'Suicide Squad' Creator on Movie's Harsh Reviews and How the Bush Era Inspired New Comic

John Ostrander returns to the property with 'Suicide Squad: War Crimes Special' No. 1.
Courtesy of DC Entertainment

The Suicide Squad has a new mission.

The crew will have to save a retired senator charged with war crimes in Suicide Squad: War Crimes Special No. 1, coming out Aug. 31.

This limited issue was written by the Suicide Squad creator John Ostrander, who revamped Suicide Squad in the late '80s as an amalgam of The Dirty Dozen and Mission: Impossible for the DC universe. Ostrander last wrote the Squad in 2010 as part of DC Comics' Blackest Night storyline.

In a chat with Heat Vision, Ostrander talked about his love for Amanda Waller, how he came up with the idea for War Crimes and his thoughts on the backlash toward the recent Warner Bros. film.

How does it feel to be back with Task Force X again?

It’s my favorite thing to write. It’s always interesting to see if the voices come back and how they speak to me. Amanda Waller seems to be imbedded in my noggin. She came back to me right away.

What about Waller keeps her interesting to you?

It goes right back to when we first started. I constructed her because I wanted a very specific type of person. I wanted to have some who was female, black, a little bit older and heavier built because there was nobody like that in comics; particularly in the '80s. She just speaks to me. Every time I write her, I don’t have to dig to get her. It’s like she’s saying, "I’ve been right here, where have you been."

What did you think of Viola Davis in Suicide Squad?

When I first saw the trailer and she was there, my goodness, she looked like her, she talked like her and had the attitude. Some of those lines were taken straight from the comics, and I was really happy. Then I saw the movie and I was really happy, because she just nailed it. I even got a chance to meet her, say hello and tell her how much I enjoyed her performance.

Going back to your issue, where did the idea of Suicide Squad: War Crimes come from?

I take my inspiration from real-world things. People were speculating [former Vice President Dick] Cheney, [former President George W.] Bush and [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld couldn’t travel the world because people wanted to indict them for war crimes.  

Why do you think bringing in the real world draws readers into your writing?

The best fantasy has one foot in reality so the reader can identify with it. In this book, I got pictures of where the Squad was. I even found out how long it would take to drive from the prison to the ICC courtroom and what route they would most likely take. It’s little bits like that. If the reader can sense that that’s accurate or that’s real, they’ll trust the rest of the story.

How has the addition of Harley Quinn changed the dynamic of your writing the Squad?

I had never used her before, and of course the dynamic of the team always changes depending on who’s a member of that team, but writing Harley was just a blast. She also came so quickly. I hadn't seen Margot Robbie in the movie [when I wrote the book], but I saw the previews and that helped me in terms of capturing the voice of Harley. She is just so much fun to write. She’s just like in the movie. Crazy, innocent and lethal. She’s just a fun character to write.

It always seems like you have fun with Captain Boomerang. Why do you enjoy writing Digger Harkness?

It’s a funny thing, when we were first putting the Squad together, [editor] Bob Greenberger suggested putting Boomerang on the team because at the time the Flash was restructuring and wasn't using the villains. My first reaction was, "Captain Boomerang? Oh God he’s a joke." But I got into him a bit and I realize I empathize with certain aspects of his character. One of the things I like about Captain Boomerang is he's one of the best adjusted guys on the team because he knows what he is and he likes it. He’s scum, but he’s fine with that.

You had some harsh words for critics of the Suicide Squad movie. What do you think is causing the divide between fans and critics.

First of all, I want to say I am not disparaging any of the critics. I do have problems — whether it’s the Squad or not — when a critic comes in with an agenda already. They are not looking at the movie for what it is. I have read several of the reviews that were just fine, even [if] not that keen on [the film]. As long as they were looking at it honestly, that’s fine. When somebody comes in with an attitude, "I’m sick of superhero movies," "I am not going to give them a break," "It has to be a masterpiece to get a good word out of me," I don't think that’s right or fair. There were plenty of fans who did not like it, and well that’s fine and they have a right to their opinion even if they are wrong. I know the box office isn’t an arbiter of what’s good or bad, but you have to take a look at how much money Squad has made so far. I think it has done really well.

Are there any plans for future work with Suicide Squad?

There are some talks about me doing a few more Squad stories and of course I am very interested. It usually depends on what’s happening in the real world.

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