Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths has been all about the past and present of the Suicide Squad! A new ensemble of villains were forced into deeds of heroism with the big screen release of Suicide Squad on August 8th. Reviews have been mixed, but for fans who loved and loathed, there are the stories that came before the movies in classic comics!

This week's Old Comics Wednesday gives you a one-stop catalogue of some of the past features that have showcased the Suicide Squad, or the characters who're starring in the film! By clicking the covers below you'll be transported to feature fights starring: Deadshot, Harley QuinnRick Flag, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, EnchantressAmanda Waller, Batman and The Joker!

If you're still craving more from The Suicide Squad, stay tuned for a bonus fifth week feature in the first Friday Night Fight of September! Check back with the Issue Index for even more comic book action from the worst heroes ever - past, present and future!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Real Name: Waylon Jones
First Appearance: Batman #357 (March, 1983)
Fight Club Ranking: #829

Featured Fights:
- vs WOLVERINE: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs BATMAN: Batman #608 (Dec 2002)
- vs BATMAN: Batman #621 (Jan 2004)
- vs SOLOMON GRUNDY: Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1 (Mar 2009)

The Suicide Squad is officially out now in theatres and by virtue of live-action media generally providing the most interesting superhero stories of the moment: we've dedicated the entirety of this month's Heroes of the Week to characters in the movie!

There are still a lot of left over characters that could've pulled focus now that we've crossed off the big three, but could we really pass up the opportunity to follow an Aussie cliché like Captain Boomerang with an implied croc-wrestling cliché? Crikey, no!

Truth be told, Killer Croc was always on the cards for Hero of the Week. He was one of the early confirmed characters that really made me take notice of the film during production. As with many C-grade bruisers, I've got a real soft spot for the Killer Croc of the comics (and cartoons). He isn't a traditional member of the Suicide Squad, and he deviates from the general type of 'pretend-reality' comic movies usually shy away from. So his inclusion raised a lot of questions and presented a potential litmus test for what the finished movie might be like. At least in theory.

Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje was a nice enough, physical casting choice that didn't really say a lot about the movie's take on the character. Genre fans who still think of him exclusively as TV's Mr. Eko (Lost), or The Bourne Identity's ill fated Wombosi may've suspected an exotic accent, even if Agbaje is actually from London. When the make-up was finally revealed, things got a little clearer.

All things considered, I think the movie does Killer Croc pretty well.

They're still showing their inclination to shy away from the colourful extremes of comic books -- all of the characters are heavily remixed with a grungy urban aesthetic. Yet, Croc looks definitively reptilian without devolving into a CG mess. That's probably enough to warrant praise!

When you consider the characters origins often refer to 'skin condition' and birth defect - the opportunity was certainly there to go much smaller. I would've accepted it, ala; Eduardo Risso's take in 2004 that always made me think of the taped fists of Mickey Rourke [see; Batman #621], but the more Reptilian extreme is a fun visual.

I have a tough time imagining Ben Affleck's Batman running up against this version of Killer Croc any time soon, but the rules are different and being rewritten every say, so you just never know!

Leaning into over-the-top characters like Killer Croc certainly sounds like a good idea on paper. A way to exploit the extremes of the character in opposition to the stoic, pseudo-reality maintained by Christopher Nolan for at least two movies. Man-Bat holds similar appeal, in that respect. I always liked Kevin Bacon as Dr. Kirk Langstrom, but I digress...

Killer Croc's also a part of the DC Comics Rebirth line-up of the Suicide Squad, which very closely reflects the line-up seen in the movie. I think he's a natural inclusion, and I'll at least be interested to follow where he winds up next.

On Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, his next stop is a special fifth week of Suicide Squad inspired comic book fun! In this final Friday Night Fight spotlight on the ensemble cast, Killer Croc faces off against a new player in Gotham City. It's a classic battle - one you won't want to miss!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Send For... The Suicide Squad! (DC)
Legends #3 When: January 1987
Why: John Ostrander & Len Wein How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
The New God of evil Darkseid has wicked plans for the heroes of the mortal planet of Earth! For their role in thwarting his plans time and again, he strikes with new weapons -- including a techno-seed that gives birth to the deluded giant known as Brimstone!

This self-proclaimed fallen angel marches to the false gospel of Darkseid. Bathed in a sentient flame that is his infernal body, Brimstone begins his cleansing of false gods with the shocking defeat of the Justice League of America! This prompts government agent Amanda Waller to initiate a dangerous new plan under Task Force X!

Utilizing convicted super-villains and volunteer agents to run secretive covert-ops, Waller launches the Suicide Squad! With the heroes out of action, the bad guys save the day, but the dark side of one of the team has bubbled to the surface. Now the apparent saviours unleash a deadly new threat upon an unsuspecting world - the dark sorcery of Enchantress!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Bronze Tiger 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Enchantress 5 (Professor)
Speed: Bronze Tiger 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Bronze Tiger 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Bronze Tiger 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Bronze Tiger 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Enchantress 6 (Mass Destruction)

Bronze Tiger is Benjamin Turner: Master of the martial arts and charter member of the Suicide Squad! He served notably as one of the team's few non-criminal members - the first recruit chosen by Amanda Waller and Rick Flag!

Flag had led a mission to rescue Turner from The League of Assassins some time prior to reforming Task Force X. As Bronze Tiger, Turner was brainwashed into becoming one of The League's deadliest global assassins. He even turned on his friend Richard Dragon before being deprogrammed by Waller.

Bronze Tiger's renown as one of the world's greatest martial artists belies humble beginnings on the streets of Central City. Urban crime confronted young Ben Turner with a natural acumen for combat. Searching for a better path for himself, he travelled the world, eventually finding the teachings of the legendary O-Sensei, in Japan. It was there he studied alongside Richard Dragon before both returned to the United States, briefly opening a school of their own.

Enchantress is June Moone: Granted magical powers by a mysterious entity known as Dzamor, Moone becomes the host of a powerful mystic alter-ego. In her early adventures she wielded this magic persona for good, but as the years wear on, calling upon the Enchantress sways her intent to the side of evil.

Her powers of sorcery are difficult to define by conventional means. Her abilities range from standard energy projections and transmutation, to demonstrations of: levitation, teleportation, healing, mystic sensitivity, and magic leeching!

When she was approached to join the Suicide Squad by Amanda Waller, Moone opted to volunteer her services. She subsequently joined the team on their very first mission: to neutralize the Apokolips giant Brimstone [Legends #3].

As we saw, Bronze Tiger was paired with Enchantress as a teammate during the first mission. He would later coach her in the martial arts. They should be working together, but as we're about to learn, the price of Enchantress' incredible power is the constant threat of her other evil persona!

Can mortal martial arts stand against the unbridled might of a sorceress?

Enchantress' powers protected the team from the fallout of Brimstone's lethal flames, but could only do so once they were no longer sentient. That bodes well for the ever-sentient Bronze Tiger! Will it be advantage enough to take her down when things go bad? Let's find out...

The Math: Bronze Tiger Ranking: Bronze Tiger (#405)

What Went Down...
Deadshot finds his target: firing an experimental laser directly into the nexus of Brimstone's core! The magnetic fields that maintain his integrity begin to fail, prompting Brimstone's plasma body to literally tear itself apart!

The giant monster becomes a towering inferno and in doing so - sends an explosive fireball in the direction of the triumphant Suicide Squad!

With a wave of her hands, Enchantress effortlessly comes to the defense of the team. The once sentient fire now dead and susceptible to her sorcery - reduced to a harmless snowstorm before it blankets the team!

The Squad's first mission seems to end in victory, but in unleashing her magicks -- the darkness in Enchantress' heart is brought forth! She turns on the team!

As snow flakes fall gently over Enchantress, mystic energy continues to blaze around her hands. Grinning gleefully, she twists to deal with her teammates -- unaware of their preparations to deal with her!

The martial artist Bronze Tiger leaps into action -- revealing his true purpose amongst the team! He may have been outmatched by the brute power of Brimstone, but by staying close to Enchantress, he's perfectly positioned to strike with an expertly delivered nerve-pinch!

Enchantress collapses unconscious into Bronze Tiger's waiting arms. The threat is over! Averted thanks to the foresight of Colonel Rick Flag.

The Hammer...
Well, that was fairly painless! With a single strike: Bronze Tiger wins!

Imagine how much easier life would've been if the Suicide Squad in theatres only remembered to bring Bronze Tiger to their fight! Win some, lose some, eh?

We've been looking back at the early days of The Suicide Squad throughout August, and plodding our way through the Legends mini-series, in the process. Just six issues long, it's a post-Crisis landmark that works to establish the new Justice League, the modern Suicide Squad, and a nice plot involving the manipulations of the masses through media by Darkseid and his minions, too.

It's understandable that the series didn't really have the time to dwell on every facet of the Suicide Squad, but I like that the broad beats are all essentially laid out. The moral frailty in a team of coerced super-villains is one the inherent joys of the concept. Enchantress establishes the looming sense of internal threat, even if it's pushed aside quickly. Captain Boomerang further drives home the potential for the team to unravel, quitting the group shortly after. With any luck, we'll get a chance to explore that tangent in a future fight.

Today we're focusing on other curios, such as Enchantress, who was a character I don't think I'd ever even heard of before reading her adventures with the Suicide Squad!

It's just another of the joys of the Suicide Squad series and the attitude that created it. By churning the vast soil of the DC Universe, they unearthed seeds that gave the post-Crisis DCU a crop of unexpected icons! They were disparate elements elevated by being brought together to make a glorious new whole! Still steeped in histories that were probably completely unknown or forgotten to young readers like myself! Middling properties ready to be embellished!

Enchantress originally came from mid-sixties mysticism in Strange Adventures #187 (April 1966), twisting into a villainess of the early eighties, before settling as the conflicted sorceress of the Squad. A revelatory reconciliation of her different roles, wrapped in a deliciously eighties design (as drawn by Byrne and McDonnell) that I simply love. Faux-80s faux-nostalgia has a way of grinding on me, but if I could choose any comics character to rock that look, it'd be her!

Bronze Tiger's history came from the kung-fu boom of the seventies grindhouse cinema. DC Comics got into the act with Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #1 (May 1975) - a series that introduced two American "kung-fu fighters" who studied in Japan. Their battles with The League of Assassins provided nice hooks to tie a lot of disparate elements of the DCU together over the following years and decades. A nice hallmark of Dennis O'Neil! You probably know them best for Ra's al Ghul and Batman's struggles. They played a role in Bronze Tiger's Suicide Squad backstory as a brainwashed assassin.

Admittedly, I always viewed Dragon as the poor man's Iron Fist: Marvel's much cooler martial arts hero, with a much cooler African-American best friend in Power Man. Suicide Squad certainly elevated Bronze Tiger in my eyes, though.

Similarly unrelated histories underscore the rest of The Squad! Deadshot: A one-hit wonder of 1950 Batman, dusted off in '77 and given new life in the Squad. Rick Flag: A tie to the war comics origins of the Suicide Squad of Brave and the Bold #25 (1959). Captain Boomerang: 1960 bad guy, destined to be a recurring menace of The Flash's Rogues! Blockbuster: 1965 man-monster who played the part of a poor man's Hulk, and the seminal mission's "suicide". Amanda Waller: The new glue that binds it all together as something fresh for the times.

I love it when superhero comics make their bizarre and wonderful universes work for them! This is such a great example of what can be achieved by uniting elements with a single great, intuitive idea! It highlights the strength of having a back catalogue and the value of creating "new reader friendly" comics through a continuum of exciting new stories, rather than do-overs and regressions.

With any luck, we'll get a chance to follow the chains of history back to see more of these characters. I'm sure we'll be going forward as well.

You can master this fluid reality of time in any year you might be reading by diving into the Issue Index Archive! That's the nexus of realities where you can jump to all the previous feature fights. You can also find more topics of interest by utilizing links littered through all the posts on this blog!

As September dawns, we have one more special battle inspired by the ensemble cast of the Suicide Squad film - in theatres now! In the mean time, check out Hero of the Week Mondays and stay tuned for a month of action focused on a certain character mentioned somewhere in this post. Can you guess who?

Winner: Bronze Tiger
#130 (+275) Bronze Tiger
#505 (-9) Enchantress (June Moone)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Real Name: George "Digger" Harkness
First Appearance: Flash #117 (December, 1960)
Fight Club Ranking: #293

Featured Fights:
- vs BRIMSTONE: Legends #3 (Jan 1987)

Australians. Like the sand of their sun kissed beaches, they seem to get into everything and once they do it's bloody hard to get rid of them! Hollywood knows this well, but seems mostly happy with the arrangement. Warner Brothers' Suicide Squad is fronted by two Aussies! Former TV soap star Margot Robbie hides in plain sight as headlining Heroine of a past Week: Harley Quinn. Struggling star Jai Courtney takes a more direct approach -- hitting you in the face as Captain Boomerang!

One day, history may look upon Captain Boomerang as another offensive stereotype. In the movie, he's a beer swilling, rugby jumpered, loud and uncouth convict thief who, as you may have surmised, favors boomerangs as his weapon of choice. Courtney boasts magic mushrooms were a part of his preparation for the role - an oblique reference, at best. Making the character a "brony" - a cruel and unusual twist of the knife. It's not quite The Simpsons down under, but if it were in the Australian character to be easily offended, you can be sure there'd be a few hashtags of outrage. Followed by a whole lot of drunken violence and cricket, I assume.

Having spent the month revisiting the modern Suicide Squad's early days in comics; I have to admit to rekindling my affection for Captain Boomerang. The love of a good B-grade villain trumps pride in country every time. Or is that, 'B-grade villain Trump loves pride in country'? Eh, I digress...

The movie may reduce Captain Boomerang to a grubby, off-the-shelf cosplay costume, but he isn't worlds apart from the character of the comics. He certainly doesn't strike me as the most affable bloke. A big part of the character's charm, especially in the Suicide Squad days, was a sense of blatant self-serving, and the general demeanor of an obnoxious scumbag. One of the enlisted you definitely can't completely trust. As he'd be known in Australia - a bit of a dickhead.

Like all of the characters, I would've liked a more daring visual. Promotion for the film pressed heavily on a pop art sensibility, but the characters display the usual awkward, self-loathing "reality" Hollywood applies to the genre. I can forgive the rugby top, but it would've been nice to ditch the trench coat, slap a silly hat on, and embrace the sense of uniform.

They don't skimp on ridiculous trick boomerangs in the movie. The addition of a Flash cameo - another welcome choice. The makings of a better movie universe are definitely here. Warner Brothers just need to nut up and learn to love the material they're adapting, instead of shaping the material to fit their vision.

It's been a hard slog through August, but our whip 'round the Suicide Squad is almost at its end. Thanks to a fifth week in September, you can look forward to an extra Friday Night Fight from the film ensemble. You can also flip back through the weeks to check out more Suicide Squad HOTWs, follow character links, or browse through the Issue Index Archive for even more!

Up next: We learn what to do when a good Enchantress goes bad! Don't miss it!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hush Chapter Six: The Opera (DC)
Batman #613 When: May 2003
Why: Jeph Loeb How: Jim Lee

The Story So Far...
A mysterious new threat has insinuated itself into the life of The Batman, turning his world upside down with a single shot that sent him plummeting from the Gotham City skyline to the streets below.

Sustaining dangerous injuries, a barely conscious Bruce Wayne is inspired to direct his butler Alfred to childhood friend Thomas Elliot -- surgeon of considerable renown! The reunion of friends is a medical and social success! So much so, Dr. Elliot invites Bruce Wayne to accompany him to a performance of Pagliacci in the company of Selina Kyle.

Bursting in to hysterics - and out of the Pagliacci wardrobe - Harley Quinn makes a dramatic entrance at the opera! She's there to rob the rich glitterati in attendance, and sets her maniac gaze on the man pulling out a cell phone in the balcony: Thomas Elliot! With the stakes rising rapidly, Bruce and Selina excuse themselves, returning to the stage as their alter-egos: Batman and Catwoman!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Catwoman 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Harley Quinn 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

Harley Quinn is Dr. Harleen Quinzel: A former Arkham Asylum psychiatrist whose thesis in the psyche of crime and romance led to an infatuation with The Joker. Surrendering to her mind's darker desires, she dons a black and red harlequin suit, beginning her criminal career as The Joker's favourite girl!

Harley's academic insights and elective madness are underscored by her gymnastic athleticism. Where oversized mallets and guns fail -- acrobatics and agility pick up the slack! Speed and mobility therefore become her greatest skills in a physical mismatch such as a battle with Batman and Catwoman!

At this time, The Bat and The Cat have been made unwitting players in a grand scheme just starting to take shape. They've levelled their on-and-off rooftop antagonism to forge a full blown Gotham City alliance. When Catwoman was able to break from the manipulative influences of Poison Ivy [Batman #611]; Batman was there to assist her -- combating a mind-controlled Superman, as well [Batman #612]!

The longer it goes, the more the alliance turns up the heat on lingering romantic tensions. It's difficult to predict if romance strengthens Batman & Catwoman's partnership - or complicates it! It was playful flirtation in the chase shown in Solo #1, but created emotional volatility in another mind-control episode, involving Batman, in JLA #118! When the pair were at odds, Catwoman was often able to use the tone to get the better of Bats [eg; Batman: The Mad Monk #1].

Social dynamics are another way Harley Quinn could try to level the playing field! She tends to favor a ditzy, madcap approach to a life of crime, but her past as a studied psychiatrist can never be completely discounted. Batman's willingness to collaborate with morally ambiguous characters has introduced a lot of uncharacteristic uncertainty into the situation!

Batman and Catwoman have a famous history on opposite sides of the law. She's even maintained partnerships with Harley Quinn! Of course, that fact is a two-way street! Harley's found common ground with Batman in the past too, even choosing temporary alliances with The Dark Knight over her beloved Joker [eg; Batman #663]!

Of course, when psychology is too much work -- there are always henchman to even the odds! That's the case in this scenario, which finds Harley Quinn attempting to rob the rich at the opera. Will she get away with it? Most of our metrics point towards a no, but lets see exactly how it went down...

The Math: Batman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
Pushed from the balcony by Dr. Thomas Elliot -- Harley Quinn and her masked henchmen open fire at the opera box seats! Elliot sprints to reclaim his stolen mementos, while Selina Kyle and Dr. Leslie Thompkins take cover. The other man in attendance - Bruce Wayne - has already left to change for Act II!

The Batman glides toward the stage with wing-like cape fully outstretched! It provides a target for Harley Quinn, who wildly opens fire upon the descending figure -- hitting only the garb trailing behind him!

As he nears the stage, Batman tosses an arsenal of flash, smoke and mace grenades! The obscuring fog serves his priority of protecting the audience. His boot: beginning the offensive as it shatters one of the goons' masks on contact!

Machine gunfire sprays across stage-right as the goon recoils from Batman's devastating kick! Making ground, he throws his right leg at another nearby henchman. Batarangs whipped through the haze take down three more!

Confronting the harlequin ringleader: Batman squats to avoid another volley of bullets! This time Harley's aim is true, finding the sandbags dangling above the stage. Her bullets send them tumbling toward a Batman who is already nursing a serious head injury from a previous battle! The blow leaves Batman on his knees - dazed and grappling with the mistake of choosing a lighter cowl.

Harley refers to a partnership with Poison Ivy and a mysterious "script" she's considering deviating from. Somebody wants Batman alive, but the temptation to put a gun barrel to his head is too great. Good thing for him, somebody else wants him alive for altruistic reasons as well!

Catwoman leaps onto the stage - launching a fly kick into Harley's face!

The harlequin of crime tumbles into the set wall with a thud, mumbling about a Robin understudy. Catwoman takes extreme exception - slashing her talons across Harley's face as she rises from the ground. This time she goes through the set - sent smashing by Catwoman's stiff body kick!

Catwoman's claws slash through Harley's jester-like headdress, lopping one of the floppy limbs clean off! Harley uses the close quarters contact to make an escape - darting through Catwoman's legs, before vaulting off backstage boxes onto part of the stage!

With all the agility of her namesake, Catwoman keeps in step in the acrobatic harlequin. Being one step behind is enough to turn the tables, though. Whoever wants Batman alive had no objections to offing his "boy hostage" sidekick, or the "understudy" who's there in his place! Harley opens fire!

Taking a bullet to the shoulder in mid-flight -- Catwoman can't control her descent! She tumbles wildly through the turreted set and spills toward the stage. There, a Dark Knight waits to break her fall.

The audience erupts into applause, marvelling at Batman's ability to catch the woman. It was all just part of the show to them. As blood spills from her mouth, Catwoman chastises her ally for choosing to rescue her instead of catching the bad guy. She passes out as Dr. Thompkins arrives to offer medical aid.

The Hammer...
Batman may be standing by the end of the skirmish, but his hands are full with his wounded partner. Harley Quinn lost her fair share of henchmen, but she clearly got the better of both heroes. A surprise winner? Not exactly...

In the big picture, we're working backwards. Longtime readers of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths (and Issue Index divers) know we've already examined the fall out from this issue.

While Dr. Thompkins is tending to Catwoman's gunshot wound, Batman is chasing Harley Quinn. This leads him to run into The Joker in an opera back alley: A final page sting that sets up their showdown in Batman #614! All of the players from today's feature fight find their way into that alley - Catwoman included. Follow the link to see how it all went down!

Hush has been a recurring touchstone throughout the life of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. I'm reluctant to hold the story up in high esteem, but I cannot deny its staying power as an encapsulation of the basic Batman experience.

At the time, it was a re-energizing experience for Batman comics. A back to basics approach that seemed to empower the vision of a quality creative team over broad editorial mandates. Large scale "event" crossovers like No Man's Land had started to overwhelmed the outward impression of what Batman comics were about. As a 12 issue story, Hush was very much a precursor to the overbearing "event" comics steering the past few years - but by containing it within one on-going series, with a simple objective, it felt ironically refreshing.

The appointment of Jeph Loeb as writer really struck a powerful chord! His past work with Tim Sale had been a well crafted revelation - giving us two landmark maxi-series in the Batman canon. The thought that this quality approach might entrench itself firmly within monthly continuity was an exciting prospect!

Of course, the much anticipated return of Jim Lee as a mainstream superhero penciller created a lot of buzz! His approach to rendering characters drew favorably from an iconic past, infusing it with a strong modern sensibility. Previews of his character designs were a tasty entrée! This may have been Lee at his very best. His work was more sharply focused on storytelling, and an intelligent, modern-definitive approach to character design that was permeating superhero comics in the early 2000s. A seemingly writer-driven focus on ideas, without the excesses of unmotivated visual spectacle.

Unfortunately, Hush didn't hit the storytelling highs of the Sale collaborations.

Like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory before it, the story undertakes a twelve issue tour through Batman's rogues gallery. A selection of Gotham villainy, effected together as a concurrent gauntlet with an overarching mystery.

I don't have any real complaints about the basic premise, but it may have been strained by a third go around, impacted by different concerns for where the characters are coming from, and going to. The Sale stories took advantage of the changing of the guard in Gotham's criminal underworld - the rise of the so-called "freaks" to take the city away from old families and mobs. More reactions than Hush, where the rogues are puppets in a more broad plot.

The guessing game of who's manipulating events against Batman certainly isn't as compelling or veiled as The Holiday Killer mysteries. This could be excused for what seems to be a different intent: The creation of a new arch-villain.

Fortunately, the story always has the gauntlet to fall back on, and it's hard not to enjoy an adventure through the super-villains. It slightly overwhelms Batman #613, but giving Harley Quinn a spotlight is certainly a fun prelude to the main event entrance of Joker in the next issue.

Harley Quinn is ultimately the reason we're all here. August on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is all about the stars of the Suicide Squad movie - now in theatres! Margot Robbie stars as Harley Quinn - one of our recent Heroes of the Week, and today's feature fight winner!

If you'd like to find more pieces of the Hush puzzle, more Harley Quinn, or more of the Suicide Squad characters - check out the Issue Index Archive! If you're ready to read the whole story yourself, take advantage of the Amazon purchase link provided for your convenience! Doing so helps support the site, as well!

Stay tuned for the next Friday Night Fights, which is sure to be an enchanting interlude!

Winner: Harley Quinn
#104 (+224) Harley Quinn
#1 (--) Batman
#30 (-1) Catwoman

Monday, August 15, 2016

Real Name: Floyd Lawton
First Appearance: Batman #59 (June, 1950)
Fight Club Ranking: #95

Featured Fights:
- vs FLASH: Legends #1 (Nov 1986)
- vs BRIMSTONE: Legends #3 (Jan 1987)
- vs MANTICORE: Suicide Squad #2 (Jun 1987)
- vs BATMAN: Suicide Squad #10 (Feb 1988)
- vs INJUSTICE LEAGUE: Justice League of America #15 (Jan 2008)

When I think of the Suicide Squad, I generally think of three characters: Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger and above all - Deadshot! Only two of those made it to the big screen version released in theatres this month, but only one hit the bullseye as our Hero of the Week!

Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers deserve credit for digging Deadshot out of mothballs. They reinvented the character in their landmark late seventies run on Batman, but it was John Ostrander who defined Floyd Lawton as an icon for the early post-Crisis era! He was nonchalant: A willing participant in the suicide missions dished out by callous government manipulator Amanda Waller.

From his appearances in Legends, through to the launch of the original Suicide Squad series, Deadshot was a character on the rise. A fast developed rogue meeting every deadly encounter with a pinch of dashing, a splash of dry with, helpings of self-serving, and a bit of a death wish.

This charm could've made Deadshot a strong foundational introduction to the DC Comics cinematic universe, but that seems unlikely now that the movie is here. How Hollywood saw Will Smith in the character is more than a little bit mystifying, but I'm not sure I'd pin the problems exclusively on him.

Organization of their DC film properties - or lack thereof - is clearly working against Warner Brothers. While characters like Harley Quinn and The Joker have given uninitiated audiances a couple of characters to anticipate (even if they're unrecognizable) - the film might have been better served by having another familiar face introduced ahead of time. As an original Batman villain, Deadshot might have given Ben Affleck a nice focused aside to deal with during the long, shambolic feature episode of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Rearranging both films - an attractive idea.

Suicide Squad packs in a late scene alluding to Batman and the Justice League. If Deadshot factored in to Dawn of Justice in a B-plot reminiscent of his battle with The Flash in Legends #1, it could've been interesting to feature his recruitment in prison by Rick Flag. As a character with deep ties to Task Force X, Flag himself could have been a logical addition in the Doomsday Third Act of Dawn of Justice, as well. The only man missing, his first recruit - Bronze Tiger!

Race is a hot button issue at the moment, exported from the United States to the rest of the world. It's not really a topic I have enough passion to venture too deeply into, but I'm sympathetic to the ideals that have made American popular culture something of a clumsy battleground. George Takei recently expressed some disappointment toward the Star Trek reboot films incorporating his sexual orientation into the make-up of the character he made famous. In the rush to support social change, or at least be seen to be involved, the construction and maintenance of consistent creative worlds has suffered. I tend to think of it as an insult to the people its pandering to. Clumsy tokenism highlighted by the disruption to the iconic image associated with the property being adapted.

Once upon a time, Will Smith would just be thought of as bad casting. Something superhero movies have had to weather for decades, not just casting against race, but also type. A basic misrepresentation of a character decades old. Joel Kinnamen isn't much better as Rick Flag. Strung out and moustached, looking more like the Floyd Lawton of the comics than the man standing next to him. It's all especially galling when the potential to build on a very strong African-American character was passed up: Bronze Tiger! I almost wonder if, in the ever confused Hollywood approach, the two characters were blended together. Social conscience comics movie cake and eating it too? Wishful thinking.

Comics and movies could do so much more for social representation and quality brand management by utilizing the characters that are there, and by working to create new ones. Not just half-arsed offcasts, or sudden changes to the race of characters sixty or seventy years old. Genuine investment in icons that reflect society in broader roles. Bronze Tiger could have done that for Suicide Squad, not that I'd really advocate Will Smith for the tiger masked martial artist, either. Assuming the mask would even have a chance in a Hollywood production.

Among the many half measures taken - the eternal struggle to embrace comic book design and iconography! Admittedly, the Marshall Rogers update design for Deadshot is a tough ask. It made enough sense in the GI Joe-esque, superhero periphery of the Suicide Squad comics, but it is a bit of an oddball. Their attempts to costume the Suicide Squad fall generally short. Deadshot's iconic mask is reinvented as a really weird looking pseudo-helmet. His armor - a little cheap and cumbersome, but by not too offensive. They kept the red. That's something!

I admire Warner Brothers' willingness to gamble on somewhat untested properties. I'm also pleased audiences have taken enough interest to venture out to the cinema to give it a try. I just wish it was all-in and a high-quality, rewarding experience. Perhaps better results next time.

We can always find better results by venturing into the source world of the comic books! August on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths is all about the characters of the Suicide Squad! You can hit the Issue Index Archive to jump straight to classic issues you know, use character links to see more of your favorites, and jump back to HOTW features like Harley Quinn and Joker for more!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Up Against The Wall (DC)
Suicide Squad #10 When: February 1988
Why: John Ostrander How: Luke McDonnell

The Story So Far...
There's something not quite right about Belle Reve Prison and it's newest inmate: Matches Malone. Neither is what they seem and they're about to collide in a clash of wills!

Malone is in actual fact The Batman: Deep undercover, and intent on exposing what's really going on within the fortress stronghold of the Lousiana prison! Elementary for one of the world's greatest detectives and escape artists!

Having acquired the information he seeks, Batman stages his exit, but not without raising the alarm. Having faced down the female fury of Duchess and the gun scope of Deadshot - freedom is in sight, but the Suicide Squad have one more taskmaster to throw at him! Enter: Colonel Rick Flag!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

Colonel Rick Flag is a career soldier with ties to the original Task Force X and Suicide Squadron. The exact details of his early military career are unclear, but his unwavering dedication to the job, and years of experience, were evidenced in his role as field leader of a new Suicide Squad.

Created under Amanda Waller's Task Force X; The Suicide Squad forced Flag to accept command of a team of convicted super-criminals who accepted black-ops missions in exchange for an expunged record. His personal recruits included the deprogrammed assassin Bronze Tiger, and cavalier mercenary Deadshot.

We saw Flag bravely provide a guiding hand to Deadshot during the team's first field mission: A takedown of the burning behemoth Brimstone [Legends #3], who was an unstoppable living weapon sent to Earth by Darkseid!

Flag's role was strictly leadership, but thanks to the division's superior intel, his group succeeded where the Justice League of America had failed [Legends #2]! Had the mission required, he could've called upon expert hand-to-hand and firearms combat training. His two offensive options against the likes of Batman!

When it comes to tactical and combative expertise - few are better than The Dark Knight! We've seen Batman put on hand-to-hand clinics with renowned opponents like: Captain America [Marvel versus DC #3], Bullseye [DC versus Marvel #1], The Knight [JLA: Classified #3], Slam Bradley [Catwoman #22], Victor Zsasz [Detective Comics #796], and Killer Croc [Batman #621]. He's even relied upon fighting skills to face super-threats like: Amazo [Batman #637], Captain Marvel [Superman/Batman #4], Scorpion [DC/Marvel: All Access #3], and New God of evil himself - Darkseid [Superman/Batman #42]!

Suffice it to say: Rick Flag is up against steep odds! He does have a tactical advantage in this particular situation, though!

Batman has infiltrated the secret Belle Reve headquarters of Task Force X. To do so, he's already had to run a gauntlet of armed guards, new recruit Duchess (formerly of the Apokolips Female Furies), and old arch-enemy: Deadshot! It's a strategy Bane famously used to run Batman ragged before securing supreme victory - the famous "breaking of The Bat" - in Batman #497!

Granted, Bane's approach involved releasing dozens of the deadliest inmates from Arkham Asylum. That forced Batman into an exhaustive chase across Gotham City. In Belle Reve Prison, his shortlist of opponents are all in close quarters. That means less leg work, but more intense action, and a home field advantage where the lockdown security of the prison could force Batman into an unwinnable situation!

The Math: Batman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
Leaving a trail of defeated operatives, Batman sprints through the shadows of Belle Reve Prison. Approaching the main gate, he hears an apologetic voice...

Colonel Rick Flag dive tackles Batman from behind! The impact takes his legs out from under him, sending both to the floor.

Flag leans into his fist as he extends over The Dark Knight Detective's shoulder, pressing the advantage. Batman reverses the position, throwing his elbow back directly into Flag's exposed jaw!

The Batman uses the opportunity to rise to his feet. Both men hunching over, the pair of fighters square each other off at breaking distance. They move in!

Batman and Flag both lead with the backside of their left fist. Their forearms collide in a firm stalemate. Batman rockets his right fist into play, but Flag is able to curl his left arm up to block and sweep away from his face!

They lean into each other -- foreheads pressing like the locked horns of two bulls! Flag throws a probing right hand in the rib direction of Batman's body. The Dark Knight opts instead for a fist full of t-shirt. He pulls Flag toward him!

The gambit gives Batman the opening he needs to nail Flag with a devastating uppercut! The blow sends the Colonel sprawling to the ground! As he scrambles on all fours, The Batman leaps - cape extending like a giant living shadow!

Just as it seemed the fight was entering the end game - a volley of gunfire rings above both men's heads! They stop in their tracks!

The shots come from the gun barrel of Amanda Waller! Backed by Duchess, Deadshot, and the Belle Reve Warden and personnel who were taken out earlier - she challenges The Dark Knight!

He questions her methods. She draws parallels. Batman invokes the tax payers who unwittingly fund her squad of unreformed criminals. She trades a secret for a secret: The Batman had to go under deep cover to infiltrate the prison facility. He wasn't wearing gloves the whole time. She'll keep his secret identity if Batman agrees to keep theirs. The begrudging bargain brings Batman's excursion to an end. He's free to leave.

The Hammer...
While it looked as if Batman was getting the upper hand in the fight, we have no choice but to call this battle a draw!

For their role in bringing about a neutral conclusion to the outcome: Amanda Waller, Deadshot, Duchess, bespectacled John Economos, and moustached guard J. Daniel "Murph" Murphy have earned an assist.

I tend to think of the outcome in terms of the first Rocky. Just going the distance with Batman is as good as a win for Rick Flag.

If you thought he'd be happy about his team's intervention in the skirmish, though, you've got another thing coming!

It's one of the interesting dynamics of the Suicide Squad team. Flag may be a career soldier with trouble in his past, but he isn't worlds apart from Batman when it comes to judging the covert employment of his super-villains teammates. He respects Batman, touting The Dark Knight's valor over the self-serving moral ambiguity of his team. An ally 100% committed to his team, even if he doesn't really like them.

Batman is a welcome presence throughout the issue. His break-in under the guise of frequent alias Matches Malone is a lot of fun. The way Amanda Waller uses it to turn the tables -- threatening to uncover Batman's secret identity through his need to go gloveless -- a great power play!

Did Batman really expose himself so carelessly? This isn't quite the invincible, omnipotent planner that Batman would become, but it is a tough ask to accept that he didn't have some kind of plastic fingertip covers, or the like.

His infiltration sets up an action-heavy escape for most of the issue. He runs through the guards, Duchess, and Deadshot, before being jumped by Rick Flag in the featured fight. I'm sure we'll aim to revisit the issue for those other fights. The battle with Duchess (aka; Lashina) is definitely one we'll need to document!

My only real complaint of this milestone issue is that the action seems to get away from penciller Luke McDonnell. It falls apart particularly in the Flag fight, which suffers from indistinct actions in a broken down, blow by blow battle.

It's no doubt the layouts are supposed to show the inching strategy and effort of the two fighters. An attempt to demonstrate Flag's ability to match Batman hand-to-hand, at least for a while. The exact movements are just a little too hard to discern from the artwork. The repeating, thin panels perhaps better replaced with a more dynamic impression of a short fight. I'm not sure.

McDonnell does great work throughout the early issues of Suicide Squad. I think his stylized photo-realism really creates an iconic look for the series. It's of the same cloth as Kevin Maguire's pencils, but lays on heavier shadows and slightly less super-heroic dynamism in scenes. This plays out well when "Matches" is setting his plan into motion in the empty prison. The way Batman slinks down the corridors and toward the reader in a two-thirds page reveal - awesome!

Want to see the whole issue for yourself? Pick up the collected edition by using the Amazon link provided for your convenience to the right! Like the tax dollars that fund the Suicide Squad, your purchase helps keep the wars infinite!

August is Suicide Squad month on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. Check back for Friday Night Fights and Hero of the Week updates featuring the characters from the movie and beyond! You can find even more features by infiltrating the Secret Issue Index!

Winner: Draw
#1 (--) Batman
#370 (+125) Rick Flag
#95 (--) Deadshot [+1 Assist]
#406 (+61) Amanda Waller [+1 Assist]
#497 (new) Lashina (Duchess) [+1 Assist]
#498 (new) John Economos [+1 Assist]
#499 (new) J Daniel Murphy [+1 Assist]

Monday, August 08, 2016

Real Name: Harleen Quinzel
First Appearance: Batman: The Animated Series Ep. 22 (September, 1992)
Fight Club Ranking: #328

Featured Fights:
- vs BATMAN: Batman #614 (Jun 2003)
- vs BATMAN: Batman #663 (Apr 2007)

So they're going to give The Joker a wacky, gal pal sidekick...

I wonder what the backlash would be like if that were a leading headline today. I wonder what it would've been like back in 1992! There really wasn't any time to huff and puff about an intrusion on classic comics mythology! Harley Quinn clapped and whistled her way into the Batman universe with little to no warning. She even appeared without explanation! Just a harlequin-suited, sycophantic sounding board (and accomplice) for the legendary Clown Prince of Crime!

More moll than sidekick, but more Daffy Duck than Betty Boo -- Harley Quinn fit right in with the blackboard art deco world of comics-inspired Batman: The Animated Series!

It's not hard to see how the character would be quickly accepted, ultimately embraced. Brimming with more personality than the usual costume-appropriate henchwoman; Harl' completed a double act that gave Joker somebody to play off, while offering plenty of her own schtick to boot! The signs were there in her debut appearance of Episode 22, but things only got better from there.

When DC Comics finally made the call in 1999 to fold her into the Batman comics proper - history was made! Rare is it that a cross-media contribution can thrive in the comic book world, but her 2001 on-going series cemented the character as must-read! With fantastic, madcap adventures that made use of the exciting "new" addition, Harley Quinn's comic book credentials were secured!

Flash forward to 2016 and Harley Quinn is now a marquee character lending name value to the oddball cadre of the live-action theatrical Suicide Squad.

For that reason alone she'd be our Hero of the Week, but there's clearly more at play here than a live-action debut. Harley Quinn is becoming an all-out pop culture phenomenon! A slapstick sub-cultural icon splashed across the mainstream with similar notes to Deadpool! DC Publisher Jim Lee is even being quoted as calling her one of the company's "four pillars" -- eclipsing The Joker himself!

Of course, much like Jared Leto's Joker [HOTW 08/01/2016]; the Harley Quinn seen in Suicide Squad (and related merchandising) isn't exactly the character that fans originally fell in love with.

For me, the loss of that iconic harlequin costume is a real shame. Sexed up t-shirt and hotpants just don't speak to the heart of the character I grew to enjoy. It's a different kind of crazy, marketed to a different kind of fan. At least some of that blame can fall on Hollywood, whose tenuous relationships with "reality" and superheroes have never been spectacular. Like a lot of long time readers, I pine for the days when comics were confident in the culture they'd built up over many decades. Alas; the iconic costume started disappearing from the comics even before The New 52 muddied the waters.

I'll be very interested to see where Harley Quinn ends up next, and how Rebirth and further cross-media properties further shape the character. Will she remain the fourth pillar alongside the trinity of DC legends: Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman? If initial reaction to the film is anything to go by, they're certainly in mutual company. We'll be watching.

Can't get enough Harley Quinn? Be watching Friday Night Fights as we celebrate the Suicide Squad in updates throughout the month of August!