As the Director of Task Force X, Amanda Waller is rarely on the front lines, preferring to do most of her work in the shadows, so she stays under the radar compared to many other characters in Suicide Squad. The same goes for the actress playing her in the film, Viola Davis. In the run up to the movie, there's a lot of chatter about Jared Leto and what he'll bring to the Joker, Will Smith and what he'll be like as a villain, or Scott Eastwood and whether or not he's secretly playing a big name DC character. But there's a lot audiences have yet to learn about Amanda Waller.
'The Wall' is always at work behind the scenes, pulling the strings and rubbing shoulders with the shadowy power players of the DC Universe. Serving as Director of the Suicide Squad is only a fraction of what she does. For how big of a force Amanda Waller is in the history of DC Comics, her presence in Suicide Squad could end up having major implications to the larger DCEU. Yet many casual moviegoers have never even heard of her.
In preparation for the big screen debut of her Suicide Squad, here's 15 Things You Didn't Know About Amanda Waller.
Amanda Waller and the modern iteration of the Suicide Squad have always been joined at the hip. Both shared a first appearance in the Legends miniseries by John Ostrander, Len Wein, and John Byrne in 1986 before Suicide Squad eventually got its own title series (also by Ostrander) in 1987.
The Legends miniseries tells a story that introduces a lot of the post-Crisis DC Universe as it’s now known. Events are kickstarted when Darkseid hatches a plot to destroy superheroes in the eyes of the public. In reaction to the fallout from the Lord of Apokolips’s schemes, President Ronald Reagan temporarily bans all superheroics. When the capes start staying home, Amanda Waller convinces the government to greenlight her pet project, Task Force X, AKA the Suicide Squad.
It’s not likely that Darkseid -- or Ronald Reagan for that matter -- will be in the Suicide Squad movie, but Amanda Waller will obviously be front and center to lead the team of villains against an unknown threat (again, probably not Darkseid).
She may not be as popular or well known as some of the other main characters in the DCEU, but Amanda Waller has a history in DC movies, shows, and games that is far more prolific than many members of the Justice League. She’s been portrayed in live-action a total of 3 times to date, by Pam Grier in Smallville, Angela Bassett in Green Lantern, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson in Arrow. We can now add Viola Davis to that list with Suicide Squad.
Her appearances aren’t limited to live-action, either. She’s a near constant presence in DC animated movies, TV shows, and video games, and she’s been brought to life by over 14 performers since 2004, including fan favorite C.C.H. Pounder (who many wanted to reprise the role for the movie). Granted, her role rarely has the same level of prominence as the likes of Batman or Superman, but The Wall’s presence is almost always felt just as much as the Caped Crusader or the Man of Steel. The world beats to her drum.
Amanda Waller’s original comic look is not like the appearance of any other comic book characters of her era. While most characters of that era are depicted as younger, muscular white men, such as Steve Trevor or Rick Flag, Amanda Waller was a tough-as-nails, shorter, and heavy set African American woman. The role didn’t only stand out as an anomaly in comics at the time, but she also stood on her own, regularly going toe-to-toe with some of the best offerings of the DC universe, matching wits with the likes of Batman and Lex Luthor.
That is, until the New 52 redesigned her character. While Waller maintained a similar personality and role in the DC Universe for post-Flashpoint continuity, she was redesigned as a much younger and slimmer female, playing up her sex appeal. The decision was heavily derided, as DC was taking a non-tradition character and redesigning her to fit into a standard paradigm of attractiveness, undermining the classic traits of the character by basically turning her into another attractive super agent.
The New 52 redesign unfortunately affected more than just the comics. The actresses chosen for Amanda Waller’s portrayal in both the Green Lantern movie and Arrow TV show both hued closer to the new interpretation of the character. Fortunately, it appears the version being played by Viola Davis in Suicide Squad will skew closer to the “badass” version from the pre-New 52 comics, instead of resorting to marketing the character simply as another sexy supporting lady.
Amanda Waller has (almost) always been associated with Task Force X/The Suicide Squad, but she’s a woman of many affiliations. Branching out beyond her roots, she’s lead the Task Force X spin-off groups Checkmate and The Agency, super powered team up groups Shadow Fighters and the Secret Six, as well as several governmental organizations, such as A.R.G.U.S., Team 7, the Central Bureau of Intelligence, Cadmus, and the Department of Extranormal Affairs.
As a woman of many hats, she has her fingers in a lot of pies, and is almost infinitely connected. She has no superpowers, but her cold calculating decision making, and her ability to garner and call in favors are the closest she comes to wielding metahuman power, often utilizing her knowledge and skills to best others with real supernatural abilities.
So far, the only affiliation we know Amanda Waller has in the DCEU is with the Suicide Squad, but ARGUS has been teased, so don’t be surprised if we see her popping up in more places across the new DC shared universe.
Despite her many affiliations, Amanda Waller is only loyal to one person: Amanda Waller. The very nature of the Suicide Squad speaks to this; she fills the squad’s ranks with completely expendable criminals, so she’s not forced to express commitment to any single member, allowing them to die -- or outright killing them -- in order to ensure a commitment to the mission.
She also almost always has a selfish motive. Even when the squad’s goals don’t appear to align with her own, she’ll have some sort of secret objective to obtain (or destroy) sensitive information, which she’ll confidentially assign to a single squad member. She even uses Task Force X resources and facilities to conduct experiments and build equipment not authorized by the government, due to her larger distrust of metahumans. Speaking of which...
That distrust doesn’t stop with criminals or other superpowered individuals, but goes all the way up to the Justice League itself, including the “normal human” Batman. The Justice League and other heroes may not intentionally cause harm, but she sees what supervillains are capable of, and knows that the United States -- and the larger global community -- has no true countermeasure to address the potential of a rogue Justice League. It’s this distrust that leads to her creation of and participation in organizations such as ARGUS or Cadmus (in the DC Animated Universe), where she can monitor and influence metahuman activity.
In the DCEU, that sentiment aligns with the motivations of both Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne during the events of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Bruce Wayne may have changed his perspective after the death of Superman, but Lex Luthor -- who’s now in Arkham Asylum -- obviously finds himself on similar ground to Waller, meaning there might be opportunity for the two of them to work together on the big screen.
Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller already have a well established professional relationship in the comics. In the early 2000s, DC Comics saw Lex Luthor turn his attention toward politics, rising to the office of President of the United States. Despite his election to the Oval Office, Luthor continues in his nefarious schemes, which eventually lead to his exposure and ejection from office.
Upon his election, Lex appointed Amanda Waller to serve in his cabinet as the Secretary of Metahuman Affairs, although his exposure and subsequent impeachment led to her being arrested. But her higher up connections quickly lead to her being released and appointed as the head of Checkmate.
It’s hard to see Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex ever clearing his name and becoming President of the United States, but the comics have had Lex evade permanent incarceration -- even getting his name cleared -- on multiple occasions, so it’s not out of the question. While it may be a bit of a stretch, as it stands now, Amanda Waller’s inclusion in his cabinet definitely seems like a far more reasonable assumption.
Waller’s distrust of metahumans and relentless pursuit of countermeasures against superheroes makes her one of the few individuals to hoard a stash of Kryptonite. She forms a group called Last Line, focused specifically on combating Superman. To this end, Waller uses the hoarded Kryptonite to make a Doomsday/human hybrid infused with Kryptonite to battle Superman.
The group eventually turns on Waller when they discover her dishonest use of Last Line resources to fuel her personal mission against Superman, but Waller is again able to leverage her connections to avoid any severe penalty, returning to her original role leading Task Force X.
The introduction of Kryptonite, Doomsday, and Waller into the DCEU may provide all the pieces to tell a story about Waller and Last Line, but considering the similarity to the story in BvS, it’s not likely to happen any time soon. Even so, don’t be surprised if the Viola Davis Amanda Waller has a secret stash of Kryptonite on hand in case of any future demand for a Kryptonian deterrent.
Waller is obviously a slick customer, as she repeatedly escapes any major repercussions for her actions. Due to the nature of her many shady dealings, there have been multiple occasions where the Suicide Squad -- or any of the other organizations -- cross the line, exposing her or her government overseers. When this happens, she’ll usually tried and punished, only to be quietly reassigned to a new project as soon as the commotion dies down.
She was even replaced as the Director of Task Force X for a while, but the new director was only a front -- The Wall was still calling the shots from behind the scenes. Her persistent evasion of a prison cell can usually be credited to two facts: first, she’s good at what she does, so a lot of people owe her favors. Second, she’s in so deep that it’s impossible to take her down without indicting her government handlers, folks who usually don’t want to be indicted. As a result, she has a lot of people in high places pulling strings in her favor.
One of the biggest stories buzzing around the production of Suicide Squad was the method acting of Jared Leto. The Joker actor’s antics attracted a lot of attention and generated a lot of headlines. One of the things Leto did as a part of his method acting was send gifts to each cast member, usually intended to creep them out or make them uncomfortable. Margot Robbie probably got the worst of it with a black rat arriving in the mail, but he also sent the rest of the cast a dead pig and… other less appropriate (yes, less appropriate than a dead pig) items.
The Leto shenanigans even had a residual effect on all the other cast members, either causing them to be uncomfortable around Mr. J (as one probably should be), or forcing them to dig into their character to avoid being rattled. Viola didn’t get any gifts herself, but when she was asked Leto’s treatment of the other cast members by E!, she said:
"I did not receive any personally or else I would have got my husband who was called the headache ball back in the day when he played football."
That's is probably the most Amanda Waller response possible. The Wall doesn’t tolerate the Joker's knavery.
Amanda Waller mostly commands Task Force X from a secure location, but that doesn’t mean she never gets in on the action. There have been several occasions where she joins the team in the field, or worse, the field has come to her, such as when the headquarters of Task Force X, Belle Reve prison, is overrun during the Forever Evil crossover event in the New 52 iteration of Suicide Squad.
The same might be true for Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad. The trailers show her getting in on at least a little action, so it sounds like Davis was involved in a few action sequences. In an interview with E! she talks about some on set injuries, such as heart palpitations and a ringing in her ear, and during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, she mentions she has other “battle wounds,” even saying she lost a flap of skin. It’s not clear if the latter injuries were something she personally suffered, or if those are only movie magic wounds, but it definitely suggests Amanda Waller will get her hands dirty.
She may not trust metahumans, but that doesn’t stop Amanda Waller from forming the Suicide Squad, and the same story goes for the Justice League. As the Director of ARGUS during the New 52, Waller actually began recruiting members to join the new Justice League of America, which is comprised of a team of heroes under the authority of the United States government, lead by Steve Trevor.
At first glance, this move may appear to be antithetical to her normal actions, but it turns out that the JLA isn’t merely a branch of the Justice League focused on the needs of the US, but is actually another ruse by Waller to keep the rest of the Justice League in check should the need arise, which it did during the events of Trinity War.
Eventually, The Justice League of America transferred to Canada, leaving Waller’s authority and taking the new name: Justice League United.
Normally focused and right down to business, Amanda Waller isn’t much for romance, but that doesn’t mean she lacks for secret admirers, such as James Gordon Jr -- the serial killer son of Gotham Police Commissioner Jim Gordon.
James Gordon Jr. is a Batman villain that faced off against Batman (Dick Grayson at the time) and Batgirl, his sister, Barbara Gordon, while Bruce Wayne was MIA. JGJ arrives in Gotham as a sociopath who believed empathy was a weakness, so he engineered a drug to suppress his even further.
After an encounter with Batgirl leaves him presumed dead, Gordon resurfaces as a new member of the Suicide Squad in an advisory role to Amanda Waller. It’s quickly revealed that the psychopath has an infatuation with Waller’s ruthless decision making, although Waller is just using him like she is the rest of the squad. He’s a psychopath, and she thinks that makes him the perfect candidate to lead a team of psychopaths.
Task Force X may be called the Suicide Squad, and Waller may fill it with expendable soldiers so as to avoid any loose ends, but she doesn’t always want them to stay dead. During the New 52 run of Suicide Squad, she begins experimenting with a sample obtained from Resurrection Man, and later develops the samsara serum -- which may or may not also eventually kill whomever it’s administered to. The most notable recipient of the samsara serum is Deadshot, who’s killed off twice, only to be brought back (much to his dismay).
We have yet to find out if Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad will have any similar resources, but the potential introduction of a similar plot point does suggest that nobody is safe in Suicide Squad, and even characters people assume could never get killed off, like Will Smith’s Deadshot, could still end up biting the dust before the credits roll.
There’s a lot of focus on the distrust of superheroes and Amanda Waller’s efforts to neutralize their potential threat, but that’s not always the case. In the final episode of the Justice League: Unlimited animated series, Epilogue, it’s revealed that later in life, Waller came to respect Batman, seeing the importance of the Dark Knight’s wits and absolute commitment to his principles. Determining that the world would always be in need of a Caped Crusader, she launches a new project: Batman Beyond.
Waller uses a genetic sample from Bruce Wayne to secretly overwrite the reproductive code of Warren McGinnis so that when he and his wife had their first child, Terry, the baby was actually the genetic son of Batman. The initial plan was to recreate the same childhood tragedy that led to Bruce Wayne becoming the Dark Knight, but the plan is scrapped at the last minute for being the antithesis to how Batman works, and Waller canceled the project. Nevertheless, Terry had Batman in his genes, and fate would lead to him eventually taking up the mantle of his biological father regardless. Both because of -- and in spite of -- Amanda Waller.
Do you have any favorite Amanda Waller stories you don’t see here? Sound off in the comments!
Suicide Squad opens in theaters August 5th, 2016.