DC’s Wild Bunch: Gail Simone’s SECRET SIX

By Taylor Pechter — What do DC’s deadliest marksmen, a washed-up big game hunter, the man who broke The Bat, the daughter of an immortal, a banshee, and a human rag doll all have in common? They form the band of baddies known as the Secret Six. Spinning out of the events of the major DC Comics stories Villain’s United and Infinite Crisis, Secret Six is a book that follows these characters as they do work as a mercenary outfit.

Penned by fan favorite writer Gail Simone with assists by legendary Suicide Squad scribe John Ostrander and the work of a cadre of artists including Dale Eaglesham, Brad Walker, Nicola Scott, and Jim Calafiore, this series is rich with distinct themes connected to its six main characters, as well as to how they affect work as a team. It all adds up to a modern classic superhero story about comradery, love, addiction, mental illness, and much more.

Secret Six - Deadshot

What lies at the heart of Secret Six is its characters, each with their own intricacies that not only inform their character but also their place within the team. To start with, let’s talk about one of the most recognizable team members: Deadshot. Floyd Lawton—alias Deadshot—is one of Batman’s deadliest adversaries, also touted as one of the deadliest assassins in the entire DCU.

With Deadshot, Simone’s story examines how his job has affected his morality as well as his mental state. In a great one-shot issue titled “Control”, written by Ostrander, Floyd meets with a priest to confess his homicidal tendencies. Through his many years of work, he has grown numb in his morality. The only way he knows how to satiate himself is by killing. While these qualities make him a hard teammate at times, his brotherly rivalry with Catman (more below) and his connection to Scandal help pull him through.

Secret Six - Catman

Speaking of Catman, let’s move on to him. Thomas Blake is the son of a big game hunter. His father was abusive to his mother, at some points threatening to run away with him. As he grew up, he became a formidable big game hunter and tracker in his own right. He eventually crossed paths with Batman, but ultimately became a has been. That is until he left for Africa and got marked by one of the lions in the pride he ran with.

After declining membership in the Secret Society, Catman joined the Six to combat the Society. In “Cat’s In The Cradle”, a story that focuses on Catman, we follow him as he tracks down the kidnappers of his son, Thomas Blake, Jr. Sadly, he couldn’t save his son, but the narrative comes back to Catman absolving himself of his past. He realized he couldn’t be there for his son, and it tears him apart.

Secret Six - Bane and Scandal   

Bane and Scandal are next. We all know Bane as the man who broke Batman. He is a master tactician and hand-to-hand combatant. However, Bane also battles addiction to the fictional steroid known as venom. Throughout most of this series, he has kicked the substance. He refuses to use it for fear of again losing control. Bane eventually gives into his temptations to juice up in order to save Scandal’s life.

Consequently, Bane is then stuck by his craving, even to the point of waking up in the middle of the night for a hit. Scandal, meanwhile, is Scandal Savage, daughter of the immortal Vandal Savage. As the leader and organizer of the team, she carries many burdens. Not only does she have to worry about her team not killing each other, she also has a lot of baggage pertaining to her relationship with her father and also with her lover, Knockout. This combination of loneliness and atonement is what drives Scandal’s arc in the series. Scandal and Bane are paired together because of the bond that grows between them. Bane becomes somewhat of a father figure to Scandal, helping her through her trouble as she gets over the loss of Knockout. This works quite well for the development of both characters.

Secret Six - Jeanette and Rag Doll

Finally, we come to Jeanette and Rag Doll. Jeanette is the most mysterious member of the team. She was a member of the Hungarian gentry but was eventually sacrificed and became a Banshee. She has a history with Scandal which is hinted at, possibly a relationship. She, however, eventually hooks up with Deadshot. They make a perfect couple since death follows them everywhere they go.

Rag Doll, meanwhile, is the comedy relief of the group. Don’t let this fool you though, he does have a dark side. During the story “The Darkest House” he becomes prince of hell. However, he is brought back to the land of living by Scandal....with Knockout in tow. Rag Doll is a character based around forgiveness. At the start of the series, his sister Alex, known as Junior, was killed by the team. In the story mentioned above, he comes to terms with her death and connects with Scandal on how she felt when she lost Knockout.

While there are other members of the group that come and go—including magic siphon Black Alice, King Shark, Giganta, and more—the six characters discussed above are the team’s core. They not only serve as the backbone of the series, but as a team that brings a much larger story together. They are dysfunctional at times, but that is to expected of a group of villains. What’s great about Simone’s characterizations throughout is that she makes each of these characters sympathetic while also not comprising their villainous personalities.

So with all that in mind, what do say: are you ready to join the Six? Do you accept the mission?

Read more of Taylor’s writing on our comics analysis page.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter @TheInspecter.