Voiced by Corey Burton
His true identity unknown, the man who calls himself the Key began his criminal career as a minor figure working in the narcotics division of Intergang. While there, he developed a series of chemicals that, when injected, caused incredible reactions within brain tissue—increasing intelligence and magnifying the senses. Naming his creations “psycho-chemicals,” he began to inject these compounds into his body, and these mental steroids began to unlock the untapped potential of his brain.
Now possessing various psionic powers—such as additional senses and heightened intelligence—he vowed to become a “key” individual in the criminal underworld using his chemically-enhanced talents. Calling himself the Key, he used his increased acumen to construct various key-related weapons, such as his Key Gun, Key-Cycle, and robotic Key-Man servants. In addition, he also created the matter-phasing technology that augmented his newfound prowess as an escape artist, for the Key soon discovered that, among his new abilities, he was no longer deterred by locks, bolts, and shackles—now no door could be closed to him, no barrier could obstruct him, and no prison could restrain him.
Originally an independent agent, the Key soon joined Grodd’s Legion of Doom, where he has quickly become a “key” member of the organization, using his technology and innate abilities in the service of his simian superior. As for his own ever-developing plans, one can only speculate, but the Justice League can be sure that, whatever they are, the Key will have no problem opening a path to them.
Cartoon Network on the Key (circa 2001): "Through the use of psycho-chemicals and a fantastic keyboard controller, the Key can control the minds of others (courtesy of Cartoon Network press materials)."
Grant Morrison on the Key (circa 1997): "I thought I'd kind of re-motivate him. I'd been reading this stuff for years, but I had no idea what the Key's powers were or what he actually did. I even went back and read some of the old Gardner Fox stuff, and I still didn't know what the Key did. The idea is that he's taken these psycho-chemicals—bizarre brain-enhancers—which have put him into a coma for years, but during that coma he's been opening up all the 'doors in his brain,' as he calls them. He how has the 90 percent of the brain that normally doesn't get used. The other power I've given him—which he didn't have before—is that he can open any door, anywhere, just by virtue of being the Key.
"What the Key does is trick the Justice League, via the psycho-chemicals, into believing that they exist in completely imaginary worlds, most of which are based on old DC 'imaginary stories.' So we're bringing back things like Superman as the Green Lantern of Krypton and the old de-powered Wonder Woman with the white costume. So far as they know, that's the way they exist, but the Key's actually manipulating them.
"We find out that his entire raison d'etre is to locate this thing called the Lock, and he's discovered that everyone in the universe has a conceptual space where they fit exactly into all creation. He's going to use the Justice League to transport him exactly to this point, at which point he'll then basically be God (courtesy of Wizard Magazine)."
"Imagine the brain as a vast mansion with...oh, let's say a million rooms. A million locked rooms 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."
The Key (to his Key-Men) from "Imaginary Stories," JLA #8
The final villain from the original 2001 press materials for the Justice League series to appear, the Key was nearly omitted from the DCAU due to his reliance on mind control as his modus operandi, which—as recalled by Rich Fogel in a 2002 Toon Zone interview—made made his powers "a little too close" to Dr. Destiny's (and Kanjar Ro, Despero, and a host of other Justice League villains). Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky and first appearing in Justice League of America #41 (December 1965), the Key was always a minor rogue in the League's gallery, injecting his enemies with his psycho-chemicals and manipulating them with his keyboard controller to accomplish his goals. The Key would have to wait thirty-two years for his shining moment, when Grant Morrison dusted off the Silver Age character and reinvented him for his revitalized JLA title. Initially a slight figure in a drab orange jumpsuit with a bizarre helmet (see here), Morrison and artist Howard Porter redesigned the Key to vaguely resemble a fusion of technology and rock star Marilyn Manson (see here) and repurposed the villain with a new goal (see Morrison's comments above). It was presumably based upon this appearance that he was listed among the other villains in the press materials but, when it came time to writing a story around the character, the creative team struggled to find a way to use the character without backtracking over familiar territory (see "Only a Dream," "Hearts and Minds").
An opportunity, however, arose for the Key to make his belated appearance on Justice League Unlimited. Downplaying the mind control aspects of the character in favor of his skills as an escape artist, the Key serves a valuable role in Grodd's Legion of Doom, using his abilities to aid in Luthor's escape and in the retrieval of the Spear of Longinus in "I Am Legion." In addition, the creative team updated the character's look; giving him a Jack Kirby-inspired update of his classic Silver Age costume. As of this writing, it is unknown how the Key will fit into the upcoming season of Unlimited, as this season appears to be primarily Grodd and Luthor-based. However, as a key figure in Grodd's organization, this villain will no doubt fit into Grodd's plans somehow.
Images courtesy of Toon Zone and DC Comics.
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