Crime Syndicate: Where Do I Start?

Crime SyndicateIn comics it seems that every government in the world worries about heroes going bad, but what if all the heroes were bad? That’s the conceit of DC’s Crime Syndicate of America (Crime Syndicate or CSA, for short), an alternate universe version of the Justice League where justice has turned into “just us” with names like Ultraman (Superman), Superwoman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman), Johnny Quick (Flash) and Power Ring (Green Lantern). Created back in 1964’s Justice League of America #29 by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowky, there have been several iterations of the team (some going by other names like the Crime Syndicate of Amerika or the Crime Society) that have plagued DC’s heroes individually and on entire team-wide battles.

With Geoff Johns recently revealing that the¬†upcoming Forever Evil event series will feature DC’s villains versus these villainous versions of the Justice League, we’ve pulled together the best CSA stories from the past 49 years to create a bible to better know your heroes born bad.

Justice League of America #29JLA: Earth 2: For me this is the key text to the Crime Syndicate, combining the elements of earlier versions into a more cohesive force inside the DCU. Done by the familiar team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, it re-introduces the CSA as from an anti-matter universe in which they rule the entire Earth. Carrying the motto of “Cui Bono?” (“Who Profits?” in latin), the evil team manages to co-exist with a unique system that keeps the playing field level for all involved. Morrison and Quitely set up a gorgeous and elaborate world for these villains, and then the JLA have to show up and ruin it.

Justice League of America #29: 1964 was a crazy year for comics, especially in the Justice League of America title. Fresh off the invention of Earth-2 and allowing different versions of a hero to co-exist, in 1964 this title invented four new dimensions just a year into it with alternate heroes, but for our post today this issue is great because it features the debut of the Crime Syndicate of America. The CSA comes from a world where our heroes were born bad, and in this issue they discover an alternate Earth — what we know as Earth-1 –and look into it as weak for their heroic counterparts, and jump dimensions for one of the biggest hero fights of its time. It’s a one-off story and has been collected numerous times in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 1, Justice League of America Archives HC Vol. 4 and Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 2.

36669_20060418174457_largeCrisis On Multiple Earths, Vol. 6: This recently released collections brings together for the the first time the 1982 cross-over story “Crisis on Earth-Prime” from Justice League of America and All-Star Squadron. In this five issue crossover, the time-traveler Per Degaton teams up with the CSA to take over his home world of Earth-2 by stealing nuclear missiles from Earth-Prime… what could possibly go wrong? The CSA quickly double-cross him but all evil parties end up in the cross-hairs of the Justice League and the All-Star Squadron.

Adventures of Superman #603-605: This three-part arc by Joe Casey and Carlos Meglia from 2002 has sadly never been collected, but is a great little story showing the CSA’s trinity of Ultraman, Superwoman and Owlman chasing after a wild super-powered baby. Ultraman thinks it’s a product of a tryst with Superwoman and wants to raise it as his own, while Owlman wants to kill it out of spite and jealousy. It’s a great little tale and shows the characters on their own rather than constantly being at odds with their JLA counterparts.

Superman/Batman Annual #1: This overlooked gem from 2006 features Joe Kelly teaming up with a who’s who of iFanboy favorites like Ed McGuinness, Sean Murphy and Ryan Ottley to tell a modern version of how the titular heroes met their CSA counterparts, Ultraman and Owlman. It features a Earth-3 version of Deathstroke with a dead-on impersonation of Deadpool, and even an appearance by Mister Mxyzptlk. Good fun, great characters.




  1. Crisis on Earth Prime continues to be one of my all-time favorite mult-issue comic book crossover stories from the Bronze Age of comics. I absolutely couldn’t miss an issue when it came out.

  2. one of my favorite segments on the site.
    just read the joe kelly

  3. I feel that Morrison and Quitely could have done the CS for YEARS… Or at least Morrison with COVERS by Quitely.

  4. I love DC’s multiverse. It consistently churns out fantastic stories for me to consume. I guess I’ve always had a hard-on for reimaginings of classic characters. Darker, lighter, goofier…whatever. Just different. Nice article.

  5. Fun article. I kinda prefer the idea of the Justice Lords more but the Crime Syndicate can be cool too. I watched “Crisis on Two Earths” recently and found it enjoyable, with the CS being a good challenge to the JL. It’s interesting to me that Superwoman and Owlman dated in that (but apparently were hiding it from Ultraman) while in JL/JLU Batman and WW dated. And now Superman and WW are together, I think that’s gonna lead to something down the road.

    What about an article about the evil trio of Legion Super Heroes? Lightening Lord, Cosmic King, and Saturn Queen I think? I’ve seen them pop up a few times but don’t know much about them.