Lex Luthor: Where Do I Start?

lexluthorScientist. CEO. President. Father. Villain.

DC Comics’ Lex Luthor has been each of those roles, and along the way those various threads have synthesized together to become one of the most gripping and iconic antagonists in superhero comics. Best known for his epic face-offs with Superman, Luthor has equally shown himself to be an enthralling character in his own right with several standalone graphic novels, miniseries and runs on various other titles. In comics where people marvel at how a man without superpowers like Batman can stack up against the biggest and the baddest of DC villains, Lex Luthor is the twisted image of that; a regular human like Batman with the simple powers of his mind making him capable of standing toe-to-toe with Superman and other heroes over the years.

Initially created by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1940’s Action Comics #23, Luthor was originally cast in the mad scientist trope but grew to become a Machiavellian power-player — a white collar criminal straight out of an HBO television drama but transported into the superhero-filled world of the DCU.

In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we look at Superman’s definitive arch-nemesis and his many battles with the Man of Steel as well as some solo adventures where he’s more than just a villain but not quite the mercurial hero.

Superman vs Lex LuthorSuperman vs. Lex Luthor: This hodge-podge assortment of comics does a good job at collecting most of the best single issue stories featuring Lex Luthor, ranging from 1940s-era stories all the way to the modern day. Of particular interest is John Byrne’s Man of Steel #4,which shows how Luthor was before Superman came to Metropolis and how he was exalted as cutthroat but high-achieving businessman and the city’s wonder boy. It also includes another story by Byrne from Superman #9 showing Luthor at his cruelest in his machinations against normal people.Lastly, I can’t go without mentioning the story from Superman #164 by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan, which shows Luthor and Superman sent to an alien planet where the Man of Steel’s powers don’t work and Luthor falls into the unlikely role as hero.

Superman (Vol. 1) #149: This historic but overlooked 1961 issue really cuts to the core of Lex Luthor. Written by co-creator Jerry Siegel and drawn by Curt Swan, this Elseworlds tale shows Luthor going to extraordinary lengths to strike at Superman. Don’t believe me? Luthor cures cancer in an attempt to win over the Man of Steel, only to turn on him when his guard is down.

Lex Luthor Unauthorized BiographyLex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography: This 1989 graphic novel by James Hudnall and Eduardo Barreto is a before-its-time expose on the life of Superman’s greatest adversary. Told from the point of view of a struggling newspaperman, it gives a Marvels-style look at Luthor’s power, prestige and dominance.

All-Star Superman #5: This has been collected in all of the All-Star Superman trades, but if you’re looking for Lex then all you need is this one standalone issue. Titled “The Gospel According to Lex Luthor,” it’s a fascinating look at Luthor than gives him an all-too-realistic demeanor while still being a clearly evil individual. Frank Quitely’s illustration work here is top notch, delivering what I feel to be the quintessential take on the character.

Superman: The Black Ring, Vol. 1: What if Lex Luthor had his own series? For almost a dozen issues, fans got that wish as Paul Cornell and Pete Woods took over Action Comics and put Luthor in the pole position here. Cornell’s story shows Luthor’s immense drive for ultimate power and the lengths he’ll go to do it, from facing off with Gorilla Grodd, Vandal Savage and even Death from The Sandman. And the book features a welcome surprise in the form of an android version of Lois Lane — you have to read it to believe it.




  1. What about Luthor: The Man Of Steel by Brian Azzarello? That was a brilliant view of the world through Lex’s Eyes and why he hates a certain Last Son Of Krypton 😉

  2. His little corner of 52 was pretty amazing, but difficult to suggest for this article I guess, since there’s no way to parse out just his story. But yeah. 52.

  3. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel seems like a glaring omission, but mega-kudos for including The Unauthorized Biography.

    I’d also suggest checking out Superman: President Lex, a trade that collects one of my favorite arcs of the 2000 Superman revamp.

  4. Azzarello’s LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL was on my short list, but I like the WHERE DO I START? series to have no more than five books. Azzarello’s would have been #6.

    • Yeah but you could argue that The Black Ring Vol. 1 could be chopped off for LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL. I mean it’s an awesome book but i wouldn’t start with it. I mean the other stories are really pretty self contained while The Black Ring Vol. 1 is just the first of 2 volumes plus it ties to a lot that has happen like Blackest Night and Secret Six.

      Otherwise it’s a great list with 2 of my personal favourite Lex Luthor stories.