In July of 2005 DC Comics unleashed writer Gail Simone in her own little corner of the DC Universe with the six-issue mini-series Villains United. The idea behind the comic was simple, the various villains of the DCU were banding together as part of Lex Luthor‘s expansive Secret Society of Super Villains, that is until one villain said no. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since the first issue of Villains United the Secret Six have appeared in more than 50 issues including the current run which, sadly, came to an end last week in the wake of the looming DC Reboot. The Six might be done, but Gail Simone gave us a highly enjoyable run of a team of D-listers who found common ground and struck a chord with fans all over the world.
Catman, Bane, Ragdoll, Scandal Savage, Jeannette, and Deadshot (and all the others who’ve shed blood as members of the team over the years) might not be suiting up for another mission anytime soon, but they’ve left of us with some great memories. Without further delay, I give you the Top Ten Most Memorable Moments of the Secret Six.
In issue #7 of the on-going series, at the end of the “Get Out of Hell Free” story arc, Bane takes Venom to save the life of Scandal Savage and his teammates from the army of killers, thieves, and super-villains descending on them. The Venom completely overloads Bane’s system and the man who broke the Bat sees everyone in his line of sight as Batman. The effects would wear off and Bane would retake control, but not before reminding us how dangerous a character Bane was at his height and could be once again.
The relaunching of Secret Six as an ongoing title had several things going for it including a great scene with Deadshot and Catman and a corner grocery, but the moment I’ve decided to include here is the team’s ill-conceived attempt to cheer up Scandal Savage by hiring a stripper to dress up as her dead lover and jump out of a cake on her birthday. This illustrates that this band of misfits does, at times, have their hearts in the right place – even if they have no clue of how best to show it.
The crossover which takes place in Suicide Squad #87 and Secret Six #17 finds the Six separated and battling members of Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. Sadly, the issue devolves into a Blackest Night tie-in, but before that happens it gives us a great battle between Catman and the Bronze Tiger. Catman would have quite a few memorable fights over the course of the comic’s run but this is my second favorite behind only… oh, we’ll get to that.
The Secret Six goes out with a bang, not a whimper as the all take a shot of Venom and jump headfirst into a Who’s Who of DC heroes assembled to take them down. Although the team, and comic, ends with the Secret Six’s defeat they aren’t really beaten. The Six refuse to give up, and plunge headfirst into a desperate and unwinable situation and earn one thing that this group of D-listers has rarely known – nobility.
There are plenty of odd relationships in the Secret Six, but one of the most unexpected was the loving relationship between the homosexual Scandal Savage and the largely asexual Bane. Nowhere is their relationship better represented than on the pages of issue #10 of the on-going series where Scandal stays with Bane through the night helping him overcome the withdrawal of Venom which he only used again to save her life three issues earlier. It’s a genuinely sweet moment between two characters who are anything but most of the time, and it also illustrates how Simone was willing to let make the Six not only a team but a family full of complicated, and at times, bizarre relationships that had as much to do with genuine (if sometimes very fucked-up) feelings as getting the mission accomplished.
Catman does pretty well for himself in the lady department. Even Talia al Ghul shows a flicker of interest in him by comparing him to Batman. Of all the characters in the DCU I would have never picked the Huntress to be Thomas Blake’s match, but somehow, as she almost always does, Gail Simone makes it work. The pair meet on the dance floor in Birds of Prey #104 in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijani where their mutual attraction leads to Catman licking her neck. Not the most auspicious of beginnings, I grant you, but for this tragic couple (who show definite heat on the dance floor as well as later while battling in the snow) it’s a pretty darn good moment.
At the beginning of issue #20 of the on-going series Catman is faced with a dilemma. He learns his son has been kidnapped and will likely die a gruesome death. His only opportunity to buy his son time is to kill his teammates. Let’s just say his response makes that of Mel Gibson in Ransom look like a pussy. The next several issues will take Catman down a dark road, which he still hasn’t fully recovered from as the series comes to an end, but it all begins here with his split-second decision to turn the kidnappers’ threats back on them as he sets out for his bloody revenge which will end halfway around the world by throwing a dying old man through a window.
In the final issue of the Secret Six mini-series after Cheshire has betrayed them, all Hell has broken loose, and the Six are fighting for their lives against the Secret Society, Cheshire and Catman stop to have a conversation that’s so insanely out of place it’s impossible not to love. The only thing more outrageous than Cheshire’s proposal to have sex as their friends fight for their lives around them is Catman’s reply in correctly identifying the most dangerous foe he’s ever faced. Perfect, just perfect.
One of my favorite things about Simone’s writing is it allows the characters to be petty. Yes, the team is loyal to each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get a few well-deserved digs in now and again. One of my favorite lines of the entire series takes place in issue #9 of the on-going series when the Six has gone to Gotham in an ill-conceived plan to help protect the city following Batman’s absence. Throughout the issue Bane and Catman verbally spar as to why the other wouldn’t make a good Bat-replacement (without ever admitting that’s what they each secretly desire). My favorite line of the issue comes after Catman has made a long excuse why he doesn’t want the cowl only to have Bane (in probably his witiest moment of the entire series) admit he wasn’t listening because he was trying to remember what “Catman” rhymes with. Bane just made a joke, and a damn fine one at that! It’s not just the big moments that made these characters work, its the small throwaway lines like this that made the series a joy to follow month after month.
More than anything else the Secret Six has been about the rejuvination of a single character from little more than a joke to a legitimate threat to any top tier DC super-hero. Gail Simone’s restoration of Catman’s awesome (and then some) was never more evident than in issue #2 of the on-going series where Catman fights Batman to a standstill as his teammates break Tarantula out of prison. More than any other issue this issue helped cement Catman, and his teammates, as legitmate players in the DCU and a force to be reckoned with. (And it gave me a great wallpaper, too!)