The Forgotten Heroine of ‘The Suicide Squad’

Back in the 1980s, two authors worked together to create a now famous comic book called The Suicide Squad. Their names were the late Kimberly Yale and her husband John Ostrander. Now that their comic is being made into a full length feature film, a lot of attention is being invested in the original graphic novel. However, there is one small issue; there is little to no mention of Kimberly Yale and her contribution.

In recalling writing the comics with his wife and co-writer, John Ostrander stated in an interview with NPR that “we would talk about the overall plot, and then she would take a scene, then I would take a scene.” They constantly went back and forth over each other’s scenes and had open discussions about the plot. 

Part of their project was to revive C-list characters from the DC universe. Ostrander asserted; “We tried to give them more depth, more background,” which allowed them the freedom to put together a wildly interesting cast of bad guys.

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As a result of their collaboration, a diverse set of characters were born. The cast included important female characters that acted as protagonists instead of merely window dressing for the male hero. The squad also included women of color, religious characters, and even a physically disabled hero. These were all very progressive ideas considering these comics were written in the 1980s.

One of the main characters Yale worked on was Batgirl. She was one of the many C-list characters who never got much attention. Most notably, her role in Batman the Killing Joke was seen as offensive because she was severely injured and possibly raped by the Joker. In a sense, she was only in the story to be abused and to be a prop for Batman. Yale and Ostrander revived her, and made her a kind of Professor X type character from X-Men, which is much better than just being cast aside as a victim of the Joker’s mayhem.

The issue brought up in the above linked NPR interview is: why doesn’t Kim Yale receive any attention for her contributions? She was one of the few women in the graphic novel industry who was successfully changing the narrative of the linear hero saving the damsel in distress. Considering the rise of feminism in current mainstream media, we would assume Yale would be recognized for her work. Hopefully as the franchise moves on, more credit will be given to Yale, but for now, take pleasure in the thought that Suicide Squad was a very progressive narrative for its time.

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