I had planned on writing about Scandal Savage this week, since I’m featuring women who have not been included in the new DCU, but I changed my mind a few days ago when I saw this. The woman featured below is in the DCnU, but not in any way that I recognize.)
Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Legends #1
Created By: John Ostrander, Len Wein, and John Byrne
Amanda Waller was living in Chicago’s infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects when her husband and two of her children were murdered. She left the projects, obtained a doctorate, and began working as a congressional aide, where she learned of a past clandestine government agency, the Suicide Squad. Seeing potential, she started a new Suicide Squad, where fourth-string supervillains could commute their sentences by going on suicide black ops missions for the US government. (Now you know why the DCU authorities can’t seem to keep criminal masterminds like, um, Punch and Jewelee behind bars.)
Waller had an acrimonious relationship with basically everyone involved with the Sqad: the government couldn’t control her, the villains on the Squad didn’t like her, and the heroes on the Squad didn’t trust her ruthless methods. Still, her combination of brains and callousness got the job done more often than not. Eventually, the existence of the Squad was revealed to the public and Waller was put on trial for her actions; still later, she and a small team of villains tracked down and killed the heads of an organized crime cartel called the LOA. Waller allowed herself to be jailed for this, knowing she’d be out again the moment the government needed her.
Sure enough, the Wall was soon released to reform the Suicide Squad. She served as Secretary of Metahuman Affairs under President Lex Luthor and was jailed again following his impeachment-via-publicly-attacking-Superman-in-flying-green-space-armor. Politics, man.
However, following the face-heel-turn and subsequent head-neck-turn of Checkmate’s Maxwell Lord, Waller was pardoned by Luthor’s successor and asked to take command of the floundering UN organization. Despite the fact that as White Queen she was forbidden to take part in ops, Waller continued to run a covert Suicide Squad in order to further America’s agenda and her own. She also organized Operation Salvation Run, the mass deportation of supervillains to an alien planet.
Waller’s non-UN-sanctioned activities were eventually revealed and she was forced to resign. Her last appearance in the old DCU showed her newly-formed Squad clashing with the Secret Six, revealing that unbeknownst to the Six, Waller was their mysterious leader, Mockingbird. Why would she pick a fight with a team she already runs? Only the Wall knows for sure.
So What’s So Great About Her?
In my very first post on this blog, I said that out of all the characters in comics, I’d want Dinah Lance to be my best friend. I have a whole bunch of these: I also want to hang out with Stephanie Brown and Jaime Reyes, bake cookies with Mary Batson, punch Hal Jordan in the face, and marry Ralph Dibny.
And never, ever do anything to get Amanda Waller pissed at me.
The Joker might get distracted and forget to shoot me. Lex Luthor has a kernel of goodness somewhere very deep down. So does Waller, actually, but that won’t stop her from utterly destroying me if she thinks I’m a threat to her agenda.
See, ‘the Wall,’ isn’t just a cutesy nickname. It’s a statement of fact. Amanda Waller is unmovable. You can’t get around her, you can’t get through her, and she will make your life living hell if you try. She’s Batman without the privilege of the Wayne fortune and ample time to study tiger-wrestling in the Himalayas or whatever. She took personal tragedy and used her grief to become one of the most badass people in the world, and she did it wearing an 80s power suit. (Speaking of Batman, by the way, the first time they met, she backed him down by pointing out that she could very, very easily figure out his secret identity. PWNED.)
This isn’t to say that Waller doesn’t have morals, because she does. She’s a patriot, and believes first and foremost in furthering America’s interests, even if that means snarking at Reagan about his lack of social programs, abusing her position in a UN-affiliated program to push an American agenda, or, um, shooting mobsters and terrorists in the head. She’s not a nice person, or even really a good person, but she always does what she believes she has to.
And it must be said: she’s African-American, and she’s plus-sized. (Or at least, she was.) Her physical appearance is a hugely important part of her character. She’s an extremely important, influential government figure, and she got there while being black, plus-sized, and female. And from the projects. And old enough to have five (five!) adult children. All of those characteristics are impediments to political power, which means that one look at Waller tells you how hard she had to work to get where she is. Plus, God knows we could use more women of size and color in comics.
I’m glad Amanda Waller made it into the DCnU, but by changing her weight, DC has also drastically changed who she is, and removed something unique and remarkable from their universe. Amanda Waller never used to have to compromise to hold power in the DCU. She shouldn’t have to now.
Suicide Squad v1 #1-67
Checkmate v1 #1, 8, 16-19
Suicide Squad v2 #1-12
52 #24, 33, 34, 45
Suicide Squad v3 #1-8
Checkmate v2 #1-20
Secret Six v3 #17-18, 26-28, 36