Who is Maxwell Lord? – Part II: The JLI

In the first part of this profile of Maxwell Lord we discussed Maxwell Lord’s publishing history and started his biography. We saw how he made a Faustian bargain with an alien computer system. Now we turn our attention to the golden age of the Justice League International.

In Part One: Background, Details, and Biography (Early Life).

Biography (cont.)

Taking over the Justice League

Max first met the founders of the Justice League of America (JLA) at a Gotham City gentleman’s club where they were confronting an executive. Lord observed to one over opinionated millionaire that,

“Believe me. I want the JLA as close to me as possible. I rather like the idea of a Justice League. Just imagine. In the right hands, with the right guidance… they could be an army to change the world…” (JLA Year One #7).

The League had risen to pre-eminence as a United Nations (UN) recognised organisation, but dwindling participation by its founders had forced Aquaman to disband it. His grand experiment was to found a second, smaller League, but Aquaman’s own attention wandered and his League proved surprisingly vulnerable to a low-key attack by Professor Ivo’s androids and to the hate and chaos caused of Darkseid’s anti-hero riots.

Those same riots triggered the formation of a new Justice League led by Batman, J’onn J’onzz, and Doctor Fate (Legends, Justice League #1). This group could fill the international security role that Max and the Kilg%re foresaw, but they feared that it too, would disintegrate (Justice League International #12). Years after the fact, Max would articulate a second reason for wanting to control the Justice League. He claimed that he had wanted to save humanity from the metahuman gods who tried to pass themselves off as normal people. One way to do that was so keep the metahuman’s most celebrated organisation as passive and ineffectual as possible. The second anti-superhuman reason that Max sprouted in Countdown to Infinite Crisis is of course completely at odds with his portrayal during the JLI era. He was manipulative and self-serving, but he was never that bigoted. It is possible that Max’s first resurrection by the Kilg%re caused brain damage that further altered his personality.

Max and the Kilg%re would have to bring this new Justice League under their direct control. They created a new generation of signal devices (Justice League International #12) and Max delivered one of them to Doctor Light (Kimiyo Hoshi). He informed her that he was authorised to induct her into the League. He also arranged for a former mental patient called John Charles Collins to hold the UN General Assembly hostage with a bomb surgically attached to his torso. The new Justice League evacuated the building, but Collins killed himself trying to trigger the bomb. Unfortunately for Collins, Max had deliberately withheld the bomb’s firing pin and used his pawn’s death to create the right political climate for his take over of the League (Justice League #1).

Lord worked behind the scenes to smooth over relations between the Russian Rocket Red Brigade and the Justice League after three alien superheroes (Wandjina, Silver Sorceress, and the Blue Jay) invaded a Russian nuclear power station (Justice League #3). When the League returned from Russia they found Lord and a new hero called Booster Gold waiting for them in their headquarters.

Batman launched an immediate investigation into Lord’s activities and how he had recruited Doctor Light and Booster Gold. Light quit in disgust and Booster almost quit as well, but an attack by the Royal Flush Gang proved his potential and he was accepted into the League. Moments later, Lord was announcing Booster’s addition to the press and was calling himself Justice League’s “official press liaison” (Justice League #4). Neither the League or Booster knew that Lord had hired Jack of the Royal Flush Gang to stage the event. Lord’s lawyers made sure that the Gang was out on the street within days of their arrest (Justice League International #12).

Most of the Justice League were occupied with a conflict between Doctor Fate and the Greyman when Lord began manoeuvring again. From his private office at the UN Lord had crafted a Security Council resolution that would turn the Justice League into an official arm of the United Nations. The new “Justice League International” would function as an independent city-state with embassy bases in each member nation’s capital. Lord would be the League’s UN liaison and administrative head along with his new personal assistant Oberon (Mister Miracle’s former trainer).

J’onn J’onzz saw the obvious benefits for the world, but he and others had reservations about the move. Without Max’s knowledge the Kilg%re used an Apokoliptian training-weapon to create a threat for the League to defeat. Pictures of the League’s valiant fight swung public opinion behind the new resolution. The US and Russia would only agreed to it if their own heroes, Captain Atom and Rocket Red, were given League membership, but any lingering doubts were brushed aside by a personal intervention by Superman (Justice League International #7).

Fall of the Kilg%re

Max’s plans for the League almost unravelled when the Manhunters, an ancient android police force turned secret society, tried to kill the chosen mortal successors to the Guardians of the Universe. Max’s secretary, Miss Wootenhoffer, was a Manhunter sleeper agent. She shot Max several times at close range before the Kil%gre killed her. It patched Lord up again and left him with little memory of the attack (Justice League International #9).

Max was visibly upset when he heard that no members of the task-force put together to fight the Manhunters had stayed around to join the League. He told the League that he was being watched by his own computer system and claimed that he needed extra-firepower to face an outside force that was controlling it. The Kilg%re made it look as if the Construct – an old League computer villain – was controlling Max. It wanted the League to fight and destroy Metron so that it would be free from his control. However, the machine did not know that Mister Miracle had been raised on New Genesis and knew Metron personally.

The JLI were briefly transported to New Genesis during their meeting with Metron. The Kilg%re took the opportunity to place a kill-switch in Lord’s brain that it could activate at any time that it wanted to dispose of him. The Kilg%re was forced to flee from Metron’s lab and allowed him to think that it had transferred its sentience into a terminal in Lord’s office. It implored Max to upload it to the internet, but something else had happened to Max when he was shot. The man who had woken up had changed, some spark of altruism has been kindled in him and he had genuinely begun to see the League as his friends. Max refused to help the Kilg%re’s machinations any more and destroyed its remaining terminal.

The remains of the Kilg%re intelligence withdrew elsewhere to undergo it own convalescence. Without it, the power that had held Lord’s injuries closed disappeared and he collapsed. The League found him and rushed Max to hospital. J’onn J’onzz scanned Max telepathically to establish the truth and discovered his Damascus-ian conversion. J’onn believed that Max had genuinely changed and left a JLI signal device with him (Justice League #11-12, Justice League America Annual #9).

The first people that Max met upon waking in hospital were representatives from a secret organisation of power brokers called the Arcana. They had begun as a mysteries sect during Renaissance, but the Arcana had long forgotten their origins and had evolved into a secret society of power brokers. Their operations, and hence their name, where loosely patterned on a deck of playing cards – the diamonds controlled finance, the clubs were politicians, the hearts controlled the media, and the spades controlled the group’s security. Max accepted a place in their society as a “three of diamonds”, but he doesn’t seem to have been particularly active in the organisation until after his involvement with the Justice League (Justice League America #111-113, Annual #9).

Max remained hospitalised in Mt Sinai Medical Centre during the JLI’s repatriation of the Suicide Squad from Russia. Max already knew the Squad’s administrator, Amanda Waller, and respected her. She was the closest he had to an equal or rival in terms of position and ability, but their working relationship was always abrasive (Justice League International #13, Invasion #3). He also sat out the first visit to Earth by the intergalactic merchant Manga Khan and his Cluster (an interstellar trade caravan, Justice League International #14-15). Max was still on medical leave when at his Cape Cod Beach House when the Batman led a covert JLI team to investigate Rumann Harjavti’s Bailya. Batman’s team were discovered during the Queen Bee’s assassination of Harjavti and Batman was forced to masquerade as Lord at a diplomatic function (Justice League International #16-17).

A New Talent

The founding JLI roster was already beginning disperse by the time that Maxwell Lord’s extended convalescence finished. Rocket Red and J’onn J’onzz were in space pursuing the Cluster (which had kidnapped Mister Miracle) and Black Canary had resigned. Two new members, Fire and Ice, had volunteered, but Max refused to let the team drift apart as the first two League’s had done. He boosted the team’s strength with the temporary appointment of Lobo and then he launched the League’s first membership drive – something of a tradition under his leadership. However, drive back fired when they recruited a pair of Thanagarian spies who were impersonating Hawkman and Hawkgirl ( Justice League International #19).

The main Thanagarian force was part of an alien armada which included Dominators, Khunds, and Daxamites that was trying to invade the Earth. The JLI’s Australian Embassy was an early target and the politicians leaned on Max to keep the superheroes in line with the military response. The bulk of the League was dispatched to the Pacific theatre to help the military. Max was one of scores of normal people who were revealed to have the capability to develop superpowers when the Dominators set off a “genebomb” designed to disable only those humans with the specific genetic factor (the metagene) that allows humans to acquire superpowers. Max wasn’t initially affected, but he collapsed while briefing the heroes being sent on a mission to liberate the cure (Invasion #1-3, Justice League International #22-23).

As he recovered from the genebomb Max began to wonder just how much the Kilg%re had known about his metagene. Lord secretly hiked out to Metron’s mountain laboratory. There he managed to restore partial power to Metron’s computer. It confessed that it had known about his metagene, but it blew itself up in trying to kill Max. The explosion trapped Max by caving in the entrance to the laboratory. In desperation he shouted “Can you hear me you super-powered dipsticks?!” into the darkness, but he was unaware that he was sending a telepathic “suggestion” to the Blue Beetle in New York. Beetle, much to his team-mates bemusement, claimed that he knew that Max was in danger and raced off to save him (Justice League International #24).

When Max returned to work he found that Oberon had launched another recruitment drive – this time targeting the heroes who had helped the JLI during the Invasion. They were invited to the New York Embassy for a party at which Max announced that a second JLI team was going to be created. The new “Justice League Europe” team was to be based in Paris and overseen by the Paris Embassy chief Catherine Colbert and by Captain Atom who was to be a field-commander with status equal to J’onn J’onzz (Justice League International #24, Justice League Europe #1-5).

Max’s new telepathic “talent” got its first real test when the Queen Bee activated a post-hypnotic suggestion that she had planted in the Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) during the JLI’s incursion into Bailya. She turned Ted into a knife wielding manic who believed that his only purpose was to murder Maxwell Lord. He chased Max into the streets of New York. Max kept “pushing” Beetle’s mind to create momentary distractions, but he was eventually cornered. The Huntress saved Max’s life and Beetle was deprogrammed by the Suicide Squad’s Amanda Waller and Nabu (the Lord of Order behind Doctor Fate, Justice League America #26-27, 29). The Huntress helped the JLI again when a youth stole one of Big Barda’s weapons. Max was so impressed with the Huntress’s help that he used his talent to convince her to to sign-up with the JLI (Justice League America #29-30).

Max’s talent: Whether the genebomb gave Max his power or just enhanced it isn’t entirely clear. He was an extremely persuasive and well-connected man long before the Invasion so he may have used the power subconsciously – the Kilg%re certainly seemed to be aware of it. (Justice League of America #24). His talent is a form of mind control. At first he could only nudge people’s opinions and decisions in the direction he desired or make them believe in minor distractions, but his strength and skill have significantly increased over time.

Shenanigans, JLI Style

One of the Justice League’s strangest acquisitions under Max’s tenure was the island kingdom of Kooey Kooey Kooey. The tiny, but strategically important island was “annexed” by the League in a deal between the Islands’ Chief and Max (Justice League International Annual #3). Their deal was meant to protect the islanders way of life, but  Blue Beetle and Booster Gold saw the island as a business opportunity and launched a JLI-themed island casino resort using JLI funds. Lord had no knowledge of this until after it was up and running. By the time that Max teleported in to sort it out the island had moved on wrecking the casino. He, Huntress, Ice, and Oberon found themselves stranded on a small, rapidly melting iceberg in the middle of a shark infested tropical ocean. The stress made him confess to the Huntress that he’d influenced her mind, but he had to push her mind again to stop her from strangling him. They found the proceeds of the casino – technically League funds – floating in the ocean after Major Disaster, the super villain who bankrupted the casino, lost hold of them (Justice League America #33-35).

Beetle and Booster’s punishment for the Club JLI mess was to serve maid duty around the New York Embassy. Booster endured it for a time, but quit because he felt unappreciated and was head-hunted by Claire Montgomery, Max’s ex-wife, to lead a new superhero team called the Conglomerate (Justice League America #35, 37, Justice League Quarterly #1). Max’s reaction to Claire’s team was jaded. He wrote in his journal that “She [Claire] said she wanted to make a difference in the world. Please. What she wanted was to compete with me. To rub her ex-husband’s face in the dirt. To show up my team with her team.” Max baited Claire by putting together a charity contest between their two teams. He then used his corporate network to hire away or otherwise deplete the Conglomerate’s roster. Their contest ended badly when her replacement Conglomerate turned out to be evil visitors from the anti-matter Earth (Justice League Quarterly #8).

Max has displayed a talent for making unusual hiring and recruitment decisions. His first meeting with Major Disaster prompted him to launch a third the short-lived JLI team with the Major, but Justice League Antarctica – a dumping ground for the League’s problem members – turned into a disaster after it became embroiled in rogue penguin/piranha research experiment (Justice League America Annual #4). He also agreed to Guy Gardner’s request to hire Kilowog as the League’s handy man (Justice League America #33) and he hired Doctor Fate’s former associates Petey (a demon posing as a dog) and Jack (a lawyer) as his supernatural affair consultant and legal representation (Justice League Quarterly #4).

Max kept the day-to-day operations of the JLI running as best he could, given the disruptive personalities involved and their natural tendency towards chaos. However, he preferred to keep their corporate affairs under a shorter leash. He allowed his own company, “Heroic Images Inc” (a wholly owned subsidiary of Innovative Concepts), to handle the team’s PR and licensing – at least until Green Lantern Guy Gardner hospitalised Heroic Images’s President Dwayne Lumbago (Justice League America #38).

Max organised the funeral arrangements when Despero murdered Mister Miracle (Scott Free), but at he was punched to the ground by Big Barda (Miracle’s wife) at the funeral after she accused him of keeping Scott from retiring (Justice League America #38-40). It was eventually revealed that Scott was actually in deep space with the Cluster (again) and that it was a robotic duplicate of him that Despero had destroyed. Scott’s return allowed Max to dump Despero’s body with the Cluster, but Manga Khan insisted that Max accept his robot servant L-Ron in exchange. Max initially disliked the boot licking, over melodramatic robot, but he became to secretly enjoy its/his toadying (Justice League America #42). L-ron eventually took over the job as Max’s assistant after Oberon quit to spend more time with Scott and Barda (Justice League America #45).

Max had kept his telepathic talent a secret. When he finally described it to J’onzz J’onzz he was told “You really have changed. A lot. I have noticed, and I’m damn proud of you.” Max was even getting his social life on an even keel and had begun dating a woman called Wanda Epstein – a fiction editor for Partisan House. He only used his talent once to start a conversation with her and tried to play it normally from there (despite a rather strange hallucination where he briefly believed he had become a superhero called Maximum Force, Justice League America #41).

Max was supervising the induction of a new Moscow Embassy Chief called Sonya Linbotov when the World War II superhero General Glory reappeared. Max liked the General’s effect on the JLI’s public standing and kept him on the team whilst he followed up the General’s origins through his government contacts (Justice League America #46-48).

In Part Three: The assassination attempt, clashes with Superman, and the first resurrection.