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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hail the Anti-hero!

[Editor's note: A bit of context - I met Jason about seven months ago at a local Hobby Shop. We hit it off pretty quickly as we both had many common interests. I knew he was a Marvel Comics fan, but we never really talked about it outside of the occasional comment about a Marvel film he may have seen. After about two months of knowing him, he casually mentioned that somebody had lent him the first two dozen issues of The New 52 Suicide Squad (aka: Suicide Squad v4, 2011) and he told me it was quite enjoyable. "Really?", I thought. I quickly told him about John Ostrander's Suicide Squad run from the mid-to-late 80s and how it set the 'gold standard' for all future Suicide Squad runs. And then I lent Jason my copies. It turns out that Jason also writes fiction (he's been doing it for years), and I thought to myself "I wonder how Ostrander's Suicide Squad appears to someone who didn't grow up reading it? Sure, we all love it because we were following DC during it's heyday (mid-to-late 80s/early 90s), but what about someone who totally missed out on that? Would they still be able to pick it up and enjoy it as much as we do? Considering Jason's first impression of the Squad is the New 52 version, I wonder how much he's going to like the 'legacy' material in comparison?". Which leads us to where we are now. -J]  

Suicide Squad as they first appear in LEGENDS #2 (1986)

When my friend Justin asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for his blog "DC in the 80s", I was excited. Not because I know anything about DC comics from the 1980s, but because I’m a writer and I love superhero fiction. I was always awe-inspired by the heroes, willing to put their lives on the line for others; and equally drawn to the villains, for their often all too relatable, egocentric motives. However, there has always been a special place in my heart for the anti-hero. It is here that I have always found myself the most entertained. I believe the best stories, no matter the genre, are character-driven dramas at the core, and drama is created by conflict. Anti-heroes often have an inner conflict that drive the emotional core of the story a little deeper than a straight up heroes vs. villains storyline.

I remember when I discovered Marvel’s Thunderbolts sometime in the late 2000’s. I had been away from comic books for years and was getting back into it, and this title really made me smile. I can’t guarantee I’ve got my details straight here, but I seem to remember Atlas apparently killing another team member (Genis-Vell maybe?) and kind of shrugged off the moral implications like a lot of people might crumple up and toss away a parking ticket. I laughed when Speed Demon and, I think, Blizzard were drinking in a bar and bitching about the team while they watched said team on TV struggling to contain a giant monster attacking Manhattan. Basically Speed Demon was like, Screw ‘em. I’m almost laughing now as I remember it. Another time a couple of Thunderbolts stopped a robbery and one of them was trying to convince the other one to keep the money; Thunderbolt 1: "No! Abe (Mach IV) will be pissed!" Thunderbolt 2: "But it’s SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!"

Marvel Comics Thunderbolts and New Thunderbolts series:

I used to wear this Bizarro T-shirt years ago, one with just the backwards Superman symbol. I loved it, not because I was an especially huge Bizarro fan, but because of what it represented. At first glance I might appear to be a hero... ahhh, but if you look a look a little closer, you’ll see something is a little off; the blue and red are just kind of a washed out purple, and yeah... that "S" is definitely backwards. My favorite film for years was 1976's Taxi Driver. True, Travis did end up saving Iris in the end, but wasn’t that just because he dropped the ball on assassinating Senator Palantine? At the end of the day was he really a hero? I’ve watched the movie a dozen times and I can’t say. I don’t think Travis Bickle could tell you either.

At this point you may be asking yourself when I’m going to get to the DC in the 80s part. Well, that's where Suicide Squad comes in. But first, a little back story...

As a young child of the 70’s, I grew up on the original Spider-man, Super Friends, and the likes of Blue Falcon and DynoMutt. As I grew older I became a bit of a bookworm which led to my love of fantasy; The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, A Wizard of Earthsea. I remember when I was about ten, my parents bought me a copy of Marvel's The Savage Sword of Conan magazine which I promptly began to collect. Then came Dungeons and Dragons. When I was twelve I saw an issue of Marvel's Amazing Spider-man on the comic rack that caught my eye and I remembered my childhood love of superheroes. I put my money down, and it was all over (at least until I reached seventeen and Stephen King took over). It was Spider-man and Silver Sable fighting the Sinister Syndicate. Interesting, now that I think about it, that Syndicate lineup was lead by Beetle (aka Mach IV) and included Speed Demon, two future T-bolts.

Spider-Man and Silver Sable battle the Sinister Syndicate

So by now you may have sized me up to be a "Marvel guy", and there was a time I would have agreed with you. These days my superhero fix has come primarily through movies, and the collectable strategy game Heroclix, and I have to say, I like DC about as much as Marvel now. (I even thought Batman v Superman was great; as a movie I would give it a 6, but when I am watching it, my heart feels like it's an 8.) Either way, Justin thought it might be interesting for you DC in the 80s readers to hear an opinion piece of the original Suicide Squad from someone like me, who isn’t so up on DC comics from the 1980s. So I decided to do not just one article on the subject, but a series. Is this because It’s such an awesome series and one article can’t begin to cover all the goodness? Or is it because I’m very opinionated and love to hear myself talk at length about my opinions? I’ll take the stand beside Travis Bickle and let you decide.

So, Suicide Squad, huh? Sounds dark. Edgy. I’m all for that. My first contact was through Heroclix. As I collected and played the game, I found myself needing to know who the figures were in the comics. Believe it or not, I actually collected DC’s Who’s Who in the 80s, which is kind of weird since I collected virtually nothing else from DC at the time. I guess I just have an insatiable desire to know who everyone is and what they can do, DCU included. But it was through Heroclix that I really started to look into some of the storylines. I read Crisis on Infinite Earths, then The New 52 Suicide Squad, then started in on Ostrander's Suicide Squad series, which lead to me writing this.

When I said I’m a writer, I’m actually a fiction writer. So I’m not exactly sure how to approach this series of articles. But it looks like we’ve got an introduction now that covers just about everything except DC in the 80s. From here I think I will just take the Suicide Squad series in bite-sized sections and... um... talk about stuff? Ok, yeah. Sounds like a plan. Are you excited? (After writing that introduction I know I sure am.) So next time, actual DC in the 80s content. I promise. Deadshot... Boomerang... Enchantress... Excitement! Thanks for reading, and see you then!

I am a just-starting-out fiction writer and musician living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. If you would like to contact me with work or collaboration opportunities, or just to make arrangements to send me cash, please email me. Cheers!

-Jason Brown

All content in this article entry [except for the editor's note] written by Jason Brown. If you want to attribute any of this work, please credit Jason Brown.

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