“Suicide Squad” has always been a team more expendable than most, pulling together DC Comics’ most ruthless and clever villains in the service of Task Force X and Amanda Waller. This summer, the New 52 series relaunches with a new outlook, a new #1 and a new creative team comprised of writer Sean Ryan and artist Jeremy Roberts.
While “Suicide Squad” was cancelled as of the April 2014 solicits, DC soon announced the title would return in July as the “New Suicide Squad” under the direction of Ryan and Roberts. Ryan, a former DC Comics editor, also wrote the final issue of “Suicide Squad,” bridging the gap between the old and “New” series. Joined by Roberts, the winner of the DC’s “Harley Quinn” Talent Search and the artist on issue #30 of “Stormwatch,” — also that book’s final issue — the two kick off their run with new team members and formidable challenges to Waller’s control as Black Manta, Joker’s Daughter and Deathstroke join the Squad.
CBR News spoke with Ryans and Roberts about all things “New,” from their character line-up to their collaboration bringing DC’s premier anti-hero team back to the comics’ rack!
CBR News: Sean and Jeremy, what interested you two in taking on the “Suicide Squad?” Were you fans of the Squad or these characters before coming onto the book?
Sean Ryan:Â Yeah, I’m big fan of “Suicide Squad” and the characters therein. I wasn’t too familiar with the ins and outs of it too much growing up, reading comics, but then I edited “Secret Six” when I was an editor at DC Comics, and it was through that book that I really got to dive deep into a lot of Suicide Squad characters and history. Also, I’m pretty new to writing comics, so what really interested me in taking on the Suicide Squad was that it was a paying writing job. That part was huge. It just happened to be a book that I love. I’m super excited to be writing it.
Jeremy Roberts:Â I had recently started reading “Suicide Squad,” and really enjoyed it. I picked up issue #25 because Patrick Zircher did a great job on the art, and I’m a huge fan of [colorist]Â Jason Keith! The story was terrific and I was instantly hooked. I was also a big fan of “Secret Six,” that series was incredible! Â When I finished drawing “Stormwatch” #30, [DC Group Editor] Brian CunninghamÂ offered me a chance to draw a monthly book, and I was thrilled! It didn’t matter what it was, I just wanted to draw more comics. But, I couldn’t believe my luck when it turned out to be a relaunch of “Suicide Squad!” A new #1, and an all-star roster of DC’s best anti-heroes!Â Â It seemed like the perfect opportunity so I jumped at the chance.
From the solicits we know that Joker’s Daughter, Black Manta and Deathstroke are joining the Squad. Why did you decide to bring them into the team?
Roberts:Â The different personalities create an interesting team dynamic, and I think Sean has done a great job of capturing that through the characters actions, and dialogue. For me, Deathstroke and Black Manta are just great characters — and they’re fun to draw.
From the cover images and solicits it also seems that, with the addition of these three members, the team is no longer under Amanda Waller’s thumb. How are you two changing the identity of Task Force X? What would you say Suicide Squad’s mission statement is starting with the new issue #1?
Ryan:Â The team’s new mandate is touched on a bit in “Suicide Squad”#30, and we explore it more in the relaunch. Suicide Squad used to be Waller’s private project. But now more people in the government know about it, and they love it. So the team is now an important part of America’s foreign policy. When the United States wants to see something happen overseas, but can’t be seen actually doing it, they’ll send over the Task Force X. That way it just looks like super villains doing what they usually do. Waller is being watched more closely because of her failures during “Forever Evil,” and because Task Force X has become so important, she can’t just do whatever she wants anymore.â€¨â€¨Sean, you wrote “Suicide Squad” #30, the final issue of the previous New 52 series — does that ending tie into what you are planning to do in your run?
Ryan:Â For sure. Brian Cunningham wanted me to do issue #30, so it could run nicely into the launch of the new book. The team’s got a new international mandate and Waller’s definitely in a much less powerful position than she’s used to. So Issue #1 of “New Suicide Squad” can start by hitting the ground running.
Your arc kicks off with the team going to “Vladamir Putin’s Russia” — what can you tell us about your first arc? Is there a New 52 version of Putin, or will any of the real-world turbulence going on in that region be part of your story?
Ryan: Unfortunately, Putin won’t be making an appearance in the story. I think maybe he might be too cartoonish to fit into the world of our book. As for real-world turbulence, we won’t touch on anything specific, like with regards to the Ukraine or anything, but the story does deal with Russia’s recent aggressiveness. Russia also seems like an insane place. You’ve seen those YouTube videos of Russian dash cams, right? So since the story takes place in Russia, I figured it should feel chaotic and crazy. And also, it should be a story that deals with taking big aggressive moves — but not always thinking those moves out, and not considering what the consequences for moves will be.
Jeremy, I think plenty of readers remember you as the winner of the “Harley Quinn” Talent Search. What has it been like for you to go from winning that to now working on this relaunch of DC’s top anti-hero team?
Roberts:Â I’m sure that “Talent Search winner” will be attached to my name for a long time, and I’m very proud of that! It’s difficultÂ to break intoÂ this business. I’ve been working at it for a long time. I spent the last fifteen years working as a colorist, digital painter and inker. But, I always wanted to draw comics, and it didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen. The DC Comics Talent Search was the opportunity that I’d been hoping for. It completely changed my life, and I couldn’t be happier. I love comics, and I’m thrilled thatÂ I get to do this job everyday. I never imagined that I’d get toÂ work on a new #1. I certainly didn’t expect to be relaunching a book alongside artists like Mikel Janin on “Grayson” #1 and a new “Teen Titans” #1 drawn by Kenneth Rocafort!
Along those same lines, as the artist how do you approach putting your own spin on these characters and the world the Squad operates in?
Roberts:Â There is a lot of action, and I’m trying to make everything as dynamic as possible. I’m also working to make the world that they inhabit feel very gritty and real. It’s a very dark and chaotic place. I’ve put a lot of effort into the details and referencing a lot of real world locations. I’m putting everything I’ve got into this book and hopefully the fans will like what they see.
I know this is the first time the two of you have worked together — what has the collaboration been like thus far? What is your creative process on this book?
Ryan:Â So far so good — I hope Jeremy feels the same. I know I feel really lucky to have Jeremy on this book. His pages come in and I’m blown away by the energy they have on them. When I’m writing action scenes for the book, I get excited just thinking of how Jeremy is going to bring them to life.
Roberts:Â I think things are going pretty well so far. I feel very lucky that I get to work with such great collaborators, like the incredibly talented Sterling Gates on “Stormwatch,” and now Sean is doing a fantastic job on “New Suicide Squad.” The writingÂ on this bookÂ is excellent, and he is giving me lots of fun stuff to draw, so, I’m happy!
What would each of you say are your goals on the book, both for this arc and in the long run?
Ryan:Â My goal is to simply make a comic thatÂ people love and get excited about when they see it’s coming out. Hopefully I can do that by giving them characters that they can really care about. I know that’s not going to be easy with characters as morally loose as these, but that’s certainly the goal. I want to show that even though these are murderers and criminals, they’re still people. They still have hopes and fears and everything everyone else has.
As for long term — goodness, I’m hoping I can create a pretty epic story that really explores that kind of world we live in right now. A world that seems like it could really end at any moment, and how there seems to be people out there who are actively speeding up that ending.
Roberts:Â Like Sean said, we’re just trying to make a great comic book. My only goal is to tell a good story, and hopefully create some exciting visuals.
Finally, though you just started, do the two of you have a favorite Squad member (or at least a Squad member you’d be pretty reluctant to kill off)?
Ryan:Â It’s easily Deadshot. As I said earlier, I edited “Secret Six,” and I really fell in love with Gail Simone’s take on the character. He’s just great. Hopefully I can do that take justice. He’s a badass, but also funny, and has a real world-weariness I like. He’s like if Robert Downey, Jr. and Bill Murray had a baby, and that baby was really good at shooting people.
Roberts:Â I wouldn’t even be drawing this book if it wasn’t for Harley Quinn!Â So, she is definitely my favorite character!Â But, Deadshot is cool too, I guess…
“New Suicide Squad” #1 debuts on July 9.