Thursday, November 04, 2010
Secret Six #1
As the 1960s drew to a close, DC began to experiment more. Whereas previous titles had almost always required a tryout issue or two in Showcase, Secret Six debuted in their own magazine. The only earlier Silver Age title I can think of given that treatment was Captain Storm.
The first part of the story is tied up with introducing our six characters. King is a Hollywood stuntman, Crimson is a top model, Carlo is an escape artist, August Durant is a physicist, Lili is a cosmetologist and Tiger is a former pro boxer. We learn that a mysterious person called Mockingbird has a hold over them, and wants them to defeat criminals that the law cannot touch.
The hold he has over them is somewhat like blackmail, although in each case it does not appear to be something the Secret Six member did wrong:
With the arguable exception of King. I point this out because while the idea of the "anti-hero" was very popular at the time, DC was not quite ready to present their readers with characters that were more than a teensy bit flawed, although that would soon change.
To add an element of suspense, it is indicated that one of the members of the Secret Six is probably Mockingbird operating incognito. He (or she) uses his control of the group to force them to attack criminals who are outside the reach of the law. Their initial misson:
Crimson seduces and drugs one of the financiers. Lili then makes up Tiger to look like the drugged moneyman. Carlo uses his escaping abilities in reverse to find a way into the evil genius' hideout.
They succeed in rather undramatic fashion; in the end the criminal dies by his own gadget as is cliche in these stories.
Overall the story (by E. Nelson Bridwell) is entertaining but nothing special. The art by Frank Robbins (Correction: Frank Springer, as pointed out in the comments by Dan) shows some promise; if I recall correctly, this is an early work of his for DC. The series is obviously inspired by the very popular Mission Impossible show on TV at the time.
Update: I read through the next several issues in this series and I have to say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Although the individual stories are not all that strong or unique, I like the way the series develops. As time goes by we learn more about the background of the Secret Six and the people responsible for the problems that Mockingbird exploits to force them to do his bidding--the crooks that wanted Tiger to throw a boxing match, the charmer that conned Crimson out of the family fortune, the torturer who forced King to reveal army secrets, etc.
Update II: Commander Benson's take on the Secret Six series is here. Commander Benson discusses the logic process that led to his deduction of the identity of Mockingbird here. I should mention that in my reading of the series, I noticed that while there were six issues after the first, and that each issue revealed more about the backgrounds of the characters, the only character whom we did not learn more about was the one that Commander Benson identified.