Read it before you see it: 'Suicide Squad'
The number of comic book-based movies and TV shows hitting screens in the past couple years is overwhelming. Just thinking about the dozens yet to come can make anyone's head spin. Fear not, fellow nerds, head geeks over at the Times have you covered.
More than 20 movies based on comic book characters and storylines are planned to hit theaters between 2016 and 2020. Many of these characters have hundreds of different comics that explain their origins, their enemies and sometimes their downfalls.
It's not necessary to read the hundreds of Captain America comics before seeing Captain America: Civil War, or try to research the various origin stories for every villain in Suicide Squad.
We created guides to essential comics and graphic novels you should read before or after seeing the movies Marvel and DC will bless us with in the next four years.
Note: These lists are by no means comprehensive nor are they set in any particular order. They are simply staff favorites and recommendations from fellow comic book lovers.
Based off the comic series of the same name, a ragtag group of DC Universe villains are assembled to take on evil-doers who are even worse than they are. Naturally, bad guys aren't exactly the easiest bunch to control.
Starring fan-favorites the Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), along with newcomers Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Suicide Squad shows all the terribly brilliant and hilarious things that happen when you let villains out of their cages.
The New 52: Suicide Squad
This series is a given.
The Squad in DC's New 52 is Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Voltaic, Black Spider and King Shark, all recruited from maximum security prisons to do undercover missions for the government. They're told the missions shave off some of their jail time, but it's hard to say no their controllers implant small suicide bombs in their necks.
Their no-nonsense leader Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis in the film) has them scrambling from mission to mission, facing the worst of the worst. The team just has to obey orders and not kill each other. What could go wrong? Well, the Joker, for one thing.
Batman: Assault on Arkham
Not a comic book, but still another great look at the Suicide Squad, particularly Harley Quinn and Deadshot. This animated film has cameos by Batman, Riddler and Amanda Waller sending the squad to break into Arkham Asylum to recover some top secret information. The character styles and scenery will look familiar to video game players, as Assault on Arkham is based in the same universe as the Batman: Arkham game.
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot and Katana
The six-issue miniseries follows the world's deadliest marksman and the wielder of Soultaker. Deadshot tries to re-establish himself as a fierce sniper while fending off secrets from his past. Katana struggles to understand her magical sword's origins before it has a chance to control her.
Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1
This one is hot off the press. DC's Rebirth of Suicide Squad focuses on the redemption of Rick Flag, who was banished to a secret military prison until Amanda Waller gave him his next top-secret task: keeping members of the Suicide Squad from killing each other.
Get to know your favorites
You probably know her story by heart now, but Ms. Quinn is a former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who lost her sanity after treating and falling in love with the Joker. What started as a serious violation of the patient-doctor relationship standards turns into an abusive and obsessive relationship with a villain who has no shred of good left in him. She first appeared in comic form in Batman Adventures: Mad Love alongside the cartoonish Joker and Batman.
Harley Quinn: In co-writers Amanda Conner's and Jimmy Palmiotti's hands, The Clown Princess of Crime takes on Coney Island away from the Joker and mayhem of Gotham. Harley shows her softer side in her first standalone series, but still has that silly psychotic personality with enough spunk to take on even the most evil and boring nemesis. She also takes time out of her hectic schedule of running a boardwalk building to take in shelter pets, join a Roller Derby team and nosh on chili dogs.
Batman: Harley Quinn: The Joker's main squeeze nabs the spotlight in this collection of stories following Harley from her early beginnings transforming herself to the tumultuous relationship with her Puddin'. Harley Quinn collects issues from Gotham Knights, Detective Comics, Joker's Asylum II, Batman: Black and White and Legends of the Dark Knights. Cameos by Batman, Poison Ivy, the Riddler and more.
Mad Love and Other Stories: Paul Dini and Bruce Timm are the masterminds behind Harley Quinn. They created her for Batman: The Animated Series and the crazy adventures of Batman, the Joker and Harley Quinn are collected in Mad Love. If you want a look into Harley in her most original form, Mad Love is where you'll find it.
Harley Quinn: Rebirth #1: Another issue just in time for Suicide Squad. Harley's Rebirth issue (written by locals Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner) retells a bit of her origins but then throws us right back into her silly, chaotic world with all her best pals.
In the comics, artist June Moone takes on the spirit of Enchantress after attending a party at the haunted Terror Castle. In the film, Moone is an archeologist before she's turned into a powerful supernatural being possessed by an ancient witch. Enchantress' debut came in Strange Adventures #187 in 1966, nicknamed the "switcheroo witcheroo."
Enchantress is both a superhero and supervillain. She's part of the Shadowpact, sort of a Justice League for supernatural characters. She's joined by Ragman, Detective Chimp, Blue Devil, Nightshade and Nightmaster in the Shadowpact series that ran for 25 issues.
Chato Santana is the third character to take on the name El Diablo. Covered in gnarly tattoos, he has the power to control and create flames with his mind. He's one of the few villains who let show their want for a less violent life. He first appears in El Diablo volume 3 #1 when he meets the original Diablo, Lazarus Lane. In the New 52 run, he's an ex-criminal and member of the Suicide Squad.
Before Floyd Lawton was taken down by Batman, he was an expert assassin who believed no one but the intended target should be harmed. He joins the Suicide Squad as its de facto leader in hopes of shortening his prison sentence. He first appeared in Batman #59 in 1950. In Deadshot: Beginnings, Lawton takes on a crime boss and in Deadshot: Bulletproof, he tries to rid his daughter's neighborhood of violence.
Waylon Jones "Killer Croc" is portrayed as a Batman villain with a rare genetic condition that gives him a reptilian appearance. Croc is extremely dangerous and often portrayed as cannibalistic. In Detective Comics #810, he tries to find a cure for his condition. When his doctor fails, he eats her. Fun!
Digger Harkness is one of The Flash's enemies and like his name suggests, he's an expert at throwing weapons, especially high-tech dangerous boomerangs. Check him out in The Flash #117 and Suicide Squad volume 4 #3.
Fun fact: Katana is more of an antihero than a villain. But in the film, she's Col. Rick Flag's second, watching his back in case any other members of the Squad get out of line. She probably has the coolest weapon of any superhero, ever: A sword that contains the souls of everyone it kills. Check out Katana in Batman and the Outsiders #1 and Birds of Prey.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at email@example.com. Follow @chelseatatham.