Wayne’s Worlds: Lex Luthor, Hero?
In the last several years, I’ve noticed that Lex Luthor has been a favorite among certain writers, and I do see their point. Below, I’m listing the folks and events that I thought illustrate this idea clearly. (I know there are other books that make Luthor more “grey,” but these are my favorites.)
BRUCE TIMM AND ‘SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES’
When Superman: The Animated Series debuted, one of the stand-out characters was Luthor. Voiced by Clancy Brown, the Bald-Headed One was an interesting foil for the Man of Steel.
Interestingly enough, in that show, and in the two Justice League programs that followed it, Luthor was portrayed as living in a “grey” area, always seeing himself as the “good guy” trying to save Earth from the “alien invasion” Superman represented.
He was trying to save the planet from the aliens by any means necessary, even if it required using methods that would cause others to label him a villain.
Luthor took a tragic twist when, after carrying Kryptonite around for years, he found that it had given him radiation poisoning. That ramped up the urgency for him.
I found it particularly interesting that, in one of the last few episodes of Justice League Unlimited, the focus was put on Luthor and his band travelling through space. It was intriguing to see an episode in which the heroes were difficult to find.
PAUL CORNELL AND ACTION COMICS
I don’t know if that series influenced Paul Cornell’s take on Luthor, but before the New 52 debuted, there was a shift in focus for Action Comics, previously a Superman title.
Cornell followed Luthor’s attempts to accomplish his goals and, like Mr. Timm’s version, he often found himself having to choose between being “good” or “bad.” The writer made sure that, every once in a while, Luthor did something despicable so readers were reminded that he hadn’t completely turned into a hero.
What interested me was that, in many shops, Action Comics actually outsold Superman. As one store owner told me, “This is Luthor’s ultimate revenge.”
GEOFF JOHNS AND JUSTICE LEAGUE
The Forever Evil event had been shaking up the status quo in DC for a while, and it was written by Geoff Johns.
Of course, I remember Mr. Johns scripting The Flash, and how much he enjoyed fleshing out “The Rogues,” the collection of criminals taking on The Fastest Man Alive.
In days past, much like the Justice League, The Rogues were only differentiated by the powers or weapons they had. Johns saw fertile ground there, and expanded each “villain” into a person we could either relate to or at least begin to understand.
I’m getting a sense that Johns wants to do the same kind of thing with Luthor.
Not only that, but Luthor recently gained Martian Manhunter-style powers in the Year of the Villain event. Sadly for him, The Batman Who Laughs outflanked him, so he’s likely back to human status for the foreseeable future.
OF COURSE, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, NOT EVEN EVIL
One thing in comics today that still bugs me is that these types of changes are really only temporary. Recently, I talked about my disdain for Dick Grayson being Batman and Steve Rogers being “dead.”
As a big fan of Mr. Johns, I’m looking forward to more of his looking into Luthor, perhaps even a “Three Luthors” series like the Joker-centric book he has coming out soon.
My guess about what might happen moving forward is that Luthor will lead up his own group who, like him, will move back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys. But we’ll see.
Still, Forever Evil and Year of the Villain have been some of my favorite comics events ever! And I trust Mr. Johns and the other creative forces at DC enough to stick with them while Luthor and the Justice League follow the same path, even if this takes place only for a while!
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