WWE icon turned actor John Cena plays Peacemaker in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad – and an upcoming DC TV show – but who is he? The Suicide Squad, Gunn’s quasi-sequel to David Ayer’s divisive 2016 film, follows that movie’s lead by giving multiple lesser-known DC characters their first shot on the big screen. Just as Suicide Squad brought characters like Captain Boomerang and Enchantress into the DCEU, The Suicide Squad introduced characters like Peacemaker, Polka-Dot Man, and The Thinker to the franchise.
Putting the spotlight on such obscure players in such a big movie might seem like a risk, but if anyone knows how to do that successfully, it’s Gunn. The director of course guided the Guardians of the Galaxy, who were total nobodies to most of the moviegoing public, to two smash-hit films that thrilled both critics and audiences. He’ll eventually direct the Guardians in a third MCU film as well but, thanks to the infamous firing and rehiring of Gunn by Disney, he’s taking a detour into the DC world.
And this has paid off in establishing figures like Peacemaker, who still retains much of the original comic version of the character while also being remade for Gunn’s own means. Cena taking the role of a deeply troubled jingoistic figure who is arguably the secondary antagonist of the film is an unexpected route, but one that also pays off thoroughly, and establishes an undeniably interesting premise for the upcoming Peacemaker show.
Peacemaker’s Origins in DC Comics
While Peacemaker’s look is a bit reminiscent of the more famous antihero Judge Dredd, his backstory is quite a bit weirder. In fact, it’s so weird that James Gunn choosing Peacemaker for The Suicide Squad makes perfect sense. Peacemaker first appeared in 1966, on the pages of Charlton Comics. When that company went under in the 1980s, DC Comics acquired the character. Peacemaker’s first and best-known incarnation is Christopher Smith, the son of an Austrian industrialist that turned out to be a secret Nazi war criminal. The man then killed himself, which Christopher saw, and naturally, that did a number on him mentally.
As an adult, Christopher joined the Army, and thanks to hallucinating instructions from his father, led a full-on massacre of an innocent village. Needless to say, he went to prison, but once paroled, became a part of a government program called Project: Peacemaker. The program was ultimately shut down, but after returning to Austria to take over the family business, Christopher used his money and resources to found the Pax Institute charity, advocating for the victims of war crimes. Behind the scenes though, Christopher resumed Project: Peacemaker with noble goals, only to be further thrown off course by his growing mental illness. Fully formed, Peacemaker is a man so obsessed with attaining peace that he’ll literally kill to make that happen, and brutally at that.
Peacemaker’s Powers in DC Comics
Generally, Peacemaker doesn’t have any superpowers, but like Batman, his money and resources are a superpower unto themselves. Peacemaker, much like John Cena, is always in peak physical condition, and while he may not be Thor or Superman in that regard, can likely wipe the floor with any human being. Peacemaker also has access to state-of-the-art, military-grade weaponry, which he originally intended to use non-lethally, at least until madness started to consume him.
He’s skilled in hand-to-hand combat as well, and also an excellent driver and can pilot aircraft with precision. He’s also great at tactical strategy, which make sense with his military background, and previous training with the government. Peacemaker might well be for DC what Captain America is to Marvel, were it not for the fact that he’s erratic, unpredictable, and murderous – which admittedly are large caveats.
Peacemaker’s DCEU Powers & Origin (& What The Suicide Squad Changed)
The Suicide Squad‘s version of Peacemaker maintains many similarities from the comics. This is largely in terms of powers, as many of the weapons that Cena uses in the film appear to be similar to the “intended to be non-lethal but used for murder” weaponry the comic Peacemaker’s arsenal contains. Similarly, the film Peacemaker appears to have no superpowers, and fights using his considerable arsenal and extensive physical training. This said, Peacemaker’s backstory in the DCEU is currently more or less unknown to audiences, as little was revealed in terms of his history, so his origins could potentially be much different. Thus far, though, it seems likely his origins are also similar at the least, as Peacemaker seemingly being released from a prison cell at the beginning of the movie suggests The Suicide Squad takes place during his time in prison.
John Cena Plays Peacemaker In The Suicide Squad & His Own HBO Max TV Show
It’s a bit surprising that Peacemaker, of all people, will become the first DCEU character to headline their own TV series. However, this knowledge did set up for an effective plot twist when it was revealed that he had not died as a result of his shoot-out with Bloodsport, and that the show thus appears to continue after the events of The Suicide Squad. Gunn could’ve conceivably decided to write a show about any character from The Suicide Squad, but he chose Peacemaker, which says a lot for what he must see in Cena’s potential in the role.
Considering that the film provides a clear portrayal of Peacemaker as a man willing to sacrifice any semblance of morals for what he perceives as the good of his country, and Cena’s prior comments about Peacemaker being like a “douchey Captain America,” it’s clear that the Peacemaker series will continue to explore the complicated – and questionable – moral compass this character is motivated by. Interestingly, the scene showing that Peacemaker has survived the events of The Suicide Squad also establishes that Waller’s employees have been tasked with assisting Cena’s character in a plot to save the world as punishment for knocking Amanda unconscious in order to aid the Squad. With this in mind, the plot of Peacemaker is sure to be as dramatic as it is potentially morally dubious.
Peacemaker’s DCEU Future After The Suicide Squad
It’s unclear what kind of long-term contract, if any, John Cena has with DC and Warner Bros., but considering how fast the studios greenlit the Peacemaker TV show for HBO Max, they’re likely just as high on him as James Gunn. If that’s the case, Cena could have a long future in the DCEU. With his role in The Suicide Squad balancing comedy and deeply serious moments well, it’s clear the character has a lot of potential, and his status as a government-employed villain only makes the DCEU more interesting for him being in it. Although the show could well end with his death after it was only narrowly avoided in The Suicide Squad, Cena’s proficiency in the role means that later installments would likely benefit from him appearing in them.
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