Older, Better Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad is everywhere these days, which is unsurprising because it is a cool concept. But… I have a problem with the Squad, as it currently stands. The movie version of Suicide Squad is led by Deadshot, who isn’t bad, but isn’t who was originally intended as leader. He is a second-rate replacement for the original leader, one of the most complex and interesting antiheroes created by DC. It could be worse, of course, because while Deadshot is a second rate replacement, the current leader in the comic books is even worse.
You see, according to ComicBook.com Harley Quinn is the newest leader of the comic book version of Suicide Squad. The obvious choice from the current lineup should have been Katanna, because Katanna is sort of the only non-villain in the group but Harley Quinn has been given the job, obviously as a cynical choice, made only in the interests of comic book sales.
For me, neither of these characters is the real leader of Suicide Squad, because that honor goes to a complex and interesting character created during the 70s Kung Fu craze. Back in the 1970s, there were Kung Fu movies, Kung Fu TV shows, and Kung Fu comic books, and the comic books had Kung Fu adverts in them.
The ad that always fascinated me was the one featuring Count Juan Raphael Dante “The Deadliest Man Alive” (born John Timothy Keehan, in Chicago, Illinois). He trained under various martial arts masters during the infancy of Western interest in Asian martial arts during the 1950s. Keehan grew disillusioned with conventional karate and began developing his own style that became known as the Dance of Death.
Keehan was prone to boasts that furthered his reputation, his most notorious one being that he’d participated in secret “death matches” in Thailand and China, winning by killing opponent after opponent before crowds numbering in the thousands. He began heavily promoting himself via comic book ads as the Deadliest Man Alive. All kids had to do was mail order for his instructional booklet, World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets, and they would also receive a free Black Dragon Fighting Society membership card. These comic book ads have cemented Count Dante’s lasting notoriety in pop culture.
During this time, a Kung Fu hero was designed that would in the 80s go on to become the linchpin of a new team of heroes that operated out of a huge prison complex. This team was named Suicide Squad, and their comic was first published in May 1987. It lasted for 66 monthly issues, and was notable for bringing obscure characters such as Captain Boomerang and Deadshot to prominence. As Dorkly.com says, most hardcore fans agree that the definitive take on the Suicide Squad was the ongoing series that began in 1987.
This is the Suicide Squad I know, and it was led by Bronze Tiger. Bronze Tiger is a master martial artist who was recruited by squad founder Amanda Waller as the team leader for her Suicide Squad. The Suicide Squad was mostly populated by villains, but Bronze Tiger was only ever a villain because he was brainwashed. He is in reality a hero, incarcerated due to circumstances beyond his control. He often enforced Waller’s rules, but equally often disobeyed direct orders to save the lives of his team (even though they were designated as expendable). Bronze Tiger was the heart and soul of the team, and a martial artist so tough he even kicked Batman’s ass. Bronze Tiger was front and center on almost every Squad mission throughout the team’s history, and I was shocked to see that he wasn’t even in the movie.
As well as Bronze Tiger, that 80s version of Suicide Squad also had former Batgirl Barbara Gordon in her first appearance as the popular character Oracle. She was the Squad’s remote radio support.
Suicide Squad was interesting because it investigated the psychology of its ensemble cast, partly via in-house psychiatric staff at the Squad’s Belle Reve headquarters. These staff members were frequently seen interviewing various Squad operatives or providing evaluations of their mental states. Several full issues are dedicated to examining the personal lives and motivations of prominent characters.
Another thing that made this earlier incarnation of Suicide Squad so revolutionary was the body count among the superhero team. The creative team, Ostrander and McDonnell, spent their time digging through back issue bins looking for third-string villains to kill off. At that time there were fifty years worth of villains that didn’t fit in with the then current direction at DC. Dozens of characters were available that were completely disposable, all ready to be killed off in Suicide Squad.
The new comics just aren’t the same. I keep being half tempted to read one, but the covers always feature Harley Quinn with a mallet or baseball bat, and it physically repulses me. TheThings.com has a list of 15 reasons to hate the character, but I don’t need the whole list. I just know that seeing a character so tightly designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator replace an elegant, complex, and difficult character like Bronze Tiger is a hard-to-ignore warning that the modern Suicide Squad is nothing like what it used to be.
Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.
It is also the story of a spaceship that can upset the balance of power across human space. A spaceship from an ancient time, built by aliens, and full of advanced technology. It is an action-packed, sci-fi page turner that goes in directions the reader just will not expect.
It introduces a lot of plot threads that gradually build as the second and third books of the series unfold. We see the Tarazet Star Empire, and we see what is rotten at its core, as we feel the desire the characters feel to tear it down and replace it with New Tarazet, however impossible that might seem. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.