Lex Luthor is a man of many talents in the world of DC Comics. He possesses a genius level IQ, is a successful businessman and inventor, exuding charisma from every pore. All of those assets are extremely important when it comes to politics, and that world has provided him with some of his biggest accomplishments.
The power-crazed criminal mastermind has been elected President of the United States multiple times in various stories, but who in their right mind would vote for a known super-villain?
Anyway, with this in mind, let’s explore three different Luthor presidencies and analyze whether he was fit for the job or not.
Perhaps the biggest story to involve Luthor as President was the one that took place in DC Comics shortly after the turn of the century. The megalomaniac billionaire turned to politics after his popularity grew following the restoration of Gotham City. The hometown of Batman had been cast adrift from the rest of the United States when struck by a devastating earthquake in the No Man’s Land arc.
The previous administration had handled the disaster poorly and Luthor’s financial intervention exposed the failings of his predecessors. This, along with the promise of major technological advancements and a ban on fossil fuels, helped him slide into the Oval Office with barely any opposition.
Despite initially refusing to overthrow Luthor by force, Batman and Superman eventually teamed up to bring down the President. Although the duo was faced with an army of villains and converted heroes, it was Luthor who proved instrumental in his own downfall. Whilst secretly being recorded by Batman, he admitted to trading weapons with the alien despot Darkseid in order to defeat another invading alien, Imperiex.
Batman, whose alter ego Bruce Wayne had been framed for murder by the Luthor administration, made this confession public. In a further act of vengeance, Luthor learned that his business empire had been sold to Wayne right from under his nose. Disgraced and bankrupt, Luthor was forced to step down as President, serving less than three years in the White House, a period that was rife with corruption and deception. Ah, escapism…
Justice League: A Better World
The Justice League animated series had many great storylines during its five seasons and this two-part episode is one of the best. It only gives us the briefest glimpse of President Luthor but the ramifications of his actions are unthinkable.
At the start of the first episode we see Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman storming the White House. Within the Oval Office, Luthor is rummaging through papers, muttering to himself about “a grand design for the world” and how the public failed to appreciate his vision for the future.
With Luthor’s finger on the nuclear weapons launch, Superman bursts in only to learn a shocking truth from his arch-nemesis. By allowing Luthor to be elected President and impose his politics upon society, Superman has been his greatest accomplice. If Luthor is never truly punished for his crimes, like murdering The Flash, Superman and the Justice League can never truly win their struggle.
In that moment Superman abandons all of his heroic intentions and disintegrates Luthor, putting to an end his schemes once and for all. This shocking turn of events sees the entire Justice League resort to the tactics of a police state, keeping the entire human race under heavy surveillance, effectively eradicating all crime, ruthlessly using their special powers.
Of course, this isn’t the regular Justice League, but an alternate version from another universe, known as the Justice Lords. The loss of The Flash, combined with Luthor’s rise to power, was too much for the heroes of this world to take and resulted in them mirroring the callous methods of their enemy. Although he didn’t defeat the Justice Lords, Luthor did succeed in perverting their goodwill beyond all recognition.
Superman: Red Son
What if, as a child, Superman hadn’t have landed in Smallville, Kansas but 1930s Ukraine instead? What if the Man of Steel had adopted the ideals of communism and became the all-powerful leader of the Soviet Union, whose expansion grew to consume most of the world? What if the President of the United States, Lex Luthor, was the only man who dared to stand up to him?
Mark Millar’s Red Son is a fascinating take on the cold war melding the goodwill of Superman with the totalitarianism of Stalin. Once again Luthor proves to be the polar opposite, embracing capitalism and standing as the leader of one of only two nations not to fall to Superman’s iron grip.
Their growing rivalry escalates to the point of global war but there remains an air of mutual respect between the pair. Both men have good hearts but they can never truly co-exist on the same planet. Luthor is not strong enough to fight Superman, but Superman is not intelligent enough to debate with Luthor. Eventually, Superman sees the error of his ways and sacrifices himself to prevent the world from annihilation at the hands of Brainiac, thus conceding his power to Luthor.
With no opposition to him, Luthor achieves global domination, but this isn’t a bleak dystopia. Earth and the known universe prosper under Luthor’s reign. Disease, illness and even sleep are rendered obsolete. Governments are dissolved and replaced by a one-world parliament of writers, artists, scientists and philosophers. Life expectancy is increased to an astonishing 800 years. Humanity eventually becomes the most advanced species in history.
Red Son suggests that both Superman and Luthor could change the world significantly if one wasn’t in the way of the other. There is no doubt that this incarnation of President Luthor is the most hopeful and ambitious. His genius solves all of humanities problems but he can only do this once his Superman obsession has concluded.
Was Luthor a good President?
These three stories provided audiences with three differing takes on President Luthor, but they are all defined by his desire to eliminate Superman. In only one of these instances does he succeed, but even in that case it is Superman who truly wins, as he realizes his absence will be for the greater good. Unfortunately this is why Luthor can never truly be a good President. He is too consumed by his hatred of Superman, and any politician who has that much hatred and contempt in their heart should never thrive in such a position.