The Suicide Squad is a collection of supervillains forced by the government to carry out missions considered too dangerous for nice people. After the lethargic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the film hopes to ignite the DC cinematic universe as The Avengers did for Marvel. Featuring an assortment of notorious and less-notorious ne'er-do-wells, only the hardcore comic book fan has a hope of keeping track of all the characters. So read and memorise our Suicide Squad cheatsheet before you set out for the cinema:

Definitely late in the queue when they were handing out superhero names, Rick Flag is a former fighter pilot driven to seemingly doomed causes after his entire squadron sacrificed themselves on a mission. (In some versions this happens to his father, Richard Flag – the Flag clan are unassuming in their monikers.) He’s the leader of the Suicide Squad, quite remarkable when fellow members include a powerful sorceress, an expert assassin and a crocodile. But then you should never make your star player captain – and compared to his companions Flag is a balanced member of society. As Governor Conway, Joel Kinnaman recently faced off against Kevin Spacey in House of Cards; the Joker should be a doddle by comparison.

The Joker’s sometime girlfriend with whom he shares a volatile and abusive relationship. Originally a psychiatrist in Gotham’s Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel fell for the dubious charms of her most colourful patient and reinvented herself as the equally unhinged Harley Quinn. Judging by the trailer, the film isn’t straying from this treatment. Traditionally Harley is a more sympathetic character than the Joker, more enabler than killer. Unusually she was created for Batman: The Animated Series but proved so popular she quickly moved into comics and the wider folklore. Early buzz has Margot Robbie as the film’s star turn and she certainly dominates the promotion.

A Batman veteran, having made his first appearance in 1950, the hitman Deadshot (not to be confused with the similarly deadly Deadpool) started life as an antagonist but slowly graduated into a more complex antihero. As the name suggests, Deadshot is a bit of a dab marksman – indeed like Scaramanga and Daredevil’s Bullseye, he claims “never to miss”. Needless to say, the other hitmen eventually missed; bet on Deadshot to also miss a target, especially if he’s aiming at Batman. After accidentally shooting his brother as a youth Deadshot is indifferent to his survival, and joined the squad primarily for the “suicide” aspect. He also has a daughter in this film adaptation, presumably to win over audiences. Played by Will Smith, expect gruff charisma and at least one killer payoff.

Now things start getting weird. Wrestler Waylon Jones developed a rare – and we mean rare – genetic condition that transformed him into a vicious, anthropomorphic crocodile; puts your summer sniffles into perspective, at least. One of Batman’s most brutal adversaries, Killer Croc featured in the popular Arkham Asylum video games but Suicide Squad marks his first major film appearance. Big, dangerous and very, very scaly, Killer Croc also shares a predilection for human flesh. Actor Akinnuoye-Agbaje described his character as "a cannibal with rage issues"… So that’s good.

Formerly a freelance artist, Jane Moore is transformed into the Enchantress by a magical being when attending a party at Terror Castle. (Lesson: if somebody invites you to a party at Terror Castle, maybe give it a miss.) Like the majority of the squad, she has fluctuated between ‘evil’ and ‘morally compromised’ depending on the story. The extent of her powers in the film are unclear from the trailers, although it appears she can switch between Jane and Enchantress so maybe expect a Bruce Banner / Hulk conflict of personalities. Model Cara Delevingne sports a grungier look than normally encountered on the Burberry catwalk.

Take a wild guess as to this fellow’s weapon of choice. Raised in Australia, Boomerang is very much the joker of the Suicide Squad (the actual Joker isn’t a member) and strongly disliked by his companions. Highly individualistic, he’s the type of smirking arsehole who sat at the back of the classroom and insulted everyone. Director David Ayers has described Boomerang as "the most villainous of all these characters", which is something of an achievement in a warped kind of way. Unlike most of the gang, Boomerang isn’t traditionally a Batman villain; his archenemy is the legendary Captain Didgeridoo. (Only kidding: it’s The Flash.)

We’re straying away from niche characters and into the outright obscure. As such, it’s unlikely El Diablo will play a major role in the film but if you want to show off to your girlfriend (ahem): he’s a former gang member with the ability to conjure and control flames. Shares this Joker’s affinity for tattoos, especially tattooes all over his face. Second only to Killer Croc in the ‘guy you’d least like to meet down a dark alley’ sweepstake.

Former chemist. Kills people with ropes. Unrelated to the considerably more famous heavy metal band. Almost certain to be killed off, as you can’t call it the Suicide Squad and have everyone survive. Sorry Slipknot.

The odd one out. Katana is the only heroic member of the squad, having also been a member of the Justice League. Takes her name from the katana swords she wield with considerable prowess. Apparently the swords trap the souls of their victims, although it’s not clear how literally one should take this. Most likely here to help Rick Flag retain control over his charges – and he’ll need all the help he can get.

Not a member but certainly deserves a mention. Batman’s arch-nemesis is a pop culture icon in his own right and perhaps the only superhero villain who transcends the medium in the manner of Batman and Superman. The Clown Prince of Crime is a manic psychopath of fluid origin – the most common Joker backstory is as a failed stand-up comedian driven to petty crime with unfortunate consequences – but such is the power of the character it seems likely Suicide Squad will present a fully formed Joker in the style of The Dark Knight. Jared Leto’s tattooed look has already garnered controversy; but then so did the casting of Heath Ledger. Hopefully, Leto won’t take the pressure too seriously.

Suicide Squad is released in UK cinemas on August 5