Saturday, February 14, 2009


Secret Services

[If you've been following along with the Secret Services rundown, this will be old news to you, but I wanted to put an introductory post at the head of the list, so that anyone who stumbles on this in future won't have to dig through my back posts to find all the entries. Feel free to ignore, if you like.]

As a reader and a writer, I have several obsessions, ideas and themes I return to again and again. Multiple realities and alternate histories. Masked avengers and heroic legacies. Immortal swordsmen and daring explorers. But one of my obsessions as a reader has been little exercised as a writer, until now.

I've always had a fondness for what I like to call "Secret Services," clandestine government agencies tasked with investigating and policing the supernatural. Last fall, after rereading all of Mike Mignola's Hellboy and its related series with its BPRD, and watching with my daughter the first episodes of Jay Stephens's sublime Secret Saturdays (which ironically doesn't make my list, as the Saturdays don't appear to have any connection with the government, clandestine or otherwise), I got a wild hair. I would track down all of the examples of Secret Services I could find on my shelves, and profile each of them on my blog.

I figured that it would probably take me a few weeks to get through them all. Ha. Ha ha.

Now, months later, I've finally reached the end of my completely arbitrary analysis of Secret Services, ending with my own contribution to the list, MI8 as seen in my new novel End of the Century. And here they all are, for your delectation and diversion.
There are a number of other examples that were suggested to me as I went along, which ultimately didn't make the cut--usually because the agencies in question weren't "clandestine" but instead operated in worlds that knew all about them and the existence of the supernatural, or because they were clandestine but didn't have ties to any government. I am positive, though, that there are examples that I've missed, in which case I can only humbly point to that word "arbitrary" above.


I had the impression from the comic books, rather than the movie, that the BPRD operates in the open. Or at least Hellboy seems to be mildly famous.
I agree that certainly by the events of the "war on frogs" as seen in BPRD and related spinoffs, they're definitely out in the open. But in rereading the series last year I got the definite impression that for the first few years worth of stories that the Bureau was operating in the shadows. I don't think Mignola ever explicitly states in those stories how familiar the public is with the outfit, though, so either reading is probably a valid one. Either they were clandestine for much of their existence and came to public knowledge later on, or they were public knowledge all along. But really, if I had to bend the rules to fit BPRD into my list, I was happy to do it! (I had to fudge to get the Guardians on the list, too, but don't tell anyone...)
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