You know the story: a brilliant scientist and his wife are lamenting the incoming destruction of their planet. They decide to take their only son, place him on a rocket, and send him into space in an attempt to save the child’s life. That child escapes danger and becomes one of the most powerful beings in the universe. In the new pilot for CW’s Superman & Lois, the creators may have introduced an important character from that story and it’s not Superman.
SPOILERS FOR SUPERMAN & LOIS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD
The new show introduces a version of Superman we haven’t really seen a lot in live-action. He’s married to Lois Lane, he’s a father of twin, teenaged boys and he has been Superman for quite some time. Throughout the episode, Supes reveals his super heritage to his sons, discovers that one of them has superpowers, his mother dies and he moves the family into her farm rather than sell it. All the while a new, mysterious villain makes their move.
Clad in impressive armor that shields his identity and wielding a Kryptonite knife, the brutal baddie draws Superman into a fight and actually holds his own! Not only can he go toe to toe with the big blue hero (likely thanks to his armor), he gets the better of him. He drives the Kryptonite into Supes’ chest and escapes to his very own “Fortress of Solitude” like hideout. That’s where we get the big reveal as his base refers to him as Captain Luthor.
This version of Superman is part of the “Arrowverse” of characters on the CW. A version of the classic DC Comics universe that spawned from the Stephen Amell starring Arrow. In this universe, there is a Lex Luthor played by Jon Cryer (in a fun nod to Superman 4: The Quest For Peace). Is the Luthor introduced in this new pilot Jon Cryer? No. So who is he?
We’ll start with the obvious answer, this “Luthor” is actor Wolé Parks. Originally announced as playing the Stranger, Parks’s character was revealed in the pilot to actually be this Captain Luthor character. Despite being bald, like this universe’s Luthor is, Parks is an African American man, which this universe’s Luthor is not. So, we know for sure this is not Jon Cryer’s Luthor. Just wanted to make that clear.
The answer to which a Luthor this is likely lies in last year’s “Arrowverse” crossover which was based on the DC Comics event from 1985 called Crisis on Infinite Earths. In that event, in the comics and on TV, the villain known as the Anti-Monitor is attempting to destroy the multiverse and heroes from different universes band together to stop him. There are many differences of course, but that about sums it up.
One big difference was the appearance of a character known as Alexander Luthor. In the comics, Earth-3 is a planet where villainous versions of Earth’s heroes reside. Instead of Batman, you have the evil Owlman. There’s no Superman, instead you have the diabolical Ultraman. To that end, in place of a cruel Lex Luthor, you have the virtuous hero Alexander Luthor, who is the only hero on the planet and is married to that Earth’s Lois Lane! I know!
During Crisis on Infinite Earths (the comic), Alexander Luthor, and his wife Lois, tearfully take their only son and rocket him into the multiverse as the Anti-Monitor destroys their planet with them on it. The boy, Alexander Luthor Jr., is saved and eventually becomes a large part of the story and an even bigger part of the sequel (more on that in a sec).
The story of the Earth-3 Luthors was understandably absent from the Arrowverse crossover. It’s a lot to explain. However, I believe that Superman & Lois is heading in that direction. Alexander Luthor defended Earth-3 from an evil Superman in a similar type of armor to what we see Captain Luthor wear, albeit differently colored. This Luthor also claims that his planet was destroyed, something that could have happened during last year’s Crisis.
Imagine, if you will, that you spent your life fighting an evil Superman with your wife Lois at your side. Something comes along and destroys your planet and your wife and your son. Then, you find yourself on a new planet that’s similar to your own but with a twist: your archenemy is, in this universe, everyone’s favorite hero, he’s married to your wife and they have children together! That’s a pretty good reason to “break bad,” as it were.
This could also explain why Captain Luthor refers to Superman as Kal-El. Depending on which version of Ultraman you’re reading (he’s seen several iterations over his almost 60-year experience), he is sometimes referred to as some version of his Kryptonian name instead of having a secret identity. There’s a chance that whichever Superman that Luthor used to fight went by Kal-El instead. Which would make a lot of sense since, in the pilot, whenever Luthor calls him Superman he says it in a mocking, disdainful tone.
It’s also worth noting that Superman’s son Jordan, the one revealed to have superpowers, looks remarkably like how Alexander Luthor Jr. looks in the comic, particularly his long, curly hair. Jordan is shown as having a complicated relationship with his father in the show. If Captain Luthor has a son that he lost to the Anti-Monitor, and that son looked like Jordan, he could attempt to sway the boy to his side and in this case that swaying may work.
There’s one other big reason to think Captain Luthor could be the one from Earth-3 and that reason is Geoff Johns. Johns, an executive producer on the show, has been writing at DC Comics for over two decades. In that time he has used story elements from Crisis on Infinite Earths frequently. This includes writing a sequel, titled Infinite Crisis, where Alexander Luthor Jr. becomes a villain himself AND more recently he rebooted the character of Alexander Luthor in a story called Forever Evil, making him a more violent hero than he was before.
Introducing Alexander Luthor as a damaged hero/villain seems like just the kind of thing that Johns would be up for. It may not be the exact version of the character we’ve seen in the comics, but it could be a mix of his many iterations. To me, Johns’ involvement in the show makes it seem all but certain.
So there you have it! The Luthor we met may turn out to be a tragic former hero who’s only ever known Kal-El as a murderous, Kryptonite snorting despot. Seriously, Johns’s version of Ultraman was powered by Kryptonite and would… snort it. Only time will tell at this point, but I feel pretty good about my guess.
Who do you think Captain Luthor is??