Friday, May 27, 2016

End of Secret Six

The fourth volume of Secret Six is over.

The series is lots of fun (if anything it, could have used two or three extra issues), and it made great contributions to the diversity of DC characters, but it's also noteworthy because of its contribution to Ralph and Sue Dibny as characters.

As its last cover shows, this incarnation of the Secret Six is about a family of quirky misfits brought together by a common enemy. In contrast, the previous incarnation of the Secret Six is a group of key players within the DC Universe supervillain community who refuse to join a syndicate of super-criminals called Secret Society of Supervillains.

In the first two issues of this series, we see Catman —a classic minor enemy of Batman and part of the previous incarnation of the Secret Six—  get captured and tortured along Big Shot, Porcelain, Black Alice, the Ventriloquist, and Strix. The five of them characters apparently created by Gail herself (one of them is soon revealed to be another classic character in disguise).

After their rough start, despite their shenanigans, Ralph Dibny keeps them together in a suburban house outside Gotham City, where they fight the Riddler, a Lovecraftian menace and the League of Assassins.

It would seem pretty odd to see the Elongated Man, a character usually associated with very straight and heroic people, with criminals and misfits, but we can guess that Gail was paying some tribute to the hardboiled roots of the characters. Ralph and Sue Dibny are famously based on Nick and Nora Charles, from The Thin Man.

Despite their wealth and happiness, Nick and Nora love to party and drink with all sorts of people from Nick's past as a private detective. They also take care and almost adopt the troubled Dorothy Wynant. All of this is very similar to the way Ralph and then Sue take care of Catman, Porcelain, the Ventriloquist, Strix, and especially Black Alice.

The Thin Man was originally a novel, but MGM made a film adaptation and several sequels out of it. The book and the scripts for the first two sequels were written by Dashiell Hammet, which might explain the way Gail portrayed Damon Wells as blue collar, hardboiled detective, and Sue appears to be a femme fatale at first. Of course, there are no sources to back this kind of similarities as something Gail intended, but they are still there.

Intended or not, the fun part about it is that Secret Six is the origin story of Ralph and Sue within the New 52 (some of that might remain as part of the upcoming "post-Rebirth" continuity), and Gail just gave them a backstory that pays tribute to their  hard-boiled roots.

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