THE SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINSMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1976
Creators: Gerry Conway (writer) and Pablo Marcos (artist)
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Toon villains starring in their own features, while reasonably rare, were nothing new by 1976 — The 1940s Daredevil had become prominent in a feature starring a bad guy called The Claw, to say nothing of
Desperate Desmond. And putting villains from different features into a group had been done before too — The Justice Society of America had fought The Injustice Gang of the World as early as 1947. But put the two together, and you have something that at least appears innovative. DC Comics' Secret Society of Super-Villains was interesting enough to spark an imitator — Marvel's Super-Villain Team-Up, which started out teaming Doctor Doom and The Sub-Mariner, hit the stands a little over a year later. (Unless, of course, Marvel's motive for the Team-Up title was simply to see that its competitor didn't get away with trademarking the term "super-villain".)
The Secret Society was launched by DC, with a cover date of May-June, 1976. Featured players in the first issue were Captains Cold and Boomerang (both villains from The Flash), Copperhead (Batman and Wonder Woman), Grodd the Gorilla (another Flash guy), The Mirror Master (also from The Flash), The Shadow Thief (Hawkman) (no relation), Sinestro (Green Lantern), Star Sapphire (first appearance, but based on a Green Lantern villain), and The Wizard (an oldie — in fact, a veteran of the Injustice Gang itself). They'd apparently been brought together by Manhunter (evil clone of a hero by that name), but the real organizer turned out to be Darkseid (from Jack Kirby's complex of superhero series, centered on The New Gods.).
The creators were writer/editor Gerry Conway, and artist Pablo Marcos. Conway, co-creator of The Punisher and Ms. Marvel, had recently moved from Marvel to DC, where he became writer/editor of several new titles, including Freedom Fighters and the short-lived Man-Bat. Marcos, possibly better known in his native Peru, isn't particularly famous for any single U.S. feature, but worked on a wide variety — Captain Britain for Marvel, Teen Titans for DC, Vampirella for Warren, and more. Neither Conway nor Marcos stayed with the series for very long.
Most villain series either start out with, or quickly acquire, a resident hero to give the reader someone to cheer for. In this case, Captain Comet, a minor DC superhero from the early 1950s, was revived for the purpose in Secret Society of Super-Villains #2, where he made his first appearance since 1954. At first, he was duped into believing the villains were good guys (he'd been rocketing around in outer space for the past couple of decades). Soon as he was set straight, he became their steady opponent, as villainous Society members came and went.
Villains appearing throughout the Secret Society's run included, but were far from limited to, Chronos (The Atom), Felix Faust (Justice League of America), Bizarro (not usually played as a villain, but he was here), Blockbuster (Batman) and Professor Zoom (yet another Flash villain). Aside from Captain Comet, heroes who opposed them included but, again, weren't limited to, Kid Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Robin, The Creeper, The Atom and Superman.
A hero's motivations tend to be fairly simple in melodramas such as comic book superhero stories. Those of the villains are usually more complex. Because of this, it was hard to hold the Secret Society together. Schisms, counter-plots, etc. abounded, leading to instability in the group. It probably was doomed from the beginning to shatter within a fairly short time, just too unwieldy to continue.
But its demise was hastened by an event remembered in the comic book community as "The DC Implosion" — a sudden decision on the part of the company's accounting department that many of its titles that started within the past couple of years weren't pulling their weight, and had to go immediately. After 15 regular issues, a couple of crossovers and a Special, The Secret Society of Super-Villains got its plug pulled. The last issue (dated June-July, 1978) began a continued story. Most readers never saw the conclusion. It was "published" in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2, a xeroxed compilation of Implosion victims (such as Prez and Mr. Miracle), which was distributed only to staff members and is now an extremely rare collector's item (at least in its original form, tho copies abound).
The Secret Society of Super-Villains isn't completely gone — for example, it's turned up on TV, in 21st century Justice League cartoons. But as an ongoing presence in the DC Universe, it might as well be.