Mastodon

21 min read

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - Silver Age - paddling floating log swallowed

Suicide Squad

(Mission X version) (part 2)


Sequence

This is the second half of our core article about DC Comics’ Silver AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Suicide Squad.

So you have two options here :

  1. Best option – you start reading the whole series from the start. Which would be the articles about the Suicide Squadron of the 1940s.
  2. Other option – you already read about the 1940s Suicide Squadron, so you instead read .

Advertisement

Soundtrack

Something to evoke 1961, lessee…

One of the very first, most enduring 1961 songs that comes to mind is Del Shannon’s Runaway. It’s a neat piece of pop-rock, which by 1961 standards went hard.

  • The beats are pretty much energetic R&B of those still-segregated times.
  • There’s the weird and memorable vocal effect for the chorus.
  • Part of music is played on a synthesiser. Yes, in 1961 – it was called, I kid you not, the musitron  .

So that’s a good, fitting sonic marker of 1961 in the USA.

History (part 3)

The first documented mission of the Squad was to stop a rolling red wave of heat which emerged from the ocean. It was so intense it vaporised the US Air Force’s fire-fighting foam bombs.

The Squad managed to freeze it. But a giant monster with a freezing touch emerged from the resulting mountain of ice.

The Squad found a way to neutralize the monster’s freezing touch… so it started draining nearby chlorophyll. The menace just kept adapting and manifesting new powers.

Therefore, the Squad commandeered an experimental Moon rocket. They used it to dump the monster into the Sun’s orbit, as you do.

Back planetside

The Suicide Squad managed to pilot their rocket back to Earth, against all odds. They used nearby meteors to provide acceleration.

However, unknown radiation from said meteors (perhaps related to the white dwarf matter used by the Atom (Ray Palmer)) made them shrink to about an inch (2.5cm).

Forming a human pyramid to reach the rocket’s controls, they landed safely. But they soon discovered that they were near a secret submarine base of “the enemy”. Presumably meaning the Soviet Union, or a Soviet ally.

Sailing a matchbox as a raft, the Squad used the matches to repel an aggressive seagull. Then to paddle into the enemy base, which they intended to sabotage no matter what.

The miniaturised Squad’s ingenious sabotage was a success. The strange effects of the meteors dissipated as they were paddling away, allowing them to commandeer a seaplane and fly away in triumph.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - Silver Age - seagull attack matchbox

Paris sera toujours Paris

After these amazing adventures, the Squad members were granted their first furlough.

They decided to all go together to Paris. “Even the Parisians” recognise the famous Suicide Squad, one caption tells us. How amazing is that ?

However, while riding the metro, they stumble upon a burrowing giant serpent. It wrecks the train and starts rampaging. French forces soon discover that even field artillery cannot hurt this monster.

The Suicide Squad has hundreds of local workers assemble a giant plastic bag. Using it as a parachute, they jump from an helicopter and wrap the enormous bag around the reptile’s head, asphyxiating it.

Giant-size special

The Squad then investigates the disappearance of one professor Duane. Duane recently invented a formula that grows living things to an impossible size.

After defeating a giant moth and a giant caterpillar, the Squad discovers a gigantic humanoid monster. It absconds with Karin and a handy experimental nuclear bomb, taking both to San Francisco.

The rest of the Squad :

  • Sedates the monster.
  • Rescues Karin.
  • Disarms the first stage of the bomb, saving San Francisco.
  • Tows the giant monster far into the sea.
  • Sends it to the bottom. Where the second stage of the experimental bomb goes off.

Squad members theorised that the creature had actually been professor Duane, mutated beyond humanity by his mysterious formula.

The Silver Age Suicide Squad vs a giant scaly pink humanoid on a bridge (DC Comics)

Time enough for psychic dinosaurs

The Suicide Squad is briefly disbanded. Perhaps Congress did manage a budget cut.

A few months later, Dr. Grace is inexplicably mesmerised into painting a strange series of pictures of dinosaur attacks on the US.

This is weird enough that the Squad is reactivated under the authority of one General Brent.

The Squad’s investigation leads them to confront intelligent otherdimensionalLocated in another reality. dinosaurs sharing a hive-mind installed by English-speaking aliens.

As a result, Mission X gets reinstated. Presumably, they are again attached to the remains of Task Force X.

Classical and gigantic

A plane carrying secret weapons gets destroyed. The only survivor is delirious and rants about a cyclops.

The Squad parachutes near the crash site. They run into the one-eyed giant before they even hit the ground.

This ancient monster had warred upon a Classical era kingdom to capture their Queen. The monocular man-mountain had been brought down by the heroic Atho, using an arrow rubbed with special herbs.

The cyclops slept in a cave for 25 centuries. It accidentally destroyed the lost plane upon waking up.

Exploiting her resemblance with the ancient Queen — and that the monster cannot know that centuries have gone by — Karin distracts the massive monocular misantrophe. Meanwhile, the men locate the experimental rockets.

They set them to self-destruct so they won’t fall into the wrong hands. Their Polyphemus-like opponent is slain when the rockets, which he was using as javelins, explode.

Lessons in falconry

The Suicide Squad gets a few days off. They are allowed on top of the Statue of Liberty so they can take photos for a charity auction.

However, the Statue is attacked by a gigantic pterosaur. The Squad repulse the flying lizard using special cartridges, but it grabs a USAF jet in mid-air as it flies away.

(In the New Frontier continuity, Dr. Evans heroically dies at that point. He’s caught by the giant pterosaur and detonates all of his explosives while in the beast’s mouth, saving the rest of the team.)

Chasing the giant pterosaur (and encountering similar beasts), the Squad discovers it came from a strange cloud. Which is actually a titanic, camouflaged spaceship.

Its pilot, a giant green humanoid, has been callously using giant-pterodactyl-like animals as hunting falcons. These fetch him whatever catches his fancy – planes, boats, lighthouses, statues, etc..

The Squad escapes after arming the nuclear bomb aboard their flying lab. They parachute out, and the bomb destroys the entire spaceship.

Mirages

During a deployment in an unspecified desert, the Squad is trapped by the mirage people. These challenge the Americans to a competition, lest the mirage people cause worldwide chaos.

But even the Squad members are helpless against the mirage people’s perfectly realistic illusions.

Their foes then manipulate them into killing each other, thinking they were mirages. But looking into each others’ eyes, they all realise at the last second that their “foes” are no mirage. They therefore win the challenge.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - 1960s mission x - vs. the mirage people

Hark !

The next chronicled case occurs after the Squad crash-lands their special plane in a remote desert.

The team soon finds the skeleton of a giant dinosaur and the wreck of a giant humanoid robot. These seemingly perished fighting each other.

They then discover a small hidden sea, but are swallowed by what seem to be a giant marine dinosaur. The Squad eventually realises that the mountainous “creature” is a dinosaur-shaped starship. And there’s a whole artificial habitat within, hosting a huge dinosaurs menagerie.

Inevitably, a giant pterodactyl grabs Karin and flies away. But the Squad manages to evacuate just before the ship leaves Earth.

A sorcerous sculptor is a sinister sight

The Squad is then sent to unveil the secret of the Sculptor-Sorcerer. Authorities suspect that he turns crimefighters and criminals of note into lifelike golden statues.

The Squad therefore launches a media campaign announcing that they are hunting down the famous criminal Sneeko. They hope that it will lure the Sculptor-Sorcerer out in the open.

Their plot works a little too well. The Squad is trapped then turned into gold statues. The Sculptor-Sorcerer then agrees to sell these to the underworld – for execution.

However his assistant, a beautiful native girl with a pet gorilla, saves them because Flag is too handsome to die. The Squad arrests the bad guys, though the gorilla is unfortunately shot. Bummer.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - 1960s Mission X - Sorcerer sculptor gold statues

History (part 4)

For its entire existence, Mission X’s Suicide Squad was beset by internal tension. All three men were attracted toward Karin Grace.

Flag and Grace had chosen to hide their relationship from Bright and Evans. They knew that the overall psychological state of the team was fragile. And rightly feared that the truth could provoke irrational reactions in their jealous colleagues.

Furthermore, super-heroes started returning to action in the steps of the Flash (Barry Allen). This weakened Mission X’s bargaining position when it came to its ever-threatened budget.

Rupture condition

The final mission of the Suicide Squad took place in Cambodia. The team was parachuted in to investigate credible reports about abominable snowmen and hidden golden temples.

The date is unrevealed, though in our proposed timeline 1965 works fine.

The team did indeed run into a genuine yeti. It left Rick knocked out and wounded. Worried, Grace let it slip that she loved him – to the furore of Bright and Evans, who learned that they had been deceived all along.

The team discovered a mysterious golden temple hidden within a crevice, but they were too busy disintegrating over the Grace/Flag relationship.

Chased by the yeti, the men argued over who should stay behind and sacrifice himself to save Grace, over her protestations.

As they did the thin ice bridge they were on collapsed. Flag tackled Grace and they both landed in safety. But Evans and Bright were engulfed by the shattering ice along with the yeti.

Advertisement

Fallen fighters

The fates of the Squad members are as follow:

  • Grace developed severe PTSD  . This was caused by guilt and powerlessness over the deaths of Bright and Evans, compounded by previous trauma.
    Psychiatrists soon requested that Rick Flag stop seeing her, and they lost contact. Flag thus never knew that Grace was a few weeks pregnant during the Cambodia disaster.
  • Flag immersed himself even further in spook work. He was sent to infiltrate a team called the Forgotten Heroes, who were investigating the mystery of the golden temples like the one the Squad had discovered in Cambodia.
    During the late 1980s, Amanda Waller arranged for Flag to become the field commander for her version of the Suicide Squad.
  • Doc Evans died in the fall in Cambodia. Or even earlier if you use New Frontier continuity.
  • Jess Bright narrowly survived. He was captured by Chinese troops, handed over to the Soviets, and became known as Koshchei the Deathless.

For more details, see the individual profiles.

Mission X and Task Force X were shut down. But President Johnson  , like Truman before him, soon realised that it left the country too vulnerable to superhuman threats.

He created a new agency — S.H.A.D.E. (Super-Human Advanced Defense Executive) — presumably circa 1966. Like Argent, S.H.A.D.E. operated under thick layers of secrecy, which only got more opaque over the decades.

Suicide Squad (Mission X) (Final Frontier version) concept art Darwyn Cooke

An intriguing concept sketch by Darwyn Cooke for the DC: The New Frontier GN. This concept doesn’t seem to correspond to any published version. It’s just a possible, unrealised take.


Timelines

So that was a description of a *reconstructed, merged* Suicide Squadron then Silver Age Suicide Squad continuity. Filling the blanks in the 1987 Ostrander continuity in a logical manner.

Now we’re going to review some *alternative* timelines.

It’s, uh, pretty specialised information for complete nerds who want to explore other versions, other possible timelines, of the Mission X Suicide Squad.

On the other hand it’s brief, since there’s even less information about these in the comics.


Alternate timeline #1 – pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths

In the original continuity there is no Rick Flag, Sr.. Rick Flag was his TBF squadron’s youngest — likely underage — pilot. He served in the Pacific during World War Two.

The squadron that sacrificed itself so he could torpedo a Japanese carrier was his, and Flag continued his career with the military. You can find more details in our character profile for the Silver Age Rick Flag.

Karin Grace is about the same age. She also served in the Pacific during the war, which is where the medical plane crash occurred. In the original version Grace is a flight nurse, not a doctor. This leads to her recruitment by Mission X, where she meets Flag.

By inference, the premature atomic detonation that kills Bright and Evans’ colleagues occurred during the Manhattan Project, or just after it.

Task Force X is go

The unit is originally named “Task Force X” (and once “Task Force 4”, probably a typo). But it will later be called “Mission X” – the two seem to be the same thing.

Their adventures start in the summer of 1959.

The Squad is never really depicted as a military unit. For instance, they vote to take decisions.

Not forgotten

The Squad vanishes in 1961, but Rick Flag (now called Rick Flagg) returns in 1984.

He’s recruited by the Immortal Man to join the Forgotten Heroes. Flagg mentions a mission in Cambodia, during which the Squad discovered a strange golden temple.

Nobody died during the mission. But upon learning of their discovery the government immediately disbanded the Squad. Members likely were forbidden to contact each other ever again.

The Forgotten Heroes are 1960s, C-list DC Comics adventurers. 1959-1961 for the Squad, 1965-1967 for Animal Man, 1960-1964 for Cave Carson, 1960-1967 for the Sea Devils, 1968 for Dolphin…. But as they join the Forgotten Heroes there’s no sense that two decades have passed.

During the last chronicled adventures of the Forgotten Heroes, the Monitor announces that the Crisis is starting. Thus Earth-1 — which is where the adventures of the pre-Crisis Suicide Squad likely occurred — soon ceases to exist and is replaced by New Earth.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - 1984 cambodia yeti forgotten

The 1984 flashback to the pre-Crisis Earth-1’s Suicide Squad last adventure.

Alternate timeline #2 – post-Crisis on Infinite Earths

Our merged timeline is pretty close to that timeline. The main difference is Rick Flag’s age, but that shifts a number of dates.

In the actually published version :

  • Rick Flag, Jr. is born circa 1952, the same year when President Truman creates Task Force X. Sharon Flag dies saving him in 1960. Rick Flag, Sr. dies taking down the War Wheel in 1962.
  • Rick Flag, Jr.’s career as a military pilot presumably starts circa 1974. His rivalry with Ace Morgan takes place in the late 1970s, since the Challengers of the Unknown have also been time-shifted.
  • The adventures of the Mission X version of the Squad presumably take place during the early 1980s — 1980 to 1983 is my best guess. Of course, they likely were different – done in a Bronze AgeSuper-hero comics from (roughly) the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. style rather than an early Silver Age style.
    The press releases seen in the flashback panel mention foiling a monster and eliminating a dinosaur.
  • Rick Flag is sent to infiltrate the Forgotten Heroes in, presumably, 1984. Flag remains with the Heroes from 1984 until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, in 1986. That he was on an infiltration mission won’t be mentioned until later.
  • In 1987, Sarge Steel and Amanda Waller brief President Reagan  over the history of the Suicide Squad. Against Steel’s advice, the President authorises the launch of Waller’s version of the Suicide Squad. Waller then gets Flag to lead her field teams.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - 1987 flashback secret origins

Flashback panel in Secret Origins vol. 2 #14.

Alternate timeline #3 – post-Infinite Crisis

The 2007 Raise the Flag mini-series, takes place in the past of Amanda Waller’s version of the Suicide Squad. It presents a different version of the post-Crisis timeline.

Presumably, John Ostrander’s goal was to adhere to the sliding 10 years time scale of the DC Universe. Which necessitates constantly retconningMaking changes to a character or story after the fact. everything that cannot be ignored.

In this timeline there existed a Suicide Squad, run by Richard Montgomery Flag, during the 1940s and 1950s. It was a covert action group using prisoners from military stockades for high-risk missions. It was deployed during WWII and in Korea.

Flag died childless. There was no known Suicide Squad unit for decades.

The Eiling squad

It was presumably during the 1990s that Gen. Wade Eiling revived the concept. His Squad wasn’t made up of prisoners, but of military specialists from various branches of the service capable of taking on high-risk missions.

An amnesiac elite soldier, Anthony Miller, was told that he was Richard Rogers Flag, the fictional grandson of Richard Montgomery Flag. Eiling also told him that he had been picked to lead the new version of the Squad.

From context, every member of the Squad had likewise been manipulated and fed lies. Eiling’s goal was to field soldiers that were highly determined, even by the lofty Special Operations standards, yet expandable and would serve him personally rather than the United States.

Each soldier was implanted with a post-hypnotic suggestion allowing Eiling to bring them under his thrall just by speaking a key word.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - General Eiling commando

General Eiling’s first Suicide Squad in Qurac.

Death of the Suicide Squad

This Squad — “Flag”, Caetano, Eddie Vracek, Vega and “Dutchman” van Damm — had tense group dynamics. They were deployed to conduct high-stakes special operations worldwide, including in Qurac.

The unit was sent to its death in an undisclosed South American country. That was to reinforce the cover of a key informant within a drug cartel. Eiling wanted a dangerous, credible American assassination attempt to take place, but warned the informant beforehand so it would fail.

”Rick Flag” was the only survivor. He discovered Eiling’s betrayal, but was swiftly brought in line through the post-hypnotic suggestion. Presumably this happened circa 1996.

Second Eiling squad

A new version of the Squad, led in the field by “Rick Flag”, was formed by Eiling within days of “Flag’s” return from South America.

At this point of DC Comics’ sliding scale, the Challengers of the Unknown had recently been formed. But they alread had a strong media profile and a great track record in exploring the unexplainable.

Eiling wanted to have a comparable team, and had already recruited “two scientists and a medic” for “Flag’s” second Suicide Squad. It is not stated that these persons were Evans, Bright and Grace, though we will assume that they were.

Presumably the Flag/Grace/Bright/Evans version of the Squad operated from roughly 1997 to 2002. What it did is unknown, but may have resembled the original adventures.

How this Squad met its end is unchronicled. But there’s no reason to assume that the Cambodia mission didn’t happen more or less as chronicled post-Crisis.

More dates

In this timeline “Flag” and Grace were presumably born circa 1968, Bright in the early 1970s and Evans in the 1960s.

It is likely that Grace, Bright and Evans had also been manipulated by Eiling and implanted with a post-hypnotic suggestion. Nothing is known about their biography.

In this timeline Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad was assembled in 2004. Eiling loaned “Flag” to serve as their field leader so he would have a man within the organisation of his rival Waller.

”Flag” only learned the truth about his actual identity four years later. He collaborated with Waller in taking down Eiling, who had since been transformed into a superhuman.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - General Eiling commando storming

Three operators of General Eiling’s first Suicide Squad in Qurac.

Alternate timeline #4 – 2009 glimpse

In Booster Gold vol. 2 #20, Booster travels to 1952. He runs into a version of the Squad that only Rip Hunter knew about.

At first glance this version appears to be garbled.

  1. Bright and Evans are switched around. But that happened often enough in the Silver Age stories, and the version here is the erroneous one in Who’s Who.
  2. Evans identifies as “Evan Hughs”.
  3. The man in charge identifies as “Frank Rock”.

However, they also use fake FBI identification, then pretend that they’re CIA. So providing fake names isn’t much of a stretch.

Furthermore, in a post-Infinite Crisis timeline, one assumes that Rock was there since there was never a Rick Flag, Jr..

Consequences

This would mean that the persons who served with the Anthony Miller “Rick Flag” in the late 1990s and early 2000s were not Grace, Evans and Bright.

This story features Karin Grace being in her 20s. This is perfectly fine in the timeline proposed in this article, and impossible in the DC Universe (especially with the ten-years sliding timescale), given her appearances in the earliest version of Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad.

Oy gevaldt.

One longshot guess to have it make sense might be that “Karin Grace”, “Hugh Evans”, etc. are actually code names. These can be used by suitable elite agents, a bit like the “James Bond” name.

If so, these names might date back to the OSS.

Suicide Squad - DC Comics - Mission X 1960s - Booster Gold 2009

Three-fourths of the 2009 version. Dr. Evan Hughs, Frank Rock, Karin Grace.

Marvel Universe Adaptation

(This section proposes ways of using this character in Marvel Universe stories. So it’s another alternative timeline, I guess).

The similarities between the Mission X Suicide Squad and the Fantastic Four are obvious.

The simplest hypothesis for importing the Suicide Squad into the Marvel Universe would thus be that they are the future Fantastic Four. They worked for Task Force X for two years before gaining their powers.

The FF are known to have had adventures before their fateful flight. Ben Grimm in particular flew missions for military intelligence.

Fantastic voyages

The role of Rick Flag Sr. could become that of Daniel Grimm, Ben’s older brother whom Ben admired.

Daniel fakes his death at the government’s request after World War Two to lead the Suicide Squad under the code name “Richard Flag”. He briefly meets Reed Richards in Korea, leading Reed to suspect that Ben’s brother is still alive.

Daniel Grimm dies in 1959 against the War Wheel, leading Gen. J.E.B. Stuart to approach his brother Ben. By that point Ben Grimm is a Korean War ace with ties to military intelligence.

Given the nature of the missions, Grimm (the new Richard Flag) suggests his buddy Reed Richards.

Blonde ambitions

As they are considering their next recruitment choices they are asked to go to Paris to deliver urgent NATO documents. Susan Storm strongarms Reed into taking her along for a free vacation to Paris, along with her kid brother Johnny.

There they neutralise a giant serpent, and Reed advocates for recruiting Susan and Johnny given their impressive performance during that case.

In this context Johnny’s talent for vehicular mechanics would be emphasised. It would extend to some electronics, allowing him to assist Reed in whipping up some Gadgets.

Susan might be closer to the Ultimate Universe version of the character. For instance instead of dreaming of becoming an actress, she might be trained as a nurse – and taking intensive night courses to become a pharmacologist. By comic book logic that would give her solid knowledge of anything related to chemistry.

The adventures thus occur slightly out of order, with the first one — the invincible monster in the red wave — actually occurring last, and the second one — destroying the sub base whilst tiny — having already occurred after a different start, probably involving Dr. Henry Pym.

Fateful flight

The last case of this Suicide Squad thus becomes the attempt to foil the adaptable monster found in the red wave, then discovering that it won’t work.

There isn’t a space rocket that just happens to be around for them to commandeer. The space vehicle is the one that Reed has been building as Suicide Squad equipment, but is not finished due to budget cuts.

In fact it likely never will be since Congress axed the Mission X budget in the hours before the red wave appeared.

Thus, the Suicide Squad decides to sacrifice themselves by luring the monster to grab the incomplete spaceship. Everyone knows that the radiation shielding is not finished, and that it will likely be a suicide flight. They then Earth with the monster still grabbing on, to slingshot it toward the Sun.

Cosmic quartet

As it turns out they inexplicably survive and are transformed. But Mission X is at that point busy crating the equipment and closing the offices.

As they come back a week later, the Suicide Squad are thought KIA and there’s nobody expecting their return. Still determined to serve, the fantastic foursome decides to form a private venture.

Writeups.org writer avatar Sébastien Andrivet

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Universe.

Helper(s): Darci, Tachoene.