Black History Month 12: The Wall

February 12th, 2008 by | Tags: , , , ,

art from dc comics’s suicide squad
(Guest article ahoy! My buddy Pedro from Funnybook Babylon wanted to talk about one of the single best black characters in comics, and who am I to say no? I’ll take a few more guest articles if anyone has any good ones in mind. Throw me an email. Thanks to Pedro for the guest article!)

Before that Christmas, just like my older sister, I was into Marvel Comics. She used to blow her cash on X-Men, and the moment I got an allowance, I would save my daily dollar to get Uncanny X-Men and whatever Spider-Man I could get my hands on. This growing pile was supplemented by those 3 for $1 bags of comics that never had any DC issues. It was when someone gave me a near complete collection of Giffen/De Matteis Justice League comics that I was introduced, along with many other things, to the Wall.

The big crossover during this time was Invasion. The forces of earth–human, hero, and villain alike–allied together to stop the alien attackers. And in charge of villainous forces, which was made up of some of the nastiest guys I had seen, was a Black woman?!

I had to pause and rewind that panel. Not only was this Amanda Waller character black and female, but she was the toughest person among an entire room of politicians, soldiers, villains, and heroes. Shit, Ronald Reagan, who was in nearly a quarter of these Giffen League comics, was in awe and a bit frightened of her. This was something even my 7th grade knowledge of history knew was crazy. You could tell that she was assigned to work with the villains because she was the only person tough enough to keep them in line. They were afraid to cross her because she seemed to have the resolve and determination to make them pay.

Thankfully, the pile o’ comics contained a Doom Patrol vs. Suicide Squad issue, which featured more Waller action. In this book, I saw the Wall at what she does best, politically outmanuvering everyone else in the room in search of what was best for the American people.

With the right words, she could do more damage than Superman’s heat vision, escape situations that would tax Mr. Miracle and his motherbox, and save the day better than Wonder Woman could. Sure, she was ruthless, did things that only benefitted United States, and worked with the worst of the worst.

And yet, I couldn’t help loving her as she did it all, because she was so different than everyone else I had read before.

No one else in comics is physically depicted the way Waller is. Very few heavyset characters, especially female ones, are portrayed in non comical roles, and the few that are taken seriously are explained as being secretly muscular. Waller seems to avoid needing to justify her weight either way, because she is too dangerous to not take seriously. The skills that make her so dangerous are unrelated to hey body type.

What makes everyone fearful of her is that she didn’t receive a magic wishing ring or powers from a bolt of lightning. Instead, she worked herself up from nothing, which has made every one of her accomplishments defined by what she is willing to do. It’s this drive to do better that also makes her a symphatetic character to me.

If you were to ask her why she goes to the extremes that she does, she would tell you that someone with the resolve has to go out there and do the awful things to keep the world safe. The closing episode of the Justice League cartoon series features a moment with an older Waller at the end of her life. She’s unapologetic and at peace with her decisions, prepared to face whatever punishments await her in the afterlife. That nails her perfectly.

When Waller is done right, she’s one of the most complicated and nuanced characters in all of comics. She’s neither villain or hero and does very little to benefit herself. Shit, one time in the cartoon, Brainiac showed up out of nowhere. What did Waller do, did she run away? No, she whipped out her gun and helped the same heroes that she had been working against all series long fight this common threat. Sometimes a character like her can be too much for the simpleness that people want in their superhero comics, but to me, comics are in a better place because of characters like her.

The world honestly can never have enough Amanda Waller.

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6 comments to “Black History Month 12: The Wall”

  1. Certainly, she’s a character with potential. I’d noticed her and found her interesting but I can’t say that I ever saw her potential as well as your writer did. Luckily, the creators of Justice League Unlimited did.

    I especially dug her in that episode that tied into and revealed Terry McGinnis’ “ultimate fate.”

  2. My favorite Waller moment happened in the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League run. There was this story arc where Blue Beetle’s mind had been tampered with and he had orders to murder every Justice League member he could get his hands on. This led to him fighting off Huntress and soon after trying to kill Batman. Batman won the fight, of course, but made mention that Beetle’s fighting potential is so great that he almost won. Considering the few moments of competence Ted got through that run, that was a pretty major thing to say.

    Batman has Waller attempt to undo all the mental programming. Instead, Blue Beetle goes into another trance and tries to kill Waller. Waller’s response? Slug the bejeezus out of him. Ted responds back by punching Waller just as hard. In beautiful Waller fashion, she then kicks Ted right in the leg, where he has a very fresh stabbing wound. Ted screams and lets himself wide open for Waller to punch him the fuck out.

    I didn’t leave that scene thinking that Blue Beetle got punked by a woman. I just left it thinking that, holy shit, Waller rules.

  3. I like Waller when she’s ruthless but still human. Like the orignal Ostrander issues, the brief Giffen run or the JLU version. I don’t think Rucka had the best handle on her as she came off as more evil than patriotic. Even the current Ostrander mini she seems..well somewhat petty. Plus it doesn’t help that DC edititorial has her behind one of the DUMBER ideas for dealing with super-villains, Salvation Run…

  4. […] ago Pedro, you don’t really care about story integrity or my integrity or about defending Black Lightning or Geoff Johns. You just want to feel like “somebody” for instigating and […]

  5. Amanda Waller is a truly unique comic book character. That puts her in a class with only a handful of others in a history spanning seventy-five years.

  6. […] anyone who missed Pedro’s contribution to 4th Letter’s celebration of Black History Month, here’s a crosspost. Check out the […]