I won’t say that DC’s current attempts at cinematic universe-building are a failure on par with the launch of the Vasa; I already have.
That said, I have tentatively high hopes for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, a movie about a government-sponsored team of supervillains. Part of that comes from my love of the original Suicide Squad, created by John Ostrander in 1987. The film, which comes out in August, features a number of original team members, so I thought I’d share some of my knowledge with you.
I’m nice like that.
Characters You Should Know: The Suicide Squad
7. Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney)
Captain Boomerange (real name George “Digger” Harkness) is my favorite DC villain. Not for any sort of post-ironic “gotta be different” reason, but because he’s the perfect representation of the kind of supervillain we don’t get enough of. He’s not a megalomaniacal would-be conqueror; he’s not a heartless, emotionless killing machine; he’s a racist drunk jerk, and that is far more entertaining. Harkness is so fun to hate that his talent for throwing sharp things is barely relevant to his character.
Ostrander might have written Boomerang with the broadest, cringe-worthy Aussie accents since Kangaroo Jack, but the movie version at least looks like he’ll share his counterpart’s violent temper, cowardice, and love of beer.
6. Deadshot (Will Smith)
He might look like DC’s answer to the Punisher (what with the guns and cool skull motif), but Deadshot (real name Floyd Lawton) preceded Frank Castle by more than twenty years. A spoiled rich guy who became a supervillain out of boredom, he’s an expert marksman and remorseless killer.
In Ostrander’s original run, Deadshot was one of the few members of the group who volunteered for assignments that might result in certain death; he has a nihilistic streak and a death wish, which makes him a perfect fit for a team called the Suicide Squad.
Will Smith has tremendous range, so I have no doubt he’ll be able to communicate the bleakness that is Lawton’s worldview. He also just flat-out bleeds charm, so his Deadshot is going to be a treat. My only complaint: this is, by my count, the third version of Deadshot to be shown in live action, and to date, not one of them have shared Lawton’s glorious porn-stache.
5. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis)
Amanda “The Wall” Waller is one of the most powerful people in the DC Universe, despite not having any superpowers of her own. She’s a ruthless operator and canny manipulator—as she says in the first trailer, “Getting people to act against their self-interest is what I do.” The Squad is her brainchild, and she wields it alternatively like a scalpel and a sledgehammer, aiming the team at dangerous situations and hoping at least some of them walk out alive. Her indomitable personality is summed up pretty perfectly by the picture you can see to the left—the Wall standing up the Batman, who looks like he’s just realized the mistake he’s made.
The two-time Academy Award nominated Viola Davis looks like she’s bringing the right amount of intensity to the role. It might not be as flashy as the guy who can shoot fire from his hands, but make no mistake: Amanda Waller is the center of the Suicide Squad.
4.Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)
More attention, arguably, has been focused on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn than any other character in this film. A fan-favorite since her debut in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn has been a central focus of Suicide Squad’s marketing from the beginning for several reasons, not the least of which is her connection to Jared Leto’s Joker.
If I can be real for a moment, I’ll confess my belief that if this movie fails, it will likely break along the Harley Quinn fault line (which is not a real thing, so please don’t look it up).
Making a character “wacky” without being annoying is a terrifically fine line to walk, even when the character doesn’t have to be believable as a homicidal maniac. I’m far, far more excited about Suicide Squad than I was about the abomination that came out a few months ago, but what worries I have are directed in this direction.
I hope I’m wrong.
3. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman)
The Suicide Squad’s official team leader and the only member (in this film, at least) who isn’t a convicted felon, Colonel Rick Flag is a special-ops type who answers directly to Waller. In the comics as in the movie, he’s in control of the kill switches (explosive devices that detonate at the first sign of insubordination) that keep the squad in line.
The sad truth is, Flag is a straight man, a conservative contrast to the flashier Deadshot and Harley Quinn. It’s a thankless task, but perfectly suited to Joel “Robocop” Kinnaman’s taciturn, square-jawed intensity.
2. El Diablo (Jay Hernandez)
To say that El Diablo (real name Chato Santana) is a religious Latino Human Torch is both reductive and exactly right. A former street criminal who seeks redemption for his misdeeds, the be-tatted flamethrower sees the Suicide Squad as his chance to do some good. The fact that he does so by setting people on fire shouldn’t be held against him; when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, after all.
El Diablo is an interesting foil to the more unrepentant killers of the Suicide Squad, an unusually moral man in an unusually amoral line of work. A violent action comedy (well, maybe) might not be the best place for nuanced discussions about faith, but hopefully he’ll have something interesting to do.
1. And the Rest!
Sorry guys; Slipknot (pictured) might be your favorite Suicide Squad character (well, no, he’s not, but anyway), but he isn’t getting a full write up. He showed up in one (1) issue of Ostrander’s run. No spoilers, but I will say there’s a reason he didn’t appear again.
Killer Croc, Katana, and Enchantress have a deeper comic history, but none of them have gotten nearly the same kind of exposure as the six characters mentioned above. All we know about them is that Killer Croc is big; Katana has an evil sword; and Enchantress is causing all sorts of problems that the Squad has to solve.
And the Joker’s involved.
But that’s going to have to wait for another day.