Suicide Notes

I just had an interesting visceral reaction to a news report over at Newsarama regarding something near and dear to my heart.

Back in the 1980s, I proudly had a hand in the creation of Suicide Squad, reviving an old DC team and thoroughly updating it for modern times. It was a very Silver Age thing for me to do and I delighted in planning and scheming with writer John Ostrander.

From the outset, the reader identification character was to be Rick Flag, the original team leader from the Brave & Bold issues. He was the sole survivor of the team and a veteran of some ugly battles. Flag had a bit of a death wish given his survivor’s guilt, letting him take unnecessary risks to get the job done.

It was also clear to John that Flag was going to pay the price for that recklessness sooner or later. We had decided we’d close out the series’ second year by letting Flag go out in a blaze of glory, dying in a nuclear explosion. It worked for stirring things up for the title and for the character.

So, I was reading Greg Rucka’s thoughts on the latest incarnation of the team, soon to appear in his Checkmate. Buried towards the interview’s end was his comment that Flag was back from the dead. I say out loud, “No, he’s dead!” No doubt, I have now joined the legion of editors, writers and artists to disagree with an editorial decision regarding characters once under my control.

Flag’s story was told. It all was tied up with a very nice boom. I can see little reason in resurrecting him. On the other hand, he now joins an illustrious collection of characters whose stories were told only to find yet another chapter awaited them – Bucky, Jason Todd, Arisia, Kilowog, and so on.

Still, it’s been a while since I read something that earned such an emotional response. I loved working on Suicide Squad, getting some terrific work from artist Luke McDonnell and Karl Kesel. Heck, Karl loved the series concept so much he would send lengthy handwritten ideas to me and John, labeling them “Kesel’s Epistles”. Together, we must achieved something with the title – it lasted 66 issues and has been resurrected time and again, not a bad addition to the mythology.


  • As a creator these days myself, I can sympathize with this “we thought we’d completely told their stories” thinking up to a point, and yet…well, there’s these half-dozen Canadian characters over at Marvel who had their universe’s version of a Mayerthorpe Incident played out at their expense about six months ago. You may have seen something about that in the comics fandom news services of late. And I have a problem with that as a fan…so I’m feeling more than a little torn here, Rob, and I’ve got this rueful grin on my face as a result.

    Still, it is a good thing to be able to have such an effect on readers such a long time after a work sees print…

  • Julio Diaz

    As someone who used to letterhack to you back in the Squad days, Bob, I had more or less the same reaction. I haven’t read the issue yet, but I did read the Newsarama piece. I like Rucka’s work a lot, but I think they probably should have let Flag be. But I’ll keep an open mind and see what they do.

    My understanding is that the issue also features a group of ex-Squad members that is out for revenge on Amanda Waller, but if I recall correctly, there are at least two members of this group – Mirror Master and Tattooed Man – who were never a part of the Squad (the Mirror Master that appeared in the Squad was actually Captain Boomerang in disguise. I don’t recall Icicle as a member, either, but I have a dim memory of him possibly being in one of the one-off lineups after the monthly ended. Javelin wasn’t exactly a key member, either, and I’m pretty sure he died (but that can easily be explained away). And I think Plastique only went on the group’s first mission, and was midwiped after it.

    So the only ones who had a really strong connection are two of my all-time favorites, Punch and Jewelee. And I’m not very happy about what the comments on the Newsarama article say happened to them.

    All that said, I’m happy anytime the concept is revived, and I still wish that DC would a) collect the series you did with John and co., and b) hire you guys to bring the book back. It’s still one of my al-time favorites.

  • Scavenger

    Bob, you had a part in my all time favorite DC character? Awesome!!!! The greatest member of the Suicide Squad ever! The Writer!

  • Kent

    Wow…though I hated losing Flag his death was so moving and the fact not one but TWO other stories felt the need to clear his suicide mission from his imortal soul in the afterlife by earning his way out of purgatory (guess Flag was Catholic) and up to heaven

    (in CAPTAIN ATOM and DAY OF JUDGEMENT) means a number of other creators in the DC offices felt pretty strongly for Rick Flag (Karin joined him in that Captain Atom story)

    but that said, I’ve always missed him and I’m not sorry to see him back (though I wonder what happenned to his son…)