Warning: this article contains spoilers for Deadpool 2. Nothing super-major, but at least one character you haven’t seen in the ads. Reader discretion is advised.
Prompted or not, Rob Liefeld will tell you all about how he (and Fabian Nicieza) turned New Mutants around as a title by rebranding it as X-Force, selling five million copies, and adding characters such as Deadpool, Domino, and Cable to the Marvel pantheon. It’s no coincidence those are the three key characters in Deadpool 2, but what is less talked about is what happened to X-Force after Liefeld left to co-found Image comics. With sales low in 2001, a new creative team killed off the previous incarnation in an explosion (naturally, it later turned out they survived), and a whole new X-Force took their place. In a bit of meta-commentary about comic-book marketing at the time, the new team were, like boy-bands of the era, a superhero team that were put together by svengali managers to become celebrities.
And their leader, in a deliberately on-the-nose touch, was named Zeitgeist (real identity: Axel Cluney). And just like Deadpool in the new movie, you’d never guess by that name what his power is–essentially, he has super reflux disease and can vomit up deadly acid (trust a stressed-out writer on deadline to come up with that one). Not unlike Firefist, his power became a massive detriment during at least one potentially romantic moment. But at least with art by Mike Allred, it was cute, cartoony throw-up.
He’s played onscreen by someone who’s used to being treated like a clown: Bill Skarsgard, a.k.a. Pennywise. And he’s true to the comics, both in his powers and in the fact that he’s part of an artificially created team who dies almost as soon as he’s introduced. On the page, it was more of a set-up: both Zeitgeist and manager Coach arranged for terrorists to kidnap a boy band and have the new team rescue them, but most were killed in the process. As in Deadpool 2–though without the tree shredder–Zeitgeist lost the lower half of his torso first, before dying for good.
U-Go Girl, Doop, and Anarchist survived to form a new team, which eventually became X-Statix once the real X-Force returned. Meanwhile, in the movie, we’re still not clear why he couldn’t have melted that shredder with his acid barf to free himself.
Given Zeitgeist’s extremely brief life in the Marvel Universe, it’s unlikely many fans will object to the way he gets offed onscreen, especially considering the fates of other-better-like figures. But it may mean that somebody at Fox looked at every property available to them and thought, “Nope, X-Statix is just not a big movie priority at this time.” That said, it’s in the record books that for a brief, shining, single issue, poor Zeity did have the rights to call himself the leader of X-Force.
Are you going to miss Zeitgeist? Any diehard fans of his out there who are still hoping for a more true-to-comic adventure? Must his dental bills be insane? Let us know in comments.