Comic Wire

Wed, November 8th, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

KINGMAKER EDDIE BERGANZA

ON PUTTING LEX LUTHOR IN THE WHITE HOUSE

It's official: The forty-third president of the United States is Lex Luthor.

Lex Luthor?

The Lex 2000 campaign was born in this year's Superman summit, when all the creators of DC Comics' Superman books get together and plot out the next year.

"We asked, what was the next thing Luthor might try to do," Superman editor Eddie Berganza told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. After all, in the past year, Superman's nemesis had rebuilt the ruined Gotham City, "saved" Metropolis from its high tech upgrading by Brainiac 13 and was regarded as a benefactor of the people by most residents of the DC Universe. "We all collectively said 'hey, wouldn't it be great if he ran for president?'

Of course, similar story lines had appeared in comics before, including this year's run for the White House by Senator Kelly in the pages of Marvel Comics' X-Men books. But, of course, the Lex 2000 campaign has one important difference: Luthor won.

"What was really cool was that the higher ups at DC were behind us if we let him win," Berganza said. Traditionally, he said, the reason such important changes as having a fictional president win is "you don't want to break that believability that this could be the world you live in. But you know, it isn't."

Part of the reason the powers that be at DC were on board is that they were there at the beginning: DC's editor in chief and publisher, Paul Levitz and Jeanette Kahn, attended this year's Superman summit. (Berganza also says that Kahn had a suggestion that the Superman creators will be using in the next months that will "make Silver Age fans very happy.")

Luthor's victory may well come as a surprise to Superman fans who've grown jaded with dramatic changes to the Man of Steel in the past decade: He's dead, he's married, he's blue, he's two Supermen …

But Berganza says President Luthor is no gimmick.

"Seriously, we haven't even thought about how to get out of office yet," Berganza said. "The nice thing is that the current crop of writers I have … these guys just roll with this stuff. You say one thing, and I've got to stop them from doing 10 stories with it."

And thus, the DC Universe will have a new president come January, and Berganza hints that President Luthor will be at the center of a big event from DC next summer.

As for who's minding LexCorp while Lex Luthor is minding the United States, comic fans should look towards Gotham for that. The new head of the company is "Talia Head" - Talia, the daughter of Batman's inveterate enemy, Ra's Al Ghul.

Fair's fair, Berganza says.

The Batman office "had Lex, basically, for a long time during No Man's Land. … What I think has been really nice that, under the new regimes the Batman and Superman offices have been getting along really great."

And that's a good thing, since Batman has already made his displeasure about Lex's campaign known - in last week's issue of "Superman," he even broke into the Kents' apartment to discuss it with them.

"One of the things that's going to happen is that not everyone is going to be happy that Lex won. Obviously, Superman is bound by his ethics," so he won't be flying to Washington to punch out the president, Berganza said. "Batman, as Bruce Wayne, has a lot of muscle. As in the real world, lobbyists affect what the president can and cannot do. And he becomes big opposition. And that will have repercussions in the Bat-books."

Luthor's White House will be filled with familiar faces, among them, Vice President Pete Ross and his wife, the former Lana Lang. That's another head-scratcher for some fans, given that they should have no illusions about what kind of man Luthor is, given their past with him.

There's a simple, if somewhat nave, reason for the Rosses sticking by Luthor's side, Berganza says.

"If should anything happen to the president, what should happen? … If good does triumph, like it's supposed to, what do you get? I think they're taking that gamble. Pete wants to do good, and that's what's kind of tragic about him." And there's another possible reason: "He wants to impress his wife, I think secretly he wants to impress his wife, because she still likes that Superman guy."

But fans shouldn't expect a scenery-chewing, Evil-with-a-capital-E President Luthor. In fact, Berganza says, "he's the best guy we could have for president, almost, because this guy is driven to succeed, and he's going to put America on top.

"Lex doesn't want to fail as president. This is such an ego trip with him. … The nice thing is that there's a Secret Files [special] coming up called 'President Luthor's Secret Files,' and in it we got to go back and do the debates and other things we didn't get to do."

The February special will be retro-solicited in the next issue of "Previews," and features a Peter David-written story showing the presidential debates and a Greg Rucka story telling why Luthor decided to run and how he chose Talia as his LexCorp successor.

The special also "introduces a fun new character that will be his aide," Berganza said. "And in January, we get to meet the cabinet. The thing is we're having a ball playing with the DC Universe. A lot of fans are going to be surprised and happy who's on the cabinet."

And while President Luthor won't turn around and outlaw superheroes, Berganza says, he will be making life difficult for the Man of Steel at the very least: "One of the first things that Lex does … is put lead paint on the White House."

But possibly the worst news for Superman is that Luthor really is the president - "He goes to his Justice League buddies and says 'I can't believe he won.'" - with all that entails: Look for Superman to have to come to the defense of the new president in March's "Detective Comics"/"Superman" crossover.

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