Waller is the epitome of the black boss lady trope, as well as being one of the most morally ambiguous DC characters. She dances atop the line between anti-hero and anti-villain (depending on the writer) and frequently commits immoral acts in the pursuit of American dominance.
Over the years, Waller has been the head of various secret governmental organizations like the Suicide Squad, Checkmate, Belle Reve Penitentiary, CADMUS, and ARGUS — and even the principal of a high school for young superheroes.
The character appears frequently in other media, having been portrayed by a variety of well-respected black actresses (see works featured below).
Amanda Waller appears in the following media:Notable Comics
- Suicide Squad (all volumes, 1987 — present)
Films — Animation
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), voiced by voiced by C.C.H. Pounder
- Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014), voiced by C.C.H. Pounder
- Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015), voiced by Penny Johnson Jerald
- Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018), voiced by Vanessa Williams
Films — Live-Action
- DC Universe Online (2011), voiced by Debra Cole
- Batman: Arkham Origins (2013), voiced by C.C.H. Pounder
- LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (2014), voiced by Cynthia Addai-Robinson
- Batman: The Enemy Within (2017), voiced by Debra Wilson
- Justice League Unlimited (2004 — 2006), voiced by C.C.H. Pounder
- Young Justice (2011), voiced by Sheryl Lee Ralph
- DC Super Hero Girls (2015 — present), voiced by Yvette Nicole Brown
Amanda Waller provides examples of:
- Action Girl: She's fat and menopausic. Do not assume this makes her helpless in any way. In the second half of the original Suicide Squad, she was even able to join the Squad in the front lines and pull her weight with her superpowered operatives, and even before then she was shown to be well trained in firearms and strong and skilled in combat enough to actually fight off Granny Goodness, a bonafide alien goddess.
- Adaptational Attractiveness:
- Many live-action adaptations will cast thinner and more attractive actresses for Waller.
- The New 52 not only made her thinner, but also younger as she was originally middle-aged in addition to overweight. Later issues◊ have toned down her attractiveness, making her more of a traditional Black Boss Lady than a supermodel.
- Adaptational Dumbass: Some non-comic depictions of Amanda portray her with a real ego problem, if not a full-fledged case of Too Clever by Half, usually to better portray her as a villain or otherwise make it clear that she is not the hero.
- Adaptational Heroism:
- The DC Animated Universe version of Amanda is Lighter and Softer, more sincere and has some standards she won't cross, unlike her comic book counterpart... although these standards are kind of fickle, since we learn she had planned to create a "Batman 2.0" by assassinating an innocent pair of parents to traumatize a child (though she did relent when the would-be assassin pointed out the immorality of the plan). She also shows some elements of humility and regret at her actions:
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies has her call out Lex Luthor on his more extreme issues and upon realizing his insanity, Waller assists the title heroes and even orders a general to arrest Luthor.
- Justice League: Gods and Monsters has her as the President of the United States and while she still had countermeasures developed to deal with the League, given this League is composed of three violent jackasses, no one can blame her.
- Adaptational Villainy: A number of adaptations play her as a corrupt bureaucrat of her own, using ARGUS or Task Force X to handle her personal dirty work rather than being for the greater good.
- Batman: Assault on Arkham has her commission the Suicide Squad to retrieve sensitive information Riddler stole detailing her own crimes. The movie ends with Deadshot trying to kill her in the last moments as karmic retribution, but DLC for Batman Arkham Underworld takes places afterward Assault and reveals Batman stopped Floyd before he could kill her.
- The version of her that appeared in Arrow took her Bad Boss tendencies beyond Up to Eleven, blackmailing almost every field operative she had and then treating everybody in her Agency as expendable fodder, being a pretty clear example of The Sociopath. She was so bad that the reason she had a bridge dropped on her on the fourth season (other than behind-the-scenes issues) was because the leader of the men who had taken ARGUS hostage decided to kill her once it was clear that she would allow all the other hostages to die and got disgusted over it.
- Her Suicide Squad (2016) version had no problem casually blowing away a dozen subordinates that were trapped in the command center with her by herself for the sake of keeping secret how much she'd screwed the pooch with Enchantress. Deadshot (who saw her do it) had a brief moment of shock over said slaying.
- In Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, the entire plot is Amanda selfishly using the Squad to track down a mystical artifact that will guarantee that she goes to Heaven upon her death, regardless of her wrongdoings in life, because she's well-aware that she's done things that were wrong. Her Bad Boss credentials are in full display, and she critically underestimates or misuses her team several times. It's then followed by a comic tie-in where she then repeats the process to find another such token, as she's afraid that The Spectre is personally coming for her.
- Anti-Villain/Anti-Hero: Depending on the story and the writer. Her position has placed as both an ally and an antagonist to superheroes in the DC Universe, and in either case she is trying to do good but relying on extreme methods.
- Arch-Enemy: Major Zastrow, her Soviet counterpart, in the first Suicide Squad with his very own Soviet metahuman hit squad, The Red Shadows.
- Bad Boss: To the Suicide Squad: she puts freaking bombs in their heads, in case they get any ideas about escape. However, this is justified, in that the Squad is made up of murderers and other criminals.
- Black Boss Lady: Amanda Waller, in any organizations, is widely recognized as one of the few people who can make Batman think twice about messing with her. Heck, she's taken on Granny Goodness (right-hand woman to Darkseid) and walked away.
- Boxed Crook: After her ill-advised stint as part of the Lex Luthor Administration, which resulted in her being implicated in a number of criminal activities, she was offered the job of White Queen of the newly-revamped Checkmate, in the naive hope that the rigors of setting international metahuman policy would keep her busy and prevent her from running any more supervillain task forces on the side. It didn't work.
- Broken Bird: Hard to believe, but Amanda Waller was once just a more-or-less normal housewife with a family and children. Unfortunately, her husband and several of her children died in the Cabrini-Green sprawl, and she fell on very hard times to the point she had to go on government welfare to keep her children alive. Being proud as the devil, Amanda successfully clawed her way out without relying on anybody else, whether it be any further welfare or extended family, and reached her current status as one of DC's premier masterminds. Her sister confessed in-series she was plainly terrified of Amanda's dark side overtaking her and eventually getting her killed.
- Consummate Professional: All she cares for is the mission. Everything else can go hang.
- Control Freak: She has a definite domineering streak to the point it functions as a strength and a character flaw. Amanda herself puts it best in a flashback:Amanda Waller: I am not taking no more charity — not from kin, not from friends, and especially not from no damn government! The taste of it rots in my mouth! I'm gonna get me power over my own life! And heaven help the one who tries to take that power from me!
- Crazy-Prepared: Waller does a real number on Harcourt that puts her high in the Magnificent Bastard territory: she manages to trick her into revealing her source, all the while having secretly removed four bullets from her gun that morning so when she has Waller at her supposed mercy, she's defenseless, while Waller has Captain Boomerang kill her with a well-placed boomerang. All this while she tells Harcourt before she dies, "You have achieved nothing for The People. Other than betraying them. You murdered Hack, and now you're going to fry."
- Dark and Troubled Past: Waller was once just a normal housewife trying to eke a living in a bad area of Chicago with her family. Then her eldest son, who was all set to leave the area on a full scholarship, was killed on a mugging gone wrong. While she was still reeling from the death, a rapist approached her daughter, and when she fought, he killed her. Neighbors only responded to the screams by closing their windows. It was a closed casket funeral. Her husband confronted and killed said rapist - and died in turn. Small wonder she's so determined to secure power for herself and establish control over whatever she deems necessary.
- Dark Secret: Before the current Squad was formed, she commanded an older iteration composed of Doctor Polaris, Emerald Empress, Rustam, Johnny Sorrow and Lobo.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Dependence on others is a tremendous Berserk Button for her. This, coupled with her pride, makes her insufferably arrogant and abrasive even when others are genuinely trying to help her. And may God help you if you actually think showing sympathy for the horror that is her life is going to help anyone.
- The Dreaded: Despite having no powers, she's not above capturing villains, sending them to death trap planets, putting bombs in them, recruiting them into the Suicide Squad, and using the bombs if the crooks step out of line. She also goes against heroes in addition to the bad guys and as the picture quote points out, even Batman, another example of this trope, is afraid of her.
- Establishing Character Moment: Her first appearance◊ in Legends has her laying down the law to Flag.Flag: Are you out of your cotton-picking mind, lady?
Waller: Frankly, I couldnt be more serious, colonel! And by the way, if you ever again call anything about me cotton-picking, mister - Ill stuff those bright, shiny eagles on your shoulders so far up your butt, theyll be able to nest in your skull!
- Expy: Her character model and parts of her personality were based on Nell Carter, according to Mike Gold.
- The Extremist Was Right: She's a brutal disciplinarian and demands the same obedience from assistants and assassins. One of the people Amanda alienated with her cavalier attitude, Dr. Simon LaGrieve, eventually came to think better of her once he entered a similar position as head of a metahuman research institute.
- Faking the Dead: After Rustam made it clear he was capable and willing to use her family to get to her, she laid a trap for him. Knowing he was going to approach Deadshot, she beat him to the punch and offered Lawton an excellent deal in exchange for participating in the con. Using a literal magic bullet courtesy of Enchantress, she was shot in the heart and sent into suspension for several hours, during which she was declared dead. Afterwards she was revived and oversaw Rustam's plan's collapse, but not before she experienced the pain of dying and seeing her family mourn her. She describes the experience overall as literally seeing Hell.
- Fat Bitch: She's frequently depicted as overweight and as this page shows, calling her "not nice" is an understatement. She is a stubborn, hard-arsed, surly, demanding and abrasive sort of woman.
- Foil: To Batman. Both are extremely pragmatic and intelligent manipulators who don't trust anyone else to get the job done, but one is a rich white guy who inherited a fortune that adheres to a higher moral code of protecting civilians from criminals and compassion towards human life while the other is black woman who came from poverty, clawing and scratching her way to power, but abides by a Machiavellian moral code and is willing to make whatever sacrifice is needed for her greater good.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: She started off a housewife before her family died. Now she's one of DC's premier Chessmasters.
- Gonk: Depending on the Artist, but she is traditionally depicted as overweight, middle-aged, harsh-featured and frankly kind of ugly.
- Good Is Not Nice: In the times she's hasn't crossed the line, she's still one of the most darkly pragmatic characters.
- Grey and Black Morality: She is never portrayed positively and is literally shown as only preferable in comparison to the overtly destructive and monstrous villains she is up against.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Post-Zero Hour! Amanda led a Suicide Squad strikeforce to attack the Kingdom Come's satellite, New Oa in the Convergence event. Knowing she wasn't going to get out alive one way or the other, she packed enough explosives to reduce the station to rubble under her jacket.
- Utterly drained after a particularly traumatic gambit, she tries to take a Kryptonite bomb into the Black Vault to shut it down from the inside. However, Rick Flag tears the bomb away from her and dives into the Vault himself.
- Heroic Willpower: If this woman wants something, she'll get it and damn the cost. After the deaths of her husband and two of her five children, she struggled without respite until she'd successfully left Chicago behind, put her remaining kids through college, and graduated herself in Political Sciences. Her determination and brilliance made her a priceless addition to the campaign of a Congress hopeful (who, by all accounts, was put in office by her efforts) and later on proved key to the reformation of the Squad.
- So far, she's the only person to ever have shaken off Max Lord's mind control powers, deny the temptation the Thinker helmet offered her, and was able to resist the Diabloverde jungle's hellish hallucinations. Granted, she was still visibly affected in all cases, but she still ended in charge of all three situations while still being able to get right back to work after.
- Humans Are Flawed: Her personal thoughts on the matter:Amanda Waller: Nobody can decide for anybody else to be well or strong or whole. People have to decide that on their own — and you have to let 'em.
- I Am a Monster: She has, entirely unironically, accepted the metaphorical albatross around her neck and given up all hope of ever sleeping soundly again. Whenever she's given a "Reason You Suck" Speech or at point into her flaws, she just grimaces and accepts it, acknowledging how monstrous she's become in life.
Amanda Waller:...I don't understand. This feels like losing. But I won.
- Rustam tore her world apart through this, forcing Amanda to expose herself to her surviving children as thus. And for the deathblow, Waller's daughter told her exactly what she thought of her. A broken, confused Amanda is left alone to simmer in the realization of her life's work.
- During her attempt to usurp control of Checkmate, she was outmaneuvered and tricked by Mr. Terrific strictly because her own paranoia got the best of her, because it makes her think others are the same way, in addition to the fact her tendency of being crazy-prepared makes her not so subtle.
- I Control My Minions Through...: A terrifying mix of Loyalty, Authority, Respect and Fear. She can be very charismatic when she makes the effort - as shown by the fact most of the Squad fully respects her despite hating her guts, and for those who don't... there's always the cranial bombs and Rick Flag. Careful amounts of Prejudice also help her manipulate villains into serving the Squad. When working with heroes, she buys their Loyalty with either Money or Information.
- I Did What I Had to Do: She often makes horrifically unethical decisions when faced with impossible dilemmas. She justifies them to herself with varying arguments, some of which she accepts more readily than others. The one she seems to accept the most is "because nobody else will".Amanda Waller: I'm not proud of what I had to do — but I would do it again. You all quit, you all die, I can still guarantee you one thing — the Squad will go on.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: At the end of the first Suicide Squad series, Amanda was quite thoroughly exhausted of the entire metahuman scene and just wanted to retire to Diabloverde. Had the Our Worlds at War crossover not forced the U.S. Government to bring her back, she'd have remained quite peacefully there.
- In-Series Nickname: Due to her being difficult to cross, she's called "the Wall". Father Craemer deconstructed this when confronting Amanda after The Janus Directive, pointing it was an image she's proud of presenting, even if she's well aware it's not completely real. Under the manipulation and the brilliance, she's still human, but she sublimates her feelings until they start affecting her judgment. At that point, she starts needing others to serve as her conscience (Nightshade, Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger, Simon LaGrieve, her sister, Vixen, Katana and even Oracle have at one point filled the role). Craemer challenged her to stop surrounding herself with people serving as her brakes and actually learn to dominate herself. She hasn't quite mastered it, but she's still trying some of the time.
- Interservice Rivalry: With General Wade Eiling in Project Atom, and she's not too fond of Sarge Steel in the Department of Metahuman Affairs. She has a better relation with Checkmate, which she co-founded. Kobra tried to exploit this trope in The Janus Directive, though Teeth-Clenched Teamwork prevailed.
- Iron Lady: You have to be commanding and have a temper when your job consists in leading a squad of superpowered lunatics and broken heroes. Even Batman knows better than to cross her lightly.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In the original 1987 series, she was pragmatic, manipulative, and unscrupulous, but had a Hidden Heart of Gold, best exemplified in the last arc of the book, where she takes on a job to liberate a Central American nation because she feels guilty about enabling the U.S. Government to prop up the country's regime with its own version of the Suicide Squad. Not only that, instead of the usual million dollar fee that the Squad charged, she took the job for a single peso, and paid the Squad their salaries for the mission out of her own pocket. And when the mission is done, she takes on the job of rebuilding the country's infrastructure as its interim president. However, Flanderization kicked in, and she became a
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Amanda Waller did have a heart. It used to shine every now and then in the original Suicide Squad, until the job ground it out of her. She recovers to a more human level when she's separated from the job, but she's so good at it, the government prefers enduring her most grating traits rather than allow her a respite... which of course only worsens the problem until she's kicked out until the next crisis rolls in and she's put back in control and the whole horrible cycle starts all over again. Every now and then her humanity prevails, but most of the time it's buried under a layer of pitch-black pragmatism.
- Knight In Sour Armor: She has long lost pretty much all faith in everything she doesn't directly control. The fact she keeps being called to do the same horrible, thankless job time after time probably had something to do with it.
- Large and in Charge: Her concept as "The Wall" actually dictated her design. According to her creator John Ostrander:As the character percolated, he cooked up a name, Amanda Waller, and a nickname branched off in his mind: The Wall. When youre doing comics, you need a visual shorthand in order to convey certain aspects of a character, Ostrander says, and if Amanda Wallers nickname was The Wall, she had to look a little bit like a wall. She had to look formidable. By not giving her Wonder Womans muscles, and instead some heft, it sort of suggested a power in her.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Like it or not, she's often punished for her darker acts. Betraying Rustam eventually led to the destruction of her family, and her lone wolf act put the Squad under severe scrutiny.
- Lonely Funeral: Emilia Harcourt, NSA representative, muses there are very few greater accolades in the intelligence community. When it's Waller's turn, only her children and Harcourt, as her successor, show up.
- Manipulative Bitch: While in her better days she's simply magnificent, she can stoop pretty low if if will get the mission done.
- Mind Rape: She once suffered this via a neurotoxin. Aside from the expected visits of her husband and two eldest children, she saw an agent who got killed while she was on Mission Control, and most notably, her Enemy Within.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Her driving goal is her need to protect and strengthen the government she works for. It doesn't matter what methods she uses or what crimes the government may have committed, either before she was called in or after clearing things up: so long as they defend the USA, then it's acceptable.
- Necessarily Evil: She knows full well that some of the things she does are wrong, but she justifies them as necessary. Through her crimes, she serves a greater purpose; the protection and advancement of the United States of America.
- Nerves of Steel: Waller can, will, and does regularly stare down alien gods, supervillians, and the Goddamn Batman.
- In Justice League, Waller is in the shower when Batman breaks into her house. They then proceed to have a nice chat and at the end, Waller makes such a disturbingly good point that Batman is too rattled to do his trademark Stealth Hi/Bye, but leaves through the front door and sets off her house alarms.
- Noble Demon: If she's feeling charitable, having a good day and there are no crises in the horizon.
- The Omniscient: She has intel on almost everything.
- One Steve Limit: Amanda enforces her trademarks very zealously. A team of assassins and vandals working for a Banana Republic decided to start using the name Suicide Squad, and this personally offended Waller to the point she sponsored a mission herself to eliminate the regime.
- Parental Neglect: An unfortunate consequence of Amanda throwing herself into politics. She genuinely loves her children, but her devotion to her job had a really, really high cost for her few remaining familial relationships.
- Pride: Even the death of her husband and two children wasn't enough to break her. It was actually the start of trying to dig her way out that triggered her ascent and filled her with enough anger to power a Red Lantern. As her sister relates, welfare isn't free money; it costs a lot of dignity, and that was a price Amanda was never willing to pay. Coupled with her stubbornness, her brilliance makes her virtually unstoppable, but her anger is always in danger of congealing into raw hate.
- That said, she does have her limits and is perfectly capable of feeling shame. After the LOA arc, in which she crosses a personal Moral Event Horizon, she releases the few remaining Squad members and allows herself to be arrested. Mind, she knows full well the government is going to need her whether they like it or not, and is in fact counting on this to get out once the first legit offer comes by, having appeased her personal desire for judgment.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: She's very good at dishing them out. For example, when Poison Ivy seduces a man with her pheremones, Waller snarks, Youre a slaveholder, deep down. So make your boytoy here take a nap and lets get on with business.
- However, her favorite target has always been Captain Boomerang, whose nickname "Boomerbutt" she coined. On the other hand, she prefers puncturing his ego with quick insults rather than full speeches.
- Retired Badass: At the end of the original run of Suicide Squad, she left her position to lead a tiny Caribbean country. She would have stayed there gladly had the Our Worlds at War crossover not forced the U.S. government to drag her back.
- Sassy Black Woman: Yup!Amanda Waller: (While threatening murderous convicts to back down) I am fat, black, and menopausal. You do NOT want to mess with me!
- Scary Black Woman: And how!
- Smug Snake: If someone who defied her falls into her web, she isn't above a spot of gloating.
- Memorably, at the end of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, Waller initially refuses to even consider allowing the League to take away Killer Frost... until Batman admits that despite his original doubts, he might have been wrong about the Squad's value. Waller takes a moment to process this, then decides the whole fiasco was Worth It just to hear Batman acknowledge one mistake, and happily allows Frost to leave. She's fairly sure Frost's going to end up in Belle Reve one way or the other, anyway, and the entire conflict was in her favor anyway, as she got control of the assets of Checkmate after capturing Max Lord.
- Standard Female Grab Area: Max Lord tries this with Waller in a flashback in Justice League #12. He gets a haymaker to the eye.
- Surrounded by Idiots:
- Idiotic NSC liaison Derek Tolliver. After the utter fiasco that was the Flight of the Firebird arc, he gets the brilliant idea of trying to keep his job by leaking news of the existence of the Squad to the even bigger idiot Senator Joe Cray. Waller chews him up with some gravedigging and gets him to drop the scheme... though by then his foolhardy meddling has already ensured his own death and Cray's, the exposure of the Squad, and a host of other problems.
- Vic Sage in New 52 treats the Squad as his personal fantasy league and neglects basic background checks and safety measures in favor of idiotic ideas like renaming the team "Task Force XL".
- There Are No Therapists: Waller did her best to avert this in Suicide Squad's original run, hiring several psychiatrists, doctors and even a priest as additional personnel in Belle Reve. However, their success rate was fairly low, her abrasive personality made it very hard to work with her for long and in the end she more or less decided it wasn't really worth the effort, as she hasn't tried to do something similar with later iterations of the Squad.
- Undying Loyalty: Where others have faith in Heaven, she has hers in the Squad. Waller is fully aware that the Squad is supposed to be expendable, but the very idea of treating them as disposable weapons revolts her.
- The Unfettered: Accomplishing the mission at all cost is her legacy.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Her sister remembers the charming, happy girl she used to be. While she had already developed some of the habits that would define her life later on (most notably her stubbornness and pride), her family and later Joseph Waller helped curb most of Amanda's nastiest habits.
- Vetinari Job Security: The whole reason why Waller still has her job: no-one else can do what she does, or at the very least no-one is willing. The Phoenix Gambit arc and her return to Squad leadership in Our Worlds at War are good examples. Whenever she's sent to prison, she shrugs and basically says she only needs to wait a short time before someone in the government pardons her because she can do what few others can.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: She is genuinely trying to work for the good of her country, but she isn't afraid to send dangerous supervillains on suicide missions to this end, and her methods are so drastic even some people in the government are shocked by it. She often makes it a point to surround herself with more morally-straight characters such as Belle Reve's supporting staff and outright heroes like Nightshade, Vixen and Nemesis to serve as her conscience. To their disgust, however, she listens but only very rarely actually heeds their advice.