DC Comics’ new movie Suicide Squad, will hit theaters August 5th and if you’re psyched by the neon posters and high tempo trailers you might want a little more backstory before buying a ticket. Thankfully, we have you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about the Squad before you take your squad to the movies opening weekend.
First off, if you want to be all technical, the first Suicide Squad in DC comics was a golden age team of four non-powered folks fighting superpowered threats. This team was introduced in 1959 (The Brave and the Bold #25) and fought a lot of dinosaurs for whatever reason. Almost everyone on this team died fighting a Yeti when, coincidentally, the book stopped selling. This is not the team that was later adapted into the upcoming movie. Nearly 30 years later the book was relaunched with a very different feeling and that’s the team that would become the movie you’re so curious about. Speaking of movies…
INSPIRED BY A MOVIE
The Suicide Squad of 1987 was created/re-worked by John Ostrander and is heavily inspired by the 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen. Both the Suicide Squad and the Dirty Dozen involve prison release criminals who are given a chance to reduce their sentences by attempting a potentially impossible mission. David Ayer, who directed the movie even called his film “a ‘Dirty Dozen’ with supervillains” in an interview with Empire in 2014. The key takeaway here is that if you haven’t seen The Dirty Dozen, this is a great excuse to rent it (it’s on Amazon Video) because it’s a very good movie in its own right.
The summary is that the Suicide Squad is a team of imprisoned supervillains who are released to fight even bigger, badder things in exchange for time off of their sentences. If they get caught or killed, the government denies all knowledge of employing them, and if anything, blames them for the whole mess. With this in mind, they tend to do things that would get the government in trouble if it was directly connected to their actions. As an insurance policy for the government, everybody gets a micro-explosive in their heads that prevents them running off. Fun!
Back to the comics. The revamped Suicide Squad is assembled by Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis in the new movie) and led by Rick Flagg Jr (played by Joel Kinnaman). Flagg was also the leader of the 1959 Suicide Squad although he’s the only real connection between the two. Introduced in DC’s Legends #3 this new Suicide Squad is sent out to kill a powerful rampaging fire elemental while all the world’s heroes deal with a bigger threat someplace else.
OLD SCHOOL AND NEW SCHOOL
In the comics, there have been a lot of different and lineups of the Suicide Squad over the years. The team changes from book to book, and more than a few members have died on mission. The movie borrows from various lineups however, for simplification, lets look at some noteables. Deadshot, Enchantress, and Captain Boomerang were all in the first team in 1987. Boomerang, Deadshot, Waller and Flagg remain the mainstays of the team for most of its publication life.
Deadshot (played by Will Smith) is an expert marksman who claims he never misses. In the comics this is some combination of natural ability and training but not supernatural per se. His trademark weapons are wrist mounted, silenced machine guns and, yes, they are as badass as that sounds. At one point, Deadshot’s mission is to prevent someone from killing their target, so Deadshot kills the target instead, technically accomplishing his mission. He’s like that. Fun Fact: Before he was forced into the Suicide Squad, he was a minor Batman villain and started out dressed in a tophat and tails.
Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney) is a career criminal who, as you might expect, throws boomerangs. Would you believe he started out as a villain against the Flash? By using clever trick boomerangs (and some luck) he’s actually held his own against lots of different opponents. He’s also a selfish jerk and unapologetic racist who’s often been responsible for the death of his squadmates.
Enchantress (played by Cara Delevingne) was introduced in comics in 1966 with the tagline “The Switcheroo-Witcheroo,” so there’s that. She’s a regular girl named June Moone before a chance meeting with a powerful magical entity has her empowered by mystical forces. She starts as a hero, but her incredible power levels (she can basically do anything) starts corrupting her and she joins the Suicide Squad as a way to control her powers.
Also in the movie is Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), the famous Batman villain who was a psychologist at Arkham, fell in love with the Joker and turned to a life of crime. She’s more of a new-school member of the squad as she’s only recently joined them in the comics. She also got a power upgrade in the comics recently, having been dipped in chemicals by the Joker and made a little more badass…and crazy. It seems we’ll flashback to that scene in this movie, at least according to the trailers.
El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Slipknot (Adam Beech) are both reasonably minor members of the Squad who may be getting a lot more screentime in this movie than they got in the books.
Katana (Karen Fukuhara) has spent some time involved with the Suicide Squad but was never a member until this film. She was, in fact, a member of a different team, Batman and the Outsiders, following her introduction in the 80’s. Apparently she’s not 100% on this team either…
Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and The Joker (Jared Leto) are both characters that have never been a part of the Suicide Squad in the comics. Clearly The Joker has a bigger part to play in this movie than simply a member of the team, so we’ll have to wait and see about that. Croc is probably in the movie to replace one of the less easy to put on screen members from the comics. There are a whole bunch of giant monster characters that Croc is essentially subbing in for. I’m not complaining.
WHO’S THE BADDEST OF THE BAD?
What we don’t yet know about this movie is who the antagonist is. We keep getting more and more teases of the villain and there are a lot of theories but no concrete evidence. Here are some of the best ideas I’ve heard and where they stack up against the comics:
- It’s the Joker! – There does seem to be a lot of Joker scenes in the trailers and he’s not necessarily a member of the team but what part he plays is not clear. Certainly the Joker has never summoned terrible multi-eyed monster servants before, but who knows. Arguably, The Joker is the most recognizable character of the lot and therefore an accessible point for the general movie goer.
- Somebody Magical / The Enchantress – Eagle eyed watchers of the trailer have noted that Enchantress doesn’t seem to be out in the field with the team. It could just be a trick of the editing, or maybe she’s watching home base. Either way. the big bad could be magical and Enchantress could be part of causing or stopping it, or both.
- It’s someone from Apocalypse. – In the original 1987 outing of the Suicide Squad the team was sent to fight a fire elemental sent by Darkseid, who is the DC comic’s biggest of bads. Considering another Darkseid minion (Steppenwolf) has been named as the villain in the Justice League movie this could be on theme.
- Some other agency – In the comics the Squad was most often set against other teams of super powered individuals. Sometimes these were foreign powers like OnSlaught or other American teams like Checkmate. Could the big bad be another team with a weapon of mass destruction? Who knows?
ABOUT THE WALL
You can’t talk about Suicide Squad without looking at Amanda Waller, who’s played by Viola Davis in this movie but has also been portrayed by CCH Pounder, Pam Grier, Angela Basset and, on Arrow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson. She’s one of the most powerful characters in comics and she doesn’t have one superpower.
In the comics, she’s master politician and government agent who is always two steps ahead of everyone else, even Batman. She runs the Squad with an iron fist and knows exactly how to manipulate and control anyone she needs to. Often, she’s shown with a pen that’s been set to control the bombs in the squad members’ heads, which she has no problem doing when they get out of line.
She’s stood up to dozens of really dangerous villains as well as Batman himself and never flinched. She’s one of those characters that goes up against the Justice League and wins.
GO SEE THE MOVIE
As with any team that’s been in comics for three decades there are lots of things we just don’t have space for here in one article. Let me just say that as a longtime fan of the property, the Suicide Squad tends to deliver. The writers really understood that exploring the team dynamic of a bunch of misfits and bad guys had some real potential. Check out any of the trade paperbacks of the 80’s and 90’s and read some great stories. Many of the early books had clever dynamics like interviews with the characters conducted by the prison psychologists. The fights are always fantastic, too ,with the titular characters having only so much power and having to fight smart.
I plan to see the movie on opening night, and while it might not live up to the comics I love, if the trailers are any indication it will at least be fun. Considering this is a movie with a giant talking crocodile man, I can’t ask for much more.
Before I go, here’s one more quick fact. Did you know that Barbara Gordon, who was Batgirl until she was paralyzed by The Joker (lately she’s gotten better) was first rebooted as Oracle in a Suicide Squad book? Well now you do. Enjoy.
Do you plan to see Suicide Squad opening weekend? Does this movie seem to have a different energy then the previous DC films? What character has you most excited? Let us know in the comments. #SquadGoals
Image Credits: Warner Bros and DC Comics