We're less than a week away from the release of Suicide Squad: War Crimes, a one-shot written by veteran writer (and modern age Suicide Squad creator) John Ostrander with art by Gus Vasquez.
At a time when the profile of DC's all-villain team of heroes is riding an all-time high with a live-action feature film about to pass $600 million at the global box office, the granddaddy of the Squad -- the man whose name is on the Federal Building in the movie's Midway City, returns for the first time in a decade to the series he made famous in the '80s.
Ostrander joined ComicBook.com to discuss the one-shot, which will be in stores on Wednesday. You can get a copy at your local comic shop or pre-order it digitally on ComiXology.
It isn't like this is the first time you've returned since your seminal run in the '80s. You keep revisiting these characters. Is it kind of disorienting to just jump right back into the scalding pot every ten years or so?
No, actually not. Actually I'd like to do it more frequent than say every ten years. Ten years from now, I may be drooling, so I'd just as soon write Squad stories before that point.
It's really not that hard, and some of the characters, like Amanda, you sometimes wonder when you come back to it, whether the character's voice will come back to you. With Amanda, it's always like, "I've been right here. Where you been?" She just comes back right away.
I kind of feel like Amanda Waller is a little bit like Jack Kirby's New Gods characters. Every so often, people try to re-invent her, but it always defaults back to the original, because there's something special about what you did with that character that people can't really seem to improve upon.
Certainly I'm very pleased by the fact that she's been used as much as she has. It means that people have found her to be a very exciting and viable character. I like the fact that she's had an impact on the DC universe.
Just like anything you get as an actor, playing the same part, but in a different story -- For instance, a good example is Heath Ledger's Joker versus Jared Leto's Joker. They're both valid interpretations, but they're very different, which they should be. I think with Amanda, you keep to a certain general outlines, but then you have to bring who you are to the story, and it will bring out a different side of Amanda.
With me, I had a pretty good idea who Amanda was, and who Amanda wasn't. I always felt that she did have a conscience, but she was ruthless as all get out.
You kind of see that a little bit in the movie. Without drifting too far in, you see there's that phone call where she had an emotional connection with some mysterious voice on the other end. You're like, "Oh wait, Waller's human."
Yeah, I appreciated that. I think you have to do that, otherwise if you make her all just one shade of bad, then people don't identify with her as much.
I think one of the interesting things about your run is that you were able to kind of incorporate politics and espionage in a way that very few superhero comics successfully do. That's going to be back here in the War Crimes one-shot. Without spoiling too much, that's very much a part of the DNA of this book. Given that that's not been used very often, is that something you were really keen to re-introduce?
Actually, when I came onto it, I was talking with Andy Khouri, the editor, about what they were looking for, and basically what it came down to was we want a real John Ostrander Suicide Squad story.
I said, "Okay." I started, as I usually did, with the Squad, is take a look, see where the world is, see what's interesting, and what could possible be used in a Squad story.
In this case, my better half, Mary Mitchell, and I had been just talking about reports we had read that George Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld really couldn't travel overseas, because they might be grabbed and put on trial for war crimes. Well, I thought that would be an interesting idea. Someone who's obviously not real-life figures, but like them, gets grabbed and taken over the the Hague in the Netherlands to stand trial for war crimes.
Well, the US wouldn't be able to stand for that, but are you going to send the military into an ally? No, this is where you need the Suicide Squad.
Which is actually really interesting because, as much as like I said, it happens in a big part of recent Suicide Squad books, there was something kind of similar going on in the Suicide Squad #1 that came out last week. Was there any cross-pollination there? Did you talk to the new guys about what they're doing?
No. I have no idea what they were doing. I think it's better that way. They should do their thing. I trusted the editor to make sure we wouldn't blatantly contradict one another.
You love writing Waller. With these other characters, you're putting together your Squad. Do you try to bring up a wild card or two and be like I wonder what this guy would be like, or is your inclination more to go back to a cast that you've worked with and developed for all that time?
A little bit of both. I wanted to certainly use what I call the Unholy Trinity of Waller, Deadshot, and Boomerang, and having Flag along is also a good thing. Then also to have a couple of voices in there that I haven't played with before, and see what I can do with them, and see what having them in there does to the Squad.
When I was doing the Squad on a regular basis, we used to mix up the team fairly well, if only because we were killing some of the people off, but by mixing it up, you get a slightly different team, and to my mind, it keeps it fresh.
Going all the way back to 30 years ago, when Legends was happening and you were getting started, was part of the pitch to DC like, "Look, I'm going to need to be able to actually kill some characters sometimes," or was that just understood?
No, that was stated right from the get-go, and in fact, if you go back and take a look at Legends, we killed one of the members off right in their first appearance, Blockbuster. That was part of the DNA right from the beginning.
[DC Comics] didn't care as much, because I was basically going for B, C, and D list characters and villains that nobody else was really interested in using, which was fine by me. I could take them, use them, play with them a little bit, explore them a little bit, then if I needed to, off them.
And there's the unintended consequence that your book was so beloved, you turned some of those guys into real players. I mean, Captain Boomerang is essentially an indispensable character at this point.
Yeah. When we were first putting the team together, Bob Greenberger, who was the editor, suggested Boomerang. My first reaction was, "No, he's a silly character." Bob persisted, and soon later I came around, and he really developed as one of my favorites.
Harley didn't even exist when you were doing this book, but she's a part of what people perceive as the Suicide Squad now. What is that like for you?
Well, by having the characters come in...I'll speak to Harley. Harley was a lot of fun to write. What's nice is that she's been so well defined. Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner have done wonderful work. She's such a really well-defined character, so once you know what she is and what she's about, you stick her in, and you don't even have to make up things. Characters just are running around and doing whatever the hell she feels like, and you hope that it will stay within the story.
That speaks to something I heard you say about Waller before, which is that Amanda just kind of drives her own story. Do you think that because you have villains are so broad and larger than life, that it almost kind of helps you bump the story along, because at any given moment it's like, "This would be a cool thing for them to do," and since this is a villain with no real impulse control, if it's cool and it would benefit them, then that's a direction that the story can go?
Yeah. That does happen. What's also interesting to me is that all these characters, including Amanda, are basically what I call gray characters. They're not black and white. They're not good or bad. They're really a mixture in different amounts, and I really like characters like that. I like to play with characters like that.
To me, that's the closest to real life. We're all a mixture of these good and bad things. We have our good moments. We have our bad moments. It really depends upon the percentages of each.
When you look at a mission like the one that's in War Crimes, and you have a guy who is not only not likable, but he's kind of a white collar criminal, not "like them." How much fun is it to play with the idea that not everybody on the Squad is going to like him, and while they can't necessarily directly disobey Waller, that doesn't mean that they have to kind of be nice to this guy?
Oh yeah. Heck, they're not even always nice to each other, so why would they be nice to this guy? No, they're there to do a job. They're going to do the mission, and hopefully get back with their skins intact. They want to succeed in the mission, because that serves their purposes, not because this person is a great person to save.0comments
Looking at the movie, for example, the Deadshot, "I missed" moment. That's kind of like, "I'm not going to disobey Waller, but if I can screw with anybody then I'll do it."
Yeah. There's an edginess, because there's an edginess to each other, and to the people in charge. It certainly isn't the Justice League. It's not the Teen Titans. These are not particularly friends of each other.