He’s murdered the entire Marvel universe. He’s wielded the Infinity Gauntlet…only to use it for a Friar’s Club-style roast in his honor. He has battled zombified version of nearly every United States president. And his undying love of Mexican food—specifically those deep-fried delectables known as chimichangas—is rivaled only by his adoration of Golden Girls star Bea Arthur. Who is this international man of mayhem, mischief, and mystery? Why, it’s Deadpool, of course!
After six long years, Marvel’s very own Merc with a Mouth is finally getting his very own movie on February 12, 2016. Starring Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, the film will tell the weird but true origin story of how former special forces operative Wade Wilson’s attempt to cure his cancer leaves him horribly disfigured, imbued with super powers, and on a quest for revenge. Sounds fun, right?
While it may seem like Deadpool is everywhere right now, too often do I hear people ask questions like, “Who is Deadpool?” or “You mean the weird zombie guy from X-Men Origins: Wolverine?” or “Why is Spider-Man murdering people with a katana?” Fear not, though, because I’m here to help; on today’s episode of The Dan Cave, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Deadpool before you see the movie.
So, where did he come from?
Deadpool first burst on to the scene in 1991 in Marvel Comics’ New Mutants #98, created by artist Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza. Clad in an imposing black-and-red costume, covered in God knows how many pouches, and wielding two swords, Deadpool was a contract killer hired by a man named Tolliver to assassinate Cable and X-Force. Despite his best efforts, Deadpool wound up with multiple knives in his back and was unceremoniously shipped back to the man who had hired him.
Deadpool in New Mutants #98
He was a far cry from the motormouthed, fourth-wall breaking, occasionally suicidal, chimichanga-munching antihero we know and love today. This Deadpool was dark, brooding, and menacing in a way that seemed familiar. Maybe a little too familiar. That’s because he was essentially a rip-off of DC Comics’ villain Deathstroke, something which Nicieza realized after Liefeld turned in his design. Deciding to roll with it, they made Deadpool something of a Deathstroke satire, naming him Wade Wilson in honor of DC’s Slade Wilson.
What made this bastard child of Spider-Man and Deathstroke resonate with readers was his complicated morality and his tendency to run his mouth during battle. Yes, he was a mercenary, an assassin for hire, but he only took contracts he believed in. He wasn’t explicitly villainous, but he wasn’t a goody two-shoes either. He kicked ass, took names, and cracked wise all the while. Oh, and he showed up to gun fights with two swords, and and to sword fight with a small arsenal of guns on the regular, so that elevated his “awesome factor” considerably in the estimation of most readers.
As the years wore on, writers like Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Daniel Way, and Gerry Duggan put their own unique stamp on Wade Wilson, taking him from a straight villain to a complicated antihero with deep-seated psychosis and a wicked sense of humor. Along the way, his propensity for internal monologues transitioned into a full-on awareness that he was in a comic book. The voices in his head manifested as those little yellow caption boxes, and he would frequently reference both the reader and the creative team bringing him to life. It’s made for a deranged sense of humor that served as a pleasant counterweight to the sometimes hyperviolent, gruesome, or heavy situations and subject matter that the character explored.
Breaking the fourth wall in Deadpool, Vol. 5 #3
Okay, but what’s his origin story?
That’s a great question. Deadpool is mentally unstable, which many writers have used to their advantage over the years to retcon and rewrite his backstory. The result is that Deadpool is a profoundly unreliable narrator and his origin is a Rashomon-esque mishmash of half-truths, mystery, and murder. That being said, we know a few things to be true:
Before he was a masked mercenary named Deadpool, he was a man named Wade Wilson. Born possibly in small-town Ohio, Wilson had abusive parents who both met untimely ends—his mother died of cancer, and his father died in a drunken scuffle with one of Wade’s friends. (Depending on which writer is telling the story, that is.) After a brief stint in the military, Wade bounced around the country, training as an assassin and working as a mercenary for hire. For a trained killer, Wade’s life was going pretty well; he even began dating a teenaged prostitute named Vanessa Carlysle (who would eventually become a blue-skinned mutant shapeshifter named Copycat, and will be played by Morena Baccarin on the big screen). Then, life caught up with Wade, and he contracted cancer.
Desperate for a cure and not wishing to be a burden on anyone, he fled the country, seeking an experimental treatment in Canada. The treatment, administered by a Canadian covert ops bureau known as Department K, was in fact part of the Weapon X program: a classified genetic modification program designed to transform its patients into living weapons. Many of you likely know about this from X-Men, because it is the same program that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton. Speaking of Wolverine, Wilson was infused with his healing factor, which managed to effectively cure the cancer by keeping it at bay and regenerating the dying cells. Unfortunately, it left him horribly scarred, giving him the appearance of a hamburger that was run over by an SUV.
Ajax torturing Wade Wilson in Deadpool, Vol. 1 #17
The healing factor didn’t work the way they wanted it to, at least not at first. In an attempt to salvage Wade Wilson as a test subject, Department K began using him as a field agent on a special forces team. After a number of missions, Wilson murdered one of his teammates, which led Department K to deem him a failure and ship him off to a facility called The Hospice. There, under the “care” of the sadistic Dr. Killebrew and his barbarous assistant Ajax, Wilson was systematically tortured in the name of “science.” In truth, the devilish doctor was running a “dead pool” with his staff, betting on how long each patient could withstand their torturous treatments before dying. Eventually, Wilson managed to mount an escape, savagely beating Ajax and freeing his fellow patients in the process. Now armed with a powerful healing factor, elite combat skills, and a thirst for vengeance, Wade Wilson donned his now-iconic costume and gave himself a name to remind him of what he had endured: Deadpool.
So, what are his powers?
As I mentioned, Deadpool has a powerful healing factor, derived from Wolverine’s own. It’s difficult to say exactly how strong it is, but Deadpool is practically immortal, for what it’s worth. He has survived decapitation, dismemberment, and even being turned into a fine red mist by the Incredible Hulk.
In addition to his healing factor, Deadpool possesses elite combat skills from his years spent training as an assassin. He possesses heightened reflexes, superior strength, and incredible agility, as well as deep-seated psychosis. That’s right—Deadpool is straight up crazy. The voices in his head manifest as the yellow caption boxes in his eponymous comic books. But Deadpool takes things a step further; he’s so loony that he actually realizes that he’s in a comic book and uses that fact to break the fourth wall into tiny little metatextual splinters. All of that makes him a profoundly unpredictable opponent who will use his wits, wiles, and weapons to take out any who stand in his way.
The breakfast of champions in Deadpool, Vol 2 #16
So, what else do we need to know?
Well, Deadpool doesn’t exclusively talk to himself; he has a bunch of other miscreants with whom he pals around. Two of the constants in his life are his squirrelly fixer/weapons dealer pal Weasel (played in the movie by TJ Miller), and Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), an elderly woman who he kidnaps and forces to live with him as a sort of maid/confidante. In the big screen version, we’ll also see Wade Wilson kicking ass and taking names alongside the X-Men’s very own Man of Steel, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), and the little-known mutant Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).
As mentioned earlier, Deadpool had a long-lasting relationship with Vanessa Carlylse, a.k.a. Copycat, but that wasn’t the only love interest in Wade Wilson’s life. He was tasked with kidnapping a succubus named Shiklah for Dracula to marry, but instead Wade went all Mr. Steal Yo Girl and married her himself. But even more interesting than cuckolding a vampire is the fact that Deadpool had a relationship with Death itself. You know, Death? The literal incarnation of destruction, decay, and our fleeting mortality? Yeah, that Death. Deadpool’s infatuation with the cosmic being led him to try and kill himself over and over again so that he could be with her, which is romantic in that deeply unsettling Romeo and Juliet kind of way. Except there’s one problem: Deadpool is pretty much incapable of dying thanks to his hyperactive healing factor. As it turns out, the Weapon X program gave him a biological cockblock. Alas and alack.
Now, while we likely won’t see Death rear her skeletal head in this film, we will be treated to Marvel’s first-ever R-rated superhero movie. I was fortunate enough to visit the set earlier this year, and the scenes I watched filled me with confidence about this plucky, upbeat, blood-soaked superhero story. Much like its namesake, the Deadpool movie refused to die, and I can’t wait to see what director Tim Miller has up his sleeve for us on February 12.
What are your favorite Deadpool stories? What do you hope to see from the film? Let’s discuss in the comments below.