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Pop Culture Warned Us About Trump, Part 3: Lex Luthor!

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Pop Culture Warned Us About Trump, Part 3: Lex Luthor!

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Welcome to the third part of our ongoing series, examining all the ways that the artistic and entertainment communities have been trying to warn America that Donald Trump (or anyone like him) was up to no good.

This installment will go into some much darker territory, as we talk about Donald Trump’s striking resemblance to one of the most notorious icons of evil in the last century of popular fiction: Lex Luthor, the great nemesis of Superman.

In 1986, DC Comics restarted the continuity of Superman nearly from scratch, with refreshed takes on all the characters. (This practice, now known as a “reboot,” has become much more common in comic book, film, and TV franchises.) The new concept of Luthor, as co-created by writer/artist John Byrne and writer Marv Wolfman, presented the arch-villain not as he had originally been conceived (as an old-time mad scientist), but a modernized villain for the 1980s and beyond: Luthor became a corporate overlord, the richest man in Metropolis, who has used his boundless genius to create (and intertwine) both legitimate businesses and vast criminal enterprises, for which he was never caught.

Even at the time, direct comparisons were sometimes drawn between Luthor and Trump with his massive ego. One such point of comparison was Luthor’s best-selling memoir, entitled Simply Brilliant. The company named all its subsidiaries after its founder — “LexAir” “LexOil,” etc. — and the LexCorp headquarters, the tallest building in Metropolis, was a monument to the man himself.

"Who's Who in the DC Universe," #11.

“Who’s Who in the DC Universe,” #11. Click images to enlarge.

A special comic in 1989, Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, told the tale of reporter Peter Sands, who set out to tell the true story behind the man — uncovering all of his dirty dealings and involvement in international organized crime — before ultimately being murdered by Luthor’s henchmen. The painted cover to the comic was itself a takeoff on a certain other book: The Art of the Deal.

Hmm, what were they trying to imply?

Hmm, what were they trying to imply?

Luthor even ran for (and was elected!) President of the United States. But this turned out to be a mere ruse for him to wait for the right opportunity to exploit a national crisis, in order to use his executive authority to take down Superman. (This caper would prove to be Luthor’s undoing, resulting in his removal from the White House and his career change — for a while — to full-time supervillainy.)

President Luthor declares war on Superman: "He is an alien. A curse upon this planet." "Superman/Batman," #3.

President Luthor declares war on Superman: “He is an alien. A curse upon this planet.”
“Superman/Batman,” #3.

But this is not the version of Lex Luthor that I’ll be focusing on here — he’s far too suave, subtle, and charming in his interactions with the public.

Instead, the iteration of Lex Luthor that Trump most closely resembles is none other than the classic version of a mad scientist bent on destruction and world domination — most specifically, the Luthor as portrayed by Gene Hackman in the 1978 masterpiece Superman: The Movie. (In this author’s opinion, it is still the single greatest superhero movie ever made — and unlikely to ever be surpassed.)

"Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks — by planning the death of innocent people?"

“Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks — by planning the death of innocent people?”

"No — by causing the death of innocent people."

“No — by causing the death of innocent people.”

This Luthor had all the trappings of the man we have come to know as Donald Trump: his palatially decorated headquarters, an inner circle of questionably competent yes-men (and women) — and an obsession with real estate.

“How do you choose to congratulate the greatest criminal mind of our time. Huh, huh?” this twisted mastermind asked. “Do you tell me that I’m brilliant? Oh no, no, — that would be too obvious, I grant you. Charismatic? Fiendishly gifted?”

“Try ‘twisted,'” answered his girlfriend, Miss Teschmacher (portrayed by Valerie Perrine), after he’d used his hidden gadgets and traps to kill a police officer who was trying to gain access to his secret lair.

Luthor also reminisced about how his father had taught him so much about land: “He said, ‘Son, stocks may rise and fall; utilities and transportation systems may collapse; people are no damn good. But they will always need land — and they’ll pay through the nose to get it.”

“It’s a pity that he didn’t see from such humble beginnings how I’ve created this empire,” Luthor added. This certainly does sound kind of like Trump, who has talked about how his father “gave [him] a small loan of a million dollars” — but who always tried to warn The Donald against going into Manhattan, where he would ultimately achieve his true greatness.

“An empire — this?” asked Miss Teschmacher.

“Miss Teschmacher, how many girls do you know who have a Park Avenue address like this one?”

“Park Avenue address — two hundred feet below?

"Doesn't it give you a kind of a shudder of electricity through you, to be in the same room with me?"

“Doesn’t it give you a kind of a shudder of electricity through you, to be in the same room with me?”

As for Luthor’s actual criminal plot: Having pondered the wisdom of “buy low, sell high,” he explained to Superman (played by the late, legendary Christopher Reeve) that the question then became a matter of figuring out how to increase the value of the land he had bought. And so, he bought up vast stretches of desert land from California’s interior, at excessively high prices. The next step: Hijack one of the U.S. military’s nuclear missiles, and shoot it directly at a precisely calculated weak point on the San Andreas fault, triggering a series of massive earthquakes.

From there, Luthor explained, the West Coast as we’ve known it would break off and fall into the sea — killing millions of people in the process. But what remained, on the eastern side of the fault line, would stand remade as “the new West Coast — my West Coast” — with all the places named after himself!

In this detail of Luthor’s map of a remodeled California coastline, we see “Costa del Lex,” “Marina del Lex,” “Lex Springs, “Lexington,” and “Luthorville.” He also named one mountainous region “Teschmacher Peaks,” in an apparent, Trump-esque nod to his lady friend’s breasts — but couldn’t stand his sub-intelligent lackey Otis (played by Ned Beatty) attempting to get in on the naming business.

"Otisburg? Otisburg? OTISBURG?!?"

“Otisburg? Otisburg? OTISBURG?!?”

But come on, it’s not like Donald Trump has some insane scheme to blow up the world, kill millions of people, and remake the globe in his own image — right?

Actually, he does. And unlike the comic book and movie villain Lex Luthor, who hid himself away in an underground lair and worked in secret, Trump has boasted of his own plan many, many times in public. And even more disturbing, he’s gotten to enjoy some revelry as the crowds cheered him on.

Here is just one example, from a rally on Nov. 13:

ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because they have certain oil camps, right? They have certain areas of oil that they took away — they have some in Syria, some in Iraq. I would bomb the sh*t of ’em! I would just bomb those suckers. And that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries — I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.

And you know what? You’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months — you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? And they’ll rebuild that sucker brand new, it’ll be beautiful. And I’d ring it — and I’d take the oil. And I said, I’ll take the oil.

It’s one thing to talk about destroying the enemy’s industrial capacity — but Trump goes the extra mile in his plan to deploy the United States military for the direct purpose of seizing control of the Middle East’s key natural resource, on behalf of American oil companies.

This has been a fascination of Trump’s, going back years.  In a tweet from 2013, The Donald mused: “I still can’t believe we left Iraq without the oil.”

Just like Lex Luthor, Trump views the map of countries as a plaything, to be pounded and reshaped for his own power and financial gain — whatever the cost.

If the might of the United States military were mobilized and deployed to invade the Middle East for the express purpose of seizing its oil wealth, how many people would die in that conflict? How many more would be injured and killed in the course of a long-term occupation of the oil centers? How many people in the region would become further radicalized against the United States? How much bloodshed would result from this destabilizing, imperialist adventure?

And furthermore, what would become of America’s position of leadership in the world? How would other countries respond to a United States that had become a truly rogue nation, guided by the maniacal vision of a super-villain?

In short: If Donald Trump were elected president, what would happen to “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”?

"You don't even care where that other missile is headed, do you?" "Of course I do. I know exactly where it's headed: Hackensack, New Jersey."

“You don’t even care where that other missile is headed, do you?”
“Of course I do. I know exactly where it’s headed: Hackensack, New Jersey.”

Superman could scarcely believe that Lex Luthor was attempting his own vile plan. Just as, perhaps, nobody can seem to truly taking Trump’s malevolent scheme at face value. But even if Luthor’s plan had succeeded, he would obviously have gotten caught in the aftermath, especially after putting his own name all over his newly coastal communities. One to wonder if his only real goal, if not financial gain, was simply to commit a grandiose act of mass destruction and murder.

Luthor’s plan almost worked, even to the point where an emotionally devastated Superman’s final, desperate course of action was to reverse the worst of the carnage — by actually turning back time. But if President Trump became a real-life catastrophe, we wouldn’t be able to turn back time ourselves.

At first glance, Trump might bear a closer resemblance to the corporate mogul version of Luthor, whose various authors even set out to borrow attributes from The Donald. But the more I began to research it, the conclusion became unavoidable.

Donald Trump is much more like the Gene Hackman iteration of Lex: not a cold, calculating tycoon, but a giddily insane man-child whose ego and grandiosity may seem wacky and entertaining at first, but whose moral depravity and potential for sheer mayhem make him a true danger to us all.

This is the third in our new series “Pop Culture Warned Us About Trump.” 

Check out Part 1: “The Penguin”; and Part 2: “MAD Magazine”.

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28 Comments

  1. docb December 15, 2015

    Brilliant and chilling analogy… Many imponderables…The very fact that drumphie identified with him is the killer part of the whole. This needs to be passed along!

    Reply
  2. Leftout December 15, 2015

    Wrong twist , Lex Luthor is a long time historical arch villain derived from the mind of a creative writer . Donald Trump is a newly risen arch villain, in response to a non creative / responsive Republican Party and Obamism.

    Two different concepts: Lex Luthor espouses evil, Trump is trying to fight against evil in his own local, corrupted Republican Party and additionally bring awareness of existential foreign threats, affecting all of us, just say’n.

    Reply
    1. bobnstuff December 15, 2015

      Trump is one of the people that corrupted the party, ask him, he will tell you that he bribes using campaign donations. Lex is a better businessman, he didn’t have to declare bankruptcy four times. Lex is also more moral when it comes to women, he doesn’t have a number of ex-wives that he cheated on. Maybe it’s unfair to Mr Luther to compare him to Trump.

      1. Leftout December 15, 2015

        PACS and lobbyists corrupt the system, unfortunately made legal lately. Most first tier candidates , Bernie Sanders , Carson , Cruz Trump are all are supported by only individual
        Voters . Unfortunately in doing “business “‘ it is expected to donate to all , ThIs is wrong , when it is donating to politicians. Politicians should not be in”business” of any kind, issues/bills should be voted On for their own merit
        …..,dreaming .

        1. jmprint December 15, 2015

          If you want things accomplished next four years, vote democrat and you won’t be so unhappy.

          1. Leftout December 15, 2015

            But ….! I am one of those that does not want anything done for me and do not need politicians to do anything except shut up. I love stalemates therefore. Why do politicians think that we need anything.

            All laws should be expunged that were promulgated since 1831.

            Just send Medicare and Social Sec. Payments that we workers paid into and take care of VA users also Military and I am happy. All other departments are not necessary.

          2. Polana December 15, 2015

            in a way I am w/U on that score. No more wars, Rubio/Crispy/Cruzee/Bushie…no politician did anything for me except took my taxes and paid himself and his wars. Lie, lie, lie every time they open their mouths. Never run out of saliva by lying and talking fear to weak minded minions.

          3. Leftout December 16, 2015

            Amen, politicians only make secret laws in which are hidden monies to themselves through crony deals , nothing trickles down , only our taxes gush to their greed.
            There are two of us.

          4. Mary Jo February 11, 2016

            And yet the right which is supposed to be about small government has helped to grow and overspend on military might that is VASTLY larger by several multiples than ANY other military force in the world. And yet apparently the big talking point is we need to do even MORE, spend more, be even MORE powerful, get involved in even MORE wars and killing MORE people. People don’t seem to understand that the very reason we ARE such a target for terrorists is BECAUSE we involve ourselves pretty much everywhere in the world and other country’s business. THIS is what a massive percentage of your taxes is used to buy, our involvement in EVERYTHING which has made us far LESS safe than if we just minded our own business like most countries do. Unfortunately we’ve done this long enough that just stopping now won’t change it quickly but we could at LEAST be having an intelligent conversation about trying to reverse course and not 1. spend so much (but of course, lucrative military contracts are what keep a lot of candidates in office, which is why they continue to trump up this idea that are are not safe and our military is weak) and 2. stop making ourselves a target by being the world’s policeman.

    2. I of John December 15, 2015

      you certainly did say it.

      1. Buck Ofama December 16, 2015

        You certainly are an idiot.

        1. I of John December 16, 2015

          trollsayswhat?

          1. Buck Ofama December 16, 2015

            Troll says, “you [sic] certainly did say it.” Go back and read it again, you illiterate fool.

    3. jmprint December 15, 2015

      Trump is not trying to fight against himself, he is evil and is involved in crimes, not yet revealed. With Trump as president, it would not be just ISIL that hates us, it would be the whole continent.

      1. Paul Bass December 15, 2015

        the whole planet…

  3. toejam December 15, 2015

    The next thing we need to do is compare Hilary to Jesus. That would have the same credibility as this article.

    Reply
    1. TiredOfTheHaters December 15, 2015

      Yes, compare Hilary to Jesus. She had stones thrown at her her by misguided haters like you for stupid reasons and is now finally seen as human with a good heart, where as Trump is the once charmer and

      1. toejam December 15, 2015

        Comparing Hilary to Jesus means I hate her???????? The American peoples thoughts??? Hilary with a good heart??? I am for Bernie the socialist he will do what needs to be done, help us all get socialized. What do you want for a future? I can survive anybody who gets elected can you? I believe you must be young you talk like it. I don’t think you know much about business or finance. Don’t worry you can always get a stipend from the government.

        1. TiredOfTheHaters December 16, 2015

          For your information I’m an educated lady in my 40’s. You are obviously a young person with this type of language you are using. Only young uninformed people believe Bernie can actually help this country. His plan will backfire and put this country into financial ruin. Also, expect more guns on the streets if he’s president. Check the facts, as I don’t think you do. Can you survive that?

          1. toejam December 16, 2015

            Never believe the obvious Bernie is a twit Hilary is dangerous and trump can’t be bullied by the lobbyist. I thought Trump was a joke till I began to realize the power brokers [lobbyist] are the people who run this country and just maybe Trump will ignore them. Our way of life is being destroyed by greed and corruption if it is not reigned in we as individuals will get crushed. I don’t want people who came here illegally or people whose religion can call upon them to murder us because we don’t believe their way. I don’t believe abortion is proper or that people of the same sex should marry. But that is their business and I stay out of it. Unlike you I am an uneducated oaf who went to college for 6 years and never bothered to get a degree . I became self employed and put myself in the top ten percent money wise of the world population. I am also envious of your age as I am double that an it ain’t no fun. Oh yeah, knives have killed about 5 times as many people as rifles have. Don’t leave your self vulnerable. My wife carries three guns with when she works. She is a rural real-estate broker and meets strangers in isolated area’s she has stumbled into two meth labs and some pot farms. She has no reservations about killing someone who tries to do her harm. She is 67 years old.

          2. Mary Jo February 10, 2016

            So put an egomaniac like Trump into the most powerful office in the WORLD, beholden to NO ONE but himself (I have doubts he really wants to be Prez, but still!) He doesn’t care about the party he says he’s part of, he doesn’t have any special interests to cater to, he certainly won’t care about the voters once he’s in office, they are just a means to an end. Anyone that thinks he is going to work to better the lives of ANYONE but himself really hasn’t been paying attention.

          3. rozyredtoes February 10, 2016

            Anyone who runs for POTUS is required to have a huge ego or

            they will never make it. Do you actually believe that any politician truly cares about the voters???? The fact that Trump has thousands of people employed means he has made someones life better. The wealthy are the ones that furnish most of the employment in the US they also pay 70 percent of the taxes. If Trump can send all the illegals home along with the so called refuges and bring our military back to the force needed to protect our country that’s fine with me, its a good start. By the way I have zero loyalties to any party. Sounds to me like you are Hillary fan. Good luck with that.

          4. Mary Jo February 10, 2016

            I’m no Hillary fan but if you want her to win, by all means, put Trump up against her. It’s the surest way to ensure that she will, as any poll other than Fox has shown. To use Trump employing people as a qualification is absurd. A businessman can’t be successful without employing people, and with as many of his businesses that failed and went bankrupt, he’s certainly laid off huge numbers as well, but you wouldn’t use that as a reason to NOT elect him, right? Your comment on taxes is an illustration of how badly weath has shifted to the top, less so an illustration of tax burden being unfair. And if you seriously think our military isn’t strong and needs MORE money spent on it, you REALLY are living in a Trump fantasy world. https://www.military1.com/all/article/402211-how-much-stronger-is-the-us-military-compared-with-the-next-strongest-power

  4. Otto Greif December 15, 2015

    How many parts does this series have?

    Reply
  5. pmbalele December 15, 2015

    There is nothing wrong with Trump. He is just giving us secrets what GOP stands for:
    hating Blacks and racial minorities and putting down women of all colors. In fact it’s GOP elites that are drumming up campaign against Trump. Now Repubs are recruiting Ted Cruz a non-citizen. Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father. That is why Cruz wants the Canadian Pipe line to express his allegiance to Canada which is still under Queen Elizabeth of England. So if you elect Cruz you in USA will be back as British colony again and all of you will be forced to speak England English which I hate to listen to. English people have terrible accent.

    Reply
    1. Polana December 15, 2015

      Sorry but we are part of Israel, unless Bibi Notyetwho will give up his leadership of US. Cruzee will go to Israel to get his orders.

  6. Sundance98 December 16, 2015

    Did anyone notice the 15 Black SUV’s that pulled up to the Debate last night and the entourage of 40 Secret Service and Armed Undercover that escorted Trump into the hall? Did anyone see both Ted Cruz and Ben Carson kissing up to Trump between takes? This is a sick puppy……and we don’t need no Big Brother to remind us of Orwell’s 1984!

    Reply
  7. JBBdude August 29, 2016

    You focused on the comic books and the live action media. In the DCAU, Lex Luthor actually expresses that he doesn’t really intend to win the presidential election, since he has more power as a mega-billionaire, and he is simply running to manipulate the world and the Justice League (particularly Superman). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI0vtqxoG1k

    Given theory prominent since Trump’s campaign started that he was never serious, increasingly popular as his ties to Ailes and Bannon are seen to be setting up a future media play, I believe this interpretation of the Luthor presidency arc is the most relevant and intriguing today.

    Reply

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