Movies & TV / Columns

411 Comics Showcase: Deadshot

August 12, 2016 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this article, I feel I need to point out the obvious. Yes, I chose this week to spotlight Deadshot because of the release of Suicide Squad. The third entry into the DCEU has certainly seen its fair share of controversy, being raked across the coals by many critics and touted as “great” by its target demographic.

I thought it was fine. Not great, maybe not even objectively good, but I had a lot of fun with it. Unlike many, I thought Enchantress was a completely serviceable villain and enjoyed seeing the Squad so out of their depth. I enjoyed most of the cast, with Viola Davis, Margot Robbie and Will Smith being the obvious standouts, feeling like near perfectly realized adaptations of their comic book counterparts. El Diablo was the surprise breakout character for me, and I was pleasantly surprised at how they incorporated Kahana into the mix. That said, I thought Rick Flag was a little too flat and I am not sold on Jared Leto’s Joker. I can’t help wishing it was a slightly more polished product so I could endorse it more enthusiastically.

For me, the best part of the movie was Will Smith as Deadshot, which felt like a long overdue return to form for Smith as an action star. Whether he is extorting a client for more money, mowing down demonic monsters, or sharing the screen with his daughter, Floyd Lawton almost always feels on point. I didn’t like that Floyd pulled a gun out in front of his daughter, but can accept that singular difference when the rest of his characterization feels fully ripped from the comics. After all, I’ve been wanting DC’s movies to do that for a while, and it’s only fair to acknowledge when they do.

Deadshot is one of my favorite characters in comics, hero or villain. While he was entirely serviceable as an occasional foe of Batman, I feel he really came into his own as a member of Suicide Squad. His mix of professionalism, disregard for human life, surprising ability to forge interesting friendships, and a pretty blatant death wish all combine to set the tone of those comics. He is a perfect anti-hero; just humanized enough to be sympathetic, but never crosses a line where we can trust this guy to potentially reform.

Floyd Lawton has been around longer than one might suspect, debuting in Batman #59 in June of 1950. Created by Bob Kane, Lewis Schwartz and David Vern Reed, Deadshot bears little resemblance to the character we know today. His original plan was to pass himself off as a vigilante while taking over Gotham’s criminal world, which did not work out for him. This was a one shot appearance, and Deadshot would not be seen again for twenty-seven years.

Steve Englehart introduced the character as we know him today during his excellent run on Detective Comics. Issue #474, The Deadshot Ricochet gave Floyd his now iconic costume and mask and set him up as a recurring villain in Batman and other books. While this issue is likely to cost you a pretty penny, I can’t recommend it enough. It also features the debut of one of my favorite Batman love interests, Silver St. Cloud, and sets the stage for the classic Joker story The Laughing Fish.

While Deadshot was a respectable second-string baddie for DC in the seventies and eighties, John Ostrander would turn him into an all-time great by making him the centerpiece of Suicide Squad. This series elevated the profile of Deadshot as well as other villains like Captain Boomerang and Bronze Tiger, while also establishing their leader Amanda Waller. Combining aspects of The Dirty Dozen and the television show Mission: Impossible, Ostrander created a fantastic new brand for DC that was notable for grounded, political plots and a surprising tendency to kill off members of the team to insure the title lived up to its name.

Suicide Squad was also notable for providing looks into the psyches of Task Force X, providing depth to characters who were frequently onenote. It was here that Deadshot’s past was revealed and his enduring personality established. Floyd was revealed to grow up idolizing his older brother, the two siblings being close to endure life with an abusive father. Floyd accidentally killed his brother while aiming for his father, psychologically scarring him. Lawton has since elevated his aim to near perfection, almost never missing.

The lost bond with his brother has lead to Deadshot often forming similar bonds, though he perhaps doesn’t seek them out consciously. Most notable was teammate Rick Flag, with the two gaining a respect for each other’s professional approach to their missions. While Floyd would probably never admit to caring for Rick, he does willingly make a sacrifice play when ordered to stop Flag from killing a senator. Rather than kill Flag, Floyd follows his orders by killing the senator himself, at great risk to his own life.

While that moment is certainly one of Floyd’s best and the Suicide Squad is definitely the comic he is best known for, I have my own preference. Gail Simone’s Secret Six takes a very similar concept and focuses mostly on the dynamic between Deadshot and Catman. I love watching these two bounce off another, and the series itself is a blast to read. Floyd also has surprising chemistry with Harley Quinn in the New 52’s reboot of Suicide Squad.

Of course, the most important relationship Floyd has is with his daughter Zoe. It’s always made me happy that the negative relationship Floyd had with his father helped him to make better choices for his daughter. While he is not qualified to be a role model by any means, her quality of life is shown to be a major motivating factor in his actions. He always gives part of his earnings to her and once cleaned out the criminal element of the area of Star City that she and her mother live in.

Understandably, that humanizing aspect of Deadshot tends to crop up when he is adapted in other media. While he unfortunately never made an appearance in Batman: The Animated Series, Floyd was a key element in a couple of Justice League episodes, including one starring Task Force X. Deadshot also appeared as a recurring villain in Arrow before making his big screen debut last week. It’s not hard to see why he keeps showing up; Deadshot is a great character, and I only hope to see more of him in the future.

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Michael Ornelas and I write weekly on 411, taking turns introducing each other to films the other hasn’t seen. Last week, we kicked a hornet’s nest by only sort of liking Scarface, leading to some fantastic discussions in the comments. This week, Michael will be introducing me to the 1997 science fiction film Gattaca!