Secret Society of Super Villains

Secret Society of Super Villains

Lex Luthor's Secret Society, as seen in Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special (2006)
Art by Karl Kerschl
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Secret Society of Super Villains #1 (May–June 1976)
Created by Gerry Conway (writer)
Pablo Marcos (artist)
In-story information
Base(s) Gotham City
Member(s) List of Secret Society of Super Villains members

The Secret Society of Super Villains (SSoSV) (also known simply as Secret Society or The Society) is a group of supervillains appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The SSoSV, first introduced in their own eponymous series with issue #1 (May–June 1976), are an enemy of the Justice League of America, in whose series they have made several appearances during the late 1970s.

Series conception

Editor Gerry Conway created the team to be "a kind of 'evil' Justice League". Since other editors were somewhat possessive towards the more popular DC Comics supervillains, Conway resorted to sifting through DC's back issues in search of members, finally selecting a lineup of relatively obscure and/or forgotten villains.[1]

The first issue of Secret Society of Super Villains was drafted with artwork by Pablo Marcos. Then, according to Conway's assistant Paul Levitz,

Custom in those years was for the editor to bring the finished inks of an issue in to [editorial director] Carmine [Infantino] for a cover conference, during which Carmine would usually sketch a cover design in pen on typing paper. While I wasn’t in the room, I clearly recall Gerry coming back down the hall to his office, confused, as Carmine had looked through the issue wanting to see the villains’ clubhouse or headquarters, and when that wasn’t in the book, asking Gerry to redo it. In my time at DC in Carmine’s years, this was the most significant change in an issue I recall his asking for at that late stage.[1]

In the original story, Darkseid (demanding to be called the Director) founds the group under the title of the Brotherhood of Crime in a bid to hold the world ransom by stealing the world's deadliest nerve gas. The group, made up of Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Clayface, Star Sapphire, and a clone of Manhunter, turns on their benefactor when Manhunter raises the issue of Darkseid's history for trying to enslave humanity. Darkseid is revealed to be an android. Manhunter suspects Darkseid controls it from afar and nominates forming the Secret Society of Super Villains to combat Darkseid while pursuing their own goals.[2]

Publication history

Due to the delays caused by having to redo the first issue from scratch, Conway assigned David Anthony Kraft to script the next three issues of Secret Society of Super Villains over his plots. After issue #4 both Conway and Kraft abruptly left DC, leading to a mad scramble to produce a fill-in issue.[1]

Jack C. Harris took over as editor, and Conway returned as writer only with issue #8, but artists on the series rotated nearly as often as the lineup of the titular supergroup, with Rich Buckler, Mike Vosburg, and Dick Ayers all contributing short stints as penciler, while inkers changed from issue to issue. Harris felt that the series' mediocre sales might have been partly his fault: "The cover concepts were one of my editorial duties. Rich Buckler turned my ideas into the best he could do, but I never felt as if my ideas were good enough for his art. I think there was a ‘sameness’ to my ideas which might have hurt the title in that casual readers might have missed buying an issue because they thought they’d already seen it."[1]

Secret Society of Super Villains was cancelled with issue #15 as part of the DC Implosion. Issue #16 was already at the printer at the time of the cancellation and would have been the final issue, but writer Bob Rozakis appealed to DC to pull the issue since it was the beginning of a three-part story and he didn't want to leave the readers hanging.[1] Issue #17 was near completion at the time, and both it and issue #16 would see publication of a sort in the privately printed Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2. Issue #18, which concluded the three-part story, was scripted but never drawn. Rozakis later revealed where the story would have gone had the series not been cancelled in a weekly column for Silver Bullet Comics.[1]

Fictional history

Darkseid's Society

Cover to Secret Society of Super-Villains #3. Art by Ernie Chan.

First organized by Darkseid, the Secret Society of Super Villains were based out of the Sinister Citadel in San Francisco. From early on, the team was plagued with power struggles. Lex Luthor, the Wizard, Gorilla Grodd and Funky Flashman all sought to control the powerful team; Manhunter (the team's first leader) and Captain Comet, on the other hand, sought to divert the villains' evil ways into a more positive channel. After discovering the true identity of their benefactor, the team rebelled against the alien overlord. To quash their uprising, Darkseid sent Mantis and Kalibak. At the end of the struggle, Manhunter sacrificed himself to seemingly kill Darkseid. After this, the team splintered, with Luthor, the Wizard, Gorilla Grodd and Flashman leading the team at different times. However, the Wizard proved to be the most tenacious and created the definitive incarnation of the SSoSV. They went on to fight the original Crime Syndicate of America of Earth-Three and the Justice Society of America. While traveling dimensions, back on Earth-1 Silver Ghost, Mirror Master and Copperhead formed yet another team and fought the Freedom Fighters.

The Wizard's group eventually returned from Earth-2 and battled against the Justice League of America aboard their satellite headquarters. At one point in the battle, the two teams swapped bodies, allowing the super villains to discover the true identities of their nemeses. After gaining the upper hand, the Justice League wiped the memories of the super villains, precipitating Identity Crisis and the formation of the current Society years later.[3]

Also notable in this series' run is the first appearance of Captain Comet in over 20 years as well as the introduction of a new Star Sapphire. Both were regular, recurring characters.

Ultra-Humanite's Society

The Secret Society on the cover to Justice League of America #195 by George Pérez.

The next incarnation of the Secret Society was organized by the Ultra-Humanite, who organized foes of both Earth-One's Justice League of America and Earth-Two's Justice Society of America. This marked the first appearance of the now-classic albino ape body of the Ultra-Humanite.

This incarnation of the SSoSV was betrayed by the Ultra-Humanite, who had his own agenda. However, he was defeated, and the entire group was incarcerated in another dimension. Ultra-Humanite contacted his younger self in 1942, who helped to break out the SSoSV using the power of Brain Wave. The ape Ultra-Humanite attacked Infinity, Inc. in the modern day, while the rest of the SSoSV battled against the All-Star Squadron in 1942. The villains were defeated, and returned to their proper times.


The SSoSV in time grew into a large underground group with dozens of villains holding membership in various scattered cells. After the reformation of the JLA, the seven superheroes decided to infiltrate and shut down this new Society.

Disguising himself as the deceased Brain Wave, Martian Manhunter lured the villains to one spot, where they were defeated by the JLA. As the tale was told by the Rainbow Raider to Sonar, it's uncertain whether this tale actually happened. At the very least, there may have been some embellishment.

Alexander Luthor Jr.'s Society

After the defeat of the last incarnation of the SSoSV, time would pass before villains would band together in any sort of large organization. Fueled by rumors of the mindwiping of Dr. Light, a new Society emerged. This Society was founded by Alexander Luthor Jr. posing as Lex Luthor along with five other supervillains: Calculator, Dr. Psycho, Deathstroke, Talia al Ghul, and Black Adam.

The Society's council. Cover to Villains United #1 (2005). Art by J. G. Jones.

Alexander Luthor's intent was to gather together a cadre of supervillains to retrieve several key superheroes who have ties to the Multiverse, in order to harness their residual temporal vibration to recreate the multiverse, through a giant "tuning fork" tower similar to the ones seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Only Psycho-Pirate, who remembered the multiverse, knew of this plan, as Alexander Luthor lied to the members of his inner circle, telling them that he was building a massive mind-erasing machine to use against all of the heroes in the DC Universe.

Playing on the fear of superheroes, retaliation for refusal, and the desire for power, Alexander created a Society the size of which (over 500 members) is larger than all previous incarnations combined. Out of all the villains in the DC Universe, the only one not even offered an invitation is the Joker on the grounds that he was "too wild."

The group, referred to simply as The Society, was featured in the mini-series Villains United as background characters and foils for the new Secret Six (consisting of six villains recruited by the real Lex Luthor who refused their invitation to join the Society). The follow-up one-shot Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special focused on the Society itself as they enacted Alexander Luthor's back-up plan to conquer Earth in the event his main plan failed. This led to a final battle, referred to as the Battle of Metropolis, where the Society, led by Dr. Psycho and Doomsday, made their final battle against the various heroes of the DC Universe. Many heroes and villains died that day.

Alexander Luthor, Jr. was killed by the Joker (as his revenge on Alexander Luthor Jr. for not including him) and Lex Luthor at the end of Infinite Crisis. Black Adam, betrayed by Alexander Luthor Jr., fought the Society in the Battle of Metropolis, tearing off Amazo's head, and returned to rule Khandaq full-time.

One Year Later

Main article: One Year Later

One Year Later, most of the Society's inner circle is either in prison or has resigned from the group. Dr. Psycho was captured by the authorities after the Battle of Metropolis and is on trial in the Manhunter series; he has also appeared in Secret Six and Wonder Woman. Deathstroke was apprehended by Green Arrow but escaped and started recruiting members for Titans East.

With Talia returning to rule the League of Assassins, the Calculator remains the only original member of the "inner council" left running the Society.

Final Crisis

Main article: Final Crisis

Not long after the Society's dissolution, Checkmate instigated a crackdown on all villains in the DC Universe, who were captured and exiled to a prison planet as seen in the Salvation Run miniseries. The group included almost every villain in the DC universe, with rare exceptions. Though the villains escaped back to Earth, their desire for revenge drives the Society to depose Lex Luthor and replace him with a leader who promises them what they desire.....the mysterious Libra.

Libra, a follower of the Intergang "Religion of Crime" and secretly an agent of Darkseid, leads the Secret Society as Darkseid's ground troops as part of the Final Crisis storyline. Promising to fulfill the hearts desires of his subordinates, Libra murders the Martian Manhunter for new recruit Human Flame. He also arranges for Clayface to leave an explosion at the Daily Planet, killing and maiming dozens of Superman's closest friends and mortally wounding his wife Lois in the process, to try to seduce the disgruntled Luthor to his side and draw Superman to Libra.

With most of the Society including Vandal Savage behind him, Libra reveals his true self to Lex Luthor as the villain turns on the Human Flame by forcing a mind-control helmet onto the villain's face, exposing him to the Anti-Life Equation and turning him into a mindless slave warrior known as a Justifier. Faced with the threat of being forced to become a Justifier himself, Luthor agrees to become Libra and Darkseid's servant. With help from Doctor Sivana and Calculator, Lex Luthor ultimately turns against Libra and forces him to retreat. With Sivana's help, Luthor and the mind-controlled legions of Justifiers helped Superman in battle against the last remaining forces of Darkseid, the Fury Riders. Luthor and Sivana then proceed to help Superman build the Miracle Machine to save the Earth, though the two are only allowed to work on sections of the machine due to the risk of them stealing the designs for future villainous schemes.

In Final Crisis: Revelations, the third Spectre kills Doctor Light and melts Effigy before trying to take on Libra. Sister Wrack of the Religion of Crime impales Vandal Savage with the Spear of Destiny, causing Vandal Savage to be reborn as Cain. Cain then seeks out Spectre and easily overwhelms Spectre followed by Cain impaling Spectre with the Spear of Destiny. It separates the Spectre from Crispus as Renee Montoya and Radiant carry his body into the church. Cain later controls Spectre and has it recite the Anti-Life Equation to recreate the world in Darkseid's name. Cain manages to stab Renee with the Spear of Destiny. Renee manages to grab the spear and use its powers to restore the world and Crispus' life. Reuniting with the Spectre, Crispus uses his judgement to kill Cain's followers but could not kill Cain. The Spectre casts Cain out into the world with no chance of peace until God decides to grant him otherwise.

In Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, the Rogues withdraw from Libra's society and plot to take revenge on a movement-restored Inertia before they retire. However, Libra uses his New Rogues to target the Rogues and forces them to join up with Libra by doing various things to those close to them. Even with the New Rogues slain by the Rogues, Libra doesn't give up that easily. They still turn down Libra even after Zoom is depowered by Inertia who is then killed by the Rogues.

From an idea by T.O. Morrow during and after Final Crisis, Cheetah assigned several scientific members of a new Secret Society (such as Professor Ivo and Doctor Poison) to collect soil samples from various regions of Earth in which acts of genocide occurred. They plan to use the soil to form a new villain named Genocide. Genocide is brought to life through a combination of science and the magic of Felix Faust. They are successful in doing so, but soon after an enraged Wonder Woman defeats a small team of members consisting of Shrapnel, Firefly, Phobia and Dr. Morrow. After telling them to disband the team, Wonder Woman then destroys their homebase skyscraper building.

The New 52

In The New 52, a reboot of the DC Comics universe, the Secret Society's origins are traced to two shadowy figures (one of whom is later revealed to be Professor Ivo) who meet to discuss the growing superhero community. The Secret Society is officially uncovered five years later by Green Arrow, who is injured while trying to infiltrate the organization under the name Dark Hunter on behalf of the Justice League of America (at that time, a state-sponsored group, separate from the Justice League led by Superman). The mysterious leader of the Secret Society, originally only known as "The Outsider", spreads out photographs of the different supervillains in front of him and says "It's recruitment time starting with Scarecrow."[4] The mysterious leader successfully convinces Scarecrow to join the Secret Society.[5] The Justice League of America sends Catwoman to infiltrate the Secret Society by sending her to Arkham Asylum and letting her escape. When she does, she runs into Blockbuster I and Signalman on the rooftops where she ends up knocked out and wakes up strapped to a chair in an empty room.[6] While waiting for a meeting with the leader of the Secret Society, Catwoman frees herself from the chair she was strapped to. When Catwoman meets with Professor Ivo who plans to bring her to the banquet hall to meet the leader of the Secret Society, Catwoman knocks out Professor Ivo only for her to be strangled into unconsciousness by Copperhead moments later. Catwoman wakes strapped to the chair again, with a pale man clad in purple standing in front of her. He demands to know what she and her friends are doing there. He is aware of the Justice League of America's encounter with Shaggy Man (this version being created by Professor Ivo) and Dr. Arthur Light's attempts to access their communication systems. He warns that Arthur Light is about to receive an unpleasant call. As Arthur Light begins hearing a voice from the object, the pale man puts a gun to Catwoman's head and orders her to start talking. Instead, she warns that if he kills her, Batman will stop at nothing to find them. This however is exactly what the Secret Society wants. Dr. Light is suddenly knocked back by a burst of light, just as the pale man pulls the trigger, leaving Catwoman apparently dead on the floor of the concrete room.[7] The Secret Society's leader has Signalman and Copperhead drop off Catwoman's body at Batman's doorstep. Catwoman soon comes back to life and it is discovered that the Catwoman present is actually Martian Manhunter in disguise. Martian Manhunter and Catwoman then fight the Outsider and Blockbuster. When Manhunter and Catwoman finish with Blockbuster, they hunt down the Outsider who seems to know all about their real identities. However, his identity is still a mystery to them. Martian Manhunter attempts to use his telepathy to discover it, but he senses that he is blocked from doing so. Despite that, the Outsider allows Martian Manhunter the opportunity to see into his mind. Martian Manhunter is surprised to learn that this man watched his world die as he did. While pursuing Professor Ivo, Green Arrow finds him in a room with the captive A.R.G.U.S. agent Chronos trapped in a chair with electric energy. When the engine he is stuck in is activated (and it has just been) Chronos causes a temporal neutral field to envelope the manor, causing it to freeze in place throughout time, while the Earth turns....which means that the Earth moves, not the manor. Thanks to the coins that the Society have been given, they are able to stay within the manor without issue, but the Justice League of America is going to face a very painful death if they do not leave the house soon. After the Justice League of America escape from the manor, the Outsider comments to Martian Manhunter that it was nice to see him "again."[8]

At the start of the "Trinity War" storyline, the Outsider has sent Plastique to prevent Madame Xanadu from warning the Justice League of her vision. The Outsider states that Pandora will soon be in the clutches of the Secret Society of Super Villains.[9] The Outsider calls his fellow members telling them "it's time".[10] Madame Xanadu is revealed to have been captured by the Outsider, who tells her that the Justice Leagues and the Trinity of Sin are all pieces in his game, with Superman and the Question (referred to as the pawns), Batman, Phantom Stranger, and Wonder Woman (referred to as the knights), all moving away from Pandora (referred to as the queen), leaving her unprotected. Madame Xanadu retorts that she does not need to see the future to know that the Justice League will defeat him. The Outsider replies that he has already won since he has a mole in the Justice League.[11] The Outsider orders Plastique to infiltrate A.R.G.U.S. to plant a bomb on Doctor Light's body.[12] It is revealed at the end of the storyline that the Outsider is actually the Alfred Pennyworth of Earth-3 and he uses Pandora's Box to open a gateway to allow the Crime Syndicate to arrive on Prime Earth. The formation of the Secret Society was to have members ready for the Crime Syndicate once they arrived.[13]

During the "Forever Evil" storyline, the Crime Syndicate furthers their goals by springing inmates from Arkham Asylum, Belle Reve, and Iron Heights Penitentiary in order to expand the Secret Society of Super Villains and establish their rule over this reality.[14]


Other versions

Justice Underground

Justice Underground
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance JLA Secret Files 2004
Created by Kurt Busiek
Ron Garney
In-story information
Base(s) Undisclosed location in Nation of Modora (on an alternate Earth)
Member(s) Quizmaster
Sir Solomon Grundy
Lady Sonar
General Grodd
Star Sapphire

The Justice Underground is a fictional superhero team in the DC Multiverse. The Justice Underground is an alternative version of the Secret Society of Super Villains from the Anti-Matter Universe.

Fictional history

The Underground experienced some temporary victories in their battles with the Syndicate, both as a team and individually. For example, Quizmaster's underground connections allowed him to interfere with the supplies needed by the Crime Syndicate for various operations, such as the speed serum that Johnny Quick requires to maintain his super speed.

One by one the Justice Underground members were all defeated, captured or killed. For example, Ultraman rendered Sir Grundy inert on a Saturday, and Lady Sonar sustained massive injuries from having her sonic abilities reflected back to her by Power Ring. Lady Sonar was forced to replace much of her shattered body with bionic implants. It was in this form that she resided as the guardian of Modora, the final free nation of Antimatter Earth.

Upon her home's invasion, Lady Sonar was successful in defeating Johnny Quick (Antimatter Flash) by temporarily shifting his body out of phase with reality. She was eventually destroyed by Owlman and the rest of the Crime Syndicate when they finally conquered Modora. She was placed into cryogenic storage alongside her teammates, ready to be reanimated in a zombified state if the Syndicate decides it necessary. Their remains are located in the Crime Syndicate's Panopticon on the Moon's surface.

The Justice Underground was released by J'onn J'onzz as a team of associate JLA members reversed back into the Matter Universe. It is unclear how they were able to recover from their injuries, though it could be inferred that Owlman healed their injuries while they were in stasis.


Collected editions

Their series was scheduled to be collected into a trade paperback entitled Showcase Presents: Secret Society of Super Villains (collects SSoSV #1-17, 520 pages, ISBN 978-1-4012-1587-3), but that project was canceled.

In other media





  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Greenberger, Robert (August 2009). "The Secret Society of Super-Villains". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (35): 25–31.
  2. Conway, Gerry (2011). Secret Society of Super-Villains, Vol. 1. DC Comics. ISBN 1-4012-3109-8.
  3. Justice League of America 166-168 (1979)
  4. Justice League Vol. 2 #17
  5. Justice League of America of America Vol. 3 #2
  6. Justice League of America Vol. 3 #3
  7. Justice League of America Vol. 3 #4
  8. Justice League of America Vol. 3 #5
  9. Justice League Vol. 2 #22
  10. Justice League of America Vol. 3 #6
  11. Justice League Dark #22
  12. Justice League of America Vol. 3 #7
  13. Justice League Vol. 2 #23
  14. Forever Evil #1
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