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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Panel Vision - Top 10 Strangest Suicide Squad Members

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With the Suicide Squad trailer dropping to mass popularity this week I figured now would be a good time to look back at some of the most ridiculous and stupid parts of the Squad’s history.  This probably won’t be the last time we look at all the dumb to be found in Suicide Squad’s near 40-year run.  For now though let’s take a look at some of the strangest, dumbest, and outright goofiest members of the Suicide Squad.  

10.            BLACK SPIDER
The Black Spider is something of an obscure Batman villain from the mid-70s.  This was the era when Batman was being redefined by authors like Gerry Conway or Neil Adams in an attempt to keep him in line with popular trends in media.  As such he had moved on from teen sidekicks and alien menaces that punctuated a lot of his ‘60s adventures and entered into an era of globe trotting thrills and central urban conflict.  And smack in the middle of it was the Black Spider, a villain so ridiculous he’s never appeared outside the comic books.  The character is actually a hilariously unsubtle jab at Spider-man.  He’s a drug junkie who accidentally killed his father in a failed robbery and was inspired by the guilt of the event to become a crime fighter only to immediately fall back into addiction under the thumb of the mob and end up forced to be a criminal hit man.  I think the best thing about Black Spider aside from being the most incompetent superhero ever is how he chose his name because as a play on words reference to the blaxploitation film Super Fly. 

9.            MAJOR VICTORY
            Major Victory is actually one of a slew of incredibly dopey America-themed DC characters created to fill the void of not having a premiere superhero for the US government like Captain America.  Major Victory is of special note for just how ridiculously goofy he is, partially because the team he served with was called the “Force of July” and partially because his name was the inspiration for cartoon network’s Captain America-parody character Major Glory.  Like Black Spider Major Victory originally came out of a Batman comic, this time Batman and the Outsiders.  The thinking seemed to be that because Deadshot had started as a D-list Batman villain before finding real popularity on the Suicide Squad every minor Bat foe should get his chance to die for his country. 

8.            MULTI-MAN
Multi-Man is one of those weird left over silver age villains that pepper the DC universe like animal-vegetable-mineral man or signal man.  He started off as a Challengers of the Unkown villain, think sort of a human version of the Fantastic Four, before slipping into the mythos of the Doom Patrol, DC’s go to bucket of weirdness.  What’s really impressive about Multi-Man is just how strange his powers are.  Rather than being able to produce copies of himself as his name might imply Multi-man’s power is that whenever he dies he returns to life with a new and different super power.  That’s actually a pretty interesting and unique power making Multi-Man one of the few actually interesting and not dopey installments of the list.  He also marks a bizarre sort of overlap between the Suicide Squad and the incredibly short-lived Justice League of Antarctica, speaking of which. 

7.            BIG SIR
Big Sir is probably the dumbest iteration of his core concept to ever be featured in comic books.  A general rule of superhero fiction is that the bulkier a character is the dumber they are, that’s why folks like Solomon Grundy, the Hulk, or Blockbuster are rarely bastions of intelligence.  Big Sir follows in that tradition only rather than being a raging monster he’s essentially a giant 5-year old, which artists interpret as “always looking like a horrible synthesis of the dopiest 3 stooges faces.”  It’s easy to see how a character like Big Sir could be put to good use in Ayer’s upcoming Suicide Squad film but in the comics he forever remained a joke that nobody laughed at.  I especially like that his costume included the dopiest deconstruction of sandals ever featured in fiction.  Like Multi-Man he was part of the erstwhile Justice League of Antarctica wherein he was almost killed by penguins. 

6.            EL DIABLO
El Diablo is unique on this list as he’s actually not that bad a character.  In fact he’s actually a pretty fun and engaging cowboy type hero, the keyword there is cowboy.  El Diablo is part of the broad expanse of DC’s western set superheroes like Jonah Hex, Scalphunter, Pow-Wow Smith, and Bat Lash.  His story was that of bank teller Lazarus Lane, a man struck by lightning amid a robbery and rendered comatose.  However his righteous wrath didn’t die with him as every night his body is inhabited by the spirit of South Western vengeance El Diablo.  That’s a pretty solid and cool set-up for old west adventures with a weirder twist sort of in the vein of Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare DLC.  It is not, however, the kind of character that belongs on a black ops government task force made up of super criminals.  DC has fudged their way around this with a new version of the character but it remains as supremely dopey a pairing as can be.  

5.            DOUBLE DOWN
The thing about a lot of these dumb Suicide Squad members is that they’re called on for an actually kind of clever reason.  The tract of reasoning is usually to go for characters draw from the same rogues gallery that informed other popular members.  One such example is Double Down, a Flash villain pulled from obscurity because it worked for Captain Boomerang.  Double Down is sort of like the weird pairing of Mr. Zsasz and Gambit that no one asked for or wanted to know more about.  His power is that he’s able to peal away pieces of his skin and turn them into razor sharp projectile playing cards.  There’s certainly an ickiness factor to being attacked with slices of someone skin but that quickly gets enhanced to the Nth degree when you realize all the skin pealing leaves Double Down’s muscles and tissue completely exposed to the elements.  He’s one of the only characters I’ve ever encountered where just letting him use his super power would probably take him out before he did any real damage, also it doesn’t help that he shares his name with KFC’s most depressing menu item. 

4.            CLUE MASTER
This marks Batman foe #2 for the list and the third character to come from the Bat comics overall.  The harsh truth of doing a team made up of super villains is that most heroes don’t have a rich enough rogues gallery to really inform such a group like Batman does.  Clue Master is, of course, neither rich, interesting, or informed; at least not in most of his appearances.  The best way to describe him is as sort of a very low rent Riddler, playing off the very common theme of puzzles and clues.  He’s been a standard low rent villain for crowd shots as well as a strong choice for authors who want to write a story about washed up silver age villains with dopey gimmicks.  Today he’s best known as the father of Stephanie Brown, a fellow Batman vigilante who started off as the hero Spoiler, briefly served as Robin, then eventually became Batgirl in the last days of the pre-New 52 DC universe and for his part in the dismal year long event comic Batman Eternal.  Clue Master has however been done interestingly on one occasion, in the animated series The Batman, where he was portrayed as a hideously overweight maniac obsessed with game shows and employing an army of acrobatic little people as henchmen.  Somehow though, I feel that version of the character would be a little out of place on the Suicide Squad.  

3.            THE PENGUIN
Yes, THAT Penguin.  Firstly let me say I don’t think the Penguin is a bad character, in fact I’d say he’s been done very well numerous times.  Penguin: Prejudice is a great comic, I love the Danny Devito Penguin from Batman Returns, and Nolan North’s version of the character in Arkham City is superb.  Here’s the thing: this isn’t any of those Penguins; this is the cartoonish bird themed super villain version of Penguin before he really found his feet as a criminal fence and mob boss.  Basically he’s an overweight guy with bird hands waddling around through missions armed only with a dizzying array of trick umbrellas to take down the enemy.  This would’ve been the peak of comical idiocy in which bat foes the Suicide Squad chose to pilfer but thankfully for us it goes one better.

2.            CLOCK KING
Another point to be clear on: I don’t mean the version of the Clock King first pioneered by Batman the animated series.  That Clock King, a precision obsessed master strategist and hacker, would actually make sense and be a useful addition to the Suicide Squad.  No I mean the classic bat villain and, of course, Justice League Antarctica alumni Clock King.  This is the version of the character who committed clock themed crimes and had a clock face for a mask and wore a costume that was polka-dotted with alarm clocks.  To Clock King’s credit that was just sort of the style during the bronze age when he was part of the team but that doesn’t excuse the ludicrous decision to put this character on the Suicide Squad, clock face and all.  Clock King probably takes the cake as far as dumb and goofy appointments go but there’s one character who beats him simply on the grounds of weirdness. 

For those of you who don’t know Grant Morrison is a major author in the world of comics.  He wrote Batman: Arkham Asylum, the graphic novel that inspired the video game series, along with helming Justice League of America from the late ‘90s into the 2000s, helping to cement newer heroes like Steel, Huntress, and Plastic Man as major members of the DC universe.  He’s a major comic book author and the definitive writer on Batman from the last decade, even inventing the character of Damian Wayne.  He’s also well known for his meta stuff in comics, even inserting himself into a few of his stranger titles.  And then some mad genius writing Suicide Squad read those issues and decided to put Morrison’s character into a Suicide Squad adventure as an actual member.  Even stranger than Morrison being in the comic, complete with the ability to alter reality by writing on his typewriter, is that he actually gets killed, taken down by the enemy of all authors: writer’s block. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm actually kinda hoping some of these guys make it into the movie, or at least something for them.