When we talk about DC villains, we all have a pretty similar list in our heads. The Joker, Lex Luthor, Reverse Flash, Black Adam, Brainiac, Catwoman. But who is Maxwell Lord? He’s one of the low-key most dangerous villains of the DC universe and the businessman who acts as the primary antagonist of Wonder Woman 1984.
Maxwell Lord IV first appeared in May 1987’s Justice League #1, created by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. Since that first appearance, he’s appeared in DC’s live-action shows twice–portrayed by Gil Bellows on Smallville and Peter Facinelli on the first season of Supergirl. His highest-profile appearance yet, though, has Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian playing him.
A Brief Overview
It’s hard to pick out which of Lord’s special features makes him the most dangerous–his money or his telepathic abilities. In Lord’s original story, he was the son of businessman Maxwell Lord III. Lord III committed suicide when he found out his company was selling carcinogenic products and, at first, Lord wanted to do better with his family’s wealth.
That lasted until Lord was spelunking deep in a cavern where he found the dormant KILG%RE, a sentient alien computer initially defeated by the Flash. KILG%RE saw potential in Lord and exploited his ambition to help him establish the Justice League International, a worldwide version of the Justice League that included Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, and others.
KILG%RE manipulated Lord for a time into working to further its own goals. Eventually, though, Lord became wise to the computer’s manipulation and destroyed it. That move destroyed the cybernetic implants KILG%RE gave Lord to save his life, too, putting Lord in the hospital.
Later, though, Lord would be one of many affected by a Gene Bomb during the Invasion! Crossover. The bomb activated his latent metagene and gave him psychic powers that were as dangerous to him as others.
Each time Lord pushed his powers, he would get severe headaches and nosebleeds. This take on Lord would eventually turn into a cyborg.
Gone in a Snap
Around the time of Infinite Crisis, DC did a big reboot and Lord reappeared in his human form. He’s once again running the JLI but working in the background on a plan to kill all metahumans. He’s also the Black King of the spy organization Checkmate. Lord kills Blue Beetle when he discovers Lord’s plans. Lord then takes control of Batman’s Brother Eye satellite–Batman’s metahuman-monitoring satellite–to unleash OMAC drones upon the metahumans of Earth.
During this time, Lord uses his psychic powers to take control of Superman. Wonder Woman snaps Lord’s neck to save Superman, which the satellite then broadcast throughout the world.
In the Blackest Night storyline, the Black Lantern revives Lord, and he’s resurrected again in Brightest Day. There, the White Lantern Entity gives him the mission of killing Magog, whose existence would eventually lead to the dark future seen in Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come.
After Flashpoint, DC reset Lord to the position of the Black King of Checkmate, though the always-formidable Amanda Waller captured him and brought him into her Task Force XI program.
Powers and Abilities
Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord in Supergirl Season 1
The only power Lord was born with was the power of being extremely rich. He learned how to be a powerful businessman on his own, and later got his psychic powers from the Dominators during the Invasion! Storyline.
Lord’s telepathic powers all stem from the base of mind control. Lord influenced Superman by showing him hallucinations of his own enemy layered over heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman. Lord has manipulated memories, too, wiping his own identity from minds when it served his interests. He can scan minds as well. When he uses these powers, he bleeds from his nose and even from his eyes, mouth, and ears.
Max in Live-Action
Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman 1984
We’ve seen different versions of this character over the years. The version on Smallville emphasized his psychic powers, while Supergirl left those behind entirely to focus on him as a businessman and inventor, though this version shared the comics’ distrust for superpowered metahumans.
We only have the smallest details on the version we’ll see in WW84. Pedro Pascal’s take on the character has him promising people to deliver them their wildest dreams. And then we see Diana with Steve Trevor and Dr. Barbara Minerva turning into Cheetah. We see him looking at an iridescent crystal and in the White House press room seemingly wielding some telekinetic powers. It seems like this version of Maxwell Lord will be more than just Lex Luthor With Hair, and hopefully able to hold his own against Wonder Woman in a fight.
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