Polka-Dot Man isn’t the first character you might think of as the stage thief in a great superhero movie. A punchline maybe, or a first victim of The suicide squadthe apparently high body count. And yet there is something behind this absurd polka dot costume and David dastmalchian‘s look mopey as he audibly yearns for death that stirs the chords. Pair that with the director James gunnPenchant for turning the most obscure comic book characters into movie icons, well, you’ve got the recipe for a new fan-favorite character.
When I visited the set of The suicide squad in 2019, no character gained more laughter and derision than Polka-Dot Man. Did that immediately make me want to protect him? Perhaps. But that’s not just what convinced me that Polka-Dot Man would be the obscure character of The suicide squad to achieve Groot-style new fame in guardians of the galaxy. It was the film’s inventive approach to the very silly Polka-Dot Man gimmick and Dastmalchian’s obvious care for the character that did the trick.
Who is the polka dot man?
To say that Polka Dot Man is one of the most ridiculed characters in DC Comics history might be an understatement. Introduced in Police comics # 300 in February 1962, Polka-Dot Man was one of several Batman thugs created by writer Bill Finger and artist Sheldon Moldoff who were built around a singular – often extremely silly gimmick. He… throws peas! And sometimes it can make them big and sharp!
Understandably, Polka Dot Man fell into oblivion after the Golden Age of Comics ended, aside from the occasional mention in a TV series or Lego film – when it was generally treated like a badly aged punchline.
What’s so special about Polka Dot Man in The Suicide Squad?
Even David Dastmalchian knows that Polka-Dot Man won’t be at the top of people’s popularity lists. “Profound, deep, profound character. Literally voted as one, I think, of the least popular characters in all of DC canon, ”Dastmalchian told the group of reporters visiting the set of The suicide squad. And the character’s unpopularity is reflected in Dastmalchian’s portrayal of Polka-Dot Man, aka Abner Krill, a metahuman who you could say is a bit sad:
“He doesn’t command a ton of respect at the door. I think he’s someone who’s never found much connection with people, because of some things I can’t discuss today, but also just because he’s Polka-Dot Man. I mean, this is the thing that worked for him, or he thought it would work.
But do you know who some of the most popular characters in pop culture today are? Sad boys. Potentially Even More Loved: Sad boys who are paired with silly boys. Maybe that’s why the Polka-Dot Man team with King Shark (played in mo-cap by Steve agee and expressed by Sylvester stallone) is just another icing on the cake of Polka Dot Man’s rise in popularity. “There are lots of things we can do together,” Dastmalchian teased of his relationship and King Shark in The suicide squad.
But like many sad boys are used to, Polka-Dot Man is not good at making friends. You’d expect the same from a hardened criminal, but he’s as gentle as you could have been, and feels more “throwaway in a sense for the bigger scheme of operations.” (Insecurity and shame? Haven’t we all felt it!) Dastmalchian described Abner’s dynamic with the team:
“You have a bunch of exceptionally gifted or talented people in varying degrees of strength or whatever their particular specialty, which could be helpful, but they’re also people who are throwaway in a sense for the larger scheme of operations. And I think he always felt that way. So even if it is [he’s] starting to feel like there might be an alliance with some people, that’s a new feeling for Abner.
Okay, Polka Dot Man is a sad boy, you got it. But I probably haven’t convinced you yet of the character’s potential to be popular outside of my own very specific tastes for fictional characters. This is where the most inventive and convincing part of his characterization comes in: his powers. Or rather, how his powers manifest as a painful handicap – the dots are more than just a fancy weapon, but are part of a physical affliction Abner suffers from and only his costume can keep under control. Dastmalchian compares points to a handicap, which completely affects Abner’s character:
“With the stitches and how, when they can get out of hand, they can literally look like sores on my body. It is really very painful. So that absolutely helped shape the way I was going to move, fight and sit, and do all the things that I would do in the movie. And then again, how does a disability or something that you are considered to be embarrassed about, or that hurts you, find a way that you can suddenly turn it into something that is more than just suffering. Maybe it could even have a purpose. Then it changes the way you move, the way you sit, the way you talk.
Adapted to steal hearts
With this new turn of the character, Gunn and Dastmalchian transformed a punchline character into a tragic character, which Gunn had said to have been his. goal from the start. And it’s also an opportunity for the production team to build muscle by designing a grotesque look for Polka-Dot Man when he doesn’t have a suit to contain his… points. Producer Pierre Safran describes them as painful “glowing pustules” that erupt around her face and body, practically all:
“One thing I should just mention about Polka-Dot Man, basically what you’ll find in the movie is that the things you saw, the glowing pustules on his face and body, he has to release these things twice a day. day, or they’re going to eat it from the inside out. But that look is practically all done. Legacy, which does a lot of our special effects, they built them… Each one is lit from within, wired, controllable and all different colors and all, and it looks amazing.
It’s only the Polka-Dot Man costume that keeps those pustules from eating him alive, although it doesn’t necessarily contain them entirely, Dastmalchian said. “I would say it’s a focusing mechanism for sure. Confinement, no. Concentration, that’s for sure. And elements, elements of the costume, which will be fun to discover, because it’s a nice reveal of the plot, are armed in a really cool way.
With Polka Dot Man’s powers being both a handicap and a weapon, the character is so intriguing, and Dastmalchian took it very seriously. The actor is a longtime fan of the comics and has even appeared in the previous two superhero films on both sides of the aisle, but The suicide squad gave him a chance to give depth to a character who had long been written off:
“My character’s abilities… could be viewed in two ways, either as an ability or as a handicap, as something that can cause excruciating pain and discomfort. So building and fleshing out a character that like I told you earlier, something that I immediately found is like being related to Abner was that sense of how that would weigh me down. How can pain because a person’s body somehow comes inward, and how can shame because a person’s body goes down. So it was inward and downward, it was kind of like finding all of my physicality for Abner.
But, at the end of the day, a few people on set still laughed at the idea of Polka-Dot Man being a real actor in the movie. “He’s fucking powerful, my friend,” Safran said. “Wait till you see it in action.”
The suicide squad hits theaters and HBO Max on August 6, 2021.
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