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Karin Grace of the Suicide Squad (DC Comics)

Karin Grace


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

It is imperative that you first read our Suicide Squad (Mission X version) profile first, or you won’t understand jack. The material is really interesting, but there are… complexities lying in ambush.


Background

  • Real Name: Dr. Karin Grace
  • Other Aliases: “The ice doctor”
  • Marital Status: Unrevealed
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: Mission X’s Suicide Squad ; Task Force X ; Manhunters cult ; Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile
  • Height: 5’5” Weight: 125 lbs.
  • Eyes: Light blue Hair: Blonde


Powers and Abilities

Grace is presented as a medical specialist.

  • In the original take she’s a military nurse specialised in flight medicine and air rescue.
  • In the revised take she seems to be a MD from an Air Force air rescue unit, who after leaving the service joined the NASA to help develop space medicine for astronauts.

In the original stories, her medical skills are seldom demonstrated, since it’s not a genre with lots of wounds and death.

Grace also serves as Flag’s co-pilot, radar navigator and bombardier. She may have other signature Air Force skills such as playing Farmville whilst drinking coffee. These and getting captured are her two most apparent skillsets in the vintage stories, but Dr. Grace also has three more subtle assets.

Three more subtle assets

The first is that she cheers the men onward and motivates them, presumably because they don’t want to look weak in front of a girl. In DC Heroes RPG terms, she has the Cheerleadership Advantage. She uses it through the Dream Team Advantage, making her the Hero Points  pivot of the Squad.

Like in team sports, her role as a pivot is not to score and do flashy stuff. Rather, she makes sure that the ball ends up in the right hands at the right time. Other Squad members give their Hero Points to Karin so she can bolster them and bestow them to the point man so he can save the day.

The second is that she’s gorgeous. Thus, most male things (including giant monsters such as Ancient Greek cyclopes) will get distracted by this and focus on her. This leaves the men free to do Manly Things™.

The third is that she displayed a quasi-supernatural level of psychic sensitivity in one vintage story. This is noted in her DC Heroes stats as a couple of Awareness APs. But the gamemaster should feel free to have Grace simply sense “telepathic emanations” or somesuch to provide a quick start or clue during an adventure.

In the published story she was able to sense hostile intentions from telepathic dinosaurs in another dimension. She then concentrated to transport the entire Squad into that dimension by ’riding back‘ those psychic waves. As you do.

More than a woman, part 1

Karin Grace doesn’t have a complex personal continuity. But there are nevertheless different takes about her, as a result of acceptable portrayals of female characters between 1959 and now.

The original depiction was a very passive character, conservative even by 1959 standards. From what little is seen of the 1980s post-Crisis version, Grace was more of an active character. She had more agency and actual skills as a field operative. She’s now a medical doctor, not a nurse as the 1959 version.

She’s also seen wielding and using firearms — an important signifier in action stories — though she and Doc Evans prefer lighter, simpler weapons. They tend to have Colt M1911s and perhaps M1 carbines whereas Bright and especially Flag will use heavier military weaponry such as submachineguns and assault rifles.

Later depictions of Karin Grace (say, in the New Frontier continuity or in a recent Booster Gold adventure) continue this progression. they depict her as having a strong personality and being just as capable as the rest.

More than a woman, part 2

The game stats in this profile are based on the abilities of the original character. She was then given more forward social, physical and martial skills as per the 1980s version. This is a murky compromise and something that we generally avoid. But given the unusual continuity situation and the low amount of material it seemed to be the least bad approach.

Having Grace master unusual physical skills doesn’t come out of nowhere. Vintage Suicide Squad stories depict her performing precise parachute drops in full US Airborne kit along with the men, and operating as a combat diver.

That more liberal times would allow to depict her using personal weaponry and performing more musclebound exploits (such as the difficult mountaineering depicted in the flashback in Suicide Squad #50 as the Squad exfiltrates from Cambodia, or even… wearing trousers !) is a reasonable assumption.


Preamble to the History section

Again, this entry is meant to be read after the Suicide Squad (Mission X version) article.

Grace’s known biography only includes one event before joining the Squad. Namely, the loss of her lover Steve during an Air Rescue mission. As a reminder, there are three possible dates for this depending on the timeline :

  • It may have occurred in the Pacific in 1945 (original timeline)
  • It may have occurred during the mid-1950s in Việt Nam (our proposed timeline)
  • Or it may have occurred in the mid-1970s during the closing months of American involvement in Việt Nam (the most logical date for the 1987 timeline).

Dumbo

Little is stated about Grace’s military career. We have *assumed* that in the original timeline she served in Pacific (and was presumably Navy) because the flashback happens at sea. But yeah, this is flimsy.

Likewise we have assumed that she was USAF in the later timelines (our own and the 1987 one). But the only bit of information to base this on is that her lover Steve is called “a flyboy” – which is almost as flimsy. In all cases we’ve applied our general rule not to take clues from the uniforms drawn (those are almost never correct).

Here is some historical context for all three possible timelines :

Original timeline

Official experiments in search-and-rescue air operations for the US Navy started in early 1943. These were a success. As a result, such operations were quickly scaled up until the end of the war. The air rescue aircrafts were nicknamed “Dumbo”, after the cartoon elephant from the 1941 Disney film , and their operations became known as dumbo ops.

In the original timeline, Nurse Grace logically would have been a graduate of the very first class at Navy Flight Nurse School in January of 1945. This would also make her a US Navy Ensign. As a Flight Nurse she would have been both a qualified military nurse and a rescue swimmer, explaining her fitness to serve with the Squad.

A caption describes her war record as “striking” (perhaps along the line of real-world Ensign Jane Kendeigh  at Iwo Jima and Okinawa), so she may have been a Lt. by the war’s end.

Writeups.org timeline

In our proposed timeline, Dr. Grace would have been one of the first female MDs to serve in the Air Force. She would have joined the earliest form of the 33rd Air Rescue Squadron  (formed in 1952).

The earliest American “consultants” working in Việt Nam came from Okinawa bases. Thus it is reasonable to assume — in the context of a fictional universe — that early, off-the-record aeromedical rescue operations in Việt Nam would have been flown by the Okinawa-based 33rd ARS.

In this timeframe Dr. Grace would presumably have been a 0-1 (2nd Lt.), though given the times it is unlikely that she was ever promoted past 0-2.

With the hostility toward the possibility of female pilots her qualifications as co-pilot, bombardier and navigator would likely have been acquired on the side. See our first Carol Danvers profile for notes about women’s organisations in the Air Force.

This timeline makes likely that Dr. Grace would have been loaned to NACA  (the precursor of NASA) in 1957 as part of Special Committee on Space Technology . *If* we assume that NACA’s SCST were more extensive in the DCU than in the real world, which is reasonable. She could thus have met Flag — a military consultant to the SCST — in early 1958, one year before the Squad was launched.

1987 timeline

In the post-Crisis timeline things would be broadly similar – with 33rd now being the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.

The mid- and late 1970s saw the bulk of the legal changes allowing women to serve in an integrated manner. So 1st Lieutenant Grace might have been formally trained as a backup pilot, bombardier (to release rescue boats), etc. a few months or years before joining the Squad.

Dr. Grace might have met Rick Flag during the January, 1978 space shuttle astronaut candidate recruitment. This would be roughly a year before the Squad was formed.

2007 timeline

In the post-Infinite Crisis timeline, 1st Lt. Grace would presumably be a CSAR -qualified aeromedical crew director attached to the USAF 24th Special Tactics Squadron. The bad stuff would have happened during the DCU version of Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu , since these 1993 events have been made famous by the (historically inaccurate) Blackhawk Down movie .

In this timeline, Dr. Grace presumably meets “Rick Flag” (actually amnesiac soldier Matthew Miller) after she is recruited in 1997 by General Eiling’s men to join a new version of the Suicide Squad.

From context, Grace has probably been lied to and manipulated, exploiting her state of shock over what happened in Mogadishu to feed her false information and make her exceptionally determined to serve.


History

After this tragedy Grace carried on, working as a physician for aerospace pilots. She was nicknamed the Ice Doctor due to her cold aloofness since losing Steve. She eventually met with Rick Flag, bonded with him over their shared sense of loss and duty, and joined the Suicide Squad shortly after he did.

The group dynamics of the Squad revolved around Grace. Flag was secretly Grace’s lover. But the two other men were also in love with her and it was feared that, given everyone’s unusual psychological state, they’d crack if she rebuffed them.

This uncomfortable situation continued for years as the Suicide Squad improbably beat threat after threat and defended the free world.

But then it turned around…

Pre-Crisis, the Squad dispersed right after discovering a strange golden temple in Cambodia. Karin Grace was never heard of again.

Another view of the Suicide Squad in its Silver Age version

Post-Crisis, the mission in Cambodia was even more of a disaster. Jess and Doc Evans apparently died trying to stop a yeti, and Karin blamed herself since the men were trying to save her as their first priority. Flag got Grace out of Cambodia, but she had finally reached her psychological breaking point.

She was flown back stateside, leaving Flag alone, despondent and volunteering for even more suicidal missions. Dr. Grace recovered to some extent, but apparently never renewed her relationship with Rick Flag. The doctors treating her soon asked Flag to stop visiting her so she could move on and leave her traumas behind her. As a result, Grace and Flag eventually lost contact.

Weeks later the medical staff realised that Karin was pregnant. According to Waller, Grace had a further breakdown upon learning this. Though she carried to term, she blocked the existence of her child from her mind.

Raise the Flag

In the 1987 timeline, Karin’s son isn’t problematic. He presumably was born in 1984, and he does look about 6 in the scenes published in 1990.

In our proposed timeline, however, he’s the one point that doesn’t work. This is because he would have been born in 1965, making him 25 by the time Koshchei sent zombies to capture him. For those interested in using our timeline in their campaign, there’s a fix. But it will be detailed in the Rick Flag entry.

… and he began to change

Though Grace recovered her composure after several years, everything was handled disastrously. Flag abandoned Grace even after it became OK for him to visit her. From dialogue it seems that it was a mixture of him being poorly informed about Grace’s state by the military and a mostly-subconscious wish to avoid her.

Grace blamed Flag for this. She came to harbour a low-key desire to hurt him back, since she had also blocked out the good parts of her history with Flag.

General Stuart arranged for Karin’s son to be adopted by friends of his, the Kanes. However, he never informed Flag that he had a son since he feared that Flag would also break down. It is possible that nobody ever told Grace either, given her unstable state.

Grace presumably ended up rejoining the US Air Force as an air rescue doctor. By her next appearance her skills were again current and reputed.

After leaving the hospital, she met with the adventurer Mark Shaw, then known as the Privateer and associated with the Manhunters cult. After becoming Shaw’s lover, Dr. Grace was inducted into the cult. She became a Manhunters plant within the armed forces.

She didn’t wonder then…

In 1986, Amanda Waller was authorised to create an entirely new version of the Suicide Squad. To hasten operations, Waller grabbed a few resources from the previous version of the team.

One was a mostly intact SS-1 special purpose aircraft. It was retrofitted to become a fast transport airplane. Another was Dr. Grace, whom she approached to head the emergency and combat medical operations of the Squad and help fly the SS-1.

Always willing to serve, feeling that she owed Jess Bright and Hugh Evans, and seeing an opportunity to hurt Flag, Karin agreed to join the Squad. She became part of the ground crew in Belle Reve, LA.

Karin Grace was back to her “ice doctor” persona. She did not really care whether the ill-defined ends justified the occasionally heinous means the new Squad employed. For instance, she didn’t bat an eye when it came to using Dr. Moon’s technology to force a washout, Plastique, to forget the existence of the Squad.

… she didn’t think it strange

Grace was also occasionally active in the field as a support agent. One example of this was the operation to break the credibility of bigoted “hero” William Hell. Dr. Grace also flew the team out of USSR after the semi-failure of the Firebird operation, and provided immediate medical attention since most members were in a sorry shape.

Dr. Grace occasionally provoked Col. Flag with accusations of having abandoned her and/or Jess and Hugh. She knew that Flag wasn’t her boss – Waller was. Flag soon cracked and wanted to confront the passive-aggressive Grace to tell his version, but Waller ordered him not to.

Flag refused the order. This led to a fists fight with the Privateer (Mark Shaw), whom Waller had recently recruited. Flag was defeated, and when Shaw made a vague pass at Grace, Karin showed clear interest in order to hurt Rick.

Though Karin thought that Mark was just maintaining cover by pretending not to know her, he was sincere. ”Her” Mark Shaw was not the real one. Unbeknownst to her it was an android double.

He used to search her face as though she knew the truth…

During the Millennium crisis, the government was reluctant to activate the Suicide Squad. But the menace essentially came to the Squad as activities by the Manhunters cult were reported near Belle Reve.

Belle Reve’s warden assembled a team. He arranged to have a very powerful car bomb issued to them. The Manhunter forces being chiefly androids from outer space, any base of theirs in the bayou was expected to take extraordinary force to raze.

The Suicide Squad in its Silver Age version

Briefed about the bomb, Grace volunteered to accompany the team in the field. She considered that operatives may be caught in the blast of such a powerful weapon and require immediate medical attention. On the team was also Shaw – the real one.

During the assault on the Manhunters temple, Grace faked being captured by the aliens. She then arranged for a trap, planning to take Flag out before he could drive the bomb into position. Grace lured Flag in to “rescue” her despite Shaw’s warnings that it was a trap.

… lost inside Cambodia

Grace held Flag at gunpoint and spat out the truth about her Manhunters affiliation in his face. But to her utter surprise, Shaw disarmed her. The Privateer explained that whoever the Mark Shaw she had lived with for several years was, it wasn’t him.

A Manhunter then came in, claiming that he was the real Shaw. He said that the Privateer holding Karin’s gun was the android. He gave his weapon to Grace so she would execute Flag and Shaw.

But as she held the baton Karin realised that something was wrong. She started to remember the good times she had spent with Flag rather than just the bad, no longer suppressing her recollections to deal with her traumatic condition.

As she refused to fire, the Manhunters were crippled by the Spectre. As a result the fake Mark’s circuitry broke down, making it clear that Karin had been deceived by the Manhunters all along.

She tried to trace the past, the way he used to look, the way he used to laugh

Coldly furious, Dr. Grace determined that she was the best-placed person to deliver the bomb, as she knew the layout of the Manhunters’s temple. As she revved up the engine she asked the real Shaw to tell Rick that she now remembered their full history, and that she asked for his forgiveness and for him to carry on in her memory.

Though she discovered that hostages were held in the gigantic Manhunters temple, two other adventurers had snuck into the Temple – Jim Corrigan and Batman. Batman told Grace he would get the hostages out. After a short discussion Karin resumed driving the car bomb where it could annihilate the temple.

Though damaged, the Manhunters androids did all they could to prevent Karin from driving the bomb to the heart of their main temple. They eventually managed to crash her car. It was too late though – the bomb would detonate within seconds.

Spotting the android who had duped her, Dr. Grace cursed him. The bomb exploded, dealing a crippling blow to the Manhunters’ plot against the Human race and the Guardians.


Description

In the original stories, Grace is usually dressed in a way completely inappropriate for field work but appropriate for a late 1950s American woman. She usually sports a red skirt that ends below the knee and a blouse, plus light heeled shoes and perhaps conservative jewellery such as a pearl necklace.

The few shots of the 1987 post-Crisis version have her dress more sensibly. Examples include a black high-necked sweater, red fatigues and hiking boots, or a US Air Force jumpsuit and supple combat boots. She’s an air rescue doctor Jim, not a fashion plate !

When she worked along the Suicide Squad field team she wore a S.H.I.E.L.D.-style black bodysuit. It had a handgun — presumably a Colt M1911A1 — in a grey-blue shoulder holster.


Personality

In the original appearances Karin is more an object than an actor. She has but a few lines of dialogue, though she says “You’ve done it Rick !” about three times per story. Everyone’s characterisation was minimal and the emphasis was on the weird tales. She was the stock demure female who got captured and was there for the guys to obsess over.

What her characterisation would have been in the post-Crisis is not known. But after Cambodia she’s obviously hurt and psychologically crippled. What happened is unclear, but she has blocked practically all her positive memories, perhaps so she could move on. This leaves her bitter, hateful and passive-aggressive about her past.

Though she wanted to let go and get a life, Dr. Grace was still bound by duty – as a former Squad operative, as a doctor, as an Air Force officer and even as a Manhunter. Her whole life was dominated by the necessity to serve, no matter how badly she wanted to retire.

Other traits

Part of the theme of the team is that they were abnormally driven by tragic circumstances. This made them able to unhesitatingly face disastrous odds for the common good. This great strength stemmed from psychological trauma, however, and there’s a tiny chance that somebody might crack (in DC Heroes RPG terms, Minor Psychological Instability).

This wasn’t too present in the few original stories. But the sense that someday, somehow, somebody’s ghosts would catch up with them and everything would go wrong was present in the post-Crisis version.

Squad members were driven by an unusual sense of Responsibility, though in practice their actions were of Upholding the Good sort. They felt personally, deeply responsible for carrying on in the name of their comrades after terrible tragedies. No Squad member made attempts to rationalise away, forget or shirk what had happened, and took-on a life-changing, 24/7, to-the-death duty ever since.


Quotes

“Rick — you’ve done it !” (The flaming SS-1 pulls up from a firestorm)

Flag: “Release the first stick !”
Grace: “Bombs away !”

“We can’t risk landing on the Moon ! Not with the thing still [clinging to our rocket] ! Who knows what new form it might take ! What new threat ?”

“Look out, Rick ! A monstrous seagull’s attacking us !”

“There’s only one storm when I’m around you, Rick — the one in my heart.“

“We’re all equal… and all expendable in the Suicide Squad, Rick. Our lives don’t matter compared to the lives of millions of others !”

“Our hearts told us ! All we had to do was look into the eyes of the men we’ve shared life and death with on every mission — to see our real friends ! You cannot invent that look !”

“No — no more sacrifices for me.”

“I owe the Manhunters this. They duped me… I was working for them… helping them… I didn’t realise… So if they hurt anyone else… it’ll be like I’m to blame. I’d take any success of theirs, any harm they do, personally. So this bomb is my way of getting back at them. Personally. If you can understand that.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Karin Grace (merged version)

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 04 Occupation: Mission X agent
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 012 HP: 035

Powers:
Awareness: 02

Skills:
Acrobatics (Climbing): 04, Animal handling (Horses): 04, Artist (Painter, photographer): 04, Medicine: 05, Military science (Demolition): 05, Vehicles: 05, Weaponry (Exotic, Firearms, Heavy): 05

Advantages:
Attractive, Cheerleadership, Credentials (US Military, High ; NASA, High ; US Intelligence, Medium ; NATO militaries, Medium), Dream Team (with Rick Flag Jr, Jess Bright and Doc Evans), Expertise (Parachuting, SCUBA diving)

Connections:
Mission X (High) plus those derived from her Credentials

Drawbacks:
MIA toward Rick Flag, Minor Psychological Instability

Equipment:
See the corresponding Suicide Squad article.

By Sébastien Andrivet

Source of Character: DC Universe

Helper(s): Darci

Writeup completed on the 17th of August, 2011.

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