Suicide Squad is poised to be one of the summer’s biggest movies. In some ways, it’s in the same position Guardians of the Galaxy was a few years ago, in that it’s going to introduce a bunch of awesome, but lesser-known comic book characters to mainstream audiences. Even if you couldn’t name a Suicide Squad character if your life depended on it, odds are you’ll soon be able to name all of them.
To help give you a jump start, we present a look at one of the key players in this upcoming film: the unusually-named Captain Boomerang. What follows is a handy overview of who he is, where he came from, and why he may well be your next favorite person in the DC Universe.
Here are 15 Things to Know About Captain Boomerang.
15. His creators
Captain Boomerang was created by the talented team of John Broome and Carmine Infantino, two men whose imprint on comic book history is considerable. Broome was a DC regular, writing science-fiction stories for the company. Together with artist Gil Kane, he created Hal Jordan, a.k.a. Green Lantern. The Flash is the other character with whom he is most associated. In his capacity as a writer on that series, Broome helped to create some of the hero’s most memorable nemeses. In addition to Captain Boomerang, he devised Abra Kadabra and Professor Zoom.
Infantino, meanwhile, was a key player in the Silver Age of Comics, helping to put new spins on many DC heroes. In 1956, he was tasked with reinventing an existing, long-dormant character named the Flash. His enduring contribution was the red-and-yellow costume that is associated with the Flash to this day. Noted for his ability to convey motion through his artwork, Infantino additionally devised a use of stylized lines to suggest the hero’s super-speed. In the early 1970s, he was named publisher of DC Comics.
14. The Captain had a troubled childhood
Like many comic book villains (and a few notable heroes), Captain Boomerang had a somewhat unusual and turbulent childhood, one that helps explain the twisted man he grew up to be. He was born George “Digger” Harkness, the illegitimate son of an American solider and an Australian woman who had a brief dalliance. The identity of his biological father remained unknown to him for many years.
Harkness lived in poverty in a small Australian town with his mother and stepfather, a man who disliked him and treated him very poorly. With little to do and relatively few outlets for his feelings, he began training himself in the art of both making and using boomerangs, eventually becoming uncommonly proficient. Most times, he used the object for mischief. When he got a bit older, Harkness learned his father’s real identity: W.W. Wiggins, a toy company owner who had retired from the military.
13. He got his identity from his father
After being kicked out of his home for robbing a store and using his boomerang to escape, Harkness was sent to Central City in America, where he got hired by his father’s toy company. Wiggins gave his son a brand new identity: Captain Boomerang. Harkness’ job was to promote the company and its signature product — you guessed it, the boomerang — by demonstrating his abilities to the public. It was a job he took to, and he had every intention of trying to stay on the straight-and-narrow. That goal was to be short-lived, however.
Audience ridicule and apathy proved to be his downfall. As it turns out, boomerangs aren’t that exciting when they’re being used for mundane purposes. Using them for mischief, on the other hand, is a little more attention-getting. Harkness ultimately made a full turn toward a life of crime, keeping the costume and the stage name provided to him by his father.
12. His first appearance
Captain Boomerang made his comics debut in The Flash #117, which was published in December 1960. In the story, Harkness commits his first robbery under his new persona. Barry Allen (a.k.a. The Flash) is on a date when he gets word of the crime. Abandoning the lovely Iris West, he slips off to investigate. He confronts Boomerang, who claims that he’s being framed and is really just a nice guy caring for his elderly parents. This is, of course, a lie, but the Flash falls for it.
After more robberies, the two meet again. This time, Boomerang knocks Flash out, then ties him to a giant boomerang, flinging him to what would seem to be certain doom. But Flash manages to escape. He returns to Central City, locates Boomerang, and delivers him to local law enforcement. The story ends with Iris asking Barry why he disappeared, and the Scarlet Speedster throws off her suspicions by claiming that he went to call the police so that they could apprehend the criminal.
11. He ‘s been known to team up with other villains
Captain Boomerang has belonged to more than one group of supervillains over the years. He started off with the Rogues, a group of baddies united in an effort to bring down their common enemy, the Flash. Fellow members of that clan included the nefarious Captain Cold, Mirror Master, and the Trickster. Personality clashes made Captain Boomerang an uncomfortable fit with the clan, as many of his teammates found themselves at odds with his brashness and sarcastic humor.
Sometime later, he found himself in prison. Desperate to get out, he accepted an offer to join the Suicide Squad. In exchange, he was pardoned for his crimes and released. In this new group, Boomerang found himself working alongside a new crop of villains, including Mind Boggler, Slipknot, and Deadshot. They, like the Rogues, often disliked Captain Boomerang, viewing him as a loose cannon who couldn’t necessarily be counted on when the chips were down. He also had some troublingly racist ideas. When you offend other villains, you know you’re doing something wrong.
10. He’s a prankster
Few things are more annoying than people who incessantly want to pull pranks, especially when there’s “business” at hand. Boomerang is one of those people. Although he can be racist and abrasive, he has also displayed a goofier side that — to the dismay of many who encountered him — took the form of a practical joke that only he found amusing. Boomerang particularly enjoyed covertly throw pies at his colleagues or foes.
His targets have included the very un-amused Amanda Waller, Major Victory, Dr. Light, and even Lois Lane. At one point, to deflect suspicion from himself, he used his boomerang skills to nail himself with one of the pastries, attempting to frame someone else for the gags. Security cameras caught him in the act, though. If such slapstick tomfoolery seems out of place in comics, it is. Some DC Comics fans dislike Captain Boomerang for this reason. It’s hard to take a villain seriously when he behaves as though he just stepped out of a Three Stooges short.
9. He has multiple gimmicky boomerangs
Lots of heroes have “toys.” Batman, for instance, has an entire utility belt full of gizmos that may come in handy as he fights crime. Green Lantern has a ring that can summon up whatever he imagines. Green Arrow has a quiver of arrows with different abilities. Captain Boomerang has his toys too. As you can guess, though, when you’re name is “Captain Boomerang,” all your weapons are going to be limited to one type.
Still, it’s impressive what he did with that type. Aside from the garden variety wooden boomerang, he had the oversized one that allowed him to hurl the Flash into space, one that exploded, one with lasers, one that left a trail of smoke, one that shot acid, and one with sharp razors that could cut anything it came in contact with. He even had one that could time-travel! In one of his most famous story arcs, the villain had invisible boomerangs hidden in jail cells around the city. When he focused his brain waves on them, they suddenly became visible, revealing an assortment of tools to help prisoners escape.
8. He has a son
When he wasn’t busy being evil or pranking people, George Harkness took time to start a family. Sort of. He bore a son, Owen Mercer, to Meloni Thawne, a resident of the 30th century who also gave birth to the superhero Impulse. For many years, Owen erroneously thought his mother was the villainess Golden Glider. (Comic book relationships are more complicated than soap operas.) Harkness was an absentee father, never meeting Owen until years later. Surprisingly, that didn’t create resentment. In fact, Owen had respect for his dad’s notoriety and practiced boomerang tossing with him. How’s that for father-son bonding?
Later on, Owen became a villain in his own right (we’ll get to that in a minute), following in dear old dad’s footsteps as a member of the Rogues and, eventually, the Suicide Squad. Aside from his own mastery of the boomerang, he also had the gift of speed bursts, not unlike his father’s enemy, the Flash. Owen liked the trick boomerangs, too. He had one that altered gravity and another that shot tear gas. Like father, like son.
7. He’s a real S.O.B.
You wouldn’t necessarily think that a guy whose specialty is boomerang use would be truly, shockingly nasty inside, but you’d be wrong. In his guise as Captain Boomerang, George Harkness was able to unleash the darkest aspects of his soul. Those on the receiving end of this malice weren’t just the heroes he was fighting. His wrath could be directed at anyone, even his own teammates.
After being recruited into the Suicide Squad by Amanda Waller, he showed blatant disregard for the people he was brought in to work with. He allowed another Squad member, Mindboggler, to be shot after she used her powers of illusion on him in a manner that left him embarrassed. In another incident, he wanted to find out whether the bracelets Suicide Squad members were forced to wear really would explode if they tried to escape. Captain Boomerang convinced Slipknot to test it out. The bracelets worked, leaving Slipknot without an arm.
6. He died
In the Identity Crisis storyline, Captain Boomerang has been rendered somewhat obsolete by baddies with cooler gizmos and powers. He is hired by an evildoer known as the Calculator (perhaps the only comic book name even sillier than “Captain Boomerang”) to kill Jack Drake, the father of Tim Drake, a.k.a. Robin. It’s a double-cross mission, as Drake is given advance warning that someone is out to get him. He also receives a pistol so that he can defend himself. During the attack, Boomerang kills Drake, but not before the latter can get off a fatal shot at his assailant.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Boomerang has been working on establishing a father/son evil-doing duo with Owen when this calamity takes place. Owen, enraged that his father was taken from him just as they were deepening their relationship and pursuing their nefarious dreams together, vows revenge. He takes over for Harkness as Captain Boomerang.
5. He (predictably) came back to life
Few, if any, characters who die in comic books stay dead, and sure enough, the Grim Reaper couldn’t hold his grasp on George Harkness for long. In the Green Lantern crossover series Blackest Night, Captain Boomerang is one of twelve heroes and villains who are brought back from the Great Beyond and turned into “Black Lanterns” — basically reanimated beings who, in their new form, seek to wipe out all life. In particular, they go after Batman and Red Robin. Other Black Lanterns include CB’s murderer/victim Jack Drake and none other than Aquaman.
Then it all gets a little gross. Because he is, for all intents and purposes, a zombie, Captain Boomerang needs to eat. His food is supplied by his adoring son Owen. And when we say food, we totally mean that Owen is providing women and children for his father to feed on. When the Rogues — to whom Owen is connected — find out about this, they exact an ironic punishment, shoving him into a pit where he’s eaten by his dear old dad.
4. Other media appearances
Suicide Squad is certainly Captain Boomerang’s most high-profile screen appearance to date, but it’s not his first. Harkness is featured in episodes of the animated series Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The latter recreates his infamous debut where he strapped the Flash to a giant boomerang, but it allows the Dark Knight to spring to the rescue. In a second episode, Flash returns the favor, saving Batman from Captain Boomerang. Additional animated appearances can be found in the films Batman/Superman: Public Enemies, Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and Batman: Assault on Arkham.
In terms of live- action, CB was seen several times during the third season of Arrow, where he was portrayed by actor Nick Tarabay. His brief run on the show ends when he is taken down by the Green Arrow and, naturally, the Flash. If you’ve played the video games Lego Batman 2 and 3, you’ve come across him there, as well.
3. This could very well be Jai Courtney’s breakout role
In David Ayer’s much-anticipated Suicide Squad movie, Captain Boomerang is portrayed by Australia’s own Jai Courtney. It will be an important role for the actor. For a while, Courtney was pegged to be the “Next Big Thing,” thanks to his casting in a series of major sequels and franchise films, including A Good Day to Die Hard, Terminator Genisys, and Divergent. Unfortunately for him, the first two were massive box office bombs, while the third did just middling business. None were enthusiastically received by audiences.
This had the effect of making Courtney a popular internet punching bag. Whenever a major new sequel or reboot was announced, film buffs in forums and on social media joked that if he was cast, the project would be doomed. But here’s the thing: that was just bad luck. Courtney is actually a talented actor, as evidenced by his impressive turn in Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner. That picture wasn’t a hit either, so audiences still generally haven’t seen what he can do. If Suicide Squad is a hit, it could usher in the second – and more positive – phase of the actor’s career.
2. Courtney “cringed” at the role initially
By now, you’ve probably realized that, on many levels, this is sort of a goofy character we’re talking about. He’s a villain who uses something that’s basically a child’s toy as a weapon. His comic book outfit, at least during the early days, is a bit laughable, as is his name. (It’s a far cry from Killer Croc or Deadshot, that’s for sure!) He’s racist and sexist, and sometimes he engages in juvenile pranks that aren’t very becoming of someone who is supposed to be a fearsome supervillain. It’s no wonder that Courtney hesitated when he was offered the role.
While on a press tour for Terminator Genisys, the 30 year old confessed that he “cringed” when David Ayer asked him to play Captain Boomerang. His unfamiliarity with the character left him (understandably) worried about how people in his native land would respond. Only after Ayer insisted that CB wouldn’t be campy in this version – and would, in fact, be incredibly lethal – did Courtney relent. Having now praised the director’s “psychotic” vision, we can’t wait to see what the film has in store for the character.
1. Essential reading
To really get a full portrait of the things that are cool about Captain Boomerang, with none of the goofier elements that sullied some iterations of the character, there are two books you need to read. The first, of course, is The Flash #117, which introduces him and sets up a number of basic, yet important details. It also allows you to see the character in his earliest, most basic version and then compare that to how he is portrayed later on.
The other essential is the Brightest Day run from 2010. Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, the story finds Harkness in jail. Rogues member Captain Cold tells him that if he wants to join their ranks again, he’ll need to prove himself by escaping. What follows is a taut adventure that displays Captain Boomerang in his most fearsome state. Despite the inherently non-threatening conceptual nature of a boomerang-hurling bad guy, the character we see here is most definitely a force to be reckoned with. Other books with the character are also solid, but these two are the must-reads.
Now you’re all caught up on Captain Boomerang, how do you think he’ll transition to the big screen? Will the latest entry in the DCEU prove to be Jai Courtney’s big break? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016.