Suicide Squad was DC’s first ever team movie. Who would have though that the Suicide Squad would beat the Justice League and the Teen Titans to the big screen? But that just speaks to the narrative power of the members of the Squad.
The history of the Suicide Squad is filled with compelling tales of good and evil as some of DC’s greatest villains and even a few heroes have done their time in Amanda Waller’s crew. After seeing the film version of the Squad, we imagine newer fans will want to learn more about these ultra-violent villains and heroes.
As ever, we are here as your guide to great comics, so before you hit your local comic book store or your fave online comic retailer, check out this recommended reading list for each member of the cinematic Suicide Squad.
Click the orange links to buy ’em on Amazon.
But before you delve into the individual members of the Squad, you must read writer John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad run from the ’80s and 90s. All the things you loved about the film version of the Squad? Yeah, that was Ostrander. The writer, along with his sometimes co-writer and late wife Kim Yale and a team of artists came up with the idea of a team of villains conscripted by Amanda Waller and the US government to take on suicide missions in exchange for time shaved off their sentences.
In the pages of their Suicide Squad, Ostrander and company set the standard for para-military super villain action and created hard hitting tales that would inform DC Comics, TV, and now film for decades to come and along the way, the creators killed a crap ton of D-list villains.
So before you check out the individual adventures of the members of the cinematic Squad, check out these collections of Ostrander’s awesome work. Newer fans should note that Harley Quinn does not appear in these stories, mainly because she wasn’t created yet. But Harley’s absence does not impact these note perfect Squad stories.
Suicide Squad Vol. 5 will be available in December of this year according to Amazon. How the heck Ostrander’s entire run isn’t available in affordable collections already is beyond me. To paraphrase Rick Flag, Hey DC, “What’s wrong witchoo?”
Okay, so obviously the general public is really migrating around Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, so some of you might be surprised to learn that Harley’s association with the Suicide Squad was a rather recent development. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have some recommendations for the Quinn faithful.
Batman Adventures: Mad Love (1994)
by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
In 1994, the legendary creators of Batman: The Animated Series sprung the 48 page graphic novel Mad Love on an unsuspecting public. Set in the DC Animated Universe of the ’90s, this release marks the moment Harley Quinn went from a supporting character to a comic book icon.
Mad Love told the tale of Harleen Quinzel’s origin for the first time. All the elements so many fans have fallen in love with were introduced in this graphic novel for the first time. The concept of Harley being Joker’s psychologist, the abusive relationship with her puddin’, and the moment Harley broke the cycle of abuse and turned on Mr. J, it’s all here in this must read by everyone Harley Quinn origin tale.
Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City (2015)
by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Chad Hardin
For those of you discerning fans looking for a more Margot Robbie-esque take on Harley, look no further than Hot in the City, the first of a series of Harley graphic novels set in the modern day DC Universe.
A great deal of the cinematic Harley was inspired by the work Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner have done with the character. Hot in the City marks the premiere of the roller derby inspired Hot Topic Quinn and also distances Harley from Gotham City and the Joker. Palmiotti and Conner send Quinn on a whole new direction in this first volume of the series and also introduces a large supporting cast as Harley goes from second banana to leading lady.
This book presents a more heroic Harley Quinn (don’t worry, she’s still bugnuts, for example, she carries around a dead beaver) that strikes out on her own to make up for her past misdeeds and blaze her own trail across the DCU. So if you love the more gothic, video game-centric Harley, this is the book for you.
by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Luke McDonnell
You thought Floyd Lawton was dark, huh? You don’t know the half of it until you read Deadshot: Beginnings. This book is shockingly brutal and deals with Deadshot discovering he has a son. The son’s fate would be unimaginably vicious by today’s standards.
This pitch black tale, the first story that starred a solo Deadshot, is an overlooked gem of the era that gives readers a deep look into Floyd Lawton’s twisted psyche for the first time. Believe me; a great deal of Beginnings informed the Deadshot featured in the film. As a bonus, this volume also presents the first Deadshot tales from the pages of Batman where the cold hearted killer first dons his signature battle armor.
by Christos N. Gage and Steve Cummings
Deadshot’s motivations and death wish were established in Suicide Squad and Deadshot: Beginnings, but the heroic streak that makes Floyd Lawton such a complex character was introduced in Deadshot: Bulletproof.
In this tale, Lawton discovers he has a daughter living in a hardcore slum. Deadshot utilizes all his skills to clean up his daughter’s ‘hood as Lawton finally finds meaning in his violent life. Once again, plenty of the film (not to mention the version we saw on Arrow) Lawton’s character traits are introduced in these pages. Truly, Bulletproof is essential Deadshot reading for those who met the character for the first time in the Suicide Squad movie.
Suicide Squad: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1
by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The originator of the Suicide Squad, Rick Flag not only served as Amanda Waller’s field commander, he also led the original early Silver Age iteration of the Squad. You see, back in the day, the Suicide Squad wasn’t made up of super villains; it was made up of four adventurers that took on missions no one else dared. These missions, as reprinted in this wonderfully retro volume, usually involved oddly colored dinosaurs and yetis, and that’s really okay by us.
These tales might be a tad dated, but if one is to explore the true history of the Suicide Squad, one must acknowledge these early adventures that led John Ostrander and company to create the modern day version of the team- a team that included he Squad’s resident patriot-Rick Flag.
Shadowpact Vol. 1: The Pentacle Plot
by Bill Willingham, Shawn McManus, Tom Derenick, Thomas Denrenick, Bill Willingham, Cory Walker, and Steve Scott
The Enchantress only had a handful of appearances in a few sci-fi anthology titles and in the pages of some Bronze Age Supergirl yarns before she joined the Suicide Squad, so a collection of wonderfully magical Encahntress tales might be hard to come by. So we direct your attention to Shadowpact, the mystical team June Moone joined after she ran with the Squad. Shadowpact was a sort of precursor to Justice League Dark- a team of mystical DC heroes that banded together to keep reality safe from all manner of mystical boogiemen and boogins.
The Pentacle Plot was a tie in to DC’s seminal Infinite Crisis and is a great chance to see the Enchantress in action. Plus, you’ll get to meet some other mystical DC greats as we all continue to hope and pray for the Justice League Dark film. While hope springs eternal for a magical bit of the cinematic DCU, we can always check out Enchantress weaving her spell with her teammates in this first volume of Shadowpact tales.
Batman: Earth One Vol. 2
by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
Killer Croc is one of those odd duck villains that always kind of appears in one off stories. I mean, can you really think of a solid, long form Killer Croc story arc? It always is just Batman going into the sewers and having a really violent brawl with the man crocodile. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it makes it hard to find a really good example of essential Killer Croc reading (I get paid to write sentences like that- I love life).
But allow us to turn your attention to the second volume of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One. In this tale that features an intense battle of wits between a rookie Batman and the Riddler, Johns and Frank present a very different type of Killer Croc. In this OGN, Killer Croc is a bit more, let’s call it altruistic than you might be used to. Batman: Earth One Volume 2 was a pretty surprising book in many ways, not the least of which is the Boo Radley like portrayal of Killer Croc. Check it out for something completely different.
El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman
by Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and, Ande Parks
Of all the members of the film Suicide Squad, El Diablo the gangbanging pyrokinetic has been the least explored in the pages of DC Comics. There have been a number of characters that called themselves El Diablo from an undead Zorro type in the Old West to a modern day city councilmen who donned a mask to fight corruption, but in The Haunted Horsemen, DC introduced Chato Santana, the urban Robin Hood version of EL Diablo that made it into the Squad.
This origin tale explains how El Diablo got his powers, how he used them to help his neighborhood against rival gangs, and how he walked a line between good and evil that eventually landed him in Waller’s prison. Plus, readers will learn how the Squad’s El Diablo ties into the original gunslinger version of this devilish DC legend.
The Outsiders Volume 1: Looking for Trouble
Man, in the past five years or so, DC has really wanted to make Katana a big deal in the eyes of superhero lovers. She has had her own New 52 series, appeared in a major role on Arrow, played a huge supporting role in the late and lamented Cartoon Network series Beware the Batman, and now, the swordswoman has made her film debut in Suicide Squad.
As you know, Katana is an honorable (albeit violent) hero who wields a soul sucking sword. She made her comic debut in the pages of The Outsiders but sadly, collections of the original ’80s run of The Outsiders are out of print until next year. Take heart martial arts fans; the Outsiders series of the mid 2000s is still available so you can check out Katana’s adventures in thes second Outsiders series by Judd Winick.
This series was always a great deal of fun and Katana and her blade were usually center stage. Winick gave Katana even more of a mean streak and the version of the Japanese hero that appeared on the big screen takes a few cues from the Katana that appeared in the second volume of the Outsiders.
by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales
Yeah, fans old and new alike know that Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, is DC’s ultimate scumbag. This Boomerang tossing Aussie is like the DCU’s own version of Quagmire (giggity). But in DC’s legendary Identity Crisis, Captain Boomerang does the unthinkable, he murders a family member of one of DC’s greatest heroes. Identity Crisis also introduces the son of Captain Boomerang, a young man who would go on to adopt his father’s weapons and identity.
In the pages of Identity Crisis, fans will witness an incredible amount of character progression for the sometimes one note Boomerang and will also witness his most depraved moment in the same story where Boomerang shows the greatest humanity thanks to his newly introduced son.
So when I was given this recommended Suicide Squad reading list assignment, my first thought was, “Do I have to include Slipknot?” Well, since I have major comic nerd OCD, the answer to that question is yes.
Sadly for me, there are no Slipknot collections because Slipknot sucks. I mean, he makes nooses and does rope tricks. And then he goes out and fights Firestorm. Yeah freakin’ Firestorm- a guy that shoots nuclear energy and can reconfigure elements. Yeah Slipknot, good luck with that, pal. Slipknot defeating Firestorm? That’s KNOT going to happen. Heh, heh. Sigh.
Anyway, go read Fury of Firestorm #28 (which is not collected) by Joey Cavalieri, Gerry Conway, and Rafael Kayanan to witness the first appearance of this villain who loves to play with his rope. Or just listen to the masked metal band Slipknot’s Iowa album because it really rocks while the guy with the rope really doesn’t.
For more analysis and speculation on how the film sets up the DC Movie Universe, listen to our Beyond the Review podcast: