Lionel Luthor is a fictional character in the television series Smallville, portrayed continuously by John Glover. Initially a recurring guest in season one, the character became a series regular in season two and continued with that status until he was written out of the show in the seventh season. In Smallville, Lionel Luthor is the father of Lex Luthor, and founder and CEO of LuthorCorp. The character of Lex Luthor's father was first introduced under a different name in Superman comics by Jerry Siegel in 1961. Although Lex's father has appeared in other Superman-related media, Smallville represents the first time the character has become an intricate part of a Superman adaptation. Series developers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar created a new version of the character in 2001 to provide an antithesis to the parenting style of Jonathan and Martha Kent.
In the 2001 series, Lionel Luthor goes from Clark Kent's nemesis, developing multiple schemes directed at uncovering the secrets that Clark is hiding, to an ally who eventually gives his life to protect Clark's secret from Lex. In Smallville, Lionel carries a strained relationship with his son, whom he sees as weak and tries to test on a regular basis. He also attempts to develop a romantic relationship with Martha Kent, following the death of Jonathan, assisting her in her advancement toward the United States Senate.
Lionel's path from the dark side to the light side was one that was difficult for the writers, who felt the character's arc failed to achieve the status they were looking for. Although they continued with the story arc, Lionel returned to using deceptive actions, only this time it was to protect Clark. He is characterized as being a sinister character, who will do what he can to further his own ambitions. Lionel's relationship with his son has been likened to that of Harry and Norman Osborn from the Spider-Man film.
In 1989, Lionel and his son Lex Luthor (Matthew Munn) come to visit Smallville, with Lionel intending to buy the Ross Creamed Corn company, when they are caught in a meteor shower that results in Lex losing all of his hair. Twelve years later, Lionel exiles his son back to Smallville to run the local LuthorCorp fertilizer plant, as a test. When Lex (Michael Rosenbaum) succeeds in making a profit for the first time in years, Lionel closes the plant down and blames it on Lex's poor managerial skills. Lionel later confronts his son at the Luthor mansion, when Lex attempts to orchestrate an employee buyout to save the fertilizer plant. Strong winds from a storm force debris to smash through the mansion, and Lionel is pinned under a fall support beam. Lionel is eventually saved by Lex, who hesitates to save his father, but Lex's judgment to rush Lionel into surgery results in Lionel losing his eyesight. For half of season two, it is believed that Lionel is blind. Lex and his half-brother Lucas (Paul Wasilewski) devise a plan that brings Lionel's deception out into the open; it is revealed that Lionel was blind, but that his eyes healed and he intentionally neglected to tell everyone so that he could watch how they acted around him. This same season, Lionel also becomes aware of the Kawatche caves, and takes over conservatorship from LexCorp in order to unlock the mysteries of the symbols on the cave walls, much to the dismay of Clark Kent (Tom Welling).
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