(1986-1994, part #1)
This profile is intended to be read as part of our series of Suicide Squad team profiles.
Amanda “the Wall” Waller was the core character in the 1987 version of DC Comics’ Suicide Squad.
Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale, Suicide Squad was an innovative and influential book.
Not another brick
As the soul of the series, Waller was also different from the super-hero comics norms.
- She was a short, fat, middle-aged, Black woman from the projects in a position of genuine authority.
- She was a career politician trying to make the world a better place. Albeit without illusions about politics.
- She looked credible as a senior, insider public servant in Washington, D.C..
Mrs. Waller received ample attention and character development. And while intelligent and determined, she worked in situations where there often was no good choice.
In some respects she resembles characters in TV series that came much later, such as The Shield. She also was designed just before the Iran-Contra scandal , which gave many Americans a more informed perspective on US foreign policy.
The core of this profile covers :
- The 1987-1992 Suicide Squad run.
- Plus contemporary appearances.
- Plus the late 1986 “prequel” Suicide Squad material.
So it is specifically the Kim Yale /John Ostrander version of Amanda Waller. They write nearly all of her appearances during this span.
Said span firmly begins with the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Waller and the earliest Squad material occur during the Legends editorial event , which showed key elements of the revised, post-Crisis DC Universe.
Amanda’s entry also covers the 1993-1994, non-Ostrander material. This addendum allows the time span for this profile to end with the Zero Hour time crisis .
- Real Name: Amanda Waller (later Dr. Waller), née Amanda Blake.
- Other Aliases: “The Wall” (nickname).
- Known Relatives: Joseph Waller (husband, deceased), Joseph Jr, Martin, Jesse (sons – Martin and Jesse are twins), Coretta (aka Sareetha, aka Sereetha) (daughter), Damita (daughter, deceased), R.J. aka “Bubba” (son-in-law), Dr. Mary White (older sister), Edna Mae (cousin), Flo Crawley (cousin, deceased).
- Note: Odalys Milagro Valdez (later code-named Havana, daughter) appears in 2001, but let’s include her anyway.
- Group Affiliation: Director of the 1985+ version of Task Force X (which included the Suicide Squad and Checkmate). Later director of the freelance Suicide Squad.
- Base of Operations: Belle Reve Prison, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
- Height: 5’1” (1.55m). Weight: 200lbs. (91 kg.).
- Eyes: Brown. Hair: Black.
Powers & Abilities
Amanda Waller’s determination, intelligence and strength of character are exceptional. She overcame a mountain of obstacles despite starting with terrible financial, cultural, relational and symbolic capitals.
She understands manipulation, lies, intimidation, deceit and death like few do. And she is entirely willing to play dirty.
The Wall excels at grokkingIntuitive yet robust understanding of how something works. what’s on the table, and what’s her leverage. Who wants what, who is under what constraints, what are the weaknesses and moral imperative she can use as leverage to force people to do her bidding, who hates whom, etc..
She can enter a balls-out negotiation with no preparation, against skilled players, and prevail.
Having raised numerous children, she also has decades of experience in spotting lies.
She became an influential, well-connected intelligence insider. Information flows her way. If it’s out there, Waller will likely hear about it.
She has her own networks among spies, counter-spies, police, the military, mobs and the like. These may have been built in collaboration with Valentina Vostok.
She even picked up the essentials of special military operations command, presumably from Colonel Flag.
The Wall also has a good understanding of how to use exotic assets such as metahumans.
To the layman, it would seem that Waller’s track record isn’t that great. This is because she often deals with rotten situations. The kind nobody else will touch in order to protect their career. Good clean triumphs are unlikely in such circumstances.
And in most cases, the losses during Waller-commanded missions didn’t matter to her. A few vicious criminals got killed, so what, screw ’em.
Guess that’s why they’re broke, and you’re so paid
Waller is an expert at deprogramming brainwashed people. She knows techniques used by the best intelligence agencies in a comic-book world.
When and how she learned that is unrevealed.
She can even induce a light hypnotic state in willing subjects. This helps them confront their conditioning and explore their memories.
Waller also seems to be a superior interrogator, presumably using the same skills set.
The Wall seems to be a decent Constitutional law scholar, and has the knowledge and experience to take an active part in a trial.
*Obviously* she’ll want a real lawyer to do the heavy lifting, but she clearly can pull her weight.
She also excels at deducing, with enough available intelligence, how super-powers work. This is chiefly seen when she groks what Brimstone is, and what are Ghede’s actual powers.
In some cases she’ll need scientific help, as with Brimstone. But if the work instead rests on psychological knowledge, she can do it on her own.
One surmises that Mrs. Waller was heavily involved in the research to capture and contain metahuman felons. And learned a lot from Drs. Callendar and LaGrieve.
Waller is short, middle-aged and visibly unathletic. But :
- She’s not afraid of violence.
- There’s 200 pounds of her, and she’s surprisingly strong.
- She has a superior killer instinct, aggression and determination.
- She’s a well-trained firearms operator (including submachineguns and assault rifles) and seems to have brawling experience.
Waller could even accurately fire Duchess’ mega-gun, a heavy weapon with a fierce kick. Thanks to her mass, strength, low centre of gravity and sheer orneriness.
Fitting 1986/1987 music for chronological atmosphere includes Janet Jackson’s “Control”.
This strong album set a number of standards, in pop, choreography, music videos, etc.. And in the representation of an assertive, sexually active, independent Black woman – which resulted in 18 years of rancour.
Let’s have a live performance of “Control”. The sound and image are grainy, because 1987. But it shows the then-elite choreography and stage production. As Joan Morgan once remarked, Janet built the house Beyoncé lives in.
Here’s a timeline for Amanda Waller’s life during this era.
It is *not* based on a sliding timeline. It’s built backward so she’s in her fifties when Suicide Squad stories start in 1985.
Then her ageing suspends because she’s now a comic book character – though in Waller’s case blaming reality reboots for resetting her age works.
During a story set in 1989 she quips that she’s feeling menopausal. By our count she’d be 54 at that point. So that’s pushing it a bit (especially for a Black woman born in poverty) but it remains possible.
1935 – birth.
1942 – family moves to a Cabrini rowhouse.
1953 – marries Joe Waller.
1953-57 – birth of her children with Joe Waller.
1970 – death of Joe Waller, Jr. and Joe Waller, Sr..
1971 – death of Damita Waller.
1971 – birth of Odalys Vasquez.
1979 – Coretta Waller, Joe Waller’s youngest child, graduates. Amanda Waller resumes her own studies.
1983 – Amanda Waller obtains her Master’s Degree and joins the Collins campaign.
1985 – Re-creation of Task Force X, including the Suicide Squad.
1986 – First Squad deployment.
1987 – The Squad is ready.
2002 – After years of part-time studies, Amanda Waller completes her PhD.
If you prefer sliding timelines — you monster — you could always assume that this timeline was correct from the Crisis until Zero Hour. At which point the modern DC timeline is shifted 8 years downstream.
(And a lot of things become impossible, such as the mission in the USSR. And all the Cold War stuff, which is a bunch of storylines. As you continue shifting into the future, the War on Drugs stuff also becomes impossible).
History (part 1)
Amanda Blake is from Chicago. She’s from what became the Cabrini-Green neighbourhood, in the Near North Side.
One likely sequence of events would be :
- Early XXth Century, the Blake family moves to Chicago as part of the so-called Great Migration .
- The Blakes live in the “Black Belt” neighbourhoods of the heavily-segregated city. Those are on the South Side. Mary Blake, then Amanda Blake, are born there.
- The Blakes are one of the (relatively few to my limited knowledge) Black families who move to the Frances Cabrini Rowhouses in 1942.
The rowhouses were a notable, early attempt at projects. These provided somewhat less catastrophic housing in an area known for its violence and (predominantly Irish-American) shantytowns.
(That the Blakes obtained early government housing *might* be interpreted as very-low-level political connections from work in public services and/or a political machine . Since that would help explain Amanda’s later career).
While Amanda grew up in the rowhouses, further projects were built. White flight ensued. The area became predominantly African-American. Which meant dismal incomes plus discrimination, turning the area into an infamous ghetto.
Then comes marriage
Amanda Blake married one Joe Waller when she was 18. Deeply in love, the newlyweds were optimistic and determined to found a family.
Their first son Joe, Jr. was followed by a daughter, Damita. Damita was followed by twin boys, Martin and Jessie, and eventually by a second daughter, Coretta.
Once she became a model, Coretta changed her name to something more African. To avoid bearing a “slave name ”.
Amanda Waller presumably raised her children full-time, as no other occupation was mentioned. She ran a tight ship, and ensured that none of her kids ended up doing drugs or running with a gang.
Sons and daughters
The Wallers’ oldest, Joe Junior, grew up tall and strong. So he became a skilled basketball player, in a successful bid to get a scholarship. He had a bright future ahead of him.
When he was about 17, two hoods accosted him to extort money. Joe was shot dead when he fought back.
Six months later, Damita was tortured and killed by a drug pusher after she rejected his advances.
Damita’s death broke Joe Waller. Knowing that the police would do nothing, he took his gun and went down town. Mr. Waller slew the man who had killed Damita, but took fatal return fire.
History (part 2)
Unable to pay the rent on her own, Mrs. Waller was evicted with her three young children.
They slept in a shelter for a while, and Amanda obtained welfare to feed her kids. This humiliated her, and her personality became warped by rage.
Amanda’s older sister Mary offered to take the kids in. Even though she had a meagre income, not having become a doctor yet. But Amanda would take no charity, not even from Mary.
Social services referred her to a community health psychologist, Dr. Simon LaGrieve. But instead of healing, Mrs. Waller turned her seething anger into a weapon.
She’d gain control and power, she’d save all her children, and she’d clean the streets.
Driven by rage
Amanda worked multiple jobs on top of being a single mother. She got all her kids into college.
(In these distant, primæval times a college diploma was a much more effective passport to a solid middle-class life).
During this span, the Waller widow had a relationship with one Mr. Vasquez. He presumably was Cuban-American. They had a daughter, Odalys, but Mrs. Waller didn’t raise her.
After Coretta graduated, the Waller widow became a student in political science.
Once she had her Master’s Degree, Amanda approached African-American politician Marvin Collins. They shared political values.
However, Collins was too progressive for the Democratic establishment. He also refused the backing of the Cook County Democratic Organisation and its machine politics.
Therefore, his chances of getting elected were slim to none.
As Collins’ campaign director, Waller built his organisation from the ground up. She hustled money and she hustled votes, working like a maniac. Her charisma and knowledge of the Chicago streets were critical.
The maverick campaign was successful. Collins presumably joined the 99th United Congress in 1985. Either as an Independent, or after the Democratic Party had to endorse him to avoid splitting the vote.
Mrs. Waller goes to Washington
Mrs. Waller thus left the dilapidatedWhen a structure was ruined by age and neglect. Cabrini-Green area. She became Collins’ aide at the Capitol.
Congressman Collins continued to champion progressive causes such as social programs. Though with a 52-48 Republican Congress, progress likely was limited.
While researching a bill for the Congressman, Waller found dossiers about the Suicide Squadron. Intrigued, she researched its history and Task Force X’s history.
Suicide, it’s a suicide
Amanda now sought to create a new version of the Suicide Squad to serve America.
But this time, the elite-yet-expendable operatives would be super-villains. She wanted ruthless, sacrificable, deniable, powerful operatives to handle problems that more career-minded and decorum-abiding pols wouldn’t touch.
Somehow, she obtained clearance to put together a pilot team as a proof of concept.
She even got herself an office in the Pentagon. It may have been a mothballed Task Force X one.
The tiger he destroyed his cage yes YES
Waller wanted world-class martial artist and agent the Bronze Tiger (Ben Turner) to lead her field team. He had been brainwashed by the League of Assassins for years, but a CBI team led by King Faraday had recently recovered him.
Mrs. Waller played a key role in breaking the League’s mental conditioning. Mr. Turner considered that he owed her his free will.
However, Turner was still considered a security risk. He also had been blacklisted — so to speak — by racist officials. Even Waller couldn’t impose him as her point man.
One of the high-pull officials opposing Waller and Turner was Sarge Steel.
A time for Eiling
Amanda therefore bartered with General Wade Eiling. He was the most influential military officer when it came to projects involving metahumans.
He agreed to back her up if she’d make one of his operatives, Colonel Richard Rogers Flag, her field leader. Turner would be Flag’s lieutenant.
Waller made two further recruitments :
- Nightshade (Eve Eden). She had been on the CBI team that recovered Turner, along with Faraday and Flag.
- Former FBI agent turned vigilante Nemesis (Thomas Tresser). He had been recovering from grave wounds in a government hospital.
Eden and Tresser were sent to conduct advance intelligence work in Qurac.
In unrevealed circumstances, Waller also made a deal with the mysterious Black Orchid. The Orchid would assist with some missions, and in exchange received privileged access to Task Force X databases for her own purposes.
Given the Orchid’s amazing infiltration skills, it is possible that Waller considered that striking a deal was more productive than vainly trying to keep her out.
With her cadre of professionals in place, Waller recruited expendable super-muscle from prisons. She picked C-list super-villains :
- Blockbuster (Mark Desmond).
- Captain Boomerang (George Harkness).
- Deadshot (Floyd Lawton).
- Enchantress (June Moon/Enchantress).
However, this all-new, all-different Suicide Squad had to be rushed into action months ahead of schedule.
For most subsequent events, see the Suicide Squad (Amanda Waller version) team profile.
Then we’ll return to Amanda Waller and finish her profile. Including the Description, Personality, Quotes, Game Stats… the usual.
Appendix – Checkmate events
(Waller didn’t appear much in the Checkmate Vol. 1 comic book. Here is a quick summary.
This information belongs to a 1980s Checkmate organisation profile. But since we don’t have that yet it’s kept here).
Harry Stein held the position of King within Checkmate, running the agency day-to-day.
Waller, giving Stein his orders, was Queen – though she refused to be called that.
Early on Waller kept a close eye on Stein. But she soon came to trust him enough not to micromanage Checkmate.
Thorn in my side
Checkmate had its first major blunder when Black Thorn (Elizabeth Thorne), a vigilante whom Stein trusted and wanted to recruit, escaped from Checkmate’s secret HQ.
Stein was confident that she wouldn’t betray them. But Waller would have none of it and ordered her terminated.
However, traitors within Checkmate directed Thorne toward confidential information. This allowed the vigilante to blackmail Waller into leaving her alone lest she expose a Suicide Squad operation in Nicaragua to the press.
Source of Character: DC Comics 1986-88.
Helper(s): Michael, Capita_Senyera, Mike Winkler, Gareth Lewis.
Writeup revised on the 30th of December, 2022.