There’s a lot of hype around the new Suicide Squad movie — and it’s not hard to see why. The cast looks ridiculous, the posters have been delightfully comic-y, and the trailers have been straight up awesome:
Comic book fans seem to be happy about a movie that looks fun and excitable, rather than aping the whole edgy-to-the-point-of-dour vibe that The Dark Knight series started.
However, I humbly offer a completely fair question: who exactly are these people? Despite how entertaining this movie looks, it’s weird that people are so excited for a movie featuring what amounts to (mostly) B-squad supervillains. OK, they get sent into high-risk missions for the government because, as criminals, they’re expendable. Got it. Sure, they are motivated by the desire to get out of prison and to go forth and do more crime. Great. But why does that guy have a boomerang? And since when did Harley Quinn rock booty shorts instead of a full-blown jester outfit?
In the interest of the public good, we decided to find the answers to these questions. Here’s everything you need to know about the members of the Suicide Squad and the starter comic books that can help you get familiar with each character!
Rick, played by Joel Kinnaman, is the leader of the Suicide Squad, even though he isn’t really “super” in any way, shape or form besides his military experience. He takes orders directly from Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a U.S. government intelligence operative who orchestrates the team. In the comics, there are actually three incarnations of Rick; each one corresponds with a version of the Suicide Squad for different time periods. All business, he’s tasked with keeping the other members of the Suicide Squad in line.
Starter Comic: Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial by Fire, John Ostrander and Luck McDonnell (DC Comics, 2015)
More of an anti-hero than a supervillain, Deadshot, played by Will Smith, started out as one of Batman’s baddies. He’s known for his extraordinary marksmanship, cybernetic glowing red eye, and his desire to go out in a blaze of glory. He’s usually a hired assassin, but has been a major figure (and the spiritual leader) of the Suicide Squad in the modern comics.
Starter Comic: Deadshot: Beginnings, John Ostrander, Kim Yale and Luke McDonnell (DC Comics, 2013)
Enchantress, played by the preternaturally eyebrow-gifted Cara Delevingne, is kind of depressing. She’s actually June Moone, an artist who gets accidentally possessed by a magical being who occasionally takes over her body. Enchantress can heal, teleport and do other generally zany magical things. June struggles to keep Enchantress under control, and turns villainous when her alter-ego breaks free. Besides being on the Suicide Squad, she’s most recently been a villain for the Justice League Dark, a sort-of gritty magical version of the normal Justice League.
Starter Comic: Justice League Dark Vol. 1: In the Dark, Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin and Ryan Sook (DC Comics, 2012)
Essentially, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is exactly what his name might suggest to someone silly: he’s a hard-drinking, wannabe-sarcastic, super tough Australian supervillain who uses trick boomerangs to do… stuff. Typically he fights The Flash, so he can unsurprisingly sometimes get short bursts of super-speed over short distances.
Starter Comic: Captain Boomerang’s Comeback!, Blake A. Hoena, Mike DeCarlo, Lee Loughridge, and Erik Doescher (DC Comics, 2011)
El Diablo is another one of those anti-hero types. Played by Jay Hernandez, he’s a former gang member who discovers that he has the power to conjure fire -– and, after using his powers to collect on a debt, accidentally killing an innocent mother and child in the process, he turns himself over to the police. There have actually been a few incarnations of this character, but the new film features the most recent, whose real name is Chato Santana.
Starter Comic: El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman, Jai Nitz, Phil Hester and Andre Parks (DC Comics, 2009)
This guy is pretty self-explanatory. Killer Croc was originally a wrestler named Waylon Jones, but due to a rare genetic condition, he looks like a crocodile man. Because he looks like a crocodile man, he turns to a life of crime and occasional cannibalism. In comic book form, he’s usually an adversary of Batman, and is depicted as either kind of human or really, really animalistic and brutish. Since he’s played by all-around awesome actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, let’s hope he’s portrayed as more human in the movie!
Starter Comic: Batman Arkham: Killer Croc, Edited by Chuck Dixon (DC Comics, 2016)
Not to be confused with every mask aficionado’s favorite band, Slipknot (Adam Beach) is a supervillain who is really good with rope. Seriously. That’s his superpower. In the comics, he develops a formula for an unbreakable rope, and after landing in jail following an attempt to go against the fairly obscure superhero Firestorm, he gets recruited to join the Suicide Squad. Because, rope.
Starter Comic: Identity Crisis, Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales and Michael Bair (DC Comics, 2016)
This sword-wielding female is actually not a supervillain. This awesome superheroine actually volunteers for the Suicide Squad to be Rick Flag’s right-hand lady. Played by Karen Fukuhara, Katana actually has a pretty tragic backstory: after her husband and children are murdered by Yakuza in Japan, she trains as a samurai and moves to America to become a crime fighter. Also, her sword, Soultaker, literally absorbs the souls of the people it slays, allowing Katana to then communicate with them. Pretty cool, huh?
Starter Comic: Katana Vol. 1: Soultaker, Ann Nocenti, Alex Sanchez and Cliff Richards (DC Comics, 2014)
Probably the most fan-anticipated supervillain on the Suicide Squad to make it to the big screen, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has been a fan-favorite since her inception in the ’90s. She’s kind-of-sort-of the Joker’s girlfriend; she met him and became obsessed with him while she was a psychiatrist treating him at Arkham Asylum. Fans of Batman: The Animated Series will remember her for her weird jester outfit and overblown Brooklyn accent, but recent comics have given her a bit of a makeover in both look and spirit. Over the abusive Joker, she’s forged her own way in the comics (despite still being pretty psychotic).
Starter Comic: Batman: Harley Quinn, Paul Dini and Neil Googe (DC Comics, 2015)
Bonus: The Joker
Technically, he’s not a member of the Suicide Squad, but Jared Leto’s campy, sure to be scenery-chewing new version of Mr. J seems to be a big part of the marketing for this movie. You already know who he is. You already know what he does. You just don’t know why he has a tattoo on his forehead that says “Damaged.”
Starter Comic: Batman: The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (DC Comics, 2008)
Main Image Courtesy Warner Bros.