So you saw The Suicide Squad and you wanna know what now?
Well, James Gunn’s latest pulls a lot of different elements from DC’s extensive comic history, including story elements and obscure characters. So this article aims to give you some recommendations based on the film.
It should be noted that recommending comics for Suicide Squad members is a bit of a foolish exercise. The entire premise is built on the idea of developing obscure characters nobody cares about. So most of these characters don’t have dozens of stories to choose from. Director James Gunn has also shown that he isn’t afraid of making changes to characters. Characters like Star Lord might not be a massive departure but characters like Yondu are basically new characters. The same is true for The Suicide Squad. So don’t expect to get the further adventures of these characters. That being said, there are still stories retaining similar elements or aesthetics to that of the movie.
The Squad Itself:
The first recommendation is of course John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad run. Gunn has said repeatedly that he thinks of The Suicide Suad as a continuation of this run. It’s the defining run of the team. It established almost everything we know about the Squad today, Amanda Waller, Belle Reve, top-secret shady government missions, and a real scummy Australian. If you enjoyed the dynamic of the Squad and the aesthetic of the film and location then you’ll surely appreciate this run. Also feel free to follow along with my series The Belle Reve Files, which analyses each story in Ostrander’s opus.
Although this is a large 66-issue plus run and not everyone is going to want to read all that. So here are a few stories that have elements similar to the film. Although to get the most out of these stories I would recommend reading the entire run, but the stories in isolation are still great themselves.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #1-2:
This story is the first of Ostrander’s main run and establishes a lot of iconography and themes that are present in Gunn’s film. However, the real reason it’s here is that it concerns the Squad sieging Jotunheim. It’s a very different base to that of the film but I think if you liked the Squad’s mission in the movie you’ll like this one.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #63-66:
The series’ final story features a similar setting and backdrop to that of Corto Maltese. In this story the Squad head to the island nation of Diabloverde. If you wanted an adventure similar in aesthetic and style to the movie this is your best bet.
New Suicide Squad #18-22:
The Suicide Squad ends with the surviving members earning their freedom. What they do with that freedom is left ambiguous and we’ll have to wait a while to see what becomes of them. In the meantime, you can read a story with a similar set-up in New Suicide Squad. The Squad gain their freedom but what do they do with it? Read on to find out.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #10
An iconic cover for a great issue. Batman breaks into Belle Reve to learn more about Task Force X only for Waller to put him in his place. Waller was characterized before this but this is really the story where she became a force to be reckoned with in the wider DC Universe.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #19:
This issue is focused purely on Waller as we follow a day in the life of Task Force X. If you wanted to see more of Waller’s tenacity and commitment to her job this right here is a great read.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #39:
The film dealt with the notion of Task Force X being shut down because of leaked information. In the comics, it eventually did come crashing down, as the Squad was revealed to the world. This didn’t stop Waller however as she set out on one final mission before being locked up. This issue follows her last mission before accepting her punishment.
Suicide Squad Vol 4 #20-23
If you liked how controlling and manipulative Waller was in the film, then the brief stint Ales Kot had in the New 52 might be up your alley. Here the Squad tries to break out only for Waller to turn the tables. A great little story that reveals just how Waller is able to keep a stranglehold on them.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #5-7:
The Squad goes to Russia. Not a story that is related to the events of the film but it does a lot to show Flag’s character. Much like the movie, it’s a desperate situation and Flag tries desperately to keep the Squad together. Read this if you want to see more of Flag in a leadership role.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #21-22:
Flag goes rouge. The circumstances of this are practically the opposite of the film, however. In this story, he does so to take down a senator who threatens to reveal the Suicide Squad. Flag at this point was in a lot of mental distress and saw the Squad as the only true purpose in his life. A very different story but it’s perhaps the best of the Ostrander run.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #26:
The death of Flag. The movie, intentional or not, pulls from Flag’s final appearance in Ostrander’s run. Here an AWOL Flag infiltrates Joutenheim again to take down the Jihad once and for all. A really strong, impactful, and tense issue.
Suicide Squad Vol 3 #1-8:
Look, I’m really sad that Flag’s dead. It seems like we’re not getting more of Kinnaman’s excellent turn as Rick Flag. However, we can indulge ourselves a little with Flag’s return in the comics following his death at Jotunheim. This mini-series was the return of Ostrander and Flag along with him.
Suicide Squad Rebirth #1:
The first appearance of Flag in Rebirth/ New 52 continuity. Waller attempts to recruit Flag into her little group of psychopaths. If you want to see why Flag was born to be the leader of this team then read this short and sweet story.
New Suicide Squad #17-22:
Tim Seeley had a brief but very enjoyable stint on New Suicide Squad between issues 17 and 22. I think Seeley has gotten Harley more than most other Squad writers have so far. She’s fun, crazy, and unpredictable. If you want more of Harley in a Squad dynamic this is it.
(Issue #22 is also a story entirely focused on Harley and her psychology)
Suicide Squad Vol 5 #16-19:
For more of Harley’s relationship with Flag, you can read Rob William’s Rebirth run. They start up a proper romantic relationship in this story, which is obviously more than the movie but hey if you wanted more of them together this is one to read.
Suicide Squad Vol 6 #1-11
Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Suicide Squad run as a whole is incredibly enjoyable, however, it does feel less and less like a Squad comic as it pivots to focus on Taylor’s new characters. Harley however, is a constant presence in the book. Taylor writes a great Quinn and this is one of the best displays of that.
Let Them Live: Unpublished Tales From the DC Vault #1:
This is a wonderful issue designed as a fill-in that was never released. Jim Zub and Tradd Moore do an exceptional job and it’s a shame since what we got here was terrific. If you wanted to see more of Harley kicking ass in particularly malicious ways then this is a great choice.
Superman Vol 2 #4:
It’s worth noting that Bloodsport is entirely different in the comics than he is in the movie. Comic Bloodsport had the ability to grab weapons out of different interdimensional portals, as opposed to the movie’s more grounded DIY modular weaponry. This story however is Bloodsports biggest and it’s the one where DuBois shot Superman with the Kryptonite bullet. So if you want to have an idea of how the DCEU version of that played out here you go.
Adventures of Superman #526:
Bloodsport in the comics was eventually replaced by another dude, Alexander Trent. This new Bloodsport is a straight-up white supremacist so of course, DuBois challenges him to a fight. This here is that issue.
Suicide Squad vol. 7 #5:
Clearly taking notes from the movie, Bloodsport is back in the fray with the current Suicide Squad run by Robbie Thompson. DuBois is reintroduced with his new look in #5 as he is given a mission on Earth 3. Read on from here for more Bloodsport stuff.
Detective Comics Vol 1 #585-586:
Ratcatcher is probably the hardest to make recommendations for given how the character isn’t even really in the movie. The original Ratcatcher from the comics is a well-meaning drug addict played by Taika Waititi, and Ratcatcher 2 doesn’t even exist in the comics. It’s a far cry from the source material. But hey if you wanna see what else you can do with rats here you go.
Detective Comics Vol 1 #679:
Chuck Dixon sucks, but he wrote a pretty decent Ratcatcher story with Detective Comics #679. Again another simple story of Ratcatcher doing sewer shenanigans and Batman punching him a lot. But this story actually features Dick Grayson as Batman in his brief trial period.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #43-44:
Alan Grant returns to the character in Shadow of the Bat. Not as substantial a role but there’s still some rat controlling mayhem.
(I’m working on a separate article just for ol’ Peacemaker. The dude is one of my favorite characters and brings a lot of great stories with him.)
The musclebound ‘hero’ of the film takes his cues mainly from Paul Kupperbergs iteration. He spun him out of the pages of Vigilante into his own spin-off mini-series. This Peacemaker is largely the same personality-wise but has some extra eccentricities you’ll have to read to find out.
The Janus Directive:
Peacemaker was then drafted into Kupperberg’s Checkmate. This was the sister series to Suicide Squad, following Waller and another branch of Task Force X. The crossover with the Squad and other books, Janus Directive is a great way to go to see more Peacemaker in group settings.
Here is the reading list for that story: Checkmate Vol 1 #15, Suicide Squad Vol 1 #127, Checkmate Vol 1 #16, Suicide Squad #28, Checkmate Vol 1 #17, Manhunter #14, Firestorm Vol 2 #86, Suicide Squad Vol 1 #29, Checkmate Vol 1 #18, Suicide Squad Vol 1 #30, Captain Atom Vol 2 #30
Suicide Squad vol 7 by Robbie Thompson:
For the first time in a long time Peacemaker is starring in a comic again. This time he’s on the Squad proper. This is Robbie Thompson’s run once again. Getting that brand synergy. Thankfully it’s pretty good so far and Thompson has a great voice for the character.
Superboy Vol 4 #13-15:
King Shark is a character that tends to vary from story to story. The version seen in the film is a fair bit dumber than most iterations but there is still plenty worth reading. Kar Kesel introduced the character in his run on Superboy. These issues cover his first mission with the Squad.
Secret Six Vol 1 #21,25-28 and 30-36:
For a King Shark more in line with the film, you can’t do any better than Gail Simone’s Secret Six run. Again, he’s more intelligent than most iterations but he’s more of a loveable moron who just loves eating people. He’s not the star of these stories but he is a clear favorite.
Suicide Squad Vol 4 #20-23:
King Shark was a core member of the Squad during the New 52 series. Most of these stories were written by Adam Glass. His Shark is incredibly vicious, so if you wanna see more of Shark just eating people that’s a good bet. But I’m not a huge fan of those stories so instead, I’m going to again recommend the few issues done by Ales Kot, much the same but just more enjoyable I think.
Suicide Squad: King Shark #1:
This only came out a few days ago to tie into the movie, so it’s a pretty safe bet. If you want a whole lot more of Nanaue make sure to follow this series. It had a pretty enjoyable first issue and is doing more to flesh out the character.
Polka Dot Man:
Detective Comics Vol 1 #300:
Polka Dot Man has a single appearance of note. Detective Comics #300 is a classic Bill Finger story from the Silver Age. It’s an era near and dear to my heart where they would create characters like Zebra Man, the Rainbow Creature, and the Eraser. Here though the character went by Mr. Polka Dot and committed several polka dot-themed robberies. It’s a lot of silly fun.
Birds of Prey #56-60:
The film’s Red Herring is the newest character on this list, despite presumably being the oldest in the movie (we have no way of knowing how old King Shark is supposed to be). Anyway, this is Savant’s introductory story in which he kidnaps Black Canary. The character’s hacking ability and strategic mind are more at play here.
Birds of Prey #81-83:
For more of Savant in combat then you can move on to this story, again written by Gail Simone. He didn’t really do anything of value in the film but if you wanna see what he has to offer, this is a good one to read.
Suicide Squad Vol 4: #1, 6-8:
A very different version of Savant appears in Adam Glass’s Suicide Squad run. He’s in the first issue as the group is being tortured but gives up information and is dragged off to be killed. Turns out it was only a test and Savant is later deployed in the field. Read this if you want more of Savant being a coward.
The Flash Vol 1 #117, 124 and 148:
I’m a big fan of the Silver Age Flash stuff by Broome and Carmine Infantino, in large part because of the cooky and colorful rogues gallery. Captain Boomerang being one of the best. He had a few great solo stories and also teamed up with other villains as part of the Rogues. If you want more of Boomerang as a villain this is a good bet.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #20:
Much like Flag and Waller I just recommend the whole of Ostrander’s run for Boomerang stuff. He’s in almost every issue and he’s wonderful in all of them. However, there are a few standouts. This issue is one of them. Throughout the series, Boomer disguised himself as Mirror Master so he could still commit crimes without being arrested again (Squad members in this run could have a life outside of Belle Reve. Though in limited ways). Anyway, Waller caught on to this and this issue is basically just her screwing with him.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #44:
Boomerang was the comic relief of these stories, with very little depth and no ounce of a tragic backstory. This was perfectly fine but in #44 Ostrander decided to reveal his past in Australia and gave him more of a tragic story that let us know a bit more of why he is the way he is.
Suicide Squad Vol 6 #4-5:
One of the sweeter parts of the film’s opening scenes is Harley and Boomerang having a bond. Boomerang showed up in Tom Taylor’s brief series for two issues. He didn’t stick around for long but we got to see his friendship with the rest of the Squad.
Suicide Squad Vol 4 #24-29:
The Thinker in the film is based on the New 52 iteration. The Thinker as a title has a history with the Squad, usually with characters with little to no connection. Cliff Charmichael and Clifford Devoe have both been Thinkers for the Squad. Anyway, this Thinker was more villainous, putting together his own Squad for his own purposes. He’s not as fun as Peter Capaldi’s version but it’s there if you want more of him.
RIP to a king and a hero. Unfortunately, no comics to speak of.
Booster Gold Vol 1 #1:
Blackguard in the film has nothing in common with the Blackguard from the comics. He was initially a Booster Gold villain, so he’s about as obscure as you can get. The Blackguard of the movie clearly lacks the durability of this version but he seemed to have the characters whip. So that’s A connection I guess.
Suicide Squad Vol 3 #1-8:
If you want Blackguard on the Squad and you want to see him brutally murdered again then you can read Ostrander’s mini-series.
Firestorm Vol 2 #38-39:
Weasel is another character who really doesn’t resemble his comic counterpart at all. In the comics, Weasel is John Monroe. He’s just a dude in a suit. He was initially a Firestorm villain so read this if you wanna see him take on someone way more powerful than he is.
Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad Special #1:
Weasel’s only outing with the Squad in the comics was in a crossover with the Doom Patrol. Here he’s pretty animalistic and vicious so a bit closer to the movie but not by much.
Green Lantern Vol 4 #7-8:
In the film the staff of Belle Reve question what Mongal even is, is she an alien? Turns out she is. Mongal is the daughter of the original Mongul. She first appeared alongside her brother, the new Mongul in Green Lantern. She’s pretty much just a generic big smashy character. She’s far more competent here than in the movie though.
Superman Vol 2 #170:
Pretty much more of the same but check it out if you want to how she fares against Superman and Krypto.
Green Lantern Vol 2 #173-174:
Javelin’s Javelin does more in the movie than the character himself does. In the comics, he was initially a Green Lantern villain introduced in Len Wein and Dave Gibbons’ awesome run on the title. He had more than one Javelin and could fly. I’m not sure why but I guess if you’re fighting Green Lantern you gotta have some power in the air.
Justice League International #13 and Suicide Squad Vol 1 #13:
Honestly, Javelin is pretty close to his comics iteration. Flula Borg plays him like a really cocky smarmy loser who thinks he’s way cooler than he is. That’s pretty much what he is in his Squad appearances. Javelin served with the Squad briefly in a crossover with Justice League International. He was mostly the butt of the jokes.
Checkmate Vol 2 #6-7:
Javelin was later used in Checkmate on an unofficial Suicide Squad. He’s a lot more heroic here, so that’s something.
Secret Origins Vol 2 #46:
T.D.K is an interesting example of Gunn’s changes from the source material. He’s a clear adaptation of Arm Fall Off Boy. A joke character who appeared when trying out for the Legion of Superheroes. His name seems to be changed for comedic purposes but his ridiculous ability remains the same.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen Vol 2 #9 and 11:
Arm Fall Off Boy appears again in a more extensive comedic fashion for Matt Fraction and Steve Lebier’s hilarious Jimmy Olsen series. His appearances are brief but read these comics anyway, they’re incredible.
Justice League of America Vol 1 190-191:
The concept of Starro shooting out smaller mind-controlling versions of himself came from this two-parter. In my mind, this is the gold standard of Starro stories everything else is compared to. Starro takes over an entire city much the same as the film, it’s a lot of fun.
JLA Vol 1 #22-23:
Grant Morrison’s JLA is the definitive work on the Justice League. Of course, this meant they had to put their own spin on Starro eventually. They finally did so with #22 and #23 which saw the JLA save a Starro’d town despite having no powers. High concept, high stakes, and a particularly big Starro.
R.E.B.E.L.S Vol 2 #1-28:
If you want to see Starro in a long-form story look no further than R.E.B.E.L.S. Basically a DC cosmic team-up book that featured the great extraterrestrial conqueror as its big bad.
Justice League Vol 4 #29:
I just had to recommend a story with Lil Jarro. Recently some of Starro’s cells were grown into a small clone kept in a small jar. This little guy eventually came to be affectionately known as Jarro. He’s a very good boy, he’s the best Robin and he’s just the best okay?!
Belle Reve Staff:
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #1:
If you enjoyed the characters of Belle Reve working with Waller then I recommend the whole of Ostrander’s run. They aren’t the focus but they get some real development and character over the course of the series. Steve Agee’s character John Economos introduces us to Belle Reve in #1.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #8, 19 and 31:
Ostrander wrote a few issues in between missions detailing the different characters. These were ‘Personnel Files’ issues and focused on a different Belle Reve character each time. We got one for the psychiatrist Doctor LaGrieve, one for Waller, and one for the priest Father Craemer. They do a great job fleshing out Belle Reve as an actual place with real people working there.
Suicide Squad Vol 1 #33-36:
Flo Crawley was also used in the film. In the comics, she’s a relative of Waller but given her actions in the film that doesn’t seem to be the case in the DCEU. In the comics, she came to fall in love with Bronze Tiger and yearned to be deployed in the field in a misguided attempt to gain his attention. She got her wish when the Squad were taken against their will to Apokolips.
Suicide Squad Vol 2 #2:
Keith Giffen’s short run on the title was mostly focused on these characters behind the scenes. It doesn’t feature any of the characters from the movie but you get to see characters choosing Squads and trying to maintain the various chaotic groups they assemble.
Suicide Squad Vol 5 #2-6 #11-17
Jenniffer Holland’s character, Emilia Harcourt is a new character who debuted in Rob William’s Rebirth run. She was very different however, operating alongside Waller for the NSA instead of underneath her like Gunn’s film. Harcourt is also different in that she (SPOILERS) betrays Waller in ‘Earthlings on Fire’ and subsequently dies. So really not the same character, just a name for James Gunn to use.
Nothing!! Sebastian has nothing dammit! I demand Sebastian enter the comics! He’s too pure to just be in the movie.
And that’s all of my recommendations. Hope you enjoy what you read, if you don’t feel free to complain to me about it at @IamJordanZoned on Twitter. Or alternatively, you could ask any questions about any of my suggestions here or ask for any further reading.
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[…] S.H.A.D.E series, Doctor Phosphorus is a Batman villain, and Weasel is a carryover from Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. One character addition I find fascinating however is Rick Flag […]