In the early noughties, Smallville offered audiences a unique glimpse into the early days of one of the greatest hero/villain rivalries of all time. When Smallville’s wholesome farm boy/super-powered Kryptonian refugee, Clark Kent, first meets Lex Luthor (played respectively by Supa-Stars Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum) in the show’s pilot episode, their fates are forever intertwined by a chance accident when Lex’s car careens wildly off a bridge, striking Clark in the process. Of course, in a contest between a speeding Porsche and the Man of Steel, the car inevitably comes off second best and Clark is forced to save an unconscious Lex from drowning.
Thus begins an unlikely friendship, which would slowly sour over the seasons to follow, hinting toward an epic contest of wills, which would perpetually echo in the halls of DC Comics fandom for years to come.
With all the Kent and Luthor portrayals that both preceded and followed Welling and Rosenbaum — from Christopher Reeves and Gene Hackman, through to Tyler Hoechlin and Jon Cryer, Henry Cavill and Jesse Eisenberg and so many more — never before or since Smallville have we glimpsed such an in-depth exploration of the relationship between comic book history’s most famous pair of arch-enemies on screen. Yet whilst Clark and Lex have had many memorable clashes in both film and television over the years, some of Lex Luthor’s best-laid schemes to topple the Man of Steel still reside in the pages of the original comics.
So let’s take a look at some of Lex Luthor’s most dastardly plans to finally bring an end to Superman.
Got himself elected President of the United States of America
When being a power-mad business magnate with near unlimited resources just isn’t quite enough to topple your arch-enemy, there’s really only one play left to help achieve your nefarious goals — get elected as the President of The United States.
In the 2003 Superman/Batman comic run, Lex Luthor ran and won the US Presidency, and whilst in residence in the White House, had both Superman and Batman declared as public enemies, falsely blaming Superman for a kryptonite meteor, which was on a crash collision course with Earth.
Of course, Supes and Batsy not only exposed Luthor for the crook he was, but also saved the planet from total annihilation in the process.
Founded the Legion of Doom
Technically this plot owes its origins to the 1970s cartoon series Challenge of the Super Friends (based off the Justice League of America comics) before it made its own way into the comic books, but it was such a wickedly devious move, it deserves a mention. Whilst Superman had his buddies in the Justice League to turn to for help when things got really serious, being a supervillain was usually a pretty lonely existence. At least it was, that is, until Luthor was suddenly struck with an idea to gather his own underhanded supergroup together in the Hall of Doom located in the not-so-inconspicuously named Slaughter Swamp on the outskirts of Gotham City.
With some of DC’s top villains, the Legion of Doom would continue to prove more than troublesome for Superman and his other super friends down through the years.
Built himself a Kryptonite Warsuit
Whilst Bruce Wayne may have been the one to don an armoured battlesuit capable of evening the odds when he went toe-to-toe with Superman in 2016’s Batman v Superman, we kind of have to admit that Lex Luthor wore it better first (and his colour scheme also has a lot more pizzazz). In the comics, Luthor’s iconic green and purple warsuit has had a number of origins over the years, from an alien invention designed by the peoples of the planet Lexor, to a suit gifted to him by Darkseid himself, and, most recently, a product of his own imagination put together by his Lexcorp engineers.
Whatever the origins of the warsuit may be, whenever Lex puts it on, it transforms him from merely being a behind the scenes puppet master to a real physical threat to the Man of Steel.
Found a Cure for Cancer
Sounds like a strange plan, but back in the 1960s silver age of DC Comics, Lex Luthor won Superman’s friendship and trust by finding a cure for cancer whilst he languished in prison, and it was a plan that actually worked!
Supes was so impressed with Luthor’s supposed turn around that he testified on his behalf at a parole hearing, winning him his freedom. Lex being Lex, of course, had other plans afoot, and used his newfound friendship to lure Superman into a trap where he blasted him with a Kryptonite laser, effectively killing him some three decades before Doomsday would ever have the chance to in the infamous Death of Superman run. Lex’s victory was short-lived, however, as Supergirl would later reveal herself, and Lex would be sentenced to the Phantom Zone for his crimes.
Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum will appear at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Sydney (21–23 June) and Perth (29-30 June).