Hopefully you are reading Josh Williamson’s new “Rebirth” mini series, “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad.” If not, let us be the first to tell you that the insidious Maxwell Lord is back in a major way! This opportunistic businessman turned cold-hearted villain seems to be up to his old antics, but this time he has “the original Suicide Squad” under his control.
His look in his “New 52” debut appearance, in “OMAC” #2, eschewed his trademark business suit and Checkmate looks, for a very sci-fi, Jack Kirby-influenced redesign. So, his arrival at the end of “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” #1 in his classic Black King duds seems to infer this may be the pre-New 52 version of Max. Whichever Max it is, we thought it was a good time to give you the lowdown on this powerful mind-controlling baddie, and explain why he’s such a huge creep.
15. HE ESTABLISHED THE JLI
The version of the League that becomes Justice League International is initially brought together by Doctor Fate after the 1987 “Legends” miniseries. Fate believed that there was always need of a Justice League, but it is Maxwell Lord who gets them the United Nations charter, encouraging a more global membership, setting up embassies worldwide and renaming the team to reflect its global reach. Lord quickly goes from liaison to team leader in the first tentative displays of his manipulative powers (even if, at this point, they weren’t “super” in nature).
While Lord’s public persona is that of a business mogul who lacks ethics, he is actually much worse. In “Justice League” #1 (1987), he hires low-level criminals to fake a terrorist attack on the UN to bring the newly formed Justice League closer together. He continues manipulating the JLI for years, even going so far as to start a Justice League Antarctica branch staffed by former Injustice League members and headed up by knucklehead Green Lantern, G’Nort.
14. HE WAS MANIPULATED BY ALIEN A.I.
The cover of “Justice League International” #12 (1988) by Kevin Maguire famously shows Lord as half human, half robot, and the issue reveals his secret origin. It turns out his machinations to establish the Justice League as a UN sanctioned team were not his own. In a very convoluted bit of continuity, Lord finds an alien techno intelligence while spelunking, which immediately starts influencing his actions. The being was named Kilg%re and like all good computers, it was chiefly concerned with world domination. It was Kilg%re who suggested Lord ingratiate himself with the Justice League.
Further, the more global approach Lord encouraged once he had gained their trust was also just a part of the alien intelligence’s grand scheme. Eventually, Lord broke free of the techno life form when he destroyed the computer that housed it… or so he thought. This weirdness was all taken a step further when Lord gets brain cancer and the long-thought dead Kilg%re pops back up to transfer Lord’s consciousness into an android. This is a somewhat despised part of Max Lord’s history, to say the least.
13. HE WAS SHOT
The 1987, the company-wide “Millennium” crossover that was spearheaded by Steve Englehart told the story of a Guardian of the Universe (aka, Green Lantern’s bosses) and a member of their sister race, a Zamaron, who were visiting Earth to grant a chosen few accelerated evolution. The plan was for this group of 10 men and women to become the new Guardians of the Universe. As is often the case when the Guardians are involved, their own creations came back to bite them in their little blue butts. The Manhunters had infiltrated Earth’s superhero community and were ready to strike when the purpose of the ancient aliens’ visit to Earth was revealed.
Rocket Red #7 of the Justice League International turned out to be one of these overzealous robots, as did Max Lord’s secretary at the time, Mrs. Wootenhoffer. The Manhunter shoots Max four times before his computer (which we don’t know is Kilg%re at this point) neutralizes the threat. He survives the sustained injuries, but he suffered. And at least you can’t say that Max never took one for the team!
12. HE WAS POSSESSED BY… DORMAMMU?
To keep it simple, the best way to describe Dreamslayer’s group of super villains, The Extremists, is to say that they are analogues for Marvel’s greatest villains, like Doctor Octopus (Gorgon), Magneto (Doctor Diehard) and Doctor Doom (Lord Havok). Dreamslayer is the DC version of Doctor Strange villain Dormammu. These super-powered terrorists were denizens of an alternate dimension and hailed from a planet called Angor. When Dreamslayer discovered a way to get to Earth, he immediately launched an attack with robotic versions of the Extremists. His actual teammates had died in the nuclear holocaust they had caused on Angor.
While that may seem like a lot of backstory to tell you that Dreamslayer possessed Max Lord at one point, the “why” and “how” would be impossible to explain otherwise. When the fiery-headed troublemaker and his replicate Extremists were thwarted on Earth, Deamslayer’s body was destroyed and his spirit returned to his own dimension. However, from there, he was able to possess Max Lord, who he used to mind control The Flash, who then retrieved the powered-down Extremist robots for him. Circuitous, perhaps, but even Max would have to appreciate the lengths to which Dreamslayer was willing to go to manipulate the situation.
11. HE WAS CREATED BY GIANTS
The names Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis should be familiar to any comic reader worth their weight in long boxes. Giffen is the writer/artist behind such cult favorite characters as Lobo, Ambush Bug, L.E.G.I.O.N. and DC new A-lister Jamie Reyes (aka Blue Beetle III). He also wrote the recently adapted “Invasion!” mini series. DeMatteis, meanwhile, is a writer who started with DC in the late ‘70s on pulpy titles like “Weird War Tales” and “House of Mystery.”
Together, the two created the Justice League International, Justice League Europe, Justice League Antarctica and had a critically acclaimed run on “JLI.” They came up with droves of fun new characters to populate their books including Ice, Rocket Red #7, G’Nort, The Extremists, and, of course, Maxwell Lord IV. The upcoming comedy “Powerless” seems like it must be influenced by Giffen and DeMatteis’ work, as both superheroes that have been revealed so far, Crimson Fox and Jack O’Lantern (II), are their creations.
10. HE RAN A GLOBAL SPY AGENCY (TWICE)
During the “Countdown To Infinite Crisis” (2005) and “Infinite Crisis” (2005) events, Maxwell Lord assumed full control of the spy agency known as Checkmate. While their organizational structure based on Chess (Black King / Queen, White King / Queen) still existed, the balance of power it was supposed to represent was all but gone. Max also took over Batman’s AI satellite, Brother Eye, and secured the OMAC technology under this agency’s banner.
To say Checkmate’s authority was at an all time high under Lord would be an understatement. When The Black Queen, White Queen and White King conspired to kill Lord, he used his powers to control the Black Queen’s Bishop, Jessica Midnight, and had her shoot all three of them on the spot. Max’s reign of terror as The Black King ended when he got on the wrong side of Wonder Woman, but that’s a whole other entry. During the “Brightest Day” event, it was revealed in “Justice League: Generation Lost” that he was secretly back in control of Checkmate.
9. HE DEFEATED BROTHER EYE
Max Lord had controlled Brother Eye in the DCnU, similar to how things had played out before “Flashpoint” changed everything. Although, in the New 52 relaunch of “O.M.A.C.” (2011), Brother Eye escaped and sent his O.M.A.C. (a powerful cyborg designed to fight and destroy metahumans) on the offensive against Project Cadmus and Checkmate to maintain their freedom.
In the DCnU, Lord is yet again in control of Checkmate, and Cadmus is under the Checkmate umbrella. So, in response to Brother Eye and O.M.A.C.’s actions, Lord sends in his Checkmate Elite, including Sarge Steel, Maribel and Little Knipper to take the One-Machine Attack Construct down. When they fail, Lord recruits the Cadmus scientist Mokkari to do the job with his Build-A-Friend creations. This attempt is also unsuccessful and finally Checkmate’s sister agency, S.H.A.D.E., is contacted and its top operative Frankenstein manages to stop O.M.A.C. in his tracks. However, it is only when Lord defeats Brother Eye, that he deems the O.M.A.C. as no longer a threat.
8. HE FOUGHT IN INVASION!
Keith Giffen’s epic crossover, “Invasion!” (1989), was about alien races teaming up to stop the threat from Earth; that is to say, humanity. Well, mostly metahumans, but humanity in general, too. The event featured a plethora of DC Comics’ most popular heroes alongside its cult-favorite second stringers. All of the publisher’s top government official characters and their organizations got involved, too, including Amanda Waller with the Suicide Squad, General Eiling with the military and Max Lord with Justice League International.
However, even after the Alien Alliance had taken over Australia, the US president didn’t want to take action. So, he tells Lord that the JLI are to stand down and to contact Waller directly to stop her from doing anything rash. Eventually it’s all hands on deck though. “Invasion!” is the storyline that was just recently adapted for a monumental crossover that included all four of The CW’s DC shows. However, as good as the four nights of television were, it seems like a missed opportunity that the Arrowverse’s Max Lord (played by Peter Facinelli in “Supergirl” Season 1) wasn’t involved.
7. HE GOT MENTAL POWERS FROM A GENE BOMB
The alien race The Dominators were the masterminds behind the attack on Earth in “Invasion!” and their ultimate weapon was the Gene Bomb. They had studied human evolution and the emergence of metahumans, and then engineered a device to neutralize metahuman abilities. At the end of the crossover, when the Alien Alliance had come apart and The Dominators had all but lost, they set it off. We see the explosion from many perspectives, as well as what happens to a number of superheroes. What is unexpected is the bomb’s effect on humans with latent metahuman genes.
For some, like Maxwell Lord, it gives them powers. Did the most manipulative man in the DC universe really need the power to control minds? Probably not, but it did make him exponentially more dangerous, and more exciting to see show up in your favorite titles. When Lord collapses shortly after the Gene Bomb is detonated, he is taken to hospital. Though they seem to be sworn enemies, Amanda Waller comes to visit. In a rare moment of emotion, she reveals that she respects Lord and thinks he is (and we quote) “the best” while he is unconscious.
6. HE BLEEDS POWER (LITERALLY)
Super powers are a lot more interesting when they have a drawback, or a “tell” even. In Max Lord’s case, he gets a nose bleed any time he utilizes his psionic abilities. It’s kind of an awesome plot device because he can’t lie about if he is using his powers or not. When he is trying to control a powerful being, more than one person or creating psionic hallucinations, he may also experience more substantial bleeding from his eyes, ears and mouth, which adds a creepy, even horrific visual layer to his abilities. He’s also usually pretty happy about “pushing” people’s minds, as he calls it, and is often grinning ear-to-ear while hemorrhaging blood from his various orifices.
Perhaps the most gratuitous version of this physical manifestation of his powers was seen in “Brightest Day,” when he manages to mind wipe the entire planet! Even though he takes all the necessary precautions (basically, just multiple blood transfusions), he almost dies from blood loss.
UNRELATED FUN FACT: Aquaman can also get nosebleeds if he pushes his powers to the extreme. It tends to happen when he tries to command gargantuan sea creatures or whole schools of sea life.
5. BLACKEST NIGHT WAS HIS BRIGHTEST DAY
If you are writing an A-list hero’s next arc or a company-wide crossover and need a conniver pulling the strings behind the scenes, Max is a go-to sociopath. So, when this puppet master showed up in “Blackest Night,” it wasn’t too surprising. Being dead at the time, he was back as a Black Lantern, and his only mission was too get revenge on the one who had taken his life. His death is one of the top entries on this list though, so as to not reveal his murderer, let’s just say he is successful in thoroughly tormenting her.
His manipulations and flat-out mind control of superheroes and politicians alike puts him on par with DC’s worst villains, and unlike contemporaries like Amanda Waller and General Eiling, he seems truly unhinged. So, when he came back yet again in “Brightest Day,” and wiped all of humanity’s memories of him away, it wasn’t looking good for metahumans. However, before he could play his endgame, he is granted a White Lantern ring and told by The Entity to “Stop the war before it starts.” This involves Magog, Captain Atom and a future timeline where Lord has won his war against metas — for many, the darkest timeline.
4. BOOSTER GOLD SAVED HIS ANCESTOR
In 2007, Booster Gold got a solo series that spun out of the ambitious “52” event. The ongoing title was written by Geoff Johns and followed Booster as he was recruited by Rip Hunter (who just happens to be his son), to be a “time cop” and stop chronal anomalies. During his first mission, he saves one of his and Rip’s ancestors, therefore avoiding them being wiped from history. He also gets to drop in on pivotal moments for various other major DC heroes and villains.
In an ironic turn of events, he is thrown into World War I Germany and ends up saving an American soldier by the name of Cyrus Lord… who turns out to be the grand-pappy of Max Lord, the man who killed is best friend, Ted Kord. Interestingly, this storyline is very similar to the synopsis for “Legends of Tomorrow” Season 2. Not surprisingly, many fans had guessed Patrick J. Adams was playing Booster when his casting was announced.
3. JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD: PART 1
The recent “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” mini series is not the first time these two teams have faced each other down in a crossover. In fact, it’s not even the second or third time. Back in 1988, there was a two-part “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad” story that started in “Justice League International” #13 and concluded in “Suicide Squad” #13″ The plot involved the Squad going on an unauthorized mission to rescue one of their own from a Russian prison. “Unauthorized” meant they didn’t get the okay from Amanda Waller, who has the president call in the JLI to stop the Squad and avoid an international incident.
The only problem was that Max Lord saw this as the prefect opportunity to expose the Suicide Squad to benefit his JLI, stating that “it would help our standing tremendously with the foreign governments that don’t yet fully trust us.” However, things don’t go according to either Waller or Lord’s plans and their stand-off ends in a stalemate. At this point, Max is still in the hospital recovering from being shot in the “Millennium” event.
2. HE MURDERED BLUE BEETLE
The most important facts about Maxwell Lord are which major Justice League member he murdered in cold blood, and which of DC’s Big 3 ended up compromising their morals by breaking his neck. But let’s start with Lord’s most famous murder, which broke the hearts of DC fans worldwide. When his former cohort Blue Beetle figures out his nefarious intention to eliminate metahumans in “The O.M.A.C. Project” (2005), he tries to explain himself.
Lord admits his fears about super-powered heroes and villains, and says he had wanted to bring Beetle in on the plan to neutralize this threat for years. In response, Ted clocks him square in the jaw and tries to escape. However, he doesn’t get far before getting jumped by Sasha Bordeaux, followed by a pummelling at the hands of an O.M.A.C. Lord makes him an offer to join Checkmate, but his curt answer of “Rot in hell” prompts Lord to shoot him in the head at point blank range, leaving one of the most lasting images ever in DC comics.
1. HE WAS MURDERED BY WONDER WOMAN
Max Lord is a master manipulator on the level of Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller, with the big difference between them being that he has powers. Because of his abilities and machinations, he was one of the main villains of the “Countdown To Infinite Crisis” and “Infinite Crisis” events. In “The O.M.A.C. Project” (2005), he utilized Brother I (aka Brother Eye) to catalogue the world’s metahuman population, with plans to eventually wipe them out with scores of O.M.A.C.s. Another aspect of this conspiracy involved him using his mind pushing abilities to control Superman to murder his JL colleagues.
While under Lord’s sway, the Man of Steel served Batman and Wonder Woman severe beat downs. However, Diana managed to get Lord in her Lasso of Truth and when asked how to free Superman from his command, Lord simply answered “Kill me.” She then proceeds to snap his neck in her bid to save the world. As the DC Comics Encyclopedia explains it, “Faced with the choice between saving millions of lives and keeping her oath to never kill, Wonder Woman killed Lord.”
What do you think are Max Lord’s most vile features or moments? Let us know in the comments!
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