This article contains Superman & Lois spoilers.
Superman & Lois episode 2 gave us a lot more information on our potential bad guy, and it’s quite a doozy. Superman’s Iron Man-esque foe isn’t Lex Luthor, he’s a Luthor from a parallel Earth, by implication stranded on this one by the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. And while Superman & Lois draws a lot from the comics, is this Captain Luthor like another big multiversal Luthor we know from DC Comics as well? Or is he someone entirely different?
The evidence right now points to someone new. Or at least an amalgamation of a few Luthors. And a Lane.
Is Captain Luthor really Alexander Luthor?
There is no shortage of Lex Luthor variants in the comics. There’s the main DCU Lex, Superman’s top antagonist who periodically turns good, but always reverts to mean (and in Lex’s case, “reverting to mean” means “getting back in his giant purple and green battle suit and being shitty to Clark”). And there are thousands of Luthors from the multiverse who are roughly the same character with slightly different tweaks – Red Son Lex, who fights Superman constantly but becomes mankind’s savior as soon as Superman leaves. There’s Earth One Lex, who’s a lady. There’s Kingdom Come Lex, who’s old. All broadly the same.
Until you get to Earth 3.
Earth 3, you’ll remember, is Earth 1’s mirror universe – everyone good on Earth Prime is bad, and everyone bad on Earth 1 is good. On this world, Alexander Luthor battles Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman and the rest of the Crime Syndicate. Alexander is notable for flying around in a suit of power armor, just like the “Captain Luthor” that we’ve met on Superman & Lois.
At least, he was until he died. Comics Earth 3 was annihilated by the antimatter wave unleashed on the multiverse by the Anti-Monitor during Crisis on Infinite Earths. But before that world was destroyed, Luthor, who was a genius on this planet same as everywhere else, put his son in a specially designed rocket and fired him out into what was left of the multiverse.
That boy, Alexander Luthor, Jr., was picked up by the Monitor and Harbinger. Aged up and given powers by his exposure to anti-matter, Junior was critical in defeating the Anti-Monitor.
It’s what he did after the Crisis that makes him an unlikely candidate for Captain Luthor’s analogue. At the end of Crisis, Junior took the Superman of Earth 2; Superboy from Earth Prime; and Lois Lane from Earth 2, wife of that Superman and analogue to Junior’s own mother from Earth 3, and brought them to a paradise dimension to live out their days. And then he lost his mind, turned Superboy Prime into a whiny shitposting fanboy, escaped his paradise, and killed a bunch of people, but the less said about Infinite Crisis the better.
That said, the Arrowverse has certainly not shied away from dark portrayals of its main characters – we got actual Nazi versions of Green Arrow, Flash, and Supergirl, for Nix Uotan’s sake in the Crisis on Earth-X crossover back in 2017. The presence of a Good Lex from a parallel Earth where Superman is evil opens the door to an Arrowverse Crime Syndicate of America with Ultraman, Owlwoman, Gray Canary, Black Arrow, Johnny Quick and I don’t know, Shotgun Nate but Mean, and that’s pretty exciting.
What is 7734?
The Captain Luthor of Superman & Lois seems to be more of an amalgamation of several versions of the character: the multiversal ties and evil home universe Superman of Alexander, the loathing of Superman typical to all Lexes everywhere, and the military background of…Sam Lane?
One of the biggest differences in Superman & Lois from the comics, at least in these early episodes, is the presentation of General Sam Lane. Lois’ dad is emphatically not a fan of Superman in the comics. He’s a paranoid, anti-metahuman ass, typically used as a stand in for both the military industrial complex and the constant anti-immigrant bigotry you can find pretty much anywhere in the real world without much effort.
Project 7734 was Sam’s brainchild in the comics. He assembled a team of deep state operatives dedicated to dealing with the Kryptonian threat (which at the time was a lot bigger than just Superman – Kandor had been resized, and the world was practically brimming with Kryptonians). He used special agents, Doomsday, Metallo, Reactron, anything or anyone he could get his hands on to take out Superman, Supergirl, and the rest of the Kryptonian “menace.” And yes, that meant using some Luthor tech, as well.
Superman & Lois’ Sam was a breath of fresh air: someone with a functional relationship with his son-in-law, who was still a salty bastard, but someone who could step in be a part of his family’s lives. It remains to be seen if that characterization will continue after the revelations at the end of the second episode, but as we learn more about Captain Luthor, it will certainly be interesting to watch these relationships develop.