Dubbed as 'The Expendables' of comic books, hype is high for Zack Snyder's upcoming Suicide Squad outing. As Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Jai Courtney prepare to contend with Ben Affleck and Jared Leto, will we be cheering for the heroes or the villains? Well, one person we definitely won't be rooing for is Viola Davis's Amanda 'The Wall' Waller. As the woman in charge of Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad, Waller has had many a run in with the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime in her 30 years of service. We all know you have to have some pretty big cajones to take on both Joker and Batman at the same time, and it a job we wouldn't wish upon anyone. As the self-proclaimed leader of the Suicide Squad, Waller has lead the current incarnations of the squad since "Legends #1" in 1986. Viola Davis will be the latest to put on a frumpy pantsuit for Dr. Amanda Waller's next big screen outing in this year's Suicide Squad. It is time to bring on the Wall!
What A Wall-Buster
Under the aliases of White Queen, Black King and Mockingbird, Waller has been at the forefront of the Suicide Squad since its rebranding from the Suicide Squadron. Whilst leading the squad, she has also become a sort of anti-hero and even served time for her misdeeds. Despite not being one of comic book's powered villains, Waller is by no means a pushover. The Wall's formidable intellect and cunning means that in 2009 IGN voted Waller the 60th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time. She beat the likes of Lizard, Poison Ivy and William Stryker, proving that telepathy, invincibility and laser eyes are no match for good ol' brains.
Starting out as a surviving widow, Checkmate v.2 # 1 revealed that Waller had studied a doctorate in political science, which would explain her impressive brain-power! She was assigned to a black-ops unit known as Team 7, which met with a disastrous end. After a brief stint in retirement, Waller uncovered the files on the Squadron and pitched a new team to the White House. Jump to 2016 and it's voilà Viola!
Brawn As Well As Brains
Growing up in the Chicago projects, as well as losing both her children and husband, has done wonders for toughening up Waller. At a time where female comic book characters were still stick-thin models, Waller was a refreshing move as a chunky-but-spunky addition to the DCU. As warden of the Belle Reve prison, Waller is known to not only clash with Batman, but the Suicide Squad itself - no mean feat when controlling sniper-assassins and pyromaniacs. Her preferred method of cooperation is detonation implants placed in members of her team, thereby ensuring full compliance with her orders. We can probably expect to see Waller clash with Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang in the upcoming Suicide Squad film - the two have a colourful past and he has a problem with authority. As for their base of operations? We heave already seen Belle Reve feature heavily in the trailer, but you may not know that it was also where Lex Luthor was incarcerated at the end of Batman vs. Superman. If the Joker is to have an expanded role in Suicide Squad, it gives power to the theory that Luthor and Joker are working together.
Moving from the pages of our comics, Suicide Squad will be Waller's fourth live-action appearance. First portrayed by Pam Grier in the ninth season of Smallville, the character took on both Martian Manhunter and General Zod (she is a glutton for punishment), and was left with an unknown fate when Zod burnt down her Checkmate Castle. We next saw Angela Bassett play Waller as a scientist working for the DEO in 2011's Green Lantern. Bassett was the first move away from Waller's 'classic' look and arguably redefined Waller. On the character's differences from her comic version, Bassett told Cinema Blend:
Well, I’m not 300 pounds...[but the character has]that intellectual, that bright, that no-nonsense, that means business [personality]. [She's] getting it done and in the trenches nothing fazes her.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson took another reimagined (and even skinnier) Waller to Arrow in Season 2. Here Waller was the director of A.R.G.U.S (Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans) and played a key role up until her demise in Season 4. This Waller is the closest we have got to the New 52 shake-up of the character, but we will get to that in a minute!
As for Davis's role in Suicide Squad, the actress may have been terrified of Leto's Joker, but all signs point to her being the ultimate villain of the show (sorry Joker). Could we finally be about to flesh out one of DC's most complex women? Director David Ayer told Empire (via CBM):
They’re after a high value target that they have to go in and rescue. When they make the attempt, they realise that’s not the end. F**k good versus bad. Bad versus evil is a lot more interesting. And Amanda Waller is the worst there is.
Ayer goes on to say that he read a book called Confessions of a Sociopath for his inspiration of Waller, citing it as "frightening but very helpful". Worse than Joker?!? How very ominous!
A New Era
So, down which route will Davis take the Mockingbird? Classic, or New Coca-Cola? As well as sending Waller to the Fountain of Youth, the New 52 undoubtedly took Waller away from her *erm* bigger days and placed her on a Weight Watcher's Diet. Met with a mixed reception, this Waller is not only in charge of the Suicide Squad, but ditched her widow status and recruited a young (not dead) James Gordon Jr. as a love interest. Addai-Robinson's Arrow version is the closest we have seen to New 52 Waller so far, whilst it looks like Davis will be treading the middle-ground of new vs. old for Suicide Squad. With Grier out after Green Lantern, we will be effectively rebooting the character completely. As we are at ground zero with Waller, we should expect her to be playing a straight up villainess and ditching her more mellowed nature of recent times.
As well as having her own Justice League Unlimited toy released (it looks awful), Waller has been a huge presence in the animated world, so for those wanting to brush up, turn to Warner Bros. Animation's Justice League Unlimited. Voiced by C. C. H. Pounder, Amanda Waller leads Project Cadmus to create an opposition to the Justice League. Here she is a gun-toting badass that hopefully Davis has taken some inspiration. There were also hints of Waller in Rocksteady's Arkham games, but she was never fully realised. Only really featuring in the maligned Batman: Arkham Origins, Waller appears in a post-credit scene, attempting to recruit Deadshot to the squad. Following on from Origins (and set in the Arkham game world) comes the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham. For those who want to get a true sense of who/what Waller is, you need to check out Assault on Arkham, in my eyes a superb jumping off point for the entire Suicide Squad, containing a lineup similar to the film.
Outside of the animated world, there are the obvious 'must-read' Suicide Squad titles, but even then it has been a struggle to see the true villainy of a character like Waller played out on the page. With the DCU having so many bad guys and ongoing storylines, even they have taken Waller down an ambiguous path to redemption. As for Suicide Squad, we can but hope! With the darkness of Ayer at the helm, and Davi's "she's badass" promises, hopefully Amanda Waller will get the role she deserves. If not, we can always re-watch old episodes of Justice League Unlimited and live happily ever after!