The Secret Six were a silver age group of adventurers briefly revived in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until Gail Simone hijacked the name and turned them into DC’s version of The Thunderbolts that the book became great–even if it never achieved readership beyond cult status.
The team got its start in DC’s “Villains United” miniseries, which was a response to–and prelude to–another event.
In DC’s Identity Crisis, it was revealed that some members of the JLA had essentially lobotomized the memories of some villains who had figured out their secret identities. This pissed off Batman and a few other heroes to no end. But it also created the rare opportunity for super villains to claim the moral high ground, which they did by creating a society of super villains (with Lex Luthor at the helm).
In Villains United #1, Gail Simone sets the stage for her take on the DC villainverse. She begins, in the panel above, by showing the Society recruiting members. But it quickly becomes obvious that this story will not be about the Society. It will be about a few D-list villains who refuse to join Luthor’s club…
By the end of the second issue of the Villains United miniseries, we have our cast assembled:
We’re 33% of the way through the 6-issue mini and we’ve met three new characters and seen fresh takes on three old ones. Deadshot was a fan favorite–the closest thing to a marquee member–but Catman had pretty much become a joke in the DCU, and only the most diehard DC fan (not me) had even heard of Cheshire. The new characters, Parademon, Scandal Savage, and Ragdoll, were instantly relatable. And fascinating. And, in Ragdoll’s case, incredibly creepy.
By the end of issue #2, these six antiheroes are captured by the Society. They’re underdogs. They have a certain charm. We’re already rooting for them.