This article consists of nothing but Suicide Squad movie spoilers.
The Suicide Squad movie is here! DC’s answer to The Dirty Dozen is also an effective shortcut to building the kind of massive shared universe that it took Marvel Studios almost five years to get to. And while the critical reception to Suicide Squad hasn’t exactly been the warmest, it definitely gets its job done in terms of making the newly minted DC movie universe feel like a larger entity than three movies might ordinarily suggest.
And it is also positively packed to Joker’s forehead tattoo with wider DC Comics mythology. But since a lot of these characters aren’t exactly the most well known in DC’s arsenal, we figured you might want a little help learning about their history, and spotting stuff you might have missed.
So, in case you’re new to these articles of ours, here’s how it works. I’m going to lay out as much DCU mythology as I was able to spot in my first viewing, and then I’ll update this with more information as I get it. You should absolutely sound off in the comments with anything that we missed, and if it checks out, I’ll update this piece.
Keep checking back, because this article will be updated repeatedly over the next few days as we all unpack every bit of craziness in the movie. One other note: this is not in any kind of chronological order or anything! Stuff is just placed where I think it makes sense, and I admittedly have a somewhat Harley-esque view of what that might be sometimes.
Before we get into the team, let’s just talk about a few cool things about the setting. One thing you should note is that this movie firmly takes place after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which nicely explains why Superman isn’t available to deal with the problem in Midway City. The government being paranoid about someone like Superman makes perfect sense, because they’re the government, and one that nuked Superman even when he was saving them at that. But I’m still waiting for Batman’s excuse.
Belle Reve has become a fixture of the DC Universe, but it first appeared in 1986’s Suicide Squad #1. You’re damn right this is where things kick off in the movie. Traditionally (as in, in the comics), Belle Reve is located in the Terrebone Parish, Louisiana.
– In the DCU, Midway is located roughly in Michigan. The fact that most of the action takes place here is pretty cool, as its the traditional home of Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and even the Doom Patrol. None of them were around to lend a hand in this movie, unfortunately.
– At one point you can spot Midway City’s area code, as well as one for Metropolis. Were there any other fictional cities noted that I missed? And don’t say Gotham, because that’s a given.
– Also, and this is important, clearly visible in Midway City is the John Ostrander Federal Building, a nod to the writer who shaped the Suicide Squad’s adventures all through the ’80s, and this movie owes a considerable debt to his work.
Alright, let’s get into the team now…
Amanda Waller as a character has been around for a relatively modest 30 years, first appearing in Legends #1 in 1986 where she was created by John Ostrander, Len Wein, and John Byrne. She’s been a piece of the DC’s shadowy backbone ever since.
“The Wall” has shown up in live-action several times now, having been played by Pam Grier on Smallville, Angela Bassett in the Green Lantern movie (where she was “Dr. Amanda Waller” and not quite the badass/shady leader of the Suicide Squad that she’s traditionally known as), and by Cynthia Addai-Robinson on a number of episodes of Arrow. Viola Davis is definitely the most faithful version of the character we’ve seen, though, and she’s just wonderful.
Waller’s relationship with Bruce Wayne in this is kind of reminiscent of how they interacted on Justice League Unlimited. I went into some more detail about that right here.
ARGUS, the organization she heads up here, is a far newer addition to the DCU, first appearing in Justice League #7 in 2012. I can totally see ARGUS being a kind of malevolent version of SHIELD for the DC Cinematic Universe in future movies, with Waller as its Nick Fury.
Did they ever make it clear if Joel Kinnaman is playing Rick Flag or Rick Flag Jr.? As you might expect for a guy named “Rick Flag,” he was created back in 1959 in the pages of The Brave and the Bold by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru.
Flag’s comic book history is a sign of how deeply rooted the Suicide Squad is in DC’s fictional history, as he has ties to the original Task Force X, as well as the Forgotten Heroes. While we witness the formation of what is presumably the first Suicide Squad on screen, there’s no reason why future DC movies couldn’t give us a little more and flesh out a world that has been around much longer.
Slipknot is… ummmm… an assassin with a fondness for ropes. Slipknot started life as a minor Firestorm villain. And you know what happens to lame Firestorm villains? They join the Suicide Squad. And you know what happens to lame Firestorm villains who join the Suicide Squad? Click here to find out. Which is exactly what happened to ol’ Slipknot too.
Slipknot didn’t fare too well in the comics, either…
It made perfect sense for Slipknot to be the ceremonial/sacrificial guy who gets blown up in the movie, but I have to confess, I’m surprised there weren’t more casualties like this.
Katana was created by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo in the pages of Brave and the Bold #200 in 1983. Recently, the character was Batman’s partner on the Beware the Batman animated series, and she was a key supporting player during Arrow Season 3 (where she was played by Devon Aoki).
The movie gets her origin fairly right on, soul-sucking sword and all. In fact, this was pretty much a perfect version of Katana, and I hope they find an excuse to use her again in future DC movies.
While some people may grumble a little about Jai Courtney’s “douchebag gangster in a tracksuit” look for Captain Boomerang, I have to say, he kinda nailed this character.
Ol’ Digger Harkness began his fictional life as one of the Flash’s primary villains (he first appeared in The Flash #117 in 1960), before finding a home in the Suicide Squad. He was always a kind of cowardly douchebag within the Squad, so they did a nice job of playing up his general unwillingness to cooperate and unsavoryness in the movie.
– I can’t stress enough how perfect that Flash cameo was in this context. It’s a good indicator that when we finally get to see Ezra Miller star in The Flash movie, they’ll at least have the tone right. Hell, I hope Mr. Courtney makes at least a cameo now!
– I have no idea what the hell that “pink unicorn fetish” nonsense is, though.
– The Chato Santana version of El Diablo was introduced in a 2008 mini-series by Jai Nitz and Phil Hester. I don’t have much else on this one right now, unfortunately, but Diablo here was one of the highlights of the movie.
Enchantress has been kicking around the DC Universe since way the hell back in 1966, and she was created by Bob Haney and Howard Purcell.
– The idea of the Enchantress constantly needing to be kept in check by the Squad comes right out of the John Ostrander written Suicide Squad comics of the ’80s. In most of those, she was just kind of an ongoing wild card, rather than the immediate menace she became here. They kind of blew it in that regard, as she would have done better as a threat built up to over a movie or two, but this is what we get.
– In the comics, in addition to the Squad, lil’ June was also a member of Justice League Dark, an affiliation of magic users who just kind of have the franchise name tagged on to them to boost sales. She was also a member of the Shadowpact, another team of supernatural heroes and anti-heroes who prowled the DC Universe for a brief time in the early 2000s.
– During her origin sequences, I don’t know why, I was hoping they’d throw in some other weird/obscure/semi-magical reference, like Eclipso or something. She delivers exactly one sentence that kinda rhymed, and I was hoping they were leading up to some Etrigan the Demon reference. I was both wrong and disappointed.
– Croc has primarily been known as a Batman villain throughout most of his career, and first appeared in Detective Comics #523 in 1983. He was created by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan. I can’t remember if we actually hear his “Waylon Jones” name mentioned in the movie or not, so feel free to help me out a little!
Batman villains in general have quite a presence throughout this movie, so let’s keep going with them…
Wait, that’s not Deadshot! Well, yes it is. This is his first appearance from way the hell back in Batman #59 (1950), before he got his much more familiar (and cool) multi-color duds. When he returned with his new costume, he was once again taking on Batman, so it makes perfect sense that’s who shows up to put him away here in the flashbacks.
(As a side note, how good is Ben Affleck in his few minutes of screentime in this movie? He’s like a live action version of the Bruce Wayne from Batman: The Animated Series!)
Deadshot was basically a throwaway villain until that redesign, and he’s been giving Amanda Waller and various DC heroes headaches ever since. In addition to the Squad, Deadshot was a key member of the Secret Six, and that’s a DC Comic that I seriously can’t recommend highly enough if you have some extra time. Seriously, forget about Suicide Squad 2, let’s get them to make a Secret Six movie!
– Deadshot’s daughter Zoe was a relatively recent addition to the mythos, first coming around in a 2005 limited series by Christos Gage, Steven Cummings, and Jimmy Palmiotti. That’s a fine entry point for the character if you’re looking for one.
What, you want more Batman villains? Fine.
As if you don’t already know this, Harley Quinn first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series episode 22, “Joker’s Favor.” It took her some time to make her way into “main” DC Comics continuity, but she got there, and is currently one of the most popular female characters in mainstream comics.
Margot Robbie’s performance is spot on, and she captures the spirit of the character as originally voiced by Arleen Sorkin and Tara Strong. Referring to Joker as “Mistah J” is straight out of her animated roots, too.
Harley’s origin story is pretty much exactly as you see in the movie (minus the actual torture, which is kinda icky and dumb), although the stuff about Joker giving her the same kind of chemical bath as he had to kind of complete her transformation is an innovation of relatively recent Suicide Squad comics (as is her inclusion as a Squad member).
Since Batman has been around for years in this world, and we see he’s tangled with these two plenty of times, feel free to pick any number of Batman: The Animated Series adventures and pretend they eventually led to all of this. It’s… an interesting mental exercise.
But more importantly, Harley and Mr. J are basically walking DCU easter eggs, and their scenes together are full of history. Like, for example, Joker takes her to Ace Chemicals, which is canonically the site of the mishap that turned an ordinary crook into the Clown Prince of Crime (Ace Chemicals famously became Axis Chemicals for the 1989 Tim Burton Batman movie).
Also, as Harley is selecting her wardrobe for the field, there is a great closeup of Harley picking up her famous and outlandish mallet from The Animated Series, which was often her weapon of choice. However, the fact she then uses a baseball bat for the rest of the movie might suggest this was an insert shot during the reshoots.
One thing worth noting during Harley’s onscreen bio is that she’s listed as an accomplice to the murder of Robin. That’s a callback to this little gem from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice…
In the comics, it should be noted, Harley wasn’t around when Joker killed Jason Todd… mostly because she hadn’t been created yet. But making her an actual accomplice to Robin’s murder here is something that could torpedo a lot of any sympathy the audience might want to have for her in this or future DC movie outings.
The diamond pattern on her dress is one of two callbacks to her more “traditional” look, although we do get to spot that costume properly when she’s getting ready to suit up later on (sadly she never puts it on). It’s pretty cool that they included it. Speaking of which…
During one of the flashbacks, there’s a shot that is a straight up lift of this Alex Ross image:
That’s pretty cool, right?
I… I don’t actually have to write an entry on the Joker, do I? You know, the guy who first appeared in Batman #1 in 1940? The guy who is arguably the greatest villain in superhero comics history? Batman’s most famous foe? You’re good, right?
Alright, fine, I’ll say this much. Giving the Joker a purple Lamborghini is basically one step away from going all out and giving him a full-blown Jokermobile:
Read these articles instead…
We cool? Cool.
– I’m glad this movie managed to sneak Norman Greenbaum’s all-time great rock n’ roll tune “Spirit in the Sky” into it. That tune is on the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix: Volume 1 but for some reason never appeared onscreen. I’m glad that was corrected here. Go listen to it, it’s awesome.
– During one of the skyline shots, do I spot a Queen Industries sign? As in Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen? Somebody with better eyesight let me know, please!
– Robert Anton Wilson enthusiasts may find it amusing that the Squad makes their way around in a chopper with the number 23.
– Common is credited as “Monster T” in this movie. Feel free to speculate that he was actually playing minor DC Comics baddie, the Tattooed Man. I won’t stop you, even if I don’t believe you.
– David Harbour is credited as playing Dexter Tolliver, and that is indeed a DC Comics government liaison type character.
– Ike Barinholtz’s “comic relief” Belle Reve guard is known as “Griggs.” There was a Major Keith Griggs of the Air Force who worked alongside Steve Trevor in various Wonder Woman comics, but that’s probably a coincidence.
– Anyone else get a Watchmen/Comedian pin vibe from that store display that Harley smashes?
I have to love the implication with the Joker’s gang all wearing masks and costumes. It’s like this stuff is fairly commonplace with the criminal element of the DCU, and that’s kind of a neat piece of worldbuilding. It also vaguely calls back to the 1960s Batman TV series where the henchmen ALWAYS dressed up and had “clever” nicknames.
– Bruce Wayne’s unease with the existence of Task Force X and the reasoning behind it (and seriously, who could blame him?) is right out of Suicide Squad #10 from 1987.
– The names in Waller’s file that she hands off to Bruce Wayne at the end include Barry Allen and Arthur Curry (The Flash and Aquaman). More details on that right here!
So, what did we miss? Sound off in the comments with everything you spot, and we’ll keep updating this article!
For more analysis and speculation on how the film sets up the DC Movie Universe, listen to our Beyond the Review podcast: