Thursday, October 09, 2008


Secret Services: Vector 13

Anyone following along with my rundown of "clandestine government teams of occult investigators" may have noticed that I'm skipping a few well known examples. Am I being arbitrary? Probably, but it's my list, so sue me. I included the Guardians because I think they prefigure a lot of what came after, but they weren't a governmental agency, like most of the other examples on my list. But I skipped over "Mystery, Inc." (better known as Scooby Doo and friends) because they (a) aren't a government agency, (b) aren't "clandestine", and (c) don't really investigate the occult, but are instead a publicly known independent outfit that debunks the supposedly paranormal. (And don't quote me later examples of the team actually finding monsters or ghosts or whatnot. To me, that's just rank heresy.) I've left out Ghostbusters because Doctors Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler for similar reasons.

I'm also leaving out things like the MIB from the Men in Black films, because they really don't do much "occult investigating," but instead simply police aliens on Earth. And I'll be skipping over anything from The X-Files, since a pair of FBI agents working on their own doesn't really constitute a "team" (though I suppose a case could be made for including the shadowy government conspiracy from the series).

Why, then, am I including 2000 AD's "Vector 13"? Because I'm arbitrary, I suppose.

Vector 13 is kind of a corner case. The series which ran intermittently in the pages of 2000 AD from 1995 through 1998 is presented as the "Case histories of Vector 13," a clandestine goverment agency (just which government is never specified) that investigates the paranormal. There's a real kitchen sink approach in the stories, ranging from aliens to demons, from time-travel to cryptids. As Shaky Kane scripts in their first appearance in Prog 951, "Pay close attention. Everything strange is true."

Here's how the outfit was described in later issues.
Do you disbelieve?
Vector 13 is a covert Government agency which protects Earth from the truth of the universe. Stored in the Vector 13 case files are accounts of strange phenomena, ranging from the paranormal to the impossible. Every week V13's operatives, the legendary Men in Black, present a fresh case from these frightening files, full of declassified terrors. But whats is the truth and what is mere disinformation? That's for the Men in Black to know and you to find out.
As much territory as Vector 13 covered, though, they were never really much more than presenters, on the level of Cain and Abel in the old House of Secrets and House of Mystery comics, or even Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone. The Men in Black only rarely had any kind of agency (if you'll forgive the unintentional pun), seldom appearing in the stories themselves, and most often relegated to sitting in darkened rooms reviewing the actions of others. Each of the outings were self-contained shorts, in the tradition of the old "Future Shocks" and "Time Twisters" series, written and drawn by a Who's Who of mid-90s British comics creators--Dan Abnett, Peter Hogan, Nick Abadzis, Gordon Rennie, Shaky Kane, John Ridgway, Steve Yeowell, Chris Weston, et cetera, et al. Many of the stories are no better than you'd expect, but there's some real gems hidden in there, as well.


I'm enjoying this series a lot, Chris. I hope it isn't too obnoxious if I make a couple of additions:
-- The original six issues of the Men In Black comic actually did include supernatural menaces. Narrowing the focus to extraterrestrials came with the movie.
-- There's a relatively new comic called SPOOKS that deals with the U.S. Department of Supernatural Defense. I haven't read it, so I'm not sure it fits your criteria. But I was just reading about it Thursday morning on Ain't It Cool, and I thought I'd mention it, FWIW.
Not obnoxious in the slightest, Bill!

I stand corrected about the Men in Black comic. I'll have to hunt those down.

And thanks for the tip on Spooks. Sounds like it might make the list, at that.
Speaking of 2000AD, there is Caballistics, Inc., too.
Caballistics, Inc. is most definitely on the list.

Here's the tentative list of entries still to come, for anyone following along at home. More may be added as I go along. Either way, though, it looks like I'm going to be at this for a while!

Delta Green (Call of Cthulhu)
Hellsing Organization
CIB (Ultraviolet)
Section Zero
Q (Jack Staff)
Paranormal Science and Investigation Agency (d20 Modern)
The Laundry (The Atrocity Archives)
Department Q (Caballistics, Inc.)
Department of Special Research (Alias)
Bureau of Extra-Dimensional Liabilities and Management (The Perhapanauts)
I think you're mistaken about the Men in Black only having presenter roles. IIRC the series Black Light (Progs 1001-1013), by Dan Abnett & Steve White, tied into Vector 13 and may have included appearances by the MIB. I may have misremembered, but at the very least the two series shared a similar feel.
Mmm. Interesting. Thanks for the tip, I'll have to go back and hunt those down!
I just got around to rereading my Vector 13-era issues of 2000AD, and I've actually found two semi-tie-ins to the MIB so far.

Kid Cyborg (Progs 972-979) features the MIB as the bad guys. It's sort of a cross between Six Million Dollar Man and DC's Prez with weird conspiracy action set in 2020.

Black Light (Progs 1001-1013) is a taskforce set up by the US President to root out and shut down governmental black ops. One of the MIB feeds them information Deep Throat-style - the implication seems to be that he's the narrator of the Vector 13 stories.

The first issue includes a write-up about the group and its members - would you like me to send you a copy of the information?
I'm pretty sure I've got those progs around here somewhere. I'll dig around and see if I can find them, and then revisit those stories. Thanks for the tip!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?