SUICIDE SQUAD: Robbie Thompson Talks Superboy’s Mental Health

Suicide Squad #2 hits your local comic book store today, and Monkeys Fighting Robots can provide some insight into the series after our chat with writer Robbie Thompson.

About the issue:
With the power of Superboy now under her control, Task Force X mastermind Amanda Waller sends the hero into Arkham Asylum to rescue Peacemaker and bring Talon—the famed Court of Owls assassin—back to join the new Suicide Squad. With lives hanging in the balance, the teen clone must decide if he’s going to assist Waller, even if it means getting his hands a little bloody along the way.

Creative Team: Robbie Thompson script, Eduardo Panscia pencils, Julio Ferreira inks, Marcelo Maiolo inks, Wes Abbott letters

Any mention of Connor Kent and my head explodes; that’s why I was excited to talk with Thompson. The concept of Superboy on the Suicide Squad adds a next-level layer of moral code in the giant grey world in between black and white.

MFR: Robbie, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

THOMPSON: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me!

MFR: Eduardo Pansica’s art is brilliant in the first two issues of Suicide Squad. Talk about how he pairs well with your script.

THOMPSON: Eduardo is the perfect artist for this book. We worked together previously on Teen Titans, and I was so excited to get to work with him again. What I noticed on working on Teen Titans with him was how well he managed the team aspect of the book – he was able to create specific moments for every character and give them their due, and I really wanted to write to that in this series. So, I was riffing off his work, and trying to pair my script to him, really. As a team, we wanted to find a way back to that [writer John] Ostrander type tone, and Eduardo is able to bring this really fun, and nuanced balance between the action and emotion, which builds more and more as we get to know the team and explore their dynamics and humor in subsequent issues. And we have Julio Ferreira’s flawless inks, Marcelo Maiolo’s dynamic colors, and Wes Abbot’s killer letters – I am super lucky to be working with this squad!

MFR: Who was the first person you told that you wanted to put Superboy on the Suicide Squad, and what was their reaction?

THOMPSON: The first person who was told was me, haha – [DC] Editor extraordinaire Mike Cotton had discussed the book internally prior to my involvement, and there was a core group that he had floated and Superboy was one of the big names on the list. My first reaction was REALLY?! Then I wanted to know about the jacket and glasses, haha. Honestly, I thought it was a great idea – and I’ve always enjoyed when the Squad has brought in heroes to play on the other side of the fence. And when you have a great, true blue hero like Conner Kent in this type of situation, it creates instant conflict for the characters and the team. When we started to discuss the series, though, and where his character would be going, that’s when I was all in, and excited to dive into that emotional arc. I can’t wait for readers to see where we’re headed.

MFR: Was there anyone that DC Comics said you couldn’t use in Suicide Squad?

THOMPSON: You know, I pitched one character I thought they’d NEVER say yes to, and as of right now… they said YES! We’ll see if it all works out, but Mike and [Assistant] Editor Bixie Mathieu have been so great about going after the characters we want and working with other DC editorial groups to make sure they’re available to use.

MFR: Amanda Waller is one of the most intimidating fictional characters in comics. How do you bring that out in your writing?

THOMPSON: She’s such a fantastic character. And has such a great history. To be honest, I go back a lot to old Suicide Squad issues for inspiration, but a huge influence for me was Viola Davis’s performance in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad film. She’s one of the best actors working, period, and she is so scary in that first film and looks just as scary in the sequel (which I can’t wait to see!)

MFR: The first two issues are constant action and banter, but there’s chemistry, and the plot moves forward nicely. How do you know you’re hitting all the right notes with Suicide Squad?

THOMPSON: That’s a great question – for me it’s when there’s humanity in the mayhem. When these extraordinary heroes have grounded moments. Sometimes it comes out with humor, other times sadness. It’s one of the great joys of working on a book like this, that range of emotions. It also feels like you’re hitting the right notes when someone’s head explodes, too, of course.

MFR: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad dropped a trailer last week. Is there pressure when you know a lot of new readers are going to give your book a read?

THOMPSON: No, in fact, for me it’s a huge inspiration. I really hope that folks that watched that amazing trailer and are hyped for the film come check out what we’re doing in the comics – and I really hope it inspires them to dig deeper and check out Ostrander’s run which, from what I’ve read, is a huge inspiration for the new film. I have watched that trailer about 500 times, and when I write the book now, I’m listening to Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” on a loop. James Gunn is one of the best writer/directors working and that trailer is nothing but a big bag of awesome and inspiration for me personally. August 6th can’t get here fast enough!

MFR: The first two issues are loaded with large panels, single panels, and splash pages. Who’s idea was that, and why do you think it was the best approach for the story?

THOMPSON: We discussed a look internally early on and wanted to embrace the action that Squad stories usually have, but balance that with emotional moments. For example, we wanted to start with a breakdown of a character, or team, at the beginning, and then open it up, start with a sense of intimacy and then go really big, literally, for scale and action. Because we are also 22 pages instead of the usual 20, it felt like we had a little more room for things like that, for some pacing variation, and to really let the splash pages land with a punch – sometimes literally. I’m also a big fan of giving Eduardo room to play, so for example, I’ll just write the emotional beats and dialogue for an action scene, and leave him the most room to experiment and play visually. He always delivers something unique and puts his own spin on the moments which is the part of the collaboration that I enjoy the most. (Check out the five-page preview below to see what Thompson is talking about.)

MFR: Can you talk about where Superboy is emotionally and where you want to take him with your run on Suicide Squad?

THOMPSON: Superboy is a hot mess! He has no idea why he’s been dragged onto the Squad, he has no interest in being a bad guy or doing bad things, and worse than all that, he has the sinking feeling that something is deeply wrong with him. He’s not sure if it’s mental, physical, or both. Whatever it is, it’s going to break him down. That mystery of what’s wrong with him is something we’re going to unpack slowly, and will take a big turn in Issue 6. As I mentioned before, when we first started talking about Future State and then in success the on-going series, Superboy’s character arc was a huge linchpin of where we wanted to go and I can’t wait for readers to see what’s really going on.

MFR: I read in another interview you were given a list of characters to choose from to form your squad. Was there a character that you wanted to use but didn’t quite fit?

THOMPSON: Definitely, but more from a sense of timing. We are going to build our core group, the group you see in Future State, slowly. There were some bigger names that we wanted to slowly roll into the Squad as Waller pieces together her ultimate crew. So, for example, we wanted to use Bloodsport, but he fit better in our later issues than at the start. But overall, Mike, Bixie, and everyone at DC have been very supportive of the book, and, so far, nobody has been off-limits, which is great for us �� not so great for those characters, because not everyone is coming home from this series!

MFR: Robbie, thank you again for your time, and best of luck with Suicide Squad!

Matthew Sardo
Matthew Sardo
As the founder of Monkeys Fighting Robots, I'm currently training for my next job as an astronaut cowboy. Reformed hockey goon, comic book store owner, video store clerk, an extra in 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' 'Welcome Back Freshman,' and for one special day, I was a Ghostbuster.