|First appearance||Action Comics #598 (March 1988)|
|Created by||Paul Kupperberg |
|Type of organization||Intelligence agency|
|Base(s)||Konig Industries, Shelby, Virginia; NORAD facility in the Colorado Rocky Mountains; "The Castle" compound in the Swiss Alps|
|See: List of Checkmate members|
Checkmate, a division of Task Force X, is a fictional covert operations agency appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The antihero team first appeared in Action Comics #598 and proceeded to have its own ongoing title in Checkmate! In the wake of events depicted in the mini-series The OMAC Project and Infinite Crisis, Checkmate is re-chartered as a United Nations Security Council-affiliated agency and was again given its own series, Checkmate (vol. 2).
The Checkmate organization was created by Paul Kupperberg and Steve Erwin, first appearing in Action Comics #598 in 1988. The precursor to this fictional organization was known as the Agency, first appearing in Vigilante #36. Harry Stein was appointed Valentina Vostok's replacement in The Agency's command position by Amanda Waller. Stein later sought out the most stable personnel available from the American and international intelligence and law enforcement communities to form Checkmate. His agency would field only the best-trained and well-equipped of agents, working under the strictest rules of secrecy. For the organizational structure of the re-organized Agency, Stein chose the game of chess as his working model.
Stein brought in Gary Washington (Knight One) and Black Thorn as Checkmate operatives, both of whom were his friends, and both of whom were introduced during his run on Vigilante.
Checkmate! was at various times involved with the other government agencies in the DC Comics universe, primarily the Suicide Squad, which resulted in the crossover "The Janus Directive". Checkmate! was canceled after 33 issues but the organization continued to appear, mostly in titles related to either the government or Batman.
After the events of the mini-series The OMAC Project, a precursor to the Infinite Crisis limited series, the Checkmate organization was re-organized and its title was revived with Checkmate (vol. 2). This volume ended after publication of its 31st issue, dated December 2008.
After the cancellation of the second volume, the team returned in the Final Crisis one-shot tie-in "Resist" by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann.
The name Checkmate is taken from the winning move in chess, and its hierarchy is modeled after the various pieces of a chess game; one King, one Queen and several Bishops, Rooks, Knights and Pawns. The Bishops oversaw the Rooks behind the scenes while the Rooks planned missions and supervised the field agents, or Knights, and the Knights' support, the Pawns.
List of operatives during first series.
The Agency is first set up by Amanda Waller to serve as a small branch of Task Force X under the command of Colonel Valentina Vostok (formerly Negative Woman of the Doom Patrol) to perform operations worldwide considered vital to the security of American interests. She relinquishes command to Harry Stein, who recreates The Agency into a new image and organization, dubbed Checkmate, in relation to its chess-inspired organizational scheme.
Main article: Janus Directive
"The Janus Directive" is a crossover storyline that involves an inter-agency war between Checkmate, the Suicide Squad, and Project Atom, who are manipulated by Kobra in order to distract the United States intelligence community from his activities. Checkmate loses at least 38 Knight agents (tallying to more than two thirds of Checkmate's Knight force) and its headquarters (as well as its cover, Konig Industries) in Shelby, Virginia, in the incident. In the aftermath, Sarge Steel takes Waller's place as head of Checkmate, and Checkmate relocates to a new NORAD base in Colorado.
A Russian version of Checkmate (Russian: Шах и мат) (presumably under the KGB) is introduced in the last issues of the original series run. They are admittedly underfunded, but wear armor similar to their U.S. counterparts.
Checkmate's hierarchy is remodeled in a manner similar to that of Marvel Comics' Hellfire Club (with the organization itself more closely resembling S.H.I.E.L.D.). The chess-motif remains, but there are sets of Kings and Queens, as well as Bishops, Rooks, Knights, and Pawns, divided between a Black and White set. Their functions remain the same, although neither Rooks nor Pawns are seen. Kings and Queens are the head of each department. Bishops oversee plans behind the scenes. Rooks plan missions. Knights carry out the plans in field teams. Pawns assist the Knights on missions, providing surveillance and backup if needed. The structure of Checkmate with two halves, Black (ops) and White (intel), may also be inspired by the CIA's original two separate halves, the Directorate of Operations and Directorate of Intelligence.
List of operatives between series.
Sarge Steel reactivates Checkmate in Deathstroke, the Terminator #17, in order to find the comatose Deathstroke (Slade Wilson). Phil Kramer is promoted to King and Kalia Campbell to Queen. Harry Stein is said to be on indefinite leave of absence after his son is shot, and to be spending more time with his family. Gary Washington and two other Knights appear in the story as well (one of whom might be Winston O'Donnel, who appears in Deathstroke, the Terminator #19). Checkmate Knights invade the lair of supervillainess Cheshire in Deathstroke, the Terminator #18, but most are killed by her operatives and a revived Slade Wilson. Just as two Checkmate agents are about to defeat Deathstroke, Roy Harper (at that time also known as Speedy) knocks them down, revealing to be helping Cheshire as a double agent in both Checkmate and the Brotherhood of Evil. The Russian outfit of Checkmate appears when Deathstroke, Cheshire, Speedy and others try to steal a group of nuclear warheads in Russia. It is revealed that Harper called in Checkmate and that he was working on their side all along. Ultimately, Deathstroke is also revealed to be working for the CIA, and joins up with the American and Russian Checkmate to invade Cheshire's base later, after she threatens the world (unleashing a nuclear warhead on the country of Qurac as leverage). They are able to defeat Cheshire, and the warheads are destroyed.
A man called David Said has taken over the role of King within the organization, and in the "Knight Moves" storyline Checkmate invades the Batcave, in order to recruit the Huntress in the process. On Batman's word, she agrees to temporarily assume the mantle of Queen, using this position to relay information to Batman on at least one occasion.
After the events of Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, his bodyguard and partner Sasha Bordeaux is framed for the murder of Vesper Fairchild. She is recruited as a Checkmate operative by Jessica Midnight, as the two fake her death and Sasha undergoes plastic surgery.
Main article: The OMAC Project
It is revealed that Maxwell Lord has assumed the position of Black King within the Checkmate organization with the intent of manipulating the agency to kill all of the metahumans present on Earth. While DC did not explain how or when Lord came to power (or had seemingly gone from supporting metahuman involvement in the protection of the planet to this personality), it has been implied that Checkmate may have been the victim of Superboy-Prime, who warped the very fabric of reality by punching the walls of his prison outside this dimension. As a result of Superboy-Prime's actions, the hierarchy of Checkmate was changed and a changed Maxwell Lord was suddenly in charge of the organization.
In order to hide his activities, which included hijacking and reprogramming to his own purposes the super-spy satellite Brother I that Batman originally built to monitor all metahumans, Lord murdered former ally Ted Kord. He also mind-controlled Superman, sending the hero after other former allies such as Batman and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman then proceeded to kill Lord in order to break his control on Superman's mind, which left Checkmate dismantled as an organization.
In 52 Week 24, Martian Manhunter reveals that he has spent months undercover undermining the remnants of Checkmate to convince the President of the U.S. to disband the organization. Within days, however, it is reconstituted as a United Nations agency. In Week 25, Alan Scott reveals to Mister Terrific that he will lead the agency as White King, and asks him to join as well.
Rucka was quoted regarding the new series: "Take a big chunk of The OMAC Project, take the concept of "Who Watches the Watchmen?" and throw in some James Bond and you've got Checkmate". Rucka's stated plans in several interviews include depicting the repurposing of Checkmate as a United Nations-affiliated intelligence/intervention force with a specific purpose of maintaining "balance" between Earth's human and metahuman communities in the wake of events in The OMAC Project and Infinite Crisis.
Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1696, Checkmate is reorganized as the UN’s Chartered Metahuman Monitoring Force. The organization was restructured utilizing the "Rule of Two". Each super-powered or otherwise enhanced member in the "Royal Family" must have an un-powered counterpart in a corresponding position of power. Pawns still remain as low-level field agents. The Rooks make their first appearance in issue #25 as Checkmate's highly powerful black ops squad (while the Knights are "Special Agents" and Bishops "Advisers"). Specifically they include four operatives of different specialties one being Cinnamon, the second Gravedigger, Sebastian Faust, and a new incarnation of the G.I. Robot. They are further augmented with DNA from Starro the Conqueror which links them telepathically allowing instantaneous communication. The android member however cannot take a dose of the DNA but is still able to communicate telepathically with the group. One of the android's other functions is to monitor his teammates to make sure they do not lose control. If that situation were to arise, he is supposed to kill them, or as the Black Queen puts it "terminate the link".
The organization's headquarters is a castle in the Swiss Alps known only as "The Castle".
At the start of the Brightest Day crossover, Maxwell Lord returns from the dead and uses his mental abilities to erase all memories of his existence from everyone on the planet, save for several former members of the Justice League International. Following this, Lord discredits Fire (who is one of the heroes who still remembers him) by forcing everyone at Checkmate to believe that she has failed a psychological evaluation and has begun to show signs of mental instability. Fire is subsequently dismissed from Checkmate by Taleb Beni Khalid. The members of the new Justice League International eventually infiltrate Checkmate headquarters by disguising themselves in stolen Rocket Red suits, but the mission goes awry and they are forced to flee before they can capture Lord. Max eventually tells Blue Beetle that one of the major goals of his plot was to have the Justice League International discredit Checkmate by making them look incompetent, causing the United Nations to pull their funding and fire Khalid and most of the other senior Checkmate higher-ups, leaving Max the opportunity to regain control of the organization.
At the very end of the series, Lord is still shown to be in control of Checkmate. He then releases a video onto the internet where he blames the rogue superhero Magog for an accident in Chicago that resulted in the deaths of a thousand civilians, and vows to use Checkmate's resources to keep an eye on similar superheroes and prevent future metahuman catastrophes.
As part of "Infinite Frontier", a new series was launched written by Brian Michael Bendis.
See list of operatives during the second series.
In addition, Checkmate has the authority to temporarily "deputize" anyone else they see fit. Checkmate currently uses the Blackhawk organization for most of its mission transportation.
The Checkmate organization appears in the Smallville episode "Absolute Justice" and is one of the plots in the later episodes of Season 9. Amanda Waller is a ranking agent using the alias White Queen. The organization is responsible for the prosecution of the Justice Society of America at some undefined point in the past, apparently the 60s, leading to their disbanding. In the present, Waller recruits Icicle to attack and kill JSA members. She does not initially tell him that she intends him to fail but succeed in bringing the team back together again, so that she can use them to battle what she describes as a "coming Apokolips". Waller manipulates Lois Lane into revealing the existence of the JSA in a positive light, and has Tess Mercer as one of her agents. She attempts to 'recruit' the team in "Checkmate", capturing Green Arrow and luring Martian Manhunter and 'the Blur' into her headquarters by threatening Watchtower in response to the 'alien invasion' of Kandor, but a power cut triggered by Green Arrow allows the Blur to save the Watchtower and escape, Manhunter subsequently erases Waller's memories of their real faces. In the episode "Charade", wealthy business tycoon Maxwell Lord is introduced as The Black King. A third faction of Checkmate was also introduced, led by the Red Queen, who opposed Waller and Lord. The Red Queen was eventually revealed to be Martha Kent.
Judomaster, a member of Checkmate in the comics, is set to appear in the live-action television series Peacemaker, portrayed by Nhut Le.
Christopher Smith / Peacemaker, who was a member in the comics, appears in the DC Extended Universe film The Suicide Squad in which he is recruited by Amanda Waller to take down "Project Starfish" in Jotunhein, which is later revealed to be an extraterrestrial starfish known as Starro the Conqueror. However, during the mission, Peacemaker betrays the team so that the drive containing evidence of the U.S. government experimenting on human children never gets out to the world. He is ultimately defeated by Squad member Robert DuBois / Bloodsport who uses a small bullet than the average larger ones Peacemaker uses. Sometime after the mission, Peacemaker is retrieved by Waller’s team who offer to give him more missions to save the world, heavily hinting at Checkmate and his upcoming self-titled television series that is scheduled to premiere on HBO Max in 2022.
Checkmate appears in DC Universe Online.
|1||Checkmate: A King's Game||DC Comics||2007||ISBN 1401212204|
|2||Checkmate: Pawn Breaks||DC Comics||2007||ISBN 1401214452|
|3||Outsiders/Checkmate: Checkout||DC Comics||2008||ISBN 1401216234|
|4||Checkmate: Fall of the Wall||DC Comics||2008||ISBN 1401217885|
|5||Checkmate: Chimera||DC Comics||2009||ISBN 1401221351|
Checkmate (vol. 2) #23-25 can be found collected in Kobra: Resurrection - DC Comics - Feb 17 2010
The clandestine government operation Checkmate began its monthly adventures in April  in its self-titled ongoing series by writer Paul Kupperberg and artist Steve Erwin.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)