I regularly peek at the traffic of the site because of ego. No big deal, I figure. While the new stuff almost always ends up hitting the top of the hit list, it’s interesting to see what stuff regularly gets its share of visitors no matter how old it gets. The We Care a Lot and the What If stuff, for instance, still do well. One of those articles that still gets notice is the Top 70 Deadpool Moments. It’s a 7-day series of daily posts I did three years ago that listed my favorite moments in the character’s history (with a little help from the readers). It was a fun writing project, but I look back at it and raise an eyebrow.
The timing of it was deliberate. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which featured a character that was SUPPOSED to be Deadpool, was about to be released and Day 7 came out on that Friday. It was right before what I like to call the Deadpoolsplosion, where he started appearing all over the place with way too many comics to keep track of. And I think back to the list and all the comics that have come out since then and I wonder how much I’d change the list if given the chance to update it.
Sadly, I wouldn’t change all that much. There really haven’t been too many stellar incidents with him since mid-09. He’s had his moments for sure, but they’re more few and far between than there should be, what with him being all over the place. In fact, for a guy who was once one of my favorite Marvel characters, the only thing I read with him is a team book where he rarely gets shoved into the forefront.
I figured it would be a good time to look at the character’s history and see what went right and what went wrong.
Deadpool made his first appearance in New Mutants #98 in 1990, where he fought Cable and lost. While Fabian Nicieza was the writer, the basic design for the character was an idea of the artist, Rob Liefeld. Liefeld had always wanted to draw Deathstroke the Terminator professionally – something he’d get to do 22 years later at the expense of me caring about what was a fun series – but since Deathstroke was a DC character, he had to make due with a pastiche. We got Wade Wilson instead of Slade Wilson and our awkwardly-drawn villain was born.
Deadpool made a couple appearances here and there as an antagonist of Garrison Kane and Copycat, identified as a former flame of Deadpool’s. He even got a comic appearance against Wolverine, but it was nothing special. Since the 90’s was a time when even the Shroud could get his own miniseries, Deadpool got his very own in 1993 called the Circle Chase, written by Fabian Nicieza with Joe Madureira on art. It isn’t a very special comic, all things considered. Deadpool is on a treasure hunt against a handful of other mercs, including Juggernaut and Black Tom. Throughout the four issues, he comes off as an unlikeable douchebag and it isn’t until the end that we get a moment of decency from him when he saves Copycat’s life. Still, he and his weapons guy Weasel get past that and continue their hired gun lifestyle.
A year later, we got Deadpool: Sins of the Past by Mark Waid and Ian Churchill. From what I understand, Waid accepted the assignment before even knowing who Deadpool was. Upon doing a little research, he was turned off and wished he didn’t accept in the first place. He still put a lot of effort in the miniseries and we got our first decent story. A history is created with Banshee, which leads to Deadpool meeting Siryn for the first time. Man, remember that relationship? Sure, it was creepy that she’s a teenager and he’s early 30’s at the youngest, but it really added something to him.
Why is it that stories called Sins of the Past always include Marvel supervillains messing around with girls half their age?
Anyway, the miniseries has one of my favorite Deadpool moments. Back in Circle Chase, Nicieza first established that Deadpool gained cancer-busting quick healing powers at the expense of his appearance, but Churchill is the first to give us a look at what Wade looks like under the mask. There have been a million artist depictions of what Deadpool looks like, but Churchill’s version is just plain hideous and lends itself well to a scene of Deadpool losing his mask in a fight with Juggernaut.
Siryn gets over it quickly and calms him down by touching his face and they move on. It’s a great scene.
From there, Deadpool’s became something of a gray area anti-hero, occasionally showing up in Generation X due to his connection with Siryn. At the beginning of 97, they gave him his own ongoing with Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness on the case. This is considered by many to be THE Deadpool run and with good reason.
Kelly ran with the idea that Deadpool is a terrible person who has terrible things happen to him, but has sparks of humanity and heroism in there. It was funny, but didn’t use that as a crutch, choosing instead to let the story and character development speak for itself. Though I will admit that I got into the character initially because David had me read Deadpool #27, which gave us the infamous Shoryuken scene.
It’s still funny.
One of the major things that makes the Kelly run so memorable is that not only was his Deadpool intriguing, but he had a great cast of characters to play off of. Weasel was brought back and we got such new characters as Blind Al, Montgomery and that alien guy whose head kept exploding. They worked because they played off each other really well and allowed us to see Wade at his best and worst. And good God, did we see him at his worst. One of the plots has Typhoid Mary more or less rape him and he goes so far off the deep end that he horrifically physically abuses his closest friends in one of the most uncomfortable moments in the character’s history.
Worth talking about in this run is how Deadpool was given a couple villains to deal with, but he got a perfect fit with his origin-based villain Ajax. Despite being Deadpool’s best antagonist without a doubt, the character only lasted one story arc before being killed off. Since the Kelly run, Ajax has only showed up in the occasional flashback and mental haunting. There is a point to him being taken out so early in his comic existence, but it says a lot about the run that he was only the third most important villain in those Kelly issues.
It also says a lot that despite being a beloved run that’s widely looked at as the best and most important take on the character, it only went on for under three years. 33 issues with a couple specials. That’s it! I wasn’t reading comics at the time, but it looks like people were enjoying its quality back then too. Hell, in Contest of Champions II, when they set up Deadpool vs. Daredevil and let the fans vote on the winner, Deadpool actually won!
The ending of the run is kind of controversial as after all this time building towards Deadpool’s redemption, we find out that he isn’t even Wade Wilson after all. The origin we’ve been given, where he was a married man whose wife was killed by his main enemy T-Ray, leading to his dark path, is a load of bunk. T-Ray is Wade Wilson. Deadpool is some guy named Jack who killed Wade so he could steal his life, only to kill Wade’s wife Mercedes in the process, causing Jack to go a little loopy.
The point of this gigantic retcon is to point out that Deadpool recognizes that he’s done a mountain of terrible shit, but he’s accepted it because he’ll keep trying to do better, even if it won’t save his soul in the end. He makes note that T-Ray became more corrupt than him in his path of revenge and gets a moral victory in the end. T-Ray also allows him to be “Wade Wilson” as he considers it a loser’s name. It’s Kelly’s way of saying, “Listen, if you don’t like this development, you don’t have to ever mention it again. Whether he’s the real Wade or not isn’t important. It’s what he is now that counts.”
The big problem with Kelly’s run is that he kind of left it so that nobody could really follow it. Sure, the last page basically told us that he’ll be continuing his adventures in 30 days, but everything was wrapped up a little too tight and there was nothing for the next guy to really jump onto.
Christopher Priest started his run, which gets different reactions across the board. My take on it is that it’s fine and has its own enjoyable flavor of wacky humor, but it’s paled by what comes before it and its biggest sin is the lack of emotion in it. There aren’t any strong character moments in there, although Priest does try.
Jimmy Palmiotti is next, writing a three-issue arc that felt so dull and ill-fitting that I almost stopped reading the series completely. Buddy Scalera joined to help co-write and things became kind of hit-or-miss. The series stopped being about Deadpool and was more about the allies and enemies, with Deadpool himself coming off as a supporting character. How well these worked depended on how good the character designs were per each arc. The one with Kid Deadpool, who really needs to come back, is my favorite.
Palmiotti was replaced with Frank Tieri, whose run is… well, opposite of Priest’s. Tieri was able to put some real heart in the run. Deadpool’s funeral is a tearjerker for sure and I like how Wade and Weasel finally bury the hatchet after understandably splitting up in Kelly’s run. Tieri’s take on the character has mainly two problems. First, it just isn’t funny. Tieri isn’t good at comedy, other than the scene where Deadpool finds out that his upgraded healing factor makes restored limbs stronger than before and he gleefully considers lopping his junk off. Then there’s his failure to make any good payoff. The Weapon X arc has Deadpool die and he never gets his revenge ever for Sabretooth killing Copycat. Then Funeral for a Freak ends with the stupidest scene in any Deadpool comic.
God, I don’t even know how to explain this thing. T-Ray, Deadpool’s big bad who was last seen in the Kelly run, creates a series of Deadpool knockoffs in the style of Reign of Supermen. You have your violent vigilante, snarky pop-culture guru, wacky psycho and noble hero, all created by this mystical gem. Deadpool destroys the gem and all the personalities fly into T-Ray’s body, making him a vegetable. Deadpool notes that due to whatever the fuck bullshit is going on, this definitely means that T-Ray is wrong and Deadpool is the REAL Wade Wilson. Seriously?! Why would you even do that, man? Were you that butthurt over the last issue of Kelly’s run? Even if you have to write something like that, at least make it make sense.
The slate was wiped clean once Gail Simone stepped in. Deadpool is easily Simone’s best work and I’m sure of that based on how memorable it all is despite being five issues. She hit all the right notes in terms of his mercenary adventuring, moments of outright heroism, hilarity, emotional situations and especially giving Deadpool a great supporting cast. Without having to reach back to the original Kelly cast, Simone created a new set that worked just as well. The series ended with Deadpool falling apart mentally and facing his new villain Black Swan, only for both to die in an explosion in a humorous and perfect ender.
That led right into Agent X, a Simone-written follow-up about Alex Hayden, an amnesiac with Wade’s personality who wants to become the #1 mercenary. He adopts the latter-day supporting cast and goes to town. It had some very strong comedy and action in there, but eventually Simone left the series and it became a hot potato for people who had less and less of an idea of what to do with it until Daniel Way wrote a theoretically-readable final issue at #12. This put Marvel in a weird situation, as Deadpool hadn’t been brought back and we never did learn what Hayden’s situation really was. Simone was brought back for three issues to tie up all the loose ends and reveal that Hayden was Nijo, the second-hand man of Black Swan, who got caught up in that explosion from the end of Deadpool’s solo run. Deadpool is back to his normal self, Hayden is still an alternate version of Deadpool and Black Swan is as dead as possible and has yet to be brought back.
One thing that always bugged me was how people kept thinking in the comic that Hayden was Deadpool, even though Deadpool is a white dude and Nijo is Japanese. It never really hit me that he was supposed to be Asian at any point due to the art, but you’d think the characters themselves would pick up on that.
Deadpool was given a new lease on life in comic form through Cable and Deadpool by Fabian Nicieza, the character’s co-creator. The run went fifty issues and was for the most part a great series. The two characters played off of each other extremely well and had their share of heartfelt moments. I guess if anything, my problem with it was how it was more about Cable with Deadpool relegated to a sidekick role. It took a long while for anything relating to Deadpool having much to do and Nicieza couldn’t even create much in terms of new antagonists. Still, it was easily one of the best runs of the character.
Oh, and Nicieza got into the whole “real Wade Wilson” argument again when T-Ray showed up. It became a soapbox for him to insist that Deadpool was the real Wade, despite getting some facts wrong. Then in another T-Ray appearance, Nicieza was more calmed down about it and had Deadpool admit that it really depends on who your favorite writer is.
The series wound itself down due to Cable being killed off during a big X-Men event. It really says something when you look at the issue he dies and the Cable and Deadpool tie-in. Deadpool is only a factor in the tie-in, as he’s basically not considered important enough to get a moment in the main story. Anyway, although the series goes on for a couple more arcs, you can’t really justify calling the series Cable and Deadpool when it’s only Deadpool. The series ended and that property was put on ice for a little bit.
Relaunching as a solo series was a given, but who would take the reins? Daniel Way, whose writing history was checkered at best, was in the middle of writing Wolverine Origins, a series based on Wolverine exploring his past after regaining his memories, as well as introducing Wolverine’s sexy, evil son Daken. Deadpool showed up for an arc to war with Wolverine in a lengthy Tom and Jerry-style situation, only with more blood and gore. The penultimate issue led to the two of them talking about their differences in a way that really got deep inside what makes Deadpool tick. It was really good, albeit cut short with Daken showing up for the cliffhanger. With news that Way was going to be writing the new solo series, I felt a little more at ease, since it appeared that he got the character.
Daniel Way introduced two things that would define Deadpool for a time, one more than the other. One was Deadpool hallucinating on a regular basis and seeing things either the way he wants to see them or the way his mind relates them. Like when he falls in love with Black Widow (the blond one, who was really the redhead in disguise bec—man, I really need to get back to reviewing Thunderbolts), he sees her as Death. When he sees Wolverine, he’s a timid Tex Avery character with forks and spoons coming out of his knuckles. This got old really fast for me, especially because it was done best in that Wolverine Origin arc due to Steve Dillon changing up his art style to make it work. The only other time it was amusing was in the miniseries Suicide Kings, where he had a dream sequence done in the style of Skottie Young’s Wizard of Oz.
The other thing Way introduced was Deadpool’s double narration. Deadpool, being crazy, has two sets of inner monologue that he interacts with. I’ve heard it explained through speculation as being an id and superego thing, but it’s really just a way to have Deadpool banter with somebody without Way having to deal with a supporting cast. In other words, it’s really frustrating because Deadpool isn’t playing off of real characters, which was one of the major things that made any decent run of his worth reading.
That said, Way’s first year on the book is pretty fantastic and energetic. The biggest flaw is that despite this volume being new and Andy Diggle’s Thunderbolts run being newer, they did a 4-issue crossover that didn’t work as well as it should have. The end of the first year’s worth of Deadpool gives us the Dark Reign tie-in where Deadpool fights his frenemy Bullseye and it’s easily the highlight of Way’s tenure.
During this opening year, something pretty interesting happened. The movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine was on the way and Ryan Reynolds was cast to play Wade Wilson. Fans nodded in approval because he’s been perfect for the role ever since playing Hannibal King in Blade Trinity. Then a picture was leaked of Deadpool’s action figure.
What is… I don’t even…
A workprint version of the movie was leaked to the internet and featured Baraka Deadpool in action. If there was ever an example of a superhero movie getting a character wrong, it’s Judge Dredd, but since that’s neither here nor there, let’s pretend it’s Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Like, why would they even use him if they were going to bastardize him like this? At least when Nolan made his Batman movies, he took the characters who could be named Harvey Bullock and Rene Montoya and made them original because they were different enough. A creepy, mouthless thing with eye lasers and Baraka blades isn’t a bad design at all, but don’t call it Deadpool.
At the same time, an animated movie was released called Hulk vs. Wolverine, which featured a team of Weapon X-related villains working together in the form of Sabretooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike and Deadpool. Played by Nolan North, Deadpool felt perfectly done. The humor was on point from his insistence that Omega Red wets the bed to a moment where Wolverine chops his arm to pieces and he spends the fight on the sidelines trying to figure out the order of chopped up arm segments so he can put himself back together. The best moment is when he and Wolverine are running from an angry Hulk that’s only two feet behind them and Deadpool shouts, “I think we lost him!” It’s a good time and shows that maybe somebody actually could get him right in a non-comic media.
I forgot about his role in the video game X-Men Legends 2, but that was great too.
I don’t know the full story of what went down, but I think Marvel must have realized through the backlash for Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that he was far more popular than they expected. I imagine the sales for his solo series had its say on that too. Deadpool already had that miniseries Suicide Kings by Mike Benson on the side, which was very good, but what followed was an absolute renaissance of Deadpool appearances and titles. He became a major character in a Cable/X-Force crossover. He got a second ongoing with Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth, which followed into Deadpool Corps despite the comics coming out concurrently. Then we got Deadpool Team-Up, meaning that at one point we had four ongoing Deadpool comics. That’s insane.
Merc with a Mouth by Victor Gischler lasted 13 issues and was okay. It was essentially one big Marvel Zombies crossover where all the female characters were sexualized to a ridiculous degree. It feels like it would have worked better as a story used in the main comic, but did its job as a wackier side series. Gischler continued with Deadpool Corps, which also had its own prelude miniseries. This was certainly different, but didn’t quite work out. The idea was that Deadpool, his decapitated head from the zombie universe, a female version of himself, a kid version of himself and a dog counterpart were all sent on some big space missions. There were some amusing moments for sure, but it had four strikes against it. One, Rob Liefeld on art for most of the run. Two, a team of Deadpools dilutes the character. It’s like that anti-Whedon saying, “If everybody’s Han Solo, then nobody is Han Solo.” Three, who’s the straight man in all of this? The goofy mercenaries in red spandex or the outlandish aliens? Four, Deadpool straight-up doesn’t work well in a space setting. During Priest’s time on the book, he did a Deadpool in space story and explained that it was an editorial mandate as an excuse/apology.
For the most part, I loved Deadpool Team-Up, a series made of different writer/artist teams doing one-shot team-up storylines in reverse number order. So the first issue was #899 and it ended at #883. When done right, the series played to the character’s strength, which is to play off of other characters. Not simply talking to himself for the entire issue, but working against and with the likes of Gorilla Man, Thor, Thing, Hellcow, Satana, Captain Britain and the rest. I found that the quality of the issues depended on what the writer was going for. Namely, if they were trying to push their own character agenda then they were usually pretty terrible. This mainly goes for the appearances of US-Ace and Mr. X, but the Zapata Brothers issue by Mike Benson is passable due to Benson having experience with Deadpool and the Zapata Brothers coming off as a good enough fit. Honestly, I’d be okay if they were regulars in Deadpool’s main series.
Nothing beats #888 by Cullen Bunn and Tom Fowler, where Deadpool and Thing become a tag-team in a story that’s based on a Dexter’s Lab cartoon that itself is based on a Thing comic. As a wrestling fan, it’s a beautiful thing and even ends with Deadpool cutting a Ric Flair promo. The comic also introduces Chris Sims into Marvel continuity, which means we’re one step closer to seeing that son of a gun get fridged.
Unfortunately, Marvel really went too far with the Deadpoolsplosion. Sales dropped and series were cancelled. As an aside, they did release a miniseries called Deadpool Pulp in the style of the super enjoyable Marvel Noir line that depicted the character in a more grounded and realistic light in a reimagining that takes place in the 1950’s. It’s a really good four issues and is totally worth checking out.
David Lapham started up a Deadpool MAX series that grew on me over time, but isn’t too essential. It revolves around a reimagining of Deadpool’s umpteenth sidekick Bob from Hydra, who has to guide the mentally-damaged agent Deadpool around to fulfill missions for the government amidst a gigantic conspiracy against them. The highlight is how Cable is portrayed as wearing a monocle instead of having a glowing eye. It should have been like that from the beginning, really.
A little while ago, a Deadpool movie script leaked online as written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, whose credits include the Joe Schmo Show, Zombieland, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and… oh my God, these guys are writing the Venom screenplay too?! I need to hang out with these dudes, they’re awesome. Though I’ll never forgive them for that episode when that fatherly, old guy got voted off the show and Joe Schmo broke down and cried because he thought it was real. That was NOT COOL, guys.
It’s fitting that these are the guys doing the second GI Joe movie because as that one comes off as an apology for the first GI Joe, their Deadpool screenplay comes off as an apology for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Naturally, I’ve read the script and I can definitely say that I’d want to see it pan out. The movie’s been on the fence of creation for the last couple years, but since Green Lantern was a disaster, hopefully we’ll get Ryan Reynolds back to do the character right. The story is very much based on Joe Kelly’s iconic run, including such characters as Worm, Blind Al and Ajax. The only piece of Daniel Way’s run that gets any play is when Deadpool does a hit on a pizza guy (named Gavin in the comics meaning, oh shit, I got fridged!). The movie goes for a hard R rating as there’s lots of bad language, violence and a sex montage.
I only have two complaints about it. One is that Vanessa, the love interest, comes off as a hollow character. She exists to be into Wade and whatever he’s about and while she acts tough, there’s no real emotion in there. Then there’s the inclusion of Colossus as a supporting character. I like Colossus and I like his role in this, but it doesn’t make sense to me. For one, he’s supposed to fill in the role of a superhero who is beloved by the public. In the X-Men movies, they aren’t really seen in the same light as the Avengers in their movies, so this feels awkward. Especially because they aren’t exactly beloved by the public either. Then there’s the fact that this movie goes out of its way to show that it isn’t in the same continuity as the X-Men movies, what with Wade having zero connection to his mouthless, eye-lasering self. It just hits me as a weird inclusion. Have Deadpool and Colossus even interacted before in the comics?
Right now, we have two comics about Deadpool. One is Uncanny X-Force, where Rick Remender writes the best Deadpool in years. He doesn’t get the spotlight often, but he’s definitely had some strong moments. My favorite thing about his part in the series is how the first few issues are Wolverine verbally railing on him for being an annoying, no-good idiot with no morals who’s only in it for the money. When Deadpool proves that he’s morally superior to Wolverine and isn’t in it for the money, Wolverine begins to turn around on his opinion. It’s never explicitly talked about, but Wolverine stops the abuse and instead shows comradery with Wade, even giving dry and humorous responses to his banter instead of telling him to shut the hell up.
A similar dynamic appears in Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine, a prequel to Marvel Universe vs. Punisher by Jonathan Maberry. It’s about a zombie outbreak of sorts in an alternate Marvel universe that doesn’t spread like a plague but slowly takes people over through a toxic ecosystem. Deadpool is slowly turning into a bloodthirsty cannibal and the Punisher miniseries shows that he’ll fully succumb to it, but for the time being, Wolverine’s able to inspire him to hold it back.
I really wish we’d get a Marvel Universe vs. Deadpool book to give him and that world some closure.
As all these ongoings and minis came and went, Daniel Way remained in the writer seat for the main series. I had the same history with it as I did with Bendis’ Avengers stuff. After a while, I found myself realizing that I wasn’t reading it because I enjoyed it but because I used to enjoy it once upon a time. Way’s certainly had its pros and good ideas, but the run has been reeking of the idea that he doesn’t know what he wants to do. He refuses to commit or give any kind of payoff. He’ll come up with cool ideas and then drop them without a second thought.
Like in the first arc, Deadpool pretends to join the Skrulls against mankind and uses it as a way to destroy them from within. He then starts a war with Norman Osborn that leads to Osborn showing the public the footage of Deadpool joining the Skrulls. Deadpool is now seen as a traitor to humanity and we even see people act on it once. That’s it. Just once. It’s never brought up again.
This is part of Deadpool’s race to be seen as a hero, which is something that’s been done by both Kelly and Nicieza. Way doesn’t add anything new to the mix and has Deadpool put the kibosh on the idea rather unceremoniously so he can go back to having space adventures, which I’ve established don’t work with him. To his credit, Way tried to introduce a new villain or two as Deadpool has yet to have any kind of archnemesis since T-Ray, but the closest he’s had to a success is space bounty hunter Macho Gomez.
My main problem with the series is the lack of heart, especially since that Wolverine Origins arc had plenty of it. Since Deadpool’s so unkillable and can’t commit to what it is he even wants to do, there’s no reason to want to follow his adventures. There’s no danger and there’s no development. Any time you think there’s going to be development, it’s just drawn out and Way throws Deadpool into a new arc with hopes that you’ll forget about it. You’ll get hints that something is totally going to happen, but then it peters off into nothing.
My breaking point was the storyline where Deadpool was institutionalized after his three-issue Hulk arc went absolutely nowhere. Lots of potential in there and there’s even a scene where he almost gets introspective. Then he escapes and it becomes a story about his doctor being disturbingly obsessed with him. After that, I stopped buying and at most I’d occasionally pick up an issue at the shop, flip through it and put it back. From what I hear, I haven’t missed so much. Even the hyped storyline that would kill Deadpool became a drawn out affair with a bait and switch ending. He didn’t die. He’s just depowered. Still can’t care.
From what I understand, Way is on his way out with the series. No idea who his replacement will be, but hopefully it’s somebody who can rekindle my love for the character. I’ve heard Mark Waid rumored, which would be fitting since he’s the first guy to give the character a shot in the arm. In a perfect world, it would be Chris Hastings, who wrote the Fear Itself: Deadpool miniseries and gave us the greatest kill one-liner in comics history.
Yeah, that’s the stuff.
Oh, wait. I forgot to mention Wade Wilson’s War, didn’t I? Yeah. Wade Wilson’s War was not good. Good night, everybody!