Maxwell Lord is a fascinating inclusion in the cast of Wonder Woman 1984. The character has a…let’s just say troubled…history with Diana Prince in the comics, but he’s filled many roles in DC Comics continuity over the years. His presence in this movie possibly signals a bunch of different directions the film and the DCEU could take, and with the movie coming at us quickly, we figured it would be a great time to take A GOOD LOOK AROUND at what Maxwell Lord has meant to the DC Universe.
History With the Justice League
Maxwell Lord was originally introduced to the comic world by J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Keith Giffen as part of their beloved Justice League run. anera now generally referred to as the “Bwa-Ha-Ha” era of the League for its lighthearted tone and focus on interpersonal shenanigans. It started in the mid ‘80s, almost a full decade before Grant Morrison packed the team with DC’s heavy hitters, and hot on the heels of the unloved but now reconsidered (thanks to all of the characters being fan favorites in the Arrowverse) Detroit team. Following the deaths of Vibe and Commander Steel and the resignations of just about everyone else, the League was immediately reformed with a mix of bigger names (Batman, Martian Manhunter) and second and third-tier characters (Guy Gardner, the third human Green Lantern and a Reagan-era douchebag; Blue Beetle, a Charlton import who was the inspiration for Watchmen’s Nite Owl, and others along those lines).
The man and the money behind this new League? Maxwell Lord IV, the heir to a chemical fortune whose father had killed himself when he realized that the chemicals his company produced were extremely toxic. Lord initially bounced back and forth between ruthless conniver, Gordon Gekko-but-played-for-laughs, and a valued, heartfelt member of the League. His general tone matched that of the League’s as a whole: lighter, playful, and sometimes outright funny.
Does Maxwell Lord Have Powers?
Lord has repeatedly found himself on both ends of some pretty serious mind control. He was not, as it turned out, the true driving force behind the reformation of the Justice League. He was actually being pushed into it by a sentient computer virus, Kilg%re, who corrupted a data collection device created and operated by the New God Metron. Kilg%re used this newly accessed power to talk Lord into many of his more sinister plans. Max eventually discovered the rogue virus and smashed it up.
As for the controlling of minds, Lord started out with no powers, but following Invasion, which featured a collection of prominent DC Universe aliens uniting to kneecap the human race before they could develop into a planet full of superheroes, he gained the ability to control minds but only with GREAT exertion. Prolonged control could have actually killed him, and his powers eventually did lead to a tumor. But a resurgent Kilg%re saved Max by beaming his consciousness into a robot version of Lord Havok, a cyborg villain from a parallel Earth.
Connection to Wonder Woman
Lord got better.
Seriously, there wasn’t even much of a retcon to DC taking him out of the robot body. The Lord Havok storyline happened shortly before the big-7 relaunch of JLA under Grant Morrison, and Lord was mostly forgotten for the better part of a decade. When he came back, he was human-esque again, with a vendetta against superheroes, so he took over Checkmate (one of the big time DC clandestine services). He was further retconned to be working against the heroes all the way back to his initial introduction, gathering intel on how to stop metahumans and making sure that the Justice League was bickering and ineffective. The man who discovered this was Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, and he was promptly shot in the head by Lord himself for discovering it.
Lord then gained control over Brother Eye, a monitoring satellite with an AI brain tracking all metahuman activity on Earth and deploying OMAC nanites, turning regular humans into OMACs to battle the metas. He used his mind control powers to manufacture a fight between Superman and Wonder Woman, and when Diana caught him in her lasso and demanded to know how to turn his mind control off, he said “Kill me.” So she did, by twisting his neck all the way around. It was caught on camera and broadcast to the world, causing a rift between Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman that played a huge role in the events of Infinite Crisis.
This wasn’t Lord’s last run-in with Diana. He was resurrected by the White Lantern following the events of Blackest Night, and spent a good year being hounded by his former team while trying to manufacture a way to kill her. Still on his anti-metahuman kick, Lord put a great deal of effort into reassembling his old Justice League International team, and used OMACs under his control to battle them after they revealed Diana’s location. He failed, and this story is almost immediately followed by the Flashpoint continuity reset that turns Lord into a generic criminal/spy mastermind.
Max Lord in the Movies
So what do we think is going to make the trip to the big screen with Pedro Pascal? From the looks of the trailer, a lot.
Max narrates a good portion of the trailer, and his message is a lot of prosperity gospel, self help sleaze. This and the setting seem to indicate that the movie will be leaning heavily on that initial conception of Max as an ’80s scumbag tycoon. But there are a couple of things that stand out in the trailer that point towards something else going on with him. There’s the gemstone that he’s holding at his desk, and the look on his face as he walks out of his office, that seems to indicate something more to his perspective than simple greed. There’s the shot of him in the crazy machine, which calls to mind something amplifying his powers. And then there’s Wonder Woman using her tiara to destroy surveillance cameras in the mall as Max’s voice over runs – Lord’s early history in the comics would probably lend itself to a timely critique of surveillance. We’ll certainly learn more as the movie gets closer to release.
Justice League International (1987)
Lord’s first appearance is in background scenes of DeMatteis, Giffen, and Maguire’s Justice League relaunch, but he plays a driving role in the book for 100 issues. This is his foundational text. For a large chunk of it, it’s also a terrifically fun superhero comic, with amazing art from Maguire. If you enjoy this, definitely check out Formerly Known as the Justice League, which acts as a sequel of sorts, only 20 years later.
The 1988 crossover is where Lord got his superpowers, and thus where a lot of his less entertaining characterizations grew out of.
Countdown to Infinite Crisis/The OMAC Project/Justice League: Generation Lost
These lead-ins to the sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths lay the groundwork for his future characterization, and his relationship with Diana. They are probably also going to be where Wonder Woman 1984 draws most of its inspiration for Max from.