There’s a name that no one says. Even most within the highest echelons of government never hear it spoken out loud. It is the name of a group who represent the biggest gamble in the history of homeland security. Most people don’t even know that they exist. Nonetheless, they are a group of the worst dregs of humanity the DC Universe can offer. They’re very bad people who might, given the proper motivation, do some good.
They are Task Force X. Under the command of Amanda Waller they’ve been corralled into saving the world hundreds of times over the past few decades. But they’re not motivated by altruism or human decency. They’re motivated by a subcutaneous device that will blow their heads clean off at the slightest sign of disobedience. That’s why Task Force X also goes by another name: The Suicide Squad. Needless to say, the squad has had an ever-changing roster since they were re-invented as the squad we know and love to hate by John Ostrander back in 1987. Over the years, the nefarious ensemble has seen some of the vilest criminals, low lives, metahuman menaces and supernatural threats ever to besmirch the pages of DC comics. Here are some of the worst offenders, ranked…
20. THE PENGUIN
Like most enduring rogues with a shelf life of over 50 years, The Penguin has been re-invented and re-envisioned numerous times over the years. But throughout the reboots and re-interpretations, no like minded comic book fan would think of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot as a team player. Nonetheless, the consummate self server poked his “fine Roman nose” into the squad’s affairs in Suicide Squad #3 (1987) before briefly joining the ranks of Task Force X in Suicide Squad #5.
No, the Penguin is not the most fearsome or physically imposing of Gotham’s rogues.
Nonetheless, his twisted intelligence, bottomless duplicity and arsenal of trick umbrellas mean that he’s not to be underestimated. Ol’ Pengy has been absent from our screen for over 25 years and if Matt Reeves can’t find a place for him in The Batman, we dearly hope he will find his way into Suicide Squad 2.
Nobody ever accused Lester Buchinsky of being the brightest penny in the fountain. But then, intelligence and self awareness have never been particularly important requirements in Task Force X’s recruitment policy. It’s likely his deadly proficiency with his electric gauntlets (which can give a lethal jolt to any assailant) that grabbed Amanda Waller’s attention. Probably best known as one of the sub bosses in WB Montreal’s underrated Batman: Arkham Origins this vicious sociopath has terrorized Batman and Green Arrow since his creation by Chuck Dixon in 1992.
Electrocutioner is a relatively new addition to the Suicide Squad, joining in the pages of 52; which saw Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman absent from the DC Universe for a year. Although he is useful mostly as a blunt force instrument, he helped the squad battle Black Adam and has also been a member of the Secret Society Of Super Villains.
18. JAMES GORDON JUNIOR
The apple has fallen pretty far from the tree here. In a city beset by murderous clowns, killer crocodiles, mad monks and monster men, it makes sense that the scariest threat is this unassuming, polite but horrifyingly prolific serial killer. Though he appeared as a baby in Frank Miller’s seminal Batman: Year One he was re-introduced with terrifying results in the pages of the New 52’s Batgirl before going on to horrify us in the pages of Detective Comics and Batman Eternal.
He was recruited into Task Force X by Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad #20.
Before that he was presumed dead after an altercation with his dearest sister Barbara/Batgirl sent him careening off a bridge with a batarang lodged in his eye. His combination of mild mannered looks, polite demeanor and insatiable bloodlust make him one of the squad’s most insidious threats.
17. CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
People assume that Batman has the best rogues gallery in the DC Universe but veteran Flash fans know better. “The Rogues” are, for all their Silver Age gimmickry, a complex and multifaceted bunch who’ve earned the love of legions of fans. Many of them could even be described as decent guys in the wrong place at the wrong time…but Digger Harkness will never be one of them.
Several Flash villains including Mirror Master and Captain Cold have served on Task Force X but Captain Boomerang is certainly the longest serving rogue. He’s rolled with the Squad since their reinvention in 1987, and even in such poor company he is regarded as DC’s least reputable sleazeballs. Nonetheless; he’s sired an illegitimate metahuman son, and even returned from the dead several times.
It’s safe to say that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Tom Tresser, aka Nemesis. Although he featured in the original lineup of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad in 1987 he went on to play a key role in the Department of Metahuman Affairs under Sergeant Steel. He even won the heart of a certain Special Agent Diana Prince who took him to Themyscira to meet her Mom in Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman.
It’s safe to say that not just any mortal man could win the approval of Queen Hippolyta.
15. BLACK SPIDER
Since the character was introduced in 1976’s Detective Comics #463 numerous ne’er do wells have worn the mantle of Black Spider. Nonetheless, whoever’s behind the mask you’ll find a Black Spider wherever backstabbing lowlives congregate. As well as being an on-again off-again member of the Suicide Squad he has also been a member of the Secret Society of Supervillains and the group of assassins known as The Council of Spiders.
A fairly recent addition to Task Force X he joined the team during the New 52 and is one of the few members to have been offered an opportunity to leave the team in one piece by Amanda Waller. Yet more astonishingly, he actually declined the offer, and later betrayed the squad even attempting to murder Waller.
14. RICK FLAG
Even though Task Force X has gone through numerous iterations and permutations, Rick Flag Jr. has always been at the heart of the team…wishing he were somewhere, anywhere else. Flag has spent over 30 years as the reluctant leader of the Suicide Squad, using his extensive military training to bring the various disparate forces of the Squad in line and stay (mostly) on the side of the angels.
While most will know him best as played by Joel Kinnaman in the 2016 Suicide Squad movie, he’s also appeared in episodes of Justice League Unlimited and Smallville as well as playing a small but pivotal role in the Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate handheld game. He may not be the most colorful or gimmicky of the squad’s roster, but his combat prowess and strategic mind make him a force to be reckoned with.
As the Cold War fades further and further into the annals of history (close as we may be to a second one), KGBeast has become an increasingly obscure villain for modern audiences. Nonetheless he managed to appear, sans anachronistic moniker, in Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice and Arrow so perhaps there’s life in the character yet.
In fact, although Anatoli Knyazev has not (to date) appeared in the Suicide Squad of the comics, he made a short but very memorable appearance in the animated movie Batman: Assault On Arkham; a Suicide Squad movie in all but name, set in the Arkhamverse. In the post-Rebirth continuity Knyazev has been renamed simply The Beast; and his brute strength, cybernetic enhancements and unmitigated sadism may well earn him a place on Task Force X in the future.
Tatsu Yamashiro has been dealing her own brutal brand of justice to the DC Universe ever since she was introduced in The Brave and The Bold #200 back in 1983. Her sword, aptly named Soultaker, contains the immortal spirits of many of the DC Universe’s most nefarious ne’er do wellers as well as that of her late husband.
Although she featured heavily in the Suicide Squad movie, she was a relatively late addition in the comics, joining the team in Suicide Squad vol 5 #27.
She is most commonly associated in the comics with The Birds of Prey and The Outsiders. She’s also appeared in such diverse projects as Arrow and Batman: The Brave And The Bold as well as the short lived Beware The Batman in which she was essentially the show’s lethal answer to Robin.
11. KILLER CROC
Waylon Jones has been multifaceted in his comic book appearances. He’s been drawn alternately as just another street thug with the daddy of all skin conditions or eerily similar to Spider-Man villain The Lizard. But whether or not he’s been drawn like a monster, his behavior has always been monstrous which is why he’s such a perfect fit for Task Force X.
Jones’ combination of incredible brute strength, enhanced durability and low IQ make him an ideal pawn for a shrewd manipulator like Amanda Waller although even she sometimes underestimates his savagery. Nonetheless, Killer Croc is capable of kindlier moments. In the New 52’s “Forever Evil” storyline, Croc bonded with a fellow inmate in Arkham Asylum and even helped to take care of her daughter upon his escape.
10. BRONZE TIGER
Although he is one of the DC Universe’s most formidable martial artists, Bronze Tiger actually represented the softer side of the original squad. Ben Turner first joined the squad in Legends #2 and brought a much needed moral compass to the group of malicious misfits. but while his heart may usually be in the right place, his hands are among the deadliest weapons in the DC Universe.
He was a card carrying member of the League of Assassins and has fought Richard Dragon (arguably the best martial artist in the DCU) to a standstill. Bronze Tiger has appeared in the recent animated movie Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay as well as featuring in Arrow where he was played by Michael Jai White. Hopefully the character’s recent surge in popularity will see him take his place in the DCEU.
9. HARLEY QUINN
Harley Quinn’s character arc in the Suicide Squad movie neatly encapsulates her path to self reliance and agency in the comics. For years she was merely an appendage to The Joker. Indeed, in Batman: The Animated Series where the character was first born, Joker unapologetically referred to her as his “hench wench”. But Harleen Quinzel is nothing if not resilient.
Indeed, her combination of gymnastics talent, martial arts aptitude and complete psychopathy make her a force that’s not to be underestimated.
These days she’s not only been a permanent fixture in The Suicide Squad since the title was relaunched for The New 52 she became the squad’s field leader in the post Rebirth run for seven issues. With Margot Robbie passionately pursuing a Birds of Prey style film with Cathy Yan at the helm, we can expect Ms Quinn to return to the big screen soon!
8. KING SHARK
Some comic book villains have no business using the word “king” in their alias. Clock King, for example, is hardly among the most formidable villain in the DC stable. When it comes to King Shark, however, you have to give it to him. King Shark (real name Nanaue) made his first appearance in the Superboy title in 1994 but it wasn’t long before he found himself a member of the Suicide Squad roster that operated between 1992 and 2001.
King Shark is a wild card. In the New 52 run he turned upon and ate his team mate Yo-Yo (who, it was later revealed, survived). His origin is ambiguous but it’s safe to say that his strength, speed on land or under water and insatiable blood lust make him one of the greatest threats ever to join the squad.
7. COUNT VERTIGO
Count Werner Vertigo is not the most hulking or physically formidable threat in the DC Universe. He’s not the best armed, not is he the most adept in combat. Nonetheless, his unique ability has brought Batman, Green Arrow and many other of the Justice League’s most stalwart heroes to their knees.
Think about it, no matter how powerful you are, you can’t hold your own in a fight if you’re hugging the floor and trying not to lose your lunch.
While he has made a few appearances in Arrow and Batman The Animated Series, he has been recruited into Task Force X a few times in the comics through the ’90s and the ’00s. Those looking to get to know the character better could do worse than check out Jeff Lemire’s outstanding run on Green Arrow.
6. EL DIABLO
Have you heard of the pyrokinetic homeboy? If you saw the Suicide Squad movie you more than likely did. But while Jay Hernandez’ performance in the film did a great job of adding depth, nuance and humanity to the character, the film is not shy when it comes to showing us the extent of his destructive power.
Chato Santana has rolled with the squad on and off ever since the advent of The New 52 in 2011, and was gifted his pyrokinetic powers by the original El Diablo, the Old West vigilante Lazarus Lane. Santana is just an ex con trying to do the right thing under near impossible circumstances. He has served the government not only as a member of the Suicide Squad but as a member of Checkmate, and his fiery powers make him a serious threat to anyone not wearing asbestos undergarments.
5. BLACK MANTA
He has an arsenal of weapons, a wealth of lethal combat techniques and the coolest headgear in the history of comics. But it takes more than that to be conscripted into Task Force X. David Hyde is one of the most fearsome antagonists in the DC Universe, due to his encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts and assassination techniques and sheer animal savagery.
Despite his solitary and antisocial nature, he’s been on a number of teams over the years including The Legion Of Doom, The Injustice League, N.E.M.O and The Society of Supervillains prior to joining the Suicide Squad. He reluctantly joined the squad in Suicide Squad #30. We’ll see this iconic villain make his big screen debut later this year in the Aquaman movie, although with any luck that won’t be the last we see of him in theaters.
4. KILLER FROST
Three women in the DC Universe have gone by the name of Killer Frost, all of whom have been card carrying members of Task Force X in one medium or another. The first iteration, Crystal Frost appeared in the recent R rated animated movie, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay. The second, Dr. Louise Lincoln was a fairly regular fixture in the squad throughout the pre-“Flashpoint” continuity, after which the character was reborn again as Caitlin Snow in the New 52 and beyond.
Though she has been morally flexible over the years, the extent of her powers makes her one of the most heinous threats ever to grace the squad.
After all, as a great man once said “in this universe there’s only one absolute: Everything… Freezes!”. Fortunately, after the events of Justice League Vs Suicide Squad, Caitlin Snow has gone legit after an offer from Batman to join the league.
Numerous characters have adopted the mantle of The Parasite over the years, but the Rudy Jones version is the best known and served on the Suicide Squad after he was recruited to help contain Firestorm’s powers in Firestorm #64. The recruitment of this powder keg of raw power worried Amanda Waller, and with good reason.
Parasite has the ability to absorb all kinds of power from the mundane (like electricity, radiation or kinetic energy) to the metahuman. He’s even brought Superman himself to his knees a number of times over the years. His powers allow him to mimic the abilities of virtually any character in the DC Universe, and in the New Suicide Squad comics he was seen letting Harley Quinn fire rockets at him for fun.
If you think there’s nothing more to this character than Cara Delevingne’s weird dance routine in the Suicide Squad movie, think again. This ancient force of evil is one of the most terrifying threats ever to face the DC Universe and has been a member of the Shadowpact, the Sentinels of Magic and even the Justice League Dark. She was one of the original members of the team in 1987 (when she was a volunteer member for personal reasons) although she did not return until the post Rebirth lineup was altered to more closely match that of the movie.
Some other villains may be bigger. Some may be stronger. Some might have more advanced weapons, and some may even be able to hurl elemental bolts. But Floyd Lawton has shown us time and again that there’s absolutely nothing deadlier than a man who couldn’t care less whether he lives or dies. Indeed, when trapped in one of Green Lantern’s constructs in Identity Crisis he shot himself through the neck to startle the hero and break his construct.
Deadshot has been a member of the Suicide Squad in every incarnation since they were introduced in 1987 and it’s hard to imagine a lineup without him.
While his better nature might prevail every now and then, his devastating proficiency with firearms, twisted ingenuity and sheer recklessness demonstrate that a man with nothing to lose can be deadlier than metahumans and magic users.
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