The whole point of the Suicide Squad — a covert team of super-powered criminals who are given the chance to complete a dangerous mission (or die trying) in exchange for clemency — is that they’re disposable. Superman can’t be permanently extinguished, at least not narratively, but a C-list supervillain can bite it at any moment. So, it makes sense that The Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s new reboot/soft sequel of the ever-maligned Suicide Squad, has a wide cast of obscure characters who are destined to perish almost immediately.
But before some of these characters meet their grizzly respective ends — time of death is scheduled for sometime on Friday, August 6, when The Suicide Squad premieres in theaters and on HBO Max — isn’t it worth taking a moment to get know them? Many are among the DC Universe’s most obscure (though the first on this list will be familiar to even the most casual of superhero movie fans, and a handful appeared in the 2016 movie), and chances are they won’t all have that much screen time here or anytime hereafter. So think of this as a preemptive eulogy to all the side characters: we hardly knew ye.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)
Harleen Quinzel is one of only a small number of DC characters who made their first appearance on the screen rather than in the pages of a comic book. She first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series in the early 1990s as a hench-woman to the Joker, later becoming the arch-supervillain’s main squeeze, though the Joker hardly reciprocated Harley’s feelings. A psychologist-turned-criminal clown, Harley was a breakout character and made the jump to the main comics continuity where she became a mainstay. As she grew more popular, her character evolved. She’s less defined by her relationship with the Joker and is more of an independent antihero in her own right.
Harley is one of just a handful of characters from the 2016 Suicide Squad who reappear in the new movie. Margot Robbie reprises the role for the third time, having starred in last year’s Birds of Prey movie as well. The continuity of recent DC movies is fluid, to say the least. This Suicide Squad isn’t really a sequel to that Suicide Squad or Birds of Prey, though Robbie has said you can track Harley’s evolution throughout the three movies all the same. Refreshingly, Harley has left the Joker in the rearview mirror this time around.
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis)
Harley Quinn isn’t the only returning member of the Squad. Viola Davis reprises her role as Amanda Waller, the government operative who runs Task Force X — the Suicide Squad’s official name. Waller first appeared in the comics in the mid-’80s and gained a reputation as one of the more powerful and intimidating non-superhero characters in the fictional universe. This is a woman who will stare down anybody — hero, villain, shark — without flinching. Her goals, and the goals of Task Force X, don’t always overlap with what DC’s superheroes might want, making her an intriguing, morally grey figure.
Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman)
Amanda Waller is the boss, but she’s not the type to go out on field missions herself. That’s where Rick Flag, another returning face from the 2016 movie, comes in. The character first appeared in the late 1950s as a member of a WWII task force known as The Suicide Squad, but his son, Rick Flag Jr., would go on to become the much more popular character and work with Task Force X as the government’s on-the-ground team leader/babysitter to all the enlisted supervillain. One of Flag’s most memorable moments came when he led the team during writer John Ostrander’s acclaimed Suicide Squad run, by which this new movie is said to be heavily inspired. Flag is once more played by For All Mankind’s Joel Kinnaman.
Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney)
Jai Courtney returns as the fourth familiar face from the 2016 film, Digger Harkness, a.k.a. Captain Boomerang. The villain is a classic foe to The Flash, having first appeared back in 1960. His whole deal, as his name suggests, is being really, really good at throwing different boomerangs, and he has a whole bunch of specialized ones with razor edges or explosives at his disposal. Captain Boomerang is a classic member of the Suicide Squad in addition to being a member of The Flash’s rogues gallery. Since Captain Boomerang has been around for more than six decades, there are plenty of stories involving him, but for the purposes of this movie, all you’ll probably need to know is that he’s Australian and he’s kind of a piece of shit.
Bloodsport (Idris Elba)
If you think that Idris Elba’s gun-wielding character Bloodsport seems an awful lot like Will Smith’s gun-wielding character from the 2016 movie, Deadshot, you’re not wrong. Elba was reportedly originally cast to replace Smith in the role, but eventually, the folks involved decided to have Elba play a separate character entirely. While less famous than Deadshot, Bloodsport does have a sizable history in the comics. First appearing in Superman comics in the 1980s, Bloodsport (real name Robert DuBois) is a man who goes a little nuts when his brother is maimed in the Vietnam War. Superman’s arch-foe Lex Luthor recruits DuBois and convinces him that the Man of Steel is the enemy, outfitting him with a bunch of high-tech weaponry and Kryptonite. The film version of Bloodsport seems much more level-headed than this comics counterpart but he’s no less dangerous. As the trailer reveals, he put Superman in the ICU with a Kryptonite bullet. This version of the character has a daughter named Tyla, played by Storm Reid.
Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchain)
Polka-Dot Man, a laughable character from Batman’s wacky Silver Age, is exactly the type of obscure joke character for which The Suicide Squad is made. First appearing in a 1962 issue of Detective Comics, Abner Krill is a criminal who wears a suit peppered with multicolor dots that he can remove and turn into useful tools or weapons. How does the suit work? Don’t worry about it. (The movie version has a different backstory and the nature of his powers are different, but the basic gist is the same: don’t worry about it.) Over the decades, the comics have given Polka-Dot Man exactly the respect he deserves (none), but it seems as though James Gunn’s film just might redeem him.
Peacemaker (John Cena)
Peacemaker is an incredible contradiction of a character. The hero first appeared in a mid-1960s Charlton Comics title, but he became part of DC continuity when the latter company bought the former. (Fun fact: The characters in Watchmen were pastiches of Charlton characters, and Peacemaker was the inspiration for The Comedian.) Peacemaker, whose real name is Christopher Smith, is just a guy who loves peace so much that he will not hesitate — not even a little — to use deadly force to ensure that there’s peace. Later comics would reveal that the reason Peacekeeper is so dead-set on creating peace is because he suffers from mental illness and is being tormented by shame because his father was a Nazi who worked at a concentration camp. The Suicide Squad’s Peacemaker, played by wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, will star in a Peacemaker spin-off series for HBO Max.
King Shark (Slyvester Stallone)
King Shark is more than just a king shark. He is a god shark. The character, who made his debut in mid-1990s Superboy comics before becoming an Aquaman villain (natch), is the son of the so-called Shark God. In early comics, his divine heritage was subject to some dispute, but later arcs made it official. What are King Shark’s superpowers, you might ask? He can do anything a shark can do, except he can also walk and talk. He is the team’s dumb muscle in The Suicide Squad, voiced by Sylvester Stallone. Steve Agee provided the on-set motion capture for King Shark.
The Thinker (Peter Capaldi)
The Thinker first appeared as a Flash villain in 1943, where he was a man by the name of Clifford DeVoe who used a “thinking cap” to turn his thoughts into force. Another version of the Thinker, Clifford Carmichael, debuted in the late ’70s and was a foe to the hero Firestorm. This version implanted parts of the original Thinker’s cap directly into his brain. The movie version of The Thinker is neither of these two characters. He is a new version named Gaius Grieves, one seemingly inspired by a more recent version of the character from the early 2010s. This Thinker’s real name is unknown in the comics, but he has incredible intelligence and predictive abilities at the expense of his own body’s health.
Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior)
The first Ratcatcher made his debut in the late 1980s as a Batman villain, a man named Otis Flannegan who left his job as a rat-catcher in Gotham City and turned to a life of crime, using his trained rats to kidnap and torture people in the sewers. Gross! However, the Ratcatcher in the film, Cleo Cazo (Daniela Melchior), is the daughter of the first Ratcatcher, making her the second person to wear the rodent mantle. (Taika Waititi plays the original Ratcatcher in The Suicide Squad in a flashback.). Will you find the film version of the first Ratcatcher as upsetting as the comic version? TBD.
Savant (Michael Rooker)
Of course longtime James Gunn collaborator Michael Rooker is in The Suicide Squad. Rooker plays Savant, a character who first appeared in a 2003 issue of Birds of Prey. Savant is basically the worst-case scenario for what Bruce Wayne could have been. Brian Durlin is the tech-savvy, supremely wealthy heir to an immense fortune, so he decides to move to Gotham and be a vigilante for kicks. When Batman tells him that he should, perhaps, stop, because he clearly is just in it for himself, Savant turns to a life of more straightforward crime.
T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion)
There is no comic book character named T.D.K. However, the character that Nathan Fillion plays in The Suicide Squad is clearly an homage to one of DC’s most infamously stupid characters, a hero named Arm-Fall-Off-Boy. He made his comics debut in 1989, when he attempted to gain entry to the Legion of Superheroes, which saves the day in the far future of DC’s universe. He was rejected because his superpower is his ability to pull off his own arms and use them as blunt weapons. Due to several reboots of DC Comics continuity, Arm-Fall-Off-Boy is no longer canon, but The Suicide Squad and T.D.K. have the potential to make him iconic.
Blackguard (Pete Davidson)
The SNL star plays a fairly minor DC super-villain. Blackguard (real name: Richard “Dick” Hertz) is a common criminal who gets recruited by the Metropolis-based organized crime organization The 1,000 and outfitted with high-tech weaponry that lets him conjure a shield and mace made of pure energy. He gets bested by the time-traveling hero Booster Gold (who is something of a C-list superhero himself, which says something about Blackguard) and then works with the comics version of the Suicide Squad for a short amount of time.
Weasel (Sean Gunn)
The original comics version of Weasel was a man, not a rodent. John Monroe made his debut in a 1985 issue of Firestorm, and he was essentially a meek guy who got fed up with people ignoring him or dismissively calling him “a weasel.” He takes revenge on those whom he perceives to have wronged him by dressing up as a weasel and murdering them, as one does. A later version of the character was more animalistic, but he was still a guy. The Suicide Squad’s version of Weasel is actually just be a big weasel.
Calendar Man (Sean Gunn)
Sean Gunn plays Weasel, but we’ll actually get to see his face as he also plays Calendar Man, an obscure but kinda neat Batman villain. Julian Gregory Day first appeared in a 1958 issue of Detective Comics, and his whole shtick was committing crimes that had something to do with the date or holiday they occurred on. His most famous appearance is in the acclaimed ‘90s storyline Batman: The Long Halloween where he’s locked up in Arkham and gives Batman advice on catching another holiday-related killer, Silence of the Lambs-style. It’s neat, but don’t expect Calendar Man to be a major focus in the movie.
Javelin (Fula Borg)
First appearing in the comics in 1984, Javelin is a former Olympic athlete who decides to become a criminal and uses his athletics prowess and javelin-throwing abilities to fight Green Lantern, a space cop with a magical ring that can create anything. Comic books are so stupid sometimes. It rules.
Mongal (Mayling Ng)
The DC supervillain Darkseid first appeared in the 1970s. It’s widely accepted that Marvel knocked aspects of Darkseid off when they introduced Thanos three years later. In 1980, DC introduced Mongul, a buff bald alien warlord who was kind of a rip-off of Thanos, who himself was inspired by Darkseid. Anyway, The Suicide Squad features Mongul’s daughter Mongal, who first appeared in a 1995 comic.
Double Down (Jared Leland Gore)
Perhaps the most minor villain in the movie is Double Down, a Flash baddie who first appeared in 2001. His whole deal is that he can peel playing cards from his skin, harnessing the cursed deck he’s bonded with. Despite being from this century, he’s a real throwback to the silly, gimmicky villains of comics’ Silver Age, which makes him a natural fit for a pop-up appearance in The Suicide Squad
The villain in The Suicide Squad — well, okay, they’re all villains, but you know what I mean — holds a special place in comics history. Starro, a giant alien starfish who can control people’s minds by latching smaller versions of himself onto their faces, was the first villain the Justice League ever fought, first appearing in the 1960 issue of The Brave and the Bold when the team made its debut. Starro, also known as Starro the Conqueror, has appeared in lots of different forms and iterations in the decades since, and in recent comics, a little kid Starro named “Jarro” became Batman’s little sidekick. It’s cute. The film version is not so cute. The trailers reveal that the Squad’s mission is to destroy every last trace of “Project Starfish,” something that, as Peacemaker learns, has nothing to do with buttholes.
That’s is for the costumed characters in The Suicide Squad, though there are a handful of other familiar faces from the comics that we can briefly cover. In addition to doing the on-set motion capture for King Shark, Steve Agee also plays John Economos, the warden at Belle Reve prison, where most of the villains are locked up. Tinashe Kajese plays Flo Crawley, a mission coordinator for Task Force X, and Jennifer Holland plays Emilia Harcourt, who in the comics is an NSA agent working with the Waller.