On Tuesday, Warner Bros. and DC Comics dropped the newest trailer for Suicide Squad, the upcoming supervillain action flick, and surprise! For a film focused on the bad guys, Suicide Squad looks like a hell of a lot of fun (especially when compared to Batman v. Superman’s dour promotional materials; why so serious, fellas?). And yet, Suicide Squad’s August release date might be too late; an even better bad-guys-doing-good-things-for-bad-reasons story is already out in the wild. It’s called Copra, and it’s amazing.
Like Suicide Squad, Copra focuses on a band of anti-heroes who do the government’s dirty work because, hey, if something goes wrong, who’s gonna miss ’em? Like Suicide Squad, Copra’s action is savage and anarchic, fueled by a gleeful sense that anything could happen, and that everything could go wrong. Like Suicide Squad, every member of Corpa’s team is distinct and unforgettable—making it hurt all the more when one of them bites the dust.
There’s a reason for these similarities, of course. Both the Suicide Squad feature film and Copra have their roots in John Ostrander’s 1988 DC Comics series, called, um, Suicide Squad. In its original incarnation, Suicide Squad told the story of a team assembled by government operative Amanda Waller and led by soldier Rick Flag. Under Waller’s supervision, villains like the Flash’s nemesis, Captain Boomerang, and the expert marksman Deadshot undertook dangerous missions in exchange for reduced prison sentences—assuming, of course, that they survived at all.
In terms of DC Comics lore, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad is remarkably important. Not only did Suicide Squad introduce and elevate characters like Deadshot and Amanda Waller to superstar status, but many important and lasting changes—for example, Barbara Gordon’s transformation from a former Batgirl into the tech-savvy hero Oracle—occurred under Ostrander’s pen. Ostrander’s stories aren’t violent, but they are brutal. You know how The Walking Dead kills gleefully offs its characters, just because it can? Suicide Squad is both better and worse, as far as that goes. This is a comic that hurts.
Suicide Squad’s framework is a great set-up for an action story (or multiple stories, as Ostrander’s 66-issue run proved), and it’s no surprise that Warner Bros. saw the comic’s box-office potential. Still, as crazy as it looks like it’s going to be, the Suicide Squad film has to play nicely with the rest of DC’s cinematic universe. Copra doesn’t face any such restrictions. You want crazy? Copra will give you crazy.
It helps that Copra’s a one-man show, meaning it’s got almost no filter. Cartoonist Michel Fiffe writes, draws, letters, colors, and publishes the whole thing, producing one 24-page comic a month. If you don’t know how comic books are made, that’s an insane schedule. Originally, Copra was only supposed to be twelve issues long; as of right now, Fiffe’s up to issue #25. With such a tight deadline, Fiffe says that there isn’t much advanced planning involved in producing an issue of Copra. Using the Suicide Squad comics from his youth as a template, Fiffe simply throws the story onto the page with as much energy as he can muster.
It shows, and I mean that in the best way. Copra’s got an energy that seems to propel the story from panel to panel, even when Fiffe’s drawing something as mundane as his characters arguing about what they should eat for dinner. Fiffe’s an excellent visual storyteller, of course; just look at his fight scenes, which are kinetic and vital and filled with detail, yet expertly choreographed so that every movement is crystal-clear.
It’s weird as all get-out, and funny, too. Without giving much away, Copra’s first issue revolves around a mysterious head with a lightning bolt-shaped… thing lodged in the eye socket. The Copra team is transporting the head to a safe location as a favor to a family member when they’re ambushed. From there, things go horribly, horribly wrong.
Unfortunately, until now, Copra’s been really hard to find. The first printing of the first issue was limited to only 400 copies, and while there have been reprints and collected editions, Copra’s print runs remain pretty low (look at the prices on eBay). However, this week, that all changed. The first six issues of Copra are available on comiXology right now, with later issues hopefully coming to the platform sooner rather than later.
Look, it’s going to be fun to see Harley Quinn and Killer Croc on the big screen, and I’m hoping that Jared Leto pulls a Ledger and surprises everyone with his Joker, but there’s only one spot in my heart for cinematic-style supervillain strike-team action, and it’s taken. It’s not personal, Suicide Squad. Copra just beat you to it.