The DNAgents was a title originally released by Eclipse Comics in 1983, written by Mark Evanier and illustrated by Will Meugniot.
It concerned a team of five genetically-engineered superhumans created by the Matrix Corporation to serve as spies/enforcers for the corporation's interests. The scientists did their job too well, creating a group with all-too-human foibles instead of the loyal robots the head of the corporation, Lucius Krell, was hoping for.
The group consisted of:
- Surge: An angry lightning-controller.
- Rainbow: The Team Mom and a telepath who could create intricate illusions. As time wore on it was rarely when she actually wanted to, however.
- Tank: Had Super Strength and plenty of firepower thanks to his Powered Armor.
- Amber: A peppy girl who could fly and create discs of energy.
- Sham: The most withdrawn of the agents, who had the power to transform himself into anyone he wanted. Because his powers had the fewest direct combat applications he also had commando training.
They were joined by other superhuman allies like Lancer, a gleeful sendup of four-color comic heroes, and the spy Crossfire after his mantle was assumed by his bail bondsman, Jay Endicott, who became Rainbow's Love Interest.
The comic originally ran for 24 issues from 1983-1985. Later that year it was picked up for another 17 issues as "The New DNAgents," even though it was a direct continuation of the previous storyline. Crossfire and Surge also had their own individual spinoff books. In 1986 a sourcebook for use with the Villains & Vigilantes role-playing game was released, covering the material from the first 20 issues of the main series and the spinoff books out by then.
The series provide examples of:
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Possibly the comic's greatest claim to fame was a "stealth crossover" it had with Teen Titans. A thinly-veiled copy of the Titans known as Project Youngblood appeared in the pages of DNAgents, while a thinly-veiled copy of the DNAgents known as the Recombatants appeared in the pages of Titans, with the guest star group sacrificing themselves to save the day at the end of the arc.
- Author Tract: Became this sometimes. An issue of Crossfire was basically an extended angry diatribe on Evanier's well-known experiences with the censorship of kids cartoons and the perceived effects.
- Black and Gray Morality: The agents took on some really twisted characters, but it was almost always to the benefit of their corporate bosses. Krell was not a nice guy after all, and they were usually just choosing the Lesser of Two Evils. The Crossfire spinoff was a little more optimistic with him taking advantage of his new role to punish people the law couldn't or wouldn't.
- Bodyguard Crush: Surge is assigned to protect a replicant of the company CEO's (dead) daughter, and falls hard for her, it becoming his driving ambition to find a way to bring her back after she's killed. For extra melodrama he kind of pathetically misremembers it as a sweeping Hollywood love story, when at most she'd been learning to tolerate him when she died.
- Boisterous Bruiser: The side-hero Lancer, who kicked butt and had fun doing it.
- Co-Dragons: Positron and Electron for Evil Genius Dr. Alexi Vlasov. They kind of have to be that way, since their main power is to cause a massive shock that only works when they touch their target at the same time.
- Combining Mecha: The huge robot Mega Man, who used the name years before a certain video game property made it famous.
- Downer Ending: The second series ended with Krell facing the fact that the agents were too human to control and too powerful to be left running around the way they were. Their energy was drained leaving them nothing but lifeless mannequins in cold storage, even though Rainbow turned out to be pregnant with Crossfire's child.
- Fanservice: Certainly wasn't shy about showing off its cast's bodies. Both Amber and Rainbow's outfits Bare Your Midriff, and reprinted collections of the comics in the 2000s were remastered to make the fanservice more evident.
- Five-Man Band:
- Green Rocks: The ore "Regeneratum," which was used to bring the agents to life while giving them superpowers, which can also exhibit healing powers strong enough to raise the dead while inexplicably failing to cure an agent of serious Power Incontinence, or whatever else suited the writer's needs.
- His Name Really Is "Barkeep": The agents never went by anything but their codenames even when they attended college to learn how to blend in with humans better.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: In effect, since the fact that the agents' heroic inclinations made them more human than many humans was a common theme.
- Informed Flaw: Crossfire has one issue with him noting he needed to lose weight to be able to be doing all the Air Vent Escape work that comes with the job...in a panel showing him with a VERY prominent six-pack.
- Mistaken for Pedophile: In an issue of Crossfire, Rainbow tries to get enough money to help the agents become independent from their corporate masters by posing for a nude photo shoot. Crossfire gets her out of her contract by pointing out that while she has the body and mind of a woman in her 20's she was born in a tank and is technically only seven years old, so technically a nude photo spread of her is kiddie porn (although the comic overlooks how by that logic Crossfire himself is a child molester for being in a sexual relationship with her...).
- Multiple-Choice Past: Lancer, the self-proclaimed strongest man in the world, never told the same origin story about where his powers came from twice.
- My Brain Is Big: Fired Matrix Corporation scientist Alexi Vlasov performed experiments on himself that ultimately made his brain so big he has to have a big glass bubble attached to his head to hold it.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Snafu, the result of an interrupted attempt to create a new DNAgent, is this.
- Replacement Goldfish: After his daughter was (accidentally) killed by the original Crossfire, Krell had a replicant of her created. Subverted as he ignored the replicant as much as he ignored the original; he had it done mainly to test the viability of having the agents created.
- Stupid Crooks: A regular character in the pages of Crossfire was a counterfeiter. A talented counterfeiter, evidently, but one who couldn't resist putting obviously fake denominations and the faces of TV personalities on the bills.
- The Worf Effect: People would always show how tough they were by punching Tank through a wall.
- World's Strongest Man: The hero Lancer declares himself to be this. Since he can give Tank a run for his money, he probably he is.