by John Wells
Criminal Organizations of the DCU
The DC Universe is littered with sinister groups plotting to plunder or overthrow the world, not all of them well-known. In the interest of public welfare, we present these brief dossiers on a few of the lesser-known bands of villains.
Altered Strain was "formed after the invasion [and its members were] carriers of the metagene who manifest no powers. They see themselves as natural leaders, and want the government to find a way to turn on all metagenes." After one of their members was killed in a clash with Wonder Woman and the White Magician, others from the group (garbed in green, fatigue-like uniforms) staged a protest at the Themysciran Embassy (WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL # 3). The Flash captured another member of Altered Strain in San Francisco (FLASH [second series] # 54).
The Battalion of Doom:
The Battalion of Doom kidnapped a variety of influential journalists and businessmen (such as Jimmy Olsen and Bruce Wayne) and demanded "the complete surrender of all political, financial and police power in Gotham." If the demands were not met, the Battalion was prepared to detonate a nuclear device within the city. After infiltrating the terrorists as a West Coast enforcer, Superman joined Batman in rescuing the hostages and locating the bomb. The members of the Battalion wore military browns with magenta hoods over their heads (THE BRAVE & THE BOLD # 150).
The Black Ops:
The Black Ops was a criminal organization devoted to accumulating power with sophisticated headquarters in both Metropolis and Washington, D.C. Its leader was Hazard, otherwise known as philanthropist Manuel Cabral, head of Rainforest Technologies (and secretly affiliated with weapons manufacturer Amertek). His costumed operatives included his female second-in-command Shellshock (gifted with a power-punch) as well as Flatline (discharges blades), Hardsell (armored strongman), Hotspot (living flame), Mainline (light speed power), Quake (shock-wave inducer), Shellgame (capable of mentally dismantling objects) and Split (a teleporter). The techno-pirates had frequent clashes with Steel, who ultimately prevented them from seizing control of the United States' nuclear arsenal. The battle apparently cost Flatline, Hotspot and Quake their lives while Hazard was secretly freed from custody by rogue government agents who feared he'd expose them (STEEL # 6-8, 0, 19, 23-27). The three dead Black Ops members later turned up alive and, like their team leader, are still fugitives (# 30-31). Hazard now has "other priorities" and "work [he does] not wish disturbed" (# 39).
Cell Six was "the most notorious terrorist organization in Latin America," one responsible for the abduction of Wayne Enterprises' Lucius Fox while he was in the country of Hasaragua. Their demands included "three million dollars in ransom ... and ... a letter of apology from Wayne Enterprises for the company's despoiling of Hasaragua's environment and exploitation of its people." The kidnapping was eventually exposed as a collaboration between Hasaragua's finance minister and Cell Six. "He got the ransom and the terrorists got their publicity" (DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL # 10). In Gotham City, Cell Six also staged a kidnapping attempt against the wife of a Hasaraguan ambassador (BATMAN: GCPD # 1-4). Cell Six troops could be distinguished by the numbers -- 6 or VI -- tattooed on their foreheads.
The Children of Light:
The Children of Light was a Mid-Eastern (Qurac ? Bialya ?) costumed terrorist group originally led by Kahman Abhood. Following Abhood's arrest, the group seized control of a S.T.A.R. Labs/Waynetech satellite, equipped it with a laser cannon and threatened to destroy cities at will if their demands were not met. Batman and Supergirl defeated the group and discovered that they'd allied themselves with Doctor Light. The Children of Light wore blue/white costumes with sun icons on the left side of their chests (THE BRAVE & THE BOLD # 147).
Colossus was a mysterious organization that sought the secret of Alec Holland's bio-restorative formula to create an army of swamp men (SWAMP THING [first series] # 23-24). The organization was led by a mysterious council, each member of which wore a uniquely colored costume (Councilman Red, Councilman Blue). Even without the bio-restorative formula, Colossus had enormous power at its disposal -- a sophisticated electronic headquarters, futuristic hovercrafts and the ability to mutate humans into monstrous agents known as the Elementals. Only one of the Elementals was actually depicted. Thrudvang the Earth Master was a skid row bum transformed into a hulking yellow monster with the "ability to disrupt the earth." Colossus' chief enforcer was Sabre, a red and blue costumed figure with [yep] a saber for his right hand. Sabre was really John Zero, the one-time commander of a government mission to capture Swamp Thing (SWAMP THING # 13; BRAVE & BOLD # 122).
The D.M.T. were an international weapons coalition who came into possession of an extraterrestrial craft and its pilot following the events of INVASION! Their field-agents wore gold armor that was equipped with weapons and flight-packs. Superman and Sinbad encountered the D.M.T. in SUPERMAN # 48, ADVENTURES # 471 and ACTION # 658 while another cell surfaced in SUPERGIRL/LUTHOR SPECIAL # 1.
The Eden Corps:
Outwardly an above-board West Coast organization, the Eden Corps soon established itself as a radical terrorist cell dedicated to taking on "corporate American and its ravagers." Led by Hyrax (Veronica Dale), the Eden Corps committed crimes like bombing dams on its way to a bigger goal -- unleashing a Russian-created germ "that eats plastic [but] doesn't eat anything organic." Before the Corps could unleash the germ on Metropolis, Green Arrow intervened. Hyrax died in the battle and Ollie Queen followed soon after (GREEN ARROW # 97-100). Veronica's brother, calling himself Bengal, continued the group's acts of terror, plotting to drop a nuclear missile into Mt. Rainier (GA # 136; GL # 104).
The Empire of Death:
The Empire of Death was a terrorist group formed by a former Nazi SS colonel named Von Gross (BLACKHAWK # 249-250). Its agents wore skull masks, possessed a fleet of aircraft and operated from a giant solar-powered flying skull. With "trained agents in every corner of the globe," the Empire of Death engaged in espionage and contract assassination with an eye towards world domination. Von Gross was slain by Blackhawk but the Empire of Death remained a going concern through its operatives. "The supreme commander of the Empire of Death's undersea forces" was Killer Shark, who retooled the War Wheel into an amphibious weapon of destruction.
Les Mlle Yeux:
Les Mlle Yeux ("The Thousand Eyes") was a major international crime cartel involved in drugs, arms smuggling and political blackmail. Phantom Lady fought and blinded their Washington, D.C. leader, Edwin Guerrehart in ACTION COMIC WEEKLY # 636-641. Les Mlle Yeux later hired Colonel Computron to kidnap Starman and technology that could transmute lead into gold (STARMAN [first series] # 36-37).
MAZE was an international espionage agency "that [stole] information from around the world to sell to the highest bidder" (SUPERMAN # 268). They also undertook assignments to discredit political dissidents and assassinate world leaders (BATMAN FAMILY # 5). MAZE had access to a number of super-weapons and was constantly seeking new items for its arsenal, notably a solar disintegrator (SUPERMAN # 268) and a stress-tester (BATMAN FAMILY # 19). The group did much of its recruiting from the ranks of college students, one of whom -- Dave Corby -- became a costumed agent called the Raven (BATMAN FAMILY # 19; DETECTIVE # 481-483). After earlier battles with Superman and Batgirl, MAZE was finally taken down by Robin ('TEC # 483).
The New Order:
The New Order was a group of metahuman (Cain, Ammo, Corona, Scud) who commandeered a nuclear facility and demanded "one billion dollars and all mutant wild life freed." The original Flash and Green Lantern made quick work of them (JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA  # 1).
The Oblivion Front:
The Oblivion Front, whose forces were clad in blue, red and gold armor, was "a terrorist splinter group" led by Dominion (a.k.a. Dominique Duchamp). Dominion herself wore a similar, less-armored costume and had a scar down the right side of her face. A one-time employee of Van Horn Industries, Dominion later led the Oblivion Front on an assault on VHI during which they intended to raid its weapons vault. Instead, the entire group was taken down by Gunfire (SHOWCASE '94 # 1-2).
The murders of several foreign intelligence agents sent Batman on an international search for answers. In the course of the case, Batman learned of the abduction of Hungarian physicist Lucas Nagy and eventually pieced together clues that indicated that the terrorist organization known as Omega had forced him to build a 20-megaton nuclear bomb. When the terrorists threatened Gotham City with a nuclear holocaust, Batman's own experiences seemed to back up their claims. Eventually, Batman discovered that Omega's leader had manipulated everyone. Unable to force Nagy to create such a bomb, the leader realized that no one would know whether Omega truly had a bomb and set out to convince everyone that it did exist ... with Batman as "Omega's prime witness" (BATMAN # 283).
The People's Liberation Army:
The People's Liberation Army first made its impact on Gotham City with a ten-week assault that included "bombing banks, federal office buildings, courthouses -- striking terror into the heart of the city." They were led by Thanatos, clad in a skull mask, a green costume and red cape, gloves and boots -- and secretly an Italian terrorist named Sophia Santos (BATMAN # 305). The PLA later returned in Washington, D.C., agreeing to "accidentally" kill an anti-crime senator during one of their attacks in exchange for a delivery of weapons and explosives from syndicate queen Irene Scarfield. The leader of this PLA operation was Bloodclaw, a bald, bearded man with crimson steel fingernails. He disappeared into the Potomac following a fight with Batman while Nemesis prevented the assassination from being carried out ... and was presumed dead in the aftermath (BRAVE & BOLD # 193).
S.C.Y.T.H.E. was a terrorist organization (more anti-government than anti-America) from a European country called Lugwainia. In 1978's WONDER WOMAN # 244-245, S.C.Y.T.H.E. abducted brilliant aeronautics engineer Robert Selkirk, who'd spent years as a political prisoner in a (presumed) Soviet nation before gaining asylum in the U.S., and demanded an exchange with their imprisoned leader, Alexander Sorkhan. A United Nations team (Diana Prince and Steve Howard -- a.k.a. Trevor) made the exchange but the terrorists betrayed them and Selkirk himself helped Sorkhan escaped.
Within hours, New York City was being menaced by catastrophic weapons, the result of a "failed" weather satellite that had been placed into orbit three years previously. It had been conceived by Selkirk. Aboard a space shuttle, the doctor was horrified at Sorkhan's actions. "As a young man, I fled my own country, leaving behind my wife and son -- all because my government wanted to use my inventions to further their tyranny. When I read some of your writings ... I felt you really believed the goals of worldwide unity. I felt my machines could aid you ... how wrong I was!"
Wonder Woman and Steve successfully disabled the satellite but Selkirk received fatal burns while trying to keep Sorkhan from being recaptured. With his dying breaths, the doctor explained that "I lived in slavery ... spent years in prison after fighting for my beliefs ... I deserted my loved ones ... but they escaped, too, changed their names ... moved to Lugwainia ... I ... have to make it up to him ... couldn't let him live in prison ... no matter what he'd done ... couldn't let it happen to my ... son!"
Shadowspire was introduced in DEATHSTROKE # 53-54 and never seen again -- despite posing a pretty dire threat.
Their symbol was a black tower against a red sky and set within a black diamond shape. "Arising from the [South American] drug trade, but not part of it, Shadowspire supplies the cartels with the necessary tools of their poisonous trade -- weapons, transport, high technology and -- the most valuable commodity of all -- reliable intelligence on the operations of the forces arrayed against them. ... Shadowspire's tentacles penetrate every corrupt government and drug cartel on two continents. They have the resources to create biological weapons."
Through the costumed agent known as Mourn, Shadowspire attempted to unleash the Borgia Plague in Washington, D.C. with the ultimate objective of "opening new markets." Mourn explained, "Without a central government, the U.S. will disintegrate faster than Yugoslavia. There's so much anger against the federal government -- so much tension over race, religion and resources -- there'll be a civil war all over the continent inside of six months. The economy will go to hell -- and the rest of the world won't be far behind. And guess who profits when anarchy reigns ?"
Shadowspire's mysterious Chief of Shadows was the Baron (formerly Baron Blitzkrieg and, in Mourn's opinion, still "one of the ten most dangerous men on the planet."). Among the Baron's other operatives (seen in DAMAGE) were Steel hawk (an armored flying man) and Kodrescu (a psychic illusionist).
Despite Deathstroke's best efforts, a massive bomb is detonated in the Capitol Building, killing "an untold number of legislators, staff and citizens going about their daily business." President Clinton declares, "We will not rest, we will not flag and we will not fail until the people responsible for this act of war on the United States of America are brought to justice."
The story is positively creepy when read today. It spoke of ignored government intelligence reports, government officials threatened with bio-terrorism and ended with the destruction of a major U.S. building. And, aside from Slade Wilson being pulled from the debris of the Capitol at the start of # 55, the disaster was never referred to again!
Skull originated as a Metropolis-based mob that had several encounters with Superman and nearly collapsed following the capture of one of their coordinators, the Atomic Skull (SUPERMAN # 301, 310, 315-317, 323-324, 327). Thanks to new leader Simon Pons, Skull was reborn as an international crime cartel that sought to forcibly recruit millionaires such as Earl Dukeston, prominent scientists like Helga Jace (OUTSIDERS [first series] # 6-7), and even heroes and villains like Kobra and Metamorpho (OUTSIDERS ANNUAL # 1; OUTSIDERS [second series] # 20). Other agents, such as Major Disaster, worked for Skull willingly (OUTSIDERS [first series] # 25). Simon Pons and his chief scientist/geneticist Doctor Chaysten were captured by the Outsiders in Paris (OUTSIDERS [second series] # 20).
S.P.I.D.E.R. (Society for Political Instability and Diverted Economic Resources) was an international crime organization based in a hidden grotto near the Riviera whose eight "legs" were devoted to Arson, Drugs, Extortion, Fraud, Gambling, Theft, Assassination and Terrorism, the latter two described as its most active divisions. Led by a green-costumed albino woman named Mortalla, S.P.I.D.E.R. intended to ultimately destabilize world governments and take advantage of the chaos. Most of Mortalla's operatives wore standard green, yellow and red uniforms but her division chiefs -- including the hulking Spider and the acrobatic Widow -- had distinctive costumes. Thanks to Catwoman, the grotto was destroyed and Mortalla and many of her minions were taken into custody by Interpol (CATWOMAN # 48-49).
John "Mikishawm" Wells, the pride of Batavia, Iowa, is a lifelong comics fan, working his way forward from Disneys in 1969 to newspaper strips in 1973 to SHAZAM! and the rest of the DC Universe in 1974. During the 1980s, he began compiling a lists of DC character appearances, a massive database that he's tapped into when writing articles for publications such as the DC Index series, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer’s Guide, Comic Effect, Comic Book Marketplace, It’s A Fanzine, The O‘Neil Observer and, of course, Fanzing. He is Kurt Busiek's unofficial reference guide, as the keen-eyed may have noticed in Power Company #2.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by John Wells
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