Saturday, February 8, 2014

Black Superheroes: Amanda Waller

She's here to manipulate meta-humans and chew gum
...and she just shot the last gum dealer
Name: Amanda Waller

First Appearance: Legends #1 (1986)

History: Amanda Waller’s life was altered when her husband, son and daughter were murdered. She left the Chicago housing projects where she lived along with her surviving children and went on to earn doctorate in psychology and political science, eventually becoming a congressional aide (she also has military training). During her time as an aide Waller came across the existence of the Suicide Squad, two separate teams of non-powered individuals taking on high risk missions. Taking elements from both teams she pitched a revival to her superiors. Her version would be made up of captured super villains who would be forced to take on missions that would be considered suicide runs for the government (super villains are extremely expendable). Her superiors agreed and placed in charge of the team. Since then Waller has become a prominent figure in the DC Universe having been associated with many government sponsored organizations dealing with super human affairs including Checkmate and most recently her own version of the Justice League of America. Uncompromising and ruthless Amanda Waller is very dedicated to serving her country…by any means she sees fit.

Beta Says: Okay, okay, I fully admit that I’m cheating with this entry. Amanda Waller is not a superhero. In fact at best she’s an antihero and at worst she’s a very deadly villain (IGN actually put her on their Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time list). However most of the time she’s portrayed as someone with the best interest of people at heart who just happens to be a real jerk about it most of the time. In a way she’s DC Comic’s equivalent of Nick Fury, though I think any sane person would find her significantly more intimidating. In all honesty I’ve been aching to write about Waller for years, especially after the Great DC Reboot of 2011 got its mitts on her. Because for all her faults she’s a damn cool character.

More on “The Wall” after the jump.

"Whose ass am I gonna have to kick today?"
Though Waller is actually pretty well known. She was featured as a primary antagonist for much of the cartoon Justice League Unlimited as the leader of the government sponsored Project Cadmus, which was tasked with protecting the world from the Justice League if they ever tried to conquer the Earth (an extremely valid concern seeing how powerful the JLA is). Like in the comic she was not exactly friendly, though I think was portrayed as being little less ruthless…oh wait, I forgot about the time she cloned Batman and tried to have the kid’s parents murdered. NEVER MIND, SHE’S ALWAYS A JERK I GUESS!!! She also showed up in Smallville though as I only watched a handful of episodes of that show, none of which featured her, I can’t speak much on the character’s portrayal.

It’s hard to completely hate the character because she’s so savvy, smart and tough, usually without getting physically involved which is even more impressive, that you can’t help but respect her. Mostly these days she’s used on the side of good, albeit usually in ways that make any superhero she works with dislike her. She has a tendency of thinking of operatives as pawns more than people but, as I said, she does usually have the best intentions. She’s an “ends justify the means” type of person. And in a world populated by superheroes that type of attitude usually makes you an antagonist most of the time. But she’s an awesome female character, especially in that she doesn’t have that typical super skinny, huge boob design that so many women in comics have.

Oh wait, I should have used the past tense when I said that because The Great DC Reboot strikes again!

She lost the weight due to her all liquid diet
(The liquid was the blood of her enemies)
Let’s back up a little here. In my eyes this started with the 2011 Green Lantern film, a movie that I thought was pretty damn bad but brought out so little emotion in me that I couldn’t be bothered to review it. Amanda Waller made her big screen debut here but she was played Angela Bassett who, shall we say, “less heavy” than the comic book character. Which bugged me because there’s an obvious body issue problem in our society and trimming up a comic character that has always been portrayed as a bigger woman didn’t seem like a particularly good idea. But it’s Hollywood; it’s run by assholes who make a living selling the average person lies and glamor so while I was annoyed I wasn’t surprised and I didn’t think of it as a major issue. Later than year the Great DC Reboot occurred. I have talked about this reboot extensively in this blog but for those of you who may have missed it basically DC Comics decided to completely and permanently reboot about 90% of their comics essentially setting their books in a totally different continuity with little to do with the previously established stories. The results have been mixed. Anyway a curious thing happened in the pages of the rebooted Suicide Squad title: a woman named “Amanda Waller” was featured but she not only appeared to weigh considerably less than previously (World of Black Heroes lists it as about a ninety pound difference) but she also had the exact unrealistic same body type as all female heroes are usually depicted with. This was not limited to the comics; some Amanda Waller’s appearance in adapted media since this has mostly been this newer, slimmer version. She’s played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, a very skinny lady that I would never have pictured playing Waller twelve years ago, in the show Arrow which makes me think this new appearance is here to stay. Kind of like how Nick Fury is suddenly black. So yeah, now I’m a little pissed.

It’s important to note that I’m not trying to say that Amanda Waller being fat is an integral part of her character. That’s be like saying “Cyclops is only truly Cyclops when his hair isn’t covered up.” That’s just silly. However prior to this change there’s always been a serious problem in the comic book industry when it comes to depicting women as character designs all too often are hyper sexualized and in the process something simple as "different body types" gets lost. It’s basically as if the average artist only knows how to draw one or type of female body and simply replace heads and skin tone as needed. This is how I know creators traditionally haven’t viewed attracting female fans as a priority because that’s a pretty simple thing that could easily put women (and some men too, obviously) off the idea of buying comics. Waller was a bigger woman, yes, but she was also an older lady who had at least five kids; her frame was understandable. But the fact in a world where everyone looked the same “perfect” way she was different and that difference was greatly appreciated. But with this change she’s right there with everyone else.

Strange. I don't recall Waller going sleeveless much prior to 2011
Now there might be a pretty good reason for this change. Maybe DC felt Waller looked “unhealthy” and went overboard with a redesign to make her more fit. Maybe they wanted to have her match Angela Bassett for fans of the Green Lantern movie who could potentially buy comics as a result (though for all six fans of that shitty movie I would assume they’d be far more likely to investigate Green Lantern books rather than the Suicide Squad, but whatever). But I can’t shake off the fear that what actually happened was that editors were looking at their new designs and said “we need to make these chicks as sexy as possible” which apparently meant make them all really skinny and have huge tits. Of course I don’t know that’s what happened. I don’t know what made the decision to drastically alter her body type. But it looks suspicious, especially in conjunction with that Starfire controversy from Red Hood and the Outlaws #1.

That all said just in case anyone assumed this new, thinner version of Waller was somehow less effective and brutal than her pre-Flashpoint counterpart take in mind that she formed her own, U.S. government sponsored version of the Justice League where ever member was specifically chosen for the sole purpose of being able to take out a corresponding member of the man Justice League team. Because Amanda Waller doesn’t f**k around.

Bottom line is that Amanda Waller may not be the nicest or most likeable character DC has ever produced nor is she by any stretch a proper superhero. But she’s interesting and captivating as hell and unlike several of the characters I’ve talked about she’s actually pretty high profile. A strong black woman in a position of power within the DC Universe? I’ll take it.

Even Batman knows that you don't mess with The Wall!
For more on Amanda Waller click here. Next time we’ll look at a character that only joined the Avengers because the team didn’t want people to think they were racist.


  1. Cynthia Addai Robinson is skinny, but don't let her build fool you. She has military training because of Spartacus.

    1. That may be, She's still much less heavy than Amanda Waller regardless of training which is my major point of annoyance.