Fictional character biography
Maxwell Lord IV is the son of Maxwell Lord III, a successful businessman and head of the Chimtech Consortium. Maxwell III set out to be a good example for his son by striving to always do what was right. When Maxwell IV was 16, he came home to find his father dead in an apparent suicide. His father had discovered that his company had produced a highly carcinogenic product, and could not bear to live with the guilt and shame caused by the realization.
Lord's mother was convinced by her husband to employ a similar practice, cajoling heroic metahumans to help Lord. Thus, he sparked the plans to bring the Justice League, leaderless and broken after the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, under his exclusive control.
Giffen and DeMatteis years
Lord initially works behind the scenes to establish the Justice League, while under the control of a villainous computer created by Metron. The computer wanted Lord to set up a worldwide peacekeeping organization as part of its plan to dominate the world.
A later retcon changed his controller to the villainous computer program Kilg%re (pronounced Kilgore), which had taken over Metron's machine. A much later, post-Infinite Crisis retcon mitigated the Kilg%re's and the New Gods' influence, stating that Lord already had plans for taking over the League, and that he would have pursued them regardless.
Lord's ruthlessness at this time is illustrated when he sets up a disturbed would-be terrorist as a villain for the League to defeat, resulting in the man's death (the would-be terrorist believed he had a bomb connected to his heartbeat, but in fact Lord had disconnected it). Later, however, Lord rebels against the computer and (seemingly) destroys it.
Once free of the computer's influence, Lord is portrayed as an amoral businessman, but not a real villain. During the time that Giffen and DeMatteis were writing the Justice League, Lord is shown struggling with his conscience and developing heroic qualities, though he would remain a con-artist.
Originally a normal human, Lord is one of many people on Earth gifted with superpowers during the Invasion crossover, when a Gene Bomb is exploded by alien invaders. This bomb activates a latent metagene present in a small percentage of Earthlings. Lord gains the ability to control the minds of others, albeit at great difficulty. Despite being a metahuman himself, Lord never feels like one; instead, his omnipresent mother pressures him to act for the benefit of non-powered individuals, shifting his never-ending hatred from the generic "authority figures" who caused his father's death to the metahuman community.
After he is shot and placed in a coma at the start of the 15-part JLAmerica/JLEurope crossover Breakdowns, Dreamslayer, a supervillain who (with the aid of the Extremists) had once destroyed all life on the Extremists' planet, takes over Lord's body and supercharges Lord's power, allowing him to control thousands of minds at once. Using Lord's body and power, he causes the Justice League International (JLI) to lose its charter and almost forces it to disband. While the possessed Lord forces the JLI to battle itself, the mortally wounded Silver Sorceress manages to contain Dreamslayer, and holds him within her mind as she dies, taking him with her. When Lord is freed, his power is burnt out.
Lord reflects on his time with the League.
Later, Lord is diagnosed with a brain tumor and seemingly dies. Kilgre, however, had been waiting patiently for the right moment to reactivate its control of Lord. Kilgre downloads his consciousness into a duplicate of one of the Extremist robots, Lord Havok (in a further retcon the body is said to be a New Genesis-built automaton, which later fell into Checkmate's possession). In this form, he spends some time testing the League for unknown reasons. He also takes control of the secret organization known as the Arcana. His cyborg body later comes to resemble his original human form.
Lord pulls together several former JLI members, including L-Ron, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and Fire as the "Super Buddies", advertised as "Heroes the common man could call." These stories are told in the six-issue miniseries Formerly Known as the Justice League in 2003, and its 2005 sequel, I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League.
During the JLI-era, Doomsday causes the death of Superman among others. Ultimately, due to Mongul's invasion and destruction of Coast City, Maxwell loses his mother, still residing in their Coast City home. This event fuels his hatred and paranoia against the metahumans, as well as leading him to believe that not only can metahumans not be trusted, but that their personal battles and scuffles are enough to shatter world safety.
In Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis (2004), Lord attends Sue Dibny's funeral and speaks to Booster Gold, further denting his already dwindling faith in superheroes.
Lord shoots Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle. Art by Phil Jimenez
The 2005 80-page one-shot Countdown to Infinite Crisis reveals that Lord is no longer a cyborg, and is apparently a criminal mastermind who spent years running the JLI while gathering sensitive information about the world's superheroes, whom he considered a threat to the planet. Simultaneously, he sabotaged JLI efforts in order to render the superhero team as ineffectual as possible. At the end of the prologue special issue, he shoots and kills one-time JLI member, Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle, when the hero discovers Lord's secret and refuses to join Lord.
During this time, Alexander Luthor, Jr., the god-like son of Lex Luthor from an alternate Earth, gives Lord control over Batman's Brother Eye, a satellite system Batman created to monitor all superhuman contact. Lord uses Brother Eye to create an army of OMACs (humans infected with a nano-virus that transformed them into cyborgs), programmed to hunt down and kill all superhumans.
Lord also uses his powers to influence Superman's mind, causing him to brutally beat Batman in the belief that he is Brainiac. Lord subsequently sends Superman to attack Wonder Woman after making him believe that she is his old enemy Doomsday, and that she is trying to find Lois Lane in order to kill her. Lord justifies the resulting destruction as proof of his argument about the dangers of superhumans, pointing out the devastation that Wonder Woman and Superman could cause if they fought in a crowded area, and arguing that the fact that Superman can be brought under another's control is evidence that superhumans cannot be relied upon. In the midst of her battle with Superman, Diana realizes that even if she defeats him, he would still remain under Lord's absolute mental control. She creates a diversion lasting long enough for her to race back to Lord's location and demand that he tell her how to free Superman from his control. Bound by her lasso of truth, Lord replies, "Kill me." Wonder Woman then snaps his neck (The OMAC Project, 2005). In response, Brother Eye broadcasts the footage of Wonder Woman killing Lord all over the world, destroying her reputation and her friendship with Batman and Superman, who reject her despite the fact that she saved their lives. As the crisis unfolds, the three eventually reconcile as Diana helps Superman talk down his other self and prevents Batman from shooting Alexander Luthor, Jr., accepting that Diana did what she had to do and acknowledging that, for all their differences, they all still want justice.
At the "Crisis Counseling" panel at Wizard World Chicago, Dan DiDio explained DC's reasoning in using Lord's character in Infinite Crisis. After going through several possible characters who could be the "new leader for the offshoot of Checkmate", Maxwell Lord was suggested. Many of the editors thought that the idea made sense, as Lord had been shown to have a mean streak and to have killed previously. The idea was dropped due to the continuity errors, such as him being a cyborg, but they went back to it later after deciding none of the other possible characters were suitable. "We thought about that aspect of the story [where Maxwell was turned into a cyborg] some more," DiDio explained. "And then asked, 'Did anyone read it?' No. 'Did anyone like the idea?' No. So we moved ahead with Max as being a human, and having been a human, and not letting that small part of the past stand in the way of this story. We wanted what was best for Countdown [to Infinite Crisis], and for us, that meant that Max had to be a human."
One Year Later
Lord reappeared in 2007 in the first two story arcs of the new Booster Gold series by Geoff Johns and Dan Jurgens. At the end of the 52 Pick-Up story arc, Booster Gold and Blue Beetles from the past, present and future go back in time to Countdown to Infinite Crisis and prevent Lord from killing Ted Kord. In the subsequent Blue and Gold story arc, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold discover that, in saving Ted Kord, they have created a new timeline where Lord was never killed by Wonder Woman and Lord's OMACs, and that a mind-controlled Superman has turned the entire planet into a police state. Lord reveals that he had been returned to human form after dozens of clandestine operations and that he learned the importance of control during that time. When Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, having assembled their old JLI teammates, storm Brother Eye, Lord is killed by Dr. Light when she blasts a hole through his chest. Ted Kord realizes that his death is the only way to fix the timestream and leaves the battle, seemingly to return to the past and accept his death.
Lord next makes an appearance in the Trinity maxi-series (2008-9). Lord's skull is stolen by a group called the Dreambound and brought to Morgaine Le Fey for usage in a spell, which requires an item connected to Wonder Woman.
During the Blackest Night (2009–10) storyline, Maxwell Lord is identified as one of the deceased people entombed below the Hall of Justice. Lord's corpse is revived as a Black Lantern during the event. Targeting Wonder Woman, he lures her to Arlington National Cemetery with a trail of slaughtered bodies. When Wonder Woman arrives, he springs a trap, using black rings to revive the bodies of fallen soldiers. Wonder Woman uses her lasso to reduce Lord and the soldiers to dust. However, as she leaves, the dust begins to regenerate. Some time later, Lord resumes his attack on Wonder Woman, who had recently been deputized as a Star Sapphire. Wonder Woman encases Lord's body in a violet crystal, then shatters it to pieces. However, Lord continues to taunt her, speaking out of a piece of crystal. He is later brought back to life by the power of the White Light. Though Guy Gardner attempts to restrain him, Lord uses his mind control abilities to make Guy let him leave.
Lord is among the other resurrected heroes/villains featured in the Brightest Day (2010) series. He is first seen attempting to push his mind control powers further than ever, but severely injures himself in the attempt, despite his meticulous preparations, which include a constant blood supply and an ice pool. Later, Deadman's white power ring gives him a vision where Lord is shown shaking hands with Jaime Reyes, the third Blue Beetle. However, in this vision, Lord is hiding a gun behind his back, implying that Lord is planning to kill Reyes, just as Lord killed Reyes' predecessor, Ted Kord.
In the first issue of Justice League: Generation Lost, Lord is the subject of an unprecedented international manhunt. He is found hiding in the old Justice League International embassy by Booster Gold, whom Lord is able to defeat. Lord then uses a device to amplify his mind control powers to unprecedented levels. With these, he erases the world's memory of his existence. Initially, it appears that only his former Justice League colleagues Booster Gold, Ice, Fire, and Captain Atom remember Max. It is later revealed in Brightest Day #8 that Deadman also remembers his existence. Lord uses his powers to disgrace the team, having Fire ousted from Checkmate, Captain Atom turned in as a fugitive for betraying the U.S. Army, and Ice isolated from Guy Gardner, who Lord causes to believe that she tried to kill him. He also influences the superhero community into believing Ted Kord committed suicide, which enrages Booster Gold. He then sends OMACs after the current Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, who calls Booster Gold and the others for help. Meanwhile, Lord discovers that his resurrection has come with a side effect: some of his efforts to control others' minds transform his targets into cadavers wearing Black Lantern uniforms. Contacting his former colleagues through a fallen Rocket Red's armor, Lord reveals that he intentionally exempted them from the worldwide mindwipe, and that he wants them to protect the world as they did in the old days. He then warns the group not to come looking for him, unaware that Blue Beetle had located his transmission signal.
Captain Atom tells the others that an explosion, seen in Brightest Day #1, propelled him briefly into the 24th century, where he saw a world reduced to a pre-industrial state by a metahuman war instigated by Lord. The team resolves to try to prevent Lord from bringing about this dystopia. Maxwell Lord is at one point contacted by the Entity, who tells him to stop Magog from plunging the world into war. Lord then sees a vision of himself, with Magog's staff, killing a distraught Magog, who begs for mercy. The Entity gives Lord a vision of a possible future where Magog's team attacks Parasite. In this vision, Parasite's absorption of Captain Atom causes an explosion that destroys everything within a large radius and annihilates over a million people (similar to the Kingdom Come future). Also, Power Girl witnesses her new enemy C.R.A.S.H. confronting Lord before heading towards the teleporter.
When the team next encounters Lord, after mind-controlling first Fire and then Booster Gold to prevent them from stopping him, he teleports from the old JLI embassy back to Checkmate, where he attempts to enlist Magog to kill Captain Atom. Lord uses technology to upgrade Magog's staff into emitting energy blasts. Meanwhile, Lord asks Professor Ivo to reprogram the Metal Men. He then asks Doctor Sivana to create a genetically engineered humanoid clone of Power Girl.
When Captain Atom and Magog battle in the heart of Chicago, Captain Atom is able to convince Magog that he's being used, After briefly receiving a White Ring, the recently returned Bruce Wayne seems to be aware of Max Lord's resurrection. When Captain Atom absorbs the energy from Magog's spear, he is propelled forward through time to 112 years in the future, where Lord, while long dead, has plunged humanity into a massive metahuman war ruled by OMACs. Captain Atom is eventually returned to the present, but not before a dying Power Girl tells him that the catalyst for all this was Wonder Woman's death by Lord's hand. Also, Batman (Damian Wayne) tells him how to stop Lord's ultimate plans. However, Lord is struck with the discovery that, with the exception of the original four ex-JLI members, no one in the world remembers Wonder Woman.
and Magog remembers Lord. Lord, watching, uses his powers to force Magog to kill himself. He then makes everyone believe that they watched Captain Atom murder Magog. The Entity proclaims that Lord has completed his task, and his life is restored to him.
Later, when the Creature Commandos attack the JLI embassy, Lord poses as a member. He captures Jaime Reyes, and heads towards the teleporter with him, while the others are unable to stop him. Lord regains his abilities to transform his targets into cadaver OMACs, and he tortures the captive Blue Beetle. Lord's mindwipes feed off psychic energy, so the more people who are around, the faster some of them will forget. In issue 19, the rest of the team locates Lord's secret facility in a submersible below the Sea of Japan. Seconds before the team reaches him, and as predicted by the White Ring, Lord shoots Jaime in the head (echoing his execution of Jaime's predecessor, Ted Kord). The JLI arrives and attacks Lord, but he escapes from the JLI in one of his headquarters' escape pods, and the headquarters vanishes.
While the JLI learns Jaime is alive, the team also learns that Lord not only manipulated them, but also wanted the JLI to chase him to distract Checkmate. Later, Lord uses a device to enhance his mental powers, turning people around the world into OMACs to attack Wonder Woman and the JLI. Before the device activates, Lord sends the OMAC Prime that he controls to attack the heroes. Booster Gold manages to locate Lord's flying headquarters, attacking it to confront him face-to-face. Lord gains the upper hand with his mental powers, but Captain Atom grabs him, after having become overloaded with quantum energy in the fight with OMAC Prime and about to be pulled into the timestream. Atom threatens to take Lord with him unless Lord undoes the global mindwipe, and a desperate Lord complies. Captain Atom is pulled away and Lord teleports to escape from the heroes. Later, he posts an online video where he blames Professor Ivo for Magog's rampage. He also says that he only wants to protect the world from the metahuman threat, and he will continue to do so in secret.
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, Max Lord still runs Checkmate as the Black King, but now has leadership seniority over Cadmus and its programs. He successfully captures Batman's superpower monitoring satellite, Brother Eye, for his own purposes, but it ends up creating an agent with which it would act through seeking vengeance. Lord ends up getting into heated battle with an all new OMAC who was formerly one of the project's employees.
Still the running head of Checkmate, Lord assembles a team consisting of Doctor Polaris, Emerald Empress, Johnny Sorrow, Rustam of Prime Earth, and Lobo to assist him in his efforts to take down Amanda Waller. He chose these five as they were the 'original' incarnation of the Suicide Squad, and hence have experience working as a team, prompting Waller to capture the Justice League to ask for their help against Lord. While most of the heroes and villains do not recognize Lord, the displaced pre-Flashpoint Superman shows awareness of him, reflecting on his past contact with Lord before reality was reset.
Although the combined forces of the League and the Squad are able to defeat Lord's allies, they are unable to prevent Lord from achieving his goal; with the aid of a controlled Killer Frost, Lord acquires the Heart of Darkness from a vault, using it to enhance his powers to "infect" (take control of) the League. Lord uses the infected Justice League (apart from Batman, who Lord did not infect) to achieve "peace" across America, and has Waller kidnapped and taken before him. However, despite believing that he had taken precautions to control the Heart, Lord is forced by Waller to recognize that it is manipulating his perceptions, using Lord's powers to spread chaos and evil across the world, and twisting Lord's perception of what is transpiring. When Waller is able to bring him to his senses, Lord tries to remove the Heart of Darkness, but it consumes him and transforms him into Eclipso. Eclipso is driven out of Lord when Killer Frost is able to use her powers to create a prism of ice, channeling Superman's heat vision at just the right frequency to disrupt Lord's hold on his slaves, with Lord subsequently being immobilized by Killer Frost. Lord awakens in a cell specially designed to hold him, with injectors pumping so much blood thinner into him that he would bleed to death if he attempted to access his powers. He mockingly asks Waller if she set this whole thing up just to 'justify' the Squad to the League, but Waller declines to reply, and simply informs him that he is to prepare himself for service on "Task Force XI".