Created by Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Lex Luthor is one of the greatest and most well-known villains in comic book history. In the DC Comics Universe, he's one of the richest and smartest men in the world. Unfortunately for the Man of Steel, he tends to use his resources for evil instead of good. He spends his time dedicated to two pursuits: trying to take over the world and killing Superman. He's ruthless, powerful, and utterly without conscience. And while he's currently flying around Metropolis playing hero with Superman's S emblazoned on his chest, if history has taught us anything it's that he's definitely hiding something and he will definitely go full-on evil again before long.
Luthor has done a lot of horrible things, like building giant robots to crush cities, using mind control to enslave people, and arranging for the murder of his enemies. Of course, he's also tried using kryptonite to attempt to kill Superman and other Kryptonians on countless occasions. Despite this already lengthy resume of evil, there are a few skeleton's in Luthor's villainous closet that truly stand out as the worst of the worst. Join us as we look back on the worst things Lex Luthor has ever done.
11 Killed His Parents
Luthor's evil deeds began at a very early age. To start pulling himself up by the bootstraps and earning his fortune, Luthor murdered his mother and father.
Luthor grew up in a slum, and later described his parents to Superman as "pathetic" and "mediocre." He claimed that he began plotting their death from the moment he learned to walk. By making connections with gangs and criminals in his neighborhood, Luthor was able to take out an insurance policy on his parents without their knowledge. Of course, he made himself the beneficiary. Then, before his parents went on a trip, he had a mechanic tamper with their car, resulting in a malfunction that led to their death. With the insurance payment, he used the money and his intellect to build LexCorp.
This fit a long pattern for Luthor. He could have killed them directly, but he wanted to make sure the murder couldn't be pinned on him. He also wanted to profit from their deaths. It shows how cold-blooded Luthor could be at any age.
10 Ruined Women's Lives For Fun
Luthor is one of the richest men in the world, but money isn't his main ambition. More than wealth, he wants power. And not just power over nations, but power over individuals.
In 1987's "Superman #9," Luthor goes to a diner in Metropolis where he offers a waitress named Jenny a deal. He says he'll give her a million dollars to move in with him for one month (and beating Robert Redford's "Indecent Proposal" by six years). It's strongly implied (but not overtly stated) that the offer is a sexual one, but she's already married and takes offense at the offer. He taunts her, telling her about how she's never been out of Metropolis, settled for marrying her high school sweetheart, and how she has no real education. Luthor leaves, telling her he'll wait in his car for exactly ten minutes before leaving her forever.
What follows is an argument between Jenny and her co-workers as she agonizes over the decision. Some tell her to take the deal. Others encourage her to resist. The thought of getting a life-changing amount of money seems too good to be true, but she's not sure if the price is worth it. Just as it seems she's made her choice, she leaves the diner to discover Luthor's car already driving away.
Afterward, we see a conversation with Luthor's chauffeur Cynthia about how her boss' hobby is to tempt women with the offer and abruptly leave before they come to a decision. The woman in question is be haunted by the proposal and the agony over actually making the choice, as he says, "for the rest of her meaningless life."
9 Made a Robot Lois Lane
Luthor has always had a thing for Lois Lane, probably because she has a thing for Superman. He's tried to manipulate her into dating him on several occasions (and in some alternate realities, Luthor dates and even marries Lois). But in the main DCU canon, Luthor always strikes out. That's probably why he decided it was a good idea to make his own Lois.
In "Action Comics" #890, it was revealed that Lex Luthor and his assistant Spalding had created a robot duplicate of Lois Lane using her DNA and Kryptonian cybernetics. As Lex searched the world for an Orange Lantern power ring, he turned to Robot Lois for advice, companionship, and -- yes, he went there -- sex. The robot Lois also had missiles and guns built into her to serve as Luthor's bodyguard and assassin to boot.
One can only imagine the horror Lois Lane would feel knowing her worst enemy has created an exact duplicate of her which he has complete access to, physically and mentally, and took full advantage of both.
SPOILER WARNING: The following entry contains spoilers for "Infinite Crisis"
8 Betrayed His Son
This one will take some explaining.
Alexander Luthor, Jr. was born in the alternate reality known as Earth-Three, the son of a different Lex Luthor and Lois Lane-Luthor. During 1985's limited series "Crisis on Infinite Earths," the Anti-Monitor destroyed Earth-Three, along with multiple other realities. But Alexander's parents sent him to an abandoned satellite on Earth-One, the standard Earth most DC comics took place in. There, he ages rapidly, growing into an adult to help defeat the Anti-Monitor. Together with Superboy-Prime, and the Earth-Two version of Lois Lane and Superman, Alexander retreats to a "paradise dimension."
Years later, Alexander manipulated Superboy-Prime into helping him escape, and took Lex Luthor's place on Earth-One during 2005's "Infinite Crisis" event series. Believing he's a better and smarter version of Earth-One's Lex Luthor, Alexander harnesses the power of the Anti-Monitor, Black Adam and the Spectre to reform the multiverse and combine the Earth into a single "perfect" Earth. He ultimately failed, and retreated to an alley in Gotham City to come up with a new plan. But he was discovered found by the real Lex Luthor, who used the Joker to spray Alexander with acid and shoot him, while taunting Alexander with "Now who's stupid?"
Not even Lex Luthor is safe from Lex Luthor.
SPOILER WARNING: The following entry contains spoilers for "The Adventures of Superman" #15
7 Destroyed Faith in Superman
In 2013's "Adventures of Superman" #15, Luthor figured out a new weakness of Superman's: there's only one of him. Luthor realizes that Superman can't be everywhere at once, so he divised a plan that would hit the Man of Steel where it really hurts. He decided to stretch Superman to his limits by committing several crimes at the same time.
First, he drove a tank through the streets of Metropolis to break into the Metropolis National Bank. But when Superman arrived to confront him, Luthor set off explosives he had planted on a nearby dam. Superman then flew off to rescue people from the flood waters and used his cold breath to freeze the water. But at the same time, a young man named Mike ended up getting run over by a train. With all the chaos, Superman couldn't reach Mike -- who was calling out for help -- in time to save him. Later, a police officer asked if Luthor is ever tired of losing to Superman. Luthor said he would consider it a victory if he caused even one person to hate Superman.
Cut to Mike's brother Henry burning his Superman collection, having lost faith in him forever. Luthor wins again.
Taking away a child's faith in Superman may seem like a small thing, but the calculation and callousness involved makes it one of the worst acts Luthor ever committed.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "Adventure Comics" #5
6 Can Cure Diseases, But Doesn't
Luthor is a genius who has seemingly unlimited resources in nearly every technical field in the world. For example, LexCorp has created advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, transportation, computer hardware and weapons. It makes sense LexCorp also has a department that's making similar strides in medicine. LexCorp could be revolutionizing the field of medicine, except for one problem: Lex Luthor won't allow it. There have been numerous occasions where Luthor has revealed he has cures for various diseases, but won't release them to the general public because of his own twisted purposes.
In one issue, Luthor tells his staff he has an inoculation against multiple sclerosis, but sends it to the lab to be turned into an ongoing treatment, instead. There's more profit in treatment than prevention. In another comic, Luthor claimed to have the cures for cancer and AIDS, but is holding them for his own benefit.
But the absolute worst example involved Luthor's own sister, Lena Luthor. Lena is a paraplegic. In "Adventure Comics" #5, Lena's daughter Lori broke into a pharmacy to steal some medicine for her mother. Superboy stopped her and gave her a ride home, but Lex showed up with kryptonite to weaken Superboy. Using Lori as a hostage, Lex convinced Superboy to find the ingredients for a medicine to cure his sister. True to his word, Superboy got the ingredients, and Luthor injected Lena with it. Lena rose from her chair, completely cured, to hug her daughter.
Then Lex injected her again, paralyzing Lena. He told a horrified Superboy that he would only give them the cure once Superman was dead. He put his sister back into a wheelchair, just so he could blackmail Superman. But that's still not the worst thing he's ever done.
SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "52 #3"
5 Created the Everymen
It's long been established that Luthor envies Superman's powers, and that led to one of his most diabolical acts. In "52" #3, Lex Luthor launched an ambitious venture called the Everyman Project. He claimed the goal of the project was to give average people (non-metahumans in the DC lingo) superpowers. The first people to get the gene therapy treatment became members of a new superhero team called Infinity, Inc.
But John Henry Irons (also known as Steel), uncovered a sinister plot. It turned out Luthor only formed the project to test the gene therapy on other people before using it on himself. Luthor also included a shut-off switch on the genes, so he could take away the powers whenever he wanted.
On New Year's Eve, during a celebration by the members of the Everyman Project, Luthor learned he was genetically incompatible with the gene therapy and could never use it to gain abilities of his own. In a fit of rage, Luthor turned off all the powers he granted. Many of the project members were in mid-flight when he took their powers, causing them to fall to their deaths. The cruelty of giving such great power, only to then take it away, made this so horrible. But we're just getting started...
4 Killed His Fighting Instructor
Luthor likes to keep himself in peak physical condition. That means a lot of training, which requires the right people to train with. But they can't do their job too well, and Sasha Green learned that lesson the hard way.
In "Superman Annual" #5, martial arts instructor Sasha Green engaged Luthor is in a practice fight and managed to kick him off guard. Not only was Luthor furious with getting injured, but Lois Lane saw it as well. Enraged at his humiliation, Luthor waited until later to choke her to death with his bare hands. He later dumped her body in a landfill.
Sasha Green later returned to life after being bitten by an alien parasite, Gemir. She gained psychic and shape-changing powers and became the supervillain Myriad, losing control of her own identity in the process. She taught Luthor a lesson, and he taught her something worse -- never trust Luthor.
3 Stole Forty Cakes
When no one was looking, Lex Luthor took forty cakes. That's as many as four tens. And that's terrible.
If that doesn't make sense, then you don't browse much on websites like Reddit. Luthor stealing forty cakes is a popular Internet meme. In 1978, a book called "The Super Dictionary" was published with over four thousand words made into short paragraphs about DC characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, among others. While many of the illustrations and text were pretty ridiculous, the one about Lex Luthor stealing a cart full of cakes struck a lot of people as both silly and funny.
We know this isn't really the worst thing Luthor has done, but the dictionary informs us it is terrible, and someone in the comments was bound to mention it.
SPOILER WARNING: The following entry contains spoilers for "War of the Supermen"
2 Destroyed a Planet
In 2008's "New Krypton" storyline, Superman is dealing with the aftermath of a battle with Brainiac. In the process, he rescued the Kryptonian city of Kandor from Brainiac, and a hundred thousand Kryptonians began living with him at the Fortress of Solitude. But things didn't go too well for them on Earth, so they used Kryptonian technology to create a crystal planetoid underneath it. By raising the city into space opposite Earth, it became a new planet called New Krypton.
Superman left Earth to live on New Krypton, but the Kryptonians (led by General Zod) planned to attack Earth. In retaliation, Earth sent a clone of Luthor, along with the cyborg Metallo and energy supervillain Reactron, to New Krypton. Equipped with gold and green kryptonite, Reactron and Metallo attacked the city. At a crucial moment, Luthor altered Reactron's body chemistry to cause him to explode in a chain reaction that destroyed New Krypton and most of the Kryptonians.
Luthor destroyed an entire planet. Is that the worst thing he's ever done? Not even close.
1 Almost Destroyed the Universe
When Lex Luthor became president of the United States in "Lex 2000," he actually seemed like a pretty good Commander in Chief. He put in a moratorium on fossil fuels, launched an increased focus on science, and managed to keep both political parties happy. But his greatest accomplishment seemed to be when Imperiex (the physical embodiment of entropy) attacked Earth. Imperiex planned to destroy the current universe to make way for a new, perfect one. Of course, he started with Earth. When Imperiex's probes arrived on Earth, they destroyed eight places on seven continents and even Atlantis to prepare for the demolition. Luthor coordinated a team of superheroes, aliens and the military from a coalition of Earth's nations to stop Imperiex.
Unfortunately, this didn't make Luthor the hero he seemed. It turned out that Luthor knew about the invasion well in advance and did nothing to stop it. He wanted the war to happen, so he could be seen as a great leader. If his plan hadn't gone well, it would have ended with the destruction of the Universe. Even though Imperiex was defeated, that still means Luthor is responsible for everyone who died during the war, all so he could get some good PR and up his approval rating.
Did we catch all of Luthor's worst deeds? Let us know!