He doesn't just control fire, he can become it. He's not just a soldier, he's a spiritual warrior. More than a mercenary, he's a pyrokinetic demigod more interested in justice than revenge.
This is El Diablo, the red-hot member of the Suicide Squad. Though he has partnered with Harley Quinn in many of the comics, El Diablo is a lone wolf who plays by his own rules. He may be a part of Amanda Waller's sinister club, but he has a conscience unlike any you've ever seen. With a back story like his, you can't blame him for how he acts. He grew up on the streets, led a dangerous gang, and right when he was at the peak of his powers, he lost it all.
As Suicide Squad nears, get to know the most misunderstood and menacing member of the team.
Here are the 15 Things You Need To Know About El Diablo:
Who is El Diablo? The answer depends on the iteration. Though his role has become more prominent in The New 52, El Diablo has been a quiet-but-menacing fixture of the DC Universe since he debuted in 1970. Across all versions of the fiery character, one thing remains constant:
El Diablo has been a man saddled with guilt, cursed with misfortune and driven by justice.
The first El Diablo, Lazarus Lane, shared many aesthetic similarities to Zorro. Though he has long had a consistent readership, Lane earned the strongest public interest through Vertigo's grittier take on the character. Brian Azzarello's 2001 work under the DC Comics imprint, El Diablo #1, solidified the darker elements in the vigilante's story. Back in 1989, Gerard Jones and Mike Parobeck introduced Rafael Sandoval, the second version of the character, and in 2008, El Diablo was born again as Chato Santana. This is the version of the character we'll be meeting in Suicide Squad.
When he first appeared in Robert Kanigher and Gray Morrow's All-Star Western #2, El Diablo went by the name of Lazarus Lane. A traditional bank teller on the western frontier, Lane led a normal life until he helplessly witnessed his friend get murdered by robbers. Racked by guilt, Lane sought revenge and immediately pursued the thieves. Though he finally found and confronted the villains, they brutally assaulted him and tossed his wounded body in a creek. To culminate his streak of misfortune, Lane was suddenly struck by lightning that put him in a debilitating coma.
Fortunately for Lane, a Shaman named Wise Owl provided local antidotes to help him heal. Though Lazarus learned that his soul had been split in half, instilling an alter ego of unknown origin along with his original identity, he was bound to his vegetative state. As the Hyde to his Jekyll, El Diablo was born to counteract the comatose Lazarus. At night, the fiery El Diablo would be released from his mortal bonds and free to pursue justice on the western frontier.
Though Rafael Sandoval would briefly take up the El Diablo mantle, Lazarus Lane continued to live out his half-coma life in a hospital. Everything changed when a seriously injured gangbanger named Chato Santana wound up in the gurney next to the aging Lazarus. Like Lazarus, Chato Santana had been paralyzed after a police sting that saw his right-hand man, Jorge, betray him and leave for dead.
Believing Chato would sell out the rest of the gang, Jorge sent thugs to finish the job and kill the enfeebled Chato. While knocking on death's door, Chato entered a spiritual purgatory that led him to Lazarus Lane, a longtime inhabitant of the twilight zone. In that halfway-world, Lazarus passed on his pyrokinetic abilities to Chato and sustained his legacy through him. After the transfer was complete, Lazarus Lane succumbed to his longtime mortal wounds and died. Out of those ashes, the new phoenix rose again: El Diablo, the rebirth of Chato Santana.
Though he was born in California, Chato Santana grew up in Mexico. As a young boy, he joined the Los Reyes Loco, a particularly dangerous gang. Thanks to his shrewd wit and street smarts, Santana quickly worked his way the gang and became the leader of the Los Reyes Loco. While Santana's ultimate calling as El Diablo kept him from increasing the gang's influence, his hardened background on the streets undoubtedly shaped his character.
Given David Ayer's lifelong interest in the street culture of the southwestern United States, particularly that of Los Angeles, it's no surprise he nominated El Diablo to join the Suicide Squad. From Training Day to Harsh Times and End of Watch, Ayer not only understands the inner workings of organized crime, he empathizes with the plight of people who turn to crime while living in desperate circumstances. Given the fiery pathos El Diablo exudes in the trailers, we can expect him to be a compelling, if not sympathetic, part of the squad's military fabric.
El Diablo burns with guilt, and for Chato Santana, the internal fire rages. After inheriting Lazarus Lane's powers, Santana broke out of the hospital and sought revenge. After tracking down Jorge and others who had betrayed him, Santana returned to life as usual. When a rival gang began exploiting his turf to sell their drugs, Santana grew indignant. Without ever offering to give a cut of their profits, the racketeers abused his property and threatened to absorb his turf.
Santana lost patience with the gang, and rather than deal with them verbally, he torched their housing compound and burned them alive. Filled with pride that justice had been served, Santana entered the gang's living quarters and found that the gangbangers weren't the only ones inside. Women and children were among the dead, and as he broke down at the sight of his crimes, police invaded the house. Without putting up a fight, Santana allowed himself to be taken prisoner and moved to Belle Reve.
El Diablo is truly a living contradiction: he is at once paralyzed and also quite physically active. As with the schizophrenic anti-hero in Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, Chato Santana is unavoidably paralyzed from the waist down. As with Lazarus Lane, the injuries that led to his coma will never be fully overcome, and he must adapt to life as a quadriplegic. When he is El Diablo, however, Chato can not only shuffle off his mortal coil, but he can almost rival Superman with his impervious health. Indeed, Chato Santana in El Diablo form is practically immortal, more resistant to fire than Daenerys Targaryen herself.
To be fair to the Mother of Dragons, El Diablo essentially becomes fire. As a true pyrokinetic, El Diablo can generate instant flames so hot they can turn men into ash within seconds. In addition to being able to light himself on fire (to increase his power), El Diablo seems to wield this extreme capability in part due to his many tattoos, though this mystery has never been fully explained.
When Chato Santana crossed paths with Lazarus Lane, the interaction was ultimately less thoughtful than it first seemed. Indeed, Lane didn't just gift-wrap his fiery gifts and bestow them at Santana's feet. No, like the weird demon STD in It Follows, Lazarus Lane passed on the curse of the El Diablo, and when he died, it was forever bound to Chato Santana (unless he bites the dust in Suicide Squad or one of the upcoming comics).
The supernatural world where Lane and Santana overlapped wasn't just a fluke. In the most recent iteration of the El Diablo comic, the curse is presided over by the supernatural creature Chutriel, a being that lives on Schadenfreude and seeks to procure revenge. While Chutriel and the El Diablo curse will ensure Santana is in the right place at the right time, and always prepared for what comes his way, he is clearly enslaved by the spiritual world.
This is one of the perks of being held spiritually captive by Chutriel. El Diablo can see your sins etched into your soul, like a tree carved with initials. The book of your life, all of your wrongdoings and trespasses, are visible to El Diablo's discerning eye. Fortunately, he isn't just a judgmental fireman without compunction. When El Diablo sees the error of your ways, he will be filled with a righteous anger to correct the path. The sins of others compel him to course-correct history, atone for sins and prevent future transgressions. Unfortunately, sometimes course correcting history involves killing the sinner themselves. Tough luck.
Though El Diablo unequivocally means "the devil" in Spanish, his invasive but introspective qualities make the man somewhat redeeming. While not quite a Christ-like figure, El Diablo uses his extreme gifts for more than just selfish reasons. The spur of justice is always jabbing his sides, leading him to do what's right for others, not just himself.
Without beating around the bush, El Diablo sees dead people. A lot of them. Given his sin-seeing gifts, this shouldn't be much of a surprise. What's more, the god-like being Chutriel isn't the only spirit he can contact, as El Diablo sees both the spiritual and physical world simultaneously. He can crossover, like a spirit with a passport. Nothing is hidden from him as he interacts with the living, the dead and the in-between on a constant basis. Lazarus Lane didn't just nominate Chato Santana to continue the El Diablo line, he welcomed him into a whole new universe of metaphysical possibility.
While David Ayer may leave these spiritual themes out of Suicide Squad, exploring El Diablo's inner demons could be a welcome addition to the franchise. Even if that's not the case, knowing the complexity of his existence makes El Diablo a far more interesting character than your run of the mill pyromancer.
It's hard to read about El Diablo's supernatural horse without hearing Brick, steward of the Channel 4 News Team. Still, creators Jai Nitz and Phil Hester weren't messing around when they gave their El Diablo a flaming whip and hellfire pistols (that are only able to kill the most egregious of sinners). His heaven horse actually has a name: Sombra. El Diablo may turn out to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, riding his supernatural steed through flames as he combats the enemies of Chutriel.
Despite all of the absurdities we can expect to see in Suicide Squad, a mythical stallion will likely not be one of them. However far David Ayer pushed his actors, like having them fist fight each other before filming, making Jay Hernandez ride a fire pony would undoubtedly be a bridge too far. In the event that it does happen, however, you heard it here first.
While at Belle Reve, El Diablo grows into his new role as a federal mercenary. Amanda Waller quickly inducts him into the Suicide Squad, and El Diablo establishes himself as a vital part of the team. While he demonstrates his keen physical gifts, as useful as any other talents in the competitive squad, El Diablo further separates himself from the pack by showing hesitancy on the field of battle. Unlike many of his compatriots, he isn't a mindless thug.
His internal clock ticks to the beat of justice, and because he can see sins scribbled on souls, he can't switch off his conscience and indiscriminately murder. When surrounded by Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and others, El Diablo grows frustrated by the squad's reckless violence and penchant for mayhem. He is not a groupie, and as the trailers appears to show, El Diablo has no problem getting face to face with others.
El Diablo may literally run hot, but at least in the comics, he isn't one to start a riot. When he joins Belle Reve, tensions are at an all-time high, and inmates are looking for an excuse to rumble. In "Abandon All Hope" from Suicide Squad #5, the team is given just twelve minutes to quell an insurrection at Belle Reve. Given the countless prisoners on the loose, Deadshot begins shooting escapees at will, forcing El Diablo to condemn the marksman's actions. When the duo are surrounded by the increasingly violent prisoners, however, El Diablo second guesses his initially peaceful advances. While using his flames to create a diversion for Deadshot to run to safety, El Diablo urges the prisoners to stop fighting, but they beat him over the head with a crowbar. When the fighting grows beyond human control, El Diablo creates a literal fire-wall that incinerates a large swathe of the prisoners in an instant.
In the aftermath of the prison riot, El Diablo makes peace with Deadshot. After they make up, Amanda Waller thanks El Diablo for subduing the uprising and reduces his prison sentence in half.
The moment Lazarus Lane was struck by lightning, his time was limited. So too with El Diablo, who welcomed the physical gifts Lane transmitted while inheriting the spiritual limitations they carried. Torn between the corporeal and spiritual worlds, El Diablo is stuck in different realities. When a religiously zealous streak invades his consciousness, we are none too surprised. Indeed, El Diablo becomes an extremist of sorts, convinced that he is God's chosen messenger to exact final justice on the world at large.
If he were riding his supernatural horse, he would literally become the horseman of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, in this particular comic story line, El Diablo's delusions are "hypnotic suggestions" by the evil Black Spider who has manipulated El Diablo into infiltrating the Suicide Squad on behalf of the Basilisk. Though El Diablo eventually enter rage mode, Iceberg mercifully puts him in his place.
In The Fist of Cain story arc, the inmates of Belle Reve are attacked by a cult of serial killers devoted to the decreasing the population of planet Earth. They derived their maniacal philosophies from the corrupt guru, Christian Fleischer. As the Suicide Squad team attempts to flee Belle Reve, El Diablo tag teams with Harley Quinn to beat back the enemy, using his fire powers to take down cult members and protect the rest of the squad.
Unfortunately, given the mental meltdown slowly eating at El Diablo's sanity, he deduced that this apocalyptic situation was his comeuppance for past sins, and the killing machine, Rose Tattoo, was the grim reaper. At the peak of his paranoia, El Diablo pursued her, apprehended her, and like Hades with Persephone, took her straight down to hell. While in the underworld, El Diablo completes his self-assigned missions, but clearly injures himself in the process. Even he can't tolerate the fire and brimstone of the inferno.
While enthusiastic to have joined the Suicide Squad, Jay Hernandez is no stranger to Hollywood success. The 38 year-old California native has been working in film and television for nearly twenty years, most recently recurring on Gang Related and the Syfy hit, The Expanse. In addition to starring in (and surviving) Eli Roth's Hostel, Hernandez had a role in Peter Berg's Friday Night Lights feature film, along with Quarantine and the Samuel L. Jackson thriller, Lakeview Terrace.
Suicide Squad is a huge opportunity for Hernandez. Not only is he working with an auteur director at the top of his game, but he's surrounded by some of the top stars in the business. As he has expressed in interviews, working in such company only elevated his game, helping move El Diablo from comic panels to live action for the first time in the character's history. We're confident Mr. Hernandez will light it up on-screen.
What else should we know about El Diablo? Tell us in the comments below!