Epic Fail Of The Week: DC Comics Drops The Ball On ‘The Wall’ in Suicide Squad

By Arturo R. García

The image above is the last page of DC Comics’ new Suicide Squad #1, which debuted yesterday. And to the chagrin of many fans thus far, the woman in the panel on the left is writer Adam Glass and penciller Marco Rudy’s “reimagined” take on Amanda Waller.

In her original incarnation, seen at right, the woman known as “The Wall” was notable not only for being a non-superpowered human with the confidence and cunning to stand up to the likes of Batman, but to be consistently presented as DC’s resident spymaster (she was frequently involved with prior incarnations of the Dirty Dozen-like Squad), but for being depicted as powerful without looking like the “superhuman ideal.”

The character has also emigrated onto other media platforms. CCH Pounder voiced an animated version of Waller in the Justice League Unlimited animated series; Pam Grier played her on television during the final season of Smallville; and earlier this year, Amanda Bassett stepped into the character for the movie Green Lantern. That said, Waller’s involvement as a “star” in the comics has primarily been restricted to espionage-type titles like Suicide Squad or Checkmate, where she was part of an ensemble. She’s never been called upon to carry a title on her own.

Which makes the decision to revamp the character – whether it was Glass and Rudy’s choice, or something dictated to them by DC head honchos Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns – even more ill-considered than their decision to draw up a Suicide Girls-like character (seen at left) and call her Harley Quinn. What made Waller unique was that she really did look like a regular person – she just had enough of an iron will to maneuver herself into a position of power. For DC to seemingly transform her into one more skinny gal seems to be a particularly arbitrary choice in a company-wide relaunch that has already divided its’ existing fanbase. Or, if this move was made in order to entice new readers to give the new Squad a shot, then who does this company exactly want to attract? This guy?

Update: Glass was quoted by Bleeding Cool as saying, “Amanda Waller is not defined by her size but by her attitude and she still has plenty of that.” Which doesn’t explain the change at all, of course. Bleeding Cool also reported that Rudy has been replaced as the penciller for the series in favor of Federico Dellocchio.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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  • Soph

    I think a lot of people loved her character from watching Justice League the television show (and its and offshoot shows) and have a sentimental connection to her as she was, through that as well. She’s iconic in a lot of people’s minds. 

    Her character influenced me in comics because she depended on her own intelligence and strength and she never used her ‘feminine wiles’ as a last resort unlike many other women in comics. I’m disappointed in this change because while she may still have ‘attitude’ (which seems a bit of condescending word for her experience and brand of shrewd competence) it’s not really the same if she’s going about it a different way. Change of body also means change of body language, which is a big part of personality, I think. 

    DCwomenkickingass has a pretty good post on this, I think. http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/10252900677/awuique

  • KupKake QT

    As a hard core DC fan, I was hoping the new  52 would be something to sit up and shout about, but from what I’ve been reading lately and the axing of the “Walls” and Barbara Gordon’s physically unique characteristics, I am sad to say that I’m going to wait this one out, until DC decides to switch back to the old 52.

  • Anonymous

    Honestly, I’m far, far more disturbed about the tone of the fanboy outcry over this change than the change itself. I’ve seen people flat-out say that her character is only believable as powerful because she isn’t attractive. And that her whole character is based on being someone who pulled herself up out of the projects so there she must be fat. WTF?

    I’m not quite sure why everyone is so invested in the idea that a strong, powerful black woman in the DCU MUST BE fat.

    But there’s all kinds of race uproar with this week’s releases. The outrage over Mr. Terrific and it’s acknowledgment of race seems to really, really bother a lot of comic fans.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t speak for the responses you mention, but here’s another perspective, from Digital Femme:

      “But Amanda Waller? Waller is a strategist.
      She uses her brain and technology, not brawn. In fact, she focuses so
      intently on her career and the intricate plots she so carefully
      constructs that she often ignores the body completely. She moves boldly
      into dangerous situations, blithely relying on whatever weapon she has
      at hand to subdue her foe. She enjoys creature comforts like good food
      and good drink—which has resulted in weight-related illnesses. She
      smart, she’s scary, and her only weakness is the fatty part of the

      And you know what? Fans love that about her. Fans love the fact that
      this insanely competent woman doesn’t fit the mold and yet is able to
      move men and women of steel around like chess pieces. It’s a key part of
      her character.”

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    I’m not a comic fan. If I’ve ever read a comic book it was when I was a kid. But I am a African American woman and I actually don’t see the problem with this. Black woman are way over represented in the media as being ‘big’ women. So good for them for portraying “The Wall” as not being the usual stereotypical big Black woman.

    • Anonymous

      You make a valid point. But I would also note that Waller’s prior characterization veered away from stereotype, and in the comics universe, it’s more rare to encounter a female character who is not only not skinny, but whose size is not used as a target for humor or presented as an obstacle.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612905469 Naomi Clark

      It’s worth noting that Amanda Waller is the only big black woman in comics — seriously. There are quite a few black female superheroes in the same universe with her, and in other comic book series, who are skinny and shaped much like all the other female superheroes. Storm, Vixen, Natasha Irons, Cecilia Reyes… just the tip of the iceberg. In comic book world, it’s the heavy people who are never shown or just used as jokes, regardless of race.

  • Guesiest

    They made her skinny and straightened her hair. Epic Fail. Also its Angela Bassett.

  • Digital Coyote

    She–and most female characters, but WoC especially–aren’t marketable unless the target demographic can spank to them.

  • Sanoe

    “We’re committed to telling diverse stories with a diverse point of view.
    We want these adventures to resonate in the real world, reflecting the
    experiences of our diverse readership.”
    – Jim Lee & Dan DiDio

    DC Entertainment Co-Publishers

    By this they mean telling the stories of skinny, able-bodied women who can be put on sexual display for the presumed tastes of their presumed straight male audience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Javan-Nelums/696759111 Javan Nelums

    I remember reading in a blog somewhere that media and comics target White, young, males. So having a ordinary WOC take up the lead and is in par with Batman in terms of tactics and strategy is problematic for some CIS white males.