- Look at them! Each in his own little bottle world. Each working for me, unaware. Dreaming me to total power. Dr. Destiny... Bah! Dream on. Imagine the brain as a mansion with... oh, let's say a million rooms. A million locked doors and a million keyholes. And yet, how few of those rooms we ever enter. Until now. My psycho-chemicals have begun to open all of the locked doors in my head. I'm tapping the 90% of the brain we never use and it's giving me such... wonderful ideas. I've finally done it. The Justice League are mine. Their thoughts belong to the Key. And with their help, I shall open the doors onto a new universe! Oh, and make a note of an interesting side effect of my expanding consciousness. I can't stop talking to myself...
- — The Key src
The Key is a megalomaniac obsessed with unlocking the secrets of the physical world and the human mind. To this end, he has augmented himself with chemical cocktails, boosting his baseline cognitive abilities into the superhuman range. A common opponent of the members of the Justice League of America, the Key will never be satisifed until he has picked the contents of their minds apart and cleared a path to total global domination.
Originally a chemist with Intergang, the man who would be known as the Key develops mind-expanding "psycho-chemicals" that activate his ten senses and help him plan crimes mere humans can never hope to understand. Armed with these plans, a series of henchmen known as the "Key-Men", and a "key blaster", the Key has several failed run-ins with the JLA.
In his first appearance, the Key used psycho-chemicals on Justice League mascot Snapper Carr, to brainwash Snapper into tricking the JLAers into consuming similar cocktails, falling under his control, and turning their Secret Sanctuary base over to him, then disbanding and losing all memory of the events. Thanks to Hawkgirl, who observed that her partner Hawkman was unable to perceive the Key-Men as they committed crimes out in the open, the Justice Leaguers realized what the Key had done to them, regrouped, and retook their lair. The Key was sent to prison, but not without a contingency plan. A key-weapon that the JLA had confiscated from him for their Sanctuary trophy room was collecting cosmic rays from the stars to charge itself up and eventually used that energy to broadcast a hypnotic command into the Justice Leaguers' brains to force them to murder each other within an hour. Thanks to Superman's ingenuity, in trading places for a version of himself from 3 years in the past using time-travel, the JLAers were prevented from slaying each other at the hour's end, and Superman busted the Key as his minions and he laid siege to the United Nations Building, forcing the Key to undo his mental programming of the Justice Leaguers in exchange for saving his life from a defective laser-rifle.
Determining that the Key was far too dangerous an opponent to be contained by the American penal system, Superman briefly held the Key in a state of suspended animation within his Fortress of Solitude. However, a court ruled that Superman's containment of the Key in this fashion was unlawful and violated the Key's right to due process, so the Key was tried, convicted and imprisoned in an American correctional facility. Several years later, prison doctors diagnosed the Key with terminal cancer; with the most optimistic prognosis having him dead by the beginning of the new year, the Key was paroled. Bitter at his failure to realize his potential due to the interference of heroes, the Key masterminded a plot to bring the entire Justice League of America together, in order to eliminate them in one fell swoop. Nearing Christmas-time, the Key murdered a professional Santa Claus impersonator who was set to appear at a charity function for an orphanage alongside Superman and Batman. At the scene of the crime, the Key left a note bearing a riddle, which when deciphered revealed his intent to destroy a city block in St. Louis, Missouri, with a time bomb. Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado and Green Lantern John Stewart (subbing for the momentarily indisposed Hal Jordan) arrived at the building containing the bomb. There, the Key picked the JLAers off one by one with obstacles and death-traps specifically suited to play to the Justice Leaguers' individual weaknesses. However, the Key's plot was thwarted by the unexpected supernatural intervention of the Phantom Stranger, who extricated each hero out of his apparently lethal situation at the last possible moment, and gathered them together to face the Key personally. In enraged defiance, the Key hastened the countdown of the bomb to cause its premature detonation and made a cowardly getaway. Without enough time to defuse the bomb, the JLA were forced to rapidly evacuate the block of people, while John Stewart contained the explosion with a force-bubble and rebuilt the rundown tenements in their original pristine condition, as a Christmas gift to the poor of St. Louis. As it turned out, the Key shuttled himself to a casket where he planned to wait until the time of his inevitable demise, but the containment of the fallout of his radiation-bomb by John Stewart caused the Key's body to absorb much of the radiation. As a consequence, the Key's cancer went into remission, but his body withered, shriveled and became useless to him. Using only his brilliance, the Key created a human-sized robot body to contain whatever was left of his deteriorated form and entered into an association with a budding new super-villain named the Star-Tsar, who ostensibly wanted to contract the Key to be his weapons supplier. The Key created a robot-chassis in the form of the Star-Tsar, in order to make it possible to impersonate the Star-Tsar and thereby ensure that the Star-Tsar would take the blame for his own criminal activities, such as an attack on a foreign embassy. In order to reduce risk to himself and confuse the authorities, the Key also reached out to disgruntled former JLA mascot Snapper Carr and offered to "make" Snapper into a veritable super-villain, also outfitting him with a duplicate of the Star-Tsar costume to use for any future criminal activities. Little did the Key and Snapper know that their actions to impersonate him and pin the rap for any illicit activities on the new super-villain in town actually benefited the real Star-Tsar, helping to magnify his persona and facilitate the creation of valuable underworld ties while he also played the upholders of the law for dupes by worming his way into their trust under another identity, the Privateer. The whole convoluted conspiracy came apart at the seams when the Justice League were drawn to the Key's secret lair in the process of following the Star-Tsar's trail and forced the Key to confess that neither Snapper nor he was the true Star-Tsar, at which point Red Tornado checked his infallible computerized memory-banks to determine that the Privateer went conveniently missing at crucial points in their investigation, thereby exposing him as the true Star-Tsar.
The Key returns, after spending years in hibernation. The psycho-chemicals he has been ingesting have altered his appearance into a pale, cadaverous form and heightened his mental abilities. He manages to infiltrate the JLA headquarters, and traps the team in a fantasy realm of their own creation, intending to siphon off the energies of their inevitable victory in order to increase his power. He almost succeeds if not for the intervention of Connor Hawke, who beams up to the JLA headquarters while the Key is present due to a pre-arranged meeting to discuss him becoming a member of the League. He eventually returns to fight the Batman, attempting to provoke the Dark Knight into murdering him so he could escape life itself, but the plan proves unsuccessful.
Now with telepathic powers thanks to a cybernetic implant, he tries to destroy the League. After a long battle with Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary and Manitou Dawn, he is beaten and sent to "the dream realm", a place for telepaths, where he can think in peace. He somehow escapes, as he is later seen fighting in the Battle of Metropolis.
He appears as leader of a group of villains seeking to avoid being sent to the prison planet. He was last seen being a prisoner on the JLA Watchtower in the holding cells; unable to escape.
- Unique Physiology: The psycho-chemicals he has been ingesting have altered his appearance into a pale, cadaverous form.
- Genius Level Intellect: His intellect has since been enhanced by the "Psycho-chemicals" he administered to himself.
- Psycho-Chemicals: His chemicals give him more special senses and increases his intellect. The continuous use of the Psycho-chemicals sometimes has side-effects, as turning Key into a dwarf.
- Key's "Keyboard": Key used this device in his first years against the JLA. This is a large circuitry panel with locks, where by turning the keys in a certain direction, the controlled people perform a certain task. The keyboard could also trigger explosives and traps remotely.
- Although this character was originally introduced during DC's Earth-One era of publication, their existence following the events of the 1985–86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths remains intact. However, some elements of the character's Pre-Crisis history may have been altered or removed for Post-Crisis New Earth continuity, and should be considered apocryphal.
- 41 Appearances of Key (New Earth)
- 11 Images featuring Key (New Earth)
- 1 Quotations by or about Key (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Key (New Earth)
This character is or was primarily an enemy of the Justice League, in any of its various incarnations. This template will categorize articles that include it into the category "Justice League Villains."
Injustice League member
Secret Society of Super-Villains member