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Secrets of the Six

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Thanks to writer Gail Simone, The Secret Six has gone from being a cult favorite refugee of the 1960s to stars of a top-selling mini-series. The current team may have very few connections with the previous incarnations (at least as of this writing), but the DC Comics property has an interesting, although sporadic, history.

The Secret Six first debuted in their own title, cover dated April/May 1968, by E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Frank Springer (artist). This comic introduced Dr. August Durant, an acclaimed American nuclear physicist. Enemies of the United States targeted the scientist, infecting Durant with a deadly virus. Durant’s story would have ended there if not for the involvement of the secret organization known only as “The Agency.” The Agency provided Durant with a cure for the virus, albeit one that required repeated doses of a rare pill. With Durant firmly under their control, The Agency coerced the physicist into forming a secret team to combat the threat of Communism and organized crime. Under the secret guise of “Mockingbird”, Durant selected five specialists and set about ensuring they became indebted to him.

Carlo di Rienzi was a world famous illusionist, who became involved with the mafia. After a hit on his wife and son, that also badly injured di Rienzi, Mockingbird provided treatments that allowed the illusionist to regain the use of his damaged legs (a treatment that, of course, also required repeated doses, thus ensuring di Rienzi’s cooperation). King Savage was an Air Force pilot, captured and tortured during the Korean War. Mockingbird arranged to cover-up the secrets Savage revealed to the enemy, bringing the pilot back to America as a hero of the war. Lili de Beuvre, actress and master of disguise, was framed for murder, only to be provided by an alibi by Mockingbird. Disgraced model and heiress, Kit “Crimson” Dawn, became the group’s femme fatale and karate expert, in exchange for a new identity. Mike “Tiger Force” Tempest, a boxer, was rescued from death at the hands of the mob. The final member of the Secret Six was Durant himself, who hid his dual role from his allies, pretending to also be under the sway of Mockingbird. Despite the popularity of secret agent stories in the late sixties, the Secret Six never achieved wide spread popularity, and the bi-monthly title was cancelled after 7 issues (April/May 1969).

The Secret Six returned to DC continuity in May 1988, as part of DC’s weekly anthology, Action Comics Weekly (beginning with issue #601). Set years after the dissolution of the original Secret Six, Martin Pasko (writer) and Dan Spiegle (art) reunited Durant and di Rienzi, again under the thrall of The Agency. Finally learning the identity of Mockingbird, di Rienzi helped Durant assemble a new Secret Six. Each of the new Six – Tony Mantegna, Vic Sommers, Mitch Hoberman, Luke McKendrick, Ladonna Jameal and Dr. Maria Vergugo – were somehow physically disabled. Mockingbird provided them with cybernetic enhancements, making them more than human, as well as controllable. 

As the new Secret Six began their missions, Durant and di Rienzi busied themselves formulating a plan to finally escape The Agency’s control. Unfortunately, The Agency learned of their plan, and had all of the original Secret Six killed (save di Rienzi, who escaped). Eventually, the new Secret Six learned the whole story of their legacy shortly before The Agency killed di Rienzi. The new Six disbanded, while di Rienzi’s son took up his father’s crusade against The Agency. The serialized story ended with a cliffhanger in Action Comics Weekly #630 (December 1988), as a new Mockingbird revealed his existence (his/her identity was never revealed).  

The next time DC used the name “The Secret Six” was for a special event called Tangent Comics. In a non-continuity world, this Secret Six was a gathering of “re-imagined” heroes who united to face the villainy of Aquaman. This team, created by Chuck Dixon (writer) and Tom Grummett (art) consisted of The Atom, The Joker, The Flash, Manhunter, Plastic Man and The Spectre and shipped in February of 1997.

The latest version of the Secret Six (now commonly referred to simply as “The Six”) formed in Villains United #1 (July 2005). As part of a master plan, Lex Luthor began organizing the villains of the DC Universe into a massive, cohesive organization known as the Society. While some villains joined the group eagerly, others were coerced through aggressive means. Of the criminals approached by Luthor’s agents, only six minor villains refused to join, thus branded as enemies of the Society. Gathered by the mysterious Mockingbird (who may or may not have connections to either of the previous men to carry the name), Scandal, Deadshot, Chesire, Rag Doll, Parademon and the Fiddler took an active role in trying to disrupt Luthor’s plans. 

When the Fiddler botched an early mission, he was executed on Mockingbird’s order, and Catman was recruited as a replacement member. The group has thus far defied the odds, thwarting Luthor’s plans at several junctures. Despite this, the Six’s success may soon come to an end with the final issue of the Villains United mini-series (#6), due in stores October 12th. Betrayed by Cheshire, The Six finds that their base of operations has been exposed and they must face a literal army of Luthor’s Society. Writer Gail Simone and artists Dale Eaglesham and Wade Von Grawbadger also promise that this issue will reveal the identity of the mysterious Mockingbird…

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