Keeping it Unsettling: Gail Simone on Secret Six

Gail Simone on Secret Six

Secret Six #4

This week sees the latest issue (#4) of DC’s Secret Six hit comic shops (preview here), and continues the “Unhinged” arc which sees the anti-team making a mad dash across the country with Tarantula in tow. Their goal? Gotham City where they’ll deliver Tarantula and the mysterious artifact she has – the “Neron Card.”

Filled with “whu?” Don’t worry – we spoke with Secret Six writer Gail Simone to sort everything out.

Newsarama: Alright Gail – first things first – we’re three, well, four counting this week’s issue into a series called “Secret Six,” and you’ve still got only five full-time members. There have been some possibilities moving in and out, and currently, we’re seeing Tarantula in with the five (albeit unwillingly), but is the plan to keep that sixth slot open?

Gail Simone: Let’s do the big SPOILER ALERT yellow CRIME SCENE tape thing here, and assume it works for the rest of the article, okay?

PEOPLE! Go read Secret Six #4! Wizard voted us one of the Best New Series of 2008, and we haven’t even gotten to the SEX yet! GO READ!

That’s better. Okay, actually, in number four [Out this week], we finally spend a little time with the sixth member, Jeannette. She is part owner of a casino in Vegas, and she does awful things to rich men and women for pay. But there’s a much darker side to her story than just perversion and lollipops. We find out some of that story in issue six, including where she got her nickname, “The Last Victim.”

It’s many kinds of wrong, which will surprise no one who has been following this group at all.

That said, there’s a real crisis point in this issue…the team has never had this level of suspicion and distrust. The stakes are too high, and the only one who doesn’t seem to care about the Neron Card one way or another is, oddly, Deadshot.

So there may be vacancies.

I know I’ve said this a lot, but while I’m here, I have to again mention the ridiculous contributions of the art team, one of the best in comics right now, period. Doug Hazlewood on inks and Jason Wright on colors, doing their usual phenomenal job. The book just looks better than most anything from DC or Marvel in my opinion, largely because of them.

But the superstar of all stars is Nicola Scott, who has become so insanely good that I have just plain run out of things to say about her work. On top of that, she’s a big contributor of ideas and little details that really help make the book sing. I think she’s going to be writing her own comics someday, after I let her out of the basement, which I won’t be doing any time soon. And they’ll be great. Probably annoyingly great.

NRAMA: Let’s focus on the five you do have for a moment. While time and again, we’ve seen that there’s no honor among thieves (and that seems to be the case every time the ‘Six run into an organized group of villains) why is there honor and camaraderie among these thieves? If anything, this mission is showing them that by working together, they make a bigger target, if nothing else, after all…what keeps them together?

GS: I think it’s a little different reasoning for each character, but in the end, they are a group of loners who by sheer chance, found the one small handful of other human beings that didn’t make them want to vomit or kill themselves. Deadshot feels a little more of an amused toleration of these people, whereas his time in the Suicide Squad was more of a semi-enforced business arrangement. Bane probably would have left earlier, but he sees something in Scandal that compels him to stay. Scandal is the only one who actually functions better on a team. Catman, he’s been sort of adrift, but feels that a life without human company will be too tempting. And Ragdoll’s a freak.

NRAMA: You mentioned the Neron Card, so let’s dig into the opening storyline – and just so folks are up to date, the team is escorting Tarantula back to Gotham City from Alcatraz, because someone in Gotham wants (a) her, and (b) the card she possesses – said Neron Card. That said, the crime boss named Junior has put everyone on their trail in order to get the card…I miss anything?

Secret Six #5

GS: Since most everyone’s heard, the Neron Card is said to be a ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card, a one-time-only creation from Neron himself, possibly the most valuable item ever created in the sentient worlds. The exact meaning hasn’t been made absolutely clear yet, and some of the Six, especially Deadshot, are skeptical. But they’re also afraid to gamble and be wrong. Scandal wants it to get her lover Knockout out of hell, and the rest can’t stop thinking of their long lives of sin.

Junior, one of the most evil living human beings, wants to be able to continue the lifestyle that’s been lived up to this point, including murder and torture and living in a crate with the Elephant Man’s wardrobe and addressing the throngs of DC villains from a stripper pole in a gay club. He wants the card and he wants to hurt Tarantula for stealing it from him.

Then there’s the mysterious Gotham benefactor who is paying the Six to deliver Tarantula and the card and is spending huge money to make it happen…

NRAMA: Before we get into the things that are motivating him, let’s talk about Junior – first off, is he completely new, or someone that we have seen before, albeit not in this shape?

GS: That would be telling, but I will say that, you know how sometimes this book is disturbing?

Junior is extra disturbing. There’s a page coming up that Nicola drew that is genuinely hard for me to look at. It’s oogy in the best possible way.

NRAMA: And he basically runs the West Coast underworld? Nicola’s done a good job on the gruesome-meter, but why do people fear him so?

GS: Yeah, the East coast of America in the DCU is run by a variety of mobs including the 100, Intergang, the various Gotham families and freaks, and others, whereas most of the West coast has been totally monopolized by Junior’s people, and people who don’t even know they work for Junior in the first place. Junior runs it all with a rotary phone, a notepad, and a number two pencil. And anyone who tries to shave off some points ends up artfully (if hastily) re-arranged and left in their own home.

NRAMA: Powers-wise…he’s clearly meta..or supernatural…have we seen all that he can do?

GS: No, not yet, but Junior makes one of the Six pay bad. I think, all things being equal, the Six would rather face the Secret Society again than this guy.

NRAMA: Let’s talk about the card - it seems like someone would only want the card for two reasons – 1) as insurance, which still makes you a target, and 2) to get to someone who’s already in Hell so they can get out. Care to tell us what Junior’s planning?

GS: There’s really no other way to say it—Junior is a believer, but he doesn’t behave like someone who believes. He wants to eat the buffet, but he wants to skip out on the bill.

NRAMA: This week’s issue – the Six continue their trip, and with #4 are in Vegas. More carnage coming, clearly – and let’s talk some about Jeanette. As you said, she’s the sixth readers have been waiting for…

GS: Right. The thing is, the Six go up against overwhelming odds so often, it’s easy to forget that they actually are a team of badass players when called for. Deadshot scares even the metahumans, Catman fights in that scary top level reserved for DC’s top guys, and now they have Bane, who I see as a huge jar of nitroglycerine that no one’s yet been dumb enough to set off. So, yeah, there’s some bad blood when they get pushed.

And Jeannette’s an old friend of Scandal’s, a bit of a snob, but a great lot of fun, as well.

Secret Six #6

NRAMA: Not wanting to spoil much of this week’s #4, let’s look ahead - issue #5 is a “Faces of Evil” story focusing on Deadshot – he’s been well explored along the way, so why’d you chose him to spotlight?

GS: It doesn’t so much focus on him, as show his thought processes, which we really never do in this book, so it’s a nice bit of insight. In the past, Floyd’s comments could often be taken two ways, either as sarcasm or genuine cruelty. Here, we see a bit more of what he really thinks of his teammates. Maybe. It’s an interesting little psychic spelunking mission. Floyd really is one of the best characters in the DCU (Thank you, John Ostrander!). It fits in very unobtrusively into the story we’re already telling.

NRAMA: In that vein, what’s your latitude with this series? In your first outing with the Six in Villains United, you basically were able to play with the larger Society as well as the Six who stood opposed. Do the keys to Secret Six “car” also fit in the Society car and the larger DCU underworld car if you want them to?

GS: Between Wonder Woman and Secret Six, and my past with the Villains United and Secret Six minis, I get to do a lot of the steering of the Secret Society, but I don’t want to be setting up barriers in other people’s books. The Society has a big role and a surprising new leader, but that shouldn’t stop others from telling their own Society stories, and particularly shouldn’t affect non-society villains. If someone uses the Six, it helps me to be informed, of course.

NRAMA: Wrapping up, tease out the future a little for us – how long does the “Unhinged” arc run for? Any names, places you can drop for what’s coming after that?

GS: ‘Unhinged’ is seven issues, with the final issue being one of the biggest mind&^%*s it’s been my pleasure to write. It’s wonky. It has some fun guest villains and heroes and a couple big, messy showdowns, and the final fate of the Neron Card. You don’t want to miss this, sincerely. It’s just printed with rocket fuel on the side of a nuke. There’s a couple fun guest artists doing little side pieces as well that we’ll be surprising people with. It’s not fill-in stuff, it’s there for good reason and I think people will dig it a lot.

After that, we have a really fun and disturbing issue, a Double Date issue. I’m not going to say who their partners are, but Scandal and Deadshot go to dinner and a movie with a couple likely prospects, and things just don’t seem to go as hoped.

Also in issue eight, I believe I can announce, if it all works out as hoped, there will be a four page back-up story featuring the internet sensations, The Tiny Sixers.

I kid you not.

After that, we have a story where the Six have to face the consequences of “Unhinged,” and I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s got meat-human trafficking, the return of a great DC anti-hero, the split-up of the original team, nudity, eggs, claws, and jeez, just a ton more things I’m completely ashamed of.

It’s a great book for people who don’t know right from wrong. Once again, it’s just a gorgeously drawn book with something awful and funny around every corner. I hope people continue to enjoy it as Nicola and I complete our slow descent into depravity and incoherence.

While I’m at it, I’d like to get in a quick plug, if I may. This January marks the release of the You’ll All Be Sorry collection, written by me with some tidbits of help from some of the biggest names in comics. It includes my favorite episodes of my humor column, as well as some brand new pieces, and assorted insanity. The book is from Nat Gertler’s great About Comics imprint, and includes a new round of Condensed Comics Classics (which are sardonic ‘high concept’ definitions by real creators poking fun at their best know works) by such talents as Matt Fraction, Darwyn Cooke, Paul Cornell, George Perez, and too many others to list.

This book was supposed to come out a little while back, and the delay is absolutely 100% my fault, not Nat’s (whose on-time record is otherwise spotless). However, it’s still a lot of fun, and probably quite insulting to every aspect of the industry, thank goodness.

Here’s just a teeny sample…

Let your retailer know you’d like a copy, won’t you?

We now return you to talking about Bendis and Johns.

Thank you all!

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