WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the story "Suprema Est Lex," by Mark Russell and Jill Thompson, from Action Comics Special #1, on sale now.
Some have pinpointed April 30, 2011, as the date that, after decades of flirtation, businessman and reality-television star Donald Trump resolved that he would run for president of the United States. It was the night of the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where Trump, then the most vocal adherent of the birther movement, sat in the audience and became the punchline of a barrage of jokes by then-President Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers. Although our current president has repeatedly insisted he loved that dinner, he very clearly didn't. Lex Luthor can relate.
Superman's archenemy, the mad scientist turned business magnate turned ... superhero, famously pivoted to politics well before Trump, succeeding Bill Clinton as the 43rd president of the United States, at least in the DC Universe, in 2001. (He was also president on the animated Justice League, on Smallville and in Superman: Red Son, but that's neither here nor there.) We've always known Luthor is driven by a thirst for power, but the details surrounding his decision to seek the country's highest elected office have been a bit hazy, until now.
DC's Action Comics Special #1 takes us back to that moment, "long ago," which just so happens to be the night of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. A coincidence, undoubtedly. In "Suprema Est Lex" (the highest law), written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Jill Thompson, the media magnate reflects on his lifetime of accomplishments as he arrives at the event, observing, "Now I am the second-most-powerful man in the country. And the only thing that makes the president more powerful is that little red button that could end the world." Surely, Luthor is excluding the Man of Steel in that assessment, but that would undoubtedly ruin his mood, something that shouldn't occur for a little while longer, once the jokes begin.
Apparently what sets the DCU's White House Correspondents’ Association apart from its real-world counterpart is the inability to attract top-notch comedians, because in "Suprema Est Lex," it's Lois Lane and Clark Kent who deliver the zingers, directed first at the sitting president, then the Justice League and, finally, Luthor. The opening barb, about his life of privilege, is harmless enough, but the real humiliation comes with the video montage celebrating the recipient of that year's humanitarian award: Superman, because he doesn't have enough accolades. Witnessing the lionization of his archenemy is bad enough, but Luthor plays an unfortunate co-starring role in the tribute.
Clad in his Super Powers-era green-and-purple battle armor -- or, as Clark Kent observes, "dressed like a club kid" -- Luthor is apprehended in the montage by Superman, only to be released on a technicality. But he proves to be his own undoing (again), by taking time for a victory moon pie, which is totally something supervillains would do.
As if being transformed into a public laughing stock weren't bad enough, a drunken man sidles up to the urinal next to Luthor and begins to talk -- two breaches of restroom decorum -- and refers to the second-most-powerful man in the country as "Moon Pie." It's one humiliation too many, spurring Luthor to immediately order the formation of an exploratory committee to begin his run for office. After he's ordered his security detail to pummel the man, naturally.
Luthor was elected, of course, but served only three years of his term before being removed from office in disgrace, and succeeded by his vice president, Pete Ross.
Mind you, "Suprema Est Lex" is far from the first time parallels have been drawn Luthor and Trump. John Byrne drew inspiration from Trump for his 1986 rebranding of the fictional mad scientist as a powerful businessman in DC's The Man of Steel, and the cover of the 1989 one-shot Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography was based on the design of Trump: The Art of the Deal.
Action Comics Special #1, by Dan Jurgens, Will Conrad, Wil Quintana, Rob Leigh, Mark Russell, Jill Thompson, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Max Landis, Francis Manapul, Steve Wands, Ryan Sook, Cary Nord, Steve Orlando, Mick Gray, Wade von Grawbadger, FCO Plascencia and Carlos M. Mangual, is on sale now from DC.