Posts tagged: Secret Six
This poem is dedicated to A.A. Milne. Respectfully. Even though it may not seem like it.
When I am feeling very blue
And all the world is dark
I close my eyes and think,
“The world can suck it! I’m a shark!”
When I am feeling all alone
While sitting in the park
I think of just how great it…
Whenever people ask me for a tip on becoming a writer, the first tip, literally the first one that comes to mind, is to build a library. Seriously, whenever I can, I go to bookstores and I buy up anything on their remainder shelf relating to history in particular. Biographies and reference books as well, but history first.
I believe that a shelf full of history books is the greatest possible idea machine someone can have. The internet is not the same, exactly, holding a history book and reading the close details of our past in particular serves as inspiration every single time. Many, many stories you guys might have read of mine had their roots in these books I bought on clearance at sidewalk sales and in remainder aisles.
For example, the first villain I created, The Black Swan, in Deadpool, is based on a biography of King Ludwig II, the ‘mad king of Bavaria,’ who was obsessed with the fantasy operas of Wagner, and helped create a renaissance of architecture and art that has lasted to this day.
You can’t read history as a writer and not get ideas, it’s just impossible.
I’m sure a lot of you already know this, but Kilmainham Gaol is a real place, a prison built in Dublin, Ireland, built right around the year 1800. At the time, it was considered quite ‘humane’ and progressive, even. It’s been out of commission since, I think, the 1980’s, and is now a museum.
It’s disturbing as hell, and was one of the least ‘humane’ places I have ever been in. It held, at one time or another, nearly all of the imprisoned Irish Nationalists, and at one time, public hangings were held right out in front, later, the executions were no longer public.
There are things about it that are very haunting…it’s several levels, the main room is shaped like an oval, so a few guards could see every cell. Doors did have this design, that of an eye with a viewing hole in the center, on the cell’s interior, so that the prisoners felt they were being watched 24 hours a day by both the guards and by God, never a moment’s privacy. They were made to feel like hopeless sinners. No peace, even in sleep.
They were also not allowed to speak, not even to themselves.
Perhaps the oddest thing is that the jail did not separate men from women, even children. They were tossed together, five and six in a cell, regardless of sex or age. Children as young as five were incarcerated for petty theft.
Also, it’s odd, but women were deliberately treated worse than the men, at both an institutional and practical level. Men had beds, cots, anyway, women slept on filthy hay on the floor and were often subject to particularly brutal torture and treatment.
One of the most horrifying stories is that of Anne Devlin. In another issue of Secret Six, Jeannette describes having been a prisoner here at the Gaol, and her story is essentially an abridged version of Anne’s story.
Anne was an Irish nationalist posing as a housekeeper for Robert Emmett, who was planning an uprising. She was arrested and tortured, but would not reveal anything.
Later, she was arrested again, and became the particular target of brutal treatment, vengeful actions because she refused to tell anything about her employer. Police surrounded her with bayonets and stabbed her, she refused to talk. They tried to bribe her, they threatened her with ‘ribald’ comments, and she refused to say anything.
Robert Emmett was captured, and when he heard of her refusal to say a word against him, he begged her to tell the guards everything about him that she knew, he was doomed anyway and it would end her torment. She refused.
She was repeatedly tortured, and deliberately kept in a cell where, as Jeannette says, all the sewage from the jail ran over her feet each day. She was tortured and otherwise abused, kept in the dark and in solitary, for three years. Her family was arrested, her twelve year old brother died in jail just a few cells away.
She refused to utter a single word against her compatriots, and this became an embarrassment for the police, who treated her with endless cruelty. When she was released, she had several illnesses that would stay with her the rest of her life and looked like a broken old woman at the age of 28.
Again, the people who built the gaol were quite proud of the ‘humane’ qualities of the prison.
If you read the Secret Six volume, DEPTHS, much of that story is informed by Kilmainham Gaol, as well as prisons in North Korea and China that function to this day. It was about moral relativism, and how being in power doesn’t necessarily mean being moral, or decent, or humane. About how the state can be allowed to do things that would make us aghast if committed by a serial killer. Some of the tortures used in these places, and even, as we have seen, by our own government, are little different from what we have seen the worst serial killers do, the only difference is the tacit or explicit approval of that country’s government.
This is why I believe we can’t listen to the family friendly rebranding of torture as ‘enhanced interrogation.’ It is still torture. It is still applied to force confessions from the innocent. It is applied for political gain. It is applied to silence opposing viewpoints. It is applied against the poor, the disadvantaged, and in greatly distorted numbers against the ethnic and religious minorities.
But it is still torture.
It’s said that you can judge a country by how it treats its prisoners. I leave it to the reader to decide what that says about your own country.
In any case, the entire story was inspired by a visit to Kilmainham Gaol.
No matter how much I may-or-may-not end up enjoying the new Batman when I finally get to see it, I’m still still right pissed that they cast lilly-white-as-the-driven-snow-Britlander Tom Hardy for Bane.
As a Latino myself, I’ll say this, there are lilly-white-as-the-driven-snow Latinos. I’m dark as my native islander genes are strong, but my grandfather was whiter than most white people and had bright blue eyes. The same goes for my maternal great grandfather.
Don’t forget that Latino’s have strong Spaniard roots due to them having trouble keeping it in their pants.
And while yes, they could and should have cast somebody of Latin descent, rather than a Brit (not like people haven’t done this before, such as casting a Jewish man to play the Spaniard in a Princess bride or all the Brits they cast to play Romans when they could just as easily cast Italian and Greek actors), complaining about the casting based only on skin color is rather ignorant on Latin culture.
When Hardy was first cast as Bane, it seemed like a million people asked my opinion on it, and I was then, as I am now, of two minds.
First, I had seen him in BRANSON, and there was no question that he had the acting and physical chops to play Bane like few other actors could. I knew he would do a tremendous, committed, intelligent performance, one that I would love to see.
But at the same time, Bane’s heritage, and the fact that he is Latino, feel immensely important to his myth. I think, whether it was intentional or not, he was created to contrast Batman, and having a Latino man who raised himself from literally NOTHING made a fascinating contrast to the white billionaire heir of ultimate privilege, Bruce Wayne. I think there’s a powerful real-world allegory there.
And I love it, I love writing Bane as someone who is not ABOUT privilege at all, whose struggle is in some ways MORE difficult and even heroic, over Bruce’s. It added a really interesting note to the vintage, as it were.
So I would have preferred a Latin actor, as good as I think Hardy was.
And just as you say, when I posted that originally, quite a few people correctly reminded me that there are white Latinos all throughout Central and South America, and at least from the people who pointed that out, they seemed fine with Hardy as Bane.
But even with a white Latino in the role, I miss the background detail that his comic book origin added, and the Venom, which is very important symbolically. I miss the CULTURAL implications of Batman’s most dangerous for being Latino, a genius, a tactician, a thinker, a strategist, who can also, by the way, pick you up and crack your spine for you.
There was something very powerful in that contrast that I was sorry to see go.This page is an example of how it played out in the actual Secret Six comic, almost subversively. And we also see Bane’s protective-of-women streak that comes out at the oddest times. Great character, and I love that he wasn’t portrayed with that kind of unwelcome exoticism. He simply is Bane.
Of Batman’s villains, Bane is the one who is just one step away from being heroic, and that makes me love him to ridiculous levels.
Every once in a while I hear from someone who thinks that Bane in Secret Six isn’t the REAL Bane, and that he had ‘gone soft.’
Here he has ripped a man’s arm off and is beating him to death with it while calling him a maggot-infested trough of a diseased hog’s dinner.
A Secret Six PSA with Bane: “And knowing is half the battle!”
(panel from Secret Six via Comic Vine)
All this talk of Bain and The Dark Knight Rises has me missing The Secret Six.
This week Comics Editor Carol writes about 3 men born in blood: Catman Thomas Blake, Dexter Morgan and Batman.
I’ve been watching Dexter, and thinking about Thomas Blake, Catman in Gail Simone’s comic, Secret Six (DC, 2008-2011). With his tousled blond hair and predatory grin, Michael C. Hall would make an excellent candidate for any portrayal of Catman. But there are deeper resonances than physical resemblance.