I have a great deal of respect for bit players and what they add to the narrative tapestry of a dramatic story. I’ve written at length about my love of Lobot and, as another example, I found myself cheering anytime Morn graced the screen of the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 television series.  You can keep your Sisko, Dax, and Bashir. It was those increasingly regular times when Morn silently walked through the background or pulled up to the bar at Quark’s that made my week shine.

There’s just something in my DNA that likes to root for the underdog. That unappreciated, “destined to be a peg warmer action figure” individual will always have my respect. For me, it comes out as a passion for background characters that somehow manage to still develop recurring roles or their own mythology. We’ve heard the story many times, be it in television or film, where a character once considered throwaway makes it big and becomes a story focal point over time. I love that kind of lore.

In this spirit, as the new Suicide Squad film moves to the big screen next week, I feel like I’ve already spotted my favorite secondary character before I even sit down to watch the film. Keep your Joker, Harley, and other Suicide Squad collectibles; for me, it’s already all about Killer Croc!

Croc is most commonly known as a rogue’s gallery supervillain making life rough for Batman and Gotham City over in DC Comics. He’s been around since 1983 and owes his first appearance to writer Gerry Conway and artist Gene Colan bringing him to life in Detective Comics #523. Of course, he was only a shadowed cameo in that first issue, but he’s made quite a splash (and left some bloody messes in his wake) in the years since. Certainly not on the level of the Riddler, Penguin, Two-Face and the Joker, I do think he’s been steadily clawing and biting his way up the ranks of infamy year after year.

His appearance can vary widely in both comic book and animated presentations. An ex-wrestler with a rare genetic condition (called regressive atavism), he has a scaled look that is sometimes served up as a man with hardened skin, coarse skin. At other times he’s more like an anthropomorphic crocodile. Over the year’s we’ve seen every version in between but the film leans more heavily toward the original, traditional interpretation of Killer Croc (my personal favorite) which when released in its raw fury is downright intimidating.

One constant, which has evolved for the character, has been his desire to fight his own cravings while still reveling in a brutal, force of nature approach to life. Sure he’s cannibalistic, but there’s a heart there just below the surface and it’s that redemptive villain with an almost hidden Frankenstein sensibility of “just let me live a life in peace” that really works for me. When done right in his stories (be they comic, television, video game, novel or even animated in nature) he becomes a very sympathetic character.

This brings me back to the Suicide Squad film. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has portrayed the character here. In truth though, Killer Croc (aka Waylon Jones) was taking a backseat to the rest of the cast before this film was even shot. You see, he wasn’t actually the director’s first choice for the monster role on the team. Director David Ayer recently revealed that he originally wanted King Shark to be the monster fighting alongside Harley Quinn. What gave Croc the slot? To present King Shark they would have had to go all CG for the character and the director simply didn’t want an all-digital character in the film. In fact, in interviews, he’s been particularly proud of the level of makeup that goes into creating Croc. He’s explained that you could be sitting across the table staring into Croc’s eyes and have no discernable way to see where the makeup stops and the man begins.

In the film, it reads as if they are working to make Croc more of a sympathetic character. In the comics, Killer Croc came from an abusive home and was tormented by his looks when he was young. It was that abuse that made him so vicious and turns to live outside the system underground. For many years, Croc was more a force of nature kind of villain basking in his unrestrained brutality, which didn’t do much for me as a reader. It is only in the more modern era where Croc is starting to turn the tables on his own faults that I think he’s become really interesting. These days you will see him saying, “I’m beautiful” embracing his looks. Instead of hiding from the public, he’s beginning to say, “this is my kingdom” and working to come out of the shadows and claim his life. For people who have been persecuted or share disfigurement or disability, this is a powerful message if the film finds a way to present it well.

It would have been easy to design Killer Croc as just that… a killer. From everything I’ve read, it appears that this version of Croc is going to be as layered with emotional depth and I love that they seem to be getting the character right. Adewale commenting to reporters on his portrayal of the character in the film recently explained, “You’ll see that the layers come out in Croc. We’re not about just making this beast. We’re making a being.”

In the film, there is a scene where they drop a goat into his cell to feed him. Sure he tears into with utter ferocity, but be sure to notice the finely carved cat sculptures along the walls. With the fury comes the artist. With the villain comes the hero fighting to save the city and his life, which he wants to preserve. His character, in a nutshell, encompasses everything that the Suicide Squad is trying to pull off here. It’s the ultimate mission to find good in even the darkest places and allow it to shine through while still keeping that naughty side handy, just in case.

Is it any surprise that, for me, Killer Croc is pulling me to the theater every bit as hard as the rest of the cast? Here the bit player who wasn’t even originally supposed to be in the film has a chance to rise and shine. Besides, with an interesting look as we’re seeing in the advance footage and photos, there’s no way this guy is going to turn out a peg warmer!

Now, before I go I need to acknowledge that you are here at CompleteSet for a reason right? Sure you wanted to learn all about Killer Croc and get some tidbits from Suicide Squad, but I’m betting you would also love to see some collectibles to celebrate the character. Let’s give you a few to pursue and collect as Killer Croc has certainly had his moments over the years.

Walking you through that mix of figure focused fun, here a few quick standouts to explore as you make your way down to the sewer in search of old Croc. Top left and bottom right we have two action figures (Killer Croc With Baby Doll from DC Collectibles and Killer Croc from Kenner) celebrating Croc’s appearances in Batman: The Animated Series. In the top, middle spot Croc gets a bit more stylized as Jada Toys serves him up in 1:18 scale. On the top, right we have a solid character representation I plan to nab for my workspace. I love everything about this figure right down to the dangling suspenders. Finally, we have a perfect examination of the character from the film (bottom, left) that just nails that growling smile we’ve seen so often in early film footage.

Take some time and search around CompleteSet as there are even more Killer Croc moments to uncover. Whether you’re looking for a plush, a Kawaii Cube or even a Funko Pop! or two, we have you set for the upcoming film. I know I’ll be picking up my fair share as I add Killer Croc to my ever-growing list of unsung heroes and redemptive villains.