What Made Wade: A Brief History of Deadpool

In honor of the Deadpool video game, which goes on sale next Tuesday, let’s take a look back at the history of the Merc with a Mouth.

We begin our tale in the long ago year of 1980. Ronald Reagan had been elected President, The Empire Strikes Back was the biggest movie in America, and a young boy in California named Rob Liefeld had just turned 13.

Rob Liefeld, age 12.

Pictured: Rob Liefeld, age 13. Not pictured: Feet.

Young Rob was a big fan of comics, especially the series New Teen Titans, which DC Comics had just begun. With writing by Marv Wolfman and art by the legendary George Perez, New Teen Titans was a hit comic about a team of superpowered misfit teens that threatened to knock the X-Men off the top of the sales charts.

In just the second issue of New Teen Titans, Wolfman and Perez introduced a new villain who would become a fan favorite. He was an assassin with a disfigured face, a quick wit, and super agility, who was a master of both guns and swords. His name was Deathstroke.

Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke

Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke

Let us now move forward about a decade. Little Robbie Liefeld has blossomed into a popular 22 year old artist for Marvel Comics. Assigned to the moribund New Mutants series, Liefeld’s art and exciting style were a welcome change, and sales on the book skyrocketed. Eventually, with issue #98, Liefeld was given complete creative control.

Liefeld took this opportunity to introduce a new character into his book about a team of superpowered misfit teens. He was, of course, an assassin with a disfigured face, a quick wit, and super agility, who was a master of both guns and swords. His name was Deadpool.

Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool

Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool

Dialogue writer Fabian Nicieza, seeing the character Liefeld had introduced, recalls telling his artist:

“This is Deathstroke from Teen Titans.”

Nicieza, in a “might as well make it obvious” move, gave Deadpool the name Wade Wilson, a reference to Deathstroke’s name, Slade Wilson.

Within a year, Liefeld had left Marvel to become a founding member of a new company, Image Comics. Deadpool bounced around the Marvel Universe for a few years, with no one quite sure what to do with the character. Fans enjoyed the design, but the character lacked a distinct quality to set him apart from every other master assassin in comics.

Deadpool vol 1, issue 26

Deadpool vol 1, issue 26

Finally, after six years, Deadpool was given his own series. Written by Joe Kelly, with art by a then-unknown Ed McGuinness, the Deadpool series was more comedy than drama, poking fun at the nature of comics and providing parodies of the more popular tropes of the day. As Kelly later noted:

“With Deadpool, we could do anything we wanted because everybody just expected the book to be cancelled every five seconds, so nobody was paying attention. And we could get away with it.”

It was this series that introduced Deadpool’s hostage/sidekick Blind Al, and established Weasel as a regular member of the supporting cast. Breaking the fourth wall at times, Deadpool was a cult hit with fans who were tired of the self-serious nature of Superhero comics in the late 1990’s.

Eventually Kelly and McGuinness moved on, and other creators found it difficult to get a handle on the character. The ongoing series was cancelled, and for a brief period Fabian Nicieza returned to write a new series, Cable & Deadpool, which again used humor to expand Deadpool’s popularity.

Deadpool vol 2, issue #4

Deadpool vol 2, issue #4

To both mock and exploit this popularity, several spin off versions of the character have been created, including Lady Deadpool, Kidpool, and Dogpool. As of the Marvel Now! relaunch, Deadpool once again has his own series, now being written by comedian Brian Posehn.

More than twenty years since his creation, Deadpool has gone from a carbon copy of an existing character to become one of Marvel’s most original and popular characters. Surviving a cancelled series, the near collapse of the comic industry, and Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool remains as a terrible influence for young people everywhere.


One response to “What Made Wade: A Brief History of Deadpool

  1. I’ve been a big fan of Deadpool since his Joe Kelly days. And as a big fan of Kelly’s Deadpool, I would disagree with it not having a lot of drama. There was a lot of drama and angst in it, Kelly just knew how to balance that off with humour. It had deep characterization and great humour blended together seemingly effortlessly. Kelly wrote Deadpool as an inherently tragic figure, a broken man hiding his misery behind a clown mask. A lot of writers since then have failed to understand that aspect. Rick Remender was the first writer since Kelly to truly grasp who Deadpool is.

    The fact that he’s generally treated as a clown just makes me sad.

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