Now, with a Suicide Squad movie in theaters and the team more prominent than ever in comics, Ostrander is returning to the Squad for War Crimes, a one-shot that pits everyone's favorite villains against a team of heroes on the wrong side of one of Amanda Waller's plans.
To find out more, ComicsAlliance spoke to Ostrander about his long history with the Squad, his return to the franchise in 2007, and that one weird character he killed off towards the end.
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s classic and controversial Batman: The Killing Joke is making waves once again after the the animated adaptation debuted at San Diego Comic Con and reportedly doubled down on the damseling and objectification of Batgirl. Without spoiling the changes (you can read about them here), Barbara Gordon’s reliance on men’s approval is a big theme of the film, and only serves to give Batman more angst when the events of the comic play out.
Fans of The Killing Joke will often defend it by pointing out that without the story, Barbara Gordon would not have become Oracle, the Batman family’s computer whiz and one of the most prominent disabled superheroes in comic books. However, crediting The Killing Joke for the creation of Oracle is wholly inaccurate and does a disservice to the true creators of the reinvention, John Ostrander and Kim Yale.
Between them, writer John Ostrander and artist Jan Duursema have done some amazing comics work. Ostrander is best known as the creator of Suicide Squad and co-creator of Oracle with his late wife Kim Yale; Duursema has artist and writer credits ranging from Sgt.. Rock to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Together, they've worked on a Hawkman series, the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, and more besides.
Now they've teaming up again and have turned to Kickstarter to fund original graphic novel Hexer Dusk, a 72-page full color book written by Ostrander from an idea by Duursema, illustrated by Duursema. The book is in the final stretch of its campaign, but there's still time to get on board.
If you take a quick look through the archives here at ComicsAlliance, one of the first things you're going to figure out is that I like John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Luke McDonnell's classic run on Suicide Squad a lot. It's one of my all-time favorite comics, and while it never quite seemed to get the recognition of contemporaries like Justice League International, it ended up forming the foundation of a big chunk of how DC would approach storytelling in the modern era. And now, after years of being relegated to dollar boxes, it's finally seeing print thanks to the upcoming movie.
But that's all stuff that you know already, and to be honest, if I haven't convinced you that these are stories you should be picking up by now, there's a good chance that nothing I could say here is going to change your mind. At the same time, this month saw the release of the second volume of the collection, and if you read one set of Suicide Squad stories, this should be it.
This week, DC released a new paperback collection of the first eight issues of John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell's Suicide Squad, one of the absolute best comics of the 80s. The mix of high action and intense drama that focused on some of DC's more obscure villains not only revitalized characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang, it served as a blueprint to the kind of superhero story that DC would focus on for the next three decades. In short, it's great.
But let's be real, here: If you've read ComicsAlliance for any length of time, then you've probably heard us talk about all that stuff before. If that hasn't already convinced you, then what you need, friends, are specifics, which is exactly why I've sat down with my copy to bring you the five best moments of Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial By Fire.
John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake have a pretty amazing track record. The long-time collaborators are probably best known for their work at DC with titles like The Spectre and Martian Manhunter --- and for the creation of Johnny Karaoke, an extremely minor Batman villain that I might be the only actual fan of --- but now, they're reuniting for a new project. It's called Kros: Hallowed Ground, and it's the story of a vampire hunter taking on the undead at the Battle of Gettysburg.
To fund the new book, Ostrander and Mandrake launched a Kickstarter campaign this week, and to be honest, I'm not sure they've invented a unit of time small enough for how fast I hit that link to get this comic.
What made the Ostrander/Yale Suicide Squad work and others not? John Ostrander and Kim Yale, along with Luke McDonnell, Geof Isherwood, Karl Kesel and other artists. They were creators who were absolutely at the top of their game over the course of Squad's 66-issue run, and you can't really get away from the fact that when Ostrander came back for stuff like Raise the Flag and the Blackest Night one-shot, those books were immediately right back in step with some of the best stories of the run. They were, hands down, one of the best creative teams in the history of superhero comics.
But at the same time, I don't think that's the whole story. When you get right down to it, Suicide Squad wasn't just a product of its time, it was the kind of comic that could only really happen in 1987.
Over the past few weeks, Comixology has done a pretty amazing job of staying on top of DC's Convergence event with a string of sales based on the different eras that were brought into Bottleworld to fight it out, and this week is no exception. There's amazing stuff in there focusing on the Justice League International, the amazingly underrated 90s Superboy run, and one of the greatest comics of all time, the late '80s Suicide Squad.
But with all those great books to choose from, you might need a little help narrowing it down. Like, let's say you can only buy one comic from the entire sale. If that's the case, then my recommendation would be that you jump on Suicide Squad #58. You know, the one where a werewolf kills Grant Morrison.
Q: Just re-read Gotham Central and it got me wondering, what's the deal with the Spectre? -- @BatIssues
A: The Spectre was originally created in 1940 by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily, but it's worth noting that some sources -- including legendary editor Roy Thomas, who's about as big a fan of DC's Golden Age titles as you're likely to find -- give Siegel full credit for the whole concept, and that's the first interesting point. After all, Siegel is, as you may have heard, the co-creator of arguably the most enduring and significant character in comics history, who's known for his incredible physical strength: Slam Bradley.
Of all the redesigns that took place for DC's "New 52" relaunch, the one that was most disappointing to the staff of ComicsAlliance was undoubtedly the one that hit Amanda Waller. Rather than the short, stout, and impossibly tough woman who appeared in the pages of John Ostrander, Kim Yale and Luke McDonnell's Suicide Squad, the redesigned Waller was young, slim and sexy. She was, in other words, just like every other "idealized" body type in superhero comics, and lost a bit of what made her unique.
Well, it seems our disappointment has found us in good company, alongside no less than Ostrander himself. In a column at ComicMix that went up this week, the writer expressed both a love of the character he shaped for over 60 issues, and a dismay at how the character's redesign conflicts with his original intent.
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