The Suicide Squad might be one of the most unconventional comic book flicks of all time. Not only are the protagonists all villains but it’s overtly anti-military, incredibly violent, and completely and utterly wild. So obviously we’re big fans. As you know, we’re also huge fans of the ways that creators sneak in nods to the comics that shaped their films. James Gunn is a huge comic book fan so of course his movie has some rad Easter eggs and cheeky nods. Seeing as Gunn also introduced some deeper cut character cameos, we’ll also explain those too. And we’re here to break them all down just in time for your next rewatch!
That John Ostrander Cameo
It’s always nice to see creators getting their dues in these massive studio adaptations. James Gunn starts the film with a cameo from one of the most iconic Suicide Squad creators. While the crew was first introduced in 1959’s The Brave and the Bold #25 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru, it’s the modern iteration that’s most well known and influential on this film. John Ostrander reimagined the crew in 1987’s Legends #3. He gets an appropriately gross cameo as a Belle Reve attendant helping to prep Savant for his mission.
Why Corto Maltese Sounds Familiar
The fictional South American nation state where the Squad head on their mission is one the film’s biggest and most exciting references. We first heard of Corto Maltese in Tim Burton’s 1989 gothic superhero masterpiece Batman. It’s where Vicki Vale shot the photos that got her the Gotham gig and the attention of one Bruce Wayne. While this doesn’t confirm or deny any connection to Batman ’89, it’s a pretty great nod. It’s also a classic comics homage too, as Corto Maltese is the name of an Italian pulp comics hero, “a laconic ship captain” who starred in the ’60s comic of the same name by Hugo Pratt.
The Joker Still Sucks
Ever since she first appeared in the DCEU in 2016’s Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn has been trying to get over the Joker. Luckily, in Birds of Prey she finally started making her way as a single superwoman. That continues in The Suicide Squad. She has two big references to Mistah J in her awesome costuming. There’s her tattoo which used to say “Property of the Joker” and now says “Property of No-One.” And her sick leather Jacket says “Live Fast Die Clown.” We love this for her.
Bloodsport and His Unforgivable Crime
Like so many comic book characters before him, Bloodsport has a long and storied history. But Idris Elba’s Robert DuBois is introduced via easily the most iconic thing that DuBois ever did in the comics: he shot Superman with a Kryptonite bullet. Amanda Waller explains that’s what put Bloodsport in Belle Reve in the world of The Suicide Squad. And it’s also a reference to Robert DuBois’ first appearance in Superman Vol 2 #4 by John Byrne. It’s there that the character—in the comic, a disgruntled Vietnam vet—shoots an unsuspecting Superman with the dangerous green projectile. While we don’t know if DuBois shot Cavill’s Supes in the DCEU world, it is interesting to consider…
The Inhabitants of Belle Reve Prison
While many fans were hoping for a Bane appearance that sadly never happened, it doesn’t mean that Gunn didn’t deliver on some weird deep cut cameos. As Waller takes Bloodsport around to meet his team, we see a few background villains. UPDATE: The painted lady with colorful patchwork diamonds on her isn’t a reimagined Crazy Quilt. As revealed by the actress who played her, Natalia Safran on Instagram she’s actually Kaleidoscope. The character debuted in 1982’s Superboy Vol 2 #36 and had strange psychedelic powers.
In one of his two cameos in the movie, James Gunn’s brother Sean pops up as Calendar Man. One of Batman’s most well known ridiculous villains, the character first appeared in 1958’s Detective Comics #259. Introduced as the Silver Age began, Calendar Man represents a peak in Batman’s strange Rogues Gallery. His crimes are defined by their connection to specific dates in the calendar. And he’s probably best known for the iteration that appeared in the iconic Batman comic The Long Halloween. We know Sean Gunn is playing Calendar Man as he has the instantly recognizable tattoos around his skull.
Cheeky old Calendar Man is joined by an extremely deep cut character with very cool powers. Double Down, a.k.a. Jeremy Tell, was nothing more than a low life criminal and gangster until a cursed deck of cards attached themselves to him. That’s really his powerset. Honestly, we’d watch a James Gunn Double Down movie… like, tomorrow.
King Shark Read Book, King Shark Smart
When we meet the very cute and good Nanaue he’s reading a book. In the context of the film he wants his teammates to know that he’s very smart. Alas, the book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, is upside down. This is a funny character moment but also a nod to a now classic image of King Shark from 2013’s Suicide Squad #20. The image of King Shark reading a book of the Persian poet Rumi has become an internet fave. So this moment with Nanaue reading a book of US philosophy seems incredibly purposeful.
A Round of Golf with Senator Cray
In one of Gunn’s most impressively niche references we learn that Waller was meant to be playing a round of golf with Senator Cray. While it seems like a throwaway line, it’s actually another DC Comics reference. Senator Joseph Cray was first introduced in 1988’s Suicide Squad #11. He’s a corrupt politician who got caught up in a scandal selling government secrets. It’s a great, if esoteric, bit of foreshadowing because it shows the kind of people that Waller, who herself is revealed to be corrupt later on, chooses to spend time with. It’s also an interesting potential connection to the wider DC Universe as Cray’s son Adam once took on the mantle of The Atom while impersonating Ray Palmer at the behest of the hero. Adam was also briefly a so-called “secret weapon” of the Suicide Squad.
The Tragedy of Ratcatcher
Warner Bros./ DC Comics
We all knew that Taika Waititi would show up in The Suicide Squad. He was one of the many, many named cast members revealed last year. But none of us knew who he’d play. Or that it would be such an important and emotional role. While Ratcatcher 2 is a wholly new invention for The Suicide Squad, her father isn’t. That’s who Waititi plays here in flashbacks. The original Ratcatcher first appeared in 1988’s Detective Comics #585. Just like his on-screen daughter, he had the ability to control and manipulate rats. But this tragic backstory is a new and unexpected addition to his canon.
Clubbing Is Cool
During their time in Corto Maltese, the crew go out for a very fun night at a local club. While they’re meant to be there to catch the Thinker, they also have a little fun. We also get two of Gunn’s most personal cameos here. The dancer on stage is none other than Pom Klementieff. She’s most well known for playing Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy. Klementieff struts her stuff here in a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. The other key Gunn cameo is Lloyd Kaufman. Kaufman has been in all of Gunn’s movies. Why? Gunn started his film career at Troma with the movie Tromeo and Juliet, and counts Kaufman as his mentor.
Harley Harks Back to Her Origins
In one of the most outrageous sequences in a film full of them, we get to see what production designer Beth Mickle called “Harley Vision.” This radical moment occurs as Harley fights her way out of the palatial Corto Maltese manor where she was imprisoned. As she does so, she sees animated birds, flowers, and hearts explode. It’s a cool visual but also a nice nod to her first ever appearance in the beloved Batman: The Animated Series.
Why Harley Hates License Plates
While the crew threaten the Thinker into helping them break into Jotunheim, we hear Harley state, “If we find out you have personalized license plates, you die.” That might just seem like a hilarious and wild quip from the Mistress of Mayhem. But it’s actually another slight to her annoying and evil ex, the Joker. In the first Suicide Squad movie, we see that the Clown Prince of Crime has egotistical and corny personalized license plates that say “HaHaHa.” Honestly, we’re just so glad that Harley got rid of that green-haired loser.
S.T.A.R. Labs Baby, It’s S.T.A.R. Labs
As the crew makes their way through the jungles of Corto Maltese, they do a little bonding. This is where we learn the tragic history of Polka-Dot Man and how he got his weird powers. Telling the sad tale of how his mother experimented on him, we get a reference to the famed S.T.A.R. Labs where his mother was a scientist. In the comics, S.T.A.R. Labs first appeared in 1971’s Superman #246. Since then it’s become DC’s all purpose can-be-good, can-be-evil laboratory. S.T.A.R. Labs has featured in most DC TV shows including prominently in the Arrowverse. And its big screen debut came with Man of Steel and continued through Zack Snyder’s entries into the DCEU. But this adds a little more darkness to the canon.
“Starro the Conqueror” and a Very Cool Bit of Comics Lore
Poor lovely Starro. Sure, they might have been used to torture innocent civilians for decades, but before that Starro was just an alien chilling in space. Starro’s whole appearance could arguably be called an Easter egg as they’re such a cult character. But we’re including them for two key reasons. When the Thinker introduces Starro sarcastically as Starro the Conqueror, that’s in direct reference to how they’re named in the comics.
And there’s something else here that’s even deeper and cooler. The Suicide Squad first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #25. Three issues later the Justice League made their debut, and they were fighting Starro. If you look at the film as a three act arc, it’s almost like the journey the team is on represents those three issues until they meet Starro, just like their DC teammates, the Justice League. Basically, we think that James Gunn read a lot of comics while he was prepping for this movie.
Rick Flag’s Tragic Death
After getting a hero’s journey we never expected, Peacemaker murders Rick. It was a despicable act by the supposedly patriotic hero. We learned Waller sent him to make sure Jotunheim was destroyed. But while we cried into our popcorn we also realized this is another nod to the John Ostrander Suicide Squad series. In 1989’s Suicide Squad #26, readers were led to think that Flag was killed in Jotunheim. It’s a cool nod to an iconic moment, even if later on Flag was revealed to actually be alive…
News Networks Are Always Important
If you’ve followed our MCU coverage you’ll know that TV news networks are often Easter egg hotspots. And that is just as true in The Suicide Squad. As the movie ends, we see Bloodsport’s daughter watching the news on GBS. In the comics, the Galaxy Broadcasting Network is run by media mogul and sometimes Superman villain, Morgan Edge. Depending on the canon you look at, Morgan was the head of a media conglomerate that purchased the Daily Planet and became Clark Kent’s boss, which gives us a big Superman connection. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths event in the ’80s, Morgan became a straight up comic book villain and a leader of the notorious crime group known as Intergang. In a cool cosmic twist, Intergang was supplied with weapons from Apokolips, the home of Darkseid! And the villains are slated to appear in next year’s Black Adam film.
The Suicide Squad is on HBO Max and in theaters now!