Every day in April we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!
Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).
Today’s list is the Greatest Lex Luthor Stories Ever Told!
10. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1-5
Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo gave us this strong mini-series where we see just how strong Luthor’s conviction that he is the only thing standing between the world and Superman. The title of the mini-series is not just a play on words but Luthor’s true belief – he represents the best of HUMANITY while Superman is an encroaching alien that we can never truly trust. By the end of the series, though, Luthor is forced to question his own humanity.
9. “The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman!” Superman Vol. 1 #164
Likely the first notable example of the “humanize Luthor” trope that we have seen a number of great examples of over the years. Here, Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein bring us a battle between Luthor and Superman on a planet where Superman’s powers do not work. Surprisingly, Luthor ends up becoming a hero to the people on this planet, allowing us to see another side to the mad genius and, for the first time, get the repeated idea of “If there was no Superman around for him to attack, would Luthor actually be a good guy?”
8. Man of Steel #4-5
“Enemy Mine,” Man of Steel #4’s introduction of the Luthor/Superman rivalry, got the most votes, but there were enough votes for the Bizarro story from #5 that I figured I’d combine the two. Anyhow, here, John Byrne (along with inker Dick Giordano) gives us the Post-Crisis Lex Luthor, a corrupt businessman who is the hero of Metropolis…until, of course, Superman shows up.
7. “The Einstein Connection” Superman
Perhaps the king of all “humanizing Luthor” stories, Elliot S! Maggin, Curt Swan and Al Williamson show us an almost touching side of Luthor as we learn that he breaks out of prison every year on the same date, just so he can pay tribute to Albert Einstein.
6. “The Black Ring” Action Comics #890-900 (plus Secret Six #29)
Luthor’s unquenchable thirst for power is the driving force behind Paul Cornell and Pete Woods’ year-long Black Ring storlyine, as Luthor became the star of Action Comics for a time. Along with his robot version of Lois Lane (possibly the breakout character of the story), Luthor searches for the greatest power he can find. When he ends up in a near state of omnipotence, we see the darkly twisted position of Luthor’s soul when it comes to Superman. What would Luthor rather have – universal peace on Earth or a dead Superman? The answer might even surprise him.
The top five is on the next page!
5. “The Secret Revealed!” Superman Vol. 2 #2
This is one dark story. John Byrne (and inkers Terry Austin and Keith Williams) decided to deal head on with the idea of a man as brilliant as Luthor being able to figure out Superman’s secret identity. Luthor goes through some deplorable methods of finding out Superman’s secret but once he does, can he even believe it himself? Byrne explores Luthor’s motivations beautifully in this story as we see how Luthor applies his personal beliefs to Superman and the result is both humorous and depressing. Plus, Luthor’s disdain for women is hinted at with his treatment of the female scientist who helps him find Superman’s secret. More from Byrne on this point in a bit…
4. “Metropolis 900 MI” Superman Vol. 2 #9
In this back-up story, Byrne and inker Karl Kesel show us the little games that Luthor plays with “normal” people. This is likely the cruelest we’ve ever seen Luthor, which is saying something since the guy can be pretty damn cruel.
3. “The Gospel According to Lex Luthor” All-Star Superman #5
Grant Morrison and Frank Quietely have Clark Kent spend a day in prison with Lex Luthor and their take on Luthor is fascinating. They humanize him while still keeping him clearly evil. It is just an evil that almost seems to have a point behind it. Plus, the visual depiction of Luthor is out of this world (the eyebrow bit alone is worth the price of admission)!
2. The Unauthorized Biography of Lex Luthor
James Hudnall and Eduardo Barreto give us a glimpse into Luthor’s past as a down on his luck writer has his chance for his last big break by writing a biography of Lex Luthor. Things, as you might imagine, do not go his way. This book has a particularly compelling sequence where Luthor blackmails Clark Kent. This might be the most frustrated Superman has ever been.
1. “The Death of Superman” Superman Vol. 1 #149
Jerry Siegel, Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff created one of the greatest “Imaginary Story” of all-time as they show us the depths Luthor will sink to to kill Superman. In this story, Luthor actually CURES CANCER! And why does he do this? Simply to get Superman to trust him enough so that Luthor can KILL HIM!! How twistedly awesome is that? However, Luthor gets what is coming to him in the end in a brilliant sequence where he can’t seem to understand how things are not going his way.
That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let us know!