The Department of Unusual Death
Inspector Albert Eccles, Constance Johanssen, Inspector Craig Strangefoot, Bob Willows, Sergeant John Gideon
Purpose: British Metropolitan Police branch specializing in unusual death
Affiliations: British police & intelligence community, Pete Wisdom & Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, Harold and Romany Wisdom
Enemies: The Alchemist, John Gideon
Base of Operations: The "Mystery School"
First Appearance: Pryde and Wisdom#1 (September 1996)
In the early 20th Century, a police commissioner discovered what he thought were occult connections in the Jack the Ripper murders, which he'd been a Bobby during--for one thing, the murdered women's initials spell "MANAC ES CEM JK" ("Maniac is come, jack"?). Likewise, the initials of the victims of the Moors Murders 80 years later spelled "JK LADEE" ("Jack, Laddie/Lady"?). According to Chief Inspector Eccles, "We're here to make sure those things don't get missed again."
One of their cases involved a series of bizarre murders--priests and theologians turned to stone, who then had strings of arcane symbols carved into their chests. A skeleton with further symbols carved in a more precise manner, and a large glowing red gem inside its ribcage, was also turned up in a river. When the normal police couldn't find any leads, they turned it all over to Department F.66. F.66 was assisted by Excalibur members Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) and Pete Wisdom (formerly of the intelligence group Black Air).
The pair were helping a friend of Pete's, a man named Jardine of Criminal Intelligence, to find his photojournalist daughter Amanda who'd gone in search of the killer. Even before they could meet with Jardine the two were plagued by the first in a series of attacks on them, including a car-bomb courtesy of the killer, and several assaults by 'Men-in-Black'. These were the agents of a third party who sought to be the first to find a killer, a mutant alchemist who'd been shepherding the British mutant population for years and didn't want any unnecessary attention drawn to it.
Wisdom and Pryde met with F.66 at their headquarters in the "Mystery School" and encountered John Gideon leaving after having delivered the strange skeleton; he offered to go for a drink with them later. After inspecting the skeleton, the pair went to consult with Wisdom's surviving immediate family: his father Harold, a former police inspector, and his sister Romany, an occultist who he brought back to the Mystery School. She explained that the skeleton was an alchemical "Man Stone" that had been used to divine the location of someone and deciphered the secret of the corpses--they were a letter to God, written in his own language (Enochian, the language of Heaven), asking for forgiveness from someone who believed himself to be Cain, the first murderer.
When Pete Wisdom mentioned that he could really use the drink John Gideon offered him, the members of F.66 suddenly took off running for the nearby pub that Gideon had said he would be spending the day at--because they realized the only person they knew who was delusional, violent, and thought he was Cain was their co-worker John. Instead, they encountered the mutant Alchemist who was also hunting Gideon, who held them at gunpoint.
After disarming her, F.66, the two Wisdoms, and Pryde all drove to Gideon's home in a run-down building in the shadow of a church where, sure enough, they found Amanda Jardine with Gideon--as well as Harold Wisdom, who'd figured out the location of the killer on his own and was holding him at gunpoint. In the ensuing fight, Harold got one of his arms petrified, Pete was shot with an inhibitor by the alchemist, who was then shot by Harold using his free arm, and Pryde chased Gideon into the subway, where they got in a battle in a runaway train car that ended when it was hit by another train.
The "Mystery School", the run-down stone building Department F.66 works out of, got its nickname "because you can't leave it without learning something you'd rather not have." According to Chief Inspector Eccles, the last people who visited were eaten by invisible stoats (for us Americans, stoats are a type of weasel-like rodents).
Chief Inspector Albert Eccles (F.66) runs the show; he's a bland but friendly sort with a glass eye. He did most of the talking for the group but provided no details about himself. He has a tendency to speak very bluntly about people right in front of them.
Constance Johanssen (F.66) is an accomplished occult detective with a pair of nasty habits: She chain smokes, and her friends have a tendency to die by the truckload (200 at last count). She likes to slip the latter habit into casual conversation (she also claims they haunt her). Chief Eccles has no problem saying he can't stand her while she's present.
Inspector Craig Strangefoot (F.66) of Scotland Yard is an occult detective, the pupil of a Tibetan Ancient One who lives in a YMCA in Clapham. Presumably, this is the reason he prefers to be called "Doctor" Strangefoot...
Bob Willows (F.66) is an accredited forensic scientist and exorcist, who believes himself to be the greatest power in the universe. "Space monsters cringe at my tread,"--maybe Bob, but so do potential girlfriends.
Sergeant John Gideon (F.66)
is described by his boss as "a bit of a complete psychopath"--his reputation
as "the undisputed king of excessive force" got him removed from the regular
police, but his father's connections kept him from being fired. Instead,
due to his extensive knowledge of esoterica, he was transferred to F.66.
He spends much of his time on "medical leave" because he believes he's the Biblical Cain, the first murderer. He's been writing letters to his "grandfather", God, apologizing for killing Abel, asking for forgiveness, and pleading to be allowed back into the family; it's such a preoccupation that he doesn't allow him to enjoy himself, and he won't even let himself be attracted to women. He lived in an old building in the shadow of a church. Finally, he realized that he should write his letters in God's own language (Enochian, the 'language of Heaven') and in a way that would be noticed. So he began using his mutant power to turn flesh to stone to petrify priests and theologians and then would carve his letter, bit by bit, into their chests. He was into the last paragraph when his colleagues helped Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom stop him; he fled into the subway pursued by Pryde and ended up getting crushed by a subway car--or so it appeared.
Harold Wisdom, father of Pete and Romany, was a police specialist in serial killers "from before we even had the phrase 'serial killers.'" Now he's a kooky old man who lives in a rundown, dirty house that his son secretly pays for, with slogans like "trust no one," "JFK died for you," and "stay away or die" painted prominently on the outside. He's a delusional, paranoid conspiracy theorist, but he still possesses a quick mind and a keen grasp of criminal psychology. His relations with his son Pete are rather strained; some time back Pete had a fight with his mother and so didn't come to visit when he said he would, so she waited at the window for him. Unfortunately, a spree killer named Michael Ryan happened to be walking through Hungerford killing everyone he saw, including Pete's mother. His mother had called Harold after the argument to tell him all the awful things Pete had called her, and Harold held Pete responsible; he didn't know that the argument had happened because Pete's mom said she'd never loved Harold and never wanted to have Pete.
Romany Wisdom, Harold's daughter and Pete's older sister, occultist kook and former burglar. She's well-versed in the theories of alchemy, can translate the Biblical 'language of Heaven,' and also used to channel an Atlantean priest, but stopped when the spinning and vomiting that went along with it put a stop to her social life. She and her brother Pete don't get along well, but they still love each other. (Romany appeared later on in the Counter-X run of X-Force; a full profile of her may be warranted eventually.)
Amanda Jardine is a talented photojournalist and the daughter of the head of Criminal Intelligence. She has a history of vanishing to find stories, which worries her father no end; she did it once in China and then again when she found out there was a strange serial killer being kept out of the papers. She went around reading religious books in public places, hoping that the killer would find her, so she could break the story before either the papers or the intelligence community. She did end up finding John Gideon, who took her back to his house, where she was rescued, first by Harold Wisdom, and then by his son Pete, Kitty Pryde, and F.66. At the end of it all, she was reunited with her much-relieved father.
The Alchemist appears to be a young woman with black hair that has a streak in the front dyed Nuclear Red. In truth, she's a mutant far older than she looks and has been studying British mutants for decades. She believes she could have been England's Charles Xavier, except mutants are safer (less threatening?) on their own. She looks to safeguard the mutant population. The nature of her mutant power is unclear; apparently it's alchemy (the transmutation or evolution of something into a higher, purer form, giving it paranormal properties, turning lead to gold being the famous example), though that could also be a skill she picked up somewhere.
When a mutant serial killer appeared, she was determined to kill him with the minimum of coverage, rather than see him put on trial and create bad publicity for the country's mutants. She divined his identity, but she was interrupted by the appearance of Wisdom and Pryde, who she tried to kill several times to keep them away. In the final confrontation with Wisdom, she shot him with an inhibitor, only to be shot in the shoulder by his father. She had no problem with being arrested because she'd gotten what she wanted. She used several alchemical creations:
COMMENTS: F.66 created by Warren Ellis and Terry Dodson.
The Pryde and Wisdom limited series was really rather drab and lifeless; it had plenty of interesting characters and concepts, but it didn't put them together in a very engaging manner. I find Warren Ellis' work with the characters on the main Excalibur book to have been much superior. Also, London's a pretty big place--and yet Amanda Jardine just happens to find the right pub to attract the killer in, and Harold Wisdom just happens to find the right run-down building in the shadow of a church...
We never saw Gideon's body, and he was under the impression he was un-killable. Sure, it was part of his delusion that he's Cain, but maybe he survived being crushed after all...
Chain-smoking British occult detective Constance Johanssen, huh? I don't know if DC's John Constantine, star of the Hellblazer series, has had an inordinate number of friends killed, but I'd still imagine this is a tip o' the hat to him... Likewise, Inspector Strangefoot is pretty obviously an homage to another strange individual. So I wonder who Bob might be...
I found the alchemist quite cool, though I wish they'd given her a bloody codename or something, anything. She knew Charles Xavier was a mutant, and in the business of gathering other mutants; might she know him? She seemed to be the equivalent of a Nate Grey (the X-Man) when he became a "shaman" for the mutant "tribe", except her tribe is specifically English mutants (and Scottish, Welsh and Irish? She didn't mention them). it seems like Excalibur would be exactly the kind of thing she'd be trying to discourage, and Black Air another major nemesis; I wonder if she was ever working against either of them in the background. Oh yeah, and that underground Morlock-style colony in Joe Casey's "Poptopia" storyline in Uncanny X-Men seems like exactly the sort of thing she wouldn't like.
Per Degaton adds: "In the early 20th Century, a police
commissioner discovered what he thought were occult connections in the Jack
the Ripper Murders..." Well, we know that Dormammu had his hand in it, thanks
to Doctor Strange IIII#23/2. Kind of fun how things get answered in other
So, a "house of mystery" that includes a murderer who may or may not be Cain? Sound like anyplace else you know?
(DC's House of Mystery, in case you don't get it)--Joe Littrell
"The Alchemist" has no known connection to:
Her "Men in Black" have no known connection to:
Amanda Jardine has no known connection to:
"Dr." Strangefoot has no known connection to:
Nor is the "Tibetan Ancient One" who taught him likely to be the same Ancient One who mentored Strange and preceded him as Sorcerer Supreme. Unless he lived for a time in a YMCA in Clapham, England...
The Drones' Club, the bar John Gideon frequents, has no known connection to:
(For one thing, the Drones would never let Pete Wisdom through the door, no matter how much alcohol he was willing to buy...)
Profile by Flank McLargehuge
Profile updated/edited by Kyle Sims
Pryde and Wisdom#1-3 (September-November, 1996) - Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson & Karl Story (#1) & Aaron Lopresti (#2-3) (pencils), Aaron Lopresti (#1-2), Gary Martin, Rachel Pinnock, Tom Simmons & Karl Story (#3) (inks), Matt Idelson (editor)
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
Last updated: 11/23/04.
All characters mentioned or pictured are ™ and © 2001 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Please visit The Marvel Official Site at: http://www.marvel.com
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