How The Penguin Survived His Suicide Squad Membership

Today, we look at the time that the Penguin briefly served with the Suicide Squad.

This is "When We Meet," a feature about spotlighting team-ups that I find peculiar, interesting or otherwise worth sharing with you all.

John Ostrander's Suicide Squad (which he developed with editor Robert Greenberger) was a brilliant twist on the original concept of the Suicide Squad (as a team of specialists who do extremely dangerous missions that they could essily die on each time out, hence "Suicide Squad"), as the book was now about super-villains working for the government on dangerous missions in exchange for their sentences being reduced (or, in some instances, released from prison/psychiatric hospital period). The name still fit, only it had an extra layer of mid-1980s cynicism to it, as while the original Squad went on "suicide missions," the new Squad was SENT on these missions and it wasn't clear just how much leeway that they had to say no.

The book came about at a fascinating time for the DC Universe, as it was just after Crisis on Infinite Earths had reset DC's continuity, and as a result, most of DC's series relaunched with new #1s, and part of that new #1 attitude was a general look forwards in terms of supervillains. DC's wide range of Pre-Crisis supervillains were mostly sent to the bench in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, save some major villains who then saw notable revamps (like Lex Luthor becoming basically Donald Trump). The end result of this was that Ostrander had a WIDE variety of villains to choose from for the Suicide Squad, as the older supervillains were mostly being ignored at this point in time (which is why a longstanding Flash villain like Captain Boomerang was available). Ostrander went through DC's then-recent Who's Who series (as the series was being produced, as Greenberger worked on that series as an editor) to pick out his choices for the team and he mostly went with obscure characters that he could be free to do with as he pleased (the team also had some superhero characters, as well, as someone has to make sure the supervillains follow the rules).

However, Ostrander obviously also saw the book's setup as perfect for using more notable guest-star supervillains on occasion for specialist work. The first one of these was Chronos in Suicide Squad #4 (by Ostrander, Luke McDonnell and Bob Lewis), as he built a machine that would alter time to make sure that a crossbow bolt would miss (as part of a plot to discredit a racist villain posing as a hero for racists).


Next up, though, was the famous Batman Rogue, the Penguin!


In Suicde Squad #5 (by Ostrander, McDonnell and Lewis), Ostrander cleverly used the fact that, for all of his oddness as a supervillain, the Penguin was famous for coming up with some rather elaborate plans. In fact, if you go back to the early days of the Penguin, his original hook specifically WAS that he would come up with elaborate plans and work out deals with gangs so that they would give him a cut of the loot that they took in from using his clever plans. So Ostrander used that part of the Penguin's backstory to have him create a plan for the Suicide Squad to sneak into the Soviet Union to help free a political prisoner before the Soviets forced the United States to have to decide whether to trade a high level prisoner of their own for her...


In a nice twist, Rick Flag, the field commander of the Suicide Squad, insisted that Penguin go on the mission with them, as he felt more confident in Penguin's plot knowing that Penguin would be in danger himself if the plan did not work out...



Right off the bat, it was clear that the Penguin wasn't exacty cut out for espionage, as he refused to take off his monocle, even when he was diguised as a monk...


However, the Penguin's plot was sound. He had Nemesis, the master of disguise, sneak into the Soviet Union and replace the doctor of the dissident (she had written an allegorical novel critical of the Soviet nuclear weapons arsenal. Her father was also a dissident novelist who died in prison) and then they would use Enchantress' magical powers to turn herself into a double of the prisoner...


Things go wrong, though, when it turns out that the prisoner doesn't WANT to leave! She wants to draw more attention as a political prisoner! Then a subordinate walked in on the plot and, well, things went haywire...


The Squad escapes, but they're being chased by a Soviet squadron and, again, the woman that they were there to save didn't want to be saved!

Deadshot uses a fancy weapon to take down a number of their pursuers, but he also makes Penguin nervous about how close he's letting the bullets come to them...


However, when the Squad finally hits the American embassy, they learn that their actions have been disavowed due to getting caught. So they have a half hour before the embassy kicks them out.

Penguin cleverly discovers an American tourist group and the group takes their passports to escape...


This means there is a whole tourist group who knows what is happening, so Penguin notes that he solved that problem, too, by having Deadshot kill them. Rick Flag stops Deadshot, though.


Nemesis then volunteers to watch the tourists. He is captured, though, by a group of Russian super soldiers, who track the Squad down to their escape route (as one of the Soviets can read minds, so saw Nemesis' thoughts of the escape). They brought Nemesis with them and he escaped, but he was badly hurt and the prisoner stopped to help Nemesis, as while she didn't want ot be saved, she couldn't let someone get hurt trying to help her escape.

So, of course, she is then killed...


Nemesis went back for her and was captured. The rest of the Squad escaped, but the dissident was now the martyr she always wanted to be, so in a twisted sense, the mission sort of worked (the Squad would later go rogue to free Nemesis).

Okay, that's it for this installment of this feature! I know you all have suggestions for future installments, so be sure to let me know by e-mailing me at [email protected]!

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