Suicide Squad broke box-office records for the biggest August opening. But, what you might not know is that the squad has a rather extensive cinematic history. In 2005, an episode of the animated series Justice League Unlimited spotlighted Task Force X. More recently, the hit CW series, Arrow, featured the squad over its second and third seasons.
Throughout these iterations, the common denominators were Amanda Waller, Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness), and, of course, Deadshot (Floyd Lawton). In the original comics, the squad’s regular roster also included Harley Quinn and Colonel Rick Flag. In 2014, another DC animated film featured similar elements as those of the 2016 blockbuster film, though mostly by coincidence.
Batman: Assault on Arkham was released as part of DC Comics’ hugely popular Animated Original Movies. The animated film is unique because it’s set in the continuity of the Arkham Asylum video game series. Here’s a glimpse at some of the surprising similarities between Assault on Arkham and 2016’s Suicide Squad.
Deadshot and Harley Quinn
Set between the games Arkham Origins and Arkham Asylum, Batman: Assault on Arkham is a solid take on the Suicide Squad. Even though Batman is part of the film’s title, he is — ironically — not the film’s starring character. Instead, the protagonists are the squad’s members, primarily Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Captain Boomerang.
As its name suggests, Assault on Arkham sends the Suicide Squad on a mission into Arkham Asylum. The squad’s members must recover a thumb drive from the Riddler, who is incarcerated in Arkham. With Amanda Waller compartmentalizing everyone’s orders, Batman infiltrating the squad as Black Spider, and the Joker hiding a dirty bomb somewhere in Gotham City, absolute hell ensues — in a fun way.
The relationship between Harley Quinn and Deadshot is the centerpiece of both Assault on Arkham and 2016’s Suicide Squad. Deadshot and Harley Quinn get extremely close during Assault on Arkham, and they hook up right before their mission. That doesn’t happen in Suicide Squad, but the question of whether Deadshot can trust Harley is still an important part of the plot. In the live-action film, Harley agrees to help Deadshot remove the bomb implanted in his neck. However, she appears to renege on her promise when she escapes with the Joker.
Still, Deadshot and Harley have a few things in common. The most prominent parallel is that Deadshot cares deeply for his daughter, while Harley is utterly devoted to the Joker. Deadshot cares about how his daughter sees him, and that’s what drives him to help Rick Flag take down the Enchantress and her brother, Incubus. On the other hand, the Joker’s apparent death leads Harley to rejoin the squad for their final battle with Enchantress. It goes without saying that love is blind — or downright weird.
What’s Going on With the Joker?
So, let’s get to Mistah J. Many fans still see the late Heath Ledger’s Joker as the definitive take on the character. John Ostrander, who created Amanda Waller in the original comics, pointed out that no two actors should have the same style. Ostrander stated that it was “absolutely necessary” for Jared Leto to craft a new Joker for Suicide Squad, and that’s what Leto did. I personally enjoyed the Shakespearean vibe that Leto brought to the character.
No matter what, you can’t have the Joker with Harley Quinn. Ostrander observed that the central theme of Suicide Squad is love. Arguably the most important relationship in the film is the one between Harley Quinn and her Mistah J. The Joker’s sole reason for attacking the squad is to rescue Harley and disable her neck bomb. It’s also the reason that he breaks into Arkham at the end of the film.
It goes without saying that Harley Quinn and the Joker are the definition of an unhealthy relationship. Nevertheless, the question of whether Harley decides to escape from Arkham with the Joker is an intriguing one. Their relationship remains relatively “stable” throughout Suicide Squad, whereas it implodes in stories like Injustice: Gods Among Us. With rumors of a Suicide Squad sequel afoot, we’ll just have to wait and see how the DC Extended Universe handles Harley’s potential future with Mistah J.