New pics from the upcoming Season 2 of Supergirl give us a look at one of the new recurring characters, Lena Luthor, portrayed by Katie McGrath. Lena is a powerful businesswoman who moves to National City to try and escape her infamous brother’s influence and reputation, but whether she’ll actually be an ally of Supergirl and the others, or the Luthor legacy will have the best of her as well, remains to be seen. She already appeared in the Superboy tv series, portrayed by Jennifer Hawkins in flashbacks from Lex‘s life, and by Denise Gossett as an adult. In the series, Lena is the only person Lex ever loved, and he’s always been fiercely protective of his little sister; she faked her death and changes her name to escape the Luthor’s “curse”, but she’s found by Lana Lang and brought back to her brother to try and stop him from another mad plan. She also appeared in Smallville, as in Season 10 it’s revealed that the true name of Tess Mercer, the antagonist introduced in Season 8 portrayed by Cassidy Freeman, is actually Lutessa Lena Luthor, the secret daughter of Lionel Luthor, whose memory was erased by Granny Goodness so that she forgot her true heritage. In the show, Tess debuts as a villain, loyal to Lex Luthor’s commands, but later she evolves into an ally for Clark Kent and the others. Now, waiting to see what this new incarnation of the character will bring on the table, let’s take a look at the original. Multiple realities ahead.
Lena Luthor originally appeared on Earth-1, as the daughter of Jules and Arlene Luthor. She was but a baby when her older brother, Lex Luthor, became a world famous criminal, and her parents, ashamed of what Lex was doing, decided to leave Smallville and to change their names, so that their little daughter would have never been linked to the madman terrifying the world; when Lena grew up, since she had some memories of an older brother, she was told that he had died while climbing a mountain. The Luthors changed their surname in Thorul, simply scrambling the letters, believing that doing so they would have protected Lena from Lex… but they didn’t know that her older brother had already influenced the life of the girl (even if not purposefully) as, when she was little more than a toddler, she had snuck into Lex’s room, stumbling upon one of his early experiments, an alien device he called the Space Brain: upon touching the thing she saw as a weird toy, Lena unlocked some psionic abilities she would have developed only in adulthood. Growing up, Lena was completely unaware of both her latent powers, and her true parentage to Lex Luthor. There was something bonding the Luthor family to the House of El, however: Lena attended Midvale High School, where she met the one who would have become her best friend, Linda Lee… who was actually Kara Zor-El, the cousin of her brother’s nemesis Superman. It was unavoidable, the moment Linda/Kara became Supergirl, that Lena was involved in her and her cousin’s adventures in a way or the other, but anytime Lex was present, he did everything in his power to prevent the girl to learn about her true family, receiving even help from the two Kryptonians in this facade. As a young woman, Lena Thorul met Jeff Colby, fell in love with him and eventually married him. She became a simple librarian, and she had a son from Jeff, Val… but when her mental powers finally manifested, Superman was forced to reveal to her the truth about Lex, so that he could convince her to undergo brain surgery and have her life saved. From that moment, Lena desperately tried to redeem her criminal brother, succeeding at least in becoming the one person in the world he loved and protected.
Obviously, after Chrisis on Infinite Earths Lena Luthor had her story undergo some major changes, as Earth-1 was erased from existence and she was reborn on New Earth. In this new reality, she was the last daughter of Lionel Luthor, a drunken man who lived in Smallville, Kansas. Since her mother Laetitia died when she was still a child, she grew up with her father and her older brother Lex, but the latter eventually started hating Lionel, and left as soon as he could; Lena, who was already paraplegic at the time (it’s unknown if she was born like this or if this was the result of an accident), was the only one to take care of her father, and when he died of a heart attack, she was devastated by it. Plus Lex, who needed money to start his corporation, took all the money from the insurance for himself, leaving his wheelchair-bound sister to take care of herself. In a way or another, Lena managed to fend for herself: she married an unknown man, and she had a daughter from him, Lori. It’s unknown what happened to her husband, but eventually only Lena and Lori were left, taking care of each other. Again, the mysterious connections between the Luthor family and the House of El stroke again, as Lori became (close) friends with Superboy, Smallville’s newest superhero, and brought him home to meet her mom: even Lena took a liking for the young hero. When Lex Luthor managed to escape from Project 7734, he came back to Smallville in an attempt to control his creature, Superboy; in order to convince him to follow him, he cured his crippled sister and gave her back the ability to walk… only to revert her to her usual condition immediately after. To an enraged Superboy, he said that he did so to prove he was able to cure Lena, but that he would have done it permanently only the moment Superman was dead. Superboy found another way, and entrusted Lena to his friend Red Robin, who in turn brought her to Wayne Enterprises, where the best doctors in the world tried to understand how Luthor cured her so that they could replicate the process. Witnessing her own brother’s cruelty, however, was now a crippling far worse than the one to her legs…
Lena Luthor, in any reality she lives in, is a gentle and kind woman, completely different from her megalomaniac and cruel brother. Despite being good-hearted, she proves to be also very strong and brave, able to live an extremely difficult life with honesty and dignity. On Earth-1 she was an ESP with limited psionic abilities (at least until her powers were removed through brain surgery), while on New Earth she doesn’t possess any superpower… apart from being a single crippled mother able to raise her daughter with no help from anyone. Smart, determined and steadfast, Lena Luthor will do what it takes to free herself from the ill fame brought to her family name by her brother Lex, and to build a better future for her and the people she loves.