First, a little context. I've long been of the opinion that Bane, the Batman villain, tells the Batman story better than Batman does.
My posts usually degenerate into a word salad of nerd rage where Batman is concerned, but I'm going to forego that this time, save to observe that it's only in the world of comic books that a brilliant, handsome and athletic man with a doting guardian and a trust fund big enough to travel the world in order to learn esoteric disciplines from far flung masters is considered in any way "disadvantaged".
Sure, Batman crafted himself into someone who could fight shoulder to shoulder with people who bench press cars and shoot death rays out of their eyes. Bane did the same thing, even beating Batman at his own game. And he rose from humbler origins to do it.
Consider, then, Amanda Waller. A single mother, a widow, with several children, some of whom died on the streets. A black woman who lived in public housing all her life. Short, fat, ugly, poor. And yet, within a period of a few years, she managed to claw her way to the top of the political arena, to the shadowy corridors where the true power brokers dwell. She lives every day as a battle and faces it with the kind of iron determination Green Lanterns can only envy.
(Also, it's a crime against humanity that Amanda Waller was in the Green Lantern movie, but not as the Green Lantern.)
She is the greyest of the grey. She lives in a world with no place for doubt or scruple. She is best known for running a team of supervillain field operatives, each with a bomb in his head to ensure compliance. She reminds me of a quote by Roger Zelazny, of which Corwin said of himself: "In the mirrors of the many judgments, my hands are the color of blood. I am a part of the evil that exists in the world and in Shadow. I sometime fancy myself an evil which exists to oppose other evils...and on that Great Day of which prophets speak but in which they do not truly believe, on that day when the world is completely cleansed of evil, then I, too, will go down into darkness, swallowing curses. Perhaps even sooner than that, I now judge. But whatever . . . Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless."
She's a fascinating counterpart to vigilante heroes who break the law in the service of the greater good. She does the same thing. She just draws the line in a different place.
Let's talk about the way she looks, because I think that's as important a component to her identity as anything. Some pictures.
This is Amanda Waller.
This is not.
No less an authority than John Ostrander agrees*, “I think the changes made in her appearance are misguided. There were and are reasons why she looked the way she did. I wanted her to seem formidable and visually unlike anyone else out there. Making her young and svelte and sexy loses that. She becomes more like everyone else. She lost part of what made her unique."
Heck, I certainly understand the appeal. All things being equal, most people would prefer to look at a person they find attractive, rather than a person that they don't. That's nearly a tautology. Part of the reason I initially steered away from Arrow was that the promotional material made it look like a typical CW Teen show, where everyone is blandly and homogeneously attractive.
I don't believe that adaptations should require rigid adherence to the source material. If Harry Potter had been given blond hair for the films, I think I would have found such a change pointless, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that it ruined the character.
Amanda Waller is different. Her disadvantages are multiplicative, meaning that, as hard as it is for a minority woman to get ahead, it's exponentially harder for a portly, lower class, unattractive minority woman.
It's not just that Amanda Waller has consistently been portrayed as a far older woman with a very different body type, it's that if Amanda Waller looked like Addai-Robinson, she would never have had the experiences that were so central to her character.
Like I said, I don't require slavish adherence to canon. The medium is the message, after all. What works for comic books might not translate to television. However, at this point, she has so little in common with her namesake that the story would probably be better served by substituting an original character who plays a similar role, swapping a Talisa Maegyr for a Jeyne Westerling, so to speak.
* Though I suppose, given the circumstances, that I'm agreeing with him, rather than he's agreeing with me.