The Suicide Squad movie premieres this week. It’s the unlikeliest of DC Comics’ properties to receive a major Hollywood promotion, beating the likes of Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Aquaman to the big screen. Nevertheless, here it is featuring A-list talents like Will Smith, Viola Davis, and Margot Robbie in roles most Americans have never heard of (with the exception of Harley Quinn). While this may seem like the apex of an unfamiliar comics property, nothing could be further from the truth.
Suicide Squad (vol. 1) debuted at DC Comics in May 1987 following the team’s introduction in the Legends mini-series event a few months earlier. It would go on to be one of the most unlikely successes from the publisher’s most potent creative era. While it never received the mainstream attention of mini-series like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns or the beautifully bound volumes of ongoing series like Starman and Animal Man, Suicide Squad is revered in American comics circles. It is a comic that’s impact should not be understated.
Writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale approached the characters of the series in a manner that is progressive even by modern standards. Their large and constantly changing cast was truly representative of the American experience. At its center was Amanda Waller, a large, black woman without a single superpower capable of making even Batman back down. She is undoubtedly the greatest contribution in a series that also made Deadshot an A-list supervillain and Captain Boomerang more than a joke.
Drawn by artists like Luke McDonnell and Karl Kesel, Suicide Squad also delivered some of the hardest hitting action and innovative storylines of the decade. It utilized the full spectrum of the massive DC Universe to move from tense examinations of political plots in Russia and the Middle East to Apokolips and mystical realms. It was a comic that went everywhere and held something for almost every fan of the genre.
I first encountered the series in a quarter bin at a local comic store. It was there I purchased Suicide Squad #6 based on a cool looking cover and found myself enthralled, even landing in the middle chapter of a three-part story. From there I began to search every store in my hometown to discover the entire story. It was a fascination that built my respect for comics as both entertainment and artistic medium at a very young age. If there’s a comic to blame for my presence in comics today, it’s Suicide Squad.
Suicide Squad plays a similar role in the development of many creators, editors, critics, and other comics contributors today. It is the unsung hero in superhero stories that set a higher bar not only for its genre, but the entire medium. You can see its fingerprints on every shelf of pamphlets in comic stores today.
That’s why we here at Comics Bulletin are beginning a series focused on Suicide Squad. It is too influential of a comic book to be forgotten or ignored. While the movie and DC Rebirth series may bring new attention to the concept, it is this original series that ensured both their existence and the existence of so many other comics and properties that only share its spirit. Together, we will be delving into character profiles, story analysis, creator biographies, and other critical projects highlighting the best of this series all under the leadership of Special Projects Editor Alison Baker.
So stick around and take a look in the weeks and months to come. It’s bound to be the best time you’ve ever spent behind bars.