It’s one of my most common complaints about modern spy stories: Every fictional spy agency is no unfailingly portrayed as corrupt.  Even bastions of 60s righteousness like James Bond’s MI:6 and Nick Fury’s “Strategic Hamhock Individual Entropy Llama Dostoyevskivites” are portrayed as full of bad eggs, questionable decisions and nefarious backroom doin’s.  It’s most prevalent with the MCU/TV version of SHIELD, which is not only corrupt, but has ALWAYS BEEN corrupt, since the very beginning, making it clear that Fury, Agent Coulson and the rest are mere pawns of evil.  Otter Disaster has opined (not without factual support) that the job of espionage agent has always been skeevy, shady and full of untrustworthy bastardry, and that this is just pop culture catching up with reality, leading us to today’s deep-cover query…

The MS-QOTD (a far less tortured acronym than “SHIELD”, thank you) prefers some verisimilitude to our shared stories, even if it means that creeps with cameras and listening devices are given positive press, asking: Is it even possible to successfully tell a story with a fictional spy agency that isn’t morally gray/corrupt anymore?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. April 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm — Reply

    I think it is, but it has to be a comedy, like Maxwell Smart.

  2. May 2, 2016 at 5:02 am — Reply

    It is absolutely possible to create a great spy story without playing the card of a morally bankrupt agency.
    The bigger problem is that publishers don’t want to for a few reasons.
    1. The entertainment industry pulls from the left. With that said, you can’t have a good spy agency/government agency unless it is for a liberal cause. Patriotism doesn’t fit that bill. (You never see out of control EPA or HUD)
    2. Readers are tired of Bialyas and Quarcs in comics. I believe to make a good spy story, a REAL country or agency as the antagonist helps. Since the U.S.S.R. and Ayatollah Khomeini are gone, the U.S. has no “Official” enemies and we don’t want to anger China, Putin or Isis. A good writer can turn Zor and Zam into a spy thriller, but I am tired of the Analogue countries.
    3. Comic Universes are too advanced.Classic Nick Fury is great because he was often 10 minutes ahead with tech and it was believable. One has to wonder why the general population of the Marvel Universe isn’t using more tech with Stark and Richards around.
    4. We as a population are jaded with the American governmental agencies. With spygate and even as far back as Iran-Contra, we don’t trust the government to believe they can do something for the good of the population. Patriotism brings up the cry of Jingoism which can be mutually exclusive but are often not reflected that way. If the writers put America First, they may lose some of the foreign money in the global marketplace.

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