Last week, the second theatrical trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released during Ben Affleck’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and all I can say is, “woah!” Warner Bros. did not hold anything back. The big reveal that has everyone talking is the confirmation of the long-standing rumor that the “big bad” of the film is Doomsday, who, many probably know by now, gained fame for killing Superman in the aptly titled comic The Death of Superman.
We also got a more in-depth look at Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. As the trailer implies, Luthor is manipulating events behind the scenes to push the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel into conflict, hoping Batman will kill Superman. Obviously, Batman fails, intentionally or otherwise, to kill the Kryptonian, and Lex decides to take matters into his own hands by appearing to unleash Doomsday on the world stating, “if man won’t kill God, the devil will do it!” All of this begs the question: what’s Lex Luthor’s beef with Superman? Luthor has long held a grudge against Superman in the comics, but what’s the basis for the DC Extended Universe’s Lex Luthor vitriol towards Superman. I don’t buy the explanation that Luthor is simply a megalomaniac, who views Superman as a threat to his world-domination plans. I have a theory that tries to incorporate what we know about the plot of Batman v Superman, the themes surrounding the film, and some of the viral marketing materials that Warner Bros has circulated.
My theory is this…Lex Luthor has cancer. Not just any type of cancer, but Kryptonite-induced cancer from exposure to a Kryptonite meteorite that crashed on Earth when Kal-El landed after the destruction of Krypton. If that weren’t enough, Luthor’s father, Lex Luthor Sr., died from the same Kryptonite cancer from which Lex Jr. currently suffers. Lex Luthor hates Superman because, indirectly, Superman killed his father and is now killing him, slowly and painfully. In short, this fight is personal.
It explains quite a bit, including why Luthor ends up bald by the end of the film. I believe, as others have speculated, the luscious locks we see Lex sporting in the trailers and promotion pictures to be simply a wig, and he’s lost his hair in chemotherapy in an unsuccessful attempt to cure his Kryptonite cancer. He wears the wig as a vanity exercise and a façade to the outside world to show that he and his company, LexCorp, are strong. Lex Luthor having cancer isn’t an original storyline. His diagnosis first occurred in Action Comics Vol. 1 #600 “Games People Play” due to constant exposure from his Kryptonite ring. Perhaps more memorably, Luthor’s kryptonite cancer is a reoccurring theme in the animated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, where Luthor has to wear special armor to keep the cancer from spreading. Interestingly, that version of Luthor’s cancer was cured by Brainiac. Maybe the DCEU will go down that path, too? Either way, it’s too late for Lex Luthor’s father.
In the viral marketing “interview” Lex Luthor has with Fortune magazine, we find out that Alexander Luthor Sr. died unexpectedly in the year 2000. It never mentions the cause of death. The article notes Luthor Sr.’s, “world-famous collection of meteorite crystals,” which have been passed down to his son. In the first theatrical trailer, we see Luthor gazing at what we presume to be a Kryptonite rock longingly.
I believe, when Superman landed on Earth as a baby, a chunk of Kryptonite landed with him, albeit miles away, and it was eventually scooped up by Lex Luthor Sr. According to the article, Lex Luthor Jr. is 31 years old, meaning he was only 16 years old when his father died. While not Bruce Wayne-young, 16 is still a young age to lose your father and inherit an international corporate conglomerate. Based on Superman’s age in Man of Steel, an interview with Henry Cavill suggested he’s about 33 years old making him around 35 or 36 by the time Batman v Superman rolls around, the elder Luthor spent around 20 years with his Kryptonite rock. The younger Luthor has had it for almost as long, so his cancer is probably only just starting to manifest itself.
That being said, it’s been rumored that Batman will have Kryptonite laced into the armor of his mech suit he uses to fight Superman as well as possibly possessing Kryptonite weapons. Unless he had access to Kryptonite himself, it’s entirely plausible that Batman received these tools from Luthor, meaning Lex has been experimenting with Kryptonite for at least a couple years. If that’s the case, Luthor may be dying faster.
In the most recent trailer, it’s confirmed that Lex Luthor comes into possession of the corpse of General Zod. Presumably, it’s from tampering with Zod’s body that the super-villain Doomsday is created for the purpose of killing Superman. However, I think Luthor’s interest in Zod’s corpse goes beyond studying him for weaknesses to use against Superman. I believe Luthor is using Zod’s body to try to find a cure for his cancer within Zod’s Kryptonian DNA. If Luthor’s cancer is Kryptonite in origin, it’s highly unlikely any human methodologies would be of any use to him. That’s why he needs Zod. Faced with limited options and time, Luthor needed a way to study Kryptonian physiology, and he isn’t about to ask his father’s killer for help. Based on the fact we witnessed Luthor willing to throw that chance away to create Doomsday, it would seem Luthor failed in finding a cure. Perhaps he’s hoping that the freshly deceased body of Kal-El will have better results, or he might just want Doomsday to kill Superman for pure vengeance sake, if there’s no hope for a cure.*
The marketing for Batman v Superman has heavily hinted that Batman’s reasons for going after Superman are personal, the brief glimpse of him comforting a little girl amongst the ruins of a Wayne Enterprises building solidifies that belief. Dozens of Wayne’s employees, possibly someone he really cared about, were killed right before his very eyes, including whoever he was talking to on the phone moments before his building collapses. It would make sense that Luthor’s motivations for wanting the Man of Steel dead are just as personal as Batman’s.