Monday, October 24, 2005

Character Donation #105: Checkmate

A new Character Donation; because YOU (or, at least, one of you), demanded it!

Checkmate.

Face it; shadowy extragovernmental agencies with cute names are very Marvel. SHIELD! AIM! I assume it's because Marvel's heyday commenced in the anticommunist spy-crazy days of the 1950s and 1960s.

DC is more about apparently boring but dangerously intrusive government bureaucracies like the Bureau of Metahuman Affairs and the Department of Extranormal Operations. Plastic Man was an FBI agent, for pity's sake. Perhaps because DC's roots are in the agency-crazy New Deal era?

Checkmate. The snazzy shiny high-tech costumes. The crushingly heavily handed overuse of extended chess metaphor (Hellfire Club, anyone?). The lack of apparent sources of funding. The lack of apparent purpose (until Max Lord came up with one!). Marvel, Marvel, Marvel.

After its aborted series (which not even the starpower of Harvey Bullock could save), Checkmate languished without portfolio until becoming, through an editorial fiat of convenience, Max Lord's Evil Inc. That its featureless and unknown cast could so easily be recast as the Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks shows how redundant and out of place it is in the DCU.

Marvel, however, would have a ball with Checkmate, and there's always another side to be taken in the Us Versus Them Versus Them Versus The Other Guys Marvelverse.

DC, don't try to reanimate the corpse of uninteresting Checkmate; send it Marvel, where it might make a rather interesting zombie.

15 comments:

Shane Bailey said...

WRONG!!! Checkmate is cool. The DEO, Checkmate, Task Force X, Argent, the Suicide Squad. All these agencies show the dark governmental side of the DC universe. The people willing to do what the heroes aren't. Without these series Amanda Waller wouldn't be as cool as she is today. In the DC Universe Checkmate has a place, in the Marvel universe it would just be another organization.

If done right all these individual groups could be unified under the leadership of Director Bones and The Wall almost like they were once two seperate divisions (Task Force X/Suicide Squad) under Amanda Waller and Sarge Steel. Good stuff. Between Checkmate and Task Force X they've had ties with almost every hero and team in the DC Universe eliminating them eliminates DC's History.

It's not the idea's fault nothing was done with them recently, it's the writer's.

Chris said...

I agree with Scipio.

Checkmate was just this nebulous organization that we were told was supposed to be a heavy hitter, but no one ever bought. It wasn't until Max Lord came along and made it moderatly cool, but just for a few minutes, and only as a convenient plot device.

Shane Bailey said...

Bah!!! I, Shane, will make sure you all meet your doom at a horribly nebulous device for daring to disagree with me over my favorite shadowy organization of the 80's. You shall suffer my wrath.

or...

I'll just say I like Checkmate and they make me happy at DC.

Snayu is a cool word. People should make definitions for these word verification words.

Chris Arndt said...

I think you missed the point of Checkmate.

Then again, most of the "Character Donations" are characters and concepts that you apparently didn't understand.

That indicates either A) you read some of the few bad issues featuring said characters instead of the good ones or B) you're impatient at the time.

Checkmate was cool because they had a many, many, many agents dressed as one super-hero. He wasn't a super-hero but he looked like one and it looked like there was only one and there weren't a lot of Knights but there were a lot of Pawns. Great stuff. They were also a great counterpoint to Suicide Squad.

Shane Bailey said...

Wow. That's weird. I agree with Chris. :)

This post is brought to you by Wylkenk.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Man, what was it with the late eighties and "secret government agencies" in DC Comics? They had the Suicide Squad, Checkmate, Captain Atom, all sorts of nasty government stuff. Weird.

Hmmm...the product of a few guys or a reflection of the zeitgeist?

Hmmm...

Scipio said...

Zeitgeist.

Shane Bailey said...

And a few guys. They tied all the agencies together in the Janus Directive. They were a "family" of books just like the Batman titles.

Derek B. Haas said...

Mmm. The sweet, sweet taste of donation. Regardless of my feelings about the individual donations, or the practical validity of the concept, I just can't gets me enough of these write-ups.

Scipio said...

Why is that, Derek?

Is the implicit exploration of the difference between DC and Marvel or just the spotlighting of characters?

Sarah said...

The "Task Force X" episode of JLU was so awesome (written by Darwyn Cooke, I believe) that I am temporarily resigned to any goofy government organizations they came up with.

Derek B. Haas said...

Scipio:

So, so much of what I love about your blogging prose style just comes out to play when you're focusing on specific characters, places, and traits (SEE ALSO: a certain bouffant!), even when you're talking about why you dislike them--especially since you always seem to do it from a position of a greater love of comics, of superheroes, etc.

Maybe I'm just too fond of this blog. If there were an Absorbascon Fan Club, I'd gladly become one of Scipio's Fightin' Absorbascommandos.

Scipio said...

"Absorbascommandos."

Oh.

Oh, now
THAT is a keeper...

Chris Arndt said...

Alright, most of us have probably noticed that in the transition from his own universe to the main DC Universe (and really, the DCU post-Crisis is not a fair merger but merely emigrating all the citizens of the old universes to Earth-1 and then depowering Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman... and Captain Marvel) Captain Marvel has gone from being the greatest super-hero on earth to being supremely redundent.

Now rather than being the World's Mightiest Mortal, he's Superman without the ability to see through walls, hear danger far away, distance laser vision attack.

That's what happened to Captain Marvel when he went from having his history intact to merely keeping the look and the powers and most of the personality while shoving him into the 1980s (and then 1990s) of the DC Universe.

Now, we see that, and then we see what would happen to Checkmate and most of the other character donations once they actually hit the Marvel Universe.

Look into your heart, you know it to be true!

The Evil Atheist said...

@sarah: 'Task Force X' just screened today in New Zealand. It kicked ass.