For the last few weeks, one question has been on everyone’s mind: Who the heck is Polka-Dot Man? At the end of April, it was announced that actor David Dastmalchian would appear as Polka-Dot Man in James Gunn’s Suicide Squad film. After a couple of hilarious appearances in Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Dastmalchian’s name attached to the character caught fans’ attention. Now it’s time to go back and look at who Polka-Dot Man started as, who he became, and then figure out who he might be.
Comics weren’t always what they are now. Before they became Very Serious Stories About People in Tights, comic books were pulp detective stories, then they were wartime propaganda. Then they were the scourge of a good, moral society. Then they were silly stories featuring inoffensive and goofy characters with hyphenated names like The Reverse-Flash, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Matter-Eater Lad and Polka-Dot Man (originally Mister Polka-Dot).
Polka-Dot Man first appeared in Detective Comics #300 in 1962 as Mister Polka-Dot. Abner Krill is one of those villains that people like Harvey Bullock and Hugo Strange rightfully blame Batman for. Polka-Dot Man exists because Batman exists not just as a comic-book character, but in the world of Gotham City – one of the villains who exist purely because he wants to outsmart Batman.
In fact, there isn’t some tragic backstory to Polka-Dot Man; his tragedy comes later on. And the origin of his abilities has never really been given much depth. He has a silly costume covered in polka dots that he can peel off and use for various things through his controller belt.
When Abner peels off one of the dots, it can become any number of things:
- Weapons: Some of the dots act as offensive weapons, such as a buzzsaw Polka-Dot Man could throw at his enemy, or a fist dot that let him literally throw punches.
- Distractions: The sun dot could be thrown and would emit a blinding light.
- Getaway Vehicles: A lot of Polka-Dot Man’s dots were meant to help him get the heck out of dodge; the flying saucer dot would expand into a glider, while a bubble dot turned into a giant, flying bubble. The hole dot acted as a teleportation device.
Polka-Dot Man’s primary goal was to be known throughout the underworld, and his heists where always on-brand. He would do things like robbing the Spot Carpet-Cleaning Company, stealing a black pearl, or making a connect-the-dots map of his robberies.
At one point, Robin sought to track down Polka-Dot Man, but got himself captured in the process. But remember, this was during the silly age of comics, so when Polka-Dot Man forced Robin to write a message luring Batman into a trap, Robin warned Batman with dots of his own – he incorporated braille text into his message, warning Batman and giving him the edge he needed to defeat Polka-Dot Man.
Despite the comics never really explaining where Polka-Dot Man’s gimmicky costume came from, the writers made it an expensive one for the C-tier villain to maintain. Polka-Dot Man had hung up the costume, but later found himself broke and unemployed. Unable to make use of his expensive gadgets, Polka-Dot Man picked up the next best thing – a baseball bat – and made a desperate attempt to rob a jewelry store. After striking a Gotham officer with said instrument, Polka-Dot Man found himself empty-handed and was beaten into traction by Detective Harvey Bullock; Abner filed a formal complaint against Bullock for excessive force.
Polka-Dot Man would spend some time as an alcoholic, though during Final Crisis he joined a group of villains under General Immortus, whose power is being extremely old, along with other dorks like Sportsmaster, Condiment King, and the Human Flame.
You might’ve noticed something by now: no mention of the Suicide Squad. Polka-Dot Man has never been a member of the most government’s shadiest task force. Not even for a second.
But that highlights what might end up being so genius about dropping a Suicide Squad movie in James Gunn’s lap. With the success of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – a movie many comic and movie fans were convinced would bomb hard, but instead did the opposite – it’s likely that Gunn has the entirety of DC’s B, C, and D-list villains to pick from, and the Squad has room for any and all of them.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two more dorks like Kite-Man join the Squad before Gunn is done casting. With Guardians, Gunn showed a knack for picking no-name characters and giving them the right actor and tone to turn them into a compelling character. Marvel’s Star-Lord and Drax are perfect examples, and Polka-Dot Man could end up being exactly that, too. David Dastmalchian has been in his share of funny and weird projects that seem to make him a perfect fit for a James Gunn superhero movie.
The big question that remains is how big of a role he’ll play in the movie. Polka-Dot Man has never been a big character in the comics – hence us all asking who he is. Gunn could use him for a one-beat joke – that would be very easy.
Or Gunn could capitalize on the core of the character – an almost-was criminal craving time in the spotlight after some minor success, who sees the Suicide Squad as a way to get attention.
The Suicide Squad will hit theaters on Aug. 6, 2021, and we’re stoked to see what Gunn does with Polka-Dot Man.