Self-Interest and The Common Good in “Suicide Squad” #4

Matthew Teutsch
6 min readJan 3, 2022

Over the course of this blog, I’ve written, extensively, about the ways that comics address political and social issues. The “preachies” in EC Comics are perhaps the most obvious examples of this. Today, I want to look at May 1987’s Suicide Squad #4 written by John Ostrander and drawn by Luke McDonnell. “William Hell’s Overture” is a self-contained story early Ostrander’s Suicide Squad run, and it focuses on William James Heller, the founder of the racist Aryan Empire and his construction of William Hell, a vigilante who only arrests Black, Asian, or Latino criminals while allowing whites to go free if they choose to join the Aryan Empire. The Suicide Squad unmasks Hell for what his racist and hate filled propaganda, and the issue ends with the team talking about patriotism and democracy, and it is here that I want to focus the bulk of today’s post.

In order to unmask Hell for what he is, the team targets one of Heller’s political events. Deadshot dresses as the vigilante and approaches the podium, taking it from Heller. The goal is to give the audience a view of a hero while also uncovering Heller’s actions. Deadshot focuses his speech on unity, the cooperation of individuals while others work to drive a wedge between them. He tells those gathered there,

You’re decent folks. You work hard. You sacrifice for your family and your country. You respect and obey the law. No one ever gave you nothing. You made what you got. You struggle to keep it. Only one way to do that. You got to stick together. And I mean all together — black, white, latino, what have you! The only power you got comes from your numbers! Those in charge know that! And what’s the best way to keep you under control? Hate! Keep you separate from those with which you should have something in common! And you fall for it… every time! Get this through your heads — black, white, whatever; You’re all the “little guy.” And anything — any right, any freedom — they can take from the next guy they can take from you. And that’s a fact.

Deadshot’s speech echoes W.E.B. DuBois, Lillian Smith, Fred Hampton, and countless others. On the surface, his speech shifts the audience’s hate towards those in power, and when one of Heller’s men shoots Deadshot, the crowd turns on the Aryan Empire, making William Hell a symbolic hero for the…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.