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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Lex Luthor is depicted as a Nietzschean atheist in comics, although he is rarely (if ever) overtly identified by name as such.
The 1980s live-action television series Superboy portrayed a college-age Lex Luthor as an Episcopalian Protestant who enters an Episcopalian monastery as a monk in response to a lab accident that renders him bald. [Read more about this below.]
The live-action television series Smallville depicts Lex Luthor as an Episcopalian with a clearly articulated belief in God. [Read more about this below.]
Lex Luthor (whose full name is now Alexander Joseph Luthor) is a comic book character famous for being the arch-enemy of the world's most well-known superhero, Superman. Created in 1940 by Jewish comic book creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (the same pair that brought the world Superman himself), Lex Luthor has consistently remained one of comicdoms's best-known villains and one of the most important characters in the DC Universe.
Lex Luthor has consistently been portrayed as a brilliant genius, one of the most intelligent men on the planet. He was originally portrayed as a brilliant mad scientist. When John Byrne re-conceived the Superman mythos from the ground up in 1986, Luthor was re-imagined as a wealthy Machiavellian industrialist and white-collar criminal.
Above: Lex Luthor and the cross. The TV series Smallville depicts a younger Lex Luthor struggling between the Christian upbringing instilled in him by his mother and his father's dark example.
The scene above is from Smallville Season 1, Episode 1, the series pilot. Lex Luthor has just rescued Clark Kent from being tied to a cross in a corn field. This scene is not necessarily intended to represent Christian faith on Lex Luthor's part. Interestingly enough, in this same episode, Lex Luthor relates his out-of-body experience to Clark, telling his new friend that his experience gave him a "new beginning."
Along with his brilliant mind, Luthor's other defining characteristic is that he is unrelentingly evil. A narcissist, he values little other than serving his own whims and meglomaniacal machinations. Luthor generally appears to have no religious or moral values whatsoever. He is an atheist. Luthor's atheism seems to stem not from any real consideration of philosophical and theological questions, but rather from his own hubris, desire for power, and belief in himself above everything else. Luthor's belief system has been described as Nietzschean. To the extent this is true, it is a result of Luthor's own re-discovery and re-invention of Nietzschean thinking, because Luthor is too proud and self-assured to consciously follow anybody else's philosophical system, even Friedrich Nietzsche's.
Smallville clearly depicts a Lex Luthor with a Protestant family background and upbringing (from his mother), but as yet we are unaware of published comics that similarly hint at Lex Luthor's religious upbringing. On Smallville, Lex Luthor and his brother was baptized as infants, in keeping with Episcopalian religious practice.
Below: Lex Luthor tells Clark Kent about the birth and baptism of his younger brother, Julian. [Source: Smallville, season 1, episode 16: "Stray", airdate 16 April 2002.]
Lex Luthor's Nietzschean philosophy and behavior is routinely portrayed in comics, but may go un-named. Smallville's depiction of Lex Luthor's Nietzschean roots is more overt: Both Lex Luthor and his father (Lionel Luthor) are shown reading books by Nietzsche and the series makes it clear that Lex Luthor's father taught young Lex using these books and worked arduously to train Lex in Nietzschean ideals. After Lex Luthor's mother died, his father forbade further observance of Christmas in their home.
Below: Smallville season 1, episode 17 ("Reaper") was one of multiple episodes of this series that explicitly identified Nietzscheanism as a key influence on Lex Luthor's values and behavior. Lex Luthor of Smallville was trained by his father in Nietzscheanism from the time he was ten years old.
Lex Luthor's two primary objectives (or obsessions) are to destroy Superman and to take over the world (not necessarily in that order). At times, Luthor has articulated his desire to take over the Earth as a stepping stone toward taking over the universe, demonstrating a truly unbridled level of megalomania. In a practical sense, these desires constitute Lex Luthor's only religion. Luthor is absolutely driven toward accomplishing these goals by any means necessary.
Above: Lex Luthor uses his hatred to help him focus and push himself further. He did this as a teenager stranded on a cliff face, when he focused on his parents (who he murdered). Later, he tapped into his hatred of Superman to focus his mind and lift himself to the top of an ice cliff. Luthor's hatred of Superman is one of the principle motivating factors in his life.
[Source: Superman #224 (cover date: February 2006), story titled "Focus"; written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Thomas Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher; pages 18-19; reprinted in Superman: The Journey trade paperback (DC Comics: New York, 2006), pages 96-97.]
Lex Luthor spends no time defining or articulating his own beliefs or disbeliefs relative to common human terms. Only on rare occasions have there been overt references to Luthor's atheism, secularism, and disbelief in religion. For example, in the Underworld Unleashed storyline, Luthor sold his soul to a demon because as a materialist and secularist, he did not believe he has a soul. Brian Azzarello's miniseries Lex Luthor: Man of Steel delved into the notion that Luthor hates Superman because the thought of Superman saving people conflicts with Luthor's philosophy as a secular humanist.
Luthor is quite willing to lie about his beliefs in order to forward his goals. He feigned belief in God (and was not the first politician to do so) as part of his successful plot to get himself elected President of the United States in 2000. In fact, it could be argued that it is better to classify Luthor simply as "non-religious", because terms such as "atheism" or "agnosticism" or any other "-ism" are of no real significance or import to him.
Above: Lex Luthor sees himself as a potential hero or world savior. If only Superman didn't get in the way!
[Source: Teen Titans #25, DC Comics: New York, 2005; story titled "The Insiders: Part III"; written by Geoff Johns; page 15; reprinted in Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders (DC Comics: New York City, 2006)]
The difficulty in calling Luthor "non-religious" lay in the fact that his twin desires to destroy Superman and take over the world are so utterly irrational, especially for a man so intelligent, that they form a singular sort of belief system, a quasi-religion which (realistically speaking) requires more faith and religious impulse than any mainstream religion. Rational observers of Luthor's countless failures may well wonder: After failing so many times, does he really think he can destroy Superman and take over the world? Even more importantly, why does he want to do all this? Luthor's lack of rational, moral reasons for his objectives is one of the marks of his villainy. In "alternative reality" or "imaginary" stories (outside mainstream DC Universe continuity) in which Luthor has been depicted as actually succeeding in destroying Superman or taking over the world (such as in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again), the actual accomplishment of his goals has not seemed particularly satisfying.
Clearly Luthor is not an adherent of any organized religion. However, Elliot S! Maggin, an observant Jew who is one of Superman's most popular and influential writers, has stated that Luthor is a non-observant Jew. Given Lex Luthor's utter disinterest in traditional organized religion and moral value systems, it is not surprising that his character never refers to any religious upbringing or religious ethnicity.
There seems to be little printed textual support for identifying Luthor as Jewish. But the theory certainly is plausible in a world where many of history's real-life brilliant world-changing atheists (or agnostics) have been Jewish, including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Franz Kafka, Noam Chomsky, etc. (The obvious difference, of course, is that Luthor is evil while these other individuals, regardless of whether or you agree with them or not, were not evil.)
From: Bruce Bachand, "Interview: Elliot S! Maggin", published in Fanzing (The Independent Online DC Comics Fan Magazine) Issue #9, August 1998 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing09/iview.shtml; viewed 6 December 2005):
Elliot S! Maggin was the principal scriptwriter for DC Comics' Superman titles during the 1970's up until the mid-1980's. He has written two Superman novels (Last Son Of Krypton and Miracle Monday, both which are currently out of print) as well as numerous other stories, articles, interviews and projects. One of his most recent publications is the novel KINGDOM COME (which is available through Warner Books) which came out in February 1998. It is based on the very successful DC comic book mini-series KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. (It is well worth mentioning that Ross contributes a number of new painted illustrations to the Maggin novel!). Sales have been steady for the Maggin novelization. It is over one hundred thousand words full of action, characterization, and plot sculpting.
BRUCE BACHAND [interviewer]: Do you see Superman as a man who prays and/or worships God regularly? If so, what would the Man of Steel pray about from your perspective?
Elliot S! Maggin: I give all my characters religions. I think I always have. It's part of the backstory. It's part of the process of getting to know a character well enough to write about him or her. Jimmy Olson is Lutheran. Lois is Catholic. Perry is Baptist. Luthor is Jewish (though non-observant, thank heaven). Bruce and Batman are both Episcopalian and I said so in the text though it was edited out erroneously. Clark - like the Kents - is Methodist.
Even if the Jewish comic book creators of Lex Luthor regarded the character as Jewish when they created him (there is no evidence to support such an idea) or if current writers think of Luthor as Jewish in order to provide texture and context to their writing (as Maggin clearly does), it seems unlikely that DC Comics will publish stories overtly identifying the villainous Lex Luthor as Jewish, as doing might seem both anti-Semitic and out of harmony with how the character has been portrayed throughout his long history.
Below are some excepts from an excellent essay about Lex Luthor. These are part of a longer article which traces Lex Luthor's history in some detail, some of which is excerpted below, but of particular interest for the purposes of this page is the section at the bottom which considers Luthor's philosophy in some detail. The essay notes that "Luthor isn't cowed by the edicts of religion or the resulting judicial systems that are invariably tied to them; he possesses his own code of morality that he lives by." As the article notes, Luthor's Nietzschean rejection of religion was demonstrated when, as a teenager, he murdered his parents in order to collect life insurance money. From: Joseph Davis, "Lex Luthor" article on "The Watchtower" website on ToonZone.net (Justice League of America fansite), (http://jl.toonzone.net/luthor/luthor.htm; viewed 7 December 2005):
Real Name: Alexander Joseph Luthor
Voiced by Clancy Brown
Born into poverty and raised in the Suicide Slum district of Metropolis, the man who the world would come to know as Lex Luthor aspired to greatness in his earliest years. Growing up resenting his alcoholic and abusive parents, he was nonetheless fascinated by their stories of his family's more affluent past - one of the founders of the colonial settlement that would one day become Metropolis, the Luthors grew into a prominent family of wealth and privilege until they lost everything in the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Inspired by the tales of his forebears, young Luthor vowed to restore the legacy of the Luthor name by any means necessary.
A brilliant child, young Luthor possessed an intuitive understanding of the nature of power, as well as the concept of deniability. To that end, he used this knowledge as a first step on his path to greatness: at the age of fourteen, Luthor took out a sizable insurance claim on his parents and then paid off a mechanic to tinker with the breaks of their car. Following their deaths, Luthor collected $250,000 and used that money to become the youngest student to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (or MIT), where he amazed his professors and graduated three years later with a master's degree...
His childhood goal achieved, Luthor spent the next twenty to thirty years cementing his power base and ensuring his legacy. Originally an aerospace firm, Luthor's company - LexCorp - diversified its holdings as it grew in power, purchasing legitimate businesses and creating networks of dummy corporations to hide his shadier dealings. On the surface, the multinational LexCorp was a sterling example of capitalism and scientific pursuit - making contributions in the fields of advanced robotics, genetic engineering, and defensive systems - but beneath the surface lay ties to organized crime, as well as hostile nations, who were also interested in purchasing Luthor's wares. In addition, Luthor systematically blackmailed his detractors and competition to comply with his wishes, and those he could not manipulate either disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances.
This is not to say, however, that Luthor did not have a charitable side, as he single-handedly took Metropolis, a city in decline, and transformed it into a shining city of tomorrow. Wishing to make his childhood home into a suitable kingdom from which to rule, Luthor oversaw the city's development every step of the way... Finally, after decades of hard work, determination, and various untraceable crimes, Luthor had reached the top. He had wealth, power, influence, and a skyline in which half of the buildings bore his name. Idolized by the populace, Luthor kept his hands clean by handing off his dirty dealings to subordinates and, in the odd occasion when an accusation was made, either a bribed city official saw to it that an investigation was stopped before it began, or his phalanx of lawyers ensured that he would be cleared of all charges. Yes, life was perfect . . . until Superman made his debut in the skies above Metropolis, and began to meddle in his affairs...
Luthor hates Superman - he despises him with a passion that cannot be quenched by his other noteworthy accomplishments, but the question of why often puzzles the Man of Steel and his friends. Perhaps it is the fact that the public's devotion to Superman came so freely to him, while Luthor had to buy it with charitable works and years of public service. Maybe he resents the fact that he had to fight for decades to claim his power, while Superman was granted power by a simple twist of fate. Or, perhaps, the answer is deceptively simple: he hates Superman merely because he is in his way. Nonetheless, it is this hatred that will ensure that, as long as he draws breath, Lex Luthor will be a constant thorn in the side of Krypton's last son.
Grant Morrison on Lex Luthor (circa 2005): "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... (courtesy of Wizard Magazine)."
...Kids' WB on Lex Luthor: "Lex Luthor is the undisputed master of Metropolis and lord of all he surveys. Yes, there is a mayor, a governor, and a President of the United States, but Luthor is a law unto himself. In his mind there is no good or bad, except what's good and bad for Lex Luthor. If he wants something, he'll have it, either [by] buying it outright, bribing someone to get it for him, or systematically removing all obstacles between him and his goal... there's one thing he craves above all else: the death of Superman. Because he cannot control or own Superman, Luthor is obsesses with destroying him. To Lex, Superman represents free will. Inspired by Superman's selflessness and nobility, the people of Metropolis could begin to think for themselves and turn against a self-styled demigod like Luthor. And above all, what really galls Luthor is that he had to buy the city's love and loyalty, and Superman got it for free." (courtesy of the New Batman / Superman Adventures Homepage)...
As previously stated, it is his hatred of Superman that drives Luthor, but the question of exactly why Luthor hates him is rarely delved into, and often up to debate. The old, Silver Age standby about him hating Superman for causing his hair loss has thankfully been discarded and forgotten, but it does leave a rather large gap in the character's motivation. As a result, different writers will often find their own reasons for the Luthor / Superman rivalry, playing up a particular facet of that loathing for whatever type of story they are trying to write. Often, this hatred can be fit into one of five categories:
1) Luthor as a criminal: Superman is always getting in the way of his criminal activities.
2) Luthor as a megalomaniac: Luthor must be in control of every situation, but he cannot control Superman.
3) Luthor as jealous: Luthor had to fight tooth and nail for his power, but Superman received his through a simple twist of fate. Also, while he had to buy the good will of the people through donations and other charitable works, Superman received their devotion for free.
4) Luthor as a xenophobe: Superman is an alien; therefore, how can we trust him?
5) Luthor as a secular humanist: To Luthor, Superman is big brother, and his presence lulls humanity into a false sense of security. As a result, the people will wait idly for Superman to save them, rather than try to save themselves.
While all five of these tracks are valid and are capable of producing interesting stories, I must say that it is the fifth example - utilized to great effect in Brian Azzarello's recent Lex Luthor: Man of Steel miniseries - that holds the key to the depths of Luthor's psyche. As implied above, Luthor shows many signs of following the philosophy of humanism; consider the Greek Protagoras' claim that "man is the measure of all things," meaning that humanity is the ultimate determiner of its own morality. This certainly fits the profile of a man who chose to murder his parents in order to advance in his own life - Luthor isn't cowed by the edicts of religion or the resulting judicial systems that are invariably tied to them; he possesses his own code of morality that he lives by. In addition, this mode of thought also ties Luthor into the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. In his seminal work Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche speaks of the concept of the Ubermensch (German for superman or over-man), and how humans may become one by 1) rejecting old morals and ideals (such as family and religion), 2) overcoming nihilism (belief in nothing), and 3) by creating new values (in Luthor's case, capitalism and domination). Again, it is this type of thinking that would allow one to murder one's family, as well as sell their soul to a demon, as Luthor did in Underworld Unleashed (Luthor didn't believe that he has a soul and, as a Nietzschean thinker, his existence is centered around his life in the here and now anyway). And while this does force us to categorize Luthor as a textbook anti-social personality, it also gives us what could be a definite reason for Luthor's vendetta, one that transcends the decades of Luthor stories: symbolically, Lex Luthor is the personification of the Nietzschean Ubermensch, and by his attempts to kill Superman he is trying to claim the Man of Steel's title for himself. However, as Grant Morrison alludes to above, Luthor knows subconsciously that he is not a worthy successor, and this inadequacy feeds into his jealousy, which in turn fuels his hatred. This is the perpetual engine that drives Luthor's obsession.
Following a brief return to his "corporate" roots for the duration of the Cadmus arc, Luthor is a fugitive once more, on the run and allied with Grodd's Legion of Doom, where he undertakes missions and upgrades supervillains in exchange for Grodd's piece of Brainiac technology. Now cured of cancer and as sinister as ever, we can expect further developments between Luthor and his red-caped rival because, just as Superman strives to exhibit the best virtues our civilization can embody, Luthor will inevitably gravitate towards the worst and, as a consequence, a future clash between the two of them is inevitable.
Lex Luthor becomes an Episcopalian monk on the TV series Superboy
Superboy Season 1: Episode 26: "Luthor Unleashed"
Original airdate: 27 May 1989
Written by Stephen Lord
Lex Luthor appears as an antagonist character in a number of episodes throughout Season 1 of the Superboy series. Lex Luthor does not appear in every episode, however, and is certainly not as prominent in this series as he is in the later Smallville series which featured many of the same characters. In the original episodes of Superboy, Lex Luthor is portrayed as a college student at Shuster University - the school that Clark Kent, Lana Lang and Clark's best friend T.J. White are attending. Lex Luthor is not much of a "super-villain" in the Season 1 episodes. He apparently comes from a wealthy background and he certainly acts like a well-heeled Yuppie. But he is involved in scams and schemes to try to make sums of money which seem rather paltry by his comic book self's standards. Perhaps college-age Lex Luthor in Superboy is only beginning to gain great wealth, and is involved in his early criminal endeavors in other to do so. Lex Luthor seems more obnoxious than dangerous, however, throughout most of Superboy Season 1.
Episode 26 - the last episode of Season 1 of Superboy - really ratchets things up for Lex Luthor, however. This episode, titled "Luthor Unleashed" serves as something of an origin story for Lex Luthor. The episode features many elements of the earliest Lex Luthor origin stories from the comics which present a boyhood friendship between Lex and Clark Kent, in which Lex Luthor - dwelling in Smallville - almost dies in a lab accident. As in the early comic book origin story, Superboy here saves Lex Luthor, but doing so causes Lex to go bald. Lex Luthor here is infuriated by his baldness and blames Superboy for it. He vows to have his revenge on Superboy.
This baldness as motivation for a lifetime of villainy may seem quaint by today's post-Crisis, post-Byrne and post-Smallville standards, but this is close to the classic Superboy and Lex Luthor comic book stories that were canon at the time the Superboy series was made.
Episode 26 opens with a daring raid on a military base. Lex Luthor and Leo - Lex's ever-present lackey - are wearing military fatigues. They use a sonic weapon, apparently of Lex's devising, to break into the military base. They use the weapon to knock dozens of soldiers and military police out of the way. Lex and his assistant make their way into a top secret lab, steal an object from a locked case, and then escape.
In the next scene we see the base commander and a local police detective investigating the scene of the theft. The police detective has brought Clark Kent and T.J. White with him to help, explaining that these two college student journalists have often been helpful with investigations in the past. The military officer explains that the gun that was stolen is the "Thermaton 14" is a heat-seeking laser weapon calibrated to seek out body temperature. You can kill a man at a thousand yards just by pointing it at them. The military officer explains that the pair that stole the weapon were wearing ROTC uniforms, and Shuster University is the only campus in the area with an ROTC program. Stepping aside and speaking only to each other, Clark and T.J. discuss their suspicions that Lex Luthor is the only Shuster student who could have committed this crime. They decide they will try to interview Lex Luthor and get into his dorm room to look for evidence.
Next we see Lex Luthor and Leo discussing Lex's plan to sell the stolen military weapon. Three organizations are bidding on the item.
We next see Lex Luthor mixing chemicals in a lab. An accident happens and a fire starts. Lex is engulfed in fumes. Clark Kent sees the smoke and fire coming from the window. He changes to Superboy. Superboy saves Lex Luthor. Lex Luthor is very grateful to Superboy. (His hair has not yet fallen out.) Lana Lang sees the soot-covered, coughing Lex Luthor and takes pity on him. She tenderly covers him with her jacket and cradles his head.
Later we see a delivery truck giving Lana Lang scores of flowers, accompanied by a nice card and a violinist. Clark Kent and T.J. White tease Lana Lang relentlessly about the way she has been nice to Lex. They are convinced that Lex Luthor has no good in him at all.
Next we see Lex Luthor getting all dressed up in a nice suit for a date with Lana Lang. Leo tells Lex that the three organizations are ready to deal, but Lex blows them off for now, saying he's not ready. He is only interested in his date with Lana Lang. Lex goes to pick up Lana at her dorm room.
Clark Kent and T.J. White go to Lex's place to confront him. Only Leo is there. Clark and T.J. make it clear that Lex is a suspect.
Next we see Lex Luthor wearing a robe. He looks in a mirror. He is shocked to see he is totally bald.
[For the first time since Lex's hair fell out as a result of his lab accident, Leo sees Lex's bald head. Lex, looking in a mirror, is also seeing his own baldness for the first time.]
Leo: Hoo, wow! That's really rad, man! But don't you think it's going a little bit too far with punk!?
[Lex, shocked at his image in the mirror, tears the mirror off the hinges that attach it to the medicine cabinet.]
Lex Luthor: Superboy did this to me! He knew there was titanium and phosphorus in the lab. You're gonna pay for this Superboy. You're gonna pay! ARRRRRRGGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
[Next we see Lex Luthor, wearing a wig, telling Leo to organize a meeting with the three organizations who want the military weapon. Lex tells Leo to have each organization bring their top assassin. He wants to use them to kill Superboy.]
[Next we see Lex Luthor, wearing an odd cowboy hat, approaching Lana Lang on campus.]
Lex Luthor: Lana.
Lana Lang: Uh, hi, Lex.
Lex Luthor: Could you spare me a few moments in private?
Lana Lang: Of course.
Lex Luthor: Lana, I need a favor, if you would grant it.
Lana Lang: Consider it granted . . . Isn't it a bit warm to be wearing a hat?
[Reluctantly, Lex Luthor takes his hat off, revealing his bald head.]
Lana Lang: Lex, why did you shave your head?
Lex Luthor: I didn't shave. I'm bald.
[Lex Luthor puts his hat back on his head.]
Lana Lang: Oh, Lex!
Lex Luthor: Made bald by your friend, Superboy!
Lana Lang: He would not do that!
Lex Luthor: He deliberately blew those chemicals through my hair, killing the folicles!
Lana Lang: You're not being reasonable, Lex.
Lex Luthor: Damn right, I'm not being reasonable! Would you be reasonable if somebody deliberately stole your hair? On purpose?! On purpose?!
Lana Lang: Well, why would he do that?
Lex Luthor: Because he hates me! You all hate me!
Lana Lang: No, Lex. You're wrong!
[Lex Luthor turns to face Lana. He slugs her in the face. I mean, he really hauls off and smacks her one! It is an act of raw violence and aggression. Lana is only briefly stunned. She instantly punches Lex in the face.]
Lex Luthor: Don't you ever tell me I'm wrong! You hate me! You all hate me. You and all your friends. You hate me because I'm smarter than you. Now, about that favor I want. You tell Mr. "Save Humanity" Superboy that if he wants the Thermatron 14, to be at Wilson's Meadow tomorrow morning. Got it? And give him this! [Lex Luthor hands Lana Lang a lock of his own hair, which he retrieved from his pocket. Lana doesn't take it and it drops on the ground.] Never mind. It's all I've got!
[Lex Luthor storms away, leaving a stunned Lana Lang.]
[Next we see Clark Kent and T.J. White eating lunch and studying. Lana arrives on the scene. Clark asks how her date with Lex Luthor went last night. Lana tells Clark and T.J. that Lex hit her. She says he didn't hurt her, but he was disappointed because she was so sure that Lex had really changed. Lana tells Clark and T.J. the message that Lex had for Suprboy.]
[Next we see the three assassins gathering at Wilson's Field, with Lex Luthor (on horseback) and Leo. Lex tells them what they'll be going: killing Superboy. He brought his weapon - which he calls the "sonic blaster" - to help even the odds. One of the assassins is an Indiana Jones look-alike (complete with bullwhip), one is a ninja, and one is an Arabian knight. The three assassins fight Superboy while Lex blasts Superboy with his sonic blaster, which severely hurts Superboy because of Superboy's super-hearing. Unfortunately, the sonic blaster kills the ninja. Then Superboy disarms Lex. "Indiana Jones" and the Arabian knight grab Superboy again. While Superboy defeats "Indiana Jones" and the Arabian knight, Lex grabs another weapon. Lex fires a really effective laser blast at Superboy, completely knocking him down for the count. Before Lex can finish Superboy off, Leo accidentally messes with the weapon, and makes it so Lex can't fire it again. Lex pushes Leo down and runs away. Once Superboy recovers, Lex and Leo are long gone. Superboy picks up the laser weapon. Looking around he sees only the three unconscious assassins. He appears to be standing in front of a covered wagon like that used by Mormon pioneers. Exactly why this wagon is here in Wilson's Meadow isn't clear. Perhaps this property belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is of the largest property holders in Florida, where it maintains orchards and ranches it uses for providing food to people when emergencies strike.]
[Timecode: 19 minutes, 37 seconds. Next we see about ten Christian monks wearing brown robes, with hoods. They are kneeling and praying, gathered around a white wooden Christian cross.]
Monk: And why is it that we fast, Brothers? To partake of the suffering of mankind. We share their suffering. The pangs of hunger and of the flesh, of the spirit. And we will continue to fast till the end of this month, in communion with our tortured brothers on this finite planet until we attain infinity. Yea, Brothers, we will honor this fast to cleanse our bodies and our spirits. No food or water will pass our lips. And I say Amen.
[The monks stand up from their kneeling position - all but two of them. The two monks that remain are Lex Luthor and Leo. A Bible is at Lex Luthor's fingertips. Lex Luthor continues to pray for a moment, staring at the cross, his hands folded. Finally, he reaches up and pulls the hood off of his head, revealing his mostly bald head, ringed by hair in the manner of medieval monks.]
Lex Luthor: Let us hunger, brother. Let us pray for the day that we may do unto Superboy as Superboy has done unto us.
[Lex Luthor and Leo stare into the sky, where they see a sunset that is symbolic of God's presence. The wind howls ominously. The closing credit "Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind" is shown. Lightning strikes once and thunder can be heard on this credit screen. It as if God himself is commenting on this episode, or perhaps on the entire season of Superboy. Perhaps God is a bit surprised that Ilya Salkind has portrayed Lex Luthor as a Christian monk.]
Lex Luthor is a Nietzschean Episcopalian on the TV series Smallville
Jeph Loeb was one of the principle writers and a supervising producer of the TV series Smallville. Jeph Loeb is also the author of Superman for all Seasons, which features one of the most explicitly Protestant Christian portrayals of Clark Kent/Superman anywhere in canonical DC Universe comics. The creators of Smallville said on a DVD commentary for the series that Superman: for all Seasons was the principle model for the Smallville series. It is therefore ironic that Smallville's most explicitly religious character is Lex Luthor. Clark Kent's strong moral values and family life clearly reflect a Protestant Christian background, yet the series seemed to shy away from ever including any explicit acknowledgements of Clark Kent's religious affiliation. Yet Lex Luthor is unmistakably Protestant.
In the television series Smallville, a younger Lex Luthor is one of three main characters, along with Clark Kent and Lana Lang. This TV series depicts Lex Luthor as an Episcopalian with a clearly articulated belief in God.
The Lex Luthor of Smallville is not, however, a regular churchgoer and much of his behavior falls far short of recognized Episcopalian or general Christian ethics and expectations. Smallville also explicitly recognizes that Lex received Nietzschean teaching from his father ("Lionel Luthor") from an early age, and makes it clear that these beliefs are a major influence on Lex.
The fact that the Lex Luthor of Smallville is portrayed as an Episcopalian may be surprising to people who know about Lex Luthor only through comic books or feature films. Even casual viewers of the Smallville TV series may not have noticed this. But to a careful viewer of all episodes of Smallville, this is the natural conclusion.
I recently completed watching the complete run of the Smallville TV series, seasons 1 through 5, watching them on DVD in a relatively short period of time. Before watching any episodes of Smallville, I was aware of the fact that Lex Luthor was created by Jewish comic book creators and I was aware that a subsequent influential Superman writer (Elliot S! Maggin, an Orthodox Jew) has said that he thinks of Lex Luthor as a non-observant Jew. It is worth noting that the Smallville TV series contains not the slightest hint that Lex Luthor or any of his family are Jewish.
The religious affiliation of the Luthor family in Smallville is overtly Christian. This does not mean that Lionel and Lex Luthor are ever portrayed as devout Christians, church-going Christians, or "Christian" in the sense of the word that means "a person of consistently upstanding moral character." Rather, they are portrayed as Christians in the sense that Christianity is the religion that they nominally belong to and whose ideals they consistently fail to live up to.
Moreover, beyond simply being identifiable as Christians, the Luthor family is identifiably Episcopalian. Some of the ways that we know that Lex Luthor is a Christian generally and an Episcopalian specifically are:
- Lex Luthor and his brother Julian were both baptized as infants. Infant baptism is a rite that is not practiced by most Christian churches in the United States, and it is certainly not practiced by non-Christians. This rite is, however, practiced regularly by Episcopalians.
- Lex Luthor and his father Lionel Luthor often quote from the Bible or refer pointedly to stories from the Bible. Usually these quotes or stories are from the New Testament. There are at least ten examples of this.
- When Lex Luthor married Dr. Helen Bryce in his own home he chose an Episcopalian ceremony officiated by an Episcopalian minister.
- One could certainly argue that the choice of the minister's denomination for Lex Luthor's first wedding ceremony was made by his bride. However, an Episcopalian minister was also used in the ceremony that Luthor envisioned in a nightmare in which he married his mother. (See the deleted scenes for "Bound" (Season 04: Episode 10).
- Lionel and Lex Luthor refer to stories and figures from Anglo-Catholic tradition (which includes Catholicism and Episcopalian's home branch of Anglicanism), but which are not part of Christianity generally. One example is when, on Lex's birthday, Lionel (his father) gave him an ornate box while making up a story that incorporated the legendary Christian dragonslayer Saint George. Although Saint George is most prominent within the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Luthors are clearly not Eastern Orthodox in their denominational affiliation. But Saint George is also a prominent figure in British Christian tradition and in Anglican tradition. In fact, there are literally hundreds of Anglican churches throughout the world named Saint George. (One can find many of them by searching for "Saint George's Anglican Church" via google. By comparison, we could find no indication that are any churches named "Saint George's Baptist Church" or "Saint George's Lutheran Church", and only scant references to "Saint George's Methodist Church" or "Saint George's Methodist Church.")
- In helping console Clark Kent, who is disappointed in a Jack Jennings (a family friend and state senator), Lex Luthor brings up the story of King David from the Old Testament in the Bible. Asked to say what he knows about David, Clark mentions that King David slew Goliath and saved his people. Lex Luthor tells Clark the rest of the story, about how King David saw Bathsheba bathing and then sent Bathsheba's husband out to die in battle so that he could have Bathsheba for himself. Lex's point is that even the greatest heroes are far from perfect.
It should be pointed out that "Luther" is a German surname. The most prominent figure from history to bear this surname is Martin Luther, the principle founder of the Protestant Reformation. "Luthor" is largely unknown as an actual surname. Possibly "Luthor" represents an attempt on the part of the character's creators to create an English or Anglicized variant of "Luther." Clearly the Luthors of Smallville have English ancestry, a fact vividly manifest by the castle that Lex Luthor lives in - an ancestral castle that his father relocated to Smallville from the British Isles.
On multiple occasions, Lex Luthor clearly articulates a belief in God. This not necessarily a sign of Episcopalianism, of course. It is, however, a telling aspect of the character. The Lex Luthor of Smallville is not intended to be the fully adult villain of the Superman comics. Young Lex is, rather, the man who will grow to become Superman's arch-enemy. One of the most prominent plotlines in Smallville is the transformation of Lex Luthor from a man who desperately wants to do the right thing and be a good person into a man who slowly comes to embrace his "dark side."
The villainous Lex Luthor of the comics is profoundly cynical, skeptical and prideful. Lex Luthor of the comics is clearly an atheist who views himself as being above other human beings, even thinking of himself as a godlike person whose destiny it is to rule over humanity.
Lex Luthor of Smallville is not yet that person. The belief in God, the occasional religious leanings, and most of all the frequent quest for redemption and salvation from his father's dark path are all aspects of the Smallville Lex Luthor which contrast with the nature of his villainous future self.
The villainous Lex Luthor of the comics needs nobody but himself. Lex Luthor of Smallville needs other people. In episode after episode he strives desperately to win the approval, love or friendship of people important to him. This quest is focused most frequently on Clark Kent. At other times, Lex Luthor feels that he has secured Clark's friendship, and his quest is for approval or love from other people, including Clark's parents, Lex's own parents, or a woman he has truly fallen in love with - Dr. Helen Bryce at first, and later Lana Lang. The Lex Luthor of the comics murdered his own parents, murdered his own wife, and gave his own daughter to Brainiac in exchange for technology. Far from seeking the friendship and approval of Clark Kent, Lex Luthor of the comics hates Clark Kent and is obsessed with his hatred for Superman.
Note that none of this is an attempt by the writers of Smallville to portray atheists as inherently evil. Lex Luthor's Christian background is meant to add texture and background to the character. Nothing in Smallville suggests that Lex Luthor's religious affiliation or specific theological beliefs, or lack thereof, are directly connected to his status as a villain. Despite the fact that he is only on the path to villainy and has not yet become the evil mastermind of the comics, Lex Luthor of Smallville still is the principle villain or chief antagonist character of the series. Thus it is accurate to state that the principle villain of Smallville is a lapsed Episcopalian.
The "lapsed" aspect of the Luthor family's Episcopalianism is important. Neither Lionel Luthor nor Lex Luthor are ever portrayed as churchgoers. They are clearly familiar with church doctrine and tradition, they have clearly participated in rituals of their church, but neither of them appears to be motivated primarily or even to a large extent by their desire to conform to any specific denominational strictures or Christian ethics generally.
One should never forget that a central theme of Smallville is the conflict within Lex Luthor's own soul as he struggles to become a good person (often looking to Clark Kent's example). He struggles for righteousness and humanity and goodness despite the fact that he believes there is an inherently dark side within himself. But it can safely be said that Lex Luthor of Smallville is a bad Episcopalian and a bad Christian. Lex Luthor rarely hesitates to lie or hide things from those closest to him. He is not above using violence to further his own goals. When Lex Luthor reaches for a book that is his own personal inspiration, we see it is a book by Nietzsche, whose teachings are more consistently followed by Lionel and Lex Luthor than are the teachings of the Bible or any other text.
One of the most glaring examples of Lex Luthor's departure from the teachings of Biblical Christianity is his flagrant and callous promiscuity. Lex normally hides such activity from Clark and other people in Smallville that he is trying to impress, but which Clark learns about Lex's frequent casual sexual liaisons with women in the Season 4 episode "Bound." Clark is shocked about what he learns, and dismayed to realize how Lex has treated numerous women as playthings, without regard for their feelings or the consequences of his actions. Contemporary American Episcopalianism places few boundaries on sexual behavior and rarely places much emphasis on traditional Christian sexual morality, but Lex's misuse of women conflicts even with this denomination's relatively liberal standards.
This is an example of how there are many ways in which the Lex Luthor of Smallville already regards himself as being exempt from traditional morality, even though he is intimately familiar with the moral standards of the church he was born into and the moral expectations of his friends in Smallville. This attitude, which is central to Nietzschean belief, is one of many characteristics that bridges the gap between the redemption-seeking Nietzschean-leaning lapsed Episcopalian of Smallville and the villainous Nietzschean atheist of the Superman comics.
[Many resources are available for further reading about Nietzschean beliefs. One concise resource is Paul Brians' Study Guide for Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Book One, at Washington State University.]
Specific Examples Illustrating Lex Luthor's Religious Affiliation and Spiritual Beliefs from Smallville
As many episodes in Smallville reveal, Lex Luthor is fully aware that there is a darkness or a potential for evil within him. This is due, in large part, to the example of his rather Machiavellian and Nietzschian example of Lex's father, Lionel Luthor. Not only did Lionel provide an example of Machiavellian and Nietzschian amorality, Lionel even trained Lex using books written by Machiavelli and Nietzsche.
Lex does not want to embrace his father's values (or lack of values) and throughout the Smallville series Lex Luthor fights this darkness within him. Lex Luthor truly tries to fight against his "fate" and make his own future. "Hourglass", the 6th episode of Season 1, plainly illustrates the fact that there is a great darkness within Lex, but that Lex nevertheless wants to avoid a future of evil and instead wants to make his own future. Lex Luthor strives to do this by living embracing the moral, compassionate, kind example and teachings of his mother (and the friends he admires, such as Clark Kent and Clark's parents).
But despite Lex Luthor's best intentions, many of his experiences (including the active intervention of his still-living father) tempt him toward the path of darkness. Will Lex Luthor remain the good person and caring friend to Clark Kent that he strives to be, or will he become a villain? This is one of the central questions explored by the Smallville TV series.
Season 1: Episode 1: "Pilot"
Airdate: 16 October 2001
Written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
- When Clark Kent visits Lex Luthor's castle for the first time, Lex explains that the castle is his family's ancestral home, and that his father (Lionel Luthor) had the castle moved to Smallville brick by brick from Scotland. Scottish origins for the Luthors suggest that the family has a Protestant background. Most Scottish immigrants to the United States were Protestant, with Presbyterianism being predominant. Anglicanism (which Episcopalianism is a part of) is also prominent in Scottish history, and certainly could have been introduced into the Luthor family through marriage or conversion since the family has been in the United States.
- When Clark visits Lex Luthor at his castle mansion, Lex asks Clark if he believes a man can fly. This seems like a pointed reference to Superman. The language echoes the slogan for the 1978 movie Superman. But then Lex reveals the meaning of his words. He explains that he believes a man can fly, because he did fly. Lex relates in some detail how he had an out-of-body experience after he ran his car through a guardrail and off a bridge. Lex explains that in the few minutes that his physical body was under the water, his spirit flew over Smallville and gained a new perspective on life. Lex said that he was glad for the experience, because it was like he had a new life, a life that he wanted to use to start fresh and do what is right.
[Timestamp: 33 minutes, 16 seconds. New scene: The establishing shot shows a massive European castle, inexplicably located in Smallville. The castle looks old, yet in it is in good shape. The expansive grounds are carefully cared for. This is clearly the home of somebody very wealthy. The scene shifts to show the inside of the castle. Clark Kent is standing in a hallway, looking around, awed by the castle's interior.]
Clark Kent: Hello? Hello?
[Clark hears the clash of sabers in the next room. Clark stares as he sees two white-clad figures, their faces covered by fencing masks. The two people are fencing. The instructor, a woman with long, blonde hair, completes a move that defeats her student, who then takes off his mask. It is Lex Luthor. He is upset at his defeat. He hurls his sword at the wall, before realizing that Clark is there. The sword sticks into a wall right next to Clark's head.]
Lex Luthor: Clark? I didn't see you.
Clark Kent: I, uh, I buzzed, but no one answered.
Lex Luthor: How'd you get through the gate?
Clark Kent: Kind of squeezed through the bars. If this is a bad time--
Lex Luthor: No, no. I think Heiki has sufficiently kicked my ass for the day.
Clark Kent: This is a great place.
Lex Luthor: Yeah? If you're dead and in the market for something to haunt.
Clark Kent: Wha-- I meant... it's roomy.
Lex Luthor: It's the Luthor ancestral home. Or so my father claims. He had it shipped over from Scotland, stone by stone.
Clark Kent: Yeah, I remember. The trucks rolled through town for weeks. But no one ever moved in.
Lex Luthor: My father had no intention of living here. He's never even stepped through the front door.
Clark Kent: Then why'd he ship it over?
Lex Luthor: Because he could. [Lex shifts the topic of conversation, and asks Clark about the nice new pickup truck that he gave him as a reward for Clark having saved Lex's life.] How's the new ride?
Clark Kent: That's why I'm here.
Lex Luthor: What's the matter? You don't like it?
Clark Kent: No, it's not that. I... can't keep it.
Lex Luthor: Clark, you saved my life. I think it's the least I can do.
[Clark looks downward, saying nothing.]
Lex Luthor: Your father doesn't like me, does he? It's okay. I've been bald since I was 9. I'm used to people judging me before they get to know me.
Clark Kent: It's nothing personal. He's just not crazy about your dad.
Lex Luthor: Figures the apple doesn't fall far from the tree? Understandable. What about you, Clark? Did you fall far from the tree?
Clark Kent: I'd better go. Thanks for the truck. [Clark hands Lex the keys to the truck.]
Lex Luthor: Clark? Do you believe a man can fly?
Clark Kent: Sure, in a plane.
Lex Luthor: No, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about soaring through the clouds with nothing but air beneath you.
Clark Kent: People can't fly, Lex.
Lex Luthor: I did. After the accident, when my heart stopped. It was the most exhilarating two minutes of my life. I flew over Smallville. And for the first time... I didn't see a dead end. I saw a new beginning. Thanks to you, I have a second chance. We are the future, Clark. And I don't want anything to stand in the way of our friendship.
[End of scene. Timestamp: 36 minutes, 33 seconds.]
Season 1: Episode 2: "Metamorphosis"
[Timestamp: 11 minutes, 58 seconds. Clark Kent is helping his mother sell some of their farm's produce at an outdoor market. Lex Luthor approaches Clark. The night before (as shown in the previous episode, which was the pilot episode for Smallville, Lex Luthor rescued Clark from being tied to a cross in a cornfield.]
Airdate: 23 October 2001
Written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
- At a farmer's market Lex Luthor runs into Clark Kent. Lex asks again if Clark is all right after being hung up in a corn field like a scarecrow. Clark says it was nothing, but Lex presses the matter, pointing out that this was an extreme, potententially dangerous "prank," that "even the Romans saved doing this for special occasions." Here Lex Luthor is making an allusion to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ at the hands of the Romans. Lex is clearly familiar with the basics of the Crucifixion story, which is not necessarily surprising given his intellect. Perhaps more telling is simply the fact that the story is close to the surface of Lex's thoughts, and that he is comfortable sprinkling Biblical allusions into his speech. Far from an isolated incidence, this is simply the first of over a dozen direct Biblical references spoken by Lex in various episodes of Smallville. It should be pointed out that this isn't simply an example of a writer unintentionally reflecting his or her own religious beliefs or cultural background. We know this for two reasons: 1) Other than Lex Luthor and sometimes his father, no other characters on Smallville regularly drop pointed Biblical references in their speech; and 2) Multiple different writers are responsible for writing this type of dialogue for Lex.
Lex Luthor: You want to tell me what happened last night?
Clark Kent: It was just a stupid prank.
Lex Luthor: You were tied to a stake in the middle of a field. Even the Romans saved that for special occasions. You could have died out there.
Clark Kent: I appreciate your help. I just want to forget it ever happened.
- It is in this episode that we first see the ornate lead box that Lex Luthor's parents gave him when he was a boy. After Lex Luthor found Lana's Kryptonite necklace in the corn field where Clark had been hung up in a scarecrow, Lex put the necklace in this box. In this episode Lex gives Clark the box with the necklace in it, explaining that his parents told him the box was made from the armor of Saint George, the legendary Christian knight and dragonslayer.
[Timestamp: 22 minutes, 8 seconds. Clark Kent is visiting Lex Luthor in Lex Luthor's castle home. Lex Luthor shows Clark the Kryptonite necklace that belongs to Lana Lang, the necklace that Lex found in the cornfield after rescuing Clark. Lex Luthor is keeping the necklace in an ornate lead box.]
Clark Kent: That's a cool box. What's it made of?
Lex Luthor: Lead. My mother bought it in the Kazban, Morocco. A little guy told her it was made from the armor of Saint George. Patron Saint of Boy Scouts. She gave it to me before she died. I think she was trying to send me a message.
Season 1: Episode 6: "Hourglass"
Airdate: 20 November 2001
Written by: Doris Egan
[Timecode: 30 minutes, 18 seconds. Scene: Lex Luthor's mansion. In a darkened room Lex Luthor has displayed the Porsche sports car he was driving when he hit Clark Kent and ran off a bridge into a river. The car is well lit, as if it is the center of a memorial.]
Clark Kent: My mom said you called? Is-- Is this this the Porsche from-- I don't understand. Why do you still have it?
Lex Luthor: I once read about a rich man who survived a hotel fire. He hung onto a ledge for an hour, before the Fire Department rescued him. Afterwards he bought the hotel. Always stayed in that room. When they asked him why, he said he figured Fate couldn't find him twice.
Clark Kent: I thought you didn't believe in fate.
Lex Luthor: I don't. But every time I look at this car, I wonder . . . [Pauses. Points to the car.] I had a team go over this thing inch by inch. They tell me there's no way the impact could have ripped off the roof like this.
Clark Kent: They must have made a mistake.
Lex Luthor: Do you remember anything about the accident?
Clark Kent: No. Just that I pulled you out. That's it.
Lex Luthor: I thought you might be able to tell me more.
Clark Kent: I'm sorry.
Lex Luthor: It's a little strange to be walking around when every shred of evidence says I should be dead. An unsolved mystery, I guess.
Clark Kent: Maybe fate has something else in mind for you.
Lex Luthor: [Smiles.] Huh. You've been spending too much time with your friend Cassandra.
Clark Kent: Well, at least she doesn't dwell on the past. Lex, you're alive. The question that you need to ask yourself is where do you go from here?
[End of scene.]
In Smallville season 1, episode 6 ("Hourglass"), Clark Kent meets an elderly woman named Cassandra Carver who demonstrates to him that she has the ability touch a person and see that person's future. Clark Kent tells his friend Lex Luthor about meeting Cassandra. Without having any further evidence or first-hand experience, Lex believes in Cassandra's abilities.
Lex Luthor goes to visit Cassandra in the rest home where she lives. She offers to touch his hand and tell his future. He refuses to let her touch him, saying that he already knows his future because he knows he will accomplish what he plans to do in life. Lex is afraid to let Cassandra touch him because he is afraid that she may see his secrets.
Later Lex changes his mind and later visits Cassandra again and lets her touch his hand. Cassandra does indeed see Lex's future. She sees him as the President of the United States. In Cassandra's vision, she sees a devastating nuclear war launched under Lex's leadership and she sees Lex surrounded by a field of flowers which turns into a flower of skeletons. In the midst of all this symbolic death and destruction, a clearly evil Lex Luthor smiles.
The vision clearly indicates that there is a dark side to Lex Luthor in the present, and, if Cassandra's vision comes true, a dark and dire aspect to his future. Unfortunately, seeing Lex's future is so traumatic that Cassandra dies of a heart attack while holding his hand, and she is never able to tell Lex Luthor what she saw.
Lex Luthor, seeing Cassandra's dead body, is shaken. He doesn't know what she saw. Does he suspect that she saw something in him that was so horrifying that it killed her? Lex Luthor stands up and calls for a nurse. This is how the episode ends.
Season 1: Episode 7: "Craving"
[Timecode: 38 minutes, 0 seconds. Scene: Lex Luthor's mansion, night time. A balcony outside a main ballroom. Lana Lang stands alone, away from the party, starring at the stars. Nell (Lana Lang's aunt) has thrown Lana a large birthday party bash at Lex Luthor's mansion. This party was all Nell's idea, and Lana is feeling slightly out of sorts. For one thing, a fancy party like this isn't really her style. Also, Lana's boyfriend, Whitney Fordman, couldn't make it to the party. He had some event related to football scholarship recruitment that was more important to him to go to than Lana's party. So Clark Kent asked Lana if he could escort Lana to the party, but then Clark didn't show up. This is because Clark was busy saving somebody from a super-powered "meteor freak" (as often happens), but Lana doesn't know this. All she knows is that Clark Kent has disappointed her once again by not being where he said he would be or doing what he said he would with regards to their friendship and social life.
Air date: 27 November 2001
Written by: Michael Green
Young Lex Luthor, the friend whose mansion is the site of this birthday party, sees Lana standing alone on the balcony and walks out to talk to her.]
Lex Luthor: Sneakin' out, huh? Isn't this your shin-dig?
Lana Lang: [Smiles.] It says so on all the invitations.
Lex Luthor: Right. You're not hiding. You're getting some air.
[Lana Lang looks at Lex. The look on her face asks the question: How did you know exactly how I feel?]
Lex Luthor: I spent eighteen years of Luthor Christmas parties in the coat room.
Lana Lang: I'm still waiting for my reinforcements.
Lex Luthor: I know Clark. He'll be here. If he can.
Lana Lang: It's just a birthday.
[Having done what he can to console the melancholy Lana, Lex Luthor walks back into the party to leave her alone.]
Season 1: Episode 10: "Shimmer"
Airdate: 29 January 2002
Written by: Mark Verheiden and Michael Green
Episode 10 of season 1 contains two references to the fact that the Luthor family castle was shipped over from Scotland. The first such reference happens early in the episode, during a conversation between Lex Luthor and Victoria Hardwick, the daughter of Lionel Luthor's longtime rival. Later in the episode characters once again mention the fact that the re-located family castle Lex Luthor lives in while in Smallville originally came from Scotland.
Lex Luthor's British family heritage provides further support for identification of the character as Episcopalian (the Episcopal Church is the American province of the British-based Anglican Communion). Lionel has never appeared particularly interested in traditional religious observance. It is likely that the family's Christian practices, including infant baptism and observation of Christmas, was driven entirely by Lex Luthor's mother. Lex Luthor's mother is clearly Caucasian and appears to be of English extract in the few episodes that featured her (either in flashbacks, in dreams, or as a spirit).
[Timecode: 5 minutes, 38 seconds. New scene: Interior main room in Lex Luthor's castle home in Smallville. Lex Luthor is shooting pool while his new girlfriend, Victoria Hardwick, daughter of a wealthy British industrialist, talks on a cell phone with her father.]
Victora: [into phone] Yes, Daddy, we're on schedule . . . Lex is playing hard to get, but I'm sure I can make him come around . . . Bye, Daddy. [To Lex] He wants to know if you're selling this castle, after we sell out your father?
Lex Luthor: Why? Does he want to ship it back over to Scotland?
Season 1: Episode 13: "Kinetic"
Airdate: 26 February 2002
Written by: Philip Levens
In "Kinetic" (Smallville season 1, episode 13), Lex Luthor warns Clark Kent that he can't save the world, and that if he tries to do so, all he will end up with is "a Messiah Complex and a lot of enemies." This line foreshadows Clark's eventual emergence as the superhero Superman, who literally does save the world many times. The "Messiah Complex" spoken of here can also refer to the adult Lex Luthor himself, who often views himself as the person who should reshape or run the world, if only Superman wouldn't stand in his way.
This line foreshadows what would become one of the adult Lex Luthor's primary motivations for wanting to destroy Superman: The adult Lex Luthor has sometimes been portrayed as wanting to destroy Superman because he resents the intrusion of Superman in the lives of normal people. This explanation holds that Lex Luthor believes having a super-powerful being constantly saving everybody lulls people into being idle rather than trying to save themselves.
"Messiah Complex" is certainly a term drawn from Judeo-Christian scripture, history and teaching. The Old Testament frequently refers to a Messiah who would come to save people, and the New Testament portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies. The term is used generally in psychology (and particularly in "pop psychology"), and its use here, while interesting, does not by itself indicate a Christian or even Judeo-Christian background for Lex Luthor. Nevertheless, Lex Luthor's reference to a "Messiah Complex" instead of the use of a more secular synonym is certainly in keeping with the character's persistent use of Biblical stories, imagery and references.
[Timecode: 30 minutes, 59 seconds. Scene: Night time in Smallville. Clark Kent and Lex Luthor just parked on a city street and got out of Lex's car. They just came from an incident in which Lex Luthor was supposed to hand over cash to a small band of thieves who were blackmailing him, threatening to release confidential business data that belongs to Lex. Whitney Fordman, the current boyfriend of Lana Lang, had become involved with this band of thieves. Worried about Whitney, Clark had followed him and had observed him joining up with the thieves and going to the meeting with Lex. Clark asks Lex why he was there, and Lex explained. Now Lex asks Clark the same question.]
Lex Luthor: The question is, what were you doing there?
Clark Kent: I was following Whitney. He's been hanging out with those guys. I wanted to help him.
Lex Luthor: Is this because of Chloe?
[Before the thieves recruited Whitney to join them, they broke into Lex Luthor's mansion to steal some of Luthor's valuables. Chloe and Clark were there to tape an interview with Lex Luthor. The thieves threw Chloe out a window, injuring her severely. Clark's strength was hampered by the Kryptonite tattoos the thieves were using to grant them phasing powers and super strength. Clark felt very guilty about being unable to stop the thieves from hurting Chloe. In answer to Lex's question about if his trying to help Whitney is about what happened with Chloe, Clark says nothing. He averts his gaze slightly.]
Lex Luthor: Clark, you can't save the world. All you'll end up with is a Messiah Complex and a lot of enemies.
Clark Kent: I saved you didn't I? That turned out all right.
[Clark here is referring to the time that Lex Luthor ran into Clark Kent with his car, careening off a bridge. Clark pulled Lex from the vehicle and prevented the unconscious Lex from drowning to death. This was in the first episode of Smallville. In response to this statement, Lex Luthor smiles and chuckles ever so slightly, but says nothing.]
Clark Kent: What's your next move?
Lex Luthor: They're gonna learn that it doesn't pay to rob Lex Luthor.
Clark Kent: What about Whitney?
Lex Luthor: A man is measured by the quality of his friends. If the quarterback's with them, he'll have to face the consequences.
Season 1: Episode 15: "Nicodemus"
Airdate: 19 March 2002
Written by: Michael Green
Lana Lang was earlier exposed to the "Nicodemus" flower, which emits a pollen that causes people to lose all inhibitions and eventually die. In the scene excerpted below, Lana Lang is acting extremely out of character as the influence of the flower causes her to act and speak as if she had absolutely no inhibitions or filters or morals. Lana tried to seduce both Whitney and then Clark Kent into engaging her in physical intimacy, hoping to persuade one of them to deflower her. Neither attempt panned out, and now Lana has come to the Talon to try to seduce Lex Luthor. Lex is not unaware of Lana's great physical beauty and he probably already secretly harbors romantic feelings toward her. But at this point in his life, Lex Luthor adheres to a strong code of ethics and moral principles, and there was no way he would take advantage of Lana's latered state in order to indulge physical desires. In this scene he shows concern for Lana, and he also makes it clear that he regrets the less-principled and less moral way he acted when he was a teenager living in Metropolis.
[Timecode: 22 minutes, 57 seconds. Scene: Interior of "The Talon," the former movie theater that Lana Lang and Lex Luthor have turned into an upscale coffee shop. Lana Lang has just arrived at the Talon and closed it down early, giving everybody a free coffee "on the house" and sending them promptly on their way so that she could be alone with Lex Luthor. Lex and Lana have NEVER had any kind of romantic relationship before. Lex is Lana's boss. Lana is simply acting out of the wild, "natural man", uninhibited state she is because of the Nicodemus flower.]
Lex Luthor: Lana, the Talon closes at nine.
Lana Lang: Not today.
Lex Luthor: You're not impressing anyone with the attitude, Lana. You're talking to someone who set the bar for adolescent rebellion.
Lana Lang: That's right! I heard you were quite the bad boy before you joined us here in Smallville.
Lex Luthor: It's nothing I'm proud of.
[Lana continues to try to seduce Lex Lang, but he finally firmly asks her if she is felling all right and asks her where she has been in the last 24 hours, trying to ascertain if there is a pharmacological explanation for her current altered personality. Realizing that she is getting nowhere in her attempt to seduce Lex, Lana expesses rage. She says she sick of the scared little girl she usually is. She throws a glass at Lex, then storms away, stealing his car keys and then stealing his car.]
Season 1: Episode 16: "Stray"
Airdate: 16 April 2002
Written by: Philip Levens
As per the desires of their mother, Lex Luthor and his younger brother Julian were baptized into the Episcopalian Church as infants. This does not mean that Lex Luthor was an active, churchgoing Episcopalian as an adult. But Lex Luthor's behavior and dialogue throughout the Smallville series shows that his mother's influence had a strong and lasting influence on his religious values, beliefs and knowledge.
[Timecode: 17 minutes, 45 seconds. Scene: Interior of the barn on the Kent farm. Night time. Clark Kent is fiddling with some tools and machinery parts. Lex Luthor enters the barn, carrying a Starbucks-style coffee.]
Lex Luthor: Clark! Where's your young sidekick?
[Lex Luthor here is referring to Ryan James, a young boy that Clark's mom Martha Kent literally ran into while he was running away from his current guardians, a telepathic pair of murderous thieves.]
Clark Kent: Sleeping.
Lex Luthor: He thinks you're his big brother.
Clark Kent: Yeah . . . Well, I guess I am, 'til tomorrow.
Lex Luthor: Kid's growing on ya.
Clark Kent: You know it is, being an only child. No one else around. Don't you ever wish you had a sibling?
Lex Luthor: I had one, Clark.
Clark Kent: Really? I didn't know.
Lex Luthor: When I was eleven, my mother got pregnant again. It was total surprise. I'd never seen my father happier. The day Julian was born was the only time I felt like I was part of a real family.
Clark Kent: What happened?
Lex Luthor: The morning of his baptism, my mother went to his nursery, found him in his crib, he had stopped breathing. My mother was never the same after that. My father got even more distant. I think he saw Julian as his second chance. A chance for him to have a son he could truly love.
Clark Kent: I'm sorry.
Lex Luthor: It's in the past, Clark. We would've ended up hating each other anyway. My father would've seen to that. But I, uh, I didn't come over to recount my family's tragic history. My father's offered me a chance to return to Metropolis.
Clark Kent: Did you tell Ryan about that?
[Clark asks this question because Ryan had already told Clark that Lex's father had invited him to go work in Metropolis. Ryan knew this because he read Lex's mind. At this point, neither Clark nor Lex are aware that Ryan is telepathic.]
Lex Luthor: I haven't told anyone, Clark.
Clark Kent: Well, that's what you always wanted.
Lex Luthor: I used to think it was. Now I'm not so sure. I was a different person there. A different person around my father. He wants an answer tomorrow night. We're having dinner in Metropolis.
Clark Kent: If anyone can choose who they want to be, Lex . . . It's you.
[End of scene.]
Smallville, Season 1: Episode 17: "Reaper"
Airdate: 23 April 2002
Written by Cameron Litvack
In episode 17 of season 1 of Smallville, Lex Luthor states that for his tenth birthday, his father gave him a copy of Friedrich Nietzsche's book The Will to Power. This is just one of multiple episodes which explicitly identify Nietzscheanism as a major source of Lex Luthor's beliefs, values and behavior.
The Will to Power (German: "Der Wille zur Macht") is a prominent concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The Will to Power is also the title of a work that Nietzsche planned to write, as well as the title given to a book of selections from his notebooks. This book is a major source for Nietzschean ideology, which is a major source or harmonious elucidation of Lex Luthor's beliefs in nearly all incarnations.
[Timecode: 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Scene: The main room inside Lex Luthor's castle home in Smallville, the large room where he has pool table and his office. Lex Luthor enters the room. Dominic Senatori (played by actor Jason Connery) is shooting pool. Dominic is a dapper 30-something man wearing a business suit.]
Dominic: Your father's very disappointed with you, Lex.
Lex Luthor: My father's disappointment is perennial. Only the circumstances change. What do you want, Dominic?
Dominic: An internal audit of your division has turned up accounting irregularities, and I've been authorized to come down and go through it in a thorough manner.
Lex Luthor: So this is payback for turning down my father's offer to join him in Metropolis?
Dominic: Lionel has been very tolerant of your excesses. But this time you didn't spend the money on parties and sports cars, and he wants to know where it went.
Lex Luthor: Do you know what my father gave me for my tenth birthday? A copy of The Will to Power. "Behold the Superman. Man is something to be overcome." Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Nietzsche . . . They were the voices that nurtured me after my mother died. My father made every question a quiz. Every choice a test. Second best was for losers. No compassion for the weak. Trust no one. Those were the lessons I grew up with.
Dominic: I'll remember that if I'm ever interviewed by the Biography Channel.
Lex Luthor: All I'm saying, Dominic, is try and remember who I was raised by. I try to deny it but I'm still my father's son. Tread carefully.
[End of scene.]
Smallville Season 1, Episode 19: "Crush"
Airdate: 7 May 2002
Written by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
The memorial that Lex Luthor's father Lionel Luthor erected to Lex's late mother upon her death illustrates a number of things about Lex's religious upbrining and the religious feelings of his father. The memorial, shown in Smallville Season 1, episode 19, can be described as follows:
A park in downtown Metropolis, surounded by tall, modern skyscrapers. An open area with a carefully manicured green lawn. Here is the final resting place of Lex Luthor's mother. Lionel Luthor, a man of great wealth who loved his wife deeply, had an incredible monument erected here, something far more than simply a headstone in a cemetary. Two rows of 3 fifteen-foot marble obelisks, each ordained with live flowers, (a total of 6 obelisks) form a broad pathway that leads to the stone and marble shrine erected to Lex's mother. A large black block of carved granite holds her remains. It is topped by a statue of a slender winged woman - an angel meant to represent Lex's mother. The shrine is covered by two rows of glass awnings, seeningly symbolic of the heavens. This memorial was erected by and largely designed by Lionel Luthor, and it reflects both his own religious sensibilities as well as his feelings about his late wife. The memorial is very non-denominatioal in nature. It is almost "secular," except that Lex envisioned his deceased wife as a winged angel. In the statue's outstretched hands, she holds two bowls. In one bowl, a fountain spurts a continuous stream of clear, clean water into the air few inches. In the other bowl, a continuous flame burns brightly. Lionel's wife was decidedly more religious than Lionel - so much so that she had her children baptized as infants and she made sure that Lex received an in-depth Christian education with emphasis on the Bible. But Lionel was never comfortable with this type of religiosity. Overt Christian symbolism is completely absent from the memorial to his late wife.
[Timecode: 8 minutes, 35 seconds. Scene: We see Lex Luthor walking up to his mother's final resting spot - the memorial his father erected to her in a park in downtown Metropolis.]
[Lex Luthor, standing at the base of the large stone sarcophagus that holds his mother's remains (or the tomb, or grave marker - whatever it is), looks at the inscription and places a bouquet of fresh flowers into the vase that stands next to it. The inscription on the marble reads: "LILLIAN LUTHOR: "Loving Wife and Mother: 1951 - 1993"]
[Lex Luthor looks at the stone marker for a few moments. In the reflection of the highly polished marble he sees Pamela Jenkins, his ex-nanny, walk up from behind him.]
Lex Luthor: What are you doing here?
Pamela Jenkins: I'm here for the same reason you are. The anniversary of her death.
Lex Luthor: It's been nine years? Why the sudden burst of sentimentality?
Pamela: I deserve that. Just disappearing from your life--
Lex Luthor: I'm sure all that Luthor Corps stock my mother left you helped ease the pain.
Pamela: Is that what your father told you?
Lex Luthor: All those years, I thought you loved me. But you were just in it for the money. [Lex starts to walk away.]
Pamela: I know you're angry with me. And you have every right to be. But we need to talk.
Lex Luthor: I can't believe there's anything you'd say that would interest me. Goodbye, Pamela.
[Lex turns again and walks away, leaving Pamela standing at the shrine. End of scene.]
[Timecode: 50 minutes, 49 seconds. Scene: interior of the Smallville Hospital. Lex Luthor enters a hospital room where Pamela Jenkins lies in a bed, dying from terminal cancer. He carries a book with him: A nicely bound copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which was a favorite of Pamela's. He sets the table on the nightstand.]
Pamela: You're the last person I expected to see.
Lex Luthor: Why didn't you tell me?
Pamela: It's not your concern.
Lex Luthor: It's not your concern that you're dying? I could help you. I could get you treatment.
Pamela: Oh, I didn't come to you for help or pity. I came to you because I had nothing left to lose. The truth is, I'm ashamed that it took metastasizing to give me the courage. I let that bastard frighten me into submission for so long . . . I was too scared to even tell you just once how much you mean to me, how much I wanted to help you grow up.
Lex Luthor: I wish you had. I might be a better man.
Pamela: The fact that you're here speaks volumes about the man that you are. Your mother would be proud.
Lex Luthor: I really miss her.
Pamela: So do I.
[Pamela holds out her weakened hand. Lex Luthor takes her hand in his in a tender moment. End of scene.]
That "bastard" that Pamela mentions is Lionel Luthor, who told Pamela to leave and never see Lex again after Lex's mother died. Pamela took care of Lex Luthor while the health of Lex's mother failed. But after Lex's mother died, Lionel didn't want Pamela around because he wanted only his own influence to shape Lex. Lionel could see how much young Lex Luthor adored Pamela, but Pamela represented the ideals and values of Lex's mother - not Lionel's. So Lionel told Pamela to leave and never return, saying that if she contacted Lex, he would cut off Lex from any inheritance.
Note how Lex Luthor clearly recognizes that his father's upbringing has had a negative upbringing on him. Here, as in specific instances in many other episodes of Smallville, Lex Luthor recognizes that his father's influence has helped to instill a dark side in him. Lex longs to be a truly good person, to follow his mother's teachings. Lex's internal struggle to nurture his good side (to follow his mother's example) versus his dark, amoral or ruthless side (to follow his father's example) is one of the central ongoing themes of the Smallville TV series.
Season 4: Episode 5: "Exposed"
Airdate: 3 November 2005
Written by: Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson
In this episode, Jack Jennings, an old friend of Clark Kent's father comes to visit the Kent farm. Jennings is an incumbent state senator preparing to run for re-electon. Lex Luthor has put his hat in the ring as a candidate trying to unseat Jennings. A stripper is found murdered and evidence points to a connection between the murder victim and Jennings. Jack Jennings is somebody that Clark Kent looks up to. Apparently Jennings has in the past been so close to the Kent family that he is like an uncle to Clark. Clark investigates this murder, thinking that Jennings is innocent of all wrong-doing and that maybe Lex Luthor is the architect behind an elaborate plot to defame Jennings, ensuring a Luthor win in the election. Lex Luthor proclaims his innocense and tries to help Clark's investigation.
[Timecode: 33 minutes, 13 seconds. Establishing shot: outside of the castle in Smallville where Lex Luthor lives. Cut to inside, in Lex Luthor's office within the castle. A campaign staffer is holding up a large campaign poster featuring Lex Luthor's face and the slogan: "Looking to the Future: Lex Luthor." Two other campaign staffers stand nearby. Lex has been meeting with these three campaign staffers, going over details of his fledgeling campaign for a state senate seat. Lex notices that Clark Kent is standing at the door to the office.]
Lex Luthor: [To his campaign staffers] We'll finish this later.
Clark Kent: I just wanted to say "thank you."
Lex Luthor: Y'know, when I asked you to stay out of trouble, I kinda thought that might include, uh, being caught under-age in a strip club, using my membership while I'm gearing up for a political campaign.
Clark Kent: I didn't mean to drag you into this.
Lex Luthor: C'mon, Clark. Who are you kidding? You had me masterminding this whole Jennings plot before you walked through those doors.
Clark Kent: I didn't think he was lying to me.
Lex Luthor: But you assumed I would.
Clark Kent: I can't believe that I looked up to Jack.
Lex Luthor: Tell me what you remember about King David. Humor me.
Clark Kent: King David. Slew Goliath. Saved his people.
Lex Luthor: And afterward, he saw a beautiful woman bathing and fell madly in love. Problem was, she turned out to be his best friend's wife. So you know what our great hero did? He sent his best friend off to die in battle so he could have her to himself.
Clark Kent: Kinda leave that part out, don't they?
Lex Luthor: We all need to believe in heroes, Clark. And even the best ones are far from perfect.
[End of scene.]
From: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:30 AM
...What is the religion of the heroes we read about?... Don't get me wrong, not picking on anyone, just wonder what everyone thinks what our heroes believe... (maybe a moderator can have some imput..?) ...other threads touch on the subject in passing, time to discuss it!
Posted: Apr 22, 2006 2:09 PM
Registered Republican here, and I'm perfectly willing to check that at the door. If some of you can't then don't even open the door.
Now. As for religion and superheroes, I have this tendency to see the DCU through Luthor-colored glasses. And if Michael Holt is an atheist, then I tend to think Lex is an atheist of Randian proportions. [referring to Ayn Rand]
Despite, as its been mentioned, the existence of folks like Ragman and Blue Devil.
Posted: May 6, 2006 7:11 AM
If we count villians as well, I'd say Lex is a...
Come on. You know it was funny.
From: comments page about Adherents.com's "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" section on StumbleUpon.com website (http://www.stumbleupon.com/urlarchive/10/www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html; viewed 10 May 2006):
by playermatt, Mar 19, 3:07am
A series of essays that explore whether Dr. Bruce Banner is a textbook narcissist, The Hulk is Nietzsche's superman, and Lex Luthor hates Superman because he is an anti-social, secular humanist. I really loved this.
From: comments on "Racism against Atheists" post on "Stormy's Corner" blog website, posted 23 March 2006 (http://stormy.blogs.com/stormy/2006/03/racism_against_.html; viewed 10 May 2006):
[from original blog post:] Atheists identified as America's most distrusted minority, according to new U of M study: News Releases: UMNnews: U of M.: "From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in 'sharing their vision of American society.' Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry."
Perhaps one explanation is the negative depiction of atheists in comic books. Most superheroes [believe in God], with a majority being Christians: Superman is a Methodist, Spiderman is a Protestant, X-Man Rogue is a Southern Baptist, X-Man Nightcrawler is a Catholic. Even the Punisher is Catholic. But when it comes to villians, atheism seems to be the rule. The Joker, The Kingpin, The Green Goblin, Sabertooth, and Lex Luthor are all atheists.
Posted by: Layman | March 24, 2006 at 06:55 PM
Excerpts from: "Atheist superheroes" discussion page, started 2 March 2006, on "Atheist Network" website (http://atheistnetwork.com/viewtopic.php?p=209834&sid=5ca5d2a99f2714e2f90fcee608eb4ac4; viewed 26 May 2006):
Below are excerpts from a discussion about Lex Luthor using Jewish speech patterns in an issue of Swamp Thing: "Gentlemen, you don't know from invulnerability. I know from invulnerability..." From: "A Weird Use of 'From'" thread in alt.usage.english Usenet newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/alt.usage.english/browse_thread/thread/cbefceb54e8273a4/c946dc0f970639f3?lnk=st&q=%22adherents.com%2Flit%2Fcomics%22&rnum=4&hl=en#c946dc0f970639f3; viewed 22 May 2006):
Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 3:42 am
...Of course if I were in the DC Universe I would be a believer in the supernatural if not an outright theist. After all, the heroes of that universe have been to Hell. They've stood before the hosts of heaven. Not only does Spectre exist but so does Deadman, Zatanna [etc.] and on into near infinity. Hell... And Hal Jordan/Green Lantern was the freakin Spectre for awhile. Add to that the number of characters that come back from the dead and really in that reality there would be no real reason to doubt.
And not surprisingly more villains are revealed to be atheists than heroes: Lex Luthor, The Joker, Kingpin, Green Goblin, Sabertooth, the Leader, Abomination, Carnage, Red Ghost.
Usually, religion tends to be mostly ignored in comics and most often when it is addressed it tends to be treated fairly rough. How many times has the religious fanatic... bent on murder and mayhem been the villian of a comic?
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 8:56 am
I read this in an old Swamp Thing issue recently--where The Swamp Thing was ravaging Gotham because they held his wife or girlfriend hostage. To cut the long story short, Gotham called in Lex Luthor as a consultant to destroy The Swamp Thing.
At one point Luthor said, "Gentlemen, you don't know from invulnerability. I know from invulnerability..." blah blah blah (he described how to destroy the Swamp Thing).
It's weird, the way they use "from invulnerability". What does it mean? I mean, from the context, obviously it means "Gentlemen, you don't know nuts about vulnerability. I do."
But why the weird from usage? Can somebody help?
Thanks in advance,
From: Father Ignatius
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 9:32 am
I fancy that it's in the same family of usages as "You want I should open the door?" and "Throw Momma from the train a kiss" -- namely, that they are literal translations by lay people from another language. In this case, I'd guess immigrants to an English-speaking country, probably America. And I'd guess the other language to be Yiddish, although other candidates include German and Dutch.
Example hypothesis: The Dutch word "van" can mean either "from" or "of", so a Dutch immigrant learning English would struggle to distinguish:
1. "You don't know from pastrami. I'll tell you from pastrami."
2. "You don't know of pastrami. I'll tell you of pastrami."
3. "You don't know pastrami. I'll tell you [about] pastrami."
Enough immigrants, and you have a new usage.
My Afrikaans dictionary says "van" can also mean "with" or (rather mystifyingly -- any ideas?) "by for", so I postulate that constructions like "What's with the hair?" have a similar genesis.
From: Matthew Shepherd
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 10:14 am
This is slangy talk I've heard before, and for some reason I hear a sterotypical New York Jewish voice saying it. "You call this lox? Oy! You don't know from lox!"
There is a precedent for it as a manner of speech -- I could be dead wrong about the New York connection, as I often cross wires on these half-remembered things -- but I recall it as being exactly as you said, "you don't know anything about (subject)" phrased in a quirky way.
After pounding a few things into search engines, ""you don't know from" expression" yields me a bit of back-up on this one:
...but others may well know better. Me, I don't know from I don't know from. Oy!
From: Salvatore Volatile
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 9:05 am
You don't know from this from usage? It's a well-known Yinglishism (Yiddish-influenced English). When used consciously it generally is jocular. It is used extensively by some posters in this newsgroup.
From: Brian Wickham
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 10:54 am
As a native New Yorker, I agree.
It should be known that, generally, no one actually speaks this way. If I were to use the phrase, "know from", it would be for light comic effect and I would be evoking the style of the "Borscht Belt" comedians of the past. In effect, it is a joking cliche New Yorkers use mostly among themselves. For me it conjures images of Sid Caesar, or the character Nathan Detroit in "Guys & Dolls".
From: Matthew Shepherd
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 1:18 pm
This being Usenet, the more interesting question then becomes: is Lex Luthor Jewish?
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 2:11 pm
Maybe, maybe not.
From: Brian Wickham
Date: Mon, Feb 20 2006 5:14 pm
Or more precisely, "Hmmmmmmmmm... could be!"
From: "Superman is Jewish in origin" message board, started 15 September 2005 on KryptonSite.com website (http://www.kryptonsite.com/forums/showthread.php?s=9e8ba60333b234b4d5508404d4b8f006&threadid=41222&perpage=15&pagenumber=2; viewed 5 June 2006):
09-18-2005 11:52 PM
What I really want to know is... What about Lex? I always think of him as Catholic (Smallville Lex that is). But maybe that's just the purple shirts. He's Scottish by extraction, so probably Protestant.
Perhaps he's a Lutheran (sooooorrry!).
09-19-2005 03:16 AM
You know, Lex probably isn't convinced that there is a God. But it makes sense that CK [Clark Kent] was Protestant given his upbringing. Another reason for the two to clash. Thay adhere to a different sets of morals. CK's are more in line with a slightly conservative background while Lex adheres to the Luthor set.
09-19-2005 10:14 PM
re: "They adhere to a different sets of morals. CK's are more in line with a slightly conservative background while Lex adheres to the Luthor set"
Er... guess it depends how you define "conservative." Lex is definitely the conservative, business type, whereas Clark can see an aura around all living things, farms, and is a minority [meaning, he must be a liberal]...
09-20-2005 01:28 PM
You would have to be a Conservative in order to be a vigilante. The problem is all comic book writers are Liberals (at least today), so they don't understand this.
...Anyway, and about someone's comment on Luthor... If you think him being a billionaire must make him Conservative I suggest you look at Ted Turner.
09-19-2005 05:59 PM
Lex isn't "Lutheran."
Lex is an atheist. He has stated on several occasions that he does not believe in Heaven, Hell, souls or any Supreme Being. He actually sold his sould to Neron, a demon, to get his physique back after the clone plague ravaged it. However, he did this precisely because he doesn't believe that he has a soul.
Lex's egomaniacal tendencies fit perfectly well with Atheism. He is his own god, and decides his own morality. The consequences of this are there for all to see. It is unfortunate that we have so many Lex Luthors in this world. They may not be as overtly villainous as a comic book character, but their egos get in the way of the Truth of Yahweh touching their lives.
09-19-2005 06:00 PM
Now Lex? THERE'S a guy who swears up and down that he's God!
09-20-2005 03:21 PM
Lex is probably a Thatcherite/Keynesian. I wouldn't put him in the [George W. Bush] camp. I mean, if you're not pro-stem cell, you're probably not going to be big on cloning and all that jazzy meteor fun.
But, in religious terms, his extraction would probably be Protestant . . . given that he's from Scotland.
09-20-2005 05:51 PM
Lex is for whoever will get him more money and power, and whoever can help him kill Superman.
But, just so you know, John Maynard Keynes is best known for his support of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. These are precisely the type of programs that Margaret Thatcher stands against. So, I'm not sure where your gettting your information, but the Thatcherites and Keynesians are in two separate camps.
09-20-2005 06:02 PM
Erm... ashamed to say, out of half-remembered episodes of Week Ending... My naughty bad.
Anyway, free market was what I meant to say. Ignore the Keynes comments.
In fact... just realised I was thinking of Smallville rather than Superman with the Scottish thing. Can we discuss Smallville in this context?
09-21-2005 01:28 PM
I don't think Lex is religious. He probably doesn't believe in God and probably never went to church. Even if his family is Anglican\Lutheran\whatever I don't believe I've seen any evidence then Lex himself is religious.
09-21-2005 05:53 PM
As I've stated above, it's perfectly clear from the comics that [Lex Luthor is] beyond the typical non-religious person. He's an atheist, and what's more, he's an egomaniacal atheist who has set himself up as his own god. Of course, all atheists do this to one degree or another, but Lex takes it to the extreme.
Egomaniacal atheist = most evil supervillain of all time. Coincidence? You tell me.
From: reader comments accompanying "Holy Superheroes" article, written by Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, posted 12 June 2006 on BeliefNet.com website; reprint of "Beliefwatch: Good Fight" article published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
From: Mirtika, "Is Superman a Methodist?", posted 15 June 2006 on "Mirathon" blog website (http://mirathon.blogspot.com/2006/06/is-superman-methodist.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
6/14/2006 10:11:02 AM
...Drpsionic raised an intersting question - what do you suppose the belief backgrounds are for supervillains? The Red Skull, Lex Luthor, and Doc Octopus must have some history or belief that supports (or torments?) them. Any thoughts?
Is Superman Jewish, Methodist, or a Christ figure? Newsweek is examining the matter...
From: Adam/adamelijah, "Faith of Our Tight-Clad Heroes", posted 19 June 2006 on "Where I Stand" blog website (http://www.whereistand.com/adamelijah/12737; viewed 19 June 2006):
So, I offer this nifty assemblage of charts and lists and links on comic book religion found at Adherents.com...
When you're done with the superhero list, peruse the list of supporting (non-superhero) characters and the list of villains. Lex Luthor is, apparently, a Nietzschean atheist...
Their list of supervilliains was surprising. It had relatively few devout Christians as villains. The only that stood out was the Rev. William Stryker. Quite a few Atheists really, as well, Lex Luthor and the Joker among them. It may just seem more believable to have an Atheist Super Villain. Given the 20th Century horrors of Communism, I think it seems more believable to people in their heart that super villiains who have no fear of God, not believe in him either.
From: Abby Scott, "Complete with Utility Belt Carrying a Calculator and Ennui," posted 22 June 2006 on "Abby Scott does tend to go on" blog website (http://abbyscott.blogspot.com/2006/06/complete-with-utility-belt-carrying.html; viewed 22 June 2006):
I grew up in a strong atheistic tradition...
The above is a link to a list of the religions of many of our comic book heroes. Quite cool, actually.
...where are the atheists? ...In the atheist pile we have Lex Luthor, The Joker, Two-Face, Kingpin, Green Goblin, Sabretooth...
From: "Religion of comic book characters" forum discussion started 17 March 2006 in "Media & Popular Culture" section on "IIDB General Discussion Forums" website (http://www.iidb.org/vbb/archive/index.php/t-158938.html; viewed 10 May 2007):
March 17, 2006, 09:54 PM
This might be old, but I found it interesting,
Supervillains tend to be atheists, superheroes tend to be theist...
March 17, 2006, 11:37 PM
re: Supervillains tend to be atheists, superheroes tend to be theist...
Fine by me. The coolest characters are villains anyway.
Besides, while superheroes need special powers to compete, many of the villains get by on guile and brains.
A friend of mine once told me he admired Lux Luthor far more than Superman. Why? Because Superman had super strength, could fly, could withstand bullets. All Lex had was smarts, and he still kept pace with Superman.
BTW, how the [expletive] is that list sorted? It looks like someone threw up on Excel.
From: "The Church of Superman" forum discussion started 19 June 2006 on the "James Randi Educational Foundation" website (http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=58627; viewed 15 May 2007):
19th June 2006, 06:03 AM
The Church of Superman
Hmmmm... the "religious" affiliations of comic book characters. Huh?
19th June 2006, 11:48 AM
...why is Lex Luthor listed as a Nietzchean atheist? He is the one man on earth who does not look forward to the arrival of the Superman!
(However, the unlisted Dr. Manhattan is a much likelier candidate. After all, he's beyond morality.)
19th June 2006, 12:05 PM
I really think a lot of these supervillains ended up as "atheist" because they're not as humanized to retain their evilness. Unless their religion or religious background fueled their motives to be villains in the first place, it's going to confuse the audience and make the superheroes look bad. If Lex Luthor went to church every Sunday like most of America, sat in services while thinking "hate hate hate kill Superman" it would be unintentionally funny or just confusing to people.
19th June 2006, 01:38 PM
I don't think it's even that complicated. I clicked on a couple of the villain pages, and all they do is quote some usenet or message board post by a guy complaining that comic books discriminate against atheists because the heroes are mostly religious, while the only atheists are the villains, such as [and he goes on to list a few, without any supporting evidence].
From what I can tell, most (if not all) of those villain pages should just list "unknown."
From: "Is Batman an atheist or is he just not very religious?" forum discussion started 2 April 2007 on "Toon Zone" website (http://forums.toonzone.net/archive/index.php/t-187589.html; viewed 21 May 2007):
04-04-2007, 10:23 PM
...By the way, what was that term about Luthor being an atheist? I didn't understand that word.
04-04-2007, 10:37 PM
An athesist is someone who believes that there is not god. That fits Luthor well. I must say, this is shaping up to be an interesting discussion.
04-04-2007, 10:56 PM
No, no. I know what that means but there was a word that began with Niezs-- something. Do you know that word?
04-05-2007, 01:05 AM
"Nietzschian atheist" was the specific term used by the website in question.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher known for, among many, many (many) other things, his ideal of the ubermensch (literally, "overman" or "superman"), a mental and philosophical state of heightened being that humanity or an individual can achieve for itself.
The website in question seems to use the term to describe Luthor specifically as one who aspires to the very peak of human achievement but does not believe in any sort of higher power.
04-05-2007, 04:48 PM
That makes sense. After Underworld Unleashed, he wrote off Neron as an alien.
From: "How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?" forum discussion, started 20 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?p=3716053; viewed 24 May 2007):
05-20-2007, 06:23 AM
How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?
05-20-2007, 02:54 PM
...according to Wikipedia, I can't find a single [Marvel superhero] atheist besides Yellowjacket. However, DC has the Atom, the Question, Booster Gold, Rorscach, Dr. Manhatten, Lex Luthor and Booster Gold as atheists.
From: "No Hugging No Kissing Discussion" page on "TV Tropes Wiki" website (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NoHuggingNoKissingDiscussion; viewed 30 May 2007):
Seven Seals (much later): Still off-topic, but apparently, Superman's a Methodist. But all the other angles are explored too, in this exhaustive page: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html Worth reading if you're into this sort of navelgazing.
Ununnilium: I think the most interesting part of that is that Elliot S! Maggin thinks that Lex Luthor is Jewish.
From: "This is kind of the religious beliefs or non-beliefs of comic book characters", posted 5 May 2007 on "Tales of Mice Tea" blog website (http://talesofmicetea.livejournal.com/66723.html; viewed 1 June 2007):
@ 2007-05-05 14:23:00
This is kind of the religious beliefs or non-beliefs of comic book characters
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/LexLuthor.html [link to "The Religious Affiliation of Lex Luthor" webpage]
2007-05-05 09:20 pm UTC
Whatever Lionel is, I always assume that Lex is really an atheist. MR [i.e., Michael Rosenbaum, the actor who plays "Lex Luthor" on the Smallville TV series] seems to say his lines referencing God ironically, to me. He may be ambivalent about the existence of heaven and hell or other religious tenants.
2007-05-15 12:36 am UTC
I had forgotten just how much the SV [Smallville] writers took of comics Lex's backstory and ascribed to Lionel instead. Also, it's fascinating to me that part of the key support offered in that essay for Lex being "a bad Episcopalian and a bad Christian" is that he "rarely hesitates to lie or hide things from those closest to him" and "is not above using violence to further his own goals." Both of those could just as easily apply to Clark, although we've arguably seen a bit more of that hesitation on Clark's part.
Some of the reasoning in the piece is fairly lame anyway. And the commentary on "Bound" makes me want to spit, but the same attitudes represented by the essayist are portrayed in the episode, which, accordingly, makes me want to spit, too. Still, that was an interesting read, so, thanks for linking.
2007-05-15 11:26 am UTC
I thought it was interesting even if a bit odd in places. I'm Catholic and a lot of the early church people have a lot in common with Lex. Look at the Crusades and killing cats because they were evil. Cats are only evil to mice:) I guess theres a lot of Lex's in history on both sides.
From: "Denominational Affiliations of Superheroes", posted by Sheridan Voysey on 2 July 2006 on "The Open House (life, faith, culture)" blog website (http://www.theopenhouse.net.au/2006/07/denominational_affiliations_of.html; viewed 19 June 2007):
With all the hoopla this week of the Superman Returns movie, you might be interested to know that almost all our superheroes have some kind of denominational affiliation. Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Catholic - you'll find connections in the storylines of our best hooded, caped, spandex-covered, super-people...
Superman's other close colleagues have denominational connections too. Jimmy Olson is a Lutheran, Lois Lane is a Catholic, Perry is a Baptist, and Lex Luthor is Jewish (although a non-observant one, as Jews today thankfully remember).
From: "Superhero Religious Views?" forum discussion, started 9 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-116001.html; viewed 13 July 2007):
06-14-2007, 01:39 AM
...I read somewhere that Luthor was supposedly raised Jewish, but is non-practicing. Not too sure about this. If he's back to having lived in Smallville while he was young I'd imagine he'd have been raised Atheist, for some reason. Being a mad scientist and all. (Sivana's an atheist!)
From: "Comic book character religions" forum discussion, started 29 November 2005 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-94945.html; viewed 27 July 2007):
11-29-2005, 01:46 PM
I found this site via The Beat. It lists comic book characters and their religions.
11-30-2005, 06:01 AM
Lex Luthor the only atheist villain?! Unlikely. And where all my celebrity crime fighters? Kabbalah? Scientology?
From: "Are the [Smallville] producers avoiding religious situations purposely?" forum discussion, started 5 October 2006 on "KryptonSite" website (http://www.kryptonsite.com/forums/showthread.php?s=92b4f58347dc668622c9cea32acf79b4&threadid=62153&perpage=15&pagenumber=2; viewed 6 August 2007):
10-05-2006 09:32 PM
Smallville may not give us religion, but it gives us the basis of religion: morality. Whenever people talk about religion, things can get tense and people can be so devoted to their faith that they focus more on details then the larger picture. With Smallville just being a TV show, it's wise not to get caught up in that potential problem area. However, I've always tried to look at religions from what they have in common. They all pretty much teach to do the right thing, help others, be good people.
Superman/Clark represents those very values. Yes, we may not see him in church or praying. But in the end, he is always striving to do whats right and protect others. He makes mistakes, which is in fitting with his character growing up as is the premise of the show. But he represents everything that religion teaches.
Instead of focusing on certain aspects of religion we don't see, focus on the morals and values we do see. How many times has Clark protected someone innocent? How many times have Jonathan and Martha stressed doing what's right? How about after Clark and Alicia got married and Martha stressed the importance of marriage and family? Even Lex has tried to do good, but it usually backfires on him. Smallville has made Lex a sympathetic figure, one who we see the good in him and feel sorry for what he will become.
So basically, Smallville has lots of morality. Which is something to be greatful for.
From: Tom R., "It's Kabbalah-in' Time!", posted 24 July 2006 on "Father McKenzie" website (http://fathermckenzie.blogspot.com/2006/07/its-kabbalah-in-time.html; viewed 10 August 2007):
OTOH [On the other hand], as has often been observed [link to: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/02/04/nexam104.xml] (eg, in apostate Anglican Bishop John Robinson's book Honest to God [link to: http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=bishop+robinson+%22honest+to+god%22&meta=]), Superman also has many parallels to Jesus Christ. (Guy with super-powers who looks like an ordinary human arrives on Earth... adopted by kindly couple... grows up, goes off into barren wilderness to communicate with his Father, then realises his mission... etc. RC [Roman Catholic] readers might add, "Main bad guy is named Luth[e]r".) [This writer here links Lex Luthor, the arch-enemy of Superman, to Martin Luthor, an "arch-enemy" of Catholicism.]
...UPDATE 5: Yes, some may well say. But Andrew Rilstone [link to: http://andrewrilstone.blogspot.com/2006/07/superman-second-coming.html] - does not think so:
"In 1938 it was understandable that a pair of young Jewish artists might have wanted to imagine a champion. A Messiah, even. So there is no way that Superman can be Jesus. (His adversary is called Luthor, for goodness sake.)... Mario Puzo's script for the 1978 Superman movie had Marlon Brando drawing fairly explicit parallels between the origin of Superman and the birth of Jesus, even though it is blindingly obvious even in Puzo's own script that the real parallel is with Moses... Spider-Man, Frodo Baggins, Neo, Leo DiCaprio, Indiana Jones - Hollywood turns all its heroes into Christian symbols. (All except Aslan, obviously.)..."
NOTE: A less common spelling for "Nietzschean" is "Nietzschian," but on this page we have now standardized with the "Nietzschean." We use this instead of the less common spelling, and so we do not refer to Lex Luthor as an "Nietzschian atheist," although that is how the phrase was previously spelled on this page.
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