Every bad guy thinks they’re the good guy in the story, but none more than DC Comics’ Maxwell Lord. An arrogant businessman whose life has been intertwined with the Justice League since the late ’80s, Lord has since played a pivotal role in one of DC’s biggest universe-shaking events. Most notably, Lord is known for making Wonder Woman cross a line she had never crossed before, and the repercussions were staggering.
Now we’ll see Maxwell Lord take on Diana Prince for the very first time in live-action in Wonder Woman 1984, played by Pedro Pascal. And we simply can’t wait. We got to see more of Lord at DC FanDome, so let’s meet the businessman-turned-supervillain so we have an idea of what new dangers might be in store for Wonder Woman in 2020. And be sure to also check out the first full look at Wonder Woman 1984’s Cheetah as well as the full DC FanDome Schedule.
These are the topics we’ll be covering here:
- Who Is Maxwell Lord?
- Maxwell Lord’s Origin
- Maxwell Lord’s Powers and Abilities
- Maxwell Lord and Wonder Woman
- Wonder Woman 1984: Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord
- Maxwell Lord in TV and Games
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Who Is Maxwell Lord?
When Maxwell Lord first showed up in the late ’80s, he was depicted as an ambitious and successful entrepreneur working behind the scenes to pull the strings of the Justice League. In time we would learn that Lord sees superheroes as a threat to humanity, and he believes, in his twisted way, that he is the man to protect the world from them.
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Maxwell Lord’s Origin
Maxwell Lord made his comics debut in 1987 in Justice League #1 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. The unruly new League included Guy Gardner, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, and more. This incarnation of the superhero group started as a far cry from the smooth-running Justice League you’re used to.
Lord was a powerful businessman who eventually won the trust of the unsuspecting members of the League (except Batman, because he’s Batman) and established the team with the new moniker Justice League International. Lord even introduced Booster Gold to the League’s ranks and struck up a friendship with members like Blue Beetle Ted Kord and the Martian Manhunter. Lord’s full story and motives wouldn’t be revealed until 1988 in Justice League International #12.
Readers discovered that Lord was under the influence of a malicious sentient computer, which had convinced him to manipulate the Justice League and attempt to replace the world’s leaders with androids, all in the name of world peace. Lord broke free of its power and destroyed it.
Maxwell Lord’s Powers and Abilities
Lord was originally just a non-powered, shrewd businessman who considered himself quite the genius. After the Invasion! crossover event in 1989, Lord learned that he had a new metahuman ability — a form of mind control that pushed people to heed his desires, but often at the cost of his own well-being if he pushed too hard. (Lord suffered anything from a nosebleed to a brain hemorrhage as the result of using this ability.)
Maxwell Lord can “nudge” the minds of almost anyone, even if they are aware of his manipulation. “I can take a mind that’s resistant,” he once explained to the Martian Manhunter, “and give it a little nudge… to move it in a direction more in line with my own purposes.”
Lord’s mind control ability eventually grew strong enough to influence powerful beings like Magog and Superman, given enough time and focus.
Maxwell Lord and Wonder Woman
Lord continued to work with and bankroll an offshoot of the Justice League for years, and it wasn’t until the massive comics event Infinite Crisis (2005) that his role as a ruthless villain was established.
His villainous turn was the result of the Infinite Crisis itself as it wreaked havoc on the universe and timeline. Rather than a friend to the League, Maxwell Lord was now its secret foe, and a formidable one at that. When his former friend Ted Kord discovered his plot to control all metahumans, Lord murdered him in cold blood with a bullet to the head. Lord then set his scheme in motion to protect the world from the menace of superheroes.
“Superman, Wonder Woman, the rest of them, they’ll kill us all,” declared Lord, “if we don’t kill them first.”
He took control of Superman’s mind, causing him to believe that he was fighting his worst enemies, when in reality the Man of Steel was attacking his friends and endangering bystanders. In Wonder Woman #219 (2005), Diana bound Lord with the Lasso of Truth and asked him how to stop the rampaging Superman. Lord responded, “Kill me.”
Seeing no other option, Wonder Woman snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck.
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She fell into Lord’s trap; he had set up a broadcast and the footage of his death was seen around the world. The shocked populace began to lose its faith in superheroes, Wonder Woman in particular, and even Batman and Superman turned their backs on Diana Prince for a short time.
Eventually, Maxwell Lord would return during the crossover events Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Justice League: Generation Lost.
In the current Rebirth continuity, Lord is the Black King of the covert ops group known as Checkmate and he re-assembled the original lineup of the Suicide Squad for the miniseries Justice League vs. Suicide Squad (2016). Once again believing his cause was noble and that he was the only one worthy of power, Lord had a plan to use the villains to access Amanda Waller’s base. Inside he gained control of the Heart of Darkness, amplifying his power so that Wonder Woman and the other heroes of the Justice League were utterly in his thrall. His quest to make the world safe in his hands was complete. As Eclipso’s darkness overpowered his control, it was only with the assistance of the Suicide Squad that the heroes returned to their senses, and Eclipso was driven away from Lord and the Earth. Lord is currently in Waller’s custody, her plans for him unknown.
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Wonder Woman 1984: Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord
While we haven’t learned much about the role Lord will play in Wonder Woman 1984, the images and trailers seem to indicate that Pedro Pascal’s take on him is the slick businessman version of the character. (You can practically smell the leather in that 1980s luxury car.) Will this Max Lord be friend or foe, businessman or supervillain? And will he force Wonder Woman to make a decision that might change her life? Will he somehow work with Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva/Cheetah in the film? We’ll find out when Wonder Woman 1984 is released on October 2, 2020.
Maxwell Lord in TV and Games
- TV: While Lord has appeared in animated form before in Justice League Unlimited, he has also crossed into live-action more than once. He was seen in Smallville and had a notable role in the first season of Supergirl, in which he was portrayed with dubious motives until he had a change of heart, ultimately helping the Girl of Steel.
- Games: Surprisingly enough, Maxwell Lord has never appeared in a videogame… yet!
It remains to be seen exactly how Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord will figure into Wonder Woman 1984. Until the film is released, let’s discuss in the comments! What do you think he’s up to in the movie?
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Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who also contributes to StarWars.com, DCComics.com, Nerdist, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, and comics.