Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

I’ve been trying to think of a worthwhile blog idea for a few weeks now and just this week did this idea creep into my head. Well I started writing this blog with Ultraman in mind but research compelled me to change it to Lex Luthor. Lex Luthor is a character who is the direct opposite to who Superman is and what he stands for. In my opinion, the best way that the Luthor/Superman dichotomy shows brightest is by contrasting Nietzsche’s Übermensch and seeing which character truly is most like Nietzsche’s concept. Being a student of philosophy and having had much interest into that particular field, Friedrich Nietzsche is one of my favourite philosophers given his rather dubious and morally questionable philosophies. I am particularly interested in his views on religion (which I will not address here have no fear) and his concept of the Übermensch.

First, I suppose some background info is needed. Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher born in Prussia 1844 who wrote very critical texts on religion, morality, philosophy, science and more. His influence has been widespread across the field of philosophy and his radical questioning of objective value and truth has changed the way philosophers of post modernism, post structurism and existentialism worked. One of his most well known, key ideas was the Übermensch which has a number of English translations like Overman (sound familiar?), Superhuman, Above Human and its most common translation, Superman. Nietzsche posited the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to reach in his 1883 book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” The basic concept of the is introduced by Nietzsche’s character Zarathustra as the meaning of the earth and admonishes his audience to ignore those who promise other-worldly hopes in order to draw them away from the earth. Nietzsche presents the Übermensch as the creator of new values that ignore the norms of society and introduce a new standard of moral values into the field of play. This starkly contrasts with Superman’s upholding of humanity’s moral values that show the better side of our nature. And Lex basically justifies whatever he wanted to do throughout his long antagonistic relationship with Superman, both as the mad scientist and the scheming industrialist businessman. As Grant Morrison put it in an interview with Wizard Magazine “"He's the part of us that's the most evil, the most human, and the most brilliant. He's great; he's just really bad...” The creation of new moral values point is based on a nihilistic claim that in the absence of a commanding authority, there are no grounds upon which to criticize or justify any action, including the particular values created and the means by which they are spread. In a way, this is how Lex justifies his obsessive crusade against Superman instead of using his mind for more worthwhile purposes. He feels it’s more important he focuses his efforts on correcting humanity’s aspiration of a false value or idol, Superman.

Throughout his book, Nietzsche makes the Übermensch a goal humanity should strive to reach through yet another concept; The Will to Power. It replaces standard interpretations of “compassion” or “goodness” or “piety” as a guiding principle of life. What is it that makes you better? Stronger, smarter, richer or more important? Do those things and become better. That’s the Will to Power, and that’s the principle that Lex Luthor lives by, for the most part. His wealth, his intellect and his power have been grasped at by Lex throughout his entire life of fighting his way to the top of the ladder, becoming the executive of one of the most powerful industries the DC Earth has. Yet everything Lex owns pales in comparison with Superman. For all the moral and philosophical advancements Nietzsche proposes in the Übermensch, the irony is that Superman actually can do anything he wants. He could take over the world, run riot, live on his terms. There are a plethora of ways Superman could have lived his life on Earth. But the defining thing about Superman is that he is a physically superior specimen to a human, even the Übermensch in every conceivable way–and yet he lives his life according to a moral code instilled in him by physically and intellectually inferior beings. It is willingness to selflessly uphold these codes and act as a paragon of morality which makes the arch rivalry with Lex Luthor even better. Lex is driven by sheer ambition and hatred of Superman and endeavors to transcend beyond humanity’s limitations whereas Superman abides within the limits of what we consider right and wrong.

Grant Morrison expresses this rather well in All Star Superman. Lex Luthor really is the ultimate man–a man who can and has achieved all and more that a man is capable of. And yet he is always going to be seen as inferior to Superman, whose power is not an expression of will, but a simple accident of birth. Luthor’s hatred is born of resentment; if the alien had never come to earth, Lex Luthor would be the greatest man who’d ever lived. And that’s what makes All Star Superman’s portrayal of Lex and Superman’s rivalry so exquisite, especially when Luthor gains Superman’s powers and sees what he sees for the first time only to be stripped of his power and defeated by his ultimate enemy. He temporarily becomes the ultimate man yet is defeated by a mere man.

All in all, Lex Luthor can't really compete with the mythical figure of Superman; people place their hopes and dreams in Superman precisely because he is more than human. This struggle with what Lex Luthor wants to be versus what he can actually accomplish is one that defines his character, and this inner conflict is what causes him to hate Superman so passionately. Here the Will of Power arises again and once again it drives Luthor’s obsession over his limits and Superman’s seeming lack of any. If it weren’t for Lex’s obsessive quest for supremacy over a god like alien, we would not just have one of the greatest fictional villains in history but one of the greatest fictional rivalries in fictional history too.

Well I hope I didn’t bore you too much with my long rant looking at the contrasting relationship between Lex Luthor and Superman and why Lex embodies Nietzsche’s Übermensch far more than Superman does and hopefully ever will. Here’s to my favourite superhero and favourite supervillain! May there always be great stories involving these two characters!

#1 Posted by Decoy Elite (30041 posts) - - Show Bio

Really good points here. Lex really does make a great villain for Superman, which is why I find it a tad bit annoying when he's put against other heroes, it's not necessarily bad, but he's at his best when Superman is involved.

#2 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@Decoy Elite: Thanks though I did like the Black Ring when Cornell put him up against other villains. That was an excellent show of why Lex is the biggest villain in the DCU as Superman is to the heroes.

#3 Posted by colonyofcells (2038 posts) - - Show Bio

My opinion on super people is that all life has desires that came from chance so all desires are the same value and each person has desires and each person is a super person except that for those who have neighbors, you also have to consider the feelings of your neighbors. Both Lex and Clark Kent have desires that originate out of nonsense things, so I would say Lex is not better than Clark as a super person, but everyone is in the same stupid desires boat.

#4 Posted by Kairan1979 (15816 posts) - - Show Bio

As I remember, In Superman : Red Son Lex proved that he wasn't just boasting. He united the whole world into Global United States, cured all the diseases and colonized the Solar system.

#5 Posted by YourNeighborhoodComicGeek (19489 posts) - - Show Bio

@Kairan1979 said:

As I remember, In Superman : Red Son Lex proved that he wasn't just boasting. He united the whole world into Global United States, cured all the diseases and colonized the Solar system.

@Decoy Elite said:

Really good points here. Lex really does make a great villain for Superman, which is why I find it a tad bit annoying when he's put against other heroes, it's not necessarily bad, but he's at his best when Superman is involved.

This.

#6 Posted by lykopis (10756 posts) - - Show Bio

Wonderful blog! Extremely enjoyable to read with insightful parallels drawn.

Well done, sir.

#7 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@Kairan1979: Oh I agree he definitely could but it's Superman's very existence that gives Lex his vendetta against him as he's overshadowed by Superman and what he represents. And thus he keeps striving via the Will of Power reminiscent in Nietzsche’s philosophy that makes him an excellent villain. The same would apply to Doctor Doom too I think.

@lykopis: Thank you very much! High praise from you definitely means writing this blog was well worth it! :)

#8 Posted by jhazzroucher (13945 posts) - - Show Bio

I disagree.

#9 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@jhazzroucher: And why is that exactly?

#10 Posted by SC (11960 posts) - - Show Bio

Beautifully written and presented blog! Definitely not boring, I appreciate the time and consideration you put into this. Kudos.

Moderator
#11 Posted by AtPhantom (14465 posts) - - Show Bio

It's interesting that most of Superman's greatest villains are the ones which explore what exactly it means to be a superman. Great essay, Lex is one of the most awesome comic characters, period.

#12 Posted by Mega_spidey01 (3078 posts) - - Show Bio

this is why lex luthor is one of my favorite DCvillians, besides.

#13 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@SC: It's a great privilege for you to give my blog such high praise! Much appreciated! :)

@AtPhantom: I agree, villains like Lex truly explore what it means to be Superman that makes Lex and Superman such great characters. And thank you! :)

@Mega_spidey01: It's why he's my favourite villain too!

#14 Posted by Killer_of_trolls (1852 posts) - - Show Bio

TL;DR

Lex is little boy wishing to be Superman exactly the same way Joker is gay for Batman.

#15 Posted by Dark_Vengeance_ (13903 posts) - - Show Bio

@Killer_of_trolls said:

TL;DR

Lex is little boy wishing to be Superman exactly the same way Joker is gay for Batman.

#16 Posted by NewComicGuy (91 posts) - - Show Bio

Very well-written piece. I definitely enjoyed your insight and think you picked a perfect topic to discuss.

#17 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@NewComicGuy: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it! :)

#18 Posted by TheAcidSkull (15926 posts) - - Show Bio

After reading this i have no doubt in my mind that you are crazy intelligent. well done man

#19 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio
#20 Posted by TheAcidSkull (15926 posts) - - Show Bio
#21 Edited by Pyrogram (32259 posts) - - Show Bio
#22 Posted by Dark_Vengeance_ (13903 posts) - - Show Bio

#23 Posted by colonyofcells (2038 posts) - - Show Bio

I have to agree that Lex is smarter than Superman. Maybe Lex might even have the better solutions for the problems of the human species and not Superman.

#24 Posted by JamesKM716 (1992 posts) - - Show Bio

@lvenger: You know, I kidna feel like Lex is almost a better villain for Batman than Sueprman.

#25 Posted by colonyofcells (2038 posts) - - Show Bio

Ras Al Ghul might be smarter than even Lex so Batman has lots of smart enemies already like Ras Al Ghul and Joker.

#26 Edited by Kal'smahboi (3318 posts) - - Show Bio

This is terrific. I must confess you enlightened me to many aspects of Nietzsche’s Übermensch that I had not known. I think that the views you said here is going to help me enjoy the Superman/Luthor rivalry even more.

Very well written. Thank you.

#27 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@kal_smahboi: I'm humbled my blog helped you to achieve that. It was just curiosity that led me to write this but it turned into a great deal more. Thank you again!

@jameskm716: How come?

@colonyofcells: It's been hinted at times in Elseworld stories that Lex is capable of solving the world's problems if he were good rather than evil.

@darkknightdetective:Thank you!

@pyrogram: Thanks Pyro I appreciate it! :)

#28 Posted by theTimeStreamer (2841 posts) - - Show Bio

lex luthor: man of steel. everybody should read this. it is the best insight into what and why lex does what he does.

#29 Posted by colonyofcells (2038 posts) - - Show Bio

Since good and evil are just relative and have no real basis apart of human irrational desires, I would object to labelling Lex as evil. Lex and Superman just have different ways of trying to save the human species and it is hard to tell who or if anyone will ever succeed in saving the stupid human species.

#30 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@colonyofcells: True but Superman's is a much more morally righteous way of going about it than Lex's. Lex uses people to his own benefits and ego so that's not a way to go about saving the human race.

#31 Posted by JamesKM716 (1992 posts) - - Show Bio

@lvenger: Mostly because he puts a challenge against all of Batman.

LexCorp can fight Wayne Enterprises

Lex can intellectually match Bruce

Lex can physically match Bruce.

Lex can ideologically match Bruce. (Similarly philosophies in different ways)

On a whole, Lex can challenge Bruce arguably better than any villain.

#32 Posted by colonyofcells (2038 posts) - - Show Bio

Lex is just similar to military leaders who routinely make decisions on who to sacrifice in order to save more lives. Sometimes, you might need to break a few eggs in order to save more lives.

#33 Edited by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@colonyofcells: Military leaders at least have some good intentions at heart when making those decisions. Lex on the other hand does not. He just does what he does to further his own agenda and ego.

#34 Edited by colonyofcells (2038 posts) - - Show Bio

My guess is Lex has some love for the human species since most of us are born with some sympathy for our fellow humans. It is hard to find humans devoid of sympathy since we all evolved within the same social species. Most of us are born not to like other species since we tend to use other species and if Superman belongs to another species, it might actually be natural for Lex to hate Superman. Some people desire to help other people, some people desire to help only themselves or their own family, but these are all just desires and no desire is really better than another desire.

#35 Posted by RDClip (1069 posts) - - Show Bio

Great post, I've always had a similar theory about Lex, but couldn't put it to words as well as you did.

Lex is the best of human accomplishment and worst of human hubris. He really is a fasinating character because he truely believes that he is the best of humanity, abition unbound by attachment or morality. In his mind people should strive to be him not, Superman. In Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, we see Superman the way Lex does, a enigmatic alien whose most noticable feature is the inhuman in his terrifying red glowing eyes. Lex honestly believes that Superman is bad for the world. What is the most interesting is that with all his justifications, one could boil down his deep seeded resentment of Superman to simple obsessive envy.

There really is a fundamental trajedy to the character, he could do great things. He could help so many people, turn the word into a utopia. However, his resentment has driven him to single-minded obsession with destroying Superman to prove to the world that Lex is the one worthy of adoration. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel perfectly illustrates that. I think we are meant to believe that he honestly loved Hope, but he was forced to give her up in favour of villifying Superman.

#36 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

@rdclip said:

Great post, I've always had a similar theory about Lex, but couldn't put it to words as well as you did.

Lex is the best of human accomplishment and worst of human hubris. He really is a fasinating character because he truely believes that he is the best of humanity, abition unbound by attachment or morality. In his mind people should strive to be him not, Superman. In Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, we see Superman the way Lex does, a enigmatic alien whose most noticable feature is the inhuman in his terrifying red glowing eyes. Lex honestly believes that Superman is bad for the world. What is the most interesting is that with all his justifications, one could boil down his deep seeded resentment of Superman to simple obsessive envy.

There really is a fundamental trajedy to the character, he could do great things. He could help so many people, turn the word into a utopia. However, his resentment has driven him to single-minded obsession with destroying Superman to prove to the world that Lex is the one worthy of adoration. Lex Luthor: Man of Steel perfectly illustrates that. I think we are meant to believe that he honestly loved Hope, but he was forced to give her up in favour of villifying Superman.

Well that was easily as good as the way I put it. A more valuable insight on this blog I have yet to see. Thank you for reading and commenting :)