John Ostrander: Up Against the Waller
It’s always interesting to see your children grow up. In my case I don’t have any flesh and blood children; I have the offspring of my imagination, of my heart and mind – the characters I’ve created in my stories, especially in my comics. By growing up, I mean seeing them in other media. And occasionally their sending money home.
In that regard, the most grown up of my offspring is, without a doubt, Amanda Waller, a.k.a. the Wall. She first appeared in the DC miniseries Legends but was created for my version of the Suicide Squad. For those of you who don’t know, the Suicide Squad was a covert team that Waller put together using jailed supervillains. They were sent on secret missions pursuing American governmental objectives and, if they succeeded and survived, they were set free or had their time significantly reduced. If they died – no loss. If they failed or were uncovered, they could be easily disavowed – hey, they were bad guys doing bad guy things.
Waller created this version of the Squad and was herself created to do that in the DCU. Len Wein and John Byrne are credited as co-creators since she first appeared in Legends but Amanda originated with me. (The same way that Tim Truman is, rightly, co-credited as GrimJack’s creator although the character also originated with me.) As conceived, Waller was middle-aged, black, heavy set, on the short side, and with no super-powers; just an iron will and a terminal bad attitude which is why her nickname is “the Wall”. I’ve always said that some aspect of the characters we write exist within us; it’s been pointed out to me that would mean that I have an angry middle aged black woman inside of me. Maybe I’m just channeling Tyler Perry.
She’s also one of my favorite characters to write; actually, I don’t so much write her as just take dictation and pay attention to where she wants to go. She gets the job done and doesn’t care what she has to do along the way; she is morally a gray character by design. Some think of her as an anti-hero; the site IGN listed as her 60th Greatest Comic Book Villain of all time. For my view, she’s not a villain but she is deeply flawed. Just the way I like my characters.
Waller has appeared all over the place – in video games, in animated series (Justice League Unlimited as one example), animated movies, television shows, and movies. I find seeing the different variations of her interesting and gratifying, especially financially. I have what is called “participation” with Amanda; DC licenses her out and I get a taste of the money that comes in because she was an original character. I don’t have the same deal with the Squad itself; there was an earlier version. Amanda, bless her, sends some money home every now and then.
Both Amanda’s appearance on Arrow and in the New 52 DC Universe is changed; rather than older, stouter, and shorter, she’s now model thin and young and, well, sexy. I’ve always thought of Amanda as many things but “sexy” was not one of them.
I don’t control what happens with Waller or where she goes or how she looks; she is owned by DC Entertainment and Warners. I knew that going in. She is their property. That said, I think the changes made in her appearance are misguided. There were and are reasons why she looked the way she did. I wanted her to seem formidable and visually unlike anyone else out there. Making her young and svelte and sexy loses that. She becomes more like everyone else. She lost part of what made her unique.
Still, I look forward to the Squad episode of Arrow and not only because of the eventual check that it will bring in. It’s interesting to see how your children turn out and to see how much of you is in them whether they are flesh and blood or just the children of your imagination.
- EXCLUSIVE: Amanda Waller Unleashes the Suicide Squad on “Arrow” (comicbookresources.com)