The period the author was at the helm of the title is considered the best of the group formed by the villains
The Suicide Squad project has returned to the public eye. After a failed first foray into cinema, but with considerable financial return, in 2016 the team formed by some of DC Comics’ most illustrious villains will earn another chance with director James Gunn’s upcoming film. With the first trailer recently revealed, the work is already hinting that it won’t try to give up its whimsical origin.
On the contrary, the costumes displayed by the characters indicate a wide variety of colors and exaggerations worthy of the different phases of the group in the comics and it seems to go back a long time. The first time the name appeared on the grid pages was in 1959 in The Brave and Bold # 25, written by Robert Kanigher, with a very different initial idea of what it has become.
Starring pilot Ricky Flag (a veteran WWII pilot), the story chronicles the emergence of a sea monster that begins to wreak havoc and appears to take no damage with conventional weapons. In this way, Task Force X is activated and with it the Suicide Squad; this team of experienced soldiers then continues to fight the monster.
Although the story, structurally speaking, was very short (strictly following the publishing pattern of the period when each magazine had at least three different adventures and no connection between them) and provided no real interaction with the other characters in the editor, it is interesting to present from an early age the idea of a group specializing in highly dangerous missions and none of which is immune.
Until then, the only de facto group in the comics was the Justice Society formed in the 1940s, but they were made up of characters who either had vast powers or weren’t human. The Suicide Squad’s proposal went against the grain, offering an alternative that focused on highly skilled humans but who were also consumable as they are not extraordinary creatures. It was in 1959, a year before the appearance of the Justice League and four before the Avengers.
However, the miniseries only lasted for three editions (in addition to being oddly successful in The Brave and Bold by the newly formed Justice League) and remained in publisher’s limbo for decades. Until 1987, John Ostrander saved the title with the intention of reformulating everything but also preserving the basic concept. The idea of a secret government team remains, Task Force X, to deal with highly dangerous missions, but its members are now said to be the villains of DC’s long gallery.
The freedom Ostrander received was something rarely seen before. Using material that already existed but was far from appealing to audiences, he reworked characters that otherwise wouldn’t have mattered. One example is Rick Flag himself, who remained in the military tied to Task Force X but saw his personality expanded because he now needed to deal with teammates as dangerous as missions.
It was around 1987, in Suicide Squad Vol. 1 # 1, that the new proposal was presented: A corrupt government launches a project to support a terrorist group formed by superhumans who kill without remorse (the first pages already point to the dangerous because the training required them to have people massacred in an airport). It doesn’t take long before the US government learns that this group has the president as their next target and initiates a preemptive strike plan.
To avoid an international scandal that could be generated by an official attack, Task Force X, mobilized by the threatening Amanda Waller, is mobilizing, with Rick Flag as its representative in the field, to recruit the team. The first formation was famous for presenting faces that are part of the team until the current editions like Pistoleiro and Captain Bumerangue; in general, in addition to the two mentioned, Bronze Tiger, Magic, Plastic and Mindboggler were recruited.
To attract the interest of the prisoners, Waller offered them ten-year term reductions if the mission was completed. To prevent possible escapes, each squad member would receive a bracelet with an explosive, so that it would only be removed at the end of missions. The writing that Ostrander brought to the series is very interesting, not just limited to closed stories like in the 50s version. They tend to have a lot more dialogue with the DC Universe.
An example was in issue # 3 when none other than Darkseid decides to send an invading force to Belle Reve Maximum Security Prison (which is also the squadron headquarters) to retake Glorious Godfrey prisoner, who was one of his minions until he fails during the legends. tilts and gets stuck. A clash between the team and the invaders is inevitable, but the villains of Earth are easily defeated. Even so, this edit is important to show that this wasn’t an insignificant team and that even the publisher’s most powerful villain could take on them.
Another subversion well used by Ostrander was to remove team members from their positions as natural villains; to this end, the author rightly relied on the missions transmitted to them as generally involving enemies so corrupt or so dangerous that the reader could forget for a time that the heroes of this story had attempted to kill Batman or Superman in other magazines.
In Suicide Squad # 4, the team is tasked with arresting a new attention-grabbing guard known as William Hell. At first, Hell acts like a standard vigilante, not even killing the criminals, but the subversion comes precisely from the special position of the man behind the mask whose vigilant actions are concentrated in the neighborhoods and target the criminals at the bottom. black skin precisely to incite racial conflict in society.
What the phase started by the cartoonist in 87 shows is that the ideal story for the team is always to operate in small but urgent jobs, after all that was the differential proposed by Ostrander; put these characters on black operations missions (ones that don’t have official government recognition and are never made public) in an effort to avoid chaos. However, let’s never forget that they are villains and wouldn’t hesitate to do the same.
This idea worked very well in the Assault on Arkham animation but was missing from the 2016 team feature film directed by David Ayer, which presented too big and too striking a challenge for such a team; a future game in which the team will face the Justice League is in production by Rocksteady (same developer of the Arkham trilogy) but little is known about the technical scope. With Gunn, this tradition is expected to be picked up and the Suicide Squad will also prove itself in theaters as one of the best and most traditional teams in DC Comics.
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