Welcome back to Before You Go — an occasional column where I tell you more than you ever cared to know about whatever nerd-centric character is opening a movie this weekend.
It’s hard to break through in the superhero business. Most of the big, iconic ones were either created in the late ’30s-early ’40s (Superman,Batman, Captain America,Wonder Woman) or during the great Marvel explosion of the early ’60s (Spider-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men).
But every once in a while a super-type strikes a chord. Some make a loud noise for a brief time while others show staying power. Deadpool makes a very loud noise and he’s been making it for 25 years.
Merc With A Mouth
Wade Wilson made his comic debut in the 98th issue of “The New Mutants” (an X-Men spinoff), cover-dated Feb. 1991. Created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, Deadpool started out life as a villain, a mercenary killer for hire. He was fast, agile and good with a gun and a sword. However, being the bad guy means you usually end up on the losing end of things.
Deadpool became popular in large part due to his irreverent ways and his non-stop chatter. “The Merc With A Mouth” became his tagline. Deadpool was the villainous opposite of Spider-Man, a guy who was always quick with a quip, even in the middle of a gun fight.
Well, as soon as Marvel realized they had a breakthrough character, they quickly did what they always do — saturate the market. And since Deadpool was a villain, Marvel did what they always do when a villain becomes popular — they made him into a hero. Or an antihero as the case may be. All that killing people stuff? We’ll work around it.
After a couple of lackluster miniseries, ‘Pool was given a solo title in 1997. Writer Joe Kelley was given the task of turning Wade from zero to hero. Ed McGuinness provided the artwork for most of the early run.
That first Deadpool series was well received but didn’t draw in lots of readers. Marvel threatened to pull the plug on it several times but Casey was able to finish his long redemption arc by the book’s 25th issue. ‘Pool will never be squeaky-clean like Superman, and he’ll still kill someone more often than not, but he means well.
Although he’s linked to the X-Men, Deadpool is not a mutant. Wade Wilson started out as a thug and a mercenary who one day learned he had terminal cancer. The Canadian government (like Wolverine and Anne Murray, Deadpool is Canadian) offered to put him through a series of experiments that might cure his cancer. It did and in the process left him with incredible healing powers.
The downside was it left him horribly disfigured (how horribly depends on the artist). For this reason his mask and costume cover his entire body because he’s pretty self-conscious about his looks.
I quit reading Deadpool comics when Joe Kelley left with issue 33. So I can’t really update you on his story today, but I can confirm that he is everywhere. You can’t shake a stick near a Marvel comic and not hit Deadpool. I couldn’t tell you why he’s so popular, and I doubt Marvel could either. Everybody loves a violent smartass, I guess.
Deadpool: Movie Star (first try)
Wade Wilson made his film debut in 2009 in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” It was not an auspicious debut. Arguably the worst “X-Men” film to date, “XO:W” got many things wrong, among them Deadpool. Played by Ryan Reynolds, he did a decent job with the character until the big final fight, when Wade appears with his mouth sewn shut. A Deadpool that doesn’t talk completely misses the point of the character.
Still, Reynolds felt some kind of affinity with the character (which is kinda scary given the kinda guy Wade is) and worked long and hard to bring him back to the big screen on better terms.
Every superhero, even the anti-ones, needs a support group. Here is Deadpool’s:
- Weasel. Wade’s best friend and confidant. In the comics, he was also Deadpool’s tech guy. In the movie, he runs Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children, the place where Pool and his mercenary friends hang out.
- Patch. The guy who really runs Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children. He’s not in the movie. Apparently they combined him and Weasel into one person to save money.
- Vanessa. Wade’s main squeeze. In the comics she’s a mutant shape-shifter code-named Copy Cat (think Mystique but with lighter blue skin). In the movie she has no super powers. Maybe the sequel.
- Blind Al. Deadpool’s roommate/prisoner. There was an odd couple. I think at some point Kelly explained why Al was considered ‘Pool’s prisoner, but I’ve long since forgot the reason. In the movie they leave out the whole “prisoner” aspect.
- Ajax. Francis was the muscle at the secret compound where Wade was subjected to many horrors in an attempt to cure his cancer and make him superhuman.
- Dr.Killebrew. The doctor who performed the experiements. He’s not in the movie. In another cost-saving move, they combined his character with Ajax.
- Colossus. C’mon, you know who he is. X-Man of Steel. To the best of my knowledge, never played a significant role in a Deadpool comic. But I guess he comes cheaper than any of the other X-Men.
- Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Yes, there really is a junior X-Man called Negasonic Teenage Warhead. She first appeared in 2001 in “New X-Men” 115. I’m pretty sure I have that comic but I don’t remember anything about Negasonic Teenage Warhead. I’m not a big fan of the junior X-Men.
Read More About It
It’s almost scary to consider how many trees have died so Marvel could publish Deadpool comics and trades. I couldn’t begin to tell you which ones are good or bad, so we’ll just focus on what I’m familiar with.
Deadpool’s early days are covered in the three-volume “Deadpool Classic” series. If you want to read all of the Joe Kelly run it’s available in the 1,160-page “Deadpool Omnibus.” That’s a whole lotta Deadpool. It’s good stuff but don’t read it all in one sitting.
And of course it would be remiss of me to not mention the only recent Deadpool book I’ve read — “Hawkeye vs. Deadpool.” While I didn’t buy the book for Wade, he does play off Clint Barton pretty well.
And that’s all you need to know…before you go.