When audiences watch Wonder Woman 1984, many of them will be introduced to a sleazy businessman named Maxwell Lord, played by Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian). When they do though, many will ask the question of “Who is Maxwell Lord?”
Maxwell Lord was introduced in Justice League #1 (1987), by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire during their “Bwa-Ha-Ha” era of Justice League, which is known for taking a more comical approach to the superhero team. Max was portrayed as a shady, opportunistic businessman, but it was revealed he was taken over by a villainous computer. When he was freed of it’s control, he became more amoral, but he grew to become more heroic as the series went on. You may be wondering how a character from a comic known for its humor ended up in a movie within the more down-to-earth universe like the DCEU, but that is due to Infinite Crisis.
During Infinite Crisis, Batman created a spy system called “Brother Eye”, which Maxwell Lord, as leader of the superhero organization Checkmate, wanted to take over. His former Justice League teammate Blue Beetle caught on, and Max executed him. During this event, Max’s previously weak psychic powers were increased, and he was revealed to be secretly evil during the entirety of his DC history, including during the “Bwa-Ha-Ha” era Justice League, and its sequel series’ Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, with the latter two being developed during the same time as Infinite Crisis. Last year, when J.M. DeMatteis was asked about it, he posted on Twitter “People have been asking if I was disturbed when Max Lord was turned into a villain. Yes and no. Yes, because it didn’t fit our vision of the character; no because that’s the way it works in comics.” A few months ago, he elaborated on this by saying “When we started out on that book they were somebody else’s characters, so somebody else was complaining about what we did… “ he went on the say “…that’s the nature of the beast in comics, and those stories, I’ve kind of felt, exist in their own universe anyway.”
Maxwell Lord’s first time facing Wonder Woman was during Infinite Crisis, where he took over Superman with his psychic powers. Wonder Woman realized the only way Superman would be freed was if she killed Max, so she snapped his neck. This was hugely impactful on the Wonder Woman mythos and caused tension between her, Superman, and Batman.
Maxwell Lord was a part of Geoff Johns’ and Dan Jurgens’ Booster Gold series from 2007 because Booster Gold went back in time in order to stop Blue Beetle from being murder by Max Lord. Booster Gold was unable to do this because Blue Beetle’s death is one of the events within DC Comics history which is unable to be changed by time travel. The series explained it by showing the world being significantly worse when it happens, but later stories explain that history is set back on course whenever someone attempts to change that specific moment.
Maxwell Lord shows up next in the 2009 storyline Blackest Night, where he is revived as a Black Lantern. He goes on to try and terrorize Wonder Woman, but she easily dispatches him and turns him to dust. He was later brought back to life during the events of Brightest Day (2010), where he tries to expand his mental powers.
He then uses his powers to make the world forget that he exists, but some members of the former Justice League International remember him, and it is revealed that Deadman remembers him as well. Lord discredits the heroes who remember him and warns them not to come looking for him. The members of the Justice League International fight him, and under duress, Maxwell Lord undoes the damage he did.
When DC continuity was remade in the New 52, Maxwell Lord was the leader of Checkmate and the Black King. His ties to the Justice League International were erased, and in this universe, he was always evil. He stole Brother Eye from Batman, but something goes on and an OMAC is created who seeks vengeance. During Rebirth, Lord assembles a team consisting of Doctor Polaris, Emerald Empress, Johnny Sorrow, Rustam of Prime Earth, and Lobo. He assembles the team in order to take down Amanda Waller. Lord succeeded, stole the Heart of Darkness, and took over the Justice League.
When Waller brings Maxwell Lord to realize the Heart of Darkness is controlling him, Lord tries to remove it, but it proves unsuccessful. Maxwell Lord using the Heart of Darkness changed him into Eclipso, but Eclipso is driven out of him by Killer Frost.
Due to the time period of Wonder Woman 1984, it can be assumed that this version of Max resembles the villainous version of him when he was mind-controlled during the beginning issues of Justice League, although there is nothing concrete we know about this version of Max. I guess we can find out on December 25th when it releases in theaters and on HBO Max.