Near Mint Memories: Deadshot


I’d like to wish you all a safe and happy New Year’s eve and a relaxing and pain-free New Year’s day. Now, onto our next NMM non-holiday holiday column.

This one is on DC’s top hit man, and perennial Batman foe and government stooge, Deadshot. With his new mini-series on shelves, its the perfect time to look back at how this marksman extraordinaire came onto the comics scene.

Born with a Golden Spoon in a Golden Age

DC’s top hit man actually debuted as a hero of sorts in the pages of 1950’s Batman #59 in comics’ Golden Age. He debuted in that book’s opening story titled “The Man Who Replaced Batman!” That story was the first of three unrelated stories in that issue followed by “The Forbidden Cellar” and “Batman in the Future!

As “the man who replaced Batman”, Deadshot didn’t sport the red and yellow costume he has popularized, but first donned a long tail tuxedo, top hat, and slender eyes covering mask.

He very much looked like an aristocrat… an alive Gentleman Ghost… almost.

In this super-hero role he takes Batman’s place as Gotham City’s protector. Instead of Batman’s utility belt and multiple skills, Deadshot amazed Gothamites with his one-trick pony act: expert marksmanship. Oh, and he had a really cool (?) “Deadshot Signal” (no really).

Floyd Lawton, the man behind the mask, grew up in privilege in a world very much like Batman’s Bruce Wayne. However, there was not much depth in Deadshot’s back story at the time and Bats quickly looked behind the figurative curtain and revealed Floyd’s real plan to become THE gang leader of Gotham City.

Good guy wins. Deadshot loses. Typical Golden Age morality play.

Comicdom Glossary

As I’ve explained in previous columns, the Golden Age period (circa 1938 to 1955) in comics was pretty much relegated onto a parallel Earth, Earth 2, in the Silver Age of comics (circa 1956 to 1969). That Age dawned with the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash in Showcase #4.

Earth 2 didn’t “officially” debut until the classic “Flash of Two Worlds” in 1961’s Flash #123. In that story it was revealed that the Golden Age Jay Garrick Flash resided on the Parallel Earth 2 and on Earth 1 (the Silver Age “Earth”) was the comic book inspiration for the Barry Allen Flash.

If comic book logic holds, that means the Golden Age Deadshot, who wasn’t seen after that Batman story in 1950, became the answer to an Earth 2 trivia question.

Killer Cool

The Deadshot character that readers have identified with over “recent” years took the world of privilege back story and the Floyd Lawton persona from Batman #59 and propelled the villain into the Bronze Age of Comics (circa 1970 to 1979) with 1977’s Detective Comics #474.

This is by far the best costume in comics!

(Followed closely by Deathstroke: The Terminator…..

… and the Mark Shaw Manhunter.)

Deadshot had some intriguing adventures in the early part of the Modern Age (1980 until now) with seven appearances between the Detective Comics and Batman series from 1982 and 1986 and an appearance in the Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 in early 1986. He was a colourful rogue for Batman for seven or so years, but didn’t really hit his stride until late 1986 and a little mini-series called Legends.

Suicide Tendencies

In was in the Legends series that Deadshot was propelled from virtual obscurity to more notoriety as the seeds for a new Suicide Squad were sown. A ragtag group of meta-human criminals were pulled together by Amanda Waller on a work release program. The catch? Undertake a suicide mission for the cause of good, survive, and your sentence was commuted to time served.

From Legends came the longest running Suicide Squad series. For more on the much-beloved SS, take a gander at this previous NMM column. The second half of said column speaks to the evolution of DC’s Squad supreme.

It was also during the tenure of DC’s first ongoing SS series that its creative team, both writer John Ostrander and penciller Luke McDonnell, helmed Deadshot’s first solo mini-series.

Lifting the Veil on a Fractured Psyche?

It was through that first SS series and the first Deadshot mini that readers were able to delve deeper into who Floyd Lawton really was.

His family was old money from a middle American town called, interestingly enough, Lawton. Floyd was the son of George and Genevieve Pitt Lawton. His brother was Edward who was the stereotypical jock, ladies man, and big man on campus. Floyd was the exact opposite. He was an outsider, troublemaker, and had brushes with the law early in life.

The Lawtons were a fractured family with the matriarch manipulating her sons to kill their father, her husband. Edward, while influenced by mommy dearest, agreed to kill his father, but decided to do it alone and spare Floyd to their mother’s chagrin. Floyd was locked in on the family estate while Edward went about shooting their father. The boy who would grow to be Deadshot escaped, but wasn’t in time as an errant shot crippled, not killed, George Lawton. Brother vs. brother led to the unintentional death of Edward Lawton and Floyd slowly started to succumb to what some thought a death wish later on.

George Lawton banished and bought off his wife and stymied the criminal investigation into his crippling and the death of Edward.

Floyd, bitter, confused and angry, fled to Gotham City. He indulged and became the playboy that befit one of his lineage. However, even marrying and having a son, named after his brother, did not provide him any satisfaction.

From tedium, the masked assassin Deadshot was born. He tangled with Batman, was subdued and jailed. After serving time in jail, he changed his costume, amped up his weaponry, and continued where he left off to cultivate his rep as the best and surest marksman and assassin in the DC Universe (DCU).

As is the case in all super-hero worlds, Deadshot came up on the losing end of battles with Batman. He accepted an offer by Amanda Waller, on behalf on the United States government, to join Task Force X’s criminal cannon fodder do-gooders in the Suicide Squad. Survive. Keep your mouth shut. Leave.

Deadshot is arguably the most identifiable member of the Suicide Squad. He could have left after many a mission, but chose to stay on. Was it his supposed death wish? A therapist at the SS’s headquarters at Belle Reeve penitentiary in Louisiana thought she could get through to Floyd, but he dismissed her and her nonprofessional affectionate overtures.

If that’s Deadshot in Gotham City, Louisiana, and globe-trotting with the SS, what’s happening back in the ‘burg he left also called Lawton? Well, I’m glad you asked.

As revealed in the first Deadsot mini-series, Floyd’s brooding mother orchestrated the kidnapping of his son in the hopes of forcing Deadshot to finally kill his father, her husband. Instead, he goes on a rampage to track down the kidnappers which culminates with the accidental shooting of his son by his captures. Floyd confronts mommy dearest, but not before his SS therapist cripples Madame Lawton. That’s a unique form of therapy to be sure.

After his first mini, Deadshot continued on with the SS until that first SS series rapped with the team being disbanded by the United States government. He guest-appeared, usually as the villain du jour, in many DC books from Showcase ’93 to a 1998 attempt to reinvent Hawk & Dove in a mini-series, and others DC titles, including his “home” (when not starring in an SS series) in the Batman family of books.

Deadshot returned in the short-lived 2002 SS series, but, sadly, that series is NOT worth mentioning in any detail at all.

However, 2004 spawned a new mini-series for Deadshot helmed by Law & Order television scribe Chris Gage.

Urban Renewal – Spotlight Review of Deadshot #1 (of 5)

Deadshot is dead on! A witty, intelligent and visually frenetic debut issue that puts the “X” in X-Mas in 2004!!

Story Title: Urban Renewal – Part 1: Strings (from the interior) or The Hit Man Who Goes Where Super Heroes Can’t! (from the cover)

Written by: Christos N. Gage
Penciled by: Steven Cummings
Inked by: Jimmy Palmiotti
Colored by: James Sinclair
Lettered by: Comicraft
Assistant Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC

DC’s Solicitation

What happens when a man with a death wish finds something to live for?

The classic villain Deadshot makes his action-packed return to the DCU in this 5-issue miniseries by television writer Christos N. Gage (Law and Order: SVU) with art by Steven Cummings (THE FLASH, Elektra) and Jimmy Palmiotti (CATWOMAN) with explosive covers by Mike Zeck (The Punisher) and Jerry Ordway (TOM STRONG)!

Deadshot, an expert marksman and cold, efficient killer, believes he has no reason to live…until he learns he has a daughter! When he discovers she’s living in a neighborhood plagued by violence, he decides to clean up the area, by any means necessary!

Part film noir and part classic Western, DEADSHOT tells the story of a violent man who must take on local mobs, corrupt cops, and even a former Suicide Squad member to give his daughter a life of peace and security!

The Review

The Story

The onion of the psyche of Floyd Lawton is peeled back further as an action-packed AND quiet story mark the beginning of Deadshot’s newest challenge.

Deadshot is an efficient and effective killer. While a team of villains he’s saddled with on a contract killing bicker, banter and strategize, he takes one silent and deadly shot… fulfilling the contract. Twelve word balloons of dense dialogue by his flashy compatriots are broken up by two words after the hit by our titular ‘hero’ (?): “Let’s Go.” He’s all business. Brilliant.

There’s also some interesting fire and ice moments early on with Firebug and Icicle. They use there powers in tandem to try to crack open seemingly impenetrable armour by protectors / attackers responding to Deadshot’s “hit”. While the cliche would be that they actually crack the suit open like a nut, Gage does something a bit different. The suits don’t crack, but there are a few seams showing that Deadshot can exploit with a bullet here and there with lethal effects. Excellently executed, pun intended, by Gage and Deadshot.

The story then hits its “quiet stride” as Floyd learns that he has a daughter by way of a liaison he had years ago. Its a plausible, but somewhat contrived, plot device that is delivered well.

Lawton confronts his instant family and realizes that they live in harsh part of Star City, home of Green Arrow, that is bordered by three different ethnic gang territories who all claim ownership of this in-between slum.

Floyd moves into the neighborhood, but not before his rental car’s wheels are stolen and the car is left on blocks! Yes, another cliche, BUT it sets up some serious whoop-ass moments with Deadshot and overmatched street thugs where you find yourself rooting for the hit man. Floyd may be an odd name for an assassin, but Deadshot rings true to ear.

The challenge in writing this mini-series is not portraying Deadshot’s actions as redeemable or right. Readers will likely live vicariously through Deadshot dispensing his brand of justice, retribution, or kicks (you decide which or all of the above) in the truer to life thuggery that we open up our daily newspapers to each and every morning.

The best lines in this book? I’m glad you asked. Its by Floyd after one of his villain compatriots in the opening sequence comments that he puts the “ass” in “assassin” and calls him out on his supposed death wish. Deadshot’s response? Brilliant:

“If I wanted to be dead, I would be. I don’t want to die. I just don’t care if I do.”

It’ll be interesting as Gage explores Floyd’s psyche in this mini-series whether being an active part of his daughter’s world will change the man behind the Deadshot mask.

The Art

Penciller Steven Cummings and veteran inker Jimmy Palmiotti deliver some action-packed well-paced slugfests, but also deliver expressive facial features that let readers get more into the heads and personalities of the varied players.

Floyd goes through the emotional gauntlet in this issue. He’s cool and all-business, furious, sad, subdued, surprised, compassionate, indifferent, intense, calm, and back to all-business. Readers follow this roller coaster, but really feel for Floyd as the story progresses. The art really is the prime emotional string jerker in this issue and complements Gage’s story well.

The subdued yet vibrant colors also give the book a unique visual feel.

The one visual misstep? Deadshot’s new costume. I understand that the motivation to change the costume was to make it more “real” as a true assassin wouldn’t be garbed in bright colors. However, its done in half measures here since Deadshot’s costume is still predominately red. The cliche trench coat doesn’t help matters either. His mask is still the same, but the rest of the costume needs more work.

However, sometimes the classic is the best. DC should go back to the olde costume. Its still one of the best ever in the comics genre.

That aside, the costume doesn’t dramatically distract from the solid artistic outing by the art team.

The Final Word: This is a book well worth a gander. Its part of DC’s current “darkening” exercise. If you like gritty and a relatively “real” feel to your comics, Deadshot should be in your crosshairs.

{Oh, you should probably also be reading the current Manhunter series too… ;)}

Score: 7.5 (out of 10)

Deadshot #2 hits stands on January 5, 2005


DC’s Solicitation

The thrilling miniseries continues with a guest appearance by Green Arrow! Deadshot fights to make a crime-infested neighborhood safe for his daughter and her mom. But now even the cops want him gone, and have brought in the Emerald Archer to help them!


A toast to you and yours this New Year’s Eve! Don’t drink and drive. I hope you enjoy the last remnants of 2004 and bask in the new glow of 2005. All the best.

John is a long-time pop culture fan, comics historian, and blogger. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief at Comics Nexus. Prior to being EIC he has produced several column series including DEMYTHIFY, NEAR MINT MEMORIES and the ONE FAN'S TRIALS at the Nexus plus a stint at Bleeding Cool producing the COMICS REALISM column. As BabosScribe, John is active on his twitter account, his facebook page, his instagram feed and welcomes any and all feedback. Bring it on!