Suicide Squad is the next big step in the DC film universe, bringing together a bunch of relatively unknown characters and (hopefully) making a hit movie out of it. There have been some that have compared it to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, as they're both somewhat lighthearted efforts that focus on characters that the casual moviegoer has probably never ever heard of before -- albeit with one or two noticeable exceptions.
Even with the largely unknown characters, Warner Bros was able to snag top tier talent, like Will Smith and Jared Leto, to headline the film, making it one of the more star-studded comic book movies out there. Leading the band of misfits that compromise the Suicide Squad is Rick Flag, a military man put in charge of keeping the criminals on task and (somewhat) in line. Given that the character is likely an unfamiliar one to non-diehards, here's twelve things to know about Rick Flag.
12 His father led the very different, original incarnation of the Suicide Squad
Back in the days of World War II, Richard Flag Sr. led a special division called the Suicide Squadron. In their first mission, everyone but Flag was killed. Subsequent missions would see Flag meet with more success and fewer casualties.
After the Justice Society of America and other heroes disappeared in 1951, Flag was asked by the President to to join Task Force X. Flag would be leader of the “civilian” focused team of Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squad. The unit would primarily deal with non-military threats, like masked villains and other such threats. Flag would be a member of the Suicide Squad for many years, finally sacrificing himself in an attempt to defeat the War Wheel, a giant armored wheel used by villains during WWII to destroy whole villages.
11 He’s led two different versions of the Suicide Squad in the comics
The Suicide Squad has undergone multiple different incarnations since its creations, with frequent lineup changes and goals. Much like his father, Rick Flag has led the Suicide Squad a couple of different times.
The first team that Rick Flag led, something a little more in line with the teams that his dad headed up, consisted of him, his girlfriend Karin Grace, Dr. Hugh Evans, and Jess Bright. That team would experience its fair share of tragedy, including the death of Dr. Evans, a villainous turn from Jess, and the eventual disbanding of the unit itself. Flag would again be called to lead the Suicide Squad when Amanda Waller put together the first incarnation of her team, a position that he reluctantly accepted.
10 He was created nearly 60 years ago
Rick Flag, Jr. first appeared back in 1959. when his creators (Ross Andru and Robert Kanigher) set him up as a replacement for his now dead father. Despite his long history in the comics, he has played a relatively minor role, never headlining a premier title. Still, his Suicide Squad appearances are popular with many fans, and he’s even teamed up with Superman at one point.
Being created back in late '50s also makes him as old as such characters as the Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Supergirl, Weather Wizard, and Sgt. Rock. That 1959 creation also makes the character the second oldest of the Suicide Squad members in the film, with only Deadshot being an older character.
9 Unlike most of the rest of the Squad, he’s not a criminal
In the more recent incarnations, the Suicide Squad has been largely comprised of criminals. Villains like Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Slipknot, and more have been part of the lineup of the Suicide Squad, with their service helping to get them more lenient sentences and punishments for their various crimes.
Flag, however, isn’t a criminal like many (but not all) of the team's members. He was chosen to act as a commander for these often unruly criminals, lending his leadership and military skills to the team. At times this can put him at odds with some of the other team members, as their motivations often differ, but he still manages to lead the team effectively, and he even builds genuine relationships with a few of them.
8 He resents working with criminals
Even though Rick Flag took the job as commander of the Suicide Squad, it wasn’t without some hesitation. His reluctance to take over the leadership role in Amanda Waller’s Squad has a lot to do with the fact that he resents working with criminals. As a military man and something of a hero, Flag doesn’t always feel comfortable working with criminals and supervillains that have been responsible for the deaths of so many innocents.
Flag especially refuses to admit that he and the criminal Deadshot may be similar sort of men, with Deadshot often looking up to Flag. Even though he has his reservations about working with criminals, Flag has never faltered in his leadership and has often gone out of his way to protect various members of the Squad simply because he feels obligated to them as part of the team. Expect a similar band of brothers-like mentality to develop over the course of the upcoming big screen outing.
7 He was once a part of the DC superhero team Forgotten Heroes
Before he took command of the Amanda Waller-assembled Task Force X, Rick Flag was part of the superhero team the Forgotten Heroes. The original Forgotten Heroes were a group of unrelated heroes introduced in the '40s, '50s, and '60s in various DC comics that were never particularly popular -- essentially an island of misfit toys.
Due to their fading appearance from the comics at DC, creators Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane brought them together as a team that had faded from the limelight of their world. Flag was present on the team as a spy for the US government, infiltrating the group to help keep tabs on them. The group, which included members like Animal Man, Rip Hunter, Congorilla, and Immortal Man, would disband after the death of their leader Immortal Man.
6 Flag possesses no superpowers, but has top level weapon and combat skills
Like a couple of the other members of the Suicide Squad, Rick Flag doesn't have any super powers. Instead, he's just a normal man with some extensively honed skills and abilities. As part of his military past and various combat missions, Flag is a top level marksman and skilled in the use of a variety of different weapons. He's also very skilled in unarmed combat and trained in military tactics.
Those don't sound very impressive when some of your teammates are a possessed witch, a tech-enhanced mercenary, or a super strong guy that looks like a crocodile, but Flag still manages to keep up. These skills and his ability to lead a team effectively help him, a guy that's good with a gun, hold his own against some of the superpowered members of the Suicide Squad -- as well as the superpowered foes that they have to face off against.
5 He (sort of) dies in the comic
Like most comic characters, Rick Flag has had a death or two on the page. Also like most comic characters, he's came back from the dead before. His apparent death would come during a mission to infiltrate and kill the Jihad, an old enemy from his father's days during World War II. After fighting his way through their stronghold, and battling with Rustam, the Jihad’s leader, a long buried bomb would explode and take out both of them.
After his death, he would make an appearance in an issue of Captain Atom in which his soul was saved from Purgatory and reunited with Karin Grace in Paradise. It would later be retconned that Flag was actually alive, having been teleported away from the explosion just before it happened and held in a secret prison for several years. One of the Suicide Squad’s co-creators, Bob Greenberger, would publicly object to the resurrection of Rick Flag.
4 The character previously appeared on Smallville
Suicide Squad won’t be the first time that we see Rick Flag on film. He previously appeared on the Smallville television series in multiple episodes, as played by Ted Whittall. Flag appears as leader of an incarnation of the Suicide Squad, with villains like Plastique and Deadshot making appearances under his command. He tortures Oliver Queen for information about an alien invasion.
Flag, along with the help of Deadshot and Plastique, fight against the government's Vigilante Registration Act, even going so far as to launch a missile and attack government officials. Flag would eventually help save the Justice League after they were captured by pro-Vigilante Registration Act forces and almost experimented on. The character oscillated between villain and anti-hero, never quite being as "good" as his comic incarnation often was. The character was also name dropped in an episode of Arrow, but he and the Suicide Squad would never make an appearance, due to the movie being on the horizon and Warner Bros. not wanting to have the two separate universes use too many of the same characters so close together.
3 He was nearly played by Tom Hardy
During the early stages of production for Suicide Squad, Tom Hardy was set to play the role of Rick Flag and keep the various criminal members in line. Due to his commitments to filming The Revenant, the shoot for which had run wildly over-schedule, Hardy would later have to drop out of the film. After some time, Joel Kinnaman, best known as the star of the Robocop reboot and his work on The Killing, was tapped to bring Rick Flag to the big screen for the first time.
Hardy would go on to express disappointment and regret for not being able to take on the role. Even without the star power of Tom Hardy, the Suicide Squad cast still boasts multiple Oscar winners and nominees, like Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, and Viola Davis. The film certainly won't suffer from a lack of star power.
2 Joel Kinnaman reportedly beat out the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Jon Bernthal for the role
As with most big parts in films of this scale, Joel Kinnaman was not the only actor that was in talks to take over the role of Rick Flag after Tom Hardy had to drop out. Big names like Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Bernthal, and Joel Edgerton were reportedly considered for the role at one point or another.
While seeing someone like Jake Gyllenhaal play a badass military man in a comic book movie would have been absolutely cool, knowing that Kinnaman beat out a few solid and well respected actors to win the part is a good sign, especially considering how poorly many fans looked upon the Robocop reboot. He’s apparently dived into the role, training with Navy SEALs and other personnel in the armed forces in preparation for playing the military man Rick Flag.
1 Joel Kinnaman had never heard of the character before taking the role
While maybe not surprising given that the character isn’t exactly a household name, Joel Kinnaman had never even heard the name Rick Flag before accepting the role. Considering that most of the Suicide Squad has been comprised of B-list villains, and Flag still got overshadowed by most of them, it’s easy to understand why Kinnaman hadn’t heard of him before.
Heck, even Kinnaman’s friend Daniel Espinosa (director of Child 44 and other films), whom the actor calls a “comic book authority," wasn’t too sure about the character. He’s also hoping that the relatively unknown nature of the character, along with this being the first film to introduce him to most viewers, will ease the burden of having to be so beholden to fan expectations and to explore some somewhat alternate takes on the character, while still maintaining the heart of it. The character's obscurity is actually an asset in his eyes, as it will allow the 36 year old to truly make Rick Flag his own. Here's hoping he nails it.
Did we miss any important facts surrounding Task Force X's field commander? Will Rick Flag stand out in the crowd, or will he be outshined by his more over-the-top teammates? Let us know what you think in the comments.