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Readers of this week’s Suicide Squad: Rebirth No. 1 might have been surprised to see Amanda Waller face off against real-life U.S. President Barack Obama over the morality of using supervillains in black ops missions. In fact, that was just keeping up a longstanding tradition for the comic book title, which is no stranger to letting presidents step into action as the true power behind the Squad. Here’s a quick guide to who stands where when it comes to the White House.
President Ronald Reagan
President Reagan was the man in charge when the Squad’s supervillainous career began in 1986. Although he appeared in the same mini-series that featured the debut of the team — the six-issue mini Legends — it took until the 14th issue of the monthly Suicide Squad comic to definitively confirm that he was not only well aware of the Squad’s existence, he was also concerned that Amanda Waller was, to be blunt, not doing a good enough job of interfering with foreign regimes for his liking.
President George H.W. Bush
Reagan’s successor wasn’t of the same frame of mind as the Gipper, unfortunately for Waller. While he understood the value of the Squad, he saw the dangers of Waller’s ambition and willingness to work outside the law and worked to limit her influence, eventually going as far as shutting down the Squad and placing Waller in jail. It didn’t take, of course; before too long, Waller had talked herself out of custody and recreated the Squad as an off-book group of mercenaries for hire with no official ties to the U.S. Government at all.
Eventually, she would retire after a mission gone wrong and fade into the background for the extent of the entire Clinton Presidency. Sorry, everyone who was wondering how the Man From Hope would deal with the Woman of Ultimate Pragmatism.
President Lex Luthor
What’s that, you say … ? You didn’t know that we had a President Luthor? For DC’s comic book universe, Lex was a successful third party candidate in an election that — in the real world — was equally controversial for different reasons. Luthor, and then his successor Jonathan Horne, were the stand-ins for the George W. Bush presidency, and it was under their collective watch that Waller was brought out of retirement and given the opportunity to secretly rebuild the Suicide Squad with less external oversight than before. As might be expected, things didn’t go that well as a result.
It’s worth noting that Luthor, at least, tried to control Waller by giving her a cabinet position as Secretary for Metahuman Affairs. It didn’t work, but there’s some meta-textual commentary at play when an outright supervillain attempts more conventional means of employing the Machiavellian Waller than the comic book incarnations of either Reagan or Bush.
President Barack Obama
“It wasn’t until I was already in my second term that I was even made aware of your … program,” President Obama tells Amanda Waller in the Suicide Squad: Rebirth issue, going on to call the Squad “a betrayal of our ideals [and] manifestly a bomb waiting to blow up in our faces.” Suffice to say, he’s not a fan, but he stops short of closing down the program when confronted with the truth that the Squad might be needed to keep the world safe from threats too dangerous for the superheroes of the world. With 2016 being an election year, the question is, will he tell his successor about the team, or keep them as in the dark as he was…?
Suicide Squad: Rebirth No. 1 is in comic book stores now. Suicide Squad hits movie theaters Aug. 5.
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