The Key

Introduction

Cryptic Crossword Clue: Eek! Thy most ridiculous recurring JLA villain is here (3,3)

What Justice League villain is most likely to be named after something you have in your pocket? Captain iPhone? The Wallet Wizard? Chewing Gum Girl?

No, of course not. It’s The Key.

The Key in the Comics

Justice League of America – Issue 41

Whoa, man. Check out that villain's head! Heavy.
Whoa, man. Check out that villain’s head! Heavy.

The Key first shows up in issue 41 of the original Justice League of America run. Because it’s still the 1960s, he gets the Justice League high on LSD and convinces them to disband the JLA and go to Woodstock, man. Sadly, the heroes’ sidekicks are all too young and uptight to ignore The Key’s crime spree and bring him to justice.

Uncool, sidekicks. Uncool.

Availability: This story can be found in the Justice League Silver Age Omnibus, Volume 2 from Amazon.com

Justice League of America – Issue 63

Superdickery sells!
Superdickery sells!

Luckily, The Key is the kind of Justice League villain who plans ahead, so it turns out that at the end of the previous issue, he implanted an irresistible mental command into the superheroes to be triggered 22 issues later.

That command? That they can’t leave their headquarters for an hour and then have to kill one another. An inefficient order in which to make these commands, of course, but, hey, it’s the Silver Age. Cut them some slack.

Needless to say, some Superman time travel shenanigans save the day. Time travel. Is there anything it can’t do?

Availability: This story can be found in the Justice League Silver Age Omnibus, Volume 2 from Amazon.com

Justice League of America – Issue 110

Yes, Virginia, there really is a dead Santa Claus, murdered by The Key
Yes, Virginia, there really is a dead Santa Claus, murdered by The Key

Eventually, The Key, like all of us, must face the prospect of his own mortality. And, like all of us, he reacts in the only sane way – by murdering Santa Claus. Even though Father Christmas is not yet a full member of the Justice League, the JLA still decide to avenge his death.

They do so by entering a death trap created by The Key. But, uh-oh, because it’s a death trap, they all die. But, uh-oh, because it’s a death trap, they don’t really die (thanks to some Phantom Stranger tomfoolery) and they all come back to life and capture The Key.

Availability: This story can be found in the Justice League Bronze Age Omnibus, Volume 1 from Amazon.com

Justice League of America – Issue 150

To be The Key or not to be The Key. That is the question.
To be The Key or not to be The Key. That is the question.

Turns out that rumours of the Key’s demise (like those of Mark Twain and, indeed, Shania Twain) have been greatly exaggerated. Because, a mere forty issues later, he’s back and teaming up with renowned anagram-lover, the Star-Tsar.

And not just teaming up with, but also disguising himself as. Look, it’s all pretty confusing and is heavily integrated with a Snapper Carr subplot, so probably wisest not to delve too deeply.

Availability: Not available in a collection.

Justice League of America – Issue 191

Amazo stealing not just the JLA's powers, but also The Key's spot on the issue cover
Amazo stealing not just the JLA’s powers, but also The Key’s spot on the issue cover

The Key makes one more appearance in the first run of the Justice League of America. He returns in issue 191, as he reactivates Amazo to steal the heroes’ energies to cure him of dwarfism. (Long story – don’t ask, but the science checks out.)

But when the Justice League put a stop to Amazo, ruining The Key’s scientific treatments, he just flips over to magic, tricking Zatanna into curing him instead.

So that’s fine too.

Availability: Not available in a collection.

JLA – Issues 8 and 9

The Key moves into meta-villainy.
The Key moves into meta-villainy.

Can Grant Morrison resist the lure of The Key? No, of course he can’t. He summons The Key early in his JLA run and sends him up against the Justice League. The Key’s working on the theory that the JLA never lose, so he’s going to trap them in mysterious dreams so that when they inevitably win in the dream-world, he can steal their energies in the real world.

But then Green Arrow, Jr. shows up and puts an end to all that.

Because the JLA never lose. Come on, Key. Think this through on all levels, man.

Availability: Available as part of JLA Volume 2, in Trade Paperback, Deluxe Edition or Kindle from Amazon.com

JLA – Issues 123, 124 and 125

The Key tries to shoehorn himself into Infinite Crisis. He fails.
The Key tries to shoehorn himself into Infinite Crisis. He fails.

With everybody far more interested in the impending Infinite Crisis mini-series, nobody even notices The Key taking down what’s left of the Justice League of America. He’s controlling somebody named Manitou Dawn, who, in what is presumably a result of erroneous paperwork, is a current JLA member. He wants to kill billions of people, of course and sets about using this Manitou Dawn person’s magic to accomplish that.

Sadly for him, once everybody finishes with all the Infinite Crisis side-nonsense (including OMACs, seven deadly sins and post-Identity Crisis squabbling) they pretty easily sort out The Key.

Availability: Available as part of JLA Volume 9, in Trade Paperback or Kindle from Amazon.com