DC's Suicide Squad is returning to a "classic Ostrander vibe" despite some surprising new recruits like Superboy and Peacemaker, according to incoming series writer Robbie Thompson.
Thompson and artist Eduardo Pansica's run begins March 2 with Suicide Squad #1, with Amanda Waller back in charge and a team she's recruiting in hopes of being her own, personal Justice League.
Ahead of the book's debut, Thompson spoke with Newsarama about the upcoming series, any connections to the previous run by Tom Taylor, and how the current Future State: Suicide Squad limited series (which he's also writing) is a portent for the future of the modern-day Suicide Squad.
Newsarama: Robbie, following your Teen Titans run, what made you want to work on Suicide Squad?
Robbie Thompson: I was excited by the opportunity to continue working with [DC editor] Mike Cotton. He and Marquis Draper I've worked with on the end of Teen Titans. And they had asked me somewhere near the end of that run, 'Hey, what are your thoughts on Suicide Squad?'
I'm very pro Suicide Squad. So, I was excited to talk to them and I was really enjoying Tom Taylor and company's run on the book. So, I was intrigued to hear where they wanted to take the team and the characters. And as soon as I got this sort of logline and the top-down view of what Mike and company wanted to do, I was really excited about being on the team and it moved pretty quickly from there.
Nrama: Speaking on Tom Taylor's run, were there any elements from that series you piggyback off of here, or is this a completely new slate?
Thompson: Look, I love that run. Tom is a brilliant writer. Sort of the mandate that I was given for the book was there's a lot I would say thematically in terms of what you expect from a Suicide Squad book. But Mike and now Bixie Mathieu, who's also on the book, really wanted to focus on Amanda Waller and bring her back to the front of the squad.
I don't want to say take it in a new direction, because it's not like we're forgetting what has happened, but it's definitely kind of moving in its own direction. You'll definitely see, I think some thematic ties, but this is a new direction for the Suicide Squad. But I love that run, and I think there's actually an omnibus coming out soon, which I can't wait to get.
Nrama: Are there any elements from your 'Future State' Suicide Squad story that you wanted to add into your Suicide Squad ongoing?
Thompson: Yeah, for sure. One of the things that was really exciting about what Cotton wanted to do was use 'Future State' as sort of a cautionary tale. In a way, it's like the ghost of Christmas future of what will happen if Waller's plan really comes to fruition. I think the thing that I was most excited about from what they wanted to do with the story moving forward was take Amanda Waller and see what does she do when she's sort of fed up and wants to try something different? This is definitely that in the first issue.
Then I was really intrigued by Superboy and obviously, we see him in Future State: Suicide Squad #1 and as well as #2, which I think is out in a couple of weeks. Putting that character in the Suicide Squad, felt really fun and sort of in keeping with that classic Ostrander vibe of sometimes you have superheroes on the super-villain team to really make the dynamic between the characters really rich and fun to explore. So, I was really excited about that.
You'll definitely see a lot of the characters and the plot points in 'Future State' thread through from the jump on issue one of Suicide Squad.
Nrama: One of the biggest surprises with the announcement of this book was Superboy's involvement - what made you want to add him in particular?
Thompson: Superboy actually came before me. There was a lineup that Mike and company had in mind, including Peacemaker and Talon. We also have, I don't think this is a spoiler, but eventually, you'll see Bloodsport on the team and a couple of other characters, like Nocturna. They had a Rogues' Gallery already in place.
Then we had a couple of characters that we wanted to add. You'll meet some new characters in Suicide Squad #1 and #2 of the ongoing series, which is always really fun to do.
So, Superboy came before me. I don't want to spoil it, but we have kind of a mystery with that character that I was really excited about writing. I guess the least spoiler thing I can say is that there's something wrong with Superboy. There's a reason why he's here, and I was really intrigued by this notion that you'll see in Future State: Suicide Squad #2, which is that Waller is sort of building her strange and dark version of the Justice League and every Justice League needs a Superman. The thing that she courted him with was 'You don't have to be the boy anymore. You can be the man.' But she very clearly wants him to be the Lex Luthor part of himself. She sees him as someone who she really needs to lead this new Suicide Squad.
So, I was really intrigued by this mystery that we started to tease out in our first conversations with him. I just thought he was such a cool character and I love the leather jacket and the sunglasses. I like the old-school, '90s version. So, I think it was really the mystery that we wanted to tell. We'll unfold that pretty quickly. In issues two and three you'll start to see that something's not quite right with Superboy and what that is will be revealed down the road.
Nrama: Superboy isn't the only new recruit, as you also have Talon here. We haven't seen him in a while. Why do you think he was a good fit for the team?
Thompson: Honestly, what you just said was the appeal because he hasn't been around for a while. It was an opportunity to bring the character back and introduce him in a different way.
We kind of talked a lot about like old movies, like The Dirty Dozen and things like that. And you always want to have like a Telly Savalas character that is a bit of a wildcard and Talon is Waller's vision for what her Batman could be.
That felt like a really fun opposite number, because some of the team that she's building this ultimate, down the road Justice League. People who are the right fit, and then there are people that are the right fit because she feels if she needs to be able to go one-on-one with the Justice League. So, it felt like a cool opposite number for Batman. And the exact point that you just mentioned it felt like an opportunity since we hadn't seen him in a while, to put that character back on the map a little bit to find a new avenue for that character to wreak some havoc.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about your team overall. What's their chemistry and relationship with each other and Amanda Waller like?
Thompson: I would say they all hate one another. They definitely don't like Waller. Waller has leaned hard on the 'Step out of line and your neck will blow up' mentality. She's definitely ruling the roost with a pretty iron fist.
I think within the group though, you're going to start to see that they're like any group, there are cliques. You're going to see Peacemaker click with certain people and doesn't with others.
I would say at the forefront, there's a battle for the heart of the team between Peacemaker and Superboy, who really, really, really do not like one another. That comes to a head pretty quickly in #2. There's a battle for the soul of the team between those two characters, because Peacemaker is 'peace at any cost' and Superboy, while he's still a member of the Suicide Squad, he's still Superboy. He still wants to do the right thing.
There's some pretty natural friction between those characters. Then there's some natural friction from being in a group where you're not really recruited, you're sort of arrested and thrown into it. There's the natural distrust amongst them as well. You'll start to see that really come to a head as Peacemaker starts to think that he should be not only in charge, but maybe he should be running the whole thing.
Nrama: Were there any elements from the upcoming The Suicide Squad movie you needed/wanted to include - like the inclusion of Peacemaker?
Thompson: Peacemaker was also just another fun element in the book because I think the best team books work with contrasting personalities. Peacemaker is, obviously, featured in the movie, and there's a TV show coming up with John Cena. It doesn't hurt us to have characters that are recognizable from the movies.
I've worked on other books that have been, I don't want to say tied to movie releases, but definitely were done in the spirit of those books. Whether it was Spider-Man for Marvel that was sort of more of a Tom Holland version of the character. I definitely think it doesn't hurt to bring in hopefully new readers.
But also, Peacemaker is one of those characters too that felt like he hadn't been seen necessarily in a while. We could have some fun with him and really set him up as an opposite number for Superboy. He's also a character that has evolved in an interesting way and peace at any cost is such a fun, ironic character engine. So, to bring that into the Suicide Squad - here's a guy who thinks of himself as a hero and is actually behaving like a villain. It's kind of the perfect home for him in the Suicide Squad.
Nrama: Tell us a bit about Peacemaker taking on this leadership role. Will he have a good relationship with the other team members?
Thompson: It's kind of a mixed bag. When you start off the book, you're going to see that in contrast to what we see in 'Future State' he and Waller are actually kind of on the same page. In his mind, the charges that he was arrested on were trumped up anyways, but he's happy to be here because he's a means to an end kind of a guy, and that's what the Suicide Squad has always been about. From his standpoint, he feels like this is an opportunity to sort of elevate his game and, bring even more peace to the land so to speak.
I think with the other characters it's kind of hit or miss. The people that view him as the sort of de facto leader he gets along with very well. And those that don't, obviously, there's going to be some pretty instant friction and you're going to see him take on that leadership role in a way that I hope provides some comedic results because not everybody is going to be on the same page with him and not everybody, even for people that are like straight-up villains, there are some things that he does that are even too far for them.
He's just a fun foil for all of the characters, but you will see some alliances pretty early on with Nocturna and a couple of the other characters. There's a new character coming in as well and I think as the first couple of arcs come along, you're going to see that those cliques are going to cause real problems for the characters and for most specifically for Waller.
Nrama: Harley Quinn has been in many of the previous iterations of this title. Why didn't you want to include her in your volume?
Thompson: That's a question probably for above my pay grade. That was not a character that was on our radar with the list of characters that I was given and then the characters that we discussed internally. I do know that there are big plans for her. Obviously, she's got a new book coming out and all that kind of stuff, but I'd love to see Harley with especially this version of the team. I would love to see in particular her interact with Peacemaker just because I think that would be a really fun dynamic.
There aren't any plans for that in this early couple of issues, but I would love to see her back. You'll see a glimpse of her in issue one, but it's just a glimpse. It's so fascinating because she's become such an iconic character in the Suicide Squad. From the previous runs of the book as well as the movie. I definitely know that fans would love to see her and I'd love to see her too. So, hopefully, we'll get her down the road.
So who are the best Squad-mates? Check out Newsarama's list of the best Suicide Squad members of all time.