A Brief Herstory of Gum Shoe Gals, Spy-Fi Sheroes, and Private Dick Chicks: Part ThreeJennifer K. Stuller on April 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tara Chace: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
If you haven’t read Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country, yet, I suggest hook yourself up with one of the most unique spy comics you’ll encounter.
There are 8 volumes of this espionage series – illustrated by different artists.
As well as 3 novels.
The protagonist, is Tara Felicity Chace, named so after Rucka’s high school best friend, in honor of discovering a love of gritty spy fiction series together.
One of those was, The Sandbaggers – a British Cold-War era drama broadcast in the late 1970s. It was created by, Ian Mackintosh, a former lieutenant-commander in the Royal Navy who had an Intelligence background.
“Sandbaggers” is a nickname for special operatives in the secret intelligence service – an organization also known as “SIS” or MI6.
Essentially, they are the equivalent of the CIA.
The people in Special Operations are absolutely nothing like James Bond, and in fact, Bond is mentioned throughout the series to reinforce how much of a fantasy 007’s world of espionage is compared to the real thing.
The real thing is filled with tedium, cramped offices, contention between the government and SIS, a “Special Relationship” with the CIA – one that consists of exchanging mutually beneficial, if seedy, favors.
Politically and personally dangerous missions are the rarity. Most of the Sandbaggers time is spent shuffling paper from In Tray to Out Tray. They are instruments of government, and nothing more.
What impressed Rucka about the show was that it emphasized the politics – and political tension – between government and espionage – something that was, and for the most part remains, lacking from Bond.
Rucka says what made The Sandbaggers sing for him was that the stories were always about individuals.
And that you saw the toll this work takes on people’s lives set against the context of the mission, and the even larger context of the political situation, and how those influence one another.
He found dramatic power in the idea that these people were entirely expendable – and that it was the political level that made it the most human story because it was the political level that said people don’t matter.
That dramatic potential, combined with character-driven stories that explore the moral complexity of global politics make Queen & Country a spiritual sequel to The Sandbaggers.
Tara is a special operations officer for the Secret Intelligence Service. Here nicknamed Minders rather than Sandbaggers.
Like its inspiration, Queen and Country is set in the real world, and takes an honest look at modern espionage – from sending agents on politically sensitive, and often dubious, tasks such as government sanctioned assassination – to the subsequent, . . necessary . . .paperwork.
Tara’s is a thankless job – one marked, as her boss, says, by “months of tedium, interrupted by bursts of bowel-freeing panic.”
Like James Bond, particularly Daniel Craig’s most recent incarnation, Tara is, as 007’s superior, M, describes him, “a blunt object.”
But she’s also smart, . . . very smart, and skilled. And, as Rucka has noted, Tara feels fear, an emotion that humanizes her, without making her vulnerable, and further grounds the series in reality.
Regardless, she’s also incredibly damaged – understandable considering one day she’s asked by her government to assassinate someone, and the next, handed over to a foreign government by her own people to appease the very act she had been sent by them to do.
She goes to work knowing she’s good at her job, better than most, and is still entirely expendable.
She does it for Queen & Country.
And as Gail Simone said, I think she’s ruined me for other spies.
Video of Part Three and Q&A – I had to skip the conclusion as the previous panel ran long, cutting into our set-up time, and I had to leave time for Q&A (which gets cut off at the very end). I’ll include my conclusion in a bonus Part Four.