Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 (1976)
Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 (May-June, 1976)
“Attend –or Die!”
Writer/Edits – Gerry Conway
Pencils – Pablo Marcos
Inks – Bob Smith
Cover Price: $0.30
Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to make good on a promise I made to the wife about… cleaning up the comics-areas of the house. Right now, I’ve got around three rooms full of the stuff, and since I’m constantly digging into boxes in order to write and/or talk about specific issues, it’s… well, an absolute disaster.
It’s almost a bit embarrassing, but I even shared a picture of my “progress” on the Twitta Machine.
1 of 3 comic-filled rooms I promised the wife I’d clean up once finals were done, sorting and filing has quickly devolved into “look at THIS!” “When did I get THIS?” and “Holy cow, it’s been years since I’ve looked at THIS!”
Room’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets any better! pic.twitter.com/owr2VQYmhN
— Chris Sheehan (@AceComics) April 27, 2020
In that li’l tweet I mentioned the fact that, when attempting to “organize” the stuff, it’s just so easy to become distracted. It’s sort of like visiting old friends… and, at the same time, discovering new ones! Such is the book we’re going to be discussing today. It’s a book that, clearly I picked up somewhere down the road, but I have absolutely no memory of it!
Now this is a special one, not only is it an issue of Secret Society of Super-Villains, not only is it the first issue of Secret Society of Super-Villains… no, no, no… it’s even more special than that! Ya see, today we’re going to be looking at Mark’s first issue of Secret Society of Super-Villains!
Get excited! You know I am!
We open with Captain Cold and Mirror Master rushing away from a jewelry store, loot in hand. The N.Y.P.D. are in hot pursuit. Through some creative use of their powers, the pair’a villains are able to give the boys in blue the slip, and before we know they’re back at their roach motel to divvy up the dosh. Turns out, these goofballs didn’t quite hit the mother-lode they were expecting. While they were lookin’ fer a six-figure total, they barely scraped together five. As they argue about whether or not they’re “holding out” on one another, a rock comes flying through their window. On it, a note… with an invitation!
We shift scenes to Gorilla City, where boring ol’ Grodd has busted out of his prison once again. He beats the heck out of the Gorilla City Guards, all the while annoyingly lecturing them on how walls and bars don’t quite a cell make… or something. He laughs… and vanishes.
From here, we jump to the Special Security Federal Penitentiary Number Three, where Copperhead… the “Serpentine King of Crime” is currently busting out of the joint. Ya see, one of his followers smuggled his swell suit into the clink during meal time. The lackey reveals that he didn’t work alone, and shares with him… an invitation! Now, Copperhead is the type of character I’d think of growing up when I’d compare Marvel villains with DC villains. He just strikes me as so ugly, and so boring.
Next stop, San Francisco… where Sinestro is answering an invitation of his own. He touches down, and changes his image a bit in order to appear more human before gazing up to the clandestine “Citadel Sinister”. In a really cool bit, we get one of those old-fashioned “cross-sections” of the building, which tells us about all the works going on within. Why, they’ve even got a tailor up in there! Whoever’s behind this is doin’ it right!
Sinestro heads inside, and is greeted by a French woman calling herself Camille. She leads him to the elevators so he can head up to the lounge for whatever meeting is about to take place.
Once Sinestro is loaded in, and headed skyward, our “Camille” reveals that she is actually… Star Sapphire. Well, a Star Sapphire. Mr. Conway doesn’t wanna spoil her story here… and so, I won’t either… mostly because I’m not all that familiar with it! She flies up to the lounge, and it looks like our “meeting” is about to kick off. Worth noting, the caption mentions that Catwoman is a part of this “team”, but we don’t see her at all.
Now, as the baddies get settled in… they are suddenly attacked by: the Justice League! If you’re thinking this might play out just like the image on the cover… well, uh… yeah, that’s exactly how it goes. We spend three pages of the Secret Society fighting (and beating) some JLA robots. Woo?
This was all an exhibition, courtesy of their “host substitute”… Manhunter! Ay yai yai.
Manhunter introduces himself as a clone of Paul Kirk… and says he is here as a proxy for the actual leader of this Secret Society… whose name he won’t reveal. He “sells” them on the concept of joining forces… and lists off some of the perks their association will enjoy. He informs the gang that he has been tasked with “testing” them… and declares that the testing will begin with Gorilla Grodd and Copperhead! Wow, I guess we’ll get the most boring characters out of the way first!
Before we know it, the baddie tandem are headed to Jim Aparo’s buddy Chuck’s lighthouse! They’re here to swipe a solid sphere of Plutonium… that is being guarded by like four guards and an old man. Feels like a pretty underwhelming “test”, dunnit? I mean, one of these baddies is a giant genius gorilla. Anyhoo, Grodd takes out the guards… like in one panel, while Copperhead slithers up the side of the lighthouse, and beats up the “creepy old man” who is handling the isotope.
With the sphere under his arm, Copperhead rushes back outside to re-board the Secret Society aircraft. Along the way, however, he is shot in the shoulder by a recovering guard. This causes him to go down, and drop the bauble into the drink. The plutonium is gone forever…
Gorilla Grodd decides that he ain’t about to wait for his slithery compatriot… and, well… abandons him, to bleed out and/or get rearrested on the rocks outside the lighthouse! We wrap up with Grodd informing Manhunter that Copperhead “betrayed them”… which, I mean… I couldn’t care less about the snake man, but that’s just a jerk move.
Hey, this wasn’t half-bad! Wasn’t quite sure what to expect here… and, honestly, I’m still not entirely sure.
This was your standard “assembling the forces” sort of issue, which is fine. I’m kind of a sucker for stories like this… so, I don’t have any complaints in that regard. I will say, if one of the big “gotchas” in the book is the revelation that the Justice League the Society spends several pages fighting are robots… maybe you don’t put that on the cover? I mean, not that I’d assume the actual League would show up… and get beaten back by these geeks… but, still.
The characters we get here are a pretty good assortment… and I appreciate the fact that, even after a single issue, the “order” kind of changes with the loss of Copperhead. That gives this series a feeling that there are actual stakes… and, that we might lose (or gain) members at any time. They mystery behind the benefactor… which, I didn’t want to have spoiled for me… but, did because I guess “knowledge is power” on the comics internet… and we all wanna look like we know stuff. Granted, I probably shouldn’t get all that annoyed about having a near half-century old story “spoiled”. Whatever the case, I won’t spoil it, just in case people wanna find out for themselves.
I dug Gorilla Grodd abandoning Copperhead at the lighthouse… and even going so far as to lie about the snake-man betraying the Society. This shows us that there’s no loyalty among baddies. This “team” is very different than their heroic counterparts. We wouldn’t see Superman abandon the Flash in times of trouble… but, we will see the villains turn on one another in a moment’s notice.
Overall… had a good time with Mark’s issue of Secret Society of Super-Villains… though, I do wish the fella was a little more gentle with his copy. Writing inside the comic? Clipping out coupons (see below)? C’mon, Mark… think of your future, man! You could’ve been sitting on a $24 fortune right now!
Most of (Not the) Letters Page (dammit, Mark!):
Interesting Ads (aka. I hope you enjoyed your 204 soldiers, Mark!):
5 thoughts on “Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 (1976)”
If you want to see the whole (Not the) Letters Page you could probably find a scanned copy online not really piracy since you have the physical copy. Damn that Mark guy though. I wonder what he's doing now.
This is a fun series though. Too bad it fell victim to the implosion.
It's weird that only volume 2 of the collected edition is all that's available digitally of this series but not volume 1 for some reason. I assume volume 2 doesn't reprint this issue.
Mark definitely had his way with this copy… I wonder if he still has those tiny toy soldiers! He'd better still have 'em for ruining this issue!
It's weird, but there was an entirely different first issue created before this one. Written, pencilled, inked, and lettered. The creative team was a little different — Ric Estrada on pencils with Pablo Marcos on inks — and the line-up of villains changed to Captain Cold, Clayface, Manhunter, Star Sapphire, Grodd, and Darkseid.
Apparently the lack of a cool headquarters with a cross section diagram was one of the things Carmine Infantino found lacking in the original version. (Not sure why this required a page one redo, but he was the publisher.)
Anyway, it was eventually published for the first time in AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS #11 and then showed up in the SSOSV collections a few years back.
I'm not too surprised to hear about a different first issue. Around this time, DC was throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what would stick with not a lot of long term planning, particularly these titles DC promoted as Conway's Corner. If you look at how these titles rarely could keep a consistent creative team.
Nobody ever seemed to have a solid grasp what to do with SSOSV. From Conway to David Kraft to Bob Rozakis back to Conway then Rozakis wrote the last issue before the DC Implosion, this book was all over the map. I kept picking the odd issue back in the 1970s with the standard reaction being, "What the hell are they doing now?" SSOSV had the potential to have been a much stronger title with a more coherent vision.
That's so weird that they made two versions of the first issue! I love learning stuff like that… because it's just so strange! This series feels like one that could go off the rails pretty quick.