A new DC Universe was born in the wake of the “Flashpoint” miniseries event. History has changed, impacting some characters in the New 52 in major ways and some in only minor. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is good and evil are still locked in a never ending battle, and sometimes for good to get ahead in that battle it needs some experienced evil doers. That’s where the cast of writer Adam Glass and artist Federico Dallachio’s ongoing series “Suicide Squad” comes in. Issue #2 arrives October 12th and CBR News spoke with Glass about his plans for the U.S. government’s covert action team of super villains.
In 1987’s “Legends” #3 writer John Ostrander introduced the idea of the Suicide Squad as a team of super villains undertaking black ops style missions for the U.S. government in exchange for lighter or commuted sentences. The team then graduated to their own series, also written by Ostrander, which lasted 66 issues. Those issues made the characters and the concept of the Squad fan favorites and are still remembered fondly by many fans and creators. “Supernatural” writer and Co-Executive Producer Glass is among those admirers and Ostrander’s work is part of the reason he wanted to do a modern day spin on the team.
“I grew up reading Ostrander’s ‘Suicide Squad.’ I went through and reread a lot of those old books. They brought back a lot of great memories. What he did was amazing, but he wrote for his time and my job is to write for our time,” Glass told CBR News. “Gail Simone also did a great job of writing a team of villains that often found themselves in heroic situations with ‘Secret Six.’ She, too, writes in a certain way and style that I admire and enjoy, but I have to write the book with my voice, which is a little darker. I’m not writing a completely serious book though. It’s similar to ‘Supernatural’ where we’ll use gallows humor a lot to comment on what’s happening.”
The woman who ran Ostrander’s Suicide Squad and sent them on their missions was the extremely tough, corpulent, no-nonsense Amanda Waller, nicknamed the Wall. At the end of “Suicide Squad” #1 Glass revealed that Amanda Waller was still in command of the Suicide Squad in the new DCU, but she looked a little slimmer.
“The mission statement of the New DCU 52 is familiar, but fresh. So I think the characters in all the books are a little younger. I believe they revealed in ‘Superman’ that it’s only been five years since he came out as a hero. We’re at the beginning of our story in a lot of ways and this is the way Amada Waller started. It doesn’t mean that’s the way she might end,” Glass explained of the slender Waller. “I also get why people were sensitive to the changes in Waller’s appearance. She represented a demographic of people and I’m one of them. I think at the end of the day, though, Waller’s nickname ‘The Wall’ is about a lot more than just her weight. It’s about her experience, background and attitude. All I can say is she’s going to be as badass as ever. You will recognize her in her actions and her personality if not necessarily in her looks.”
Waller isn’t the only original member of Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad” to appear in Glass’ series. Issue #1 opened with a scene from the perspective of the masked marksman and assassin Floyd Lawton, better known as Deadshot.
“I feel like Deadshot has always been sort of the center piece of the Squad. Again our mandate was familiar but fresh, he’s the one guy, though, where every time I see him I always thought Suicide Squad. Floyd is such a badass and we’re putting him in a little different role here. We’re making him the leader of the team. It’s not a role he wants. He didn’t volunteer for this, but he sort of has no choice,” Glass remarked. “He’s a loner who’s been forced into this role as a leader of this team of misfits against his wishes. He now has to see what he can make happen with it. It puts him in a really, really interesting situation which causes conflict and leads to some exciting choices. I think he’s a classic character with classic problems and I wanted to explore him more. I couldn’t see him not being on the Squad.”
Like Waller, Deadshot is a little different in that he’s younger and looks slightly different, but Glass made sure he’s the same character fans grew to know and love in books such as “Suicide Squad” and “Secret Six.” Issue #1 made mention of an important female figure in the masked assassin’s life, and long time Deadshot fans know the character had a daughter. “Down the line you’re going to see who that female figure is,” Glass said. “Everybody has something that’s very precious to them. Even Deadshot.”
After the initial interlude with Deadshot, Glass began introducing readers to the newest Suicide Squad recruits starting with the latest character to adopt the identity of El Diablo, Chato Santana, a character created by Jai Nitz and Phil Hester for a self-titled 2008 miniseries. “I really like what Nitz and Hester did with the character and I liked that he was an ex-gang guy. So when we were putting this book together I suggested using him,” Glass said. “Originally Chato was more of a Punisher type character, but here he has super powers and he wasn’t a good guy when he got them. His first instinct was, ‘Now I can become the boss of all bosses. I can use these powers to run my neighborhood and take over the city.’ Then we see the incident that really starts to change him when he accidentally kills a woman and a child and he realizes what he’s done. Once he gets to jail his life really changes. He finds god and starts to look for redemption and that’s where the Suicide Squad comes in
“To me, El Diablo is the warrior priest. El Diablo and Deadshot will basically be the Cyclops and the Wolverine of the Squad. They’re fighting for the soul of the team. In El Diablo you have somebody who believes in redemption even for the most hardened criminal, because he himself is looking for redemption. With Deadshot you have somebody who feels he has a bullet for everybody. He feels people are who they are and they don’t change, while El Diablo is looking for change and needs to believe people can change,” Glass continued. “Down the line we’ll find out where his powers come from, why he had his tattoos, and what they mean. His story will open and become more interesting and show why he has become the person he is.”
The next Squad member readers were introduced to in issue #1 was the Joker’s occasional girl friend and partner in crime, Harley Quinn. The Harley Quinn in issue #1 sported a different costume, but she’s still the gleefully homicidal character fans remember her being. That may cause problems for a black ops team like the Suicide Squad, but Harley possesses other skills that make her especially suited for the secret nature of the Squad’s work. “One thing that we’re trying to show with her, and I don’t think it gets played with enough with Harley, is here’s a woman who was a very intelligent and very manipulative doctor. We’re trying to play up that quality. She is crazy, but there is something behind the madness,” Glass explained. “In the new DCU maybe everyone doesn’t get shipped off to Arkham Asylum. Some people may have to do hard time and get shipped off to Belle Reve [the prison the Suicide Squad operates out of], and her presence here doesn’t mean she hasn’t been or won’t end up in Arkham. Basically we needed a bad girl character and the best bad girl character in the DCU is Harley Quinn.”
Harley Quinn isn’t the only member of the new Suicide Squad who delights in murder. The new team also includes the carnivorous villain known as King Shark who enjoys munching on opponents limbs. “Gail Simone did such a great job writing King Shark in ‘Secret Six.’ She turned him into a real fan-favorite character and in our book he’s a guy who’s losing his humanity and not telling anybody,” Glass said. “It’s almost like Alzheimer’s because he’s scared to let anybody know. However, there is something about being animalistic and shark-like that’s familiar to him. So he’s doing worse and worse. As the books come out you’re going to discover something is not fully right with King Shark. How much will he remember things and how much will he be a danger to the team? How much does Waller know about his situation? Those questions will all be answered as the book moves on.”
Two characters that didn’t get much spotlight in “Suicide Squad” #1 were the homicidal vigilante known as Black Spider and the super powered mercenary Voltaic. Readers will find out more about the mysterious characters as the series moves forward. “With Black Spider I went back to the Batman books he first appeared in, and to me he really seemed like the Punisher of the DCU. So we’re going back to the origin of the original version of the character. He was a guy who lost his family to crime and basically went on a revenge tear killing the people who murdered his family. Then he got caught and wound up in prison,” Glass explained. “You’ll notice as the book goes on he’ll get called hero a lot. I don’t think he sees himself as a hero, but the members of the Squad view him as one of the do-gooders responsible for putting them behind bars. He’s definitely going to cause some conflict.
“Voltaic is a new character. In issue #2 we’ll learn that he’s a super powered merc and not much different than Deadshot. He’s not an assassin, but Voltaic engages in military operations across the globe for a price. So he broke some laws, got caught, and was sent to prison,” Glass continued. “He’s a very good soldier. Deadshot wouldn’t admit it, but he’s going to be very happy to have him on the team. He’s his kind of guy. They’re cut from the same cloth.”
The revelations about Voltaic and Black Spider in “Suicide Squad” #2 come just as the Squad begins their first mission; a sort of reverse “Die Hard” scenario where they must exterminate the inhabitants of a packed sports stadium and retrieve something important. “They’re dropped into a place where things aren’t what they seem; a sports stadium full of people. They can’t leave until they wipe the place out and retrieve a mysterious package,” Glass remarked. “It’s a fun second issue and I said something on a convention panel which really got skewed. I said I respected Ostrander, Gail, and all the writers who worked on these characters before, but this book wasn’t going to have any scenes with guys sitting in a coffee room chatting about stuff. People responded with, ‘Yeah, of course not. Because why would you want character development?’ Or, ‘Criminals only do bad things. They don’t drink coffee.’
“What I meant by that is Bell Reve prison is a place for hardened criminals. They’re locked up 23 hours a day. They’re pulled out for missions, bombs get put in their neck and they go. When they’re done they’re dragged back to their cells,” Glass continued. “Does that mean no character development? No. There’s tons of character development, but it’s going to happen on the mission. These things will happen while they’re out on the field. We have all these people who basically don’t know if they can trust the guy whose right next to him. They’re more worried about that person than the person they’re fighting or the person they have to go get information from. So it’s never easy and within that you’ll see tons and tons of character development.”
Glass couldn’t reveal what sort of adversaries lie in wait for the Squad when they enter the crowded stadium, but the writer hinted that some of the biggest obstacles the team will have to overcome will be internal ones. “The cast has all killed before and some of them even enjoy it, but are they ready to murder thousands of people?” Glass asked. “This is where the lines get drawn and we learn who people really are. We’ll see who can do what and who doesn’t have the stomach for it. Who’s going to carry out the mission? Who’s going to try and stop it? And who wins at the end of the day if the mission is successful? These are all questions we’re going to answer.”
Who does what on the Squad’s first mission is still a mystery, but one thing is for certain — one member won’t be coming home. “Me and my editor Pat McCallum have talked and we want this to be a book with stakes, so we both agree that people are going to die. What matters is the way they die and the stakes involved. So when the Squad loses a member our job is to make you go, ‘Holy shit! ‘I didn’t see that coming!’ or, ‘I can’t believe that just happened!'” Glass explained. “There will be some casualties. There’s a reason why they’re called the Suicide Squad. They’re not supposed to come back from these missions. These missions are meant to kill them.”
Those deaths will create openings in the Suicide Squad and Glass plans to fill them with both new faces and classic Squad characters. “Some people may appear and do things that you’d never expect them to do,” the writer said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and I promise that you’ll see some old Squad members. The solicitations are out for issue #4 so people know that Captain Boomerang will be appearing.”
Glass’ future plans for “Suicide Squad” also include an exploration of the covert nature of the titular team. “We’ve talked about a couple things. One is that things don’t always go smoothly. What do you do when the mission is a wash or the plans for evac don’t work out? So we’re going to see the Squad forced to improvise and I think that will lead to some interesting stories,” Glass told CBR. “The other thing is that real black ops operatives should be ghosts. If somebody knows Waller’s name then she’s not doing her job. I see her as someone unafraid to get down and dirty. You probably don’t want to know what she did to get her post. And not to knock what other people have done in the past, but she’s not the type to sit on boards or committees. Only a few people know her name. She’s so deep cover she’s off the grid and we’re going to play with that as we move forward. We’re going to see how that works and how far she’s willing to go to complete what her over all mission is, which will also start to become very clear as the book moves on.
“The thing I hope people get as we move on is that this is a book about relationships and teamwork,” Glass continued. “It’s a book about people looking for redemption and villains seeing if there’s a hero within them. My goal, and if you read the book I think we deliver, is to write a ‘Suicide Squad’ for this generation.”