I told myself that it was a silly idea, that it was nothing but a distraction, a nostalgic impulse at best, and that I had more important things to do. Next thing I knew, I had written, drawn, and colored sixteen pages of my very own Suicide Squad comic. I called it DEATHZONE!
You know about the Suicide Squad already, right? I’ve gone on about it before, and always kept a close eye on those who did the same. It was one of my very first and favorite comics as a kid, and during the tail end of my previous project, I couldn’t get them out of my mind.
Recap: Suicide Squad was DC Comics’ version of the Dirty Dozen. John Ostrander wrote it, Luke McDonnell drew it, and John’s late wife, Kim Yale, joined in on the writing chores early on. Suicide Squad was a task force made up of C-list bad guys and obscure, throwaway characters used as fodder for dangerous government missions. Some of them didn’t always make it back. Turnover was pretty high as a result. Just look at the line up below… that’s only the first year’s roster. Also, they lived in a prison in the middle of a swamp.
One of my favorite issues is #10 (Feb. ’88), “Up Against The Wall”, where Batman pretends to be a prisoner in order to get some dirt on the Squad. He’s then outed, hunted, and taken to task… all neatly wrapped up in 22 pages. No issue better illustrates Amanda Waller’s verve as a leader, the Squad’s rag tag group dynamics, and the visual cool of their Belle Reve headquarters.
Oh, man, look at that last panel… arghk!… classic McDonnell. Anyway, I couldn’t articulate all that as a 9 year old, but I had to channel my excitement somehow back then. I took the weird relationship that Batman seemed to have with the Squad and made up my own ending to “Up Against The Wall”. In my version, Batman still gets away but has at least a few cuts and bruises.
Shown: stairs, rooftop, Batarang, home, bed, in that order. Shortly thereafter, I made another comic that featured an exhausted, pummeled Batman, this time against Shade the Changing Man (another Squad member). Shade, who is usually a good guy in the regular comics, stands as a redesigned, demonic villain under my direction. Shade’s mission was to take Batman and his Justice League teammates into a hellish dimension in order to torture them… slowly!
What you’ve witnessed here is the classic example of a cartoonist’s typical pattern: falling in love with this stuff at an early age, wanting to replicate that thrill, and then stubbornly trying to follow through on that desire as best one can. That’s the spirit of the industry right there.
That’s how I’ve ended up with DEATHZONE! A sixteen page, full color comic that’s been over 20 years in the making.
Here’s the line up…
… and here are some preview pages…
As if that wasn’t enough, Tucker Stone came through with a treatise on the last super hero comic that mattered, an essay which could only be titled:
So don’t delay any longer… get it now!
Finally, here’s the last page of my Shade vs Batman story.