Captain Boomerang – real name George “Digger” Harkness – first graced the pages of DC Comics in December 1960’s The Flash #117. John Broome and Carmine Infantino created him, like most of the other Rogues Gallery villains, to be a gimmick. His entire deal is being Australian and committing boomerang-themed crimes. He dressed like an airline stewardess until 2009, when DC Comics gave him a beanie and a trenchcoat (taking their cue from the Justice League Unlimited cartoon). He was probably the most Silver Age thing ever created.
Then Suicide Squad came along almost 30 years later and changed all of that. John Ostrander gave him a vicious mean streak, and a new purpose: to be the bastard among bastards. Of all the rotating cast of Suicide Squad, Boomerang is the most consistent – he’s an irredeemable asshole, and he likes it that way thank you very much.
Digger Harkness is loud, obnoxious, selfish, sexist, racist, pretty much every -ist you can imagine. Amanda Waller suffers no fools, and does not hesitate to mess with him, whether by giving him a demeaning nickname (Boomerbutt) or punking him with an elaborate zombie prank. Inexplicably, Boomerang proves himself made of teflon, surviving the all of the most dangerous missions. Usually he does this at the expense of someone else, as with Mindboggler on the very first mission, but more often than you would think or he deserves, he lives thanks to the magnanimity of his teammates. Waller keeps throwing him out there, and just like a boomerang, his dumb ass keeps coming home.
Waller doesn’t bother lamenting it, instead putting him to work – something that clearly doesn’t jive with Boomer’s natural state of drunk and lazy. It’s easy to imagine his strategy: be obnoxious and difficult and eventually she’ll leave him alone. NOPE. You played yourself, Boomerbutt.
Thus, Boomerang becomes a constant presence and an integral part of the team dynamic. Everyone on the Squad has baggage – the Squad itself is penance for past sins. They have to keep a priest and a therapist on call at all times just to deal with the guilt, neuroses, and dysfunction. Boomerang’s baggage is the most interesting, because he never lets it weigh him down. He’s having the time of his life at everyone else’s expense, unlike his frequent partner Deadshot, whose tragic psychology leaves him in a cycle of nihilism alternating with self-loathing.
Every groups of jerks needs a king jerk, and Boomerang is the King Jerk. We get to laugh at him, we get to watch his teammates get the better of him, we get to REVEL in Amanda Waller punishing him. She’s cold about it too; The Wall threw his ass onto a desert island for A YEAR. When she finally came back for him, he’d gotten thinner (makes sense) and somehow younger? It all worked out, is what I’m saying.
In the larger scheme of the book, Boomerang provides two important functions: the first is the comic relief, and the second is an outlet for the worst impulses in people. “Give him an inch and he’ll steal a mile,” Dr. LaGrieve says of him. Boomerang is perfectly suited for his work on the Squad because he’s got the moral sensitivity of a potato and acts out of sheer id. I’ll freely admit I’ve sometimes wondered how much fun I’d have if I was just an enormous asshole all the time.
My personal affection for Boomerbutt really comes from my need for humor in superhero comics. The action on the page is never frivolous; there are three or four issues of the entire run that don’t focus on the core competency of the Squad. But whenever stuff is getting scary, racist, a little too war-in-the-Middle-East (I first read this series in 2004), there’s Harkness, shooting off his mouth with words that cannot be English, taking a pratfall, or getting hauled off by an angry Waller. Ostrander has spoken before about Boomerang’s slang and how he accidentally went overboard. Honestly, I can’t live without it.
Even though he’s a huge jerk, it was hard not to feel bad for him after reading his origin (and Suicide Squad #44 is the first time anyone had give this character a real origin). I was left wondering, is he like this because he’s truly shallow, or is he trying not to let the nasty stuff get to him? It’s not an impossible idea. It’s a self-serving ideology, but it’s an ideology, which is more than you can say for the likes of Count Vertigo and Deadshot.
Maybe I just have a special place in my heart for obnoxious, unlovable idiots.
Captain Boomerang has seen incarnations outside the comics in a couple places now. He had two appearances on Justice League Unlimited (the first being a Suicide Squad episode), and he was featured briefly on Arrow as part of that show’s iteration of the Squad. Now, our boy Boomerbutt is coming to the big screen. I can’t really believe Captain Boomerang is getting a movie before Wonder Woman, but at least she hit the screen a couple months earlier.
But you know what? In a world flooded with superhero movies, heroes trying to be gritty and villains trying to be complex, it’s nice to have someone like Boomerang proudly carrying the Team Jerk banner. It makes us feel better about ourselves, and we get some good laughs out of it. So here’s to George Harkness – and to him being bulletproof.