A team of expendable criminals and damaged heroes in The DCU who are sent on missions expected to have a very high mortality rate.The first Suicide Squad printed was a try-out feature in The Brave and the Bold, starting in #25 (August-September, 1959) and appearing on and off up to #39 (December, 1961-January, 1962). They were a quartet of non-powered adventurers who fought monstrous menaces, as was common in the 1950s. Despite the name, none of them actually died in the original stories.There was also a World War II team called the Suicide Squad, or possibly two of them. One was a feature in Star-Spangled War Stories from `1963-1966 fighting "The War That Time Forgot"; it was a top secret Ranger outfit trained to handle missions ordinary volunteers would not survive. The other was a Dirty Dozen-style collection of military riff-raff and criminals assembled to handle Suicide Missions. It was retconned into existence to provide a through line from the World War Two version, through the Fifties version to the new Suicide Squad debuting in the 1980s.The modern version debuted in Legends #3 (January, 1987). In that Crisis Crossover event, Darkseid had manipulated events such that superheroes were unable to operate in public. So when the nuclear menace Brimstone appeared, the job of stopping it was handed over to Task Force X, a secret government agency dedicated to handling paranormal menaces that had languished since the beginning of the modern superhero boom. The agency deployed their newly created "Suicide Squad" team, which succeeded in destroying Brimstone, at the cost of the first Blockbuster's life.The team was then spun off into their own series, Suicide Squad, starting in May, 1987 and was written by John Ostrander. The premise was that of a covert ops team that would handle situations too shady or bloody for the government to call regular superheroes in on. Most of the operatives were costumed criminals who served in exchange for reduced jail terms, shepherded by a few dark or damaged heroes. For easy access to their personnel, the team operated out of Belle Reve prison in Louisiana.The head of the Suicide Squad was a character almost unique in super-hero comics, Amanda Waller. She was a middle-aged, full-figured black woman who'd clawed her way out of poverty to become a well-respected political operative. Ms. Waller was also a rare female Magnificent Bastard who would stop at nothing to act in the interests of the United States as she saw them. (Later appearances in other series have tended to leave off the "magnificent" part.)The field leader for the first part of the series was Rick Flag, Jr. A Badass Normal special forces officer, he was (supposedly) the Sole Survivor of the previous Suicide Squad incarnation. Ultimately got killed off and replaced by his second in command Bronze Tiger, a martial artist who'd become The Atoner after serving the League of Assassins while Brainwashed and Crazy.
Other important personnel
Captain Boomerang, depicted as the dirty coward's Dirty Coward. Master of the Precision-Guided Boomerang, he had joined the team largely to get that shortened prison sentence, but his stay on the team kept getting extended because of his cowardice, constant engagement in criminal activities while on leave from the team, and disdain for Amanda Waller.
Count Vertigo, an inbred noble with a Disability Superpower. The device used to correct his inner-ear problem allowed him to project nausea and loss of balance to others. At the time he was a member of the Suicide Squad, Vertigo suffered from manic-depressive behavior, and was something of a Death Seeker.
Duchess, a mysterious woman with a warrior mentality and Laser-Guided Amnesia. The amnesia wore off (though she didn't let on for a while), and Duchess was eventually revealed to be Lashina, one of Darkseid's minions who was betrayed by her fellow Female Fury member.
Enchantress, aka June Moone, who had a Superpowered Evil Side with strong magical abilities. Once activated, she would quickly become as much a menace to the team as to their opponents.
Nightshade, a Half-Human Hybrid with darkness-related powers and the ability to effectively teleport by moving herself and others through another dimension.
Oracle, a.k.a. Barbara Gordon, who'd reinvented herself after her crippling at the hands of the Joker to become a computer whiz.
Ravan, a Thugee (though his version of the religion was clearly stated as non-standard) and former member of the Jihad, the Suicide Squad's archenemies. He served very unwillingly, but liked the killing part.
and Vixen, a then-former member of the Justice League with animal-related powers, who joined up after drug dealers killed everyone else at a modeling shoot.
Eventually, the Suicide Squad's existence was revealed to the public and later the operation was shut down and Amanda Waller sent to prison for crimes committed while head of the team. She was later offered a pardon in exchange for performing services for the government (the poetic justice of this did not escape anyone) and the Suicide Squad was reformed as a private contractor, though still with the ability to recruit convicted criminals as needed. The series ended with issue #66 (June, 1992).There were various incarnations of the Squad appearing in other titles for a few years, then a new Suicide Squad series began in 2001. Written by Keith Giffen, this version was headed by Frank ("Sergeant") Rock, and lasted only twelve issues. The series ended on the cliffhanger that Rock may have been an impostor, and leaving open the question of just who that version of the Squad had actually worked for.The Squad has since been reformed under Amanda Waller's leadership, appearing in 52, Checkmate and the limited series Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag, which brought back Rick Flagg Jr. as a brainwashed pawn of General Eiling.A new series launched in 2011 as part of the line-wide revamp of The DCU. The series, written by Adam Glass and drawn by Marco Rudy, will star redesigned versions of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and King Shark, among others.The Suicide Squad made an appearance on Justice League Unlimited under its original name of Task Force X, as the word "suicide" was considered off limits for the young audience (Though Superman calls Batman's plan to kamikaze the space station into the doom machine "suicide"). Therein the team consisted of Rick Flagg, Deadshot, Plastique, Captain Boomerang, and Clock King, working under the purview of Amanda Waller.The Squad also appeared during the tenth season of Smallville (with a lineup of Rick Flag, Deadshot, Plastique, and Warp), and the second season of Arrow (with a lineup of John Diggle, Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, and Shrapnel). A movie is also in development.Not related to Monty Python's Life of Brian's Seppuku squad.
This comicbook series provides examples of the following:
Adaptational Attractiveness: In the New 52 reboot, the heavyset Amanda Waller becomes much slimmer, younger, and more conventionally attractive.
Affirmative Action Legacy: Both Jaculi and the Djinn of Jihad are replaced by women - a new Jaculi and Ifrit (who was formerly Mindboggler).
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Deadshot; his therapist Marnie Herrs falls for him (and he's clearly not indifferent to her), but when she realizes that he's not interested in fixing his damage, and that Waller won't support her in trying, she sensibly walks out.
Played straight with Waller's niece, Flo, a filing clerk who has a thing for reformed Psycho for Hire Bronze Tiger. Tiger's hooked up with supermodel superhero Vixen. To impress him, Flo decides to go on to field duty for just one mission, which leads us directly to an entirely different trope.
Animal-Themed Superbeing: Vixen is the All Animal Abilities type. Raven and Bronze Tiger, Black Spider, and the Penguin are the Animal Alias types. King Shark is the Animal Abilities type.
And how. Lampshaded in one early arc where everyone comes home alive, prompting even the callous and selfish Captain Boomerang to smile at the thought. Then the squad finds out they were on a decoy milk run, and the real job ended a failure with ten dead and one survivor, the bulk of the damage being infighting.
Another run took the team to fight Darkseid. Any other comic would have had perhaps a token death. The Squad loses several long-time members, including supporting cast.
Ascended Extra: The series was well known for this with its few surviving members. Deadshot and Captain Boomerang were originally minor villains for Batman and Flash, rarely used and barely remembered as gimmick villains. Few people remember Deadshot was originally intended as a Batman nemesis, and Captain Boomerang is the most famous and visible member of the Rogues.
One of the best examples is with a Batman sidekick who was crippled in a mix of Canon Immigration and Executive Meddling, as Batman went from having a host of supporting cast to just Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, and his girlfriend of the week. The character might have languished in obscurity if the creators of Suicide Squad hadn't decided to redress the damage. Over the next 25 years Barbara Gordon's past as Batgirl was almost entirely eclipsed in favor of her ongoing career as Oracle (until a universe-wide reboot put her back in the cape and cowl).
The Atoner: El Diablo, ever since he assaulted the base of a gang that refused to pay him homage — and accidentally killed the bangers' innocent girlfriends and children he didn't know were inside. He didn't resist when the police came, and ever since has devoted himself to God for forgiveness.
Ax-Crazy: Several people, but Deadshot wins here. An early mission involved a rogue squad agent attempting to assassinate a senator blackmailing the squad. Deadshot's orders are to prevent the rogue agent from killing the senator, by any means necessary. Deadshot kills the senator, and is genuinely surprised when he's later rebuked. Afterwards, Deadshot's surrounded by armed police who demands he throw down his weapons. He agrees, stating "bullets first", trying to gun down as many cops as he can before he goes, too.
Badass: Most notably Deadshot, but most other characters had their moments.
Badass Boast: Deadshot, after William Telling Captain Boomerang, says it was an easy shot. So easy, in fact, he did so with his eyes closed. Flipping back the pages reveals he really did just that.
Later in the series, Bronze Tiger is forced to recruit squad members from Arkham Asylum, including the finally-diagnosed Ax-Crazy Deadshot. Deadshot refuses to fall to the bait, knowing he'd survive any mission he'd go on, and attempting to provoke Tiger into killing him. Tiger responds by threatening to break Deadshot's hands in such a way he'd never hold a gun again, and instantly Deadshot falls into compliance.
Captain Cold gets a quotable one during his brief stint on the team:
Hate is cold! Hell is cold! And sucker, I am Captain Cold!
Also Amanda Waller, to the point where she's nicknamed "the Wall", and even her nominal allies and friends can't predict her.
Waller gets points for being one of the few people who fans celebrate as being able to stare down BATMAN, and who once tried to shoot Darkseid.
Ben Turner aka The Bronze Tiger one of the few men to take down Batman in one on one combat.
Bad Habits: The Penguin went on an undercover mission in Russia disguised as a Russian Orthodox priest.
Batman Gambit: Unsurprisingly, Bats is not a fan of the squad, and infiltrates their headquarters seeking evidence needed to shut them down. He finds it, despite everyone looking in the wrong place. And then Amanda Waller stares him down, revealing she's got his fingerprints, since he didn't wear gloves in his disguise.
Referenced obliquely in the Justice League cartoon, when Batman threatens to expose her operations:
Amanda Waller: "Back off, rich boy."
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Played with. Apparently, Control, a one-time nemesis of the Squad, arranged a second Nedelin Catastrophe in retaliation for JFK's death.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Invoked by one of the Limelight Twins after Savant and Deadshot exchange harsh words: "Ugh, you two should kiss already."
Blinded by the Light: Harley Quinn does it to Deadshot in #7 of the reboot series. She kills the lights, waits for him to turn on his lowlight scope and then ignites a magnesium flare.
Boomerang Comeback: Captain Boomerang does it to Jaculi of the Jihad in the second issue. Surprisingly badass.
Boxed Crook: The criminals were offered shorter sentences in exchange for their services—the "stick" was an explosive bracelet that would go off if the wearer got too far from the team leader, or at the leader's discretion.
Or at the fact that they were working with other criminals. The Squad did infighting like a bad RPG session.
The series itself shows this is a bad idea, and the original offer was sentence commuted outright. Captain Boomerang screws it for everyone.
Brainwash Residue: The reason why Bronze Tiger always declines to lead the Squad; he's afraid the brainwashing he received at the hands of the League of Assassins could kick in any time.
Rick Flag consults him on how to avert this in Raise the Flag.
Breaking Speech: Kobra uses this on the Hayoth's AI member Dybbuk to convince him he has to prove to everyone he isn't a puppet made by some programmers, and gives him a couple of ideas...
The Cape: A recurring problem for the Squad. Not only were most of their members supposed to be in prison, but the missions were often shady at best—not something you want a law-abiding hero to know about.
Cardboard Prison: The official cover story during the early part of the series was that any operative seen in public had somehow escaped from Belle Reve, and coincidentally happened to deal with the emergency situation.
Also the General, which is why Waller finds it so satisfying to keep him under her thumb.
Circle of Shame: Captain Boomerang experiences a hallucinatory one when Mindboggler unleashes his greatest fear in an early issue. He hallucinates that he surrounded by the superheroes who have defeated him the past; all laughing at him.
Clingy MacGuffin / Instant Allegiance Artifact: The Thinker helmet. It has no will of its own, but it's suggested it amplifies the negative aspects of the personality of the wearer. Combined with the massive intellect boost, most people are likely to get very easily hooked. Amanda herself, not the most shining example of morality, wore it briefly to locate the second Thinker and began developing the addiction, and proposed using it as a piece of her personal arsenal. However, she was broken out of it by an old friend, who asked whether he was speaking to Amanda... or to the helmet. She was so pissed at being manipulated by a non-sentient thing, she shatters the helmet, screamingSHE'Sin charge. She very briefly regrets doing so.
C-List Fodder: Pretty much all the characters who weren't created specifically for the series, though some of them got promoted to B- or A-list during or subsequent to their use in Suicide Squad.
Even then, nobody was safe. One arc memorably ended with the bulk of the supporting cast dead in a mission that was suicidal, even for the squad. Only the goddamn Batman should try pulling a gun on Darkseid.
Darker and Edgier: Right around the time the 90s Dork Age was starting up, with overstylized costumes and ridiculous storylines, the book took this approach and made it work. The team became mercenaries for hire, saboteurs and spies, and lost the costumes entirely for upwards of 20 issues. The body count got higher, the crazy people got crazier, and none of it felt gratuitous.
Darkest Hour: When Amanda gets revealed as still controlling the Squad, when she was supposed to be out of the game, the public goes feral. It got From Bad to Worse when Deadshot killed a senator and evidence appeared that revealed the Squad was imperiled by the senator. Amanda is logically assumed to have ordered the hit (she didn't - Deadshot just got creative with his orders) and with most of the Squad's supporting cast dead, Amanda was ready to quit it - except the LOA crime syndicate was still running about, and she had her Boxed Crook privileges for one last night...
Deadpan Snarker: Amanda. What's her reaction upon hearing Boomerang wants to quit?
Amanda Waller: "Fine. You're fired. Go get a real job."
Death Seeker: Deadshot, Count Vertigo, and probably a few of the characters who died.
Exact Words: Deadshot had a problem with this, as seen above. Since these events, Deadshot has continued to abide by his very exact word, a trait that has continued into Secret Six. Everybody who works with him is rather irritated to observe their own orders thrown back at them with such flippancy.
Fake Memories: Raise the Flag establishes that Rick Flag Jr. is actually a random soldier brainwashed into that identity.
Freak Out: Harley has one in #4 when she finds out the Joker is dead. The next several issues are about her going rogue and the Squad's attempts to recover her.
Get Into Jail Free: In #6 of the reboot, Harley Quinn shoots up a police car outside of a police station in order to get herself arrested and taken inside the station where the Joker's skinned face is being kept.
Also Doctor Light, who had suffered Bad Ass Decay on a level rarely seen, going from taking on the assembled Justice League, to infamously being a repeat Butt Monkey for the Teen Titans, to getting defeated by unpowered child commandos due to phobias about kids overpowering him... until he overcame his phobia by killing a kid hero on a mission, laughing about his newfound 'success'.
Iron Lady: Amanda, in spades. However, her own issues often led her to devolve into Evil Matriarch territory, most notably her possessiveness.
Jerk Ass: Captain Boomerang is one of the best examples.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Even though the 1980s series is fondly remembered by many, a single trade paperback has only recently been released. A showcase collection was announced, but never materialized.
Loads and Loads of Characters: The Squad over all its incarnations has had over a hundred members, enough to rival most other teams who've been around since the 60s. Granted, most of the members don't stay that way for long...
Lodged Blade Recycling: When they wound up on Apokolips, Count Vertigo is stabbed by Kanto; some time later, he turns out to have been playing possum and stabs Kanto in the back with his own dagger.
Martial Pacifist: El Diablo is extremely loath to use his powers unless he believes doing so is in some way vanquishing evil. This includes refusing to defend himself from ravenous zombies until he has absolutely no choice — because his attackers are innocents.
Mercy Kill: Amanada Waller does this to Duren after he is mutated by Regulus's bomb in Suicide Squad #0. It was this act that made her determined that any future special ops team she commanded would be composed of disposable operatives.
Mugged for Disguise: When the Thuggee cultist Ravan joins the Squad, he practically brags that he didn't get any blood on the uniforms he had just acquired for the team, leaving Bronze Tiger to remember just what kind of person Ravan was.
The Plan: Kobra's plan to trigger WWIII. He gives some pointers to Dybbuk, as seen in Breaking Speech above: one, do something his makers really wouldn't want him to do. Two, see if said action can't wind up doing some good. Three: there's this old, ugly building which is preventing the most glorious temple for virtually every major Western religion ever from being built. Why not level it and see to the construction of the temple? How was that old mess called, anyway? The Dome of the Rock?
Pregnant Hostage: In the second issue of the 2011 series, it is revealed that the MacGuffin the Squad is sent into the stadium to retrieve is a preganant woman. Although, this being Suicide Squad, all is not as it seems.
Redemption Equals Death: Pretty much the point of the series. Played for laughs with Dr. Light, who announced he intended to turn his back on villainy to be a true and noble hero. He's shot from a dozen angles in the next panel.
Red Herring Mole: The writer introduced Manhunter into the book specifically to tease him as this.
Resignations Not Accepted: Especially Captain Boomerang, who just never seemed to be able to get off the Squad for any considerable length of time. While he was dead, the Squad recruited his son, Captain Boomerang, Jr. With Junior dead and the original back, it's only a matter of time before Amanda Waller gets her hands on him again.
Rhetorical Request Blunder: A shellshocked Rick Flag discovered a Congressman was trying to blackmail the Squad into ensuring his re-election with the risk of exposure, so he set out to kill him. Amanda Waller gave Deadshot (who was not exactly stable at this point) the order to stop Flag from killing the Congressman by any means necessary. Deadshot did so — by killing the Congressman himself.
Rubber Man: Yo-Yo discovers his stretching powers after he survives being eaten by King Shark.
Sacrificial Lamb: In the first issue of every run, somebody goes. Mindboggler, almost the entire Injustice League, and Savant, though in the last case he wasn't actually killed and was a member of the team again later on.
Shock Collar: The more villainous members of DC's Suicide Squad were fitted with these on missions. If they got too out of line, the collar could also be commanded to blow off their heads.
Shoo Out the Clowns: The pie-throwing Running Gag ends just as an especially brutal conflict reaches the Squad. Vixen and Bronze Tiger's relationship is destroyed by Sarge Steel just before the LOA mess, destroying much of whatever light-heartedness Suicide Squad had at the time.
"Oh no! That's me...and I don't look at all well! I'm dead!"
Slipping a Mickey: More than once, the Squad gets around Boomerang's lack of interest in getting killed by drugging his drink and dragging him off; by the time he wakes up, fighting is his only option.
Sole Survivor: Rick Flag, more than once; it takes an increasing emotional toll on him.
This was typically the case with any of the nobler members of the team. If anyone with heroic tendencies stayed on, it was usually because they knew things would get worse for the others if they left.
The first issue of the 2001 series ended with Major Disaster the only known survivor of the mission — though it was later revealed that Cluemaster survived as well.
Spiritual Successor: Several series have, since the book's cancellation, been heavily inspired by Suicide Squad. Thunderbolts (especially post-Civil War) and Secret Six exist mainly because of the popularity of Suicide Squad.
Especially the Secret Six, since Deadshot is one of its main characters.
Word of God says Deadshot's only in Secret Six exactly as long as he's not needed in a Suicide Squad book. Recently confirmed with the cancellation of Secret Six and the return of Suicide Squad.
Captain Boomerang is especially adept at this, killing and maiming several people over the course of the series precisely because nobody expects him to be anything more than a joke.
Tattooed Crook: El Diablo. They have something to do with his powers; they disappear if he really exerts himself, necessitating him to get inked again as soon as possible.
There Are No Therapists: Averted. Both professional psychiatric doctors and a chaplain were important and useful characters.
Time Skip: The first series has a year-long gap in the middle, during which the Squad is disbanded and Amanda is in prison.
Too Dumb to Live: Boomerang took a program that offered him immense benefits and tried to spin it so he could use it to keep commiting crimes at his leisure under the persona of Mirror Master. Then he got caught... as Mirror Master, and got drafted into the Squad as well. It didn't end well for him.
Yo-yo in the New 52 reboot. He thought King Shark was too still and got too close while in his vulnerable thin form, effectively giving King Shark a free meal of thinly-sliced deli meat. That said, Yo-Yo survived and managed to crawl out of King Shark's mouth several issues later.
Also from the original series, Derek Tolliver. First, he sent the Squad on the disastrous Flight of the Firebird arc, assuming the titular dissenter would want to escape, never thinking he might be dealing with, oh, let's say, someone who would die for her beliefs. He was strongly chewed out by Waller, and to salvage his career, leaked the Squad's existence to the moronic senator Joe Cray to force Waller's hand. It ended very badly for both Tolliver and Cray.
Too Kinky to Torture: Harley Quinn. Hell, everyone in the new Squad. You gotta wallow in this trope, just to enter the Squad.
Two-Timer Date: Boomerang once tried to take part on a mission as both himself and Mirror Master. Turns out the whole thing was orchestrated by Waller to let Boomerang know that she was on to his little masquerade and humiliate him in the process.
Unwanted Rescue: In the "Flight of the Firebird" arc, the Squad is sent into Russia to free a dissident writer from The Gulag. After breaking her out, they discover that she did not want to be rescued. So long as she was in prison, she was a symbol to other dissidents. If she escaped, she became just another defector. Ultimately she was killed during the escape attempt, thus becoming a martyr.
Villain's Dying Grace: Inverted. After the Apokolips debacle, Darkseid inflicted a particularly brutal fate to the Squad: returning them home so they could stew in their memory of the pointless deaths and how it could all have been avoided. This resulted in many cases of Survivor Guilt, up to and including Amanda, who has since become near-suicidally reckless. Given what said God of Evil subjected them to...
Villainous Breakdown: When Deadshot kills Senator Cray, his mind crumbles. He's left with the belief he finally succeeded in his first killing - the death of his father, as commanded by his mother - with Flag as a stand-in for his brother, who he'd accidentally killed instead of his old man. His Ax-Crazy persona kicks in then. Things get worse.
What the Hell, Hero?: Several people do this over the course of the series, mostly to Amanda Waller.
William Telling: Deadshot does it to Captain Boomerang in an early issue as part of a plan to discredit a vigilante called William Hell. Boomerang was not pleased.