(Amanda Waller's) (1987-1989, part #1)
This profile is intended to be read as part of our series of Suicide Squad team profiles.
The Kim Yale /John Ostrander version of the Suicide Squad is the concept that would eventually make big money as a big-screen movie.
Said movie featured such highlights as Margot Robbie, or… Margot Robbie… and… Margot Robbie. Anyway, Margot Robbie was in it.
As you remember, the Yale-Ostrander Squad :
- Drags Bob Kanigher’s nonsensical War That Time Forgot stories kicking and screaming into a continuity.
- Exhumes the nigh-forgotten handful of Silver Age Suicide Squad stories, then plugs them back into the same coherent DC Universe narrative.
- Can do that in part because it came on the heels of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Which is when DC reorganised the realities the stories take place in.
The Ostrander-Yale Suicide Squad stories were notable as :
- They used then-modern comic book storytelling, evoking a thriller movie or novel. Whereas DC Comics as a whole had some difficulties letting go of the Bronze AgeSuper-hero comics from (roughly) the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. – or even the Silver AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1950s to the early 1970s..
- The lead character was one Amanda Waller. She was quite different from normal super-hero comic book fare.
- Most of the characters were villains. And it was clear that most of them were terrible people, or at least badly troubled.
- It was also a sly way to explain why so many super-villains seem to only stay imprisoned for a few months before they return.
- It sought to involve real-world events and international politics. While it still was a bit crude, it was definitely better than, say, having the Joker become an Iranian ambassador to the US.
- Many of the characters died. That part was the easiest to replicate, so it ended up being a large chunk of the book’s influence.
To conduct military, intelligence, counter-intelligence and law enforcement special operations that :
- Are high-risk.
- Require superhuman or near-superhuman assets to succeed.
- Require high deniability.
The Squad has also occasionally been deployed to advance personal or political agendas. Primarily Amanda Waller’s.
Superhuman/near-superhuman raids and covert operations.
Depending on the op, these may draw methods and protocols from military or intelligence engagements.
The Squad’s methods are ethically debatable. One imperative is therefore to maintain secrecy about methods, operations and operatives.
Relationship to conventional authorities:
The Squad was personally authorised by President Ronald Reagan. It is a Federal agency.
However, the vicious infighting for resources and influence among the US intelligence alphabet soup meant that collaboration with other agencies often was dismal.
The Squad is attached to a revived Task Force X agency. This new version of TFX oversaw the Squad, plus an intelligence agency. At first this was Valentina Vostok’s Agency (which included Project Peacemaker), then Checkmate.
In practice, Task Force X and Amanda Waller were essentially the same.
Extent of operations:
Worldwide. The Squad has occasionally operated in other dimensionsOther realms of existence that are not our universe..
Bases of Operations:
Belle Reve special prison, Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana.
US Federal budget.
- Sarge Steel (sometimes).
- Derek Tolliver.
- The Female Furies and other ApokolipsA Fascistic alien world dominated by major DC Comics baddie Darkseid. forces.
- The Jihad.
- William Hell.
- USSR and allied forces. That includes the People’s Heroes, the Red Shadows, the Rocket Red Brigade, etc..
- Manhunters and Manhunter cult.
- Colombian narcotics cartels.
- Doctor Z.Z..
- Argent agency.
- Dominators and other Invasion forces.
- Factions in Ogaden.
- Kobra (Naja-Naja / Jeffrey Burr) and his mega-cult.
- Iranian government.
- Checkmate shares intelligence with the Squad, being under Waller’s command. But most of that occurs off-screen.
- Black Orchid worked with the Squad. But she is a personal, off-the-books contact of Waller.
- Speedy (Roy Harper) is willing to work with the Squad for DEA-related missions.
- King Faraday of the CBI. But he’s arguably more an ally of Waller.
- Oracle (Barbara Gordon) starts working with a reluctant Squad in early 1989, not long after Black Orchid disappears.
The Squad has three main components :
- A ground crew that does command, intelligence, logistics, support, corrections, communications, medical, tech development, etc..
- A few hand picked, reliable field leaders and specialists.
- Superhuman criminals collaborating in exchange for reduced sentencing. These are expandable and normally constitute the bulk of the deployed assets. Criminals are usually equipped with an explosive bracer to prevent betrayal and desertion.
Originally, one mission would mean that all time had been served. After the Invasion, each mission would only mean a set amount of time being converted to time served.
Roster (ground crew):
- Amanda Waller (director).
- Briscoe (pilot) and his helicopter gunship Sheba. The pair can arguably be considered trusted field personnel.
- Warden John Economos (primarily an accountant and administrator).
- Dr. Simon LaGrieve and Dr. Marnie Herrs (psychologists).
- Florence Crawley (systems and databases administrator).
- Reverend Richard Craemer (prison chaplain, also became counsellor after LaGrieve and Herrs left).
- J. Daniel “Murph” Murphy (senior corrections officer).
- Prof. Yvonne Callendar (superhuman containment engineering expert). Her name is sometimes given as “Calendar”, one “l”.
- Mitchell Sekofsky (head mechanic).
- Dr. Karin Grace (head physician, KIA in 1988).
- Dr. Mary White (succeeds Dr. Grace).
- Dr. “Mac” McCoy (succeeds Dr. LaGrieve after Craemer’s interim).
Roster (trusted field personnel):
- Colonel Richard Rogers Flag.
- Bronze Tiger (Ben Turner).
- Nemesis (Thomas Tresser).
- Nightshade (Eve Eden).
- Vixen (Mari Jiwe Macabe).
- Shade the Changing Man (Rac Shade).
- Manhunter (Mark Shaw) is a reliable contractor, and familiar with the Squad from work conducted in his previous identity as the Privateer.
- Major Victory (Bill Vickers) is transferred to the Squad in mid-1989.
Roster (wretched hive of scum and villainy):
- Blockbuster (Mark Desmond).
- Captain Boomerang (George Harkness).
- Captain Cold (Leonard Snart).
- Chronos (David Clinton).
- Count Vertigo (Werner Vertigo).
- Deadshot (Floyd Lawton).
- Doctor Light (Arthur Light).
- Doctor Moon, though he works with the ground crew rather than in the field.
- Duchess (Lashina), though for most of her service with the Squad she was closer to the “trusted field personnel” category.
- Enchantress (June Moon/Enchantress).
- Killer Frost (Louise Lincoln).
- Mindboggler (Leah Wasserman).
- Mister 104 (John Dubrovny).
- Multiplex (Danton Black).
- Parasite (Rudy Jones).
- Penguin (Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot).
- Plastique (Bette Sans-Souci).
- Poison Ivy (Pamela Isley).
- Privateer (Mark Shaw).
- Psi (Gayle Marsh).
- Punch (Clyde Phillips) & Jewelee (possibly Mrs. Phillips).
- Shrike III (Cadre member, name unrevealed).
- Slipknot (Christopher Weiss).
- Thinker (Clifford Devoe).
- Weasel (John Monroe).
Amanda Waller conducts most recruitments.
Something to evoke 1987…
One of this era-defining pop albums, Prince’s Sign “☮” the Times, is from that year. And the titular song from everybody’s favourite decadent, purple musical genius is a good match for the Squad in both tone and technique.
Sign “☮” the Times is a perfect and bizarre song. It’s kinda like a sombre blues, but with hard funk guitar riffs and a sparse, hollowed-out composition programmed on a Fairlight synthesiser.
Here’s a live variant wot features harder guitar riffs, the aptonymously nicknamed Cat (Catherine Glover) dancing and some Sheila E.-led batucada-style drumming from the band to close.
In case YouTube removes it, here’s a non-live version.
The most common equipment is what is issued to the corrections officers at Belle Reve. It is not used during operations, but was deployed when the prison was attacked.
It includes :
- Hardwood batons.
- Shotguns (presumably Remington M870s). Some were shortened to riot gun length.
- Revolvers (presumably in .38 special) and semi-auto pistols (presumably in .45 ACP). The default load for those seem to be comic book “mercy bullets” that take down but do not kill.
- Full-length Uzi submachineguns (the old ones with the wooden stock).
- Riot tank. This is a one-person, lightly-armoured open-top vehicle with what seems to be a 50mm cannon. The basis for it may have been a large forklift. The cannon had speciality shells, including one covering a large area with burning, slippery oil.
- Experimental laser rifles. These have a limited charge, but are more effective than firearms against many superhumans.
- A half-dozen, man-sized, vaguely Dalek-shaped robots. Atop is a cupola with a large gun. These robots aren’t terribly efficient, and seem more intended to enter non-survivable situations. Lashina destroyed a batch, but these were replaced.
- Experimental, blaster-like riot guns loaded with explosive slugs. They seem to have a limited capacity — perhaps single-shot — but the explosion is a mean one.
A 2007 flashback shows the guards using riot gear. Vest, joints protectors, helmet with back-of-the-neck flap and polyprop visor, tonfa, clear shield.
This is, as far as I know, anachronistic – riot cops and corrections officers didn’t have that during the 1980s. But it wouldn’t be absurd for guards in the DC Universe’s super-prisons to have started experimenting with body armour earlier than in the real world.
Explosive bracelet Mk1
The bracelets are keyed to a radio carried by the field commander. They detonate in three situations :
- When the commander activates them using his radio.
- When the wearer is more than a given distance away from the commander’s radio. This range is set before the mission.
- An attempt is made to remove it, or tamper with it.
One variant doesn’t have an explosive charge. Instead, when remotely activated, it flashes red and emits a shrill, loud “BREEP BREEP”.
This variant is used as an aggressive pager for prisoners that are allowed to take leaves in New Orleans.
A bracer was only detonated once, on Slipknot. This established a clear precedent that the Squad higher-ups could and would use them, and so no further use was necessary.
Explosive bracelet Mk2
(Incidentally, the mark numbers for the bracelets aren’t in the material. They’re just assigned in this article for clarity).
In 1989, tactical radios were retrofitted into the bracers. Therefore, all members were wearing identical-looking bracelets. It’s just that the trusted members’ didn’t have explosives in ’em.
Explosive bracelet Mk3
In late 1989, corrections head J. Daniel Murphy designs — presumably with Professor Callendar’s help — a prototype bracelet.
This variant could deliver up to two high-intensity electric shocks to the wearer. This provided an intermediary response, rather than the choices being explosives or nothing.
During the L.O.A. affair, Amanda Waller apparently had three such next-gen compliance bracers.
These didn’t seem to have been produced at scale before the Squad was shut down.
Explosive cranial implant
Some prisoners are covertly equipped with an explosive implant at the base of the skull.
Amanda Waller carries a short-range remote detonator disguised as a pen. It can read secret codes in her prisoner fiches. Perhaps by reading a barcode, which was a well-trod tech back then.
This only shows up in one flashback, apparently set in 1989. Though Waller loudly claims that every single person within Belle Reve has one, she later tells Economos that it was a bluff. Only some prisoners have such an implant.
So it likely was experimental, with just a handful implanted within prisoners with a specific profile. 100% expendable, rebellion-prone and/or able to easily neutralise the bracers as Mister 104 once did.
If so Waller likely picked the prisoners most likely to cause trouble, to give her a chance of making an example pour encourager les autres .
SS-1 transport jet
This plane was described in the article about the Silver Age Suicide Squad.
There’s enough cargo capacity to carry a field team, plus some support personnel, plus Sheba (which probably weighs close to nine tonnes with her full ordnance).
The SS-1 could do transatlantic flights.
In 1988, it was retrofitted to become VTOL-capable.
After Grace and Flag died, it was Briscoe who became the SS-1’s pilot.
This is a Dr. Moon invention. This is used the force criminals to forget about the Suicide Squad, if the constitute a security risk.
Application is particularly painful, and definitely constitutes torture.
It seems to have only been used once, against Plastique.
This kit-bashed motorcar was a weird mix of hot rod, swamp buggy (with gigantic rear tyres – perhaps from an agricultural tractor) and bayou fanboat.
It was packed with “xyzedium”, an extremely high-powered, none-too-stable experimental explosive. The charge was set on a timer, and the blast was apparently near-nuclear in intensity.
A less… four-colourSomething goofy from over-the-top early comic books. approach would have been a tracked, amphibious swamp carrier with a 9-tonnes fuel-air explosive tank.
Other air transportation assets
The Squad has access to government planes that are entirely unregistered. Though I’m not sure how that would work re.: air control and the like.
The one that was glimpsed was used for domestic flights and resembled the Boeing 367 prototype . One suspects that it was a Checkmate asset.
A F-15E Eagle jet fighter was once used to rapidly ferry a Squad operative.
It presumably was a USAF asset. Especially since this F-15 variant had only recently entered service.
The F-15 presumably was based at the Barksdale AFB , about 370 miles (600 km) from Belle Reve. So it could be scrambled and reach Yeager airfield (see below) within 35-ish minutes, assuming perfect conditions.
During Operation Firebreak, the Squad was issued an experimental “skywedge” flying platform. It could carry a half-dozen persons at an unrevealed speed, and was hover-capable.
However, the skywedge handled poorly and wasn’t stable enough in the air. It mostly hampered operations, then was shot down by Firestorm.
Unspecified jet fighter
As an USAF colonel, Flag once requisitioned an unspecified jet fighter at Yeager.
So the zoomies occasionally station crafts at Yeager. But I don’t know enough about Chair Force procedures to hazard a good guess.
The mechanics crew at Yeager has a good reputation. So perhaps the USAF sends planes there for maintenance when the crews at Barksdale are too busy.
The Task Force X budget is usually sufficient to deploy operation-specific assets. Say, fake cop cars and fake ambulances during the William Hell case.
Tactical radios were also available before these were retrofitted in the bracers. But they’re not used as much as you’d think, since on most ops the commander wants their unreliable operatives to be close by and clearly monitorable.
The Belle Reve prison is in the Terrebonne Parish, LA. It is 50 miles (80 km) SW of New Orleans and 10 miles (16 km) SW of Houma.
It once was dominated by the cruel Dubois plantation. But Isaiah Dubois died in troubled circumstances in 1897. All subsequent attempts to turn a profit from the land failed, giving it a reputation as a jinx.
Furthermore, the nearby swamp kept expanding. It eventually swallowed most arableSuitable for growing crops. land.
Prisonnier de l’inutile
During the 1970s, the government took over the plot. A new max-security prison was built, meant to detain the emerging metahuman criminals.
But the budget line was axed. That apparently occurred before the prototype prison could begin its operations.
(“Belle Reve” means “beautiful dream”. It’s not correct in French-from-France (that would be “Beau Rêve”), but for all I know it’s correct in Cajun French).
Amanda Waller discovered Belle Reve during her early 1980s research.
- The facilities could be reoccupied quickly.
- They were remote and secure.
- There was everything in place to hold metahuman criminals, as long as they weren’t too powerful.
Twelve different construction teams were hired, to avoid anybody having too complete a view of how the prison worked. It then became the Suicide Squad’s base.
- Lodging for up to 20 staff members.
- Lodging for the 40 guards.
- At any given time, 30 are on-site and 10 are on leave (but on-call) in New Orleans.
- A handful of guards are women, presumably to process female prisoners.
- There’s the sense that all guards are ex-military, with infantry training and experience.
- Full medical facilities.
- Scientific and engineering labs.
- Three months of complete supplies.
- A pool, and presumably other exercising facilities.
- A 50-miles (80 Km) pneumatic tube tunnel, with an eight-person shuttle. The shuttle has no controls (these are at Belle Reve, and at both ends of the tube) but does a full run in ten minutes.
- At one end of the pneu tube is the Yeager airfield. It is an Air Force facility crewed by six mechanics, plus Briscoe and Sheba. The airfield is chiefly used by the SS-1 aeroplane.
Operations at Yeager are under Task Force X control. Nobody there meaningfully reports to the Air Force.
- Task Force X also owns a warehouse, under the front of the fictional Hidalgo Shipping Company. It holds its water vehicles, but these were never deployed in documented operations.
The prison has 84 cells.
Of these, 60 are normal ten-by-ten (9m²) cells with a small toilet and a padded cot. Plus a screen for those who have TV privileges – which can also be used as an in-building visiophone. These cells can be occupied by individuals without abnormal capabilities.
They hold some of the Squad’s operatives, plus a trickle of other prisoners. These are people deemed too dangerous for genpop (often hitmen, serial killers and the like).
Usually, these prisoners do time at Belle Reve as they are being transferred from one max-sec security to another.
The other 24 cells can hold superhumans. Belle Reve teams led by Prof. Callendar design and build specific counter-measures for each inmate. These are then installed using the modular architecture specific to these cells.
These cells were uncommonly successful. There were zero escapes from the superhuman cells during that era. It seems that Prof. Callendar often goes for keeping subjects in a stasis or near-coma.
Belle Reve is particularly picky as to which prisoners it’ll accept. Some profiles (gadgeteersTechnnologist who builds comic book devices like those Batman uses., most psychics, escape artists…) will likely be immediately rejected as they pose too much of a security risk. Ditto for prisoners whose abilities aren’t well-known quantities.
Another kind of prisoner unlikely to be transferred to Belle Reve are dangerous, repeat offenders for whom special procedures have been designed.
For instance, Arkham Asylum has extensive experience with its repeat customers. So it’s best to let them handle those.
These precautions are because one prisoner escaping could easily expose the Suicide Squad and its methods.
The prison is roughly a square, 110 yards (100m) long per side. Three of the corners are occupied by seven-stories high towers.
Between the towers are two suspended three-story wings. Which are where the cells are.
The walls are made of specially-reinforced concrete. The security is some of the best you could build circa 1975, though a lot of upgrades (particularly to electronics) were done in 1985.
Elite operatives can penetrate Belle Reve security. Though it took Black Thorn (Elizabeth Thorne) and a Checkmate Knight (Gary Washington) combining their skills and gear to gain entry.
The grounds are ringed with motion detectors, infrared sensors, sound detectors, searchlights and the like. The sole access road is also heavily monitored over its final five miles (8 km).
The building has humidity issues, with moss infiltration and the like causing damage to walls, pipes, etc.. One imagines that there are efforts to gradually repair the damage from ten years of neglect in the bayou, but that’s a tall order.
In 1989, construction of a second building began.
The second part of this article has compact recaps of all the Suicide Squad engagements during that span, plus the TTRPG stuff.
Source of Character: DC Comics.
Helper(s): This profile reuses all the reusable information in Mayfair Books’ 1988 Belle Reve Sourcebook for the DC Heroes TTRPG, by Steve Crow and Doug Franks.
Writeup completed on the 31st of December, 2022.