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The Suicide Squad: A History

THE PAST

The Suicide Squad comes from a special time in American literary history. A pulpy experiment in an age where superheroes didn’t have complete domination. Romance books, espionage tales, and flying aces could still be seen on a monthly basis. The Squad was initially composed of Rick Flag, Jr., his gal Karin, their doctor friend and a guy that is best referred to as Red Shirt#1. The group mainly fought dinosaurs, giants and Soviet science experiments gone awry. Eventually, Doc would be killed and Red Shirt McGee would be turned into a monster. Karin would return to normal life while Rick Flag would pal around with superheroes trying to find a purpose. But, another story would come before that.

TASK FORCE X BEGINS

Task Force X was the outfit organized by Rick Flag, Sr. during the heyday of World War II. Being the lone survivor of his Suicide Squadron, Flag was tasked by President Truman with devising a heavily powered policing unit for Post-War America. This initiative was dubbed Task Force X and it was meant to serve two different brands. Argent would be the military component led by General Jeb Stuart aka The Haunted Tank and Flag would lead the civilian-oriented Suicide Squad. The Squad would fill the need left by the disgraced Justice Society of America, as they would mop up Soviet mishaps, super powered thugs and monsters of the week. After Rick the Elder died on a mission, the leadership of the Squad would change hands until Rick Flag, Jr. became of age to take over the Squad.suicidesquad1

THE PRESENT WITH A NEW FLAG

Rick Flag, Jr. serves well as the link between the old school iteration of the Squad and the metahuman Dirty Dozen that we all know now. Flag is a straight-laced government type that knows his commitments to the job. He doesn’t scare easily and is willing to take command. While he did butt heads with Amanda Waller over the direction of the team, he was willing to do the job. For the first two years of the modern incarnation, Flag was also the source of forced romantic entanglements between him and the recently returned Karin Grace. Given the nature of the book, it’s wise to assume that it didn’t end well.

MEET THE WALL

Amanda Waller was the matronly survivor of gang life in the Cabrini-Green housing projects. After losing two kids and her husband to gang warfare, Waller found an opportunity to leave and better herself. After graduating with a doctorate in political science, The Wall made her way deep into Washington’s elite circles. Due to early machinations, she would be directly responsible for the creation of the intelligence group dubbed Checkmate. However, Waller didn’t stop there. She saw an opportunity in Truman’s original plan to better police America. The kicker was that anyone could be a hero if they wanted. What if you drafted super powered convicts who had no choice, but to complete the mission?

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Deadshot is the character that comic fans most closely identify with the Squad, even though DC movie marketing is forcing the Batman villains on audiences. Deadshot joined the Squad, as he wanted to die in a spectacular fashion. The master assassin has estranged himself from his daughter and other loved ones out of fear that they will be killed for knowing him. After all, this is a guy that had to be stopped by Wonder Woman from killing the Pope. While introduced in the DC Universe as a marksman trick shooter in the vein of a villainous Hawkeye, time changed Deadshot. His popular look originated in the 1970s when Englehart/Rogers plucked him out of relative obscurity to become a new Batman villain. Between that redesign, the suicidal tendencies, and general dour demeanor…Will Smith makes sense? It’s fun to lambaste casting choices roughly six months away from a film’s release.

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Slipknot is the first comic book maiming that lots of 80s readers remember. It was quite a big deal to see a villain have their left arm exploded for violating Waller’s rules. But, who could blame the guy? His whole schtick was that he was an assassin that strangled people. The guy made his debut picking a fight with Firestorm. That’s like if a Cowboy tried to fight a living nuclear reactor. The guy was meant to rot in prison.

Captain Boomerang is another legacy character that has been beefed up in recent years. A lot of that happened during the Grimdark DC of the ’00s where Boomerang stopped playing games and started getting real. By that, I mean when Brad Meltzer had him murder Tim Drake‘s dad. Sure, he got killed too, but then we got stuck with the new Boomerang. Apparently, the Aussie boomerang guy had a douche kid that decided to go all Harry Chapin when his pops got blown away. No one’s quite sure which is getting the Jai Courtney treatment in the upcoming film, but does it matter?

Harley Quinn is Harley Quinn. If you’re on a website dedicated to fandom, then you’ve already been saturated with her enough over the last 20 years. For those that underestimate her appeal, I’ll offer up a quick breakdown.

  1. Debuted in the widely popular Batman: The Animated Series before being worked into the DC Comics Universe.
  2. New DC continuity has Harley recognizing Joker for being the abusing scumbag that he is and rejecting him.
  3. She’s the captain of a roller derby team.
  4. Work on Coney Island as a psychologist.
  5. Actively tries not to associate with Batman.

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The Enchantress was once the mortal named June Moore. Depending on the continuity, writer and wind direction; June’s control over the Enchantress would determine if she was a villain or hero. The Enchantress itself is a demonic force of chaotic magic that threatens to ruin our world. It’s only kept in check due to the mental and emotional toll that it takes on June. The character is quite underdeveloped and has yet to find a writer to really hammer out a solid take on her. Gail Simone did her best, but she just felt like a more heroic take on Madame Xanadu at times.

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Katana is a superhero that never had anything to do with the Suicide Squad. In the film, she’s just a metahuman bodyguard to protect Rick Flag from the Squad. Her origin is rather tragic, as she grew up the wife of a successful Japanese businessman. Unfortunately, her Yakuza-affiliated brother-in-law took a liking to her and demanded to have her. When she rejected him, the brother-in-law killed her children and husband. Katana raged out and took possession of the Soultaker sword. Training as a Samurai, Katana struggles to resist the magical demands of the sword that hungers for more souls. So, that’s going to end well.

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Killer Croc was born a poor kid with a skin condition. Early depictions of Croc showed him as more of a muscle man covered in scaly skin. It’s only when things got extreme later in the 90s and 00s, that mutagenic effects were added to turn him into something resembling an actual crocodile. While a long-serving member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, Killer Croc is limited in terms of his depiction. Basically, he’s a cannibalistic heavy with rage issues. The guy also made Arkham Asylum a pain in my ass on the first playthrough. If Batman can forgive him, then so can 360 users of the world.

El Diablo is a legacy character that seems to change with every major introduction. The first guy was a demonic possessed Western dude, the second guy was a masked vigilante. El Diablo Tres is a criminal with pyrokinetic abilities. Diablo joined the Squad after feeling bad for burning down a rival gang’s apartment building. Apparently, the smell of burning women and children brings out the softer side in a thug. Waller accepts him into the Squad because potential fatalities are cool.

THE FUTURE?

Now, we’ve met the Squad. What makes them work? Well, the legacy of John Ostrander and Kim Yale has influenced every major depiction of the Suicide Squad. That married writing brain trust saw the original conceit and dove into it with Waller’s ambition. The duo saw a need to connect these criminals into a world greater than themselves while embracing the finality of existence. In a world of Superman, Batman, and nuclear-powered governments…what good is a guy like Deadshot? Well, he’s the guy that you can have shoot a third world dictator in the face while eating Sunday dinner. The willingness to enter into an era of DC lore that treats ambiguity with respect is why the Suicide Squad matters.

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Troy Anderson

Troy Anderson exists at Fandom. He's has been on the fan media scene since the Ad Wizards in Marketing invented the term. Arriving at Fandom by way of AndersonVision, CHUD, DVDActive, Living Corpse and many, many, many other sites; Troy loves American comic book history and the films of William Girdler. His dislikes include exposure and Film Twitter.

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