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If Any DC Villain Deserves A Solo Project, It's Lex Luthor

If Any DC Villain Deserves A Solo Project, It's Lex Luthor Image
  • Posted on 08th Apr, 2022 20:10 PM
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Batman's rogues gallery gets all the focus, but perhaps the DC Universe could benefit from exploring a different iconic supervillain.

p>Villains are often substantially more popular than the heroes they do battle with. Maybe it's the lack of moral restraint or the incredible variety of methods and motives or perhaps the fact that they're almost always more attractive than their nemeses. Villain origin stories are very hot right now, but there's one superhero whose famed enemies never seem to get their day in the sun.

Spider-Man's old foes Venom and Morbius have taken to the screen, with Kraven on the way. Batman's favorite opponent The Joker has an unsettlingly grounded take of his own. The DC Universe has comprised the Suicide Squad twice and James Gunn gets incredible mileage out of minor antagonists. The heavy hitters are mostly from Batman or The Flash's catalog, but Superman has at least one nemesis worthy of a solo project.

RELATED: Re-Casting Lex Luthor For The Next DCEU Superman

Alexander Joseph Luthor was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1940, two years and 23 issues into Superman's original run. Originally devised as a sort of mad scientist who manipulates global affairs from a flying city, typically to the end of global domination or massive profit. Luthor's early outings almost always ended with his apparent death, only for him to appear again to everyone's surprise. His baldness, which first occurred due to an unexplained error by an illustrator, has undergone three or four different explanations. The Gold and Silver Age take on the character carry aspects of his modern incarnation, but he's very different to modern audiences. The current take on Lex Luthor is both intensely socially relevant and a very intriguing character on his own.

Lex Luthor is a titan of industry, a morally bankrupt billionaire who uses his astonishing wealth and scientific genius to seek out fame and fortune. His ego is inconceivable, he believes himself to be entitled to universal love and adoration. His backstories vary from one story to another, but perhaps the most affecting came from the Post-Crisis series Man of Steel. Lex grew up poor and desperate for a better life, so he took initiative and cut the brakes from his parents' car. Claiming the insurance money, he founded LexCorp, a nonspecific conglomerate that makes an immense amount of profit. Luthor is typically portrayed as the scientific mind behind the company's success, but he also does a great deal of work on more specialized projects.

The big problem with Superman, from a writing perspective, is that he's effectively a god for whom no problem constitutes any significant conflict. His nemeses are typically alien beings with power so great it becomes abstract or magical entities with strange and inexplicable capabilities. His weaknesses are clear, but there's rarely any real tension over whether Superman can effectively punch the monster of the week. Lex Luthor's later incarnations arose out of the desire to pit the Man of Steel against someone smarter than he is, forcing the battle into a test of intelligence rather than muscle. Of course, Luthor's big mech suit and hired goons often turn the conflict right back into a fistfight more often than not. The issue is the writing. Movies about Superman haven't been good in decades, and multiple filmmakers have missed what makes him interesting. Maybe starting from the perspective of his greatest nemesis would reframe the issue.

Modern incarnations of Lex Luthor don't just oppose or antagonize Superman, they are often obsessed with destroying him. Luthor's perspective on the Man of Steel, often informed by idolizing him as a child or running afoul of him as an adult, is a mixture of jealousy and philosophical distrust. Luthor argues that mankind shouldn't worship an alien savior, no matter what good deeds he does. His end goal is almost always to take Superman's position of prominence and public adoration, but he has no interest in helping people. When given the chance to help people without Superman in the way, he spends that time gathering power. When Clark Kent's secret identity is revealed to him, he refuses to believe it, because he can't conceive of a person holding access to immense power and choosing to hide it. He's a self-obsessed villain, a genius blinded by his own ego, and a deeply fascinating monster whose unique circumstances are more suited for grounded realism than any other.

Lex Luthor has been brought to the screen plenty of times, but he's never been the focus of his own project. Luthor's story is grim, gripping, dark, and distressingly believable. It's easy for any informed person to imagine Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg in a reality where Superman exists getting weirdly obsessed with him and devoting billions to taking his place. Lex Luthor's solo project could come in a variety of different forms, from gritty business drama to pitch-black comedy, but it could be one of the smartest DC projects of the franchise so far.

MORE: DC: 8 Best Heroic Versions Of Lex Luthor

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