Friday, August 5, 2016
Five Comic Book Members of the Suicide Squad for the Inevitable Sequel
DC's next major motion picture opens today: Suicide Squad. One of my favorite properties from the 80s, the Suicide Squad is a team of villains forced to do covert ops for the US government. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I'm not here to comment on it, but instead to talk about the comics, and casting. You see, the reason why the team is called the Suicide Squad is because there's a good chance that team members aren't going to make it back from these missions, which means high team turnover. So that means there are plenty of other options for team members, and I'm hear to talk about five possible characters who could join the Squad ion the sequel that will probably be coming.
It's important to note that, while the Suicide Squad has had many incarnations, both before and after, I'm drawing all of my choices from what I view as THE Suicide Squad comic, the 1980s series written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale. It is easily one of the best series DC published at a point of high creativity, filled with topical politics, all out action, and tremendous character depth.
Before I start, I just want to call out three squad members who didn't make it on this list not because they're not awesome and I would love to see them on the big screen, but because of some of the weird silos that DC has on many of its character, these three feature prominently as heroes or villains on the CW DC TV series, and so will be featured there: Vixen, who has been added to the cast of Legends of Tomorrow for next season, Count Vertigo, who is one of Green Arrow's principal foes and has appeared in various iterations on Arrow, and the one non-Ostrander/Yale character I considered, King Shark, who first joined the team in the pages of Superboy and became a regular in the New 52, who has been a featured villain on Flash. I'd be thrilled to see any of those characters make the movies though, DC, so keep them in mind!
Now without further ado, five members of the Suicide Squad I'd like to see in the sequel, in mostly alphabetical order:
Ben Turner was a skilled martial artist who was taken and brain washed to serve as a member of the League of Assassins. After the conditioning was broken, he willingly joined the Suicide Squad to atone for all the deaths he caused as a member of the League. He did appear on Arrow as a member of the Squad, but disappeared around the same time the fiat came from on high from Warners to remove the team, so I don't see any problem in him being used here. I'm picking Bronze Tiger for a couple reasons. He was one of the staples of the original '80s Squad, along with Deadshot, Boomerang, and Amanda Waller. He's got a great backstory, and his nobility makes him stand apart from the more sociopathic members of the team, while he still struggles with rage and doubt caused by years of mind control. Also, while I have to give the movie credit for having more diversity than a lot of superhero teams, it never hurts to add another actor of color to your roster. I also like the connection to the League of Assassins. Again, while used on Arrow, the League is primarily a Batman related property, and I think it would be interesting to do a Suicide Squad vs. ninjas movie, with a more comic book traditional Ra's al Ghul as the big bad, and adding in Bronze Tiger gives a connection to the League.
We already known that Darkseid and his minions are the big bad in this first phase of DC Universe movies, and it would make sense to have someone tied to that become a member of the Suicide Squad. Duchess was in reality Lashina, a member of Granny Goodness's Female Furies, who was betrayed by another Fury, Bernadeth, and left behind on a mission. She joined the Suicide Squad, claiming amnesia, but secretly spent her time on the Squad looking for a way back to Apokolips, and when it arrived she took it, bringing most of the Squad along with her and costing the lives of more than one member. I like the idea of adding to the cohesive nature of the shared universe in a less forced way then it seems DC has been doing, by naturally working a survivor from what I assume is the Apokoliptian invasion coming in the Justice League films into the roster. It would also be cool to get another physically imposing female figure in movies in general, and her particularly, since it would give the Squad a character who could go toe-to-toe with the Justice League's heavy hitters.
I have a soft spot for Tom Tresser, the spy code named Nemesis, first from his tme on the Suicide Squad, then his appearances in Gail Simone's run on Wonder Woman, and the two really trppy mini-series he starred in that spun out of Final Crisis. Nemesis worked with the Squad not as a convict but because he owed Amanda Waller and Rick Flag for saving his life. Since the Squad is theoretically a covert ops team, having a master of disguise on the roster always made sense to me. It's also interesting to have him on the team because, even though Rick Flag and Bronze Tiger are mostly good guys, they both are men who know how to make hard choices. Nemesis was a softer touch, and had more problems with the ruthless way the Squad was run; he provided a different angle on the Squad missions.
While Harley Quinn has become a staple of the Suicide Squad in recent years, her BFF/girlfriend Poison Ivy was a long standing member in the original series. Back when the series was written, Ivy had not been remade into the eco-terrorist/sympathetic villain she is now, but was instead mostly a master manipulator of men; she spent a good part of the run with Count Vertigo held in her thrall. I would expect a Suicide Squad movie to use the current, more well regarded version of Ivy. It would be fun to see the Harley and Ivy dynamic played out in live action and on screen, helping to bring some levity to things.
I went back and forth on this as a choice. One of John Ostrander and Kim Yale's principal achievements on Suicide Squad was taking the mess that was The Killing Joke and crafting Oracle, the Barbara Gordon who I grew up reading. I know that, now that Barbara is back being Batgirl again, many readers sort of want to move completely beyond Oracle since it brings up the somewhat ugly spectre that Killing Joke casts on the character, but I love Oracle. I love the concept that even when the use of her legs are taken away, Barbara Gordon is such a hero that she finds a way to still do good. I love the perseverance and strength of character that this demonstrates for Barbara. And I think it gives an opportunity for all sorts of stories and a different sort of representation, once we see even less of in movies. And there are ways to create Oracle that aren't as ugly as Joker's sadistic attack on her; there are enough differences between the DCEU and the DCU that the filmmakers could come up with a new story that still has the same effect. And after all the teasing of a possible Barbara Gordon in the BvS extended cut, wouldn't it be nice to get a real appearance in the DCEU?
The Supporting Cast
OK, so this takes me beyond the five I said I'd pick, but this is something that was really important in the original Suicide Squad series that has been missing in pretty much all the versions since. Ostrander and Yale built a sizable network of character who operated around the main Squad as support staff, and spent time making them all fully realized characters. I know this would be hard to do in a movie, or even a series of movies, but it would be great to try, or at least to give some nods to them. Characters like Flow Crawley, the daughter of Amanda Waller's cousin who worked in the administration of Belle Reve, and who gave Waller of less cold, more human side. Or Father Craemer, the prison chaplain, who Ostrander would go on to do amazing things with in The Spectre. Doctors Simon LaGrieve and Marnie Herrs could be put to excellent use, who would often try to convince Waller that members of the team weren't ready for these missions to no effect, giving a voice of compassion in a series filled with characters who are not compassionate at all. And finally there was Mitch Sekofsky, the mechanic for the Squad's transports, who was one of the first openly gay characters in DC history. The Marvel franchises have proven that you can build these kind of networks of supporting characters so we can hope that DC can move forward with a wide array of background characters.