Superman and is killed in the destruction of his lab in his underground subway hideout. Unbeknownst to anyone, Luthor has illegitimate children. The first one was Jaxon Xavier (Andy Berman), a former Lex Labs scientist Lex Labs. He entrapped Lois and Clark in a virtual reality world to steal information for mind control before the two with the help of Jimmy Olsen tricked him into letting them out by stealing his wrist watch escape window leaving him stranded. He crashed the system leaving his mind trapped inside his virtual world forever. The second one was Mr. Smith (Keith Brunsmann), a facially deformed man that was disowned by his father and reduced to living in a furnished sewer/transit station beneath Metropolis as the "Troll". Lex Luthor Jr. hires handsome stand-in Leslie Luckabee (Patrick Cassidy) to impersonate him. The impostor poses as Luthor Junior's public persona as he murders the CEOs of his father's old companies and rebuilds LexCorp. While Lex Junior and his impostor manage to get their hands on a recording of the elder Luthor made before his death. A journal which include Superman's secrets. Both men are later killed in an explosion that levels the crypt. Lois is initially sceptical that Lex could have fathered these adult men, but Clark Kent insists that no one can be sure of Luthor's true age since he was "a master of deception". Although Lex only appeared a few times after the first season, he is mentioned a great deal throughout the rest of the seasons which reveals him as still a very important character.
Michael Rosenbaum portrayed a young incarnation of the character in the series Smallville. In this 2001 series, Lex is sent to Smallville, by his father Lionel Luthor to run the local LuthorCorp fertilizer plant. After driving his car off a bridge, he is saved by Clark Kent and quickly develops a friendship with the farm boy. The Smallville incarnation of Lex is first introduced as a morally ambiguous character that walks a fine line between good and evil. Lex's attires primary consists of dark colors and is an inquisitive person, and it is that curiosity that drives him to attain as much power as possible as the series progresses, ultimately leading him to being Clark's greatest enemy, his conviction that he is 'needed' to protect the world causing him to kill his own father and turn against everyone that he cannot control in the belief that he is 'protecting' the world from the aliens or superhumans who might exert their authority, unable to accept the idea that they only seek to help others. After Rosenbaum left the show, Lex made few appearances (with his face obscured) or had his presence felt by way of clones, or constant mentions of his intertwined destiny with Clark. Rosenbaum reprised his role of Lex in the two-hour series finale, which aired on May 13, 2011, in which the memory of his immoral life is erased by his sister Lutessa Lena Luthor before she dies in order to ensure that he cannot use his knowledge of Clark's secret against him. Seven years later in a flash-forward sequence, it's revealed that Luthor is the President of the United States and has donned his white suit and black glove. Lex's story continues in the comic book continuation Smallville Season Eleven, written by Bryan Q. Miller, who also wrote for the television series.
In 2004, Kurt Carley portrayed Luthor in Sandy Collora's fan film World's Finest.
In the 2006 film Superman Returns, Luthor is portrayed by Kevin Spacey, set sometime after the events of Superman II. Following another stint in jail, during Superman's absence from Earth to investigate the remains of Krypton, he is released on a string of technicalities and seduces a dying widow in order to marry her and inherit her fortune. The widow dies shortly after Superman's return to Earth, and Luthor immediately sets out to avenge himself, first by ransacking the Fortress of Solitude, and later through the abduction of Lois Lane and her son Jason. Spacey's Luthor continues the real-estate fixation of the Hackman version, but also appears to have a real personal animus toward Superman. Both the Hackman and Spacey versions of Luthor surround themselves with bungling henchmen and dim-witted molls.
Other actors who have portrayed Lex Luthor include Scott James Wells and Sherman Howard in the television series Superboy. He has also been voiced in animation by Jackson Beck in the 1960s series The New Adventures of Superman, Stan Jones in the 1970s/1980s Super Friends franchise, Michael Bell in the 1988 Superman animated series, and by Clancy Brown in the 1990s/2000s DC animated universe, as well as a 2007 episode of The Batman and the 2009 direct-to-DVD animated feature Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, among others. Chris Noth portrays the Lex Luthor of a parallel universe (where the character is a superhero) in the animated DVD release Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Luthor is also a playable character in 2008's Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, sporting his trademark battle armor.
In Batman: The Brave and the Bold TV series, a character named Rohtul (Luthor spelled backwards) appears in the episode "The Super-Batman of Planet X" portrayed by Clancy Brown. He appears as the Lex Luthor of Zur-En-Arrh and possibly the arch enemy of the Batman of that world. Both Batmen ended up fighting Rohtul and his army of giant robots (resembling the ones from the comics) when Batman discovered that he had superpowers upon being exposed to Rodon. He used his new abilities to defeat Rohtul's robots and apprehend Rohtul. While in jail, Rohtul discovers Earth Batman's weakness and plans to use it against him as Rodon-powered Earthlings are weak against Quartz (in other words, Rodon and Quartz don't mix). Rohtul contacts one of his robots which springs him out of jail while quoting to the guard that he's "done with the room." When Batman confronts Rohtul, he has one of his robots open a compartment that contains Quartz. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh rescues Batman and sprays him with something that protects him from the Rodon's events. When Rohtul tries to take Vilsi Veylar hostage, he ends up defeated by both Batman. The actual Lex Luthor appears in the episode "Battle of the Superheroes!" voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. He robs a museum and kidnaps Lois Lane only to be thwarted by Superman and arrested by the police. When Lois Lane unknowingly receives a Red Kryptonite necklace, it causes Superman to turn evil causing Batman and Krypto to hold off Superman until the effects wore off. They discovered that the real Lex Luthor is at large having been the one who mailed Lois the Red Kryptonite necklace and that the one in jail was a robotic duplicate. When Lex Luthor tries to use his Kryptonite ring on Superman, it doesn't work due to the fact that Superman was actually Batman in disguise. Lex Luthor was defeated by Batman and Superman. Luthor appears again in the episode "Triumvirate of Terror!", in which he joins the Joker and Cheetah to battle the DC Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman). While Joker fights Wonder Woman and Cheetah Superman, Luthor easily defeats Batman with his battle suit, but Batman tricks him into teleporting them and the others back to their hideout. Once there, he questions Luthor as to whether Cheetah will get control of Metropolis, as she was the one to defeat Superman. Luthor scoffs at this idea, leading to an argument between the three villains. This gives the Trinity enough time to escape from their restraints and promptly defeat the villains.
Lex Luthor appears in Young Justice voiced by Mark Rolston. In the episode titled "Targets", Luthor attempts to arrange a peace negotiation between two warring nations, which he attempts to profit of later on, but is nearly killed by Cheshire and Sportsmaster. A disgusted Red Arrow saves his life, with Luthor attempting to hire him. Later on, the assassins try to kill him and the diplomats again, but are saved by seemingly-robotic Mercy Graves. The diplomats, impressed and grateful, negotiate under a weapons deal by Luthor. It is later revealed that Lex Luthor had set up the assassination attempts with Ra's al Ghul in order to further the agenda of The Light (Project Cadmus' Board of Directors). In "Revelation," it is revealed that Lex Luthor is L-3 of The Light. In "Agendas", Luthor manipulates Superboy into releasing the other Superman clone Match, so that the locations of Cadmus' missing Genomorphs could be located. Afterwards, Luthor reveals to Superboy that he was the donor for the human half of his DNA. When Superboy confronts him, Luthor says the words "Red Sun", causing Superboy to "shut down" for an undetermined amount of time. In "Usual Suspects," Lex Luthor learns that Superboy has used the last of the patches and contacts him to meet with him on Santa Prisca. When Superboy arrives on Santa Prisca to meet up with Lex Luthor, he also finds Queen Bee, Sportsmaster, Cheshire, Bane, and Blockbuster with him as Miss Martian and Artemis also arrive. Lex Luthor quotes "Red Sun" to disable Superboy so that he can be ready for the plot Lex Luthor and Queen Bee have in mind. When Miss Martian lashes out against Blockbuster, the rest of the Team arrives to fight the villains. As Superboy fights Blockbuster, Lex Luthor states that the there were other programs that were to be installed into Superboy, but Dr. Mark Desmond never got the chance to add them once Superboy was awakened. After Queen Bee is knocked out, Lex Luthor and Mercy escape into their helicopter with Queen Bee while the Team continues to fight the other villains. In "Auld Acquaintance," Ra's al Ghul, Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Ocean Master, and Brain infiltrate Project Cadmus and steal the clones that they have.
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