HERO HISTORY: The Secret Six

by

Or – “Okay, This Time It’s CLEARLY A Protagonist History…”

It’s a proven fact that comic book names are recycled with regularity, as Ms. Marvel becomes Warbird becomes Captain Marvel becomes Ms. Marvel again, while a new Captain Marvel comes to the forth, only to end up being called Marvel Boy while Marvel Boy becomes The Uranian…  But what some might not realize is that today’s entrants come from an old heroic tradition as well even as none of the groups to use the name (save for an alternate reality that we shan’t be going into today) are actually comprised of superheroes.  Even so, their history is filled with turning points and moments where the various members have transcended their own natures to be heroes.  As one of the group’s members has been heard to say, the definition of the word is extremely fluid.  By demand of the Major Spoilers Hero History forum, I give you the history of twenty or so denizens of the DC Universe, who in their various and sundry agglomerations have been known as…  The Secret Six!

 

The story of the Secret Six begins during the Cold War, a time when the unseen “red menace” was on the mind of many, when the threat of communist uprising and the end of freedom itself.  (Uniquely, the story of the Secret Six also begins ON THE COVER of the very first issue, a moment of action as a car screeches out of control towards a cliff…)

The vehicle proves to be driven not by a superspy on the run or a statesman in distress, but by Hollywood stuntman King Savage as part of a gag on the set of his latest film.  King is pulled form the wreckage, mostly unhurt but for a sprained leg, allowing him to bow out and head off to ANOTHER meeting, this one much more dangerous…

King and his five associates are called together in the service of the man called Mockingbird, a man who holds sway over each of them, possessing knowledge that will destroy them or the technology to save them.  The Secret Six are given special uniforms and a mission that Mockingbird has conjured up for them, a mission that they are forced to complete or Mockingbird will use his “influence” on each of them.  The Six find their mysterious leader absent from their rendezvous until one of them comes to a shocking realization…

The Secret Six hear Mike Tempest’s tale of woe, only to be interrupted by the disguised voice of Mockingbird.  It seems that the former Tiger Force isn’t the only one with skeletons in his closet…

The Six are assigned to overturn a tinpot dictator named Zoltan, during which mission it becomes clear that ALL of them are more than they seem and each of them could be the Mockingbird.  Could the voice behind the distortion effect be the lilting Cockney tones of supermodel Crimson Dawn?

Or perhaps the devious schemes of the Mockingbird spring from the fertile mind of genius biophysicist Doctor August Durant?

Could Mockingbird hide in plain sight by affecting slurred speech and mannerisms to simulate punch-drunkenness and calling himself Mike Tempest?

Perhaps Mockingbird finds it useful to personally pilot his charges to their missions, using razor-sharp flying reflexes and calling himself King Savage?

Mockingbird might find herself well hidden among the Six, indeed, anywhere in the world, thanks to the brilliant acting skills and chameleon qualities of theatre legend Lili De Neuve?

Of course, slight of hand is Mockingbird’s stock-in-trade, and who better to understand misdirection and legerdemain than the accomplished stage illusionist Carlo di Rienzi?

Indeed, any one of these operatives possesses the skills to be the man (or woman) behind the hood and vocal distorter, but there are a few telling clues…  Mike’s peril is clearly illustrated when the goons who want him dead discover him working for the Six, and Crimson’s family comes close to discovering the truth about her identity.  But King’s danger is much more abstract, and nobody ever SEES Carlo’s supposedly-injured son.  And if Mockingbird is so crafty about keeping Doc alive one day at a time, why does he always seem to have a FULL bottle of his pills?

Mockingbird calls upon his agents seven times, but as the 1970′s dawn, the calls suddenly stop.  After five years, the members of the Secret Six reunite to discuss old times, which leads to a ten year reunion, and a fifteen…  As the decades pass, it becomes clear that the call isn’t going to come anymore.  Whatever the Mockingbird was after, he or she stopped needing a black ops team to pull it off.  Then comes the 20 year reunion of the Secret Six…

The eighth mission of the Secret Six arrives two decades after the last as Mockingbird demands that his operatives take on the challenge of…  training their successors!

As he six new agents listen to the sales pitch he perfected back in ’67, Mockingbird himself and his/her five partners are taken by antique VTOL plane to a hidden location.  Unfortunately for them all, there are OTHER plans in motion that will trump those of even the cunning Mockingbird.

Upping the ante a bit, the latest incarnation of the Six consist almost entirely of people who haveface terrible handicaps or misfortune, all of whom are given cybernetic devices to repair their lost abilities.  Doctor Maria Verdugo is given a helmet that offsets her debilitating seizures, special effects man Mitch Hoberman is given gloves that alleviate his severe arthritis, acress LaDonna Jameal is fitted with a choker that allows her to speak normally for the first time since she was splashed with acid by a crazed fan, soldier Vic Sommers is given bionic eyes to replace his damaged ones, investigative reporter Tony Mantegna’s hearing is restored for the first time since he lost it chasing a story, and track star Luke McKendrick is given robot legs to replace his injured ones.

The new Secret Six are given their first mission from Mockingbird, but thanks to the electronic wizardry of Doctor Verdugo, they also take on a secondary case:  The identity of Mockingbird and the fat of the original Six…

Years ago, Carlo di Rienzi was blackmailed by Mockingbird (or WAS he?) with the threat of danger to his son.  Now grown, that selfsame son, Rafael is desperately searching for his lost father, acting as an unofficial seventh member of the team as they try to figure out the truth behind their predecessors.  It is not until the team has been forced to perform several missions for the Mockingbird that they discover a key piece of evidence…

That pill bottle was ALWAYS full, wasn’t it?  Things get even weirder when the forces behind the VTOL crash step forward, and the truth about Mockingbird is finally brought to light…

If August Durant was the Mockingbird, then obviously the nearly-70-year old man somehow survived a plane crash that killed his cohorts, right?  If that’s the case, though, then why does Mockingbird take a strong interest in the well-being of one Rafael di Rienzi?

Misdirection…  Legerdemain…  And sleight-of-hand.

Carlo finally reveals that secret origin of Mockingbird, the truth behind the mind behind the Secret Six…

Having discovered the truth behind Mockingbird, and brought down the rogue faction within the Intelligence Community, Carlo retires the Secret Six once and gor all…

…because that trick always works.  Some years later, after the election of Lex Luthor to the office of President of the United States, the villains of the DC Universe begin organizing.  As the confused heroes try to respond in time, the villains are moving behind the scenes, as a core leadership (Black Adam, Talia Al Ghul, The Calculater, Doctor Psycho, Deathstroke and Lex Luthor) beings organizing the bad guys into a brotherhood, a union…  a Secret Society of Super-Villains, if you will.

The deranged and suicidal in this case include a few familiar faces, including three-time loser Catman, Suicide Squad mainstay and nihilist Deadshot, the son of the villain called Rag Doll, the homicidal nutjob called Cheshire, a parademon of Apokalips and a mysterious woman called Scandal, each of whom refuses to play in Luthor’s reindeer games…  Each is hounded, hunted, and near destruction, when the mysterious Mockingbird intervenes.

The “team” (and I use the term very loosely) comes together in a hidden mansion called the House of Mystery in the hopes that Mockingbird’s assist will keep them from being atomized or melted by the hordes of their former comrades.  But things in the house aren’t exactly cordial…

The Six are attacked, tortured nearly to death, and left for dead in the bowels of a Society safehouse, but even Lex Luthor has no idea of the depths to which a desperate super-villain will go, especially when there’s nothing left to lose.  Breaking free, The Secret Six decide to give as good as they get…

A stone-killer, a man who lives with lions, a lunatic whose body is a weapon, a woman with poison in her veins and a demon from another world alongside a woman in a business suit?  This seems to be questionable…  But as the Society has Talia, the young offspring of a seemingly immortal madman (R’as Al Ghul) The Secret Six has their own secret weapon.  Scandal SAVAGE, daughter of the legendary Vandal Savage, a seemingly immortal madman.  And she has daddy’s temper.

Unfortunately for the Six, they’ve miscalculated on one thing:  Like their predecessors, one of their own members has a hidden agenda, as Cheshire sells them out to the Secret Society.  (Mockingbird’s hold over her is her daughter Lian, but now that she’s pregnant with the child of Catman, she has leverage.)

The Society masses in preparation for an assault, believing in the old adage that there’s no such thing as excessive force, and attacks the House of Mystery to finally take out their renegade members…

As for Cheshire, she finds out the hard way that there’s a REASON why they say that there’s honor among thieves.  Nobody trusts a traitor, not even psychopaths and lunatics.

As the Six and the Society come to blows, the mysterious Mockingbird watches from his remote location, reveling in the chaos he has created.  After all, he has a very personal stake in the actions of the Society, since someone is running it using his name… Lex Luthor.

And as for traitors in their midst, the Secret Society isn’t all that much better at ferreting out traitors than the Secret Six themselves, as Talia Al Ghul finds to her dismay.

Once again a Secret Six, Catman, Deadshot, Rag Doll, Scandal, Knockout and Parademon find that escape from the Society is near impossible, and Parademon gives his life to save his comrades.  With the Society in disarray, the Secret Six regroups, and calls upon another of Batman’s old foes to fill out their roster…

Things at the House of Mystery are somewhat less tense than before, but the addition of Scandal (a former Female Fury of Apokalips) to their number, the members of the Six have to make certain…  concessions in their behaviors.

As for WHY the team needs the help of a dwarf with a Lewis Carrol fetish, though the spine of the Society has been broken, Doctor Psycho is (as his name would imply) the kind of man who holds a grudge for a LONG time…  Using his telepathic powers, he has been hunting the Secret Six in order to exact a brutal revenge.  But he hadn’t figured on Jervis Tetch.

After their first battle as a unit goes well, the Six return home, and Knockout engages Deadshot in some Apokaliptian celebratory techniques involving penetration and such.  This does not go well with her lover Scandal, who is ready to cut Deadshot a few new nostrils, preferably in his torso…

Psycho hasn’t come alone, though.  As is his wont, he has an associate who handles the bloody stuff for him, and in this case Doc’s partner is a familiar face, forcing Scandal to face down her pater familias…

Scandal is (barely) successful, Catman faces down Cheshire, and The Mad Hatter even redeems himself (though he nearly kills Scandal for knocking off his hat.)  The Secret Six are successful in their battle, leaving Rag Doll and the Mad Hatter to discuss the nature of being an outsider…

Heh…  When next we see the Secret Six, it’s on yet another disastrous case, this one running afoul of Barbara “Oracle” Gordon and her Birds of Prey strike team, with their sixth slot filled by none other than Harley Quinn herself.

Knockout becomes locked in a grudge match with Big Barda (former head of the Female Furies) while Catman finds himself strangely attracted to The Huntress, who grudgingly shares his attraction…

Things end badly for the Six, as their objective is capture by their enemies, their employer is shot by Deadshot, and the former Batgirl doesn’t suffer criminals easily, even criminals who are on a less evil path…

Immediately after returning home from Siberia, Scandal and Knockout have a disagreement (Scandal implied that Barda would have one their fight) which leads Knockout to storm into the night to save her honor.  Unfortunately for her, the coming Final Crisis has been foreshadowed by a mysterious man who is bent on killing all of the surivivors of Apokalips and the Fourth World.

Once again down a man, the Secret Six is even more debilitated since Scandal (their handler-slash-frontwoman) doesn’t deal with her grief well at all.  They manage to find a member to replace Harley, though, in the form of the man who broke the Bat, Bane.  He doesn’t deal all that well with Scandal’s substance abuse issues, as you might expect…

HA!  You have to love Rag Doll…  As for founding members Deadshot and Catman, they find themselves embroiled in a metaphysical discussion of whether or not they should go straight.  Catman believes that they have a greater responsibility, whereas Deadshot has no compunctions about reminding him that three-time loser Batman villains don’t always GET to play in the Justice League of America’s court.  An idiot skinhead interrupts their discussion by trying to rob the convenience store where Deadshot has come to buy smoke, allowing ‘Shot to make his point with a demonstration

The team is contracted by a costumed type calling herself Tarantula, who has stolen a particular item from Junior, a particularly brutal crimelord who holds the West Coast in a iron grasp.  In so doing, the team once again puts themselves on the wrong side of a psychotic with no compunctions about kill them all…

What could cause Junior such consternation?  Why, nothin; less than a card created by Neron (DC’s lime-green Mephisto), a mystical artifact of unknown power.  What’s so fab about it?

Bane finds himself puzzled by the minds of his new partners, but is particularly fascinated by the girl called Scandal, looking as though she’s barely out of her teens, but with a depth of spirit that puzzles him.  (Daddy was an immortal caveman who tortured her.  She doesn’t just have issues, she has a complete run bagged and boarded.)  His answer to her emotional turmoil is weirdly fascinating and touching…

As the team is forced to go on the run from nearly every super-villain in the DC Universe, trying to get the card back to Gotham City where their employer awaits…  Bane takes the opportunity to test his theory, bonding with his new “daughter.”  The biggest surprise?

It actually seems to work…  It’s one of the strangest moment ever, and yet it kind of mists you up to see it.  At their wits’ end, Scandal is forced to call in a favor from an old friend, a woman called Jeannette who runs an establishment called The Nocturne.

Unfortunately, it seems that Jeannette is as two-faced as anyone else they’ve interacted with thus far, as Cheshire appears out of nowhere with some bad news…

Bane is captured by Junior and tortured to find the whereabouts of the card, but the crimelord finds that the man from Santa Prisca isn’t a stranger to torture, especially when given the option to save his “daughter” from the same fate…

Jeannette’s loyalties are found to be clearly with Scandal, as she forces the antidote from Cheshire, and uses her resources to recover Bane and set the team back on the road to Gotham City.  As for her credentials and her deal?  It’s… complicated.

Worst of all is the surprise that awaits the Six when they make their way back to Gotham to turn the prize over to the man who hired them to spring Tarantula in the first place.  He is, as you might suspect, a familiar little lunatic.

The Society ambushed the Secret Six and proceeds to take them apart, and not even Jeannette’s strength can save them from certain doom.  Bane is forced to watch as Scandal is battered half to death before his eyes, and chooses the only option he can:  damning himself yet again to the horrors of Venom addiction.

The Six manage to make their way back to Gotham and deal with their former chum (though Tarantula dies in the process) but are stunned not long after when the news makes its way through the underworld that the Batman has been killed.  Gotham City’s criminal element moves to take advantage of the missing Dark Knight, causing Catman, Bane and Rag Doll to take to the streets in his stead.

A child kidnapping ring is outfoxed by Catman and Bane (who passive-agressively argue about which of them would be more suitable to taking Batman’s place, though neither will admit that he holds such thoughts) while Rag Doll realizes just how creepy he really is…

Bane’s return to the Venom has consequences both physical and psychological, and the man who broke the Bat is nearly broken himself.  Waking up with night sweats, craving a shot of his favorite joy juice, Bane is shocked to find that he isn’t the only one who holds his friends and partners as family…

Knowing that he only took the Venom to save her, Scandal offers her help in kicking the habit.  Bane consents to try and kick the habit, and Scandal agrees to help him.

Even those who are numbered as villains, even those who seem to have no soul or dignity, have within them world unimagined…  Scandal and Jeannette find the team a new job, and Jeannette takes Deadshot with her for the meet.  Their awkward attraction has been notable for some time now, and Jeannette has taken the opportunity to introduce him to her particular brand of crazy.  (He just wants to know why she’s not wearing underwear…)

The Six takes a new job, providing security for a particularly obnoxious man who wants to build a super-prison to keep all the world’s undesirables in one place.  Problem the first:  He’s doing it with slave labor, innocents stolen from around the world.  Problem the second:  He has taken custody of the Amazons that attacked America during the events of ‘Amazons Attack.’  Problem the third:  The Six aren’t all on the same page about whether or not to take his blood money, leading to…  let’s just call it a tiff.

More complications arise in the form of Wonder Woman, and the Amazon Princess crosses swords with Jeannette, who is not a fan of Amazons.  The battle quickly gets ugly, and we are quickly shown that being a Banshee is more than just super-strength and Renaissance clothing…

The Six are horrified by the display of power, but Wonder Woman is taken down.  As the situation worsens, Scandal changes sides, and turns on their employer, who sends his men to kill her.

The Lieutenant responds by calling his wife to tell her he loves her before Scandal slashes her way through them in the manner of a scalpel through chocolate mousse.  The members of the Six are reunited to take down their boss (AGAIN killing the man who would pay them) but are split again when Catman’s child by Cheshire is kidnapped…  As of this writing, I expect that there will be bloodshed on both sides of that conflict.   When August Durant began his covert activites in the 60′s, he had no way of telling the shadow that the Mockingbird identity would cast, nor did he know how many damaged people would try to find their way under the auspices of the Six.  Though never quite a team, nor comprised of heroes, the various Secret Six incarnations have still managed to serve the greater good more often than not, and have provided a strange sort of family for the bruised personalities who call them home…

**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero History” in the “What We Are Writing About” section on the main page, and read about a hundred or so other guys who are awesome as heck… The adventures of the various Secret Sixes are published by DC Comics, and their current series appears monthly…

Next up: I’ll still be looking to the Hero History section of the Major Spoilers forums for an expectation of where you, the Faithful Spoilerites would like to see the Hero Histories go. I’m not making any promises (Witchblade is problematic) but I’m willing to hear what you, the readers would like to see. As always…

Watch.

The.

Skies.