Move over, Captain Boomerang, because a new Aussie is joining Task Force X. Indigenous (or Aboriginal woman) Thylacine is on the Suicide Squad for DC’s sixth incarnation.
Australian co-creators Tom Taylor and Shari Sebbens spoke with Down Under’s ABC News Arts about the character. “She’s the one [character] who can walk into any situation and walk back out again alive,” said Taylor.
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Thylacine, named for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger which lived well into the 20th century, is the first character of Indigenous background in the three decades of the team’s history.
Taylor admits he took on Suicide Squad to inject “exciting, diverse characters into the DC Universe.” Further, he recalled what he told his editor and publisher:
“I want to create a whole new set of anti-heroes for today and I want them to be completely diverse, from all over the world and from all walks of life.”
He added this:
“We want to tell stories about superheroes because we believe that superheroes serve a role in this world and we want the world to be a better place.”
Taylor then stated:
“So often [with diverse characters] they’re the ones that get shunted, but these are superheroes we’re talking about — they have a responsibility to be heroes for everybody.”
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Being the only Australian woman of color puts her at odds with countryman and seasoned vet of the team Captain Boomerang.
Taylor, for one, thinks the classic Flash bad guy is cliche and dated:
“Captain Boomerang is a very old character with very old ideas of what Australia is, and often very cliched and just a bit of a trope.”
Thylacine and the Squad face the rural and “hard-drinking” Captain in issue #5 (supposed to be out this month).
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Sebbens, an actress, writer, and director of Indigenous descent (who had a small role in Thor: Ragnarok), acted as a consultant on the character alongside Ryan Griffen, creator of dystopian TV show Cleverman.
You might’ve seen her in the immensely popular @TopEndWedding, but we still think Shari Sebbens deserves a shout out for being a great talent with enviable comedic skills. @sharileesebbo is one to watch as she takes Australian cinema by storm. Chookas Shari!#indigenousactors pic.twitter.com/BGeL0VScaD
— Chicken and Chips Casting (@chickennchips_) July 11, 2019
Reflecting on their first discussions about Thylacine’s “animal mythology,” Sebbens said they first considered dingos but nixed that idea, preferring “a species that’s been here since time immemorial.” Enter the Tasmanian Tiger which has roots in Western Australia also.
It mattered that her code name in addition to “ancestral land, skin [color] and abilities were grounded in a specific and real connection to ‘where the [thylacine] creature could come from in contemporary Australia.'”
That comes through in Thylacine’s civilian name, Corinna, too – an old Aboriginal word for the animal species. Said Sebbens:
“We chose Corinna [as Thylacine’s civilian name] as a way to acknowledge the thylacine’s place in Tasmanian Aboriginal history and culture.”
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ABC Arts gave a nod to Aboriginal/Indigenous characters of the past, including the taciturn Gateway from X-Men comics such as Generation X.
Meet Gateway, the Aboriginal teleporting mutant mutant member of the X-Men: https://t.co/3elh9Fbh10 #Xmen #Marvel #comics pic.twitter.com/4WS04ngwXs
— Nerds on Earth (@NerdsonEarth) June 29, 2017
They reached out to Luke Pearson, founder of the website IndigenousX, for comment on the history of Aborigines in comics going back to the 1940s. He was disappointed by creations “about us, but not for us.”
“During the 80s we saw Marvel introduce Talisman and Gateway, both of whom open portals using a bullroarer, and Betty Clawman from DC, who like Talisman, had her powers directly linked to the Dreamtime, which for Talisman meant [traveling] to the ‘Dreamtime dimension’, and for Clawman meant she could enter people’s dreams.
For both of those characters, it seems they [non-Indigenous Marvel and DC creators] just took the word ‘Dreamtime’ and added their own meaning to it.”
He, Sebbens, and Taylor hope Thylacine will mean more representation and interest in Aboriginal characters as well as Aboriginal creators.
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As Sebbens put it:
“It was a way of saying we’re still here and we’re not going anywhere either. You can think our culture is extinct, you can try your hardest, but we will resist and we will persevere and we will survive.”
She added, “To be honest — I know it was a big thing for myself — we wanted to have a darker-skinned character portrayed who is a total badass.”
Thylacine is co-created by artist Bruno Redondo. Her abilities are night vision, heightened senses, combat skills, and “Batman-like stealth.”
DC follows in the footsteps of Marvel’s New Warriors Snowflake and Safespace. Including Thylacine, they introduced ten new characters to Suicide Squad in the name of diversity.
Among them: the non-binary Aerie, Aerie’s love interest Wink, Puerto Rican Osita, Argentinian T.N.Teen, French Speedster of color Jog, the Somali Deadly Six, and Chinese fighter Chaos Kitten.
Their first actions were attacking three United States Navy submarines and murdering a United States General.
However, the Suicide Squad would intervene. Not only would the Squad subdue the Revolutionaries, but they would be effectively recruited into the Squad albeit with some casualties on both ends.