by John Wells
The Cadre was a group of technologically-enhanced humans who were organized by the Overmaster to determine the might of the human race as he'd supposedly tested other dominant life forms in Earth's distant past. J'onn J'onzz viewed the so-called god as a charlatan, one who "pretends responsibility for every major extinction that occurred on Earth in the past 200 million years ... yet he required a Cadre of powered beings to 'test' the human race for worthiness. absurd, on the face of it." Originally seen in Justice League of America # 233-236, the Cadre disappeared when an extraterrestrial giant caused them all to vanish in a burst of light.
The Overmaster eventually returned but only one member of the original Cadre was at his side. The entire roster included:
Black Mass [Geoffrey Thibodeux] was a small-framed physicist who was granted a bulky body and gravity powers by wristbands provided by the Overmaster. He briefly lost his wristbands in a card game (Justice League America # 43-44) but they eventually bonded permanently with his body (noted in Joker: Last Laugh Secret Files # 1). During the Joker's siege at the Slab, Black Mass used his powers to draw the entire facility into a gravity well (Joker: Last Laugh # 2). A bullet to the head left Black Mass a vegetable (# 4) but he retained his powers and is now the cell mate of Doctor Polaris, unwittingly keeping the magnetic villain's powers in check (# 6).
Crowbar [Malcolm Tandy] was part of a Detroit gang when the Overmaster infused his namesake weapon with incredible energy. His original Crowbar was destroyed during the battle with Justice League (JLA # 236) and he temporarily lost his replacement in a card game (Justice League America # 43-44).
Fastball was a former baseball player whom the Overmaster equipped with an exoskeleton, gloves and the requisite wrist bands to enable him to pitch potentially deadly explosive spheres. He reappeared briefly in Crisis On Infinite Earths # 9 (set on a parallel world that no longer exists) but had otherwise been unseen until his return in Power Company # 1. His last name, Malone, was revealed there for the first time.
Nightfall was, according to Who's Who '85 # 4, "a former college student whose wristbands can create a null-field of pure darkness, absorbing all light and kinetic energy in a given area." She recently resurfaced in New York City (Wonder Woman # 175).
Shatterfist, a murderous ninja and worshiper of the death goddess Kali, had been imprisoned for fifteen years when the Overmaster provided him with wristbands that created a devastating aura around his hands. Shatterfist remained part of the Cadre through "Judgment Day" but was killed by a barrage of ice-spikes courtesy of the Overmaster-dominated Ice (Justice League America # 90). First seen as a prisoner in the Slab (Green Lantern [current] # 51), a successor who was partial to American slang ("This is cool beyond words!") soon acquired Shatterfist's powers and costume. He was later captured by Matthew O'Dare in Opal City (Starman # 47).
The original Shrike, as detailed in Who's Who '85 # 4, was "an escaped mental patient who possesses a shrill, powerful shriek that can paralyze or kill her opponent, and wings with which she can fly at speeds exceeding Mach 3." After embarking on a "spiritual quest" that left at least thirty-three men dead, Shrike eventually found herself assigned to the Suicide Squad. While on a mission in Ogaden, she was killed in a hail of gunfire (Suicide Squad # 24-25). Her successor, Starshrike, debuted in The Power Company # 1.
The Overmaster returned years later, initially threatening Earth through several heralds -- Dreamslayer and the Extremists (Justice League America # 78-79, 86-88), Ice's brother Ewald (Justice League America # 83-85), the Mahayogi, the Druid and an interim Cadre (Justice League International # 52, 56-57, 62-64) and the Aryan Brigade (Justice League Task Force # 10-12). The crisis was significant enough that, according to Booster Gold, it was still remembered in the 25th Century.
The latter-day Cadre included:
Dreamslayer, of course, was a surrogate Dormammu and was out the picture by the time Overmaster returned to Earth. The other new Extremists were Brute (a hulking monster with a steel-spiked back), Cloudburst (who generated lightning bolts), Gunshot (an armored, high-tech weapons-master) and two women, Death Angel (a vampire of sorts) and Meanstreak (who projected energy daggers and swords).
The Aryan Brigade was composed of Backlash (with elastic arms that functioned as whips), Golden Eagle (equipped with artificial wings), Iron Cross (J'onn J'onzz-level strongman) and the female Blind Faith (a blind tracker) and Heatmonger (whose metallic arms expelled flame). Golden Eagle and Heatmonger later turned up with the Suicide Squad in Secret Files & Origins To The DCU 2000 # 1.
The interim Cadre was led by the Immortal, who implied that he was Prester John. His team included the Druid (a Celtic mystic), Ibn Bornu (a spear-wielding Moslem), the Mahayogi (who possessed the power of transmutation and had ties to JLI member Maya), Musashi (a Japanese swordsman), Osiris (an Egyptian mystic), the Phalanx (a Roman centurion capable of replicating himself into a small army), Seneca (an Iroquis strongman) and Xiuhtecutli (an Aztec woman who threw self-generating fireballs). In the end, the team's ranks were split when they learned that the Immortal was working on behalf of another entity. Ultimately, the Immortal killed Mahayogi and was, in turn, slain by the Overmaster. Ibn Bornu abandoned the team after the deaths while Seneca and Osiris stuck around to help the League defeat the Overmaster. Seneca, at least, seemed to possess the spirit of a true hero.
The "Judgment Day" Cadre was composed of Backlash, Blind Faith, Brute, Cloudburst, Death Angel, the Druid, Golden Eagle, Gunshot, Heatmonger, Iron Cross, Meanstreak, Musashi, the Phalanx, Shatterfist and Xiuhtecutli. The Devastator, who gained his powers in JLA # 86 and wielded an energy axe, joined in JLA # 89.
When he finally made his presence known, the Overmaster pooled the Aryan Brigade, the Extremists (minus Dreamslayer) and four members of the variant Cadre along with Shatterfist and a Persuader-type called Devastator as the new Cadre. He then threw Earth into chaos by projecting his image to everyone on the planet and announcing his intention to destroy Earth in one week. As proof of his power, he erased Central City from the planet and stopped all deaths and births across the globe. An unexpected beneficiary of this was Booster Gold, who was killed in the initial skirmish with the Cadre but didn't die.
The Overmaster painted himself as a celestial force beyond good and evil. "I/we are not their God. I/we were created to serve their God. My/our purpose is to act when judgment has been passed. There is no vengeance. I/we are simply protecting the natural order. I/we collect a sample of each species, then terminate the rest, giving them whatever end they expect. On occasion, champions will rise who stand and fight. They thwarted me on my last visit to this planet. For this reason, I/we have created a Cadre to fight and demoralize these champions and rob the people of their heroes. But this has not been the case. I/we had not counted on this species' faith in its heroes. They must be made to understand that these 'heroes' are the cause of their species' downfall or they will be robbed of the opportunity to make their peace." (JLA # 90)
The collective League invaded the Overmaster's spacecraft and Blue Beetle discovered that all of the villain's activities had been caused by technology whose effects he was able to reverse. Notably, Central City was freed from stasis and returned to Earth ... and the births and deaths began again (JLI # 66). Overmaster, who had triggered Amazing-Man's powers on the eve of his arrival on Earth (JLA # 86), ended up being killed by his own creation when A-Man absorbed Overmaster's power and projected it back at him (JLI # 66).
The Overmaster's primary spacecraft was destroyed but the League took possession of its adjunct satellite for the duration of the Justice League America series. The satellite was finally destroyed in JLA # 1. Justice League America # 100 offered significant details on the nature of the satellite and Overmaster, revealing that it was programmed to continue creating artificial environments, et al. on the villain's behalf. At one point, the League discovered that Overmaster's armor was being manufactured: "These must be additional bodies ... for him to appear as a god to different species. I guess we never did see the real him."
"But if he's dead ...," asked Booster Gold. "Why are these things making more of them ?"
Good question ... and the story didn't answer it.
None of this addressed J'onn J'onzz's original conclusion in JLA # 236 (reiterated in Justice League America # 89) that the Overmaster was a charlatan. On the other hand, major figures such as Vandal Savage (JLA # 88) and (!) Darkseid (JLA # 88 & JLTF # 12) sent warnings to the League about the Overmaster's impending return. As Captain Atom observed, "I doubt Darkseid would be concerned about a fraud."
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.
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This piece is © 2002 by John Wells
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