Ross Webster is the main antagonist of the 1983 film Superman III. He is an original character created for this film, having no connection to the previous DC comic series (though by default he is now listed as one of DC's supervillains - in a similar manner as how Harley Quinn became an official Batman supervillain after being made specifically for the animated series).
He was portrayed by the late Robert Vaughn.
Ross Webster is the head of Webscoe Industries and one of the wealthiest industrialists in the world. An eccentric (his tower had a ski lodge on the roof), he is often prone to quirky comments. Way down in one of his many organizations, an incident involving stolen funds by a computer hacker named Gus Gorman is brought to Webster's attention. Gorman is brought to his office, where Webster quizzes the hacker about his $85,789.90 paycheck and realizes that what he has on his hands is not a criminal, but a savant who can be of great value. Rather than send him to jail, he gives Gorman the option of working for him personally.
With Gorman's assistance, Webster seeks to monopolize the entire coffee industry by destroying Colombia's crops. He sends Gorman to one of Webscoe's subsidiary companies in Smallville, Kansas to create a computer program using the available weather satellite. From this, a massive storm converges over Colombia. But Superman intervenes, however, flying into its midst to undo all the damage the storm caused, upsetting Webster's plans in the process.
Webster's next idea — in order to proceed and to use Gorman's talents — is to get rid of Superman, and the only way to get rid of Superman is to re-create, by computer, kryptonite. Gorman does this, but instead of killing Superman, the end product made him evil, though nonetheless put him out of the way. In the meantime, Webster executes a new plan to deactivate all of the oil pumps in North America and reroute the oil tankers to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. To do this, he requires Gorman's help, yet again. But Gorman refuses unless Webster builds the hacker a state-of-the-art supercomputer he had been secretly designing. Webster agrees. However, Superman comes back to thwart Webster's machinations once more.
At their Grand Canyon hideout, Webster, his sister Vera, and Lorelei Ambrosia, along with Gus Gorman, set out to further his plans for economic control and to lure Superman into a trap. Superman does arrive, and enters a fierce bout with the newly constructed Ultimate Computer's kryptonite ray and Vera Webster's transformation into a hideous robot. Just when Ross Webster seemed about to succeed, a reformed Gorman turns on him, helping Superman to destroy the computer instead.
It is never shown what happened with Webster afterwards, but, according to Superman, he might probably be taken in custody by the police for his actions, or presumably, he was killed in the cave-in when the computer exploded.
- Alan Alda was initially considered for the role of Ross Webster.
- The role of Ross Webster was written to replace Lex Luthor after Gene Hackman declined to return for the third film. The popular belief was that Hackman refused to do the film because of his disagreements with the Salkinds when they fired director Richard Donner after the first film was released. Ilya Salkind later denied this claim, stating that Hackman's schedule kept him from being able to reprise the Luthor role.
- Along with Carl Grissom from Batman and Max Shreck from Batman Returns, Ross Webster is one of the few characters created in a DC Comics live-action movie who hasn't been featured in actual comic media since then. Interestingly, all three characters were created to replace in their role an actual comic character.
- Ross Webster has not made any further appearances, but the concept behind Superman III was reused for a 1988 video game, Superman, made by Kemco for the Nintendo Entertainment System. One chapter has Superman looking for a kidnapped professor of information technology. When the professor is rescued, he says he was forced to program a supercomputer to do the evil bidding of the bad guys, and if not stopped, that Ross Webster will control the world's economy. However, the boss of the stage Superman fights after disabling the computer is Jay Falk, not Webster. Also, Webster's name is misspelled as "Loss Webster".