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The Untold Truth Of DC's Amanda Waller

When Viola Davis brought Amanda Waller to life on the big screen in 2016's "Suicide Squad," moviegoers around the world were introduced to one of the DC Universe's most intriguing characters. After losing many of her closest loved ones to injustice, Waller decided that she would do whatever it took to protect the many "normal" people of the DC Universe. Now a powerful figure behind the scenes in the United States government, Amanda gets to decide who lives and dies.

Her motives are altruistic, but her willingness to use extreme measures like the infamous "Suicide Squad" place Waller in constant danger of going over the edge and becoming the very evil that she seeks to stop. Riding this threadbare line between good and evil often places Waller at odds with heroes and villains alike, but she won't let anyone keep her from doing what she thinks is right and protecting others from knowing loss like she does. 

She often functions as DC's Nick Fury

Whenever a Marvel property or adaptation needs spies, secret agents, or superhero special forces, S.H.I.E.L.D. is ready to swoop in and fill that role, and Director Nick Fury is ready to lead them. DC doesn't always have a consistent organizational equivalent to S.H.I.E.L.D., but when they do appear, they are almost always led by Amanda Waller. 

When the government needs somebody to work with the Justice League, they call Amanda Waller. When the Flash needs to find a way to imprison or contain some new threat he's never encountered before, he begrudgingly and warily calls Amanda Waller. Though she may not be former military like Nick Fury, her intelligence and gift for strategy are rivaled only by the likes of Batman and Deathstroke — so whenever a new government taskforce is made, fans can bet that she will be the woman in charge. 

She is one of DC Comics' premiere crossover characters

As one of the de facto leaders of the DC Universe, Amanda Waller has appeared in many WB adaptations of DC Properties. She's the Warden of Belle Reve Penitentiary in the "Young Justice" animated series, the White Queen of Checkmate in "Smallville," and a key scientist in the 2011 "Green Lantern" feature film. She's even the principal of Super Hero High School in the "DC Super Hero Girls" kids television show. 

"Batman: Arkham Origins" and Telltale's "Batman: The Enemy Within" brought her to video games while her appearances in "Justice League Unlimited," "Arrow," and the "Suicide Squad" movies continued her appearances on both the small and big screens. Nearly every single appearance has either coincided with or eventually led to the appearance of the Suicide Squad, like in "Justice League Unlimited" Season 2, Episode 4, "Task Force X," in "Arrow" Season 2, Episode 16, "Suicide Squad," and in the animated films "Batman: Assault on Arkham" and "Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay." 

She's often an antagonist, but she isn't a villain

Many of Amanda Waller's best stories show her opposing superheroes and villains alike, because she works to keep people safe from both of them. Waller sees every metahuman as a potential threat. In her mind, the fact that the Justice League saved the world today doesn't mean they won't try to conquer it tomorrow. Because of this, many stories feature her as an antagonist of the hero, and though some even go so far as to depict her as an outright villain, she really isn't. 

Amanda Waller does everything she does to keep innocent people safe, but she doesn't care all that much about what happens to the guilty. She's perfectly willing to sacrifice people she views as lunatics and criminals if it means that everybody else gets to keep on breathing. This is the rationale behind her Suicide Squad. Their jobs are extremely dangerous, but they need to be done, and it might as well be the lives of horrible people that are lost in the attempt. Waller is willing to cross lines that most heroes (for good reason) will not, but the key to her character is remembering that she only does this because she thinks it'll help everybody else in the long term. 

She's a normal person, but she's called "The Wall" for a reason

The best part about the Amanda Waller character is that, unlike super-commando Nick Fury, she is just a normal person. As 1987's "Secret Origins" #14 revealed, she doesn't have powers or a secret serum. She was just a normal person who grew up in Chicago and decided enough is enough. She worked to support a family of five kids with her husband, Joseph, and they lived happily until tragedy changed their lives forever. 

Her oldest son was shot and killed, her daughter was attacked, and her husband was mowed down trying to avenge them when the police decided they could do nothing. Faced with these horrors, Amanda decided that she would never "do nothing," and worked to put herself in a position where she could fight to keep this from happening to anybody else. 

But she didn't do it by creating a magic suit of armor, or discovering an alien artifact, or by traveling the world in a training montage. She put all four of her remaining children through college before attending and graduating herself with a degree in political science that she used to get a position in Washington and revive the Suicide Squad under her command. Through her intelligence, strength, stubbornness, and sheer force of will, Amanda became a "Wall" that would protect her loved ones and everybody else who didn't deserve to wake up and discover that their family was gone.

She didn't create the Suicide Squad; she transformed it

Contrary to popular belief, Amanda Waller didn't actually create the Suicide Squad. Instead, she rediscovered the existence of "Task Force X" and convinced her superiors to relaunch the program under her direction. 

According to 1987's "Secret Origins" #14, the first iteration of the squad were soldiers who fought on "Dinosaur Island" and named themselves the "Suicide Squadron" because of their high mortality rate. Rick Flag, Sr. was brought on to whip them into shape and turned them into one of America's most elite fighting forces.  

After the war, Flag's son, Rick Flag, Jr., revived the Suicide Squad as the original "Task Force X," which debuted in 1959's "The Brave and the Bold" #25 and consisted of four members who were all the sole survivors of terrible tragedies. Flag was their leader, Hugh Evans their astrophysicist, Jess Bright their nuclear physicist, and Karin Grace their combat medic. Together, they worked as secret agents and protected the world from fantastical science fiction threats from outer space and neighboring dimensions. When Bright and Evans died fighting a yeti, Flag disbanded the task force. 

Waller decided the world still needed people to take on otherworldly threats, but that the people sent to stop them didn't have to be good. Thus, she transformed Task Force X, recruiting incarcerated super-villains to go on suicide missions in exchange for time off of their prison sentences. Thus, the modern Suicide Squad was born in "Legends" #3 in 1987.

A true Machiavellian, she keeps heroes around to act as her conscience

For a team of convicted supervillains, the Suicide Squad's roster has featured a surprising amount of heroes over the years, and it has become a tradition of sorts for every version of the team to feature at least one superhero alongside the team's many villains. Amanda Waller's original line-up was led by veteran commando Rick Flag, Jr and a martial arts superhero named the Bronze Tiger. Flag led the team and Tiger acted as Flag's enforcer and protector. 

It's pretty common for superheroes on the squad to fill that role of bodyguard and enforcer, and many have done it, including Arsenal, Vixen, the Atom, Steel, and Hawkman. Karen Fukuhara's Katana filled that role in 2016's "Suicide Squad," and David Ramsey's John Diggle was forced to do the same in "Arrow" Season 2, Episode 16, "Suicide Squad." 

What she doesn't like to tell these heroes, however, is that she keeps them around for a far more important reason: to keep her from going too far. As revealed in 1989's "Suicide Squad" #31, keeping heroes around reigns in her "nastier side" and keeps her honest, and it's when she doesn't have them that she begins to become more of a villain. This goes as far back as the team's first story in 1987's "Legends," when Waller orders them to kill Captain Boomerang in #5 before he can reveal their operation, and Flag chooses to rescue him instead in #6. 

She helped Batgirl evolve

In 1988, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's "Batman: The Killing Joke" was published, and audiences were horrified when the Joker shot and paralyzed Barbara Gordon, the Batgirl. Husband and wife writing duo Kim Yale and John Ostrander hated the decision, and took it upon themselves to evolve Barbara into something new, empowering the character rather than having her wallow in her handicap.

Beginning in 1988's "Suicide Squad" #23, an unknown hacker named "Oracle" began helping Task Force X on its missions. This continued for two years, until Oracle's identity was finally revealed as none other than Barbara Gordon herself in issue #38 — and in issue #48, Amanda Waller asked her to officially join Task Force X after saving her from a new version of the Thinker. Armed with the resources of the entire US government at her disposal, Barbara was able to take her Oracle network to the next level, fully embracing her new role as the lead source of information for the DC Universe. 

She founded the first DC version of SHIELD: Checkmate

When Amanda Waller created the Suicide Squad, a new organization was created to provide its logistical needs and any other support the task force needed. Referred to simply as "The Agency," Amanda's organization would eventually become the first equivalent to S.H.I.E.L.D. that DC Comics would create: Checkmate. With its positions and ranks named after chess pieces, its lowest-level operatives were "Pawns." They supported the senior agents, the "Knights," whose missions were planned by "Rooks" and overseen by "Bishops." The agency was run by a council of four, who took on the titles of White and Black Kings and Queens. 

Waller ordered former New York Police Lieutenant Harry Stein to transform the agency into Checkmate in 1988's Action Comics #598, refocusing it as a global intelligence agency centered on worldwide missions that would protect the United States' interests at home and abroad. To do this, Stein gathered the best of the best from law enforcement and intelligence agencies from across the States, and began taking on terrorists groups like the "American Supremacist Party," organized crime, and supervillains alike. 

She's been involved with just about every secret government agency at one point or another

When Amanda Waller reformed Task Force X, she became the director of "The Agency," and though she didn't personally direct Checkmate at first, she did eventually take the rank of "White Queen" and join its ruling council, a position and title she held in "Smallville" as well. This has essentially become her de facto role in the DC Universe. If there's a secret government agency, she will join it eventually. 

She was a director of Checkmate until the concept was dropped in 2011 with the line-wide "New 52" reboot, and when Checkmate's role was filled by Geoff Johns' new "A.R.G.U.S" organization, it was only about a year before Amanda Waller replaced Steve Trevor as its director in "Justice League" #12. She has also served as a director of the DEO, the Department of Extra-normal Operations that many fans likely know from the CW's "Supergirl" television series. 

In 2011's "Green Lantern" film, Angela Bassett's Amanda Waller was the head of a secret organization responsible for dealing with extraterrestrial threats, and in the "Justice League Unlimited" animated series, she was the head of Cadmus, a secret organization in charge of preparing to fight the Justice League in case they ever went rogue. This is even the case in the kids cartoon "DC's Super Hero Girls," where Amanda Waller is the Principal of the secret superhero high school the characters attend.

She knows Batman's secret identity

It's one of the best introductions in the series. 

In "Justice League Unlimited" Season 1, Episode 9, "Ultimatum," the League defeats a group of rogue heroes known as the "Ultimen" with the help of their former teammate, Long Shadow. Amanda Waller shows up to take the Ultimen into custody, including Long Shadow, but the Justice League says no. Waller concedes, but leaves Batman with a warning: stay out of their way or else, "rich boy." 

Those two words cemented Amanda Waller as one of the League's most credible threats. They had no idea who she was, but she knew exactly who they were, even Batman, which was a secret that nobody else in the series had been able to discover up to that point. This has become a standard tradition ever since. When Amanda Waller and Batman butt heads, which happens pretty frequently, she either already knows his secret identity or will figure it out before the end of the story. This is how it usually goes in the comics, and is exactly what happens in adaptations like Telltale's video game "Batman: The Enemy Within."

She served on President Lex Luthor's cabinet

After experiencing a newfound popularity for helping rebuild Gotham City after the "No Man's Land" comic book event, Lex Luthor successfully ran for President of the United States in "Superman: Lex 2000" #1. As president, he had to form his administration's cabinet and appoint the heads of the many federal executive departments. 

Luthor appointed Superman's childhood best friend, Pete Ross, as his Vice President and made Lois Lane's father, General Sam Lane, the Secretary of Defense. He chose High School Principal Jefferson Pierce (the superhero Black Lightning) as his Secretary of Education, and he appointed Amanda Waller as his Secretary of Metahuman Affairs. A fictional cabinet position in the DC Universe, the Secretary of Metahuman Affairs was responsible for overseeing all the government's interactions with and policies regarding superheroes and their many villains. 

In this position, Amanda Waller no longer just oversaw Task Force X or Checkmate or the DEO; she controlled all of them at once. Waller held this position for some time, until Lex Luthor finally cracked under pressure and tried to destroy the world, leading to Waller helping Batman and Superman stop him in "Superman/Batman" #1-6.

She once banished every supervillain on Earth to an alien planet

After a series of especially grisly supervillain attacks, the United States government orders Amanda Waller and Rick Flag to use the Suicide Squad to round up every supervillain on the planet and banish them to their newly designed super prison: an alien planet named "Salvation." The President of the United States views the plan as the last chance to save humanity from a seemingly unending threat, and Waller carries out her orders to the letter. 

Told in the comic book miniseries "Salvation Run" #1-7, Waller used devices called "Boom Tubes" to open up portals to the alien world, and slowly transferred every single supervillain they had in custody to the alien planet. As the villains they retained for the Suicide Squad rounded up more and more of their peers, they sent them to the planet as well — until the only villains left to send were the Squad itself. 

The villains were sent there with nothing but their costumes and their powers, as the United States (and, they claimed, "the world") was washing their hands of them. They would no longer be anybody's responsibility except their own. This worked for a time, until Lex Luthor managed to coordinate enough of the villains to create a portal back to Earth, sending the surviving villains home with a newfound thirst for vengeance. 

She created Batman Beyond

Beginning with "Batman: The Animated Series" and continuing until the end of "Justice League Unlimited," the DC Animated Universe is home to the best versions of many of DC Comics' vast stable of characters, and Amanda Waller is no exception. Introduced in Season 1 of "Justice League Unlimited," Waller is the head of Cadmus, a secret government organization responsible for finding ways to defeat the Justice League should they ever go rogue. Though she's initially presented as a villain, by the end of the series, she and Batman have become respected allies, and they work together to defeat Lex Luthor and keep the League in check without needlessly endangering lives. 

The series eventually revealed something that nobody saw coming: Amanda Waller created Batman Beyond. First released in 1999, "Batman Beyond" was a myth-expanding animated series set 20 years in the future that focused on an elderly Bruce Wayne's efforts to train a new Batman named Terry McGinnis. The series remains a fan favorite to this day, and the second season finale of "Justice League Unlimited," an episode titled "Epilogue," revealed that Amanda Waller was responsible for Terry's birth. 

Fearing a day when Batman was too old to keep the world safe, Waller used advanced technology from her days at Cadmus to inject Terry's pregnant mother with a serum, replacing her husband's DNA with Bruce Wayne's, giving Bruce Wayne a "son" who could continue his legacy.