Suicide Squares: The Adventures of the Original Suicide Squad

I saw Suicide Squad last week and found it enjoyable. It could have used some polishing…maybe a better editing job? It’s being savaged by critics and the internet but it is definitely worth the price of admission, and absolutely better than Batman vs. Superman.

The film was good adaptation of the well known late 80s incarnation of the team. What’s not so well known is that the team’s roots go back much further; in fact, the Suicide Squad predates the Justice League!

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The first appearance of a team with the name “Suicide Squad” was back in 1959 on the pages of DC Comics’ The Brave and the Bold. Most famous for later becoming a Batman team-up book, TB&TB started out as a “throw stuff out there and see what sticks” type of series. The Suicide Squad was created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru (men whose accomplishments in the field are too numerous to list here) and first appeared in TB&TB issues 25-27, immediately before the first Justice League of America stories in issues 28-30.

SuSq giant caterpillar

The Suicide Squad was part of a wave of non-superpowered, Age of the Atom adventurers  who were featured in science fiction-type tales in the 50s and early 60s (Jack Kirby’s Challengers of the Unknown are another example).  Appropriately for a time when Kaiju reared their heads on the silver screen, the Squad battled giant monsters in 100% of the Brave and the Bold issues they appeared in.

Dramatis Personae:

RickFlag1

Rick Flag, Senior – The resident team hunk; Rick Flag is the leader of the first Squad and the father of Rick Flag Junior, who leads the later incarnations of the team. Since this Flag was a young man when he fought in WWII, DC may have to start saying modern-day Flag his grandson.

Karin Grace – A space medicine nurse, also fought in WWII.

The Rest – Dr. Evans and Jess; scientists. One smokes a pipe. Not super fleshed out otherwise except both, like Rick, are in love with Karin. She’s in love with Rick, but he pushes her away because he doesn’t want to upset the other two team members. Everyone’s really weird about it and it gets brought up at least twice an issue, I feel like maybe the team should sit down and talk it out like adults.

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In their first missions the Squad faces a giant monster that hatches from a blob washed up on the Jersey Shore, a colossal snake in the Paris subway, big bugs, and and a gigantic, mutated scientist. They’re also menaced by a normal sized seagull in one issue after shrinking due to cosmic ray exposure in space.

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Yes, they went to space. Upon their return to Earth the Squad crashed in the midst of a fleet of commie submarines that were about to launch a nuclear attack on America; they put the kibosh on that. The Suicide Squad checked ALL the boxes on the Silver Age of Comics checklist.

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This bland bunch appeared in six issues of The Brave and the Bold before the title began to swing more towards superheroes, after which they were never seen again. The bright, loony fun of these tales is completely different from the dark cynicism of the 80s book; both are interesting windows into the zeitgeist of their respective eras.

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