Last week, Marvel released a series fo new teasers featuring Captain America's shield, a handful of Marvel superheroes from across the Marvel Universe, and the title "Secret Empire."
Marvel has not yet revealed any further details about whatever story the teasers may be referring to, but it certainly seems as if they're setting up the next big event of 2017.
The event teasers seem to be referring to a long-established criminal organization called the Secret Empire. It has been some time since the Secret Empire has been a major threat in the Marvel Universe, so it will be interesting to see how they are set up for the new story.
But who is the Secret Empire?
The Secret Empire first appeared in Tales to Astonish #81. The organization was founded by a disgruntled scientist and became a front for Hydra, keeping authorities distracted from the true terrorist threats. The Secret Empire gained its independence with the death of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
The Secret Empire’s members are each given a numerical code name in accordance with their rank. The Secret Empire has had many leaders, and its goals have shifted depending on the person in charge. The organization is always run by the Council of Nine, made up of the nine highest ranking members of the Secret Empire. Number One is always the code name of the supreme leader.
In their earliest activities, the Secret Empire clashed with Hulk and Namor. The organization was infiltrated by SHIELD’s Gabe Jones posing as Number Nine. While undercover, Jones was able to take out Number Eight through Number Two, but Number One was able to escape.
Some of the Secret Empire’s most extreme plans included turning small-time criminal Johnny Horton into the supervillain called the Griffin, but the best known Secret Empire story was written Steve Englehart in 1973. In this story, the group kidnapped several mutants – Havok, Polaris, Iceman, Angel, Mastermind, Mesmero, Blob, and Unus the Untouchable – and used their energy to power a flying saucer that was then flown onto the White House lawn. Number One demanded the United States surrender complete control to the Secret Empire.
Captain America, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl arrived to stop the Secret Empire’s plan. Captain America chased Number One into the Oval Office. Number One was unmasked to reveal that he as a high-ranking member of the United States government. While he was never named, Number One was implied to be Richard Nixon. Steve Rogers was so disillusioned by these events that he dropped his Captain America title for a time and became the Nomad.
The Secret Empire also has a history with Moon Knight. In his first appearance, Moon Knight was a villain hired by the Secret Empire to battle Werewolf by Night. Moon Knight eventually turned on the Secret Empire and when Moon Knight proved popular enough to become the hero of his own book Marvel retconned the story so that Moon Knight was trying to infiltrate the Secret Empire from the start.
The Secret Empire would later attempt to kill Moon Knight. Instead they’d horribly maim Midnight, Moon Knight’s sidekick. The Secret Empire then turned Midnight into a cyborg and sent after his former mentor. Moon Knight would have to team with Spider-Man and the Punisher to prevail.
In recent years, the Secret Empire has made a play to take over parts of the Kingpin’s crime empire and to gain control of the Omegadrive, a device that stores gigs of data about the major crime organizations of the Marvel Universe. They've also clashed with the Secret Avengers.
More recently they had a run in with Hawkeye and Stature, and most recently were stopped by the USAvengers from running a helicarrier with a volcano on top of it into the west coast of the United States. The upcoming Secret Empire event will be their most significant storyline in some time.