Lex Luthor: Man of Steel

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"He is not a man!"

The Alien says that he is humanity's savior. That he fights for "Truth, Justice and the American Way". He makes the entire world love him and look up to him.

And yet, there is one man who can see what a threat the alien truly represents, one man who is willing to stand against the being who has been compared with God: Lex Luthor. The battle will be ugly, but the truth shall prevail.

An Alternate Character Interpretation of Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel was first published in 2005 by DC Comics. It's a bit of a departure from other stories about Luthor, which up until then (and indeed for twenty years previous) had shown him as little more than an unrepentant asshole who just wanted to kill Superman. It deconstructs Superman's Arch Enemy in subtle ways, or at least speaks to humanist traits the character had taken on since about 2000. First is this: when other comics on the stands in 2005 were about Luthor heading up a big honkin' Legion of Doom and manipulating Superboy For the Evulz, an empathic view into the mind of Lex Luthor was seen as an odd thing, though not totally unwelcomed. As it turns out, the story was very well-received.

Recently re-released and given the more laconic yet intimidating title Luthor. Works nicely as a companion piece to Azzarello's later work, Joker: even the trade dress and typefaces play up the differences between these two characters. Frank Miller might be proud.


Tropes used in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel include:
  • Acceptable Targets: An in-universe example. Luthor selects Winslow Schott (a.k.a. Toyman) to be nearly killed by Hope and then saved by Superman. Because Schott had just bombed a daycare center (or more likely, took the fall for Lex himself) and is an alleged child molester, Lex knew the public would be calling for his blood and turn against Superman for saving his life.
  • Arc Words: "Hope."
  • Beware the Superman: From Luthor's perspective, Superman always has glowing malevolent red eyes, and every sitch and seam of his costume can be seen, and is silent during the entire series (save the end.)
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Hope is very clearly modeled on Halle Berry. Out of his suit, Bruce Wayne (at least in one scene) looks like Christian Bale -- fitting, this, as it came out the same summer as Batman Begins.
  • Continuity Cameo: Of a sort; the redheaded woman in the green dress whom Bruce Wayne checks out during his lunch meeting with Luthor is hinted to be Poison Ivy.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Luthor has constructed the Science Spire, a massive research facility-stroke-monument to human achievement and has financed Hope, a new superhero who is in fact an intricate artificial human. He ends up destroying both for no other reason than to make Superman look bad. This is presented in order to show Luthor, for all his grand talk about the existence of Superman diminishing and belittling human accomplishment and the alternative perspectives we've seen of him as a benevolent humanist, as ultimately the petty, deluded and spiteful hypocrite that he is.
  • Deconstruction: Maybe. The story mainly revolves around an entirely-reasonable Luthor being polite to the people he meets and monologuing some A-level philosophy -- but by the end of things, he's still committed an astonishing mountain of atrocities. Pretty much another day at the office for Luthor, but at least you know how he thinks.
    • Throughout the story, in his narration Luthor believes he is deconstructing Superman and exposing him as a threat. However, while the depiction of Superman is definitely colder and more alien than usual, we're still mostly seeing him through Luthor's not-exactly-unbiased eyes; of the two, cold alien or not only one is still flying around selflessly helping people while the other is planning various destructive atrocities to try and "expose" him. If anyone's being deconstructed here, it's Luthor himself. Also, the story goes to great pains to show how Luthor's obsessions are blinding him and making him lose touch with reality and the people around him.
    • Belief can change the nature of a man. It shapes everything in his world, so since the comic is essentially a deconstruction of Luthor's psyche from his point of view, of course we're gonna see Superman as Lex sees him: a dangerous alien that needs to be taken down.
      • One could argue that he doesn't really believe the line he's spewing about Superman and knows how noble he is; he just likes to tell himself that he's a dangerous alien because he likes imagining himself as The Hero. This partially depends on how literally you interpret Unreliable Narrator -- if Lex is actually narrating this story, then everything he says should be taken with a grain of salt, as he's not just trying to convince himself of Superman's villainy, he's trying to manipulate us.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: This one depends on how you choose to interpret who's behind the events of the story. If you believe that Toyman was behind the destruction of the jewelers/daycare centre all on his own, then it's Luthor. If you believe that Luthor knew all along what was going down and in fact orchestrated it, then it's Toyman and Orr. The text would seem to lean more towards the latter interpretation of events than the former, though.
  • Evil Plan: It is very strongly hinted that Luthor is behind every single thing we see happen in the graphic novel, even if it is not outright stated in most cases. With some of the things that occur, this would make Luthor a Complete Monster if true, despite his charming rationalisation.
  • Foe Yay: In an inner monologue, Luthor says Bruce Wayne conveys animal magnetism, but seems rankled by it. Also: "you have a reputation to maintain."
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lex's lovely assistant gets jealous of the attention he gives Hope. And of course, Luthor himself has green eyes.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Luthor delivers several to the viewer, one to Bruce Wayne and one to Superman.
    • At the end, Superman delivers an epic one to Luthor... in a single sentence.
  • Hero Syndrome: Luthor, although his plan is much more subtle and long-term than most examples (and probably fails, like most of his schemes).
  • Kick the Dog: Luthor does this repeatedly, all without fanfare. It allows the reader to overlook most of it.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: At one point, Superman and Batman come to blows over a chunk of green kryptonite that Luthor has given to Bruce Wayne. Although there's little context and we don't hear any dialogue between the two, it's suggested that Superman is either under some kind of Mind Control, is a little bit miffed about Batman going behind his back and accepting the only thing that can possibly kill him for whatever reason (and accepted it from Superman's arch-nemesis, of all people), or a bit of both. Either way, it's once again implied that Luthor planned this all along, as this fight serves to convince Bruce Wayne to accept Luthor's viewpoint, to a degree at least.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Inverted; Lex is very friendly to various service characters throughout the series -- his janitor, the newsstand owner near his new building, Alfred -- but at the end of the day this doesn't make him any less of a monster.
  • Only Sane Man: Lex believes himself to be this. He's wrong.
  • Perspective Flip: The entire series.
    • This perspective flip was actually referred to by the young Lex Luthor in the series Smallville several years before it was published, in reference to the "Neman" legend on the walls of the caves under the town, making this actually the second story where Lex uses this perspective.
  • Pet the Dog: One long petting session for Lex Luthor. Subverted however, in that all his dog-petting moments don't take away from the fact that he's ultimately a monster.
  • Popularity Power: Played with; in many conflicts between Superman and Batman, Batman -- being generally considered the more popular character -- generally has some way of beating Superman up his sleeve, or is at least able to hold his own. In this case, Superman and Batman fight -- and while Superman is still clearly holding back (as evidenced by the fact that Batman is not rendered a smear on the wall), it's nevertheless clear that Batman is completely outmatched. Of course, Batman didn't have a plan in this case...
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Superman's eyes are always red and shadowed. Justified because this is the way Superman's eyes look when he's angry or preparing to shoot eyelasers, which he is pretty much always is when he's looking at Luthor.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: Superman's only line throughout the miniseries. It reinforces the point that even though we've seen a more human, benevolent side to Lex than normal and he is very eloquent and impassioned in delivering his rant, he's still the bad guy.

Superman: You're wrong. I can see your soul.

  • Tautological Templar: Luthor believes he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist. In fact, there's nothing even well intentioned about him.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Luthor's plan seems to be to use Superman's refusal to kill against him, by manipulating him into a situation where he saves the life of Winslow Schott -- who, having (seemingly) bombed a building with a daycare centre inside and being a known paedophile, is high up on Metropolis' current Acceptable Targets Who Would Be Better Off Dead list -- in order to turn people against him.
    • Furthermore, Luthor makes Superman look like a massive hypocrite when he arranges for it to look like Supes kills Hope, a super heroine Luthor introduced to the world stage and had become beloved by Metropolis. In fact, Hope is a Ridiculously Human Robot, so Superman isn't killing anything (quite literally, since it's Lex who triggers the explosion that actually kills Hope)... but the people who can only see things happening from a distance certainly don't know that.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Hope is as shocked as Superman to realize she's a Ridiculously Human Robot, just before she explodes.
  • Unflinching Walk: A variation; although Luthor's nowhere near the jewellers/daycare centre when it explodes, alone of the other people on the street he's currently on he barely reacts in the panel when it explodes. It's a hint that he probably had more to do with it than he's letting on.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Although this is Luthor's Perspective Flip, it is subtly suggested that we should still not trust everything he says. After all, he is still Lex Luthor.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Played with; while Luthor is usually cast as this in the comics (and arguably is so here), here he attempts to make the case that Superman is in fact one of these.
  • Villain Protagonist: And how!
  • Villainous Valor: Superman is basically unstoppable whenever he appears. Of course, he's only the "villain" from Luthor's perspective, but still.
    • It might even be said that Luthor himself shows a twisted form of courage by opposing Superman and even standing up to him and attempting to Hannibal Lecture a very pissed off Superman rather than crawling off and hiding somewhere. Keep in mind that this is the same comic that gives us the current page image for Mook Horror Show.
      • It's more likely, given his character, he's just that arrogant and smug and he knows that Superman, for all his power and despite Luthor seeing him as a menace of godlike power, is not going to kill him no matter what he does. Whether this is because Lex genuinelly thinks Superman is a fake who won't risk his reputation of Incorruptible Pure Pureness by killing Lex, or because he really does know Superman is as kind and compassionate as he appears and is just exploiting that, its unlikely he really believes Superman would kill him. That and Lex has always been something of a Fearless Fool and is pretty reckless.
  • Wife Husbandry: Lex does this with Hope. After a fashion at least, since Hope isn't exactly human...
  • Xanatos Gambit: It is strongly hinted that Lex is behind the bombing of the daycare and that his plan was to make Metropolis turn against Superman because he knew Superman would refuse to kill the bomber. However, he has a consolation prize if that doesn't happen. the daycare centre that was destroyed in the explosion triggered by Toyman just "happened" to be the same one used by the family of a prominent scientist used by Luthor in the construction of Hope, and the scientist dies in the blast along with his entire family. Quite a coincidence. One might be given to suspect that Luthor, not one for loose ends, planned it that way...
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Luthor is well aware that he's in a deconstruction -- however, he believes it to be a deconstruction of The Cape (trope), and of Superman especially. It's actually a deconstruction of supervillains like him.