What are heroes without villains? To follow up with my Rebooting the Justice League post, where I treated those characters to a more extreme reboot than DC’s “New 52,” I thought it would be fun to take a look at a redesigned villain team to oppose my redesigned Justice League:
Make sure to read the previous post, as I’ll be referencing plot points I set up there. All of these characters are part of the Legion of Doom, a group organized specifically to oppose the Justice League.
Origin: Lex Luthor is a self-made man. Born in the slums of Metropolis, he pulled himself out of poverty and was accepted with a full scholarship to MIT, though he soon dropped out to start his own business, LexCorp. Luthor’s company soon became the most influential in the country, the leader in both consumer and military technologies. His business practices were less than honest, however, and his further rise to power increasingly involved more dubious dealings. Upon the arrival of Superman, however, and his clear message of standing up to those who would abuse their power, Luthor became concerned. He didn’t understand where this person came from or how he was seemingly invincible, but he would find out.
To keep Superman and other heroes away from his most important dealings, Luthor devised two plans. First, he worked with the CIA to create Power Girl, a metahuman counter to Superman who would join the Justice League and watch over them. The second was a far more sinister and secret plan: to fund a team of supervillains to occupy the League’s time, a "Secret Society." No one but Luthor and a single Society member knew he was ultimately behind their organization.
Notes: Luthor’s a pretty great foil to Superman already, so I didn’t want to change much. I prefer his depiction as a corporate mogul instead of a mad scientist, especially since it fits with my Superman’s proletarian leanings. This, however, doesn’t mean that Luthor isn’t a technical genius, it’s just that his goals are bigger than just inventing things. Visually I wanted someone who looked pretty friendly, nerdy fellow, like a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. He’s a famous guy and his personal image is strongly tied to the success of his company, so he’d try hard to suppress any notion that he’s anything but perfect. Then comes Superman, who’s this media darling, and it really gets to Luthor. Not only is this guy out to stop Luthor and his kind, but he’s doing it with a squeaky clean image.
Cornelius “Gorilla” Grodd
Origin: LexCorp geneticist Cornelius Grodd was tasked with reproducing Superman’s regenerative abilities and invulnerability. When he learned that his professional rival at S.T.A.R. labs, Ananth Patil, had made greater strides in this, Grodd sabotaged Patil’s work (unwittingly turning him into the Flash) and stole a sample of what he believed to be a serum for reproducing Superman’s invulnerability. After thorough testing and modification, Grodd concluded that the serum would work, and would also easily double his intelligence. He also concluded that only he should possess such power, and took the serum himself. It did increase his intellect, but instead of invulnerability, Grodd’s body was turned into an early hominid-like form. Disgraced, he turned to Luthor for aid, who offered him a new mission in exchange for the funding needed to undo his disfigurement: create a supervillain group to keep Superman occupied. Grodd knows he’s being used, but for the meantime plays along before making a direct action against Luthor.
Powers: Grodd possesses slightly higher than human strength, but his main ability is his cunning intellect and ability to hypnotize and control those with whom he makes eye contact.
Notes: Grodd’s a fun character and everyone loves an evil gorilla, but I wanted to have an appearance that wasn’t so on the nose about it. I decided for kind of a Planet of the Apes appearance, and went with a backstory that meshed with that. He’s also a guy who’s now as smart as or smarter than Luthor, with the same sort of ambition, and I wanted to preserve the classic semi-rivalry between these two villains.
Metallo (John Corben)
Origin: LexCorp wasn’t the only company bidding for the government’s superhuman contract. Cadmus Labs also had a candidate for the “answer” to Superman, but while Lex Luthor’s project was simply to make their own superhuman, Cadmus took a darker route by creating a weapon explicitly designed to kill Superman. In place of a life sentence, mass murderer John Corben signed on to be one of Cadmus’s experiments. Project Metallo involved grafting him to a mechanical body, one that was powered by a mysterious meteor that they had been observed to weaken Superman. When Metallo was rejected by the government in favor of Power Girl, Cadmus made plans to dismantle him, but Corben managed to escape. Soon, however, he was intercepted by the Grodd, and offered an opportunity to join the Society so that he could fulfill the one action that would truly give him pleasure (thanks to Cadmus’s conditioning): fighting Superman.
Powers: Metallo possesses superhuman durability and strength, as well as a limited armament and the ability to fly short distances via rockets. His most distinctive attribute, however, is the power source in his chest: a fragment of Krypton, which fell to Earth along with Kal-El’s rocket years ago. The reason it causes harm to Superman is that when Colu sets out to destroy a species, it reforms their planets into a substance that unmakes them, specifically. As such, a fragment of the reconstituted Krypton (“Kryptonite,” if you will) unravels Kal-El’s very being. Metallo is also capable of firing a beam of Kryptonite radiation from his chest or eyes (when his faceplate is down).
Notes: Criminal experimentation seemed like a natural way to go with Metallo. I also like the notion that Lex Luthor actually didn’t come up with the most evil way to deal with Superman (at least at first). Visually I wanted Metallo to look a bit clunky and retro; there’s some Iron Giant and Big O in there, as well as a creepy glowing skull. He’s meant to look like he can take and give a pounding. The origin I’ve given him isn’t far removed from his original, just a little closer to something from the Robocop movies.
Livewire (Leslie Willis)
Origin: Leslie Willis first gained notoriety on the reality TV show I’m a Superhero, Get Me Out of Here, where contestants were given a superhero name, powers, and forced to live together in Miami. When she discovered she would soon be voted off the show, Willis concocted a plan to increase her popularity by “going evil,” and proceeded to murder the other contestants and film crew. The plan worked, and “Livewire” continued to garner fame with a violent life of crime. She joined the Secret Six primarily because it would increase her exposure and chances of killing a popular hero. However, if that doesn’t turn out, Livewire has a backup plan where she will “turn good” at the last minute and help the Justice League.
Powers: Livewire’s gauntlets and helmet allow her to control electromagnetic fields. This mostly involves firing bolts of electricity and a rudimentary usage of magnetism to bend or throw metal.
Notes: Livewire’s original origin (as a shock jock) seemed a little too early 90s, but I do like the idea of an obnoxious egomaniac angle, so I went with the reality show backstory. In a world where Superman and other heroes are a new thing, you’d expect media outlets to capitalize on the hype. Livewire’s motivations aren’t too far removed from modern non-celebrities of that type, she’s only taken it to extremes. Visually, I wanted her outfit to be provocative before it’s practical. This is a character who is more concerned about being photographed than having combat-ready clothing.
Giganta (Doris Zeul)
Origin: The appearance of Superman and others sparked somewhat of a superhuman arms race worldwide, with nations concerned about their enemies gaining super soldiers of their own. A high price was offered, for example, for anyone who could navigate to the Amazonian island, Themiscyra, and recover its relics. Many treasure hunters lept at the opportunity, but only the mercenary Doris Zeul and her team were able to successfully navigate to Themiscyra. Although her companions were killed by the various traps left by the Amazons, Zeul survived and found a suit of armor said to contain the power of Ares. Deciding the claim the armor for her own, Zeul now works for the highest bidder, and that bidder is the Secret Society.
Powers: Fueled by rage, Giganta’s armor enhances her fighting skills and physical stature, as well as raise her strength and durability. Generally, the longer a fight goes on, the more indestructible she becomes.
Notes: Wonder Woman needed someone to sword fight, so I went with a little-used origin of Giganta that involved her being more of an Amazonian foil than a lady with growing powers. I also wanted to keep the origins of the characters diverse, and liked the idea of some powers-that-be trying to replicate Wonder Woman’s powers instead of Superman’s. Visually, I wanted Giganta to contrast with Wonder Woman while still having Greco-Roman vibes. I used a gladiator style to help distinguish her as someone who revels in combat and power, while Wonder Woman is more of a peacekeeper.
Sinestro (Evan Qward)
Origin: Midori Ota was not the first on Earth to possess the Oan “green lantern.” Years earlier, another person, Dr. Evan Qward, first received it, but he quickly came to abuse its power, hoping to rule over the Earth with what he deemed a divine gift. The Oan lantern, however, was built with a failsafe against such abuse and disappeared from Qward’s possession, in search of a new host. Soon Qward was driven mad, having become addicted to the power, and spent the rest of his life trying to replicate the abilities of the lantern. Having recently discovered there is a new person using his former “gift,” Qward has taken up with the Secret Society under the name Sinestro in order to kill this new Green Lantern and reclaim what is rightfully his.
Powers: Sinestro has designed a suit and power supply meant to mimic the Green Lantern’s abilities, though it does not exactly achieve this. Instead, he can only deconstruct and manipulate nonliving matter with yellow rays from his gloves.
Notes: I think Sinestro is an important component of the Green Lantern mythos, as he represents the temptation that comes with such power and how easily it can be abused. Although his origin here is fairly different from the original, I think I’ve still kept the essential element of him being a “fallen” Green Lantern who thinks that power should be used to rule over people rather than serve them. While originally his antagonism was mostly an ideological one (since he still had his own power ring), here I’ve added a more direct motivation: he wants his lantern back. I like the notion of such power being addictive. After all, I imagine losing the ability to make whatever you imagine come to life would make anyone pretty angry. Visually, I didn’t want to stray too far from the original Sinestro. He’s a basically an evil Green Lantern, so that should stay the same.
Parasite (Madame Vandal)
Origin: Shortly before their fateful visit to Mars, Kryptonian explorers briefly visited Earth to determine if its inhabitants were ready for “modification.” After a brief experimentation, it was determined that humans were too savage in their present state, and the Kryptonians erased the evidence of their arrival before moving on to Mars. One experiment lived, however, and found that she could prolong her life by absorbing the “life force” of those around her. As time went on, the power did dwindle and she found she had to more and more frequently absorb others to maintain her life. This persisted for over a thousand years, when she encountered Grodd, who wished her to join the Secret Society in exchange for research into her “condition.” Madame Vandal’s story of alien abduction is not believed (and she never quite remembers it correctly), but she is nevertheless welcomed, as she is indisputably the most powerful member of the Secret Society.
Powers: Vandal has the ability to leech energy from others through physical contact. This rejuvenates her, as well as temporarily elevates her strength and vitality to whatever she’s touched. This effectively makes her as powerful as Superman while fighting him. To fully maintain her presumed immortality, Vandal has to completely drain a person until they die. Also, with some concentration, she can absorb non-biological energy as well (such as kinetic or electrical) and redirect it at her command.
Notes: I combined Parasite’s abilities with a more Vandal Savage origin story, as I think the two work well together. Visually I wanted someone who didn’t look very imposing, hiding their true power. Parasite here is almost like a vampire, slinking in the shadows and lasting as long as she has because most people don’t know her true nature.
Huntress (Helena Bertinelli)
Origin: Daughter of a prominent Gotham crime boss, Helena Bertinelli watched her family gunned down during a mafia war. Living in hiding with a foster family, she grew to despise organized crime in all its forms. When she came of age, Helena idolized Batman and wished to gain his favor by taking on the persona of Batgirl. However, Batman was concerned about her brutal methods of crime fighting, and told her he couldn’t waste time training such a person when there is a growing superhuman concern. Still wanting his approval, Helena created a new villain persona, the Huntress, and joined the ranks of the Secret Society with the intent of exposing their mysterious financier. She reasoned that superhumans loyal to the government or a corporate force were far more dangerous than the Justice League, and intends to dismantle their operation by whatever means she can.
Powers: Huntress is an expert in hand-to-hand combat and ranged weaponry. Her goggles allow her night vision and infrared tracking, and her body armor is designed specifically to absorb concussive blows, as well as redirect energy known to be used by many metahumans. Her preferred weapons are a crossbow and collapsible sword.
Notes: I wanted to have one character who rode the line a bit, and the Huntress is a good candidate. While obviously not a real villain, Huntress is to the Secret Society what Power Girl is to the Justice league, at least in that she has ulterior motives. Visually, I wanted someone who took after Batman, so most of what’s she’s wearing is a more practical version of her regular costume. I’m not a fan of people with secret identities and exposed hair, so I gave her a full mask and cut her hair short to fit. I liked the religious imagery of her original costume but felt hanging crosses were a little too on the nose, so I went with a priest’s collar and an overall look that sort of resembles a cardinal.
And there’s my Secret Society! I wanted to have a combination of personalities that would play well with each other, as well as give the Justice League appropriate foils in combat. Most importantly, I wanted the backstories, characters and designs to be fresh and get people interested in some of these (often obscure) supervillains. Tell me what you think!