Welcome to Part Two of our retrospective on DC Comics’ Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot. This continues from the previous Part One. With Deadshot appearing alongside Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in a New Year’s Eve story in the new Trinity Vol. 2 #16 (by Rob Williams, V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea, and Dinei Ribeiro), it’s only appropriate to ring in the New Year by celebrating the man they call Deadshot. We last left our favorite psychotic killing machine in June of 1992. Now that John Ostrander isn’t attached to Deadshot as his primary architect anymore, we’ll start to see a lot more creators work with the character, although his appearances will be a bit more sporadic—at least initially. This is the equivalent of Ostrander letting his baby go—sending him off to college, so to speak. After full year gap without any sightings whatsoever, Deadshot returns with a bang in 1993 with Showcase ’93 #7-12—”The Kobra Chronicles”—(by Mike Baron and Gary Barker, July 1993-November 1993). Deadshot takes a Kobra hit on Deathstroke and Peacemaker! The combined might of the duo is too much for Deadshot, but when he learns that Kobra was going to double cross him, Deadshot switches sides, teaming up with Deathstroke and Peacemaker! Eventually, the trio destroys a Kobra base with assistance from Doctor Light and Katana.
Sadly, another full year passes before Deadshot turns up again—in Deathstroke the Hunted #41 (by Marv Wolfman and Sergio Cariello, November 1994). Wolfman, co-creator of Deathstroke, always had an affinity for Deadshot. This is Wolfman’s first real crack at the character, and he was super excited to be able to put the two characters together as a follow-up to their previous “Kobra Chronicles” arc. When Deathstroke is framed for treason, Sarge Steel sends Bronze Tiger and Deadshot to bring him in. Unlike the previous two-on-one situation, this time the tables are turned with the odds in Deadshot’s favor. Deadshot (with Bronze Tiger) is able to capture Deathstroke by shooting several rounds into his chest.
Narrative-chronologically speaking, a cool “five years ago” flashback from Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #226 (by Greg Rucka and Cliff Richards, April 2006) comes next. I be remiss if I didn’t include it because it features Deadshot taking a hit on the Pope in Vatican City! Wonder Woman stops him.
Superboy Vol. 3 #13-15—”Watery Grave”—(by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, March 1995-May 1995) is up next. Amanda Waller puts a new Suicide Squad together and has Deadshot recruit metahuman stripper Knockout. Teamed-up with Superboy, they battle a Deadshot-lite known as Stinger. When Captain Boomerang is outed as working against the Squad, Deadshot tries to kill him. Deadshot winds up shooting Boomerang in both his hands while he is holding onto a ledge. This basically ruins his career—after all, how can you throw boomerangs with crippled hands.
Marv Wolfman’s second crack at putting Deadshot and Deathstroke together comes in July 1995 with Deathstroke #49 (written by Wolfman, art by Sergio Cariello and William Rosado). Only this time, they once again team-up as Deadshot is hired to help Deathstroke challenge the super-villain known only as Crimelord.
Swinging back into narrative chronology mode, another interesting flashback can be squeezed in right around here. In Batman & Superman: World’s Finest #10 (by Karl Kesel, Dave Taylor, and Robert Campanella, 2003). Batman tells Superman that there have been major metahuman/super-villain breakouts at Stryker’s Island and Arkham. It’s not long before Metropolis’ villains show up in Gotham and begin attacking Arkham’s escapees. A “villain war” erupts immediately. Batman and Superman recapture Bloodsport and Deadshot.
DC’s mega-crossover Underworld Unleashed (by Mark Waid and Howard Porter, November 1995) comes next. This tale basically serves to upgrade all of DC’s super-villains, including Deadshot. Neron, King of Hell, has gathered the entire DCU villain community together. His plan? To offer every single villain something special in exchange for his or her soul. Here, Waid and Porter really stamp Deadshot as a vile despicable character worthy of very little sympathy. Deadshot is one of the villains to accept Neron’s offer, making a literal deal with the devil. He begins working with the assassins Bolt, Chiller, Deadline, and Merlyn in a group called the Killer Elite. Each member is given the opportunity to commit their dream assassination. What does Deadshot want? What is his greatest desire, his dream assassination? To murder an entire kindergarten class. Oof. Thankfully, Obsidian of the Justice League of America stops him (as seen in the Underworld Unleashed tie-ins, Justice League America #105-106—”Killer Elite”—by Gerard Jones and Chuck Wojtkiewicz, November 1995-December 1995). By the end of this arc, which further explores Floyd’s tortured psyche in regard to his family and upbringing, Deadshot winds up in a coma where he keeps reliving an Obsidian-induced fantasy over and over. This second “dream assassination” is killing his brother Eddie.
Following Underworld Unleashed, it seems as if the now wannabe child-killing Deadshot was too hot to touch, for we don’t see him again for over two years! Maybe it’s for the best. With the child killing episode long behind him, Deadshot returns in the capable hands of Mike Baron—in Hawk and Dove Vol. 4 #3-5 (story by Baron, art by Dean Zachary, Dick Giordano, and Roberta Tewes, January 1998-March 1998). Baron, in the best possible move a writer could have done at the time, returns Deadshot to his roots: the Suicide Squad. The new CIA-backed Suicide Squad’s first mission is to hunt down Hawk and Dove. Deadshot has a stand-off with Hawk’s father Colonel Martens, but Dove sneakily takes Deadshot down. Deadshot then wins a sniper duel against Vigilante, but, in a nice touch by Baron (who tries to return some nuance to the character), Deadshot surrenders himself rather than murder the government agent.
At this point, Deadshot is in the Suicide Squad and the Killer Elite. The latter appears in Body Doubles (Villains #1) aka New Year’s Evil: Body Doubles #1 (by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Joe Phillips, Jasen Rodriguez, and Carla Feeny, February 1998), trying to execute their competitive rivals, the assassins known as The Body Doubles (Bonny Hoffman and Carmen Leno). In a big reveal, Deadshot betrays his team and pretends to get knocked out because he is secretly romantically involved with Carmen Leno! Besides the ex-wives, awkward psychiatrists, and prostitutes that have popped in-and-out of Floyd’s troubled life, this is the first legit love affair for good ol’ Deadshot.
Deadshot returns for a pair of 80-Page Giants—JLA 80-Page Giant #1 (by Mark Millar and Christopher Jones, July 1998) and Batman 80-page Giant #2 (by Scott Beatty and William Rosado, October 1999). Note the 15 month gap in-between the two issues. Fans didn’t see Floyd for a long time in 1998/1999. The first 80-page Giant happens shortly after the formation of Grant Morrison’s “Big Guns” JLA. The team sets up their new Watchtower headquarters, built on the surface of the moon. While the finishing construction touches are made on the Watchtower, Martian Manhunter disguises himself as a villain and dismantles the entire Secret Society of Super-villains—including new invitee Deadshot—from within. The second 80-Page Giant has Two-Face hiring Deadshot to kill Batman, but Deadshot fails in his task, getting his jaw broken in the process. Rough time for Floyd in both of these issues.
In October 1999, Grant Morrison writes Deadshot for the first time ever! Okay, okay, so Deadshot merely turns up in a big pro wrestling-style schmoz, appearing in a Belle Reve prison riot in JLA #34 (script by Morrison, art by Howard Porter).
As the 1990s end, it seems as though no one knows quite what to do with Deadshot any longer. He’s kind of fallen from grace, back down into second-tier status. But leave it to the genius of Ed Brubaker to return Deadshot to his former glory. How to do so? Why, by bringing him back to his roots, of course. But further back than the Suidide Sqauad, back to the beginning, back to being primarily a Batman rogue. In Batman #591-592—“Shot Through the Heart”—(by Brubaker, Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, and Roberta Tewes, July 2001-August 2001), classic Golden Age Bat-mythos mob-boss Lew Moxon comes back into town and everyone wants a piece, including Deadshot, who wants the bounty on Moxon’s head. When Bruce Wayne and Sasha Bordeaux meet Moxon at a black tie event, Bruce is confronted by two surprises. One, Moxon’s daughter is Mallory Moxon, a young boyhood friend of Bruce’s from before his parents were murdered. And two, Moxon’s bodyguard is the Deadshot-esque Philo Zeiss. When Deadshot sets off some fake explosions to test Zeiss’s security detail, Batman swings into action, but Deadshot is able to make a clean getaway. After Bruce has dinner with the Moxons, Batman encounters Zeiss, who tells him that he orchestrated Jeremy Samuels’ death (in Batman #583) as revenge against the Waynes for an incident that had occurred between Thomas Wayne and Moxon decades ago. Enraged, Batman tussles with Zeiss and before he knows it has played right into Deadshot’s hands. By essentially using Batman to neutralize Zeiss, Deadshot has a clean opening and shoots Moxon in the chest, paralyzing him for life. This is Floyd at his finest. Brubaker’s long arc on Batman is one the best in history, and his treatment of Deadshot is nothing short of perfect.
After a fun Geoff Johns and Stephen Sadowski-penned non-speaking cameo in JSA #28 (November 2001), Deadshot is back in action for the Joker: Last Laugh crossover (by Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, and Andy Kuhn, December 2001), which sees dozens of villains infected by Joker Venom. In the Last Laugh tie-in issue Flash Vol. 2 #179 (by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins, December 2001), the Killer Elite goes on its final mission, attacking the Iron Heights metahuman prison. Deadline is killed and Deadshot, showing more sympathy than usual, rescues Captain Boomerang from medical confinement.
A few months later, Deadshot completes his triumphant return tour by rejoining the Suicide Squad yet again! This time, in Suicide Squad Vol. 2 #5-8 (by Keith Giffen and Paco Medina, March 2002-June 2002), General Rock (formerly Sgt. Rock) leads the Suicide Squad, which is developed in the aftermath of the big Our Worlds at War crossover by none other than President Lex Luthor himself. In this arc, Deadshot becomes close with Blackstarr, Havana, Killer Frost, Major Disaster, Modem, and Reactron. While a featuring a fun and unique lineup, the team was unsuccessful and quickly disbanded.
After his latest Suicide Squad stint, Deadshot is back with Brubaker, which means good stuff coming for slick Floyd. Geoff Johns, having dipped his toes into Deadshot and taken a strong liking to the character, joins Brubaker as co-writer for Batman #606-607—“Death-Wish For Two”—(art by Scott McDaniel, October 2002-November 2002). In this story arc, Bruce has just been cleared of all charges in the murder of Vesper Fairchild. Her real murderer, David Cain (Cassie Cain’s dad), is scheduled to testify in court regarding the details of the case. Batman knows that President Luthor will have sent an assassin to silence Cain before the hearing, so he prepares for the worst. And with Brubaker and Johns with the quill in their hands, the worst most badass assassin in the entire DCU at the moment is definitely Deadshot. Sure enough, the President’s man nearly kills Cain, but Batman saves his life. Cain, showing off his chops as well, nearly killing Deadshot.
What would DC Comics be without its never-ending crossovers. “War Games” (by Devin Grayson, Andersen Gabrych, AJ Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo, Javier Piña, Pete Woods, and Ramon Bachs, 2004-2005) continues Deadshot’s story as Penguin hires him as a bodyguard. Together, they attend a gangster summit, which is secretly part of a theoretical Batman plan to consolidate Gotham’s gangs in order to better control organized crime in the city. However, theoretical is the key word. Spoiler, trying to impress Batman, jumps the gun and starts the plan, leading to a shootout, during which Deadshot kills several men, including Junior Galante. Interestingly, writer Andersen Gabrych reveals that Deadshot goes way back with Onyx Adams, an amazing and underrated assassin character created by Joey Cavalieri and Jerome Moore. This arc also sees Deadshot take on Hush, Prometheus II, and Tarantula—unfortunately all losing efforts.
From June 2004 to December 2004, Identity Crisis (by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair) shakes up the entire DCU (and the entire comic book industry) for better or worse, and Deadshot is right in the thick of it. In this controversial arc, Meltzer reveals that several characters, including Batman, have had their memories erased to hide certain dark truths about the past, notably that Doctor Light once raped Jean Loring. Deadshot, privy to this information, is the first to tell the rest of his super-villain pals that Doctor Light was mind-wiped. During a fight against Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Deadshot deliberately shoots himself in the neck, forcing Rayner to save him and drop his guard, thus allowing Floyd to take aim and almost shoot him. Despite this successful maneuver, he is captured by Superman. By story’s end, a bunch of villains are prosecuted by DA Kate Spencer, but they avoid jail time due to Floyd’s government connections.
With all his recent awesomeness thanks to the likes of Brubaker, Johns, Meltzer, et al, Deadshot was back on top of his game, and back on top popularity-wise too. Thus, we get treated to a second solo Deadshot series! Deadshot Vol. 2 #1-5— “Urban Renewal”—(by Christos Gage, Steven Cummings, and Jimmy Palmiotti, February 2005-June 2005) is super important to the direction that the character will go for the next decade-plus. In this series, Floyd discovers he has a daughter, Zoe. Floyd goes into Punisher mode and decides to violently wipe out all the crime in Zoe’s Star City neighborhood. Floyd also tries his best to alter the course of his tragic and demented life by trying to act as a father to Zoe. However, it’s just not in the cards. Deadshot fakes his death to give Zoe distance and closure from his dangerous nature and lifestyle. Zoe won’t be much of a factor in the rest of the Modern Age, but Deadshot will come to be primarily defined by his relationship to Zoe in later continuities (and in cinema too).
Villains United (by Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham, and Val Semeiks, December 2005-April 2006), a series related to the 2005–2006’s Infinite Crisis (by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez), continues Deadshot’s story. A Suicide Squad-esque group known as The Secret Six coerced into forming by Lex Luthor (disguised as Mockingbird). Luthor tells Deadshot that if he joins, he could become the king of North America, but if he refuses to join, Zoe will be killed. This leads directly to Secret Six Vol. 2 #1-6—”Six Degrees of Devastation”—(by Gail Simone and
Brad Walker, July 2006-January 2007).
The long running Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight series (which began in 1989) ends with issue #214 in March 2007. And wouldn’t you know it, LODTK ends with a Deadshot vs Batman tale by Deadshot Vol. 2 creator Christos Gage and artist Phil Winslade! The canonical status of this issue, however, is questionable because Deadshot mentions that he’s in the Suicide Squad again, which, at this point, isn’t true. Deadshot also references Identity Crisis in a way that doesn’t make sense. Also, this issue shows Commissioner Gordon in charge of the GCPD, but Commissioner Akins is the current head honcho. Oh well.
Next is Birds of Prey #104-108—”Whitewater”—(by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott, May 2007-September 2007). Simone continues her Secret Six run with the gorgeous illustrations of Nicola Scott, bringing her Six babes to meet the titular stars of her other ongoing series, The Birds of Prey. There’s a lot of love and passion that Simone shows for all characters involved in this arc.
Following “Whitewater,” Suicide Squad Vol. 3 #3-8 aka Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #3-8 (January 2008-June 2008) comes next. These issues see John Ostrander return to writing Deadshot and the Suicide Squad for the first time in sixteen years! With art by Javier Piña, it’s a lovely few issues with some nice callbacks to the 80s and 90s, reminding us just how great Ostrander’s legendary run with Deadshot and the Suicide Squad was in the first place. We wouldn’t be here without his master works from back in the day.
We see Deadshot and the Suicide Squad again in Paul Dini’s Countdown #43-28 (July 2007-October 2007) as they round up super-villains to be shipped to a prison planet. The group encounters Pied Piper and Trickster several times, and each time fails to capture them. Deadshot, ignoring Amanda Waller’s direct orders, ditches the dead weight of his team and goes after them solo, murdering Trickster.
After a brief appearance in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #15 (by Dwayne McDuffie, Ed Benes, and Sandra Hope, January 2008), again with the Suicide Squad, Deadshot appears in the Final Crisis tie-in Salvation Run (by Bill Willingham and Lilah Sturges, 2007-2008) where he is betrayed by Waller and Rick Flag Jr and sent off to the prison planet. Deadshot vows revenge. Deadshot helps his fellow prisoners stop a Parademon invasion before escaping the planet and returning to Earth.
Oddly enough, despite reaching heightened levels of popularity, Deadshot takes an eight month break from appearing in comics. He shows up next, playing a rather large role in Kevin Smith’s Batman: Cacophony (script by Smith, art by Walt Flanagan and Sandra Hope, November 2008-January 2009). Unfortunately, like LOTDK #214, Smith’s story really doesn’t fit onto any timeline without a ton of continuity errors. In Batman: Cacophony, Deadshot takes a hit on Joker and confronts him inside Arkham Asylum. There, Onomatopoeia arrives and kicks Deadshot’s ass, shooting him in the head. Deadshot’s armor saves him and masks his vital signs to make it appear like he’s been killed. After chatting with Batman, he gives his strange false-death armor tech to the Dark Knight, who uses it to survive an encounter with the Joker and Onomatopoeia in a similar way.
Returning to in-continuity comics, say goodbye to the Suicide Squad. It’s all about the Secret Six now. And with this, Gail Simone completes a long run that cements her as one the best architects of Floyd Lawton that DC Comics will ever see. First, Deadshot appears in Secret Six Vol. 3 #1-16 (by Gail Simone and several artists, November 2008-February 2010). Deadshot—along with Scandal Savage, Bane, Ragdoll, and Catman—reform the Secret Six as the definitive DCU antihero/super-villain team. They start off by taking a job—hired by Mad Hatter—to recover a stolen “Get Out of Hell Free” card made by Neron. The team faces off against Junior (Ragdoll’s terrifying sister) and a bunch of super-villains before escaping to Gotham. Deadshot betrays his teammates and joins up with Tarantula. The rest of the Six confront Deadshot, but before they can fight him, they wind up fighting another horde of villains, which leads to Tarantula and Junior’s deaths. For months to follow, Simone takes Deadshot and company on a wild ride of mission after mission. Over the course of her run on Secret Six, Simone will build a very well-fleshed-out relationship between Deadshot and Catman.
In March 2010, the first volume of Suicide Squad gets one more go for a single issue (Suicide Squad #67—nicely pairing up current Deadshot architect Gail Simone with the old school creator John Ostrander and artist Jim Calafiore)—as a tie-in to Geoff Johns’ “Blackest Night” storyline. Deadshot, of course, features. This is Ostrander’s last time writing Floyd in the Modern Age.
Gail Simone, with a bunch of different artists at her helm, continues her awesome long run on Secret Six Vol. 3 with issues #17-36 (March 2010-October 2011), all of which feature Deadshot going on various mission with the team. After the Secret Six crosses-over into Action Comics #895-896—”The Black Ring”—(by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods, January 2011-February 2011), we finally reach the conclusion of Deadshot’s life and times in the Modern Age of comics. And who better to help him say goodbye then the architect that has been at the helm for the last few years: Gail Simone. Secret Six Vol. 3 #36 (script by Simone, art by Jim Calafiore, October 2011) ends Simone’s lengthy and delightful run, and it’s a great send-off. In this issue, the Secret Six has plans to assassinate Red Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Azrael in Gotham. However, a double-crossing Penguin alerts the hero community about the Six’s arrival in town. The Six (Bane, Catman, Deadshot, Jeannette, Ragdoll, and Scandal Savage) along with King Shark and Knockout take a bunch of Venom pills and make their glorious last stand. However, they are easily defeated by what seems to be one of the largest gathering of collected heroes in the entire Modern Age. So, yeah, it’s eight villains versus Batman, Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Superman, Superboy, Steel, Dr. Light, Obsidian, John Stewart, Red Tornado, the Birds of Prey, the JLA, the JSA, the JLI, and the Teen Titans. Overkill, anyone? Probably, but it just goes to show how kickass these underdog anti-heroes—especially Deadshot—really are by the time the Modern Age ends. Simone really hammers in the idea that these are not B-list second-tier baddies. They are A-listers worthy of your respect. Amen.
Join us next time for the final installment of our retrospective on Deadshot—Part Three of “Gun Happy New Year”—where we will wrap things up by looking at Deadshot in the New 52 and Rebirth eras. Until next time, ta ta!