Since their introduction in Justice League of America #29 in 1964, the Crime Syndicate of America has always been involved in stories that have huge consequences. From the very moment Ultra-Man, Power Woman, Owlman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring arrived on the scene, the Syndicate always seemed to pave the way for some of the greatest challenges the heroes of the DC Universe ever faced.
Perhaps this is why Geoff Johns chose the Syndicate as the big bads of the New 52’s first line-wide “event” story, Forever Evil…because longtime readers know that when the Crime Syndicate appears, major chaos is to follow. Let’s face it, the DCU doesn’t feel exactly right without the ominous threat of Ultra-Man, Power Woman, Owlman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring hanging over the heads of DC’s pantheon of heroes. Here are five major instances where the Syndicate brought a special brand of evil to the DCU.
“Crisis on Earth-Three” Justice League of America #29 (1964)Writer: Gardner Fox Artist: Mike Sekowsky
When the Crime Syndicate first appeared to take on both the Justice League and Justice Society, fans knew they were witnessing something special. Firstly, this story was the first time DC fans got to witness a parallel Earth other than Earth-Two. Earth-Three showed DC readers that when it came to the Multiverse, anything goes, including thuggish and twisted reflections of the familiar heroes of the JLA. It can be argued that this was the first truly cosmic story in the modern DCU. The Syndicate attacked Earth-One and Earth-Two because they were bored with the control they had on their own world. In other words, they already broke everything good and right in their reality. Now those are villains. Their arrogance cost them, and they were overwhelmed by the JLA and JSA and imprisoned in an other-dimensional prison by Green Lantern.
“Crisis On Earth-Prime” All Star Squadron #14-15, Justice League of America #207-209 (1982)Writer: Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas Artists: Don Heck and Adrian Gonzalez
A story that was ahead of its time in 1982, “Crisis on Earth-Prime” crossed over between the Justice League of America, All-Star Squadron, and the JSA of Earth 2. This is old hat for readers of today, but back in the 80s, such an event was unheard of. Time travelling Nazi menace Per Degaton freed the Syndicate from Jordan’s prison in order to conquer Earth-Prime. Earth-Prime was actually the world in which the DC readers lived on…our world. Yes, the Crime Syndicate invaded reality. Now, that’s badass. It took the combined might of the All Stars, the JSA, and the JLA to stop the Syndicate from destroying the world YOU actually live on.
Stories don’t come any bigger than Crisis on Infinite Earths. So, of course in a story this big, the Syndicate played a part in the opening shots. Readers knew this was a huge story, because whenever the Syndicate appeared, cosmic chaos was sure to follow. So how big would a story be if in its opening moments, the Crime Syndicate was destroyed? When readers previously saw the Syndicate, it took three super teams to bring them down. Once, it took the combined might of Earth-One and Earth-Two’s Superman just to take down Ultraman! But here was a crisis that easily erased the Syndicate from existence. It can be said the Syndicate’s greatest moment was the moment they died, as it showed readers that the series they were about to endure had lasting and permanent consequences. Or at least as permanent as comic books get anyway.JLA: Earth 2 (2000)Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Frank Quitely
No one does bigger better than Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, so for Morrison’s hardcover magnum opus, Earth 2, it was only natural he turned to the Syndicate for his biggest story involving the JLA. Earth 2 reintroduced the Crime Syndicate into post-Crisis DC continuity. It was the same concept as the Silver Age Syndicate (bored overlords of a corrupt world) but with that special Morrison spin. Some consider this book the first great superhero comic of the 21st century, and it certainly spotlighted the heights Morrison and Quitely can reach given the right stage. The story sees the Syndicate arriving in the JLA’s reality and obliterating Washington before easily being stopped by Aquaman and Martian Manhunter because they are now in a world that desires order and justice. Meanwhile, the JLA struggles to survive on the Crime Syndicate’s world gone wrong. Quitely came up with slick new designs for the Syndicate and the story reads just as well thirteen years later.
The Crime Syndicate’s attraction to huge stories even burst them from the confines of the DC Universe! After Earth 2, the first time the Syndicate popped up was when they attacked the anti-matter universe of Qward…out of boredom. While they were there wreaking havoc, there was some kind of reality reboot which, among other things, turned Power Ring into an African-American making him a twisted reflection of John Stewart rather than Hal Jordan. It turns out that the reboot happened as a direct result of the fallout of the events of JLA/Avengers written by Busiek with art by George Perez. Yes, the Avengers (you may have heard of them) directly led to major changes in the Syndicate. The Syndicate went on to conquer Qward, and things got even bigger. The Qwardians build a weapon called the Void Hound and used it to pursue them, destroying countless galaxies in the process. Yeah, that kind of big.