Bad reviews aren’t going to stop the most faithful of DC Comics fans from seeing director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad this weekend. In this bad guy team-up flick, the likes of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and several other villains make their big screen debuts in a dangerous mission that only the worst people in the world could possibly execute.
Set in the universe established by Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad continues in those films’ grand tradition of referencing and setting up future plots involving lesser-known elements from the DC comics, including meta-humans and A.R.G.U.S. Thanks to the sheer number of characters Suicide Squad squeezes in, there is more than a handful of corresponding Easter eggs that got thrown into the film. Comic book fans, keep your eyes peeled — and newbies, take some notes.
The prison that houses these weirdos is Belle Reve, a Louisiana penitentiary that exclusively imprisons meta-humans, or individuals with scientific or supernatural powers. Unlike Arkham Asylum in Gotham City, Belle Reve is a legit prison where criminals languish without much hope of getting out… unless they join the Suicide Squad.
Introduced in Suicide Squad #1 in May 1987, it’s the convenient headquarters for Amanda Waller’s Task Force X. Prisoners at Belle Reve are put on Task Force X missions to reduce their sentences, unless they’re killed or caught in action… in which case, the government instantly denies any involvement. Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis in the film) herself has served time in Belle Reve once or twice, since being a part of a SUPER illegal operation can be pretty damning.
So this isn’t much of an “Easter egg,” but the plainly-named Midway City is the setting for much of the actual action in Suicide Squad. Not everything in the DC Universe happens in Gotham or Metropolis.
An imitator for Chicago (even though Chicago is also in the DCU), Midway City has historically been the home of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the Thanagarian superheroes from DC who were in this past season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (although the movie and TV universes aren’t connected). Neither Kendra Saunders or Carter Hall are in the DC movies (yet?) so it’s not like they could have swung into action when Enchantress starts ruining the place.
Joker and Harley Quinn’s Alex Ross and Paul Dini homage
I wish I had a screenshot to show you, but in one of the film’s many, many flashback scenes, Joker and Harley Quinn don some classic attire that will be instantly recognizable to fans, recreating the cover of Paul Dini’s Batman: Harley Quinn, which was illustrated by the famed Alex Ross.
In a black room with harsh lighting, Harley and Joker enjoy a moment of bliss, with Joker in a tux and Harley in the classic red-and-black jester outfit that she wore when she debuted in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. In Suicide Squad the moment happens really quickly, so don’t blink when Harley and Joker are exploring their backstory together.
Speaking of their backstory…
ACE Chemicals, and The Killing Joke
It’s been an awkward week for Alan Moore’s 1988 seminal graphic novel The Killing Joke, an infamous comic that explores the Joker’s origin. Moore has disowned the book over the years, but fans cling onto it like it’s the Bible, and a scene involving Joker and Harley may confirm The Killing Joke is canon in the DC movie universe.
You should read The Killing Joke, but the short of it is the Joker was created by falling into a vat of toxic waste at Ace Chemicals. In the movie Suicide Squad, Joker takes Harley to Ace Chemicals (you can see decals on barrels) in some kind of initiation or ceremony to permanently bond them in mind and spirit and body. Or, something. I don’t know. It’s a weird scene.
Anyway, the fact that it’s an Ace Chemicals tub that Joker makes out in with Harley alludes to a story in vein of The Killing Joke being his origin. Doesn’t explain the bad tattoos, though.
Classic Arkham Asylum
Suicide Squad owes much to Batman’s mythology, and a few scenes do take place at the infamous Gotham City institution that houses its villains. They’re mainly in flashbacks (again, Suicide Squad is loaded with them), but a nice establishing shot pays homage to the very, very classic New England gothic architecture seen in classic Batman comics and cartoons. Modern Batman movies have toned down Arkham’s gaudy gothic aesthetic (see: Batman Begins), but Suicide Squad embraces it whole-heartedly as Joel Schumacher did in Batman Forever.
The death of Slipknot
(Spoilers! Unless you’ve read the comics. In which case, spoilers from like thirty years ago).
In Suicide Squad, Slipknot (Adam Beach) is an expert climber whose ropes are nigh indestructible. But his function in the film is, sadly, just to prove Amanda Waller isn’t fucking around with the implants she has in the Suicide Squad. Boomerang convinces Slipknot to try to make a break for it early in the mission, but it backfires and Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) activates the implant, killing Slipknot.
That’s a near-exact moment from the comics. In 1989’s Suicide Squad #9, Boomerang also tries to convince Slipknot to make a break for it. The circumstances were a tad different: They wore arm bands, and their arms exploded instead of outright killing them. But hey, it ain’t a gritty movie unless they die, right?
Hey, Harley Quinn again. At some point Harley Quinn became closely associated with a baseball bat, notably in Batman: Arkham Knight from 2015. But before that, Harley wielded a comically large mallet that was more in line with her jester persona than a Louisville slugger.
Margot Robbie’s Harley wields her bat for the majority of the movie, but in the “suit up” montage Harley takes out her mallet. You’ve seen it a million times in the image above, but sadly she goes baseball. Batter’s up.
The Flash vs. Captain Boomerang
In Captain Boomerang’s backstory, Ezra Miler’s The Flash steps in and stops the crime, which is how the useless Aussie was sentenced to Belle Reve. More than just a cute excuse to get a Justice League cameo in Suicide Squad, it actually references the storied rivalry between The Flash and Boomerang. Captain Boomerang was also the villain of the Arrow and The Flash cross-over from 2014, played by Nick E. Tarabay.
Jonny Frost, Joker’s hencman
I honestly can’t recall if Joker refers to his henchman Jonny Frost by name, but he’s in the movie played by Jim Parrick.
Jonny Frost comes from a 2008 out-of-continuity graphic novel simply titled Joker from Brian Azzarello, the writer of 100 Bullets and 2011’s Wonder Woman from the New 52 relaunch. Told from the perspective of an ambitious but low-level thug Jonny Frost, whom the Joker strangely becomes fond of. Frost becomes his chauffeur, who bears witness to the way Joker lives and works in ways even Batman never could.