Lex Luthor is all about love.
Ever since John Byrne and Marv Wolfman rebuilt him when they revamped Superman in the 1980s, Lex has tried to make the people of Metropolis love him. To earn their love, he became the city’s top job creator, builder, and philanthropist.
Then Superman’s good deeds, good nature, and good looks stole the Metropolitans’ love. Luthor was no longer number one in their hearts.
Luthor grew so furiously jealous that he’s dedicated himself to outshining or even eliminating Superman. To that end, he’s become a superhero, president of the United States, and, frequently, Superman’s would-be murderer.
Why does Lex have to take such extreme measures? Why is he so needy?
Look at his background, at least before DC’s Rebirth.
Lex’s abusive parents never gave him the love that every child craves. Their denying him love when he was most vulnerable to their influence probably made him feel that he didn’t deserve love. If your own parents don’t love you, who would?
Nor did he receive much love after childhood. With unloving parents as role models, he never developed warmth, sweetness, compassion, or other traits that attract the love of others.
The only love-like emotion that Lex has known is the respect that comes from outdoing others — being the smartest, the richest, the most charitable.
But unlike a doting parent or devoted mate who will care for you always, admiring crowds eventually stop cheering and return to their own lives. To keep their love, Lex must achieve greater and greater victories. Or so Lex probably believes.
When Superman usurped Lex’s place as Metropolis’ favorite, he reinforced Lex’s belief that love always vanishes. That may be why Lex, despite temporary victories over Superman, always loses to him in the long run.
It’s a sad paradox. Lex’s need for love makes him keep proving himself worthy of love, even as he knows that love will always go away. If it doesn’t go away on its own, he’ll find a way to make it go away. If someone were to offer him true, lasting love, he wouldn’t know how to accept or reciprocate it.
Lex is smart enough to understand all of the above — but he focuses too much on outward achievement to look closely at his inner life. He’ll be on his emotional treadmill forever.
Lex Luthor: the Charles Foster Kane of the DC Universe.