Look out Supergirl — Lex Luthor is finally on his way to National City. Supergirl producers confirmed Thursday that the iconic villain will make his first appearance on The CW series in its fourth season, which got underway last weekend as the show moved to its new Sunday night 8/7pm time slot.
“We’re beyond excited to introduce iconic villain, Lex Luthor, to Supergirl and to weave him into our story this season,” executive producers Robert Rovner and Jessica Queller said in a joint statement.
Who will portray the evil genius who has more on-screen history than any other DC Comics villain? Time will tell. Casting will “begin shortly,” according to The CW and Warner Bros. TV.
Luthor has been a major presence — in name and through influence — since the Supergirl series first took flight October 2015. The menace from Metropolis casts a long shadow even if he’s yet to meet the local Kryptonian.
“We’ve talked about having Lex on the show since it’s inception and we’re excited to have him finally arrive. We can’t wait for him to shake things up in National City and watch him go toe-to-toe with not only Supergirl, but his sister, Lena Luthor.”
The brilliant, brutal and (usually) bald Luthor made his first appearance in DC Comics way back in April 1940. Luthor is arguably is second only to The Joker among the most iconic DC villains. His loathing of Superman has been framed differently over the years — sometimes he is bitter envious of the Man of Steel, other times the hero is simply in the way of Luthor’s megalomaniacal plans.
Luthor has a long and illustrious history in Hollywood adaptations. His first appearance, however, was a low-key one: In 1950, when Kirk Alyn was Superman, actor Lyle Talbot (later in Ed Wood’s infamously bad Plan 9 From Outer Space) played the title villain in Atom Man vs. Superman — but was revealed to be none other than Luthor in disguise.
Luthor’s first signature screen moment came almost three decades later when it was Christopher Reeve wearing the red cape for the first time. That’s when Gene Hackman was tapped by director Richard Donner to portray a slippery con-man version of Luthor in Superman, which was the most expensive film in history at the time of its release in December 1978.
The $55 million Warner Bros. production went on to make $300 million in worldwide box office and ushered in the era of superhero blockbusters. Hackman was happy with the success (and appeared in the 1980 sequel Superman II) but didn’t exactly throw himself into the role — he balked at shaving his head (he wore a bald cap for the job) and only reluctantly shaved his mustache.
More recent Luthors on the silver screen include Kevin Spacey (in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006) looking like a slimmed-down Daddy Warbucks and Jesse Eisenberg (in Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016) as a twitchier, savage-nerd version of the bad guy.
On television, John Shea brought a debonair flair (and a full head of hair) to the character on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the 1990s. For a decade of Smallville (2001-2011), Michael Rosenbaum portrayed the youngest and most-sustained version of Luthor as a cunning and charismatic frenemy to Tom Welling’s Clark Kent.