Creators: Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld
First appearance: The New Mutants #98 (February, 1991)
Abilities: At base, he has an “accelerated healing factor” more or less the same as Wolverine’s, making him basically invincible. He even re-grew his head after a decapitation at one point, and an X-Force story arc revealed he’s still alive 800 years in the future. However, unlike Wolverine, Deadpool’s healing power has been artificially grafted into his DNA by the Weapon-X programme. His scarred appearance beneath the mask is the result of the cancer he was suffering when he underwent the treatment: his cancer cells regenerate in the same way his healthy ones do.
He’s a mercenary, a preternatural martial artist, tactician, swordsman and marksman – his unkillable cancer doesn’t get in the way of that – and he’s aware he’s a character in a comic, so he’s been known to gain information by reading back-issues. He is a fast-talker and piss-taker (hence “The Merc With A Mouth”). He killed his parents but doesn’t know it. He might be insane.
Deadpool was originally conceived as a parody of the DC character Deathstroke, which is why his real name, Wade Wilson, is so similar to Deathstroke’s Slade Wilson. But his story grew in the telling.
In his first appearance he was an antagonist to the New Mutants: hired by evil mutant Genesis to take down X-Man Cable and his cohorts (it’s more complicated than that – Genesis at the time was a shadowy figure going by the name Mr. Tolliver, and he’s Cable’s son, but we’re trying to keep this simple). He kept popping up for the next couple of years as a pain in someone-or-other’s arse in the likes of Daredevil and The Avengers, and was popular enough that he eventually got his own miniseries: one in 1993 by Liefeld, and the next in 1994 by Mark Waid, who didn’t like him.
He finally landed an ongoing title in 1997, written by Joe Kelly, where the shenanigans became more overtly parodic of superhero comic tropes, and Deadpool became less a villain and more an anti-hero. Essentially, he’s a sociopath trying to do good with a questionable grasp on morality. Kelly’s comics are where Deadpool first starts breaking the fourth wall, although it was Kelly’s successor, Christopher J. Priest, that really ran with that.
Gail Simone took over from Priest after a year, where Deadpool became Agent X for a while (or did he?). And when that run was cancelled, Fabian Nicieza stepped up in 2004 for 50 issues of Cable & Deadpool, in which the two mutants continually thrashed out haphazard ways of working together.
Deadpool got his own solo series back again in 2008, where writer Daniel Way made him a hallucinating, multiple-personality schizophrenic. And there have been various other iterations in between. In Marvel Zombies he’s a decapitated head called Headpool; Deadpool Corps was a team-up of multiple Deadpools from different universes, in which Headpool features with a propeller hat that lets him fly; in the AXIS storyline he was affiliated with Magneto in a supervillain supergroup; and in the Age Of Apocalypse timeline he was one of Apocalypse’s henchmen, the Pale Riders.
He has died more than once and he may not actually be Wade Wilson, having possibly stolen that identity from regular antagonist T-Ray. Sometimes his scarring is relatively subtle; other times he looks like The Toxic Avenger. The mess of continuities all plays into the chaotic nature of the character and the fourth-wall breaking. At one point he tells the reader to just pick the version they like best.
Other recurring characters:
Weasel – Deadpool’s long-suffering best friend, informant and arms dealer.
HYDRA Bob – Incompetent HYDRA agent and unwilling Deadpool sidekick.
Blind Al – An elderly blind African-American woman who Deadpool keeps prisoner in his “Deadhut” in San Francisco. It’s a complicated relationship.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Ryan Reynolds had been angling to play Deadpool on film since at least 2003, so it was no surprise that he grabbed the role in the first solo spin-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine from the X-Men films. Fan consensus was that he was perfectly cast as the wisecracking Wade Wilson, but the later scenes when he becomes Deadpool (although never named as such onscreen – he’s Weapon XI) were sorely off-message. Wilson emerges from the Weapon-X process with his mouth closed up; “The Merc With A Mouth” couldn’t speak. He was handy with a sword though. Reynolds underwent his own training, but Scott Adkins did much of the heavy lifting in the make-up. Adkins has since been carving out his own quite healthy action-movie career.
“Everyone hates what they did to Wade Wilson in that movie,” says current Deadpool director Tim Miller, “but nobody blames Ryan for it!”
2016 Deadpool movie
For years following X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there were will-they-won’t-they stories about Reynolds returning to Deadpool to get it right. Robert Rodriguez was attached to direct at one point. Then it was FX man Tim Miller, with X-Men studio Fox finally granting the green light in 2014, following the enthusiastic online response to some leaked test footage. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writers of Zombieland, provided the screenplay. Shooting took place in the spring of this year in Vancouver, and Reynolds addressed concerns that an R-rating would be a problem for a Marvel movie with a cheeky viral video on April 1. The movie itself is out on February 5, 2016.
We know plenty more, but we’re not allowed to tell you yet. Until then, we can direct you to a good roundup of what’s out there so far, via our exclusive trailer breakdown with Miller.
Five Essential Story Arcs
Back to the comics, and if you want a primer before the movie, here are five key storylines and one entry-level series:
Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe
A mini-series rampage in which, as you might infer, Deadpool kills the entire Marvel roster after some psychological therapy goes rather wrong. The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, The Punisher… nobody is safe, up to and including the writers and the readership.
Find it in: Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe (ISBN 9780785164036)
If Looks Could Kill
The first salvo in a fractious odd-couple pairing that would endure for 50 issues. Deadpool is hired by a religious cult to steal a designer virus that will eradicate racism by making everyone the same colour. Cable wants to destroy the virus because of its side effect: it makes people melt.
Find it in: Deadpool & Cable Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 (ISBN 9780785143130)
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Deadpool keeps waking up to find his organs have been removed, so ropes in Wolverine and Captain America to help solve the mystery. Turns out he’s being progressively harvested to make a new weapon. Comedian Brian Posehn wrote this one, but he gets interesting mileage out of the notion that the three characters each deal with having been on the receiving end of “enhancement programmes” in different ways.
Find it in: Deadpool Vol. 3 (ISBN 9780785166825)
The Final Execution Saga
Deadpool as proper X-Man – sort of. Uncanny X-Force deals with the titular, more aggressive black-ops offshoot of the X-Men, which, as of 2010, included Wolverine, Psylocke, Archangel and Fantomex as well as our man Wade. Deadpool enjoys the camaraderie of a team, but feels forced to betray his comrades when their mission is to kill a child version of Apocalypse.
Find it in: Uncanny X-Force Vol. 6 (ISBN 9780785161844)
Marvel’s street-level heroes take different sides when Deadpool is accused of murdering some innocent people. The Punisher tries to kill him (and does literally take him apart, but it doesn’t work). Daredevil steps in to get him a fair trial. Spider-Man gets involved. And when the real villains are revealed, it’s team-up time.
Find it in: Deadpool Classic Vol. 14 (ISBN 9780785197331)
And if you want a series that’s mostly solo Deadpool (with plentiful HYDRA Bob misfortunes) and you can’t quite face negotiating the tortuous continuity of multiple other series and crossovers, there’s this run, in Marvel’s ultra-violent, sweary and sometimes-obscene Max line. Wade Wilson, is a perfect fit. Loosely, the stories involve him unwillingly/unwittingly pulling jobs for the CIA. They are not always pleased with his results.
Find it in: Deadpool Max Vol. 1 (ISBN 9780785148517)