What makes Suicide Squad the most versatile series in the entire DC library? It’s not the gray morality, the hyper-violence, the black ops political intrigue, or the fact that any member of the team could die at any moment—although those are all big parts of the appeal. The secret sauce of the Suicide Squad is that literally anyone could be part of the roster, from one issue to the next.
The tone and character of any series is defined in great part by its cast, and Suicide Squad alone has the ability to change that cast on a moment’s notice like no other property in DC history. Even “regulars” like Deadshot, Amanda Waller and Harley Quinn may not make the cut from story to story, while characters ranging from the completely forgotten to the logistically inexplicable all have their turn with the team.
The Suicide Squad understands this, with choices like Ratcatcher, Mongal, Savant and Polka-Dot Man. Interestingly, much of the film’s roster has never before been seen in the Squad’s comic book ranks, but The Suicide Squad still stays true to the central tenet of the series: when you ride along for a mission with the Squad, you never know who’s going to show up. To illustrate, here are ten of the strangest and most surprising characters to ever be counted as members of the Suicide Squad.
When Suicide Squad creators John Ostrander and Kim Yale first envisioned the team, it was with a noble purpose—a series which would allow secondary and tertiary characters from other books a new chance in the spotlight under new context. Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang, even Barbara Gordon got unexpected but redefining second acts under the auspices of Amanda Waller’s Black Ops team. Yo-Yo…is not one of those cases. Created specifically for the New 52 incarnation of the Squad, Yo-Yo was an original character with the ability to inflate or deflate the size of his body. Think less the toy, and more like a “yo-yo” diet.
Whatever Happened to Yo-Yo?
Yo-Yo was eaten by King Shark early into the 2011 Suicide Squad series, but was eventually revealed to be still living inside of him all this time. Extracted from his teammate and re-enlisted, Yo-Yo was killed for real in Suicide Squad #18, when he was caught in the blast of an explosive triggered by Deadshot. Clearly not the most popular squad member among his teammates.
If Zebra-Man comes up in any context since his first appearance in 1960, it’s usually as a punchline. With his outlandish zebra-striped costume, Zebra-Man often represents the epitome of the off-beat parade of campy one-shot villains Batman and Robin contended with throughout the Silver Age. But when drafting the roster for his Suicide Squad in 2019, Tom Taylor recognized that with his ability to attract and repel anything he desires like a natural magnet, Zebra-Man is overpowered as heck. So, when the sadistic bureaucrat Lok wrests control of Task Force X from Waller, he enlists Zebra-Man to generate a personal force field around him at all times to protect him from the many, many people who want him dead—his own team definitely included.
Whatever Happened to Zebra-Man?
Despite its title, the 2019 Suicide Squad series is actually more about a team called the Revolutionaries, a group of entirely original characters who stymie tyrannical regimes across the world with guerilla tactics. The story, essentially, is about that team being forced into the ranks of the Suicide Squad. By the end, Zebra-Man becomes sympathetic to their cause and becomes the first pre-established character to join their ranks. Way to use those super-unbalanced powers for good!
The Hunky Punk
Like Yo-Yo, the Hunky Punk was a character created specifically for Suicide Squad. What’s a “Hunky Punk,” you ask? Well, it’s a West English term for a gargoyle-like architectural feature, except without the water feature typically associated with gargoyles. Outside of the western English country, they’re usually referred to as “grotesques.” (See, who says comics aren’t educational?) Unlike Yo-Yo, Hunky Punk was retrofitted as a villain to a hero nearly as obscure as he was—Mister Albion, a British superhero momentarily introduced in Batman, Incorporated who was killed by Leviathan in his first appearance.
Whatever Happened to the Hunky Punk?
Dorian Ashemore, alias the Hunky Punk, was killed on his first mission with the Suicide Squad attempting to liberate the rest of the team from a death cult known as the Fist of Cain. Never say never when it comes to resurrections, but odds are pretty low for a villain created posthumously for the rogues gallery of a footnote hero.
Shade, the Changing Man
Arguably the strangest character to come from master comic creator Steve Ditko, Rac Shade is a being who hails from the planet Meta, forced into exile on Earth after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Armed with his M-Vest, an illusion-casting accessory tuned into the forces of madness, Rac Shade sought to somehow clear his name, while righting wrongs frequently catalyzed by the M-Vest itself. Shade, the Changing Man was originally featured in a Pre-Crisis self-titled series canceled after eight issues and, like many characters, was given a second chance to live again as part of the Suicide Squad, joining the team when Rick Flag agrees to help him prove his innocence.
Whatever Happened to Shade, the Changing Man?
Rac Shade’s mission to prove his innocence was cut short when a Suicide Squad assignment to Apokolips brought them face to face with Darkseid, who promptly omega beamed everyone home…which, for Rac Shade, meant back to the Planet Meta. Coincidentally, I’m sure, this also happened to occur just in time for Shade, the Changing Man to get his own Vertigo comics series just a few months later.
One of the Suicide Squad’s earliest secret weapons was a mysterious woman simply known as the Duchess, a gun-toting female antihero straight out of a blockbuster action movie who would put the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger to shame. It was only through the mission to Apokolips that the Duchess’ true identity was revealed. This would-be Rambo was actually an amnesiac Lashina of the Female Furies, betrayed and cast out of the team via boom tube by fellow Fury Bernadeth. Hey, if she’s good enough for Darkseid, she’s good enough for Waller.
Whatever Happened to the Duchess?
After discovering her treachery against Apokolips, Lashina—alias, the Duchess—was atomized by Darkseid’s omega beams. Apparently, amnesia doesn’t count as a good enough excuse when you’re dealing with the God of Evil. It’s okay, though. Among Darkseid’s many powers is the ability to bring any New God under his purview back to life whenever he wishes. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that Darkseid’s omega beams aren’t actually fatal at all—but that, perhaps, is an article for another time.
Much of the first arc of the 2016 Suicide Squad series revolves around Waller sending the team after a “Black Vault,” containing a mysterious asset she simply needs to have. That asset, as it turns out, is one of Superman’s greatest enemies and would-be conqueror of Earth, General Zod. Waller has the frankly unhinged idea to somehow brainwash and control Zod into becoming a sort of Superman who answers only to her, which goes about as well as you’d expect.
Whatever Happened to General Zod?
What do you think happened? Dru-Zod doesn’t kneel before you, you kneel before him. He broke free of his programming, the rest of the team barely escaped with their lives and he went on to lock horns with Superman another day.
If you ask Amanda Waller, every member of the Suicide Squad is carefully chosen for their particular set of skills. Bronze Tiger for his hand-to-hand combat aptitude. Deadshot for his deadly accuracy. Count Vertigo for his ability to disorient even the most collected foes. The Penguin for…wait, really? The Penguin? As a field agent? Why? Well, because in Suicide Squad #5-6, the Squad is tasked with extracting a valuable asset from Moscow—and when you need to pull a heist, you might as well call a master heist planner. Catwoman, we assume, was unavailable at the time.
Whatever Happened to the Penguin?
Well, the mission to Moscow went off more or less without a hitch and Penguin disappeared from Suicide Squad right after it, so one can only assume Waller made good on the inherent promise that time with the team means time off your sentence.
Chemo, a city-annihilating living nuclear bomb, was originally an enemy of the Metal Men, but gained its greatest notoriety when it was used to destroy the city of Blüdhaven in Infinite Crisis. Over the years it’s been used as a potent but dangerous asset by the Suicide Squad on multiple occasions, but the absolute coolest was in the third Suicide Squad series, where using remote technology, Amanda Waller herself personally pilots Chemo like a giant mech suit. It’s honestly the hardest I’ve marked out reading Suicide Squad in my life. I mean, just look at this.
Whatever Happened to Chemanda Waller?
This was really kind of a one-time thing, but honestly, we wouldn’t say no to seeing Chemanda again. Who wouldn’t want to see an enormous, glowing, gelatinous Viola Davis in the third Suicide Squad movie?
With Peacemaker as the team’s frontman, Robbie Thompson’s current Suicide Squad series is clearly taking some cues from James Gunn’s film. But the biggest surprise of the contemporary roster would have to be Conner Kent, Superboy of the ’90s and half-Kryptonian clone of Superman and Lex Luthor. Clearly, Waller’s dreams of a Kryptonian asset have not cooled since the Zod fiasco, and having a Superboy under her thumb represents the latest attempt to bring her dream team’s power level up to Justice League standards—an especially important goal to reach, considering her latest mission is taking down Earth-3’s villainous Crime Syndicate.
Whatever Happened to Superboy?
He’s still with the team! Be sure to pick up Suicide Squad each month at your local comic book store to discover what happens to Superboy alongside us.
Honorable Mention: Ambush Bug, DC’s original fourth wall puncturing cut-up, is joining the team. Hey, if there’s room for Harley…
But without a doubt, of the many who have joined the ranks of the Suicide Squad over the years, our #1 pick has to be…
The genre-bending comic book writer Grant Morrison made one of their earliest and most potent statements on the nature of fiction and metafiction through their 25-issue run on Animal Man, which featured the lead character realizing he was a character in a comic book and, in the final issue, meeting Morrison face-to-face. Throughout the series, Morrison used Animal Man to make commentary on the continuous cycle of a comic book character’s reality, the stakes and drama endemic to their continued existence, and even such heady concepts as comic book limbo. In Suicide Squad, Ostrander and Yale playfully take that metacommentary one step further—by expounding that, by writing themself into the DC Universe, Morrison is now just as subject to the whims of a collaborative publishing universe as any superhero or villain, trapped within stories they’d never have envisioned…such as being enlisted for a mission in the Suicide Squad.
Whatever Happened to Grant Morrison?
Codenamed “The Writer,” Grant Morrison was torn apart by Circe’s werewolf-like Bestiamorphs before they could write themself out of the predicament. But hey, that was more than a few reboots ago, and if anyone knows that character resurrection is all but inevitable, it’s the writer who killed Martian Manhunter.
So, there you have it. A collection of ten of the oddest oddballs to ever get forced onto Waller’s A-Team. So, if in watching The Suicide Squad you found yourself wondering, “Hey! Where are all the A-Listers? Who the hell is Polka-Dot Man?”, remember that the weirdness is the point. Find yourself a new favorite and meet us back here when you want to learn more about a new favorite character you’d never considered before.
You know, unless it’s the Weasel. Then you’re on your own.
The Suicide Squad, directed by James Gunn, is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. Not yet an HBO Max subscriber? Sign up today to enjoy the best of DC movies and TV.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly “Ask the Question” column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.