John Ostrander Is Getting His Redux In Line!
This week we’ll continue with my commentary on the latest collection of my run of Suicide Squad stories, # 7, The Dragon’s Horde. This one will be out just a few days before Christmas making it a perfect last-minute Christmas gift. Well, for some pretty strange people on your Christmas list, I’ll grant you. Once again, although I feel foolish in saying it, the Spoiler Flag is flying although the stories are about two decades old.
Last week we explored the first story in the volume which was the 50th issue celebration. That had everyone, living and dead, from the Squad in it. The next story, Fractured Image, focuses down to mainly just Deadshot. There are others in the story but the main plot centers on Floyd Lawton.
After a major storyline with lots of characters in it, Kim Yale (my wife and co-writer) and I liked to do stories complete in a single issue with a tighter focus to them. When you write an ongoing series, you need to think of the rhythm not only of a given story but of the series as a whole. You can fatigue the reader if you have too many Big Big Big stories with Action Action Action. It’s why we used to do Personal File stories in the Squad maybe once a year; focus on ongoing subplots and individual characterization. This issue isn’t quite a Personal File but it comes close.
Among other subplots, we advanced the connection between Eve Eden (Nightshade) and Tom Tresser (Nemesis). The two always had an attraction for each other but the time never seemed right; it gets right in this story. On a more significant note, Count Vertigo has a conversation with Deadshot that will linger for the rest of the series. Werner Vertigo is manic depressive and had recently been under the thrall of Poison Ivy in which his soul, as he puts it, no longer felt his own. He can’t live that way should it happen again. For reasons he doesn’t go into here, he can’t commit suicide so he wants to know if Lawton will put a bullet in Vertigo’s brain if Werner asks him. Lawton has no problem with that but warns Vertigo to be serious if he asks Deadshot to do it because he will.
The main story spins out of another subplot that we had been spinning for awhile. (Kim and I could nurse a subplot along for more than a year.) Lawton and Captain Boomerang had made a trip Down Under to Harkness’s old stomping grounds when they were summoned back to join the Squad on a mission. Because of Boomerbutt, the two missed their plane. As a result, their luggage got lost – including Lawton’s costume and wrist magnums.
Deadshot is not amused.
At the start of the issue, we discover the costume has been found and recovered – by a luggage handler in France named Marc Pilar who was described as a nothing working in the fringes of the mob. Lawton flies to Marseilles, France, to deal with the imposter and recover his property but there is a real question as to whether or not he can kill “himself.” Lawton had always been described as having a death wish but I never felt he was out to commit suicide. He just didn’t care if he lived or died. Now he is being hunted by “Deadshot”; will he let himself be killed by his alternate persona?
At this time in the run of Suicide Squad, I had decided it would be more realistic to take the Squad out of their costumes and code names. They were supposed to be a covert action group and, as such, should not be drawing undue attention to themselves. In theory.
I now look back at this decision as a mistake. These are comics and the costumes and codenames are a major part of the visuals. I think we started to hemorrhage readers at this point and it would help lead to the book’s cancellation about a year and a half later. Any book that’s more than five years old is going to start losing readership but this choice may have helped.
Nonetheless, I like this story a lot. It’s fair to say that Deadshot was one of the Squad “trinity” (along with Waller and Captain Boomerang) who were never going to get killed. Oh, they occasionally got shot just to make the readers think we might kill them but it was never going to happen. I just enjoyed playing with them too much.
Next time: when the Squad got silly.