A look at the film’s supervillain characters and their origins in the comics.
Taking on a giant intergalactic world-conquering starfish might look like a job for Superman, but in “The Suicide Squad” it’s up to the D-list supervillains of Task Force X to save the day … or, more frequently, die trying.
Following David Ayer’s 2016 “Suicide Squad,” this new take from James Gunn (in theaters and on HBO Max) brings back Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), while adding a new set of squad members pulled from deep in the pages of DC Comics history. Here’s a guide to the comic book origins of a few of these lesser-known squad members.
A reluctant leader of Task Force X, Robert DuBois (Idris Elba) is a skilled mercenary who goes by the name Bloodsport. The character first appeared in the Superman comic series in 1987. DuBois evaded the draft for the Vietnam War, but his brother went in his place and lost both arms and legs in combat. Robert has a mental breakdown in response and goes on a murderous rampage against innocent civilians. His brother eventually talks him down, but not before Robert seriously injures Superman with a kryptonite bullet.
The comic book character Bloodsport was endowed with technology that allowed him to seemingly pull weapons from thin air, and the film incarnation achieves a similar effect by hiding weapons throughout his armor. While his Vietnam-era motivation has been dropped for the film, Bloodsport’s family remains important to him: He joins the squad to prevent his daughter from going to prison for a petty crime, a sentence threatened by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the vindictive head of Task Force X.
In the film, John Cena plays this self-described pacifist who will kill anyone he needs to in his quest to preserve peace. In this embodiment, the character is much less conflicted over the contradictions between his mission and his methods than when he debuted in the Charlton Comics series Fightin’ 5 in 1966. He was Christopher Smith, a diplomat who resorts to fighting crime using nonlethal tactics. DC Comics acquired Charlton’s characters in the 1980s, and Peacemaker was reinvented as a more lethal figure, a persona akin to Marvel’s Punisher, albeit more psychotic.
Peacemaker’s bizarre helmet originally had the ability to shoot lasers, and for a time he thought it allowed him to communicate with the souls of the people he had killed, though that was later revealed to be a symptom of mental illness. Cena will be reprising the character in a “Peacemaker” TV series coming to HBO Max.
Cleo Cazo (Daniela Melchior) is a female interpretation of the Ratcatcher, a Batman villain who first appeared in Detective Comics in 1988. The original Ratcatcher was a rodent expert who trained rats to attack and kill his enemies. His real identity was Otis Flannegan, a sanitation worker who was sent to prison for murder. He sought revenge by holding captive the people who put him away, though Batman eventually discovered his hide-out and freed his surviving prisoners.
Kinder and friendlier than her comic book counterpart, the film’s Ratcatcher 2 was imprisoned unfairly when her ability to control rats was considered a deadly weapon. As her name implies, she’s not the first; her father appears in flashbacks and is played by the filmmaker Taika Waititi.
Portrayed by David Dastmalchian in the film, Polka-Dot Man is emblematic of Batman’s campier adversaries of the 1960s. In the comics, Abner Krill, who originally went by the name Mister Polka-Dot, was a criminal with access to an array of dot-shaped weapons and technology, including buzz-saw dots, projectile dots and dots that could be assembled into a flying saucer.
Given the silliness of the character (Gunn called him the “dumbest DC character of all time”), it may not be surprising to discover that Polka-Dot Man has made very few appearances in comics over the years. His powers were also revised for the film; rather than using polka-dot technology, he now has a disturbing condition that causes deadly polka dots to grow inside his body; if they are not expelled, they will kill him.
King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) is an extremely dangerous and extremely dumb human-shark hybrid. The character first appeared in an issue of Superboy in 1994, but he has been a nemesis to Aquaman as well. Unlike most of the other characters in the film, King Shark has a long history of being on the Suicide Squad in the comics, and he was originally considered for inclusion in the first movie.
Though the character was redesigned to be a hammerhead back in 2011, the film reverts to his original great white shark appearance. Most recently, a tech geek version of King Shark voiced by Ron Funches appeared on the “Harley Quinn” animated series. While less evil than his comic book counterpart, he still maintains his taste for human flesh.