Of all the unusual and slightly obscure characters in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, one of the most interesting might just be Polka-Dot Man. Played by David Dastalmachian in the film, the character hasn’t had a lot of appearances in comics since his debut in Detective Comics #300 in 1962 but when he has appeared, he’s kind of been something of a joke. Even Gunn himself has called Polka-Dot Man the “dumbest DC character of all time”. But in The Suicide Squad, the character finally gets his due and the film makes major changes to his origin in the process.
Warning! Spoilers beyond this point for The Suicide Squad. If you have not seen the film, you might want to stop reading here.
In comics, Abner Krill/Polka-Dot Man is also known as Mister Polka-Dot and is an early one of Batman’s rogues. His backstory isn’t something that is especially fleshed out, but his gimmick is pretty straightforward. Mister Polka-Dot wears a white costume covered with multicolored polka dots that transform into weapons or escape devices when pulled from the costume. As his gimmick is technology-based, Krill would also rig his dots with self-destruct mechanisms so that no one else could use or inspect it. Not only is his whole thing kind of a joke, but it’s also expensive meaning that he’s not always able to maintain his villainous efforts.
In The Suicide Squad, Gunn gives Krill a genuine backstory as well as reinvents his “gimmick”. In the film, while Krill wears a white costume with colorful polka dots adorning it, that’s where the similarities end. We learn that Polka-Dot Man actually generates his polka dots in his body, the result of experimentation by his mother. A scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, Krill’s mother used him and his siblings as guinea pigs, determined to give them superpowers and turn them into superheroes. Krill in particular was infected with an inter-dimensional virus that, if he doesn’t expel the dots twice a day, will disfigure him and then literally eat him alive.
If that wasn’t difficult enough, having these awful and weird powers as the result of abuse by his mother, Krill is also dealing with PTSD and trauma from his childhood as well. While Krill survived his mother’s horrific experimentation, some of his siblings did not. When we meet Polka-Dot Man in The Suicide Squad, he’s a deeply sad and depressed individual who welcomes the idea of dying on Task Force X’s mission. However, by the end, he not only finds his place but briefly gets to see himself as a hero before his demise. It’s a journey that Dastmalchian has spoken about previously.
“I can tell you that my character Abner is someone who has lived a lifetime with a lot of pain, a lot of shame, a lot of solitude because of a condition that he has,” Dastmalchian said. “That condition was something that he decided at a certain point in time would be best suited to hurt other people or at least perform acts of crime, so that he could get some vengeance against a cruel and unfair world. Things haven’t gone great in Abner’s life basically since day one, so as we find him entering this story, he’s somebody that has never been a part of anything, so even in a bunch of really broken misfits and criminals, he’s maybe found one of the first moments in his life where he’s a part of something.”
The Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters and on HBO Max.