The Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox films inspired by Marvel Comics feature a variety of very different super powered heroes and villains, but if there's one trait many of them share, it's the propensity to crack wise or offer up sarcasm in the face of danger. On February 12th, moviegoers will meet the one Marvel character whose tongue is as sharp as the two katanas he swings.
I'm talking, of course, about the title character of Fox's new Deadpool film, starring Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson—a smart-mouthed and sarcastic mercenary with cancer who volunteers for an experiment that transforms him into a manic, horribly disfigured, unkillable super soldier. Think Bugs Bunny with the fighting skills and healing factor of the X-Men's Wolverine.
Now, some of you unfamiliar with Deadpool's comic book background may be thinking, “Hey! We've seen this character before in the first Wolverine movie!” And you sort of did. Ryan Reynolds played Wade Wilson in the flashback portions of the movie, but the character he became in the present day—that definitely wasn't Deadpool!
Reynolds is actually a huge fan of the character, and a faithful Deadpool feature film adaptation, inspired by the character’s comic adventures, has long been a passion project for him.
Fans of Deadpool comics understand why, too. The character was introduced to the world twenty-five years ago this month, in the pages of “New Mutants” #98, by his creators, Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld. Since then, a number of creators have had fantastic, imaginative, and incredibly hilarious runs on the character.
He's evolved over the years, too. He's still the same mouthy, manic, merc his fans have come to know and love, but these days, he's married to a demon queen, he’s a member of the Avengers, and he’s even a successful business man!
So, in this piece, we'll take a look back at the character's comic history, his core traits, and offer up some suggestions for readers looking to become acquainted—or reacquainted—with Deadpool’s exploits as a comic character.
One of the fun things about Deadpool is he's fully aware of the fact that he is a comic book character. He often breaks the fourth wall to address readers, which his fellow heroes and villains would of course find crazy, but that's just one of Deadpool's many traits that are erratic and annoying to some and highly endearing to others.
One of the reasons I, and so many other readers, love Deadpool is he's a great, charismatic example of the sad clown. He talks too much, and cracks wise to cover up his self-loathing, insecurities, and pain from the traumas he's endured over the years. Some of the best Deadpool comics are the ones that have you laughing hysterically on one page and break your heart on the next.
Deadpool's tragic history as a super powered anti-hero started when a top secret government program offered Wade Wilson a cure for the cancer that was ravaging his body. The government believed they failed, and sent Wilson to a hospice for botched experiment subjects.
It's there that he was tortured by a physician named Doctor Killebrew and adopted the name “Deadpool”—inspired by the betting pool hospice workers had on who would survive Killebrew's sadistic experiments. It's also where Wade's healing factor activated and reacted to the cancer that was killing him. He became horribly disfigured, manic, and virtually unkillable.
However, his disfigurement did not put a damper on his romantic life. Another signature aspect of his stories is his susceptibility to falling for women. A number of them are just as interested, but his erratic behavior or self-loathing often pushes them away.
In the Deadpool feature film, Morena Baccarin plays the silver screen version of one of his oldest flames, Vanessa—AKA the shapeshifting mutant known as Copycat. Over the years though, Deadpool has set his sights on a number of different women, including the physical embodiment of Death in the Marvel Comics Universe, making him a romantic rival of the villain known as Thanos (who will menace the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the upcoming film, Avengers: Infinity War). In 2014, Deadpool finally met the woman for him, when he came face to face with the immortal succubus queen, Shiklah.
Another fun fact is not all the characters Deadpool has lusted over have been female. The comic book Deadpool is pansexual, and Tim Miller, the director of the Deadpool feature film, has confirmed that the cinematic version will be as well. Throughout his history, The Merc with a Mouth has had encounters and thoughts that were both awkward and hilarious with a number of male characters, including Thor, Spider-Man, and the time traveling mutant from the future known as Cable.
Another core Deadpool character trait is the fact that while he has no problems killing people while performing his duties as a mercenary or delivering some pretty cutting verbal barbs, Deadpool is not wicked over evil. He has a unique, but pretty strong moral compass.
In Rick Remender's critically acclaimed Uncanny X-Force series, which is available in two giant-sized graphic novel collections, Deadpool is part of a team of heroic assassins who proactively target villains. He expresses horror and outrage after one of his teammates executes a child that was destined to become a despotic supervillain.
Deadpool has had quite a few fun and cool adventures as part of a team, but for me, his most memorable ones occurred as a solo character or as part of a duo. Writer Joe Kelly got the ball rolling in 1997 when he kicked off a 33-issue run on the first Deadpool ongoing series that really established the title character's signature brand of humor and hijinks. Kelly also established a number of prominent characters and moments in Deadpool history, and if what I heard is true, much of the story of the Deadpool film is inspired by Kelly's run.
Kelly's Deadpool is collected in the affordable Deadpool Classics graphic novel collections, but there's also a deluxe giant-sized omnibus collection. The writer recently returned to the character with the launch of the new Spider-Man/Deadpool series, which as of this writing, has only released one issue.
In 2004, a couple years after Deadpool's first ongoing series came to an end, he was given another book, but this time it was a buddy one that paired him Cable. It also reunited him with his creator Fabian Nicieza, who wrote all 50 issues of the series. Because of my love for buddy action stories, this was the first time that Deadpool appeared on my radar as a character whose adventures I would enjoy.
And boy did I enjoy it. Cable & Deadpool was funny, had all sorts of cool sci-fi ideas, and it was full of pathos. It also showed how much fun it is to bounce Deadpool off other established Marvel characters, be they his co-headliner Cable, the X-Men, or even future Netflix stars Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
The series is currently available in a number of Cable & Deadpool Ultimate Collection graphic novels, but if you have some extra money, definitely check out the Deadpool & Cable Omnibus, which collects the entire series in one deluxe and very nice volume.
Nicieza and Riley Brown, who drew quite a bit of Cable & Deadpool, recently reunited for another story featuring the heavily armed odd couple, Deadpool & Cable: Split Second—a time traveling tale that will be available as a collected graphic novel this April.
The duo are also appearing in the current Uncanny Avengers series by writer Gerry Duggan, whose Deadpool work we'll discuss shortly. Also, you'll want to stay for the post credits sequence of the Deadpool film because Cable is rumored to appear for a sequence that may set up a sequel.
In 2008, shortly after Cable & Deadpool wrapped, Marvel relaunched both characters' solo series. This new Deadpool series was perhaps the first time Deadpool achieved mainstream success among comic fans. Part of that was the timing—many comic fans had become aware of Deadpool—but it was also because writer Daniel Way firmly understood the appeal of the character and what made him great; his unique perspective and the fact that the best Deadpool stories are as tragic as they are comedic.
The writer employed a number of really fun devices to convey Deadpool's warped perspective, from dueling inner monologues to “Pool-O-Vision,” which showed the distorted and often silly way Deadpool viewed what was going on around him.
Readers interested in Way's era of Deadpool should check out the Deadpool by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection graphic novels.
In 2012, Marvel re-launched a new Deadpool ongoing from the writing team of Gerry Duggan and stand-up comedian and actor Brian Posehn. What I loved about their run is they moved Deadpool's story forward by giving their protagonist many of the things he wanted, including a wife, friends, and family, but they still were able to keep the character's tragic nature.
One of my favorite stories of their run was a story arc titled “The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly,” which teamed Deadpool with two other famous Marvel heroes transformed by experiments, Wolverine and Captain America, and broke his heart by revealing that he had a family he never knew about. This story line also allowed Steve Rogers to view Deadpool in a new light, and paved the way for the character's inclusion in Uncanny Avengers.
The first collection of Posehn and Duggan's Deadpool run is simply titled Deadpool Volume 1. Subsequent collections are titled Deadpool by Posehn and Duggan.
Duggan launched a new volume of Deadpool late last year where the character is now one of the Marvel Universe's most popular heroes for a yet to be revealed reason. He's also in charge of his own team of super powered mercenaries that he has dress up just like him.
The first collection of that run should be available in a couple months. It will be titled Deadpool World's Greatest Volume 1: Millionaire With a Mouth. As mentioned, Duggan also writes the character’s adventures with teammates like Steve Rogers, the X-Men's Rogue, and the Fantastic Four's Human Torch over in Uncanny Avengers, and yesterday (two days before the release of the Deadpool film), Marvel released Deadpool #7—a special giant-sized issue celebrating the character's 25th anniversary, featuring a main tale by Duggan and several other stories from other Deadpool creators.
There you have it. Some core reasons why Deadpool is one of Marvel's most fun and fascinating characters, as well as some of my favorite eras in Deadpool's history.
So, if you're intrigued by the Deadpool film, go check out the character's rich comic book history, featuring stories guaranteed to make you laugh, cheer, and believe it or not—probably cry, too.