Inevitably, spoilers for Suicide Squad may lie ahead…
Suicide Squad is a term you’ll have heard a lot recently if you hang around in these corners of the web. With the movie arriving in summer 2016, this team of anti-heroes mark uncharted territory for DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. You can be forgiven, then, for not being sure of what to expect from the film.
However, catching up on years of comic book lore shouldn’t be a struggle – we’ve done the home work for you, to save you hours of relentless mouse-clicking. We’ve even had a look around some websites where spoiler protection isn’t as strict as it is here at Geek Towers. In light of what we learnt on said websites, we’ll include some links along the way – without giving anything away – if you want to know every tiny morsel of information about the movie.
You may already know that the Fresh Prince himself Will Smith, Fight Club and American Psycho alum Jared Leto, The Wolf Of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie and reboot RoboCop himself Joel Kinnaman are among the cast. Helming proceedings will be David Ayer, seen most recently directing, writing and producing Brad Pitt war drama Fury.
Beyond that, though, there’s still a lot to know about the Suicide Squad. You’ve come to right place if you want to be clued in. In preparation for the film’s release in August 2016, then, here’s our primer on all things Suicide Squad…
Who are they?
The Suicide Squad date back all the way to 1959. Since then, they’ve had one major revamp in 1987, and another in 2014. Like most comic book teams, they’ve had a bit of a revolving door policy in those years, so we’ve got a lot to get through here.
Before we get started on who’s who, though, it’s probably best that we explain the basic premise: the Suicide Squad is a team of villains or, at best, anti-heroes. Most of the time, the squad are coerced (or forced) into undertaking covert black-ops in the employ of the US government. Reduced prison sentences are normally the carrot that gets dangled, and there are often threats of death to keep them in check (usually bombs in the brain, fact fans!). As such, these comic book series tend to be darker and grizzlier than you’d find in a Justice League story.
When the team (also known as Task Force X at various points in DC history) first appeared in the 1950s, Rick Flag Senior was one of the key players. ‘The Suicide Squadron’ was a World War II unit and, after their first highly risky outing, Flag returned as the only survivor.
Later, with the Justice League out of the picture for reasons too complicated to explain here, the US President asked Flag to recruit a team to both defend American borders (with the help of the military) and handle civilian-based crime (super-villains and the like). We don’t know if this original Rick Flag will appear in the movie.
Years later, his son Rick Flag Jr. (image below) took over the reigns in leadership of the squad. Like his father, he doesn’t have superpowers, but he is an expert in military tactics and an excellent combatant. Living in his legendary father’s shadow is always a core motivation for this chap. Rick Flag Jr. will appear in the movie, and will be played by Joel Kinnaman, who was seen recently in the RocoCop reboot and Liam Neeson’s Run All Night.
Another core player in Suicide Squad lore is Amanda Waller, who flits between heroic leader and villainous manipulator depending on what version you’re reading/watching. She was introduced in 1986, and is generally known as the government-assigned organiser of the squad (she’s also served as Secretary Of Metahuman Affairs under the stewardship of President Lex Luthor, but we wouldn’t expect the movies to go anywhere near that material… yet).
As well as this iconic comic book character status, Waller is also a regular in the DC animated universe, and fans of Arrow will be familiar with her too. She’s been a recurring character in the show since season 2, as director of shifty government organisation A.R.G.U.S., where she leads a taskforce (only ‘suicide squad’ by nickname, here) of villains including Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Cupid and a so-far-so-locked-up Harley Quinn. Diggle goes along for the ride usually, too.
Waller also recently popped up in the Arkham Origins videogame. She will be played in the film by Viola Davis, of The Help and Ender’s Game. We’d expect her to be a strong character, albeit an ethically compromised one. Again, she doesn’t have super-powers, but is known to hold her own when the going gets tough.
Flag and Waller tend to be the two non-super-powered tacticians in control of the squad, whose roster in the film will include:
The Joker (as played by Jared Leto); his deranged on-and-off girlfriend and former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (loved by cosplayers and comic book fans alike since her introduction in the animated realm, played in the film by Margot Robbie); uber-accurate sharp shooter Deadshot (also seen in the Arkham games and Arrow, to be played in the new film by Will Smith); boomerang-lobbing Flash villain Digger Harkness (Jai Courtney of Divergent and A Good Day To Die Hard); giant murderous reptile Killer Croc (Game Of Thrones and The Mummy Returns’ Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and a few more minor baddies besides.
Who are their enemies?
Good question. In Arrow, the squad have recently been sent in to bring an end to a no-win hostage situation, which is just one example of the kind of difficult-to-come-out-of-alive scenarios they tend to be dropped into. The squad’s missions famously include a lot of death, so we’d expect there to be a few fatalities in the film. It’s not really a Suicide Squad story if there isn’t.
In the comic book world, depending on the roster of villains at the time, there could be any number of heroes who have to reluctantly team up with the squad, or shut them down when they get out of control. In the film, the inclusion of The Joker, Harley Quinn and Deadshot certainly points towards Batman. Resultantly, the possibility of an Affleck appearance (cameo or otherwise) has been rumoured very recently.
Despite that, Ayer is on record claiming that the Suicide Squad movie will essentially be “Dirty Dozen with super-villains.” He added importantly that he wishes to “ask the question, ‘does a movie really need good guys?’”
To us, that suggests that the movie could focus more on the members of the squad themselves, rather than whatever mission the government happen to send them on. Or, perhaps one of them could be doing the actual villainy (the Joker seems the biggest contender) while the rest of the villains in the cast reluctantly try to stop him. That version would tie in nicely to the idea that the DC cinematic universe’s version of Batman is verging on retirement too. Maybe the government needs an alternative to Gotham’s Dark Knight?
On another note, the inclusion of Harley Quinn in the movie suggests an influence from the modern version of the squad, which came with the big ‘New 52’ relaunch of comic books in recent years (and brought Quinn into the fold). What adversaries does this suggest, then? Well, the New 52 squad have been seen fighting all sorts of folk.
In their first outing they were told they were being sent to collect a package, before realising that they’d been deployed to a sports stadium full of murderous civilians that had been infected with a rage virus. The National Guard had contained the situation, and it was the squad’s job to save the only non-infected civilian in the area. Extraction proves a problem, so the squad escape and go into hiding. We don’t know about you, but to us that has ‘opening act of a movie’ written all over it.
It’s a hard call, considering that the Suicide Squad have been dropped into war-zones, murderous disease-based battles and regular super-villain fights over the years. The fact that the film is out next year and no clear antagonist has been announced yet makes us think that the actual ‘villain’ of the piece will probably be someone we already know. Joker is still the running favourite, then..
Perhaps The Clown Prince Of Crime will initially be a member of the squad – through the origin stages of the film and the first mission or two – before breaking from the ranks and enacting his own crazy scheme. Cue Batman third act appearance and a team-up with the squad to try and stop him. We may be getting ahead of ourselves there, though.
Still, we could be wrong, and there are plenty of possible directions waiting to be lifted from the comics…
What are their most iconic stories?
Our own speculation aside (for now), there are reams of popular Suicide Squad comics and TV arcs waiting to be lifted on to the big screen. As we’re expecting a mix of the 1980s and modern versions to factor into proceedings, we wouldn’t be surprised if some of the iconic stories from these eras seeped into the film.
Although this has arguably shifted in its importance in recent years, the Suicide Squad that originated in the 1980s was strongly based in the world of espionage. Here, the opponents the squad would face were often non-superhero threats like drug lords and terrorists. This was really the era that solidified the idea of a team who waded into battle not knowing which (if any) of them would survive the ensuing fracas.
The writing mastermind behind the 1980s Suicide Squad comics was John Ostrander, so if you’re looking to scrub up even more on your Squad knowledge, you couldn’t do much better than seeking out some of his works. Trial By Fire (the origin of this version of the squad) and The Nightshade Odyssey collections are two popular choices.
This is where you’ll see Rick Flag Jr. and Amanda Waller really coming into their own as characters, with both of them as subversive and fresh takes on typical comic book characterisations. Waller, in particular, has a lot of admirers as a black female leader in a world of over-powered white men. If you’re looking for a great example of this excellently devised character in action, you’ll find the issue Against The Wall particularly relevant – it pitted Waller against Batman, with a cover that sums it up perfectly (see the image above).
If you’re looking for a more modern read from classic squad writer Ostrander, see Suicide Squad: From The Ashes, which saw him return to these characters much more recently. Here, Ostrander updates his ideas a little, pitting the squad against corporate warmongers via some thinly veiled political ideologies.
A decision to bring back a thought-dead character for From The Ashes aggravated some fans, especially seeing as the fatalities of previous Squad comics were among their biggest appeals, but the quality of this newer book still stands (for this writer at least). It’s only a mini-series, too, so shouldn’t be too taxing for new readers.
While there are other highlights from Suicide Squad history that we could go on listing all day, we couldn’t really recommend anything in higher regard than the Trial By Fire collection. It’s the reprint of Ostrander’s first eight issues, and consequently a fairly perfect starting point.
If you’re looking to go a bit deeper in your film preparation, try and seek out Apokolips Now! (a great example of a more fantastical story featuring the squad) and The Phoenix Gambit (which saw Batman saving Waller from incarceration to get the gang back together more covertly). Final Round sees Deadshot go rogue in an ill-thought-out attempt to protect Waller – another top read. Sadly, there isn’t one book you can order that will get you all of these. Ostrander’s amazing first volume lasted for over sixty issues, and you’ll earn my respect if you can get your hands on all of them.
An easier task: If you want to learn more about Deadshot (Will Smith’s character) specifically, see: Deadshot: Beginnings. It’s a four issue mini series that saw Ostrander and his regular collaborator Kim Yale exploring the idea of the sharp shooter confronting his own past. It’s extremely dark, and could well inform the movie.
If you’re looking for something a bit pacier and illustrated more in the styles of today, it’s also worth checking out some of the New 52 material. The New 52 was DC’s big entire-universe reboot, and the new version of Squad get their origin in the collection Kicked In The Teeth. Judging by the Squad members in that book (Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark), Kicked In The Teeth has certainly inspired the film in one way or another.
It’s also worth nothing: Jared Leto’s publicity shots have both pointed towards iconic Joker origin comic The Killing Joke, though we’re not sure how much of an influence that will have. Surely if Batman already exists in this world, there can’t be a Joker origin during Suicide Squad. Surely he is already an established menace?
So what will the film be about, then?
Well, this is a tough one to call. The New 52 version of the squad have clearly influenced the character inclusions for the film, so we’d expect to see some aspects of that arc brought into the movie. That would mean Waller bringing a team together consisting of death row criminals, pretty much torturing them as a form of training, planting explosives in their heads and sending them off into some kind of mortal danger. That rage-virus-in-a-sports-stadium sequence described earlier could make an appearance, too.
However, the inclusions of Amanda Waller and Rick Flag Jr. tells us that the Ostrander years have had a sizeable impact, too. Maybe then, we can expect proceedings to veer into espionage territory, or even military dealings, or perhaps Waller could send the squad into conflict with some shifty warmongers or terrorists, not just stadium-sized action sequences.
The Joker is a big curveball, though, as he’s not traditionally a member of the squad in the comic book world. His girlfriend Harley Quinn features in the New 52 team, though, so maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised. And while we’re on the topic of those two, the online realm has been compiling pretty much everything about Joker and Harley. See here for a video of Leto teasing his Joker voice, and (this next one is a tad spoilery) see here for a still of a presumably-important scene involving Robbie.
The Joker – a real agent of chaos – is throwing our plot predictions a bit off the scent, though, as we can’t really imagine him working in a team unless he secretly has his own scheme going on. We’re going to try and call it, then: the Joker will betray everyone and shift the focus of the film to his own nefarious evildoings. That really is just pure speculation on our part, though.
To us, though, the rumours of a Batman appearance certainly fit this theory, as does the fact the no clear antagonist has been announced so soon before the film’s release. It’s shooting as we speak, so if it isn’t Joker in the baddie seat, surely we’d know by now? If we hear otherwise, we’ll be sure to let you know. In the big cast picture that introduced us to the squad back in April, Joker was significantly absent. We’re taking that as evidence to support our Joker-is-the-villain theory, but we could still be wrong.
Another plot theory, courtesy of our own comments section, involves the Assualt On Arkham animated feature as a possible source of inspiration. This story saw the squad entering the iconic asylum to shut down a possible supervillain escape, opening doors for all sorts of cameos. We wouldn’t rule that out at all, either. Perhaps as a big opening sequence before we learn more about the characters.
There’s been lots of guesswork in this last section, but we’ve tried to base it all on the comics. As David Ayer hastened to mention recently, he still has secrets up his sleeve that haven’t been spoiled by outdoor shooting. There’s a chance, then, that the plot could veer wildly away from what we’ve predicted – be warned.
Got a better idea for the Suicide Squad’s first filmic plot? Please do let us know in the comments.
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