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Comic Book / Global Frequency

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You are on the global frequency.

Global Frequency is a short Graphic Novel series by Warren Ellis and drawn by a different artist every issue. It's built around a single idea: if The World Is Always Doomed, then why Hold Out For A Hero? What's stopping us from saving ourselves? Answer: not a damn thing.

Our main character is Miranda Zero. She's got a Mysterious, Dark and Troubled Past she's not at all proud of. She knows that modern politics have built a Crapsack World and decided to do something about it.

That something is the Global Frequency. Miranda has found and signed on 1001 unique talents from around the world, ranging from athletes to scientists and from cops to hackers. They're called on when the world needs saving, connected to Miranda's home base through a computer genius girl nicknamed "Aleph" who guides them through the mission. The story is fast-paced, with minimum backstory, and each issue features a different group of agents; apart from those who come Back for the Finale in the final issue, Miranda and Aleph are the only recurring characters.

They fight crime, Help The Helpless and Save the World with New Media. It's like a wiki. With guns. Some chapters focus on technology, others on politics, and still others on the supernatural. And Anyone Can Die.

Malfunctioning Lost Superweapon? They can track him, identify the tech, locate and interrogate the designer and Shoot the Dog if necessary. While The Men in Black are still getting dressed. Runaway Psycho Prototype? They can be on the scene with geeks, badasses and even an inside informant while The Government is still arguing whether or not to just Nuke 'em. Alien Invasion via The Virus? Terrorists Without a Cause? The Plague? The talent is out there to make it go away. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things with the right technology and a fair chance. Agent, You Are On The Global Frequency.

A pilot episode for a television adaptation was produced for The WB television network in 2004, aiming for a mid-season premiere in the Spring of 2005. The series executive producer and writer of the pilot was John Rogers (The Core, Catwoman (2004), Transformers, Leverage), with many high-profile names attached on the production staff, including J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), Diego Gutierrez (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Ben Edlund (Angel, The Tick), and David Slack (Teen Titans). Nelson McCormick (Alias) directed the pilot. A change in network management while the pilot was in production, and subsequent "differing creative visions and network/studio gunk" (as Rogers put it in his blog), resulted in the series not going ahead. The pilot has never been aired or officially released, but gained a cult following after a copy was leaked onto torrent networks several months later.

In 2009, The CW ordered another pilot, to be written by Pushing Daisies and Tales from the Crypt veteran Scott Nimerfro. Unfortunately, nothing actually happened, and according to an interview with Ellis in late 2010, the project had once again stalled.

In 2014, FOX announced that they are producing a pilot, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Unfortunately they announced in February 2015 that they won't order the pilot due to issues with the script.

This comic presents examples of:

  • Action Girl: Miranda Zero, Aleph, quite a few female GF operatives and their female opponents...
  • And This Is for...: The Frenchman, at the end of issue #10, after tearing off the Psycho for Hire's arm at the shoulder, beating him to death with it, and stuffing it into his mouth: "And that's for stealing my girlfriend's book on biofeedback."
  • Anyone Can Die: Because aside from Miranda Zero and Aleph, there are no recurring main characters; each issue revolves around a different agent / team.
  • Apocalypse How: The military's 'die-back' method in Harpoon threatens planetary-scale death and societal disruption.
  • Artificial Limbs: Explored in the exposition-laden "Big Wheel". Awesomely, even partially enhanced subjects can tear people apart like wet cardboard. Impractical part in 3, 2, 1...
    Member 436: I have to be careful with it. Bioelectric enhancements are cranky. It's not a case of just sticking an artificial arm on. The surrounding bones and fibers have to be hardened and supported, or else the new arm will rip clean off your shoulder the first time you flex. You'll need tensile support across your back, or your spine will snap the first time you lift something heavy. You need new skin; human skin isn't tough enough to handle the subcutaneous tension of superhuman strength. You'll take a chip in your brain to handle the specific dataload from the artificial nerve system controlling the arm. There's more, but you're getting the idea, right?
  • The Atoner: It's implied several times that Miranda Zero was involved in very bad things in her past and has set up Global Frequency to atone by making the world a better place. Several of the agents with darker pasts and skill sets (usually involving murder and assassination) also appear to have a bit of this going on; the team in "Big Wheel" especially gives off this vibe.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Aleph, who apparently keeps track of the entire Internet 24/7 and organizes, cross-references and prioritizes basically everything that happens in the world to make sure the Frequency's efforts are directed at the right problems. A quantum computer could maybe approach her capacity for parallel processing.
    • A villainous example are Miranda's kidnappers, who've analyzed the Global Frequency's operations so thoroughly that they've calculated down to the second how long they have to try and break her before the heroes kick down the door. Fortunately everybody pulls out the stops enough to beat the clock by one second.
  • Badass Boast: Miranda Zero explains to a man who's managed to kidnap her how he cannot scare or intimidate her by listing off all of the times she's been injured or tortured in the past few years.
    "Three years ago in Haiti, a cell of ex-Tonton Macoute fired a nail gun through my right thigh. Five years ago, radical white separatists in Maine painted an eagle on my back in paint-stripper gel. Last March Russian black marketeers took bolt cutters to my breasts. Understand, you don't frighten me. Your stupid little hands and your thing with the gun do not frighten me. You are ignorant and gutless and you do not frighten me."
  • Badass Bookworm: Aleph. Yep, she kicks ass in a gunfight too.
  • Back for the Finale: The final issue, Harpoon, unites the series' biggest badasses into one team, including Grushko and Alice April, against a planetary-scale threat.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: The agents try this on the villain in "Hundred" — using a pump-action shotgun and dual-wielded machine pistols, and they're in too much of a hurry to aim carefully. The guy loses most of his arm from the elbow down.
  • Body Horror: The second issue features a man who has been engineered into a killing machine. Literally. His body is half gone. He has live orgasms when he kills people.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: In one issue, the field team gets into a secure location using biometric data stolen from the personnel files by one of the Frequency's on-call hackers.
  • Brains and Bondage: The top MIT physicist and expert in wormholes and exotic matter is wearing a gimp mask when he's interrupted by the call of duty.
  • Break Them by Talking: The terrorist who kidnaps Miranda Zero in issue 8 attempts to do this, with no measurable success.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Indirectly. In the course of an interrogation, one of the good guys makes a special point of mentioning " special axe, with which I did all those terrible things two years ago in Miami. The policeman who found the bodies still wets himself whenever he sees cutlery." Said purely for intimidation value, we hope.
  • Brown Note:
    • The alien memetic virus that takes over people's minds in "Invasive". One of the nastier ones seen in fiction, it suppresses intelligent thought in favor of non-sentient "flocking" programming intended to spread the infection as far as possible. It's implied to be ultimately lethal - a few hours after a geek who browsed SETI@Home too much downloaded it and played it over over the speakers in his apartment, everyone in earshot is crying Tears of Blood. The GF specialist studying it is in similar condition after a few minutes.
    • A slightly less horrific version is seen in "Big Sky" - a bizarre accident that simulated a religious experience, driving an entire town insane.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Aleph's "[insert name here], you're on the Global Frequency."
    • When people doubt that Miranda Zero is a real name, she responses with "It's the only one you're getting."
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: The biofeedback technique featured in issue #10 extends into this territory.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
    • Miranda Zero, Depending on the Artist: in certain issues, she looks almost exactly like Michelle Forbes, who was later cast as her in the abortive TV pilot.
    • In issue 4, the English gunwoman looks like Kate Moss (something of an in-joke, as Warren Ellis's Stormwatch and The Authority leading character Jenny Sparks was famously visually based on her).
    • In issue 5, the magician Alan Crowe looks exactly like Alan Cumming.
  • Crashing Through the Harem: Gender-inverted in "The Run", where Sita the traceuse takes a shortcut through the filming of a gay porn video.
    Sita: Sorry, not looking, carry on.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The basic purpose of the Frequency.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: In "Big Wheel". Captain Richard Quinn, the Tragic Villain of the piece, is a fully-converted Hollywood Cyborg — a half-dead soldier who'd been basically turned into a walking killing machine by cybernetic alterations. Then he saw his reflection and decided to live up to the role.
    Member 436: Try to imagine. You're a multiple amputee who's been flayed alive. You can't feel your own heartbeat. You can't feel yourself breathe. You can feel metal rubbing against your muscles and organs. And you don't recognize the man in the mirror.
  • Cyborg: Deconstructed and subverted in "Big Wheel", pointing out the extensive and conspicuous modifications it would take to make a real cyborg. It was so hard, in fact, that most people who underwent the procedure had psychotic breaks, and were intended more as non-nuclear WMDs than foot soldiers.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Aleph" is one for the titular character as she's not merely Mission Control in that story, as she has to fend off invaders to the Global Frequency central headquarters.
  • Depending on the Artist: Aleph's ethnicity appears to change by the issue. She initially appears to be East Asian, then another issue has her as white, a third has her as Ambiguously Brown, then back to Asian.
  • Determinator: Lau
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Frenchman on Wellfare. The Frenchman was just told to stop Wellfare, it didn't matter how. Eventually, The Frenchman rips off Wellfare's arm and shoves it down his throat to kill him, all for stealing his girlfriend's book on biofeedback.
  • Dunking the Bomb: In "The Run," the main character needs to dispose of a bomb that will release a deadly airborne virus in central London. The day is saved when the case is submerged in the Thames: the water pressure keeps the virus from releasing.
  • Electric Instant Gratification: The cyborg in "Big Wheel" would receive orgasms when he killed people.
  • EMP: In "Big Wheel", one of the agents sent against the cyborg is equipped with EMP grenades. It turns out that the cyborg's designers included EMP protection in the design. The grenades are the only armament capable of slowing him down, however.
  • Everything Is Online: Aleph plays it straight to some degree, but it's subverted by the cult intending to blow up a building in Melbourne - as they're all geeks, they put their demands on their website and no one has seen them, except for Aleph digging for trouble.
  • Famous-Named Foreigner: Danny Gulpilil, the Aboriginal-Australian talent in "Hundred".
  • Feel No Pain: Wellfare and the Frenchman, thanks to biofeedback.
  • Full-Conversion Cyborg: In one issue, a Global Frequency team is sent into a military base to confront a soldier who went insane after seeing what the experiment he volunteered for turned him into: an overpowered, hideous cyborg who only has his eyes, brain, and a few scraps of skin left. He specifically mentions that his penis was replaced with a wire in his cortex that gives him pleasure when he kills.
  • Government Conspiracy: Deconstructed. Several of the threats that pop up in the series are the result of governments doing naughty things that they shouldn't be doing when no one's looking... however, since these governments can be just incompetent as they can be in Real Life, nine times out of ten they completely fuck everything up and Global Frequency have to swoop in and clean up their messes.
    • On the other hand, conspiracies are often part of the backstories of GF agents.
      I used to be with the non-lethal weaponry team at the Pentagon. Turns out most of it isn't non-lethal after all, and the current design paradigm is for use on civilian populations in times of unrest. My dad was at Kent State when the National Guard opened fire on the students. I quit. Ms. Zero hired me the next day.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: The Frenchman finished off Lionel Welfare by ripping off his arm and shoving it down his throat. They were both supposed to be Badass Normals.
  • Hacker Cave: Aleph's den, from where she runs the Global Frequency.
  • Handy Remote Control: The terrorist leader in "Hundred" has one for setting off the bombs.
  • Heroes Unlimited: The series is like this from the outset.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Member 436 and the sniper in "Big Wheel".
    • Tau in "Detonation".
    • Dan in "Harpoon".
      Dan: All this stuff left over from the last century that some bunch of bastards thought we didn't have the right to know about. Bert? You remember the crap we took from NASA just for wanting to go to space? Like they owned the gate to the world? Screw them all. We'll do what we like. We'll save our own lives and grow our own wings.
    • Janos Voydan is a non-Global Frequency member example: he moves the gun John Stark was going to shoot him with to make sure the chip in his brain is destroyed.
  • Human Architecture Horror: The ninth issue deals with surgeons building flesh altars out of people. Who are still alive.
  • Husky Russkie: Grushko isn't especially muscular, but he's probably the tallest of the Global Frequency's operatives. He describes himself as the large man from your nightmares who murdered your family and destroyed everything you loved.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One issue brings in Alan Crowe who claims to be a magician — as in, a real one. He asserts that magic is "a psychological discipline." One of the other characters makes a sneering comment. Alan, amused, points out she's a parapsychologist, and as such can't exactly claim to be part of the rational orthodoxy herself. She's less amused by this. Even worse when you consider that Alan is correct - real-world magic is all about exploiting psychological "loopholes" in human perception to appear to do the impossible, and is a legitimate field, both as entertainment and research. Parapsychology, on the other hand, is (at least so far) only a pseudoscience with no proof or evidence supporting it.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Wellfare's mentioned as eating the fingers and an ear of an operative he killed, though "he couldn't keep the fingers down".
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Grushko introduces himself:
    Grushko: Did you ever have a nightmare about a large man who killed your parents, and your siblings, and then your lover, and then everyone you know? And then burned down your house and destroyed everything precious you've ever conceived of? That was me.
  • Kill Sat: The threat in "Harpoon" is a constellation of satellites armed with kinetic harpoons, a single shot weapon mostly by virtue of being a fancy orbiting crossbow that fires an artificial diamond at enough speed that the kinetic energy goes off like a nuke when it strikes the ground.
  • Mad Doctor: In issue 9, surgeons in a medical research facility became literally Mad Doctors after the leak of an experimental gas. The surgeons' pre-existing fascination with the inside of the human body escalated into fanatical worship, and so... "They went into the wards, where their volunteer patients were. And they used stem-cell technology and bioreactors to make things out of them. And they're all still alive."
  • Master of Your Domain: the biofeedback techniques used by Welfare and The Frenchman to beat the pulp out of each other. The Frenchman turns out to be better at it.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: "Big Sky" revolves around the appearance of a spectral, otherworldly being referred to as an 'Angel', which is powerful enough which drives the entire population of an isolated Norwegian coastal town mad. The team eventually discover a mundane explanation involving the burning down of a local church and resonance around local rock formations which caused sensory overload — but then, after they've identified this explanation, one of them floats the possibility that the appearance of a real angel might have similar effects involving similar probabilities.
  • Meaningful Name: Aleph is named for Jorge Luis Borges' "The Aleph", a point from where the entire universe can be observed simultaenously — just like how Aleph searches the whole world for threats from her Hacker Cave. It also has the narrator lie about the aleph's existence and permit it to be destroyed out of pettiness, which is often the ultimate cause of the threats the Frequency battles.
  • Mission Control: Aleph was born to be the ultimate Mission Control; she's a "superprocessor" — someone who can "handle any number of separate input processes while performing multiple complex tasks and running deductive strings." One issue features the obligatory "Baddies Invade Base" story.
  • Monumental Battle: The climax of "The Run" is a downplayed example (it's not so much a battle as a brief fist-fight), taking place at the top of the London Eye.
  • Mysterious Employer: Miranda Zero.
  • Mysterious Past: Most people on the Frequency to some degree, but Miranda Zero especially.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A mutual one between the Frenchman and Wellfare that lasts pretty much an entire issue.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Miranda Zero herself has a rather dark and shady past filled with these.
    • Mr. Grushko also seems to have a few of these in his past. Witnesses are still traumatized. In one case, Grushko's descriptions give one a hint of the flavour of the noodles, as it were.
  • Not Afraid to Die: GF operatives - even the one with seemingly non-violent backgrounds - aren't really phased by little things like "mortal danger" and "imminent death." Then again, it's probably a recruitment requirement.
  • Oh, Crap!: Aleph's reaction when the full scope of the problem becomes apparent in "Harpoon". "We are so fux0r3d."
  • Orbital Bombardment: "Harpoon" features the threat of kinetic spears, weapons designed to be dropped from satellites, heat up on re-entry, and strike the ground with the force of a tactical nuke, and as hot as the edge of the sun.
  • Le Parkour: In the issue "The Run", a traceuse is the only Global Frequency operative who can get to a bomb in time to disarm it. The entire issue apart from the first two and last two pages is devoted to her Parkour run.
  • The Power of Love: The alien memetic virus that overwrites people is defeated when the symbology expert manages to encode her love for her partner (another woman) in its language.
  • Psychic Powers: Janos Voydan in #1 of the comic was a psychic "apport" who had his powers boosted by Soviet Super Science.
  • Psycho for Hire: Wellfare.
    • Some of the GF members may also qualify, given their backgrounds and willingness to do practically anything (within reason, that is) to get the job done, most often involving the willingness to kill the bad guys without a second thought. Grushko is probably the stand-out example, but Jill Cabot, Alice April and even Wellfare's arch-nemesis, the Frenchman, all have shades of this as well, while Takashi Sato quit the GF out of fear that he was turning into this.
  • Required Secondary Powers: "Big Wheel" goes into disturbing detail about all the bits that usually get glossed over in stories about super-strong cybernetic limbs.
    Member 436: It's not a case of just sticking an artificial arm on. The surrounding bones and fibers have to be hardened and supported, or else the new arm will rip clean off your shoulder the first time you flex. You'll need tensile support across your back, or your spine will snap the first time you lift something heavy. You need new skin; human skin isn't tough enough to handle the subcutaneous tension of superhuman strength. You'll take a chip in your brain to handle the specific dataload from the artificial nerve system controlling the arm. There's more, but you're getting the idea, right?
  • Sex Is Violence: The cyborg in "Big Wheel" has been wired to receive sexual pleasure when he kills people.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Takahasi Sato, the protagonist of issue #9, was clearly affected by his past missions for the GF and has to be all but dragged kicking and screaming into another one.
  • Soviet Superscience: The threat in issue #1. Way out in Siberia, a nuclear warhead is ready to drop though a wormhole and land in San Francisco if a sleeper agent opens that hole with his brain. After years in his head, the mechanism is starting to corrode. This may not end well.
  • Staring Kid: As Sita scales the London Eye in "The Run", she's spotted by a little Indian girl, who excitedly tells her father, "Daddy, look! Spider-Man's a girl, and she's just like us!"
  • Super Cell Reception: Operatives on the Global Frequency had really cool phones that appeared to use their own satellite network and give users access to any electronic resource Aleph could hack into. They also had audio/video capabilities that were terribly advanced when the graphic novels came out in 2002, but by 2016 are Boring, but Practical off-the-shelf smartphones. This demonstrates that writers don't need to bypass cell phones to create tension; these geeks kick ass, but they still get into trouble the phones can't gimmick them out of.
  • Super-Soldier: The cyborg from "The Big Wheel". Not a success.
  • Tears of Blood: People under the influence of the alien memetic virus display this.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • As Global Frequency draws in people from all walks of life, some on the right side of the law and others from the wrong side, this trope tends to pop up whenever, say, a police officer is forced to work with a criminal for the common good.
    • The various governments and militaries of the world tend to have this attitude to Global Frequency as well; it's clear that they resent the hell out of having a bunch of unorthodox and unofficial civilians both completely upstage them and have to uncover and sort out their messes, but are frequently given no other option but to cooperate.
    • To say that Takahashi Sato is not too thrilled to receive a call to action in issue #9 would be an understatement of the year. While he does eventually take the job he threatens to kill Aleph if she ever contacts him again after it's done.
  • Telecom Tree: The Global Frequency, a network of people specialising in all sorts of things that could, and do, Save the World - or at least millions of lives. Though only a couple of agents are actively involved in any particular crisis, there are a few times when the call goes out to all 1,001 members for any help they can provide (notably the the last issue of the series).
  • Torture Technician: Appears to be Mr. Grushko's speciality.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future:
    • The biofeedback technology that The Frenchman and Wellfare are said to use is based on very real technology with similar applications. (That is, increasing strength and blocking out pain, not ripping off people's arms.)
    • This is more or less the point of most of the series, really: scary but largely plausible science.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Happens twice in #2
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Aleph's job.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The bionic man in issue #2. It's explained in considerable detail that the process he's been through was traumatic enough to damage anybody's mental equilibrium.
  • The Worm Guy: In a sense, a whole network of them, though they all get the proper respect for their expertise.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Issue #7, "Detonation": "You're not leaving this room." Delivered twice to the same bad guy. Once posthumously.