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‘The Suicide Squad’ Set Visit: It’s Harley Quinn’s Multiverse, We’re Just Living and Dying In It

In late 2019, which seems a whole world ago, The Nerds Of Color were invited to Atlanta, GA to visit the set of The Suicide Squad, which premieres on HBO Max and in theaters this Friday, August 6. Early reviews of the sequel/not-a-sequel are already out, and here’s a few more things we learned from the set visit about the “shitty supervillain” war caper film, based on the DC Comics.

SPOILERS FOLLOW! Also, possibly, opinions.

(Start Unprompted Margot Robbie Appreciation Rant Here) Dr. Quinn is in both Suicide Squads, which apparently are in parallel dimensions dislodged from each other. In SS ’16, she encountered Batfleck, and in 2021’s Justice League (Snyder Cut) she is spoken of as a pivotal event in the weird dream epilogue, confirming that Harley does, indeed, live in a society. The superlative Birds Of Prey makes little reference to other DCEU films except for the supermarket scene in which Harley rapid-fire summarizes her own canon origin story, along with the events of Suicide Squad ‘16, in a cathartic rant towards Cassandra Cain. My point is, while the “shared” aspect of the DC films has gotten hilariously confused, Robbie as Quinn is the rock at the center of the continuity maelstrom. Somewhere above all the Crises and the recastings, I believe she and Dr. Manhattan have got this all figured out. Robbie’s performance, trademark accent, and character choices have stayed steadily engaging while the rest of the DC folks are not even sure which cut of which movie they’re in. Unlike all of her Justice League counterparts, Harley Quinn the movie character actually has interesting life choices and dilemmas: she’s a doctor, but then she turns to crime, gets in an intense bad relationship, gets out of it, breaks stuff, has several opportunities to do good or do bad, makes conditional friendship with a kid and a bunch of other vigilantes — she’s dramatically active. She has more weirdly-inspiring soliloquies than Batman or Superman. She’s funny. And, to my eye, the ragged red dress she wears in The Suicide Squad gives off a kind of “Evita” vibe. So I’m very much looking forward to watching Robbie work again, not only for the commitment and the witticisms, but because every branching iteration of the Harleyverse (unlike the Snyderverse or the Nolanverse) creates the map of the DC Multiverse that I’m most invested in. TLDR: If they find a way to write Margot Robbie into The Flash, I’ll feel a lot better about The Flash. (End of Quinn/Robbie Appreciation Rant.) 

I’m a huge fan of the original John Ostrander run on Suicide Squad, where he created the whole Dirty-Dozen-as-shitty-supervillains team. And I don’t think of it so much as an interpretation of what he wrote but I do think of it as a continuation of what he did… To me, it’s one of the greatest superhero runs of any comic book series.

Specifically referencing “war caper” genre films of the late 1960s, including The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, and Where Eagles Dare, Gunn aligns with Ostrander and artist Luke McDonnell’s early Suicide Squad story arcs: typically, a black ops/G.I. Joe-esque team of specialists assembled to intervene in U.S. foreign policy in areas where respectable superheroes would not dare to go.

Suicide Squad #1 cover by Luke McDonnell, and a tribute to the film cast by Jim Lee.
Ratcatcher from the Batman comics, and Ratcatcher 2 from The Suicide Squad film.

You familiar with a band called Van Halen? Not the Van Hagar version, the David Lee Roth Van Halen. Think of him as a fucking awesome Eddie Van Halen.

Of course, “a fucking awesome Eddie Van Halen” is technically redundant because Eddie Van Halen (rest his soul) was the definition of fucking awesome. We can only hope that the Peacemaker show will clear a few Roth-era tunes like “Dance The Night Away” and “Panama” for its soundtrack.

The notable exception, of course, is Harley Quinn, who maintains high name recognition factor even among non-comics people; I’ll be a little surprised if they don’t rebrand this one Harley Quinn & The Suicide Squad, as they retinkered the Birds of Prey title. In a sense, every other team member in this Squad is an Easter Egg, because they are all vaguely recognizable and yet are the characters whom no one in all comics fandom were asking for to appear in a live-action movie. And like all Easter Eggs, some of them are probably gonna die.

Wait, that’s not a saying….

Martian Manhunter spies Starro the Conqueror, from JLA #22 (1998).

So to speak. As a fan of the kaiju-vs-small-squads subtrope, I’m entirely excited about the audacious debut of Starro into the DC Cinemaverse. And I am very appreciative of WB and HBO Max for offering the option to watch the movie’s premiere at home, given the extraordinary circumstances of the ongoing pandemic.

Anyways, The Suicide Squad premieres on HBO Max and in theaters on August 6, 2021.

I’m known to be quite vexing? I’m just forewarning you.

Harley Quinn, Suicide Squad (2016)
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