Lex Luthor For President (Mania.com)
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2000
You have to give DC Comics credit for continually thinking of new ways to keep their Superman titles interesting. Besides the recent creative revamp, they've also offered up an innovative new approach to the Man of Steel's perennial enemy, Lex Luthor. The new take? Luthor's running for President of the United States. But why?
'Have you seen who's running?' muses Eddie Berganza, editor of the Superman line. The man's got a point.
In reality, there's a certain logic to the idea, considering that Luthor's basically credited with saving Batman's turf, Gotham City, in 1999's year-long 'No Man's Land' storyline that ran throughout the various Batman titles, as well as Lex's own city, Metropolis, in the Superman books.
'This idea just happened to come together because of different storylines,' explains Berganza. 'In 'No Man's Land,' even the government had written off Gotham City. Everyone, including [Batman's alter ego] Bruce Wayne, was helpless to do anything. Lex came in with his helicopters and said, 'I'm going to sink my money into developing this place,' and he restored it.'
Meanwhile, in Metropolis, at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, Brainiac 13 arrived from the future, took over the city, and started wiping everything out and re-making the city from scratch so it could contain him and fit its own programming. During the story, it looked like Luthor sacrificed his daughter, Lena, to save the city. In reality, though, he more or less gave her up so he could gain control of Brainiac's technology. As a result, it appeared like he lost his daughter, making it seem like small compensation that he at least ended up with knowledge of how to run the city.
'So, to the world outside, it looks like Lex Luthor saved two cities,' continues Bergazna. 'What politician's done that? His goal now is to bring the prosperousness and individuality that Metropolis enjoys to the rest of the world. So what Lex is slowly doing is bringing that technology to the rest of the United States. Instead of doing it as a businessman, he feels he can do it as a politician to bring the entire nation into the future. His party is called The Tomorrow Party, and that's the theme he's running on. People would vote for him because he's perceived as being no more evil than any politician or Donald Trump. He's a rich guy, but unlike other rich guys he's credited with saving two cities.'
Luthor has been part of the Superman mythos since nearly the beginning of Superman's history, and he's been brought along for the ride through every revamp. But what is it about the character's appeal that's resulted in such longevity, let alone made him a viable presidential candidate?
'He's a self-made man,' offers Berganza. 'He's not a guy hitting Superman with equal strength. He's using his brains. I think in reality a lot more people would become Luthor rather than Superman. Superman is hard to attain because you have to be almost perfect and be a really good person. Luthor is about being yourself, caring about yourself, having money, doing the best and living well. There's a dark side to everyone that goes, 'Yeah, Superman's really cool, but I could go for being Luthor.''
Recently, there's been a concentrated effort on the creators' parts to give Luthor a more genuine motivation for hating Superman. Years ago, in the continuity that existed prior to writer/artist John Byrne's 1986 revamp of the character, Luthor's conflict with Superman stemmed from the fact that Supes' younger self, Superboy, had failed to stop a fire in Luthor's home chemical lab, which resulted in Luthor losing all of his hair. That, believe it or not, was the original source of his hatred.
Under Berganza's reign, and within the current continuity, the creators are taking a much different approach. There's a certain phobia that's stricken the Luthor family line over the past several generations, which hasn't been limited to just Lex. 'We kind of hint at the fact that in early Metropolis, one of his ancestors was a Native American and what happened was, 'Here comes the Pilgrims, the aliens, who displace the Indians and they lose everything.' The next Luthor in the line is an activist for everything, then the Irish and another set of immigrants come over, displace her and get her into trouble. After that, another guy has a metal shop, he's doing really well, but then a war hits and he goes bankrupt doing things for the war.
'By the time we pick up with Luthor's family [closer to the present], they're in the ghetto. All the good intentions his family had before him were totally displaced by immigrantsaliens--to Metropolis. Luthor's had to fight his way back up to where his family started and what happens? Here arrives this alien, Superman.
'So we've tried to give him a really good motivation for why he hates Superman. It's very real. It's not like he's evil and just wants to destroy everything. We just added this bit to him. What was already there [from the latest revamp] was that when Superman arrives in Metropolis, Luthor's controlling everything, but then he's made number two. He's displaced. It made him very bitter. But now there's a reason. The best villains have really good reasons and in the real world they don't go around saying, 'I'm the supervillain.''
But will the revamped Luthor, given his new political clout as the savior of two cities, win the election? On this point, as well as the specific details of Luthor's campaign, Berganza is coy. Just like all other political campaigns, he'd rather let the dramaand the surprises--unfold naturally.
'I'm not going to tell you,' says Berganza. 'But we'll publish a special called Lex 2000 that'll show the results of the election.'