The Suicide Squad has gone from a cult comics property to a big-budget ensemble action film starring everybody from Will Smith to beloved source of GIFs Margot Robbie. Heck, they’re even getting their own DLC in Lego Batman 3 early next year. But what is the Suicide Squad? Let us explain.
So this is a superhero team?
Not quite. Actually, it’s a team of supervillains. In the DC universe, most supervillains are sent to the high-security prison Belle Reve. Unbeknownst to most people, the prison runs a program called Task Force X, where supervillains have bombs put in their necks and then sent out on missions with a very low rate of success. If they come back alive, their sentences are reduced. If they screw up, their heads leave their necks at a high rate of speed.
Huh. That’s a… pretty gritty concept!
It was grittier back when it was first launched in the ’80s. Technically, the Suicide Squad stretches back to the ’60s in comics, where Task Force X was a group of government agents. But there was nothing quite like it at the time; for one thing, it humanized a lot of the villains who populated the Squad. Often just in time for them to die horribly.
Also unique at the time was Amanda Waller, the founder of the Squad. Waller was unlike anything else in mainstream comics, a ruthless antihero who got the job done and could stand up to anybody, up to and including Batman. She was also an overweight Black woman, which is sadly still fairly unique in comics.
Who are the members of the Suicide Squad?
Well, there are a lot of members; again, the fatality rate is fairly high. When you put shmucks like Punch and Jewelee and Sidearm, who are every bit as lame as they sound, in front of a professional military, they’re going to die. But the relevant ones in the movie are:
Deadshot (Will Smith): Originally a Batman villain, Deadshot became one of the founding members of the Squad and he’s involved in almost every incarnation of the team you see. As you might guess from the name, he’s a professional assassin and the world’s best marksman, with the guns on his wrist or, well, anything else. Basically if Deadshot is holding something he can throw at you or shoot, you’re dead. He also smokes and has an epic porn ‘stache, two things we suspect will not make it into the movie.
Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney): Deadshot survives the Squad by being just that badass. Boomerang, on the other hand, survives because he is a coward more than happy to shove somebody in front of him to take the bullet.
Rick Flag, Jr. (Tom Hardy): The strapping real American hero and government operative leading the Squad. They don’t like him very much, but attempting to kill him is a good way to get your noggin popped open.
Enchantress (Cara Delevigne): A sorceress whose powers are slowly driving her insane. Essentially, she’s bipolar and insanely powerful. This surely will not go wrong.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie): An acrobatic nutjob obsessed with the Joker.
As for Jared Leto’s Joker, the Joker doesn’t really have much to do with the Suicide Squad, which is why most people think he’s the main antagonist.
Will there be other villains in the movie?
Oh, almost certainly. DC is likely using a huge pile of villains to introduce other heroes and appeal to nerds. There will probably be villains from everyone’s rogues gallery. Well, except Cyborg. He doesn’t have a rogues gallery.
What comics should I read?
Actually, I’d start with a movie. Batman: Assault on Arkham is actually a Suicide Squad movie and it’s a tight, clever action movie with a strong feel of the genre’s mid-’80s heyday. It’s basically like reading an issue of the comic, and hey, it’s got Batman in it.
Beyond that, the original is still the best: John Ostrander’s full run on the book is available on Comixology, and the first issue is just a buck. As for the movie, we’ll see it August 5th, 2016.