Editor’s note: If you have not yet read Marvel’s Deadpool #250 (a.k.a. #45), then turn back now because this gets into some spoilery territory. Plus it’s a damn fine comic, so you should rob yourself of the joy of reading it.
Don’t you just love the smell of chimichangas in the morning? I certainly do, and so does Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool. It’s hard to imagine a time where the Merc With a Mouth wasn’t the pop culture phenomenon he is today. Honestly, Deadpool’s pop cultural ascendancy is a little bit staggering, considering the character has largely existed on the outskirts of the mainstream since his introduction in 1991. A funhouse mirror version of the Teen Titans’ nemesis Deathstroke, Deadpool resonated with readers thanks to his self-deprecating humor, constant fourth-wall breaking, and his uncanny knack for wreaking bloody havoc wherever he went. An anti-hero who isn’t all doom and gloom? Maybe it’s not so surprising that people latched on to Wade Wilson after all.
Yet Deadpool is anything but a one-note character or paltry comic relief, a fact that was hammered home over the course of Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s excellent run on the comic. Beginning in 2012, the duo took over writing duties as part of Marvel’s company-wide Marvel NOW! initiative, which gave many long-running ongoing titles a fresh start, often with new creative teams and #1 issues. By that point, Deadpool already had a bit of a fan base, but the new series gave it a cult following that seemed to grow with each issue. Though they never shied away from Deadpool’s comedic side, they weren’t afraid to embrace the tragedy inherent to the character, exploring his past in the oddly affecting “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” arc. It was a delicate balance that they preserved over the course of their run, which just came to an end with last week’s Deadpool #45 (technically the 250th issue of Deadpool overall; you can see editor Jordan D. White’s math in our last interview).
Although Deadpool #250 is titled “The Death of Deadpool”, one gets the sense that the Merc with a Mouth isn’t going to be dead for long, especially with Secret Wars right around the corner. Still, for a farewell issue capping off Duggan and Posehn’s run, it is as good of a piece of comics writing as anything in the Deadpool canon. In the A-story, “The Death of Deadpool”, we see not just the literal death of our hero, but a spiritual one as well as Wade Wilson comes to terms with his identity as a contract killer and a father, reconciling the too in a way that is by turns explosive and surprisingly sweet. The end of the issue gives us a tongue-in-cheek send-off in which the entire Marvel Universe gathers in order to roast Deadpool, Friars Club-style. Though it is a story mostly peppered with jokes, it too ends with a cathartic realization on Deadpool’s part, as he confronts the reader directly with a startling realization. In short, it is a fitting farewell to a character we’ve come to know and love in ways we hadn’t previously thought possible.
Recently, I sat down with Gerry Duggan for what is part-exit interview, part-celebration of his time on the book and his work on Deadpool #250 in particular. In our wide-ranging conversation, we discussed everything from hidden easter eggs in the issue, to giving Wade a strange sense of closure to what he’ll miss most about writing the series and beyond. Be sure to stick around until the bitter end because we also have an exclusive gallery of Deadpool art just for you.
Nerdist: I read issue #250, and I liked it a lot. In particular, I really enjoyed that many of the writers who contributed back-up stories were comedians because you definitely see their voices shine through these characters.
Gerry Duggan: Yeah, it was great to see so many folks get to have fun with these toys. The writers came from so many fun places: The Simpsons, The Tonight Show, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and more. So many funny and smart jokes.
N: Seeing how these different comedians and people that aren’t necessarily known for their comics work approach a character like Deadpool was fascinating. It’s a character where you can go a little balls to the wall and be a little goofier, but they still managed to keep it grounded. The one that Ben Acker and Ben Blacker did was surprisingly heartfelt.
GD: Yeah, dude, so great. Those two are comic book ninjas.
N: Now that the issue’s done, are you sad that it’s over? Are you relieved? Somewhere in between?
Gerry Duggan: I guess a little of both. It’s bittersweet, but we’ve had a real fun time. Deadpool’s been very good to us. I hope we were good to Deadpool.
Our editor, Jordan D. White had a lot to do with our success, and he had a lot of help from some great assistants. Your favorite thing about this run probably wasn’t an idea from one of the writers. We all lucked out.
N: Tell me a bit about planning this issue and the writing process. How did you guys and the art team approach it?
GD: I keep writing until it goes to print. The script is a starting point, but I rewrite it like a caption contest after the art comes back. On Deadpool #250, we were well ahead. Everyone had the time they needed to do the best work they could. I hope it feels like a pleasing ending. I’m also grateful because you don’t always get to write endings in comics. Sometimes it’s just are like hey, your comic ending at 38 or at issue 37. “The End” is a rare and fun thing to write into a serial.
N: It was nice because it did feel like you guys got to end on your terms. It didn’t seem like you were rushing to get things done. Those final panels in the A-story where everyone’s on the yacht with Deadpool, and they’re all dressed in white. When I went back to look at it I’m like, “Oh, clearly. They’re already dressed in white. They’re dressed like they’re in heaven already.”
GD: [laughing] They look like they’re going to die. They’re dressed for a funeral. Wade also literally bought a farm in the last chapter.
N: Nothing bad could happen on this yacht.
GD: [laughing] They made it to safety. It was neat to be able to wrap books up. I find that to be as much of a joy as starting a book out. I mean this about The Hulk too. The final issue of The Omega Hulk is coming. The end is a hoot. Playing rough with the toys is the most fun.
N: Well, I imagine it’s going to be satisfying knowing that you can just pull out all the stops. This issue had a little bit of everything that you like about a Deadpool story. You got to see all the characters. You have some really incredible action sequences; just seeing the buildup to that standoff in the desert was so good.
GD: Yeah. Mike Hawthorne is one of the best storytellers in comics. He’s the blockbuster director of action illustrators. It’s really a treat to write for him and see watch him exceed expectations.
N: When you’re working with an artist like Mike Hawthorne, how much do you guys include in the script versus how much does he get to play around with what winds up on the page?
GD: With all of these guys, we always said if you can do this better or draw it in fewer panels or make it funnier — go for it! Declan Shalvey came up with some great gags in the darkest story we had. I’ve never said “no” to Mike, and I’ve never said “no” to Scott if they ever wanted to do what was different from the script, because they were really finding a better way to do what we asked. I was like, “Yeah, of course. Do that.” In fact, if you need a real silly example, Mike accidentally drew hair on Preston’s husband way back in the day. He hadn’t drawn him in a long time, and he forgot that he was balding. He was like, “I gotta go back and redraw some stuff.” I said, “No, no, no. Don’t. We’ll turn it into this weird long gag. Terry didn’t know his wife hadn’t died, and he started to date again. He would take Rogaine and try to lose weight. She was angry about it. I don’t know if anyone will even notice the hair gag, but we played it out right to the very end.
N: Yeah, even at the very end, his hair catches fire and he’s like, “Aw, man, right when I got it the way I wanted it.”
GD: Yes, so stupid. That guy’s dome started as a simple mistake. It may be, in a way, not a great example, because in “The Good, Bad and The Ugly,” Declan gave Deadpool his “D-E-A-D” and “P-O-O-L” brass knuckles, and that’s become sort of iconic. I’ve seen cosplayers with them. Then I wrote a joke around it at the very last second as it was on its way out the door to the printer. All these guys have done things that are probably people’s favorite shit in the comics; that’s all them.
N: But that’s cool than you have that give-and-take, because then that will possibly inspire another story thread that you might not have considered previously.
GD: Oh, for sure. The stories change because of the art and in big and small ways, and that, to me, is the most fun thing about comics. That collaboration when something is after you use your head, is fantastic. Mark Bagley too, on Hulk. I never thought I’d get the job to write Hulk and to have it drawn by Bagley. I was really blown away by how professional, how fast, how great it all looked. I’m in awe of these guys. He would also make some changes, maybe even more than those other guys, and it made me better. I was like, “Oh yeah. Look at that” or “Look at the way that spread opened up.”
N: Yeah, it definitely pays off in this issue it seems like, because these are some spectacular moments. That shot of when Deadpool shoots the terrorist leader guy through the face, and then he’s looking through the gaping hole in his head. The whole time he’s just coming to terms with his existence. It was a very sweet and disturbing dichotomy at the same time, but it was nice to see it play out.
GD: Oh thanks. That’s our homage to our first cover artist, the great Geof Darrow. It’s also — spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read it yet — it’s also a spiritual death. I’ve kidded around about how it’s a funny idea that in the Deadpool comics we would tell a spiritual death story.
N: There are so many iconic shots in this issue. Like the one when he leaves his costume behind and you have the Deadpool mask hanging from his katanas.
GD: Yeah, Mike f–king crushed that. I just said, “We don’t have a lot of space, and it has to be iconic.” That could be the cover to the collection some day.
N: I’m already picturing all the fan art that’s going to be inspired by that image. The penultimate panel is one of my favorites in the entire series, with Wade Wilson hugging his daughter. They’re both being engulfed by flames, but he just has this very beatific smile on his face. It’s just something you don’t picture from Wade Wilson.
GD: Well, thank you. I’m glad. We want to have fun, but hopefully, we left something behind. By the way speaking of Mike Hawthorne and art in that sequence, if you look at the water as the planet is burning up in our atmosphere, our gravity’s gone crazy, and the waves are going nuts; take a look at the water as the boat is jostling. He put a big giant skull into the ocean, which I thought was just incredible. It’s hidden there, but there is a skull. We didn’t see it at first. I think Jordan, the editor, found it.
N: Yeah, I’ve found myself staring at that panel quiet a bit, and there’s one where it looks like a man’s face screaming as well.
GD: Here’s the thing that really — you couldn’t have planned this. It just ended up being lucky. All these guys have very different but very keen, smart, enjoyable senses of humor, whether it was Declan and Jordie, and they have their own sense of humor and they make me laugh a lot with that, and then you laugh at different jokes with Scott, and then Mike is also, you know, Mike is Mike. He’s very, very funny. If you tried to wind that up, you just couldn’t. We all figured out something to laugh at.
The crazy thing about the roast in a weird way is we sort of explained how Wade can break the fourth wall. That stuck with him after wearing The Infinity Gauntlet. I don’t know that we needed to do that, but it makes me laugh.
N: Part of the fun of Deadpool, obviously, is him breaking the fourth wall. These really morbid, sometimes inappropriate quips in contrast with the action on the page. Then you see, like any of us, he’s laughing as a coping mechanism. He leads a tortured existence, and you see those different shots of him through the different infinity stones, just like dealing with all this tragedy and then him turning to the reader. It’s brutal but effective and touching at the same time. It makes you re-evaluate the character in his final moments.
GD: Oh, well, cool. I’m super glad that you dug it. I don’t exactly know what the future holds, but it’ll be fun. I’m very glad to have had this time to help shepherd Deadpool.
N: It’s interesting how much people connect with this character in a way that they don’t connect with other characters in the Marvel universe; because I feel like people like other characters in the Marvel universe, but they identify with Deadpool for some reason.
GD: Yeah, he’s always had an outsider feel, because obviously his looks, especially. He’s an easy underdog to embrace. I think people are charmed by people who are trying to be self-deprecating as a way of employing a defense mechanism against this world. I think it’s fun. I forget where I was, but at the last show I was at I saw a conga line of Deadpools. I just watched in awe, and it didn’t stop. It was just bananas. It seemed like it was a practical joke on me. I just shook my head and laughed as it went by. I wish I had video of it.
N: Yeah, I’m sure it exists somewhere. It has to. I’m trying to look at it objectively, Deadpool you get to live out that fantasy of doing these crazy, over-the-top things. He’s a very violent, bad-ass guy, but then he’s a little bit twisted, and he recognizes all of these traits in himself and acknowledges it to the audience.
GD: That’s actually what I like about him — that he is, deep down, trying to better himself. He’s struggling against the world, and himself. He does acknowledge that stuff. He’s like, “I really wanna kill you, but I’m gonna find a reason not to kill you,” or if he has to kill you, it’s to make the world a but less awful. Morally conflicted characters are fun, and so are dangerous characters.
N: With the roast, did you guys go through a bunch of different iterations of the jokes or were you pretty solid on what you wanted them to be? Did you have to dial anything back where it was just a little too mean?
GD: Not too much. Hopefully, we got away with what we got away with. We wrote jokes at the beginning, and if they survived the process, then you’re looking at them. A lot of the times, we found shorter or funnier ways to say things, so some of the jokes, like Howard the Duck calling Deadpool “Poucho” was a late addition. I don’t know if it’s going to make anyone laugh, but it was like, “Let’s put it in, because we’re not replacing a joke or adding a joke.” I always like to do that anytime I can do that. Scott Koblish is a really funny guy, and deserves a lot of credit for that chapter. He should probably be credited as storyteller. He was turning in pages that had additional reaction shots and suggestions for the joke that would go there, some of them made it, and that particular one, we just said, “Yes, you have a joke.” He’s a stand-up dude, Scott. And a stand-up as I understand it.
N: One of my favorite elements of the roast was seeing Spider-Man just bomb.
GD: I think everyone would think like, “Oh, he would be the best roaster.” But – it’s something very Peter Parker to bomb. I feel like, in a weird way, Spider-Man can be very funny, except if you needed Spider-Man to be funny, and then he’s not going to be funny. Yeah, I’m glad you liked that, because that made me laugh too.
N: He goes so dark, and everyone’s like, “What are you doing?”
GD: Also, he redeemed it in the end by going like, “I’m Doc Ock!” He tried to redeem it. That still made me laugh. At least he got one genuine laugh in the Peter Parker/Spider-Man bomb.
N: The follow-up of Doc Ock saying he’s going to do “The Aristocrats.” I want to see that so badly.
GD: At least we got to see Wolverine wear Jean’s “Inferno” dress.
N: “Who wore it better?”
GD: Yeah. If you actually made that the image of this interview, it might be the greatest thing in the world.
N: Who was responsible for the Thanos-Copter?
GD: I guess I’ll take some responsibility for that. I said, “Oh, we’re doing a Deadpool gets the Infinity Gauntlet thing. We sort of have to include Thanos.” Once we figured out that Thanos was going to be in there, we were like, “Well, he damn well better be flying the Thanos-Copter.”
N: I just love it, that says Thanos on the side. It’s too good.
GD: It happened. It’s canon.
N: Oh, I know.
GD: I hope that it sort of feels like a tip of the cap, and we’re not shitting on anything. I may be wrong, it may be that people are trying to make fun of that old stuff; I’m just trying to make this new comic work with the old stuff.
N: It was a nice throwback to the old Cosmic Cube stories.
N: The nice thing is that, with Deadpool, you feel like you understand that it’s a heightened reality, and the way that it was set up with the little note saying that it was going to be a roast, and you know what you’re in for. That way, I think you’re more willing to accept what’s coming. It’s silly, but so many of the things that happens in the past in Marvel Comics have been silly, and that’s part of why we love it.
GD: Yeah, once we made the decision we were going to do these throwbacks, I think people were understandably a little nervous. I felt like maybe they were at the beginning, where it was like, “What do you really want to do here?” We did the one issue #7 with a proof-of-concept to go, “Hey, we’re gonna build Deadpool a future, but we’re also going to dig into the foundation of the Marvel Universe and give Deadpool if not a past, a history.” Scott and Val Staple’s work on this run is actually going to be its own book; Marvel is publishing a Deadpool throwback collection, which is really cool. I grew up reading comics off a spinner rack. I know I’m showing my age, but that’s what comics looked like then, and we came at it all from a place of love.
N: Yeah, and I think that that definitely shines through. People might not get that Thanos Copter reference, but it never comes across as if you guys are taking a cheap shot.
GD: Yeah, good. We don’t have to talk about this, but I think you’ll like it. For Deadpool #40, we did a fake promotional tie-in comic. It was the magic of fracking. It was like “Roxxon Presents: Deadpool Presents the Magic of Fracking.”
N: Like when Spider-Man would team up with Cap’n Crunch to defeat the Sogs?
GD: Totally. You know like Spider-Man and Aim Toothpaste vs. Green Goblin and cavities. This is all the magic of fracking, and this is all Koblish again. Believe me, we wrote a lot of jokes, and we also just gave him a two-sentence description of how “gracking” works and it became two pages where we go, “Make the earth look really happy as we inject it with chemicals.” It’s meant to get kids excited about fracking. I collect those comics. I collect old bad ones like Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Texas, just a lot of weird shit.
N: Those are some of my favorite parts of just raiding my dad’s comic stash growing up. After you got past all the ads for cardboard cut-outs and Charles Atlas fitness systems, you’d see one page of Batman or Spider-Man using the power of Hostess fruit pies to save the day.
GD: I tried to buy a page of original art from those. It’s actually really hard and really sought after material. In my mind, I thought, “Listen, I can’t afford the good stuff. I’m not going to get a John Byrne page, but maybe I can get time that Daredevil beat up the guy for an Eskimo pie, and it turns out that that is much more difficult proposition to land than almost anything else.
N: That’s so funny. Never underestimate the value of kitsch.
GD: Sad but true.
N: Looking back over the last 45 issues, what are you going to miss most about writing Deadpool?
GD: My day job won’t be as funny. I’ll miss working with the artists. I’ll miss that a lot. Those guys have been really the spine of this thing, so I’m grateful to them. They’ve made us look real good.
N: It’s like a very collaborative medium, and that collaboration made some really incredible issues. You guys should definitely be very proud of this. I feel like this is going to make a nice capstone for your run.
GD: Thanks, man. I really appreciate it. When we started Deadpool, he had two voices, and then Brian and I came along, and we gave him one. Who knows? Maybe he’ll pick up some other voices along the way some day. We’re very grateful. It could have been over very quickly or we people couldn’t have shown up for us, so I’m very quick, rightfully, to credit the fans, we got to write as much Deadpool as we did because our fans bought our comics. I’m very grateful to them. Thanks, Dan!
Marvel Comics’ Deadpool #250 (a.k.a. #45) is available now.