Reuniting writer Gail Simone with artist Dale Eaglesham — who first worked with Simone on the original “Secret Six” character designs all the way back in the mid-2000s — the two are also joined by Ken Lashley on interior art.
Though the name “Secret Six” originated in 1968 with a quickly canceled team comic written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by Frank Springer, the modern iteration most are familiar with came together in 2005’s “Villains United” by Simone and Eaglesham. Unlike the Silver Age team, this book was made up of amoral characters on dubiously unethical missions, the team comprised of re-appropriated villains including Catman and brand new characters like Scandal Savage.
The characters and concept proved so popular it generated a second limited series, “Secret Six,” and a cameo in Simone’s ongoing “Birds Of Prey” comic. Buoyed on the wave of fan enthusiasm, this second limited series would eventually launch an ongoing “Secret Six” monthly series in 2008. Though the comic was canceled in the wake of the 2011 New 52 relaunch, earlier this year DC announced that Simone would bring her fan-favorite title back, albeit with some new faces filling out the ranks.
With the first issue of “Secret Six” hot off the presses, CBR News joined Simone to discuss the return of her infamous team, exploring Catman’s POV, and why the comic was canceled in the first place.
CBR News: While you’ve spent the past few years writing heroes like Batgirl, I think to a lot of fans you’ll forever be associated with Bane, Scandal, Ragdoll, Catman and the myriad other villains who passed through the pages of “Secret Six.” Now that you’re poised to bring “Secret Six” into the New 52, what is it about witty, dangerous, unrepentant villains that keeps bringing you back and inspiring you as a writer?
Gail Simone: I was in drama all throughout high school and a drama major in college, and I was usually cast as a heroine of some kind, but it was always a jealous moment because invariably, the bad guys got the best lines.
That’s how I feel sometimes about superhero comics — the heroes look great on a t-shirt, but off in the secret villain cave the bad guys are stealing all the cool stuff and telling minions what to do and having all the great weird sex and you have to wonder if Green Lantern doesn’t get just a little bit jealous sometimes.
I have said it often, but heroes aren’t always allowed to show indecision, or doubt. In some ways, we get to show more humanity with the Secret Six than you can with the Defenders or whomever.
Black Alice and Catman are playing big parts in the new series — what interested you in specifically putting these two front and center for the “Secret Six” return?
I am not sure we could really call it “Secret Six” without Catman; that seems like having the Fantastic Four with a cast of bagpipe players.
Catman is the POV character in the new book; I think he stands in for the reader in some ways. We are all trapped in situations we didn’t ask to be part of every day, we all feel claustrophobic in social situations sometimes. Catman is that guy, he is that feeling, but with good hair and claws.
Black Alice is a favorite of mine, and I think she represents a terrifying new reality to some — what if the most powerful force around you hates the status quo? What do you do, how do you stop her?
â€¨Alice is a danger not just to life, but to a way of life. I love that.
Now that we have hit the book’s December launch date, what can you say about the other four characters populating your story?
There is Porcelain, who is brand new, she is one of my favorites. She can make things brittle by touch, and then she smashes those things with a mallet. The stronger the surface, the more dangerous her power becomes. Lots of secrets, that one has.
Big Shot is an old school private eye of the kind that doesn’t really exist anymore. Which begs the question, where does he come from?
Strix is a killer who kills because she doesn’t know any other life. For her, learning not to kill is a constant struggle.
And The Ventriloquist is pure nightmare fuel.
What can you say about the new series overall? Tonally is it in line with what you were doing on “Secret Six” pre-New 52?
It’s a different tone at first because they are in an un-survivable situation, but there is revenge to be had, and of course, being the Six, they will be distracted with sex and violence and scrambled eggs at every opportunity.
Then along those lines, what are your short and long-term goals for this iteration of “Secret Six?”
I hope people empathize with them, I hope people take them into their hearts. We live in a world that is constantly trying to paint anyone who disagrees with us as without humanity. Not just our enemies, but simply people we disagree with. I feel like that shows a lack of strength, it’s the easy path.
I am not saying the Six are to be excused or forgiven. But to acknowledge that few people are all bad isn’t exactly the worst thought on Earth.
My long-term goals are to produce a book that isn’t like anything else on the stands, and I think we are well on our way.
Artist Dale Eaglesham, who worked with you on “Villains United” all the way back in 2005, is in charge of redesigning the characters, as well as cover art for the new series. What’s it like to work with Dale again, redesigning the characters that you essentially introduced together?
Ack, it’s just — it’s an inexplicably happy feeling. The plan is that Dale and Ken Lashley will alternate arcs and covers, so that they can take their time. That’s — well, it’s ridiculous. It’s such a surplus of riches, I can’t even stand it. These are two of my very favorite artists, we have been dying to work together for ages, and now I get them both?
That is just remarkable. Dale was responsible for the designs of the first version of this team and this is his dream book. He is killing it, some of the best covers on the stands, and he starts his arc with issue #5.
Like you said, on interiors you’re working with artist Ken Lashley. What does Ken bring to the table, and what interested you in teaming up with him for “Secret Six?”
Seriously, years we have been talking about working together. I adore Ken, he works like no one else, and he has created this new style, the book just explodes. I love sedate, quiet comics sometimes.
This is whatever the opposite of that is.
Readers have been very vocal about wanting to see the return of “Secret Six” ever since the series ended in 2011 — and if I remember correctly, fan demand was also a big part of the push behind the first “Secret Six” miniseries and the ongoing after “Villains United.” To your mind, what is it about “Secret Six” that makes for such engaged and passionate fans?
Well, it’s an interesting thing because the book wasn’t really canceled for sales, it still sold well and was huge in collections and digital sales (and still is). And for a book featuring no big names, that’s almost unique. It was ended, understandably, to make way for the New 52, but readers have never stopped asking for its return.
I never, ever, ever thought that would happen, it was not even in my mind. But Dan DiDio himself called and pitched me that it was time to bring it back and go even further into the unknown, and I couldn’t say no.
I think it’s a book about outsiders that actually feels like it’s about outsiders.
Then what do you hope fans old and new will take away from the new series? And is there anything you’d want to say directly to your “Secret Six” fan base?
Yes, absolutely. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You guys made a team of lovable losers into a bit of a sensation and you embraced a book that had nothing to do with what other books were doing at the time. Everyone who worked on the book put their heart into it, and in return, the readers fought for it, and now we’re back, and I could not be happier.
“Secret Six” issue #1 is on sale now from DC Comics.
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