Given what The Suicide Squad is, it’s no surprise that the history of this team is as dark and twisted as they are. With an ever-changing roster of characters and lots of fun villainous chaos, it can be difficult to piece your way through their history. It’s easiest to understand by simply breaking up The Suicide Squad into two main camps: the original and the modern Suicide Squad.
The Suicide Squad was created by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru. However, they were later drastically changed by John Ostrander. The original version of the team first appeared in Brave and Bold # 25 in September of 1959.
The first version of The Suicide Squad, also known as Taskforce X, consisted of Rick Flag Jr., Karen Grace, Jess Bright, and Dr. Hugh Evans. Later within their continuity, it is revealed that the task force was created to fight off monsters and other threats because most of the Justice Society of America members had retired due to unjust accusations against them.
Although this is technically the first iteration of The Suicide Squad team, we later find out through flashbacks in Secret Origins Volume 2 Issue 14 that Rick Flag Senior led a Suicide Squadron during WWII. According to this story, during WWII a unit of highly expendable men was formed, thus they were given the name Suicide Squadron since being assigned to the team was considered suicide.
When the war ended, the squad was put under the umbrella organization of Task Force X. Rick Flag Senior sacrificed himself to stop the Nazi War Wheel and his last words were about wanting his son to take his place. Rick Flag Jr. ends up becoming the leader of the Suicide Squad, bringing us full circle.
The modern version of The Suicide Squad, the one that uses super villains as its team members, first appeared in Legends #3 from January 1987. The series begins when the Suicide Squad Files were found by Amanda Waller, Director of A.R.G.U.S. She wanted to revive the program with a team of imprisoned supervillains, using the promise of freedom to gain their cooperation. So Waller assembled a new Task Force X and Rick Flag was brought back as field commander working beneath her. As for the members, there was Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Blockbuster, and Enchantress.
Their first mission was to take on Darkseid’s agent, Brimstone. Deadshot managed to take down the beast with an experimental laser rifle, but unfortunately Blockbuster died in the process… much like the movie rental location, RIP Blockbuster. After that, Waller tried to keep the villains captive and under her control for longer but Flag demanded they be released.
Soon after his release, Captain Boomerang went on a crime spree but was captured by G. Gordon Godfrey who planned to execute him live on television. After Captain Boomerang threatens to reveal the existence of the team, The Suicide Squad is forced to come together once again in an attempt to save him. Although Waller ends up attempting to have Deadshot assassinate Boomerang, Flag is once again able to resolve the problem non-lethally. Waller then took her case regarding the Suicide Squad to President Reagan who decided that the team can continue to work on a provisional basis. Amanda Waller then decides to establish the headquarters for Task Force X’s operations in Belle Reve Prison.
A new Task Force X team would later be formed when a terrorist group called Jihad was formed and tasked with attacking America. The team put together to stop this terrorist group consisted of Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Enchantress, Karen Grace, Mind Boggler, Plastique, and Rick Flag. The team would continue to undergo several changes throughout the years, with the lineup always changing. Some members would stay on for only one mission while others would remain on the team for quite a few.
The New 52
Skipping ahead a bit, The New 52: Suicide Squad is a series that encompasses a lot of our contemporary understanding of this team. Having launched in 2011, this version of The Suicide Squad was formed after a government mission goes wrong and Amanda Waller is forced to kill one of her partners who had been turned into some sort of monster. Because of this incident, Amanda Waller set out to create a team of expendable people, a team of people who would deserve whatever horrific things they would likely encounter on their missions. So she decided the best course of action was to use prisoners to do the dirty work.
Waller goes on to force a bunch of death row inmates to take place in a series of extremely difficult tests in order to evaluate their value as potential members of the Suicide Squad. The first members of this iteration of the squad include Deadshot (who acts as the team leader as Rick Flag isn’t in this version), Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Black Spider, Voltaic, and King Shark. They all had a micro-bomb implanted into their necks as a way for Waller to keep them in line… ringing any bells? Yup, the 2016 Suicide Squad Film was very much inspired by the events of this series. If only the quality was as good… can you tell I’m still bitter?
Anyway, The New 52’s Suicide Squad missions usually involve killing or capturing high-value targets. For example, in their first mission, they had to recover a newborn baby who carried the cure to a deadly viral outbreak… yikes. Then they had other missions where the team had to track down a rogue Harley Quinn. They went after Resurrection Man and even a terrorist organization that served as a tip of the hat to the original Suicide Squad.
After being canceled at Issue 30, The New Suicide Squad was started in 2014, written by Sean Ryan and art by Jeremy Roberts. In this series, Amanda Waller is no longer the head of A.R.G.U.S. and it is now under the control of Victor Sage. He brings several new members to the team, along with Harley Quinn and Deadshot. New members include Black Manta, Duela Dent (The Joker’s Daughter), and Deathstroke. Waller is able to outsmart Sage and the team winds up back at their old headquarters at Belle Reve, status quo restored. There was also a recent 2016 run called Suicide Squad: Rebirth which harkens back to some of the older Suicide Squad material and reinstates Rick Flag as a team member.