When the identity of Forever Evil's hooded prisoner was finally revealed in this week's issue #6, the face and name were familiar to long-time DC readers — but the character had a whole new twist.
The mystery of who was under the hood has been a topic of fan discussion ever since he first came through a portal from Earth 3 at the end of last summer's "Trinity War" event. When the Crime Syndicate — a group of villains who mirrored the powers of the Justice League — came to the main DCU Earth, they brought the hooded man with them, but didn't reveal his identity. They've been keeping the character under wraps ever since.
Now that it's been revealed that the Crime Syndicate's prisoner is Alexander Luthor from Earth 3, readers may be wondering, who is this person?
In the past of the DC Universe — before the company eliminated its multiverse in the 1985 mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths (an era known as "pre-crisis") — Alexander Luthor was a resident of Earth-Three who fought against the evil versions of the Justice League, called the Crime Syndicate of America.
Introduced in 1983's DC Comics Presents Annual #1 by Marv Wolfman and Rich Buckler, Alexander Luthor of Earth-Three was revealed to be a good guy — the opposite of the Lex Luthor that most fans know. While Earth 3's Ultraman was basically an evil version of Superman, the Alexander Luthor of that earth was still fighting against him — only on the side of good.
Earth-Three Alex, who was called the "first superhero" of that world, wore a costume with a huge "L" on his chest, and sported red hair and a beard. He was married to the Earth-Three version of Lois Lane, and he preferred to fight with the strength of his mind, rather than his fists.
In Alexander Luthor's debut story, he teamed up with the Supermen from Earth-One and Earth-Two to fight other versions of Lex Luthor. He wasn't seen again until Wolfman brought him back for the aforementioned Crisis.
In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Alex's main role was as the father of Alexander Luthor Jr., his baby with Lois Lane Luthor.
Just before Earth-Three is destroyed, Alex Sr. and Lois teleport their baby to the main DCU Earth (a scene that pays homage to the iconic origin of Superman, whose father also rocketed him away from a dying world). After saving his son, Alexander Luthor Sr. was clearly killed, along with all the other characters on the now-destroyed Earth-Three.
Alex's son — named Alex Jr. (but not quite as hairy) — ages to adulthood during the course of Crisis, ends up with superpowers and becomes a key player in the1985 original series and its sequel 20 years later, Infinite Crisis.
He didn't appear again in DC continuity, except in a 2000 graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely called JLA: Earth 2. It retold the story of the Crime Syndicate with several new twists, but Alexander Luthor was still a hero who fought against the evil version of the JLA.
In Infinite Crisis (which was, notably, written by Forever Evil scribe Geoff Johns), Alexander Luthor Jr. is the main villain, almost destroying the Earth before he's defeated. The character was killed, and only made one last appearance in DC pre-New 52 continuity, when Alex Jr. was resurrected and redeemed himself.
To make it a little easier, here's the summary: The bearded Alexander Luthor Sr. was Earth-Three's first superhero, a human who fought on the side of good. His son, Alexander Luthor Jr. started out as a superpowered hero, but he ended up being one of New Earth's deadliest villains, although he redeemed himself in the end.
So far in the New 52, many of the storylines from past DC continuity are being repeated, but with modern revamps for the new universe — and this Alexander Luthor is no exception.
In the New 52, Alexander Luthor of Earth 3 is apparently harnessing the power of… well, "Mazahs" — a magic word that is "Shazam" spelled backwards. According to dialogue by the characters in Forever Evil #6, when Alexander Luthor says the word Mazahs, "dark lightning" appears, and the character gets some type of powers.
The art and language in Forever Evil #7 imply that the New 52 version of Alexander Luthor has the ability to absorb the powers of the characters he kills. Perhaps his uttering the word "Mazahs" empowers him with all the abilities he's stolen from his victims? It explains why the Crime Syndicate is so afraid of him.
But is Alexander Luthor evil? On the final page of Forever Evil #7, he calls himself a "hero" (and obviously fights against the evil Crime Syndicate). But in the same breath, Luthor threatens to kill everyone — even those characters he doesn't know.
It's important to remember that in the New 52 continuity, Earth-3 has been described as a world where evil resides. If that's the case, then perhaps even a "hero" from that world is evil? Or maybe Geoff Johns is combining the "heroic" aspects of the former continuity's Alex Sr. with his own Infinite Crisis version of Jr., who went bad?
Whatever the character's story, the Crime Syndicate was keeping Alexander Luthor around to "throw" at the entity that destroyed Earth 3, indicating he's extremely powerful. The character has also been blamed for almost tearing the Syndicate apart at some point in the past.
And although he doesn't seem to care about killing Crime Syndicate members, we did see someone off-panel whisper "soon" to the hooded Alex in a recent chapter of Forever Evil. After he heard the comment, there was an obvious smile on his face under the hood, so the voice was probably an ally.
So while Newsarama guessed awhile ago that Alexander Luthor was the best candidate for the hooded prisoner, there are still plenty of surprises and mysteries about this guy.