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Artwork for the cover of Checkmate (vol. 2) #4 (Sept, 2006). Art by Lee Bermejo.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Action Comics #598 (March 1988)
Created by Paul Kupperberg
Steve Erwin
In-story information
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 within the DC Comics universe. It first appeared in Action Comics #598 and proceeded to have its own ongoing title in Checkmate!.[1] In the wake of events depicted in the mini-series The OMAC Project and Infinite Crisis, Checkmate had been re-chartered as a United Nations Security Council-affiliated agency and had its own series, Checkmate (vol. 2).[2]

Publication history


Cover to Checkmate (vol. 1) #33, the series' final issue.

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Checkmate! (vol. 1)


Organization and designation

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 Knight's support, Pawns.

Known employed operatives

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.

"The Janus Directive"

Main article: Janus Directive

Russian Checkmate Knight, artist Gabriel Morrissette.

"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[6][7] (tallying to more than two thirds of Checkmate's Knight force[7][8]) 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.

Russian Checkmate

A Russian version of Checkmate (Russian language: 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.

In between volumes


Organization and designation

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. Neither Rooks or Pawns were seen however. 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.

Known employed operatives

List of operatives between series.


Deathstroke, the Terminator

Sarge Steel reactivates Checkmate in Deathstroke, the Terminator #17, in order to find the comatose body of Deathstroke (Slade Wilson). Phil Kramer is promoted to King and Kalia Campbell to Queen. Harry Stein's said to be on indefinite leave of absence after his son was shot and to be spending more time with his family. Gary Washington and two other Knights appear in the story as well (one of them 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 that invade Cheshire's base later on after she's threatened the world (unleashing a nuclear warhead on the country of Qurac as leverage). They are able to defeat Cheshire, and the warheads are destroyed.

"Knight Moves"

A man called David Said has taken over the role of King within the organization, and in the "Knight Moves" storyline[9] 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.[10]

Bruce Wayne - Murderer?

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.


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.

Checkmate (vol. 2)

Greg Rucka about Checkmate (vol. 2)

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[11] 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.[2]


Organization and designation

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".


  • In A Game of Kings (issues #1-4), the United Nations Security Council votes on whether to charter Checkmate as a permanent organization, sparked by a Checkmate attack on a Kobra facility that results in some 50 deaths. While the Royal Family believes France will veto the resolution to cover up the fact that Kobra is obtaining weapons from a French source, the actual source, and veto, come from China. Checkmate agents infiltrate a Chinese weapons base, discovering a super-human facility and entering a confrontation with the Great Ten. White King Alan Scott intervenes, locating the Kobra mole and allowing China to save face in return for removing its veto. The resolution to allow Checkmate's continued existence passes, but the United States, angry that Alan Scott prevented them from publicly embarrassing China, removes him from the organization.
  • In Selection (#5), Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux tests Checkmate agents to select her new Knight (the previous one having died in the first arc). The outgoing White King taps his Bishop, Mister Terrific, as his successor.
  • In Rogue Squad (#6-7), a new Suicide Squad goes into Myanmar to hunt down its new power source (an imprisoned young metahuman) after the Security Council prevents Amanda Waller from taking action. Despite heavy losses and a traitor on the team, the Squad frees the metahuman and are rescued by former Squad team leaders Bronze Tiger and Rick Flag (recently freed from a Quraci prison) under Waller's direction. Meanwhile, the other royals can only suspect Waller's hand in the operation.
  • In Pawn 502 (#8-10), the Department of Metahuman Affairs arrests a terrorist cell attempting to join Kobra, unaware one of the members is a covert Checkmate agent. Checkmate deputizes the Shadowpact to help orchestrate the agent's escape and to get him through Kobra's mystical screening process.
  • In Corvalho (#11-12), Waller uses the Suicide Squad to rig an election in Santa Prisca to prevent Bane from winning, but one of the Squad members, Colonel Computron, defects and offers Checkmate proof of the falsification if they protect him from Bane. While Tommy Jagger defeats Bane in combat, but lets him go (despite Bane's murder of Jagger's father, the Judomaster), Fire kills Computron at Waller's behest. The other royals learn Waller is blackmailing Fire, a one-time assassin, with knowledge of her father, Ramon Corvalho's participation in war crimes decades earlier, and convince her to testify against him to avoid a court martial. The Black King confronts Waller with the fact that she is still covertly directing ops missions.
  • In Checkout (#13-15, crossover with Outsiders, alternating with Outsiders #47-49, starting in Checkmate #13[12] and ending in Outsiders #49[13]), Checkmate abducts all members of the Outsiders except Nightwing. Nightwing is allowed to infiltrate Checkmate headquarters in order to offer the Outsiders a deal: they won't be shut down over their actions in Africa in exchange for infiltrating Oolong Island on behalf of Checkmate. Sasha, Nightwing and Captain Boomerang are captured and taken to North Korea where they are experimented on by Chang Tzu, before being rescued by the mission team with Batman's assistance.
  • In Past Perfect (#16) Sasha is examined by Doctor Mid-Nite after being tortured, Fire is reunited with the recently resurrected Ice and August General in Iron becomes the new Black King's Bishop.
  • In Firewall (#17) former villain Carl Draper defends The Castle against a series of assaults and is appointed Castellan, The Castle's chief of security.
  • In Fall of the Wall (#18-20) the other Royals continue to gather evidence that Waller is secretly conducting her own covert operations. With the assistance of Martian Manhunter they learn about Operation: Salvation Run and succeed in forcing Waller to resign.
  • La Vie en Sang (#21-22) explores the history of Mademoiselle Marie and how it connects to the title's current holder, the Black Queen's Knight.

Brightest Day

At the start of the Brightest Day crossover, Maxwell Lord returns from the dead and uses his mental abilitis to erase all memories of his existence from everyone on the planet, save for several former members of the Justice League International.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

Known employed operatives

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.

Other media


  • 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 Watchtower and escape, Manhunter subsequently erasing Waller's memories of their real faces. In the episode "Charade," wealthy business tycoon Maxwell Lord is introduced as The Black King.
  • Arrow exceutive producer Andrew Kreisberg hints that Checkmate will appear in season 2.[19]

Collected editions

# Title Publisher Year ISBN Reprints
1 Checkmate: A King's Game DC Comics 2007 ISBN 1401212204
2 Checkmate: Pawn Breaks DC Comics 2007 ISBN 1401214452
Outsiders/Checkmate: Checkout DC Comics 2008 ISBN 1401216234
3 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

See also


  1. Manning, Matthew K.; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1980s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "The clandestine government operation Checkmate began its monthly adventures in April [1988] in its self-titled ongoing series by writer Paul Kupperberg and artist Steve Erwin." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Beatty, Scott (2008). "Checkmate". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 79. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017. 
  3. Action Comics 598 (March 1988), DC Comics
  4. Per announcement on the last page of Checkmate Issue 30, DC Comics November 2008
  5. Resistance Leaders: Rucka, Trautmann on Final Crisis Special, Newsarama, October 29, 2008
  6. Checkmate! 18 (June 1989)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Checkmate! 27 (May 1990), DC Comics
  8. Checkmate! 17 (July 1989)
  9. 'Batman: Gotham Knights' 38-40 (April through June 2003), DC Comics
  10. Batman: Gotham Knights 48 (February 2004), DC Comics
  11. "Greg Rucka on Checkmate". Newsarama. 2005-12-08. http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?s=b2c0fa0131957f4cc2a8d5a9e36a8ec7&threadid=51755. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  12. "Checkmate #13". DC Comics. http://www.dccomics.com/redirect/?7148. Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  13. "Outsiders #49". DC Comics. http://www.dccomics.com/comics/?cm=7631. Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  14. Brightest Day #0
  15. Justice League: Generation Lost #2
  16. Justice League: Generation Lost #8-9
  17. Justice League: Generation Lost #19
  18. Justice League: Generation Lost #24
  19. "The Undertaking" is Near on Arrow


External links