If you saw The Suicide Squad, chances are good you found yourself feeling a good deal of sympathy for the Polka-Dot Man, a fellow infected with an interdimensional virus that forced him to expel dangerous polka dots.
Yeah, the inspiration for that character was nothing like that.
First appearing in Detective Comics #300 in February of 1962, Abner Krill began his career in crime as…Mister Polka-Dot. He wore a white jumpsuit covered in different colored and sized dots (so, as many have observed, technically not polka dots), and he could remove those dots to form various devices and weapons.
Anyway, Batman dealt with that guy. He’d come back later with the modified name of the Polka-Dot Man but still basically the same guy. By then, it did seem as if the Powers That Be at DC decided he was more of a joke than anything else, as his handful of appearances often had him defeated not by Batman but by Robin.
OK, one time it was Nightwing, who used to be Robin, but it was still a rather pathetic outing for the guy.
Polka-Dot Man eventually died. He was part of a group of lesser villains tracking down the Human Flame–the closest the Silver Age ever came to giving the Martian Manhunter an arch enemy–to take him out. The Flame had, during the Final Crisis, vouched for evil thing Equinox, and a lot of the world fell to the Anti-Life Equation. Once everything had been fixed, the Flame found himself on a lot of hit lists. That included a group of baddies that included the Polka-Dot Man, and, well, then this happened:
So, this was the guy James Gunn wanted for The Suicide Squad? A character known mostly as a joke to begin with?
But then David Dashmalchian got cast, the character’s general pathetic-ness was emphasized in a way that made him a hell of a lot more tragic than anything else, and we got a guy who stole scenes when before he had trouble stealing Robin’s lunch money.
So, that’s the Polka-Dot Man. A guy with bad fashion sense, terrible powers, and not a lot going on until James Gunn got his hands on him. It just goes to show even the silliest character has potential when put in the hands of the right person.