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CSBG Archive

Lorendiac’s “Timeline of Wonder Woman’s Killings, Post-Crisis”

Here is the archive of the lists Lorendiac posts here, and here is his latest!- BC.

It’s been over three years since Wonder Woman killed Max Lord and Superman gaped in horror at the spectacle. That’s enough time for our tempers to cool enough to let us look at the context in a calm, rational fashion . . . right?

The plain implication of Superman’s reaction was that he had never seen his friend Diana kill a sentient being before, he had never heard of her killing a sentient being before, and he had never believed that she might start doing such a thing in the foreseeable future, no matter how viciously dangerous a particular villain appeared to be! The entire concept came as a complete shock to him!

When considered in the context of all the other Wonder Woman stories which had been published since her Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Reboot, did that “plain implication” actually make any sense? Let’s look at the record!

Timeline of Wonder Woman’s Killings, Post-Crisis (First Draft)

Note: All listings for relevant issues of “Wonder Woman” in this Timeline refer to stories from the second series to use that title; the one that began shortly after “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and ended during “Infinite Crisis.” Most of the time I refer to her as “Diana” for the sake of simplicity, since she hasn’t always used the name “Wonder Woman.” For instance, she didn’t introduce herself to people that way during the first few issues of her Post-COIE series; but someone in the media finally invented it as a good superhero name for her and it stuck! Several years later, Artemis of the Bana-Mighdall Amazons was the official “Wonder Woman” for a while.

1987. Wonder Woman #4. Written by Greg Potter. George Perez is listed as the co-plotter.

Diana fights Decay (a daughter of Medusa, we are told), who has been ravaging the city of Boston and causing some deaths. Diana kills Decay, thus ending that reign of terror. She makes no attempt to keep the details secret-in fact, she couldn’t even if she wanted to, because the entire thing is captured on film by various journalists, with at least one TV cameraman assuring her she’s on “national television” when they attempt to interview her right after Decay explodes. (Since Diana does not yet speak fluent English at this point, the attempt to interview her doesn’t get very far.)

1987. Wonder Woman #5. Written by Len Wein. Plotted by George Perez.

Diana finds it necessary to kill Deimos, one of the sons of Ares, in the course of preventing nuclear holocaust. No news crews are on the scene this time, but Steve Trevor, Matthew Michaelis, Etta Candy, and Julia Kapatelis are all witnesses. In the next few issues of this series, we will be assured that Diana and the other survivors (Col. Michaelis died in battle) do their level best to spread the full story of what had really been going on during the first five issues of this series. There’s no indication that they tried to withhold any details about the fate of Deimos.

1987. Wonder Woman #10. Written by Len Wein. Plotted by George Perez.

Diana kills a dark, evil creature called Cottus with a spear through the heart. Cottus was capable of speaking coherent sentences, so it evidently was a sentient, living creature. (On the other hand, in the next issue Diana kills a Hydra, but I don’t remember it saying anything, so I’m inclined to call it a “deadly animal” rather than a “person,” and not give it a separate listing on this Timeline.)

1994. Wonder Woman #92. Written by William Messner-Loebs.

Diana seems to kill at least two, maybe more, of a group of “Harpies” which attacks her during a race which is part of a lengthy contest to determine who will be Wonder Woman from now on. Later in this issue, she also fights a “Medusa” (apparently not the original Gorgon of that name from the days of myth). Two other Amazons have been turned to stone by the Medusa before Diana comes along to save the day, and after the Medusa falls off a cliff those two seem to have been automatically restored to their normal flesh-and-blood conditions, so it appears that Diana killed the Medusa by making it fall, and thus broke the spell.

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Note: I don’t see the Harpies or the Medusa in this issue showing any language skills at all-and it was made clear to the reader that they were obstacles somehow placed along the course of the race by Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta, who wanted to ensure that her daughter lost this contest-so it’s possible that the monsters Diana fought were soulless magical constructs or some such thing, rather than “real persons.” Although even if they were soulless (which isn’t clear), I don’t think Diana knew that at the time she was fighting them in the heat of the moment. She didn’t seem too worried about it either.

1995. Wonder Woman #100. Written by William Messner-Loebs.

Diana kills Asquith Randolph, The White Magician, after he has mortally wounded Artemis (who has been the new Wonder Woman for the last several issues, ever since the end of that race I mentioned in the previous entry).

1996. Wonder Woman #112. Written by John Byrne.

Diana fights what she believes to be Doomsday, and finally decides to put on the Gauntlet of Atlas long enough to multiply her already-incredible strength by a factor of ten so she can hit Doomsday extra-hard. Doomsday shatters into dust as soon as Diana lands the first multiplied-tenfold punch on him. Superman arrives on the scene just in time to see that happen. He mentions being being impressed by the strength Diana has just exhibited, but doesn’t seem upset about the killing of “Doomsday” in the interval before he realizes the dust it became isn’t even organic. (It turned out the whole thing was a “virtual clone,” electronically created. Long story. For my purposes, the point is that Diana had no inkling of all that when she struck “Doomsday” with her normal super-strength magnified by a factor of ten.)

2000. Wonder Woman #163. Written by Ben Raab.

Diana kills Triton, a son of Poseidon, in retribution for the deaths of a boatful of young girls called “Wonder Scouts.” Triton didn’t kill them directly; he hired Black Manta to do it for him. Aquaman co-stars in this story; he convinces Diana not to kill a captive Black Manta, but he doesn’t seem to object when he sees her kill Triton several pages later. (Figure that out if you can!)

1999. Action Comics #761. Written by Joe Kelly.

This story is downright weird. If taken at face value, the following things occur: Wonder Woman and Superman are magically summoned to Valhalla to help the Norse Gods fight an evil demon horde collectively called the Vgrtsmyth. They fight side by side for a thousand years without any vacations. Diana kills enemies right and left. Superman steadfastly refuses to do so. (It is far from clear what happens to any demon warriors whom he knocks down without killing.) He also refuses to sleep with Diana even after a thousand years of being comrades in arms, when he figures his wife Lois is long dead anyway. After they’ve ended the war, Thor (who died and returned during all this) offers to grant each of them a wish in reward for their valiant service. Since the story ends with Superman back in Metropolis, kissing Lois, the implication is that he wished to be returned to the same day on Earth from which he had been yanked away (but we never actually saw how he worded his wish).

This story has always annoyed me, although I can see that Kelly was bound and determined to find a way to hit us over the head with the idea that Superman will always be faithful to his wife, no matter how long the separation or how great the temptation. I prefer to think of the Valhalla stuff as a mystical dream sequence, easily forgotten, which Kelly simply “forgot” to label as a dream sequence, rather than something which “really happened” to Superman for a full millennium “in continuity.” But if we take it at face value, then Superman spent a thousand years watching Diana kill demons practically nonstop, and he learned to live with it, and there is no dialogue in the last couple of pages of the story to indicate that those events were magically scrubbed from his memory before he returned home to Lois. (On the other hand, I’ve never actually seen or heard of any subsequent Superman story which explicitly referenced that thousand-year-war as something which he still remembered after it was over and done with, so maybe he did ask to have all that nonsense wiped out of his memory?)

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2003. Wonder Woman #192. Written by Walt Simonson.

Diana (our Wonder Woman) fights Diana, the Roman Goddess, in Olympus. At the end of the fight, Diana (ours) knocks Diana (the other one) across the room and she slams into the base of a huge statue of Zeus, which then falls on Diana (the Roman Goddess) and causes her to quickly die of her injuries. Our Diana had not necessarily intended to kill her adversary, but it happened anyway, as a result of the powerful blow she struck. Most people would call that “killing the enemy in battle.”

2004. JLA #99. Written by Chris Claremont. Co-plotted by John Byrne. Concluding chapter of the six-part story arc called “The Tenth Circle.”

For much of this story arc, Superman has been under the mental control of the vampire Crucifer. After the combined forces of the JLA and the Doom Patrol have fixed that problem and otherwise softened Crucifer up, Superman (back in his right mind again) kills Crucifer on the spot (using a crucifix which Batman thoughtfully provides). All the other heroes in the vicinity (including Wonder Woman) don’t seem to object to Superman’s method of ensuring that Crucifer’s mind-control schtick will never afflict the Man of Steel again. Batman even makes a rather ghoulish joke about Crucifer’s fate as the story finally ends.

2004. Wonder Woman #210. Written by Greg Rucka.

Diana fights Medousa the Gorgon (it’s spelled “Medousa” in this story) in a globally televised duel to the death. After blinding herself as a defensive measure, Diana chops off Medousa’s head. In Diana’s defense, I might mention that, according to two estimates (Circe’s and Athena’s), Medousa would probably, after defeating Diana, have been ready, willing, and able to transmit her power of petrification over the airwaves via the aforementioned live TV broadcast and thus turn at least forty million mortals into stone in the blink of an eye. Incidentally, the first page of this issue includes a panel showing Superman and several other members of the JLA grimly standing by in the Watchtower; the plain implication is that they’ve heard exactly what’s going on and feel that they “should” or “must” leave the situation completely in Diana’s hands.

2005. Wonder Woman #213. Written by Greg Rucka.

Athena is challenging the authority of her father, Zeus, in Olympus; seeking to become his successor as the ruler of the Greek gods, effective immediately. They agree to settle it with a battle of champions; Zeus’s champion is a giant creature called Briareos and Athena’s champion is Diana (still blind after her fight with Medousa). Diana finally wins by pulling the head of Medousa out of a bag and waving it at Briareos; the head still has the ability to petrify people, even though Medousa is dead. Although Briareos follows orders from Zeus, he never demonstrates any ability to express himself coherently; just random growls such as “RRRHHAAA!” So I’m not sure whether he qualifies as “sentient,” but thought I would list him here to be on the safe side.

2005. Wonder Woman #219. Written by Greg Rucka.

Max Lord has been using his telepathic gifts to mind-control Superman. Superman and Diana spend most of this issue fighting. Diana suffers a broken wrist and probably other injuries from being struck so hard, repeatedly, by the Last Son of Krypton. Finally she gets her magic lasso around Max Lord and starts interrogating him about the situation. Max asserts, “I’ll never let him go,” and then, in response to a question about how Diana can free Superman from his control, answers simply: “Kill me.”

Diana takes Max at his word about this being the one sure way to guarantee Superman will never be driven berserk by Max’s mind-control abilities again . . . and breaks his neck.

Suddenly the terrible truth dawns on Superman! His horrified reaction heavily implies that for the first time he has suddenly realized that Wonder Woman actually thinks it’s morally acceptable for her to deliberately kill unrepentant, powerful, blatantly murderous enemies under certain circumstances, as a way of making sure that neither she nor any innocent civilians will be ever be butchered by those particular villains in the future!

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Note: In all the relevant issues I’ve read which show something of Superman’s dismay at the fate of Max Lord (including “Infinite Crisis #1″), Superman makes no acknowledgement of having ever seen or heard of Diana’s deliberately killing any other sentient enemy in any other time and place. Likewise, neither Superman nor Wonder Woman nor anyone else seems to have pointed out the Painfully Obvious Parallels between how Superman handled the Crucifer problem (and why), and how Diana handled the Max Lord problem (and why). Even though Superman killed Crucifer with a weapon provided by Batman, while Wonder Woman was watching, after other heroes had deliberately played a part in making Crucifer more vulnerable to such an attack than he previously would have been (it’s a long story).

2005. Superman #223. Written by Mark Verheiden.

Superman says to Supergirl, “I don’t care if it’s Max Lord or Luthor or anyone . . . life is sacred. Diana forgot that. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Of course Diana couldn’t “forget” anything unless she previously “knew” it. So Superman’s statement just begs the question: When did Diana ever lead Superman to believe that she “knew” that the life of a cold-blooded super-powered murderer is just as sacred as the lives of any of the people he will kill in the future if he gets the opportunity?

(And if you happen to know a serious answer to that last question-for instance, if you can think of any story, in any DC comic book published after the Post-COIE Reboots and before the death of Max Lord, in which Diana did tell Superman she had a firm policy against deliberately killing her enemies, then please let me know! I’ll be delighted to add a summary of that event to the next draft of my Timeline!)

How do we explain the huge disconnect between all of Post-COIE Diana’s previous killings on the one hand, and Post-COIE Superman’s slack-jawed astonishment at the “discovery” that she sometimes deliberately kills her enemies, on the other hand?

At first glance, the possible explanations include:

1. Bad Writing.
2. Bad Editing.
3. Implicit Spur-of-the-Moment Retconning. (“Gee, guys, I guess we completely forgot to mention to you that Superboy-Prime presumably erased all those previous killings from Wonder Woman’s continuity when he was punching that wall, over and over, before Infinite Crisis got started.” Or any other excuse, such as “Hypertime fluctuated again,” which would amount to the same thing.)
4. All of the above!

I currently favor #4, but I’m willing to listen to other points of view! I could have overlooked another possible way to explain the apparent gap between the concepts of “Diana has killed lots of sentient beings before this, sometimes during live TV broadcasts” and “Superman had no clue that Diana was a killer until he saw what she did to Max Lord.”

What are your thoughts?


great summary. i’m leaning towards #2, only because it is specifically the role of an editor to guide characters through their many interpretations. i’m not blaming the editor in this case because, frankly, i don’t have a clue what the circumstances were surrounding this plot point. but someone in editorial should have recognized the flagrant inconsistency in Diana’s characterization. as Keith Giffen once said (to paraphrase), “Continuity sucks but consistency is important” (feel free to correct my wording on that quote). in my opinion, this was a case of poor consistency, not poor use of continuity.


This list lacks human deaths, I think. We have Diana killing monsters and gods. The only exception, perhaps, is the White Magician, but even he was a bit demonic. I’m not sure if it’s a clear enough distinction to allow for Superman to be enraged at Lord’s death, but feel it’s worth noting.

Amusing, but at the same time all of those examples were some sort of demon or other otherworldly threat. Superman had assumed that she would never kill a human. Is it perfect logic? No, but it’s close enough. ANTI-LIFE JUSTIFIES MY EXPLANATION!

Clark probably is a fan of that superhero named Captain Renault, who’s shown in 1942 summer blockbuster Casablanca. His best line: “I’m shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here!”. To which the croupier comes forth and says: “Your winnings, sir!”

Brian, you’re absolutely right. Unfortunately, if you apply this amount of analytical pressure to ANY key character moment from the Big Two in the past decade, NONE of it holds up. Quicksilver in HOUSE OF M, Scarlet Witch in AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED, Blue Beetle/Max Lord/rest of DC heroes in COUNTDOWN, Superboy/Alexander Luthor in INFINITE CRISIS, Spider-Man/Mary Jane in ONE MORE DAY, Mr. Fantastic in CIVIL WAR … it goes on and on.

Marvel and DC have thrown out consistent characterization in favor of shock killings and twist endings. There isn’t anything more to it in that.

I applaud your effort to take these guys to task. The community needs more articles like this.

It occurs to me Lorendiac and Brian Cronin might not be the same person. Regardless, whoever wrote this, you’re awesome.

Apparently, killing an immortal being is okay while killing a mortal isn’t?
On that note, would that make it less sad for a good god to die than a good mortal since an immortal’s life means less?

I’ve always had an issue with the stance that the “hero(ine)” has vowed never to take a human life…

Yet if it’s another sentient life-form then the gloves are off…

Very few heroes seem to cling to the “all life is sacred” mantra. The most common excuse always seems to be “… but this isn’t crime, this is War!” prior to chopping the head of a (Skrull/Brood/Para-Demon/Khund) Delete as appropriate…

Wonder Woman killing Max Lord actually made sense to me. One life to save billions. (Even though I’m a fan of the JLI who HATED the throw-away killing of Ted Kord, I could see the logic of using Max as the baddie… Though I’d have preferred them to discover that he was under someone’s influence…) She is a warrior… In the same circumstances, I can imagine Batman, Green Arrow and Hawkman all doing the exact same thing!

Why do the writers insist on making human beings so special compared with every other race? Does that imply that all the heroes that follow this “law” are racists/speciesists?

Wasn’t that Medousa fight done solely to point out what a hypocrite Superman was later?

To Joe:

If you kill an immortal, doesn’t that mean the deceased was actually mortal?

In comicbook land, the end justifies the means. ;-)

On the point about most of the other corpses on Diana’s scorecard being supernatural and/or nonhuman:

I thought about discussing that in this piece, but decided if it was just going to be a “seed for discussion” (which was the general objective) then I might as well stick pretty closely to just summarizing the “facts” of who has done what to whom since Diana got her Post-COIE Reboot. A few personal opinions slipped in, especially at the end after I was done summarizing, and I left them in, but I figured it was probably best to offer “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts!” first and argue about the fine distinctions later.

I’ll mention that as far as I know, the Post-COIE Superman has never gone on record as saying, “Ordinary human life is sacred, but the lives of other sentient entities which look something like humans, walk like humans, talk like humans, et cetera, are fair game!”

If he did say something along those lines, he’d have a problem, given that he is not a human being himself! And neither are many of the other people who have served with the Justice League at various times — including the Martian Manhunter, Red Tornado, Zauriel, Tomorrow Woman, Mister Miracle, the Thanagarian versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and arguably Aquaman . . .

If DC wanted him to say to his cousin Kara, shortly after what Diana did: “Human life is sacred, but if you have to kill equally sentient specimens of other races from other planets, go right ahead, as long as you remember to feel mildly bad about it!” then they could have had him say that. Then Kara could have asked, very pointedly, “Gee, what about us Kryptonians?” and so forth.

But he just said: “Life is sacred,” without trying to make such arbitrary and hairsplitting distinctions! Nor do I recall seeing him make them on prior occasions — as I mentioned in my summary of that Valhalla story by Joe Kelly, for instance, Superman allegedly spent a solid thousand years refusing to kill presumably-sentient demonic warriors! :)

I lean toward 2 and 3 (since I’m not sure who wrote the Sacrifice arc, I can’t accurately speak to the writing itself). I remember reading that story and thinking to myself, “Superman would be the only person shocked by this. Every other hero would have made that choice in Diana’s position.” My main reason for thinking it an editorial problem is that Superman’s reaction is well within (if not reflecting the central tenant of) his personality, regardless of how many times he’s seen Diana kill someone/thing. Supes stands for justice but not at the cost of human life. Diana stands for justice regardless. At least that’s how I’ve always read them. There’s no way Batman hesitates to draw and quarter Max if he’s there. It would have been messy…

Anthony Cheng — thanks for the kind words. Yes, Brian Cronin posts these things for me in the “Lorendiac’s Lists” categories. I’d been posting other lists of one silly thing and another on the regular CBR forums for a few years, whenever the mood struck me, before this started. I don’t know just how many people have the authorization to start brand new posts to stir up discussion here on CSBG, but I do know that I’m not one of them! :)

By the way, a year or so ago I finally got around to reading the “Avengers Disassembled” story arc which paved the way for House of M. (I still haven’t bothered reading any “House of M” material.) There were portions of it which were so bad — in terms of butchered characterization and hastily-retconned continuity, for instance — that they amazed me. I took a few notes on some of those points, for possible use in a later parody, but never went any further with it.

If I had to pick an answer, other than the obvious (#4), I’d have to agree with the previous comments: that Superman’s shock and outrage wasn’t over the fact that Diana killed an enemy, but rather killed a human enemy, as opposed to an evil god/seeming-immortal/sentient monster/mythological creature/alien/demon.

Killing all those things is okay in Superman’s book; killing humans, even evil ones, even for the greater good, is not.

Which, I guess, makes Superman something of a speciesist. Odd, considering his heritage…

And….it appears I should have refreshed the comments before posting…

“If DC wanted him to say to his cousin Kara, shortly after what Diana did: “Human life is sacred, but if you have to kill equally sentient specimens of other races from other planets, go right ahead, as long as you remember to feel mildly bad about it!” then they could have had him say that. Then Kara could have asked, very pointedly, “Gee, what about us Kryptonians?” and so forth.”

Superman slaps forehead, “Doh!”

Now that would be funny :-)

Seriously, though, Post-COIE, Superman has NEVER taken a sentient life? Even through all the Invasion!s, Worlds at War, Vs. Alines, etc??? Wow! :-o

Let’s see if I remember how to do blockquotes in here:

Conor E asked:

Wasn’t that Medousa fight done solely to point out what a hypocrite Superman was later?

Was that Rucka’s reasoning? I have no idea! If you can tell me where you heard or read that this was the thinking behind those stories (killing Medousa and then killing Max), I’d be glad to hear about it!

I only read that fight in a TPB collection later on, after I had already read the OMAC/Sacrifice stories which included Diana killing Max, also in TPB format. (I wasn’t bothering to buy any of the “lead-in miniseries” to Infinite Crisis when they were first coming out in monthly installments.)

After I read the thing with Max (although of course I’d heard about it online long before I got my hands on the TPB), and then read the thing about Medousa, I seem to recall I was torn between a few different impressions, theories, whatever.

One was that Rucka, when he had Diana kill Max and Superman gape in horror, couldn’t even remember his own Medousa story from less than a year earlier (although this seemed unlikely).

Another theory was that Rucka, or an editor tugging on his leash, had simply insisted that by golly, it was Vitally Important to the Set-Up for the Big Event (Infinite Crisis) that Superman gape in horror at that moment even if he should have known darn well that Amazon Warriors are trained to kill their deadliest enemies and that Diana had proved her willingness to follow that tradition before!

Another theory was that Superman saw an important moral distinction between “killing a Gorgon” and “killing Max,” except that Rucka totally forgot to have Superman mention this perceived distinction in dialogue somehow!

And so on and so forth. A rough draft of this piece had me asking: “So what do you think, folks? Was Kal-El being Super-Hypocritical or just Super-Forgetful?” But I decided to try to raise the intellectual tone a little bit by deleting that exact wording from the final draft. (Aren’t you proud of me? :) )
If Rucka has said anything in interviews

The last line was supposed to say something like this: “If Rucka has said anything in interviews about exactly why he wrote the Medousa story in the first place, I haven’t head about it. But I’m willing to learn.” (Not sure what happened there.)

On the issue of Superman and Wonder Woman in Valhalla: The story is referenced again in a later issue of Wonder Woman (I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s the last story in the “Greatest Wonder Woman Stories Ever Told” anthology). Lois is interviewing Diana and clearly dislikes her, so Diana tries to convince Lois that she doesn’t need to be jealous by proving Superman’s fidelity. It turns out that Supes never mentioned the story to Lois, so it’s possible that he “wished” himself into forgetting it, but Diana certainly remembers.

Lorediac: Rucka spoke in my History of Superheroes class a couple of weeks ago and made it clear that in his opinion Diana is a warrior with very different views on life and death than Superman, and that the forced emotional fallout from Diana killing Max Lords is a lot of why he’s not writing Wonder Woman any more.

Jordan–my attitude toward Superman’s reaction to Max’s fate goes something like this:

1. It was perfectly in character for Diana to kill Max, considering the extreme circumstances. It may or may not have been the “best possible solution,” but it was definitely in character for her to be willing to do it that way if she decided it was necessary.

2. And if even I know it was perfectly in character, then one of her dear friends and teammates (Superman) ought to know the same thing! He is not obligated to agree with her spur-of-the-moment decision. He’d be entitled to loudly object that she had done an awfully hasty, arbitrary, and possibly illegal “execution” without stopping to consider other approaches to the problem beyond the solution which Max had just mentioned. Instead, he just ends up reacting as cluelessly as if he never realized she was a trained warrior who occasionally kills her worst enemies; not until this very moment; and their respective Post-COIE continuities make it ludicrous for him to act as if he never knew that before!

I completely agree. I was just saying that it’s also perfectly in character for him to act that way, if not in that particular instance. If it had been Wally or Hal or Oliver standing there with Backwards Headed Max the reaction would have worked. As it was, Diana being a warrior at heart and never shying away from that fact, it just came off as stupid.

As for the reason he was written that way… my belief is that a shocking ending doesn’t work if the characters in the scene aren’t shocked. If superman comes to and sees a lifeless body with Diana standing there and says something like, “Great job. You saved the world” the entire “shocking” ending is ruined. By having him react the way he did, the writer is telling us that WE should be shocked as well (even though we all knew she would and should do what she did). Hasty re-characterization to get the effect they wanted. Not the way I would have gone, but what do I know?

Far be it from me to try to justify the silliness that was “Sacrifice”… but it’s possible that Superman made a distinction between killing an enemy in the heat of battle (as was the case in many of the circumstances detailed here) and murdering a subdued foe, who could presumably be popped into the Phantom Zone, mind-wiped by Zatanna or sent to whatever is the DC Universe’s version of Guantanamo Bay.

Then again, it’s possible that Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord because she was convinced he must be an invading Skrull (or Durlan), given that his behavior was so completely out of character with how he was portrayed in JLI — when he worked side-by-side with a telepathic Martian who presumably would have noticed if something was up.

So yeah, #1 works for me…

Perhaps it would have worked better had Superman’s view been more like this: If WW and Superman were simply police officers they wouldn’t relish the fact that they might have to shoot a perp in the line of duty but it would be an acceptable part of the job. However, killing Max would be more akin to shooting a suspect in the interrogation room after being booked.

Don’t get me started on this again. I ranted for a long time afterwards about how hypocritical Superman was towards her regarding killing. Not because of what you mentioned – though these are all good points – but because Superman himself had killed before. In Superman V2 #25 or thereabouts, Kal-El murdered three phantom zone criminals from another reality (the infamous Pocket Universe for those who recall it) because they were amoral killers bent on following him back home and destroying his Earth they same way they had to theirs (he used a version of kryptonite deadly to them but useless on himself). The Wikipedia entry on Zod has a nice summary.

This part of the story was still part of cannon at the time of Max’s murder and still is – the ghosts of these three have appeared at least once since Infinite Crisis re-retconned the DCU. I say “this part” because Matrix Supergirl also comes from this other reality tho Didio has said that Matrix – but not Supergirl – was retconned away because she still played a part in the Death of Superman storyline; a fact upheld by panels in Infinite Crisis #6 showing her at his funeral. I know, confusing. Head….hurting…eyes…swollen….AARRGH!.

This story is HUGELY important to the post-COIE mythos because it solifidied why Superman steadfastly resolved that he would never kill again. Yet here he is all disheartened over what Diana did which, as you have pointed out, was completely in character for her. It’s not bad writing though – the stories themselves are good if you discount what has come before. But it is lazy writing, or worse, writing from the editor’s desk.

Notwithstanding that “Sacrifice” was just a dumb crossover no one should take seriously or still be talking about…

#5 DC understands that it’s more important to sell comics today than to make sure that their stories are slavishly loyal to old books most people have never read.

>Seriously, though, Post-COIE, Superman has NEVER taken a sentient life? Even through all the Invasion!s, Worlds at War, Vs. Alines, etc???<

Executed the first post-Crisis version of Zod (… there’s been, what, five others since then…?) and his colleagues via Kryptonite exposure. Haunted about it for years afterwards, to the point that I think Roger Stern referenced it in the Death and Return novelization.

As for the Superman / Supergirl scene screwing this up… well, if nothing else it’s typical parenting “do as I say, not as I do” stuff. But more than anything else: Max was likely done (I don’t remember if the point was that if Diana had hesitated, he was going to sic Superman on her again). He was trussed up with the lasso, apparently having had his control broken, and Wonder Woman still snapped his neck – essentially executing a prisoner. If Rucka expected people to read between the lines to think of it that way, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s a pretty simple interpretation to arrive at.

I don’t have a problem with Superman reacting in horror to that – this is, after all, the guy who gets uncomfortable whenever Batman hangs some punk up by his ankles for an interrogation. And arguing history going back to COIE in a story where Max Lord has suddenly returned to life and not being a cyborg is… well, a little silly.

One side note – while what Diana did was in character, how she did it I had problems with re: the lasso. Long story I won’t bore you with but in the end I chalked it up the need for melodrama rather than a need to provide a believable explanation for her actions.

I did see Rucka talk about the Superman/Wonder Woman fight in Sacrifice and just how much work went into planning it out move for move and make it tremendously character based and it just blew me away. It’s worth a bit of on the spot retconning to have something of such quality.

I remember Action 761; a few months later (might’ve been in Loeb’s book?) Superman was sitting on the porch in Smallville, talking with his Pa and telling him about how he was off with WW for a thousand years. This was around the time that Parasite was masquerading as Lois Lane and making a mess of their marriage. It was played for laughs because Superman was so matter-of-fact about it and Pa was flabbergasted, but he clearly remembered.

Sometimes you just gotta try a little harder to make things work, when writers drop the ball. Maybe Wonder Woman never told anybody about those folks she killed.

Silly Lorendiac. Post-Crisis continuity doesn’t count!

A lot of the commenters seem to think that drawing a distinction between supernatural beings and natural sentient humans and aliens is specist or even somehow racist. The only one of these killings that really seems to present a problem for the narrative in question is the White Magician. I haven’t read any of these 90s stories so my comment has to stay vague as to the specific story but there is nothing particularly inconsistent with Superman defending “life” and not have a problem with Wonder Woman taking non life or anti-life (anything lacking free will or awareness or knowledge self-other distinctions). The other explanation I can think of is that there is a big difference between killing someone in the heat of battle accidentally or in self-defence and snapping a much weaker prisoner’s neck. Again, I haven’t read the White Magician story so I’m not really familiar with the circumstances there. Was it a blood feud type retaliatory killing or did it also occur in battle? Sacrifice had continuity problems but I feel like the characterization was consistent with both Superman and Wonder Woman. Max on the other hand…

I think #4 sums it up nicely.

Sacrifice came at an interesting time after Identity Crisis (to sum it up: heroes being unethical and killing) and leading to Identity Crisis (fucking up the last twenty years and even more killing).

For a while I honestly thought that Infinite Crisis was going to be a series about the moral and ethical, and reason of actions of superheroes, starting with Wonder Woman. Since her killing of Max Lord was screened worldwide, we could see how her and other characters public view would be affected.

Of course, we got instead a series that explained every continuity error was a punch by Superboy of Earth-Prime. Had plenty of killing, though.

Added bonus, below is the page of Superman talking to his cousin in Supes v.2 #223:


I’m given to understand that , as of sometime between Birthright and Infinite Crisis, there was a retcon which did away with Superman having killed the Pocket Universe Phantom Zones.

It was #1 and #2: Bad Writing AND Editing.

I wasn’t surprised by Diana killing Max at all, since as Lorendiac pointed out it was fairly well known by then that the modern version of Wonder Woman is willing to kill.

However, the STORY itself was poorly presented- as many other people have pointed out, there were other ways of solving the situation. Most blatant of all: it had already been shown that Max’s control over Superman worked by making Superman THINK he was fighting folks like Doomsday, instead of being the “turns you into a mindless zombie” kind. Diana’s Lasso of Truth should have snapped him out of that illusion! Not to mention, she could have just knocked Max unconscious until a better solution was found, etc. etc.

I’m also bothered by the fact the editors simply decided to use Max for shock value, in the process ruining years of Justice League stories. Superboy Punch indeed….

Ironically, I have no problem with the POINT of the story: that Wonder Woman cannot both a superhero AND a warrior. Modern heroes know that we live in different times, with different beliefs and laws. And no, the fact that WW comes from (a still strangely primitive, despite existing for thousands of years) Themiskyra does not justify it. She either works by our rules while she’s here, or she accepts that she’s no hero. I was hoping the storyline would eventually reach some resolution over this, but it was quickly forgotten over the whole Infinite Crisis mess.

[quote]Of course, we got instead a series that explained every continuity error was a punch by Superboy of Earth-Prime. Had plenty of killing, though.[/quote]

It should be noted that NOWHERE in Infinite Crisis did we see the Retcon Punch. They added that in with the Batman Annual and the “Infinite Crisis Secret Files and Origins.” It was never Geoff Johns’ plan to do that (something he has Rip Hunter mock in Booster Gold).

Now, while I am of the camp that never wants to see its heroes kill, I also understand the circumstances which drove Diana to do what she did and I forgive the misdeed and want the people of the DCU to move on from it, since most people have different ethical standards than me about killing.

“However, the STORY itself was poorly presented- as many other people have pointed out, there were other ways of solving the situation. Most blatant of all: it had already been shown that Max’s control over Superman worked by making Superman THINK he was fighting folks like Doomsday, instead of being the “turns you into a mindless zombie” kind. Diana’s Lasso of Truth should have snapped him out of that illusion! Not to mention, she could have just knocked Max unconscious until a better solution was found, etc. etc.

I’m also bothered by the fact the editors simply decided to use Max for shock value, in the process ruining years of Justice League stories.”
Wow, it’s the call of the whi ny JLI fan!

The thing is, police officers and members of the US armed forces carry weapons, and they are authorized to use them in order to protect themselves and/or civilians. And that typically entails killing someone. Is anyone going to argue that cops and soldiers are not heroes because they sometimes have to take lives in the line of duty? I mean, it’s all well and good to say that all life is sacred and killing is wrong when, y’know, you’re bulletproof and able to fly around the world in five seconds flat. But for anyone who isn’t able to bend steel with his bare hands, well, you don’t have the luxury to have an absolute standard of morality concerning the sacredness of life.

It is the same as the reason for everything = Superboy Prime punched reality and changed it. Or that we aren’t supposed to remember anything that Johns and company don’t explicitly tell us to remember.

I think that there is a difference between “sentient” meaning able to process information on a level required for meaningful interaction with humans and the semi-metaphorical meaning of life that someone as idealistic as Superman would believe in. He sees life as the ability for someone to change. He believes that anyone, no matter how evil they appear, has some spark of good. Hence his current actions in Legion of Three Worlds, trying to redeem Superboy Prime. All the times Wonder Woman has killed and Superman has known about it were beings that could be argued as being actually pure evil and therefore the normal policy against killing is not necessarily applicable.
Alternatively, if I had a complete run of Wonder Woman I could probably find at least as many examples of times that she didn’t kill for moral reasons. Then it can be argued that the current writers were merely choosing what had become a fairly valid interpretation.

Why do people think Max was written out of character? It didn’t seem that far removed from his origins as a shady, selfish, uber-manipulative jerk, who was always trying to use people for his benefit. J’onn never noticed, A) because Max has Telepathic powers, and could therefore probably put a little suggestion never to scan Max; B) J’onn doesn’t read team-mates minds as a matter of privacy; and C) Max’s mind was so twisty that J’onn probably wouldn’t have been able to distinguish what was wrong… In Max’s view everything he did, no matter how he did it, was always for the greater good (in this case, him!)

And then you would probably argue that the failure and ridicule of SuperBuddies was the last straw that finally pushed him over the edge!

I can understand why Superman would be appalled that Diana had just killed Max, especially as pointed out, Superman believes that everyone is ultimately redeemable. I don’t understand why people who have read Max’s story are so surprised that the character ended up trying to rule the world, when that was what he always wanted to do…

Hang on – Wonder Woman by Walt Simonson?
How did I miss that? Is it tradeified?
I don’t suppose I’d have been lucky enough for him to have drawn it too?

One brief side note – it’s pretty clear that it’s Superman, not WW that was written way out of character.
Batman having a problem with it I can buy as his code is based so heavily in his childhood trauma and does it is in character for feelings on killing humans Vs. others to be conflicted.

How many of the above examples were killed by WW after they had been defeated? Max Lord was not killed in the heat of battle, but was summarily executed afterwards. I think this may be the distinction that Superman was trying to draw, however, having been smacked around the head a bit by WW, he wasn’t really capable of making it clearly.

It also fits with Ben’s comments: “The thing is, police officers and members of the US armed forces carry weapons, and they are authorized to use them in order to protect themselves and/or civilians. And that typically entails killing someone.”
Perhaps “typically” should be “occasionally”, but there is a difference between a cop/soldier shooting somebody in the course of a firefight/bank robbery/hostage situation, during which there is an immediate threat to life, and a cop/soldier executing a prisoner after they had been captured.

Having said that, if this was the distinction that DC were going for, and it didn’t come across that clearly, then bad writing/bad editing are both valid answers.

Personally I think it’s bad writing.

I got into an discussion similar to this, and raised the question of Supes and his view on the death penalty. While I don’t think it’s been addressed in a comic, his whole “life is sacred” mantra goes against the law of states such as California and could cause a conflict of interest. The question I posed was if Supes apprehended a serial killer in California, given the death penalty is certain upon a guilty verdict, would Supes hand him over to the authorities? (Coincidentally, I remember reading an issue where Flash – Wally I think – and WW were discussing the death penalty and their support for it)

My friend returned by saying that Supes ultimately respects the law and leaves it up to the authorities to decide the fate of another. Therefore, my friend’s under the assumption that Supe’s “life is sacred” vibe is crushed by the long arm of the law.

Personally, i would expect a dude like Supes to appreciate that sentiment’s like “life is sacred” needs strict definitions to go along with it. Supes has shown a willingness to kill foes like Doomsday and Crucifer, so it fair to say not all life is sacred.

> Wow, it’s the call of the why ni JLI fan!

Wow, it’s the call of the pointless troll! :P

(Sorry about that. But people who mock others just because they don’t agree with them piss me off. If you think you have a point, make it. Like someone else said: “The characters in the comics are fictional. The people who post about them are not.”)

The Phantom Zone trio is not a valid argument, because Superman came to believe that he was wrong to have killed them. It caused him to have a mental breakdown where he assumed the Gangbuster identity and later exiled himself from Earth for a time. It’s why he established his no killing rule Post Crisis.

He may have been overly judgmental, but it wasn’t hypocritical, because he believed himself to have been wrong.

Regarding this controversy, I wrote this elsewhere, back when the infamous Diana-Kills-Max story came out:

I think that stablishing an ironclad rule that ‘superheroes don’t kill’ is simplistic and ignores many shades of grey. A hero shouldn’t execute villains based simply on their judgement that “they deserve no better”, because that’s where they truly cross the line into vigilantism and become equals with the Punisher – who is clearly NOT a hero, by any definition. But if killing the villain is the only way to save innocent lives, I don’t mind at all, as long as it doesn’t conflict with previously-established characterization. Because not all characters are Superman or Spiderman.

I mean, take Hawkman for example. As he is portrayed today – a reincarnated ancient warrior – I would be sincerely surprised if he even blinked at killing a villain if it was necessary to save lives, but he does try to avoid taking lives because that’s the ethical standard stablished by the JLA. With Superman as the team’s “ethical standard”, JLAers like Flash, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle do NOT kill… with few exceptions. What are these exceptions? Well, Batman considers life sacred, but if he had to kill to save innocent lives I think he might do it. Afterwards he would probably feel horrible for doing so, though. Green Arrow HAS killed at least once, but it was done in a believable way that didn’t disrespect the character. And Hawkman tries not to kill because he respects that this is how things are done among today’s heroes… but if he had no option, I do think Carter would crack the villain’s head open with his mace, and he wouldn’t lose a second of sleep over it. Other Justice Leaguers that I could imagine taking lives and not feeling too bad about it are Big Barda and Orion, both of whom come from completely alien cultures and ethical perspectives. I’m not so sure about Captain Atom and Wonder Woman – the Captain is a soldier and as such he’s probably prepared to take enemy lives if necessary, and Diana comes from a race of warrior women who didn’t object to slaying enemies in battle (but both of them would respect the previously-mentioned “ethical standard” set by Superman, and therefore avoid to take lives when possible).

What about the Avengers? Iron Man would not kill, that’s not in him. Captain America WOULD kill without hesitation if it was necessary to save lives, and as a soldier he probably did so many times (I do NOT believe for a second that he went through WW2 without killing anyone). As I’ve read somewhere, in a war Cap wouldn’t just “knock out” a nazi soldier because that would endanger his allies – he couldn’t afford the risk of a “knocked out” enemy waking up and opening machine-gun fire on Allied troops. No, of course Cap killled, and he probably did it with his bare hands. Thor? Come ON. Thor has probably killed thousands of foes in his lifetime – and even if he does try to uphold the Avengers’ respect for life, I don’t think he would feel guilty if he had to kill a supervillain. Hell, in his culture a foe slain in battle goes to Valhalla, a great glory, so it stands to reason that taking enemy lives in battle wouldn’t really bother the Thunderer. The Wasp, Hank Pym, Vision, She-Hulk? I don’t think any of them would kill, it’s not in them. But I’m not so sure the same can be said about the Sub-Mariner or Hercules.

The X-Men? Logan kills, we know that for a fact. Maybe Storm would do so too, if absolutely necessary. But the others, like Cyclops, Iceman and Nightcrawler, would not kill, and if they were forced by circumstances to do it would weight heavily on their shoulders.

I personally prefer heroes who actively try to not kill. Well, to be perfectly honest, I’d like more heroes like Tom Strong and the golden-age Captain Marvel (Shazam!), who aim even higher and try to solve conflicts without using violence at all. My favorite aspect of Tom Strong’s adventures is that whenever possible he handles situations through intelligence, using brute force only if absolutely necessary. But as I was saying, I do prefer that the heroes TRY not to kill… but I also understand that not all heroes are Superman, and they shouldn’t all behave alike. Thor is as much of a hero as Superman, but their standards are not necessarily the same because they come from different places and perspectives.

But they DO need to try their best not to kill – because when one of them begins killing people who they consider “deserving” of being killed (as Wolverine does with ALARMING FREQUENCY in his own book), they cross over into the world of vigilantism, joining disturbed people like the Punisher and Scourge (the most significant difference between Batman and Punisher is precisely that Batman DOES NOT choose who deserves to live or die; if he did, the Joker would be wormfood by now). Because when a character becomes a “judge-jury-and executioner” kind of vigilante, he stops being deserving of the term “hero”.

And about the question at the beginning of this thread… I’m going with a combination of #1 and #2. It involves bad writing because Superman’s reaction would have made more sense if they had emphasized that what shocked him was Diana executing an immobilized foe; it involves bad editing because as they wrote it, Superman’s shock at that execution contradicted MANY previous stories where Diana and even Clark did similar things. But it wasn’t an attempted “retcon”, so the explanation isn’t #4 – they didn’t try to convince us that Diana never killed anyone before and none of the previous instances when she did were retroactively erased. They just pretended that the previous events – which are ALL still in continuity – didn’t happen, because doing so allowed their story to go where they wanted. That’s not a retcon at all, that’s just lazy writing and editing.

Carl wrote “The Phantom Zone trio is not a valid argument, because Superman came to believe that he was wrong to have killed them. It caused him to have a mental breakdown where he assumed the Gangbuster identity and later exiled himself from Earth for a time. It’s why he established his no killing rule Post Crisis.”

That is exactly my point, and I acknowledge that in comment He may have later decided that he was wrong but at the time he did it, he was convinced he was right. His characterization after Max’s murder was in the vein of “OMG! I just cannot believe she would she do that!”. That is baloney considering he should have understood of why she felt she had to do it – even if he didn’t agree – because of what he went through AND because he’s supposed to know who Diana really is as a person. 1,000 year war aside, they’re close friends not just team buddies.

A more believable reaction would have been him confronting her with what he believed was her lack of compassion, or faith in what could be called the redeemability of man, instead of being totally shocked at her for killing at all.

Oh, Simenson wrote Wonder Woman for 6 issue – #189 – #194.

>That is baloney considering he should have understood of why she felt she had to do it – <

That’s the thing – it’s perfectly valid for Superman to absolutely not understand why Diana felt that need, given the circumstances they were in (and I can’t remember if he was even conscious for the Max / Wonder Woman exchange where Max made clear what would happen if Wonder Woman let him go). Why should he ever be understanding regarding her executing a subdued prisoner for what he might do in the future?

No, they didn’t come out and say that. Was it fairly obvious from the context and therefore didn’t need to be spelled out? Yes.

I take it that no one read the followup story in Manhunter, where the public takes the “you killed a defenceless prisoner” story at face value and Kate’s forced to try to prevent a grand jury from charging Diana with Manslaughter. The implication is that while no one has a problem with Wonder Woman killing in battle, killing Max in the manner she did [albeit, in the story there’s no context to the footage, which is a key point] makes people uncomfortable. I’ll pull the prosecutor’s monologue from Manhunter, but it was made pretty clear what was going on (it’s the issue with Blue Beetle on the cover, if anyone wants to beat me to it).

[And, yeah: I think everyone was hoping that Infinite Crisis would be more about the ethical ramifications of the state the JLA had been placed in than the stupid multiverse stuff. Heck, reading Villains United (esp. the last scene with Ollie and Deadshot / Catman) it’s *really* obvious that Gail Simone thought they were going in that direction.]

I just want to throw this out there. Max Lord used his power to command Wonder Woman to kill him. He did this knowing it would create a huge rift in the super-hero community, not to mention what it would do the common man’s perception of super-heroes. He SACRIFICED his life to completely mess up the Super-heroes. Is it so insane to think that he might get himself killed in order to promote evil? Maybe he prefered death to eternal jail in the Phantom Zone.

Sorry if the theory has been discredited, but that’s the way I have chosen to see it.

I think the problem with attempting to address in-depth the real-life moral questions concerning whether or not it is wrong to kill within a superhero comic book story is more often than not doomed to failure for one simple reason…

If the Joker had ever existed in the real world, he would have been sent to the electric chair (or lethal injection or gas chamber or whatever) a long long long long long long long time ago, rather than everyone standing by and letting him continute to live despite the fact that he escapes from Arkham Asylum on a weekly basis and has to have amassed a body count of several thousand victims by now. So, y’know, right then and there, any real-world analogies fall completely flat on their face.

>If the Joker had ever existed in the real world, he would have been sent to the electric chair (or lethal injection or gas chamber or whatever) a long long long long long long long time ago,<

Well. not if Gotham’s in Michigan / Wisconsin / Minnesota / any other state that doesn’t have it (although I think it’s been established that Gotham DOES have the death penalty, via a GN from the 90s).

Or New York, where the death penalty statute was ruled unconsitutional in 2004 and hasn’t been replaced.

And that’s without even going into mental capacity.

Now, arguing whether Joker’s committed a federal crime subject to capital punishment, that’s something else entirely….

I have to fall in with the “bad writing” camp, mostly because I am utterly sick and bored with stories about whether or not it’s right for superheroes to kill anyone ever. This is a terribly destructive premise to explore in the confines of an ongoing series with major IP characters, as even posing the question only heightens the inconsistency of the mainstream superhero worldsetting.

(It can work out fine in genre pastiche, but a pastiche story can generally build a much more convincing setting than any ongoing DC superhero monthly ever will.)

It’s not about sentience, it’s about soul. The crux of the question is a lot more religious than most people realize.

A vampire and a sentient robot can be killed even by “heroes that don’t kill”, because they’re supposed to have no soul. A big part of the taboo against killing is “playing God”, choosing who gets to live and who gets to die. The dilemma isn’t a real dilemma when the creature in question has nothing to do with God’s plan and can be dispatched with theological impunity.

Demons and evil gods and evil monsters fall mostly in this category too. They supposedly lack a human soul that can be redeemed. Even if they do have a soul, they’re not under God’s purview, I suppose.

Science fiction monstrous aliens are a different case. I don’t remember them being killed with such impunity. Though they seem to rank lower than humans or humanoid aliens.

But with this we get to the second major point: legality. I think demons, vampires, robots, and gods are also not recognized as persons by the law. So you don’t break human law by killing one. Aliens are somewhat different, in that an alien may be treated more like a foreigner and the “lawful” thing to do in a superhero universe would be to extradite him back to his planet, forcibly repeling the invasion.

I’m not saying I agree with all that, only that it seems to be how the stuff works in superhero comics.

Just something I forgot to add in my last post, bringing my points to this specific case.

When Superman sees Wonder Woman killing some evil pagan creatures, Superman recognizes that Diana is dealing with denizens from an universe that plays by completely different rules than the realm of men. It’s not just speciecism from Superman’s part, but a recognition that Diana’s world has a different set of laws, both in the legal and the supernatural senses. Superman also recognizes that Diana is better equiped in all ways to deal with this universe.

I’ve always thought the concept of the soul provides an all too convenient loophole where morality’s concerned. I won’t elaborate unless prompted but morals should be applied equally.

Therefore, if I take issue at the senseless killing of a human, then I should take issue at the senseless killing of a vampire/alien/demon/animal/robot. If I, as a superhero, try not to kill a human under any circumstances, then I should then try not to kill a vampire/alien/demon/animal/robot under any circumstance. (Coincidentally, this is a reason why I’ve had a real big gripe with a recent event done by a certain company).

However, I appreciate that morals essentially differ from person to person, but Supes obviously believes that there should be a common code shared by superheroes. This I agree with, but such a code cannot really include one that says never kill a being/human under any circumstance, because there are circumstances where that needs to be broken (an “unsentient” Doomsday is a good example of this).

My personal view is that if heroes need to kill, it’s cause they’re not good (read: skilled or powerful or smart) enough to defeat their opponent, so it’s a personal failing of that hero. Perhaps that needs to be incorporated into the shared philosophy of the heroes.

I think a good question to ask is: would Supes & the world have prefered if Diana rendered Lord into a vegetative state?

Rene, the only problem with your statement is that it assumes a certain level of religious belief…

How do atheists like Mr Terrific fit into that equation?

Well, if I were a superhero (considering that I’m an agnostic), I would value sentience over “soul”. I suppose Mr. Terrific would be the same. And Mister Terrific is kinda unique, in that he is one of the few characters that is explicitly atheist.

But I’m not sure this is something to do with a specific hero religious belief. It’s more like some genres themselves posit a thelogical framework. Stories about vampires and killer robots and demons, for instance, often make it explicit or implicit that the creature has no “soul” or a fallen soul, and so it’s fair game for the heroes.

I think superhero tales partake of horror stories or sci-fi stories when they deal with such things.

Blackjak, the problem with Max’s characterization was not that he turned evil but that Infinite Crisis suggested that he never really reformed. (And yes, J’onn DID scan his mind to make sure that he really reformed.) If you’ve actually read the original stories, the idea that Max never really reformed makes no sense. It would have worked if Max had turned evil again and betrayed the Justice League just like he left his boss to die but that’s not what Infinite Crisis suggested.


I know Max HAD reformed, and J’onn scanned his mind (back in JLI #10 or something??) but that implies that he was going to stay reformed…

My suggestion was that he finally decided that the best thing for all concerned (and again primarily Max here) was to take over Checkmate and the OMACs…

I’m not saying that’s what happened, or what was written or what was implied.

It’s purely my take on the scenario to reconcile the Max Lord that I remembered from JLI, all the way through to “Formerly Known as the Justice League” and “JLA Classified 5-8-I Can’t Believe it’s Not the Justice League” to his sudden appearance in Countdown to Infinite Crisis as someone who was willing to kill Ted Kord at point blank range…

It really is bad writing and editorial that has left such a HUGE step unexplained… Hence my personal idea that Max snapped after the failure of SuperBuddies and went back to his Megalomaniacal ways of old…

It’s the only way I could see them as the same person… Max snapped and went back to being pre-Millenium Max…

In my mind it makes slightly more sense than “SuperBoy Punch!” or “Timeflies” or “Elseworlds”…

Hey all
In reference to someone’s comment above, the Supes-kills the-Phantom-Zone trio story was definitely ‘in-continuity’ when WW killed Max as they reference it IN Sacrifice, the four parter that concludes with Max’s death.

Personally, I think that, while it might not make much sense ‘in-world’ so to speak (but then, most of the interactions between Superman, Batman and WW in Infinite Crisis don’t), its a killer (off-panel) moment in Rucka’s prety good OMAC Project. Lord is set up as having planned everything so he couldn’t be stopped, and the murder and its broadcast, just top that off a treat.

Sacrifice was lame and basically one issue stretched over 4; hell, part one and two were basically exactly the same comic, and the cover of part 3 promises a Superman vs. Ruin fight that takes up precisely one (hallucinated) panel in the issue.

As regards Lord’s characterization, didn’t I read Titans-fanatic Didio wanted to use Mr. Jupiter but the editors talked him out of it as (quite rightly) pretty much nobody knows who he is? Giffen’s made no secret of the fact that he didn’t care what was planned for all the characters in Formerly Known as… and he was just gonna write ‘em how he wanted to.


You mentioned how, at the very end of the Byrne run on Superman in the late 1980s, Superman was in the Pocket Universe where the entire human population of the local Planet Earth had been exterminated by a trio from that Pocket Universe’s Phantom Zone, and Superman eventually managed to depower them with Gold K and then pronounced a death sentence on them and finished them off with Green K.

Although I didn’t mention it in this Timeline, I had previously gone back and forth on the idea of giving that item its own listing. I also considered listing the time when Superman killed Doomsday (and died himself) in 1992. I finally decided not to mention either of them, because my emphasis here was supposed to be on how Superman perceived Diana’s ethics regarding killing enemies, rather than on what Superman himself had done in the distant past. I did include his killing of Crucifer, though; partially because it was “much more recent” at the time Diana killed Max Lord, and partially because Diana participated in that adventure, and partially because of the remarkable parallels between what Crucifer had done (mind-controlling Superman to turn him against his friends) and what Max had done (ditto!).


I’d heard about the “Max Lord remarkably is no longer in a robotic body any more, et cetera,” but I hadn’t read all the relevant stories and I decided not to bother going into that side issue. It did occur to me in passing that if Diana was behind the curve, she might have assumed (or claimed to have assumed) that what she was facing was a robotic replica of Max which had obviously gotten glitched in its programmed personality and ought to be fair game if it wasn’t really a “living, breathing human being.” But as far as I know, Diana never actually tried to offer such a defense, and I decided it wasn’t really my job to try to invent possible defense strategies out of thin air for her! :)

Joel said:

I remember Action 761; a few months later (might’ve been in Loeb’s book?) Superman was sitting on the porch in Smallville, talking with his Pa and telling him about how he was off with WW for a thousand years. This was around the time that Parasite was masquerading as Lois Lane and making a mess of their marriage. It was played for laughs because Superman was so matter-of-fact about it and Pa was flabbergasted, but he clearly remembered.

Ouch! If that was around the time Parasite was replacing Lois, then I know I’ve read all the relevant issues of all the Superman titles from that era at least once. But it’s been years. Apparently that bit completely slipped my memory — I still don’t remember that conversation, although I vaguely recall that Superman and “Lois” made a trip to Smallville in that timeframe.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been told in other feedback that Wonder Woman once mentioned it in a heart-to-heart talk with Lois Lane (who obviously had not heard about that thousand-year-war from her own husband before Diana brought it up). So apparently that story became much more “firmly embedded in continuity” than I realized. I’ll make appropriate adjustments in the Second Draft of my Timeline, whenever I get around to cranking one out. (It will be a long time — I have other things I want to finish writing, or old things to revise for new editions, and I wouldn’t want to bore people to death by producing a slightly-improved version of this Timeline every month or so.)

My take on it? Everybody–Superman, Wonder Woman, Max Lord, Batman, Alexander Luthor, Superboy-Prime, Earth-2 Superman, every single member of the Society (particularly Black Adam)–everybody was being manipulated by the Psycho-Pirate.

Think about it. He got enough of a power-boost from the Anti-Monitor in CoIE to be able to control the emotions of whole planets. He remembers the pre-Crisis DC universe, and (as seen in ‘Animal Man’) wants to recreate it. All of the key players in the lead-up to ‘Infinite Crisis’ were acting out of character in emotional ways; Superman is lost in self-doubt, Wonder Woman has become more ruthless, Batman’s turned paranoid, and the villains are all being remarkably friendly to each other. That many people acting that badly out of character when there’s an emotion-manipulating supervillain standing right there, well…Occam’s Razor. :)

John Seavey:

Thank you! You’ve reconciled my continuity perfectly! Now can you skip ahead a year and sort out the difference between the end of Countdown and the beginning of Final Crisis? (i.e Orion kills Darkseid/Darkseid kills Orion…)


I vote for bad writing and bad editing. Really, the only thing that Identity Crisis did that tons of other “shocking” comics didn’t do was have repurcussions in all the other books. Batman can turn into an ape in a JLA annual or be killed-and-resurrected for years in a Superman dystopia, but not care a whit about it in his own book. No one even remebers what they do elsewhere, certianly not in limited series. But after IC they did — with the caveat that the only thing they’d comment on was IC.

IMO, Superman’s look of shock was probably contributed to by the fact that it was *Max*.

I mean, Wonder Woman’s killed enemies, sure.

But then, right in front of Superman’s eyes, Diana kills an *ex-teammate*.

I know that I would be a hell of a lot shocked if my best friend suddenly killed our mutual high school friend than if they killed some terrorists in Iraq. They may both be human lives, sure, but there’s a lot to be said for connections and people who have previously been friends. Killing an ex-friend and ex-teammate would strike most of us a lot harder than killing a terrorist.

Samy — but what if the ex-friend had turned into a cold-blooded, murderous terrorist when you weren’t looking? Which appeared to be effectively what had happened with Max? Your hypothetical example made it sound as if “a mutual friend” and “an Iraqi terrorist” couldn’t possibly be the exact same person!

Looking back on it, one thing that really bothered me about Superman’s shocked reaction was that it seemed he and Diana never had any meaningful, detailed follow-up discussion on exactly why he was so upset, after there’d been a little time for tempers to cool and stuff. Or not in any story I was able to find and read when I was researching this Timeline, anyway.

After I posted copies of this on other forums last year, I recall that someone responded to me by quoting a bit from a “Wonder Woman” issue set right after she had killed Max. She went back to the embassy she was using as her home base in those days (Rucka’s run), and described recent events to her friends. Someone raised in dialogue the point that it hadn’t been all that long since Diana had killed Medousa in a fight which received global TV coverage as it happened, and she had gotten away with that one just fine! Diana, in turn, made a little speech to the effect that Medousa had been a snake-haired monster out of myth and Max Lord just looked like an ordinary man, and it was going to make a huge difference in how much flack she got from the rest of the world this time. Or something along those general lines.

As I recall, the guy quoting those lines of dialogue suggested that Rucka was trying to tell us Superman was horribly, hypocritically prejudiced against people who didn’t exactly “look human” or “look Kryptonian” or something like that (or maybe he figured it was just “supernatural creatures” who didn’t deserve “civil rights,” or whatever).

I believe my response at the time went like this: “But “Superman never said that this was where he drew the line! Diana was only offering her own spur-of-the-moment opinion when she speculated that the difference in physical appearance between Medousa and Max Lord was at the root of the greater amount of criticism she was already starting to receive — but we never got to hear Superman explain exactly what was going on inside his head, and he ought to know a lot more about his own attitudes towards different types of sentient beings than Diana does!”

Sure this column is 5 years old, but what the heck. The issue I have with this list is that the individuals Diana kills in this index are primarily supernatural creatures or monsters. And having not seen all these stories, presumably they were not at her mercy at the time. Lord was just a man – sure, augmented, but still just a man – who was defeated and unarmed and Diana used her superior power to kill him. That’s quite a bit different than killing a harpie or some dark wizard.

[…] She doesn’t have a no-kill rule. Unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman has no qualms taking a life when […]

[…] She doesn’t have a no-kill rule. Unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman has no qualms taking a life when […]

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