Given the massive influx of comic book and superhero films in recent years, especially following the success of Iron Man and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it can be hard for people who don’t follow the comics to keep up. While characters such as Spider-Man and Superman are at least household names that everyone is familiar with, the same can’t be said for a character like Deadpool. With the Deadpool movie releasing this Friday (February 12), here’s everything you need to know about the “Merc with a Mouth.”
Origin of Deadpool
Wade Wilson is a former military soldier turned mercenary who one day discovered that he had contracted cancer with no hope of survival. Approached by Department K, a Canadian government branch dedicated to weapons development, Wade was allowed to become a test subject for the Weapon X program in order to keep the cancer at bay, which was done by implanting him with a healing factor based on that of X-Man Wolverine. However, while the procedure extended his life, it also made him horribly disfigured and more than a little insane. Of course, there’s more to the story but, as Deadpool himself would likely tell you, that’s what Wikipedia is for.
It should be noted that, due to his insanity, Deadpool isn’t sure how much of the above is actually true, having had one villain accuse him of stealing his identity and, in another instance, having Thor’s brother Loki claim to be his father. The character has admitted a lot of it depends on fan preference and who is writing him at the time.
Surprisingly, the version in the Deadpool movie leaves the details more or less the same, including him leaving his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin in the film) because he believes she deserves better than a terminally ill person and because he’s leaving for the Weapon X program.
As for real life, Deadpool was created by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist/writer Rob Liefeld. Half-subconsciously and half on purpose, the character had a lot in common with DC villain Deathstroke the Terminator (real name Slade Wilson). While Deathstroke is older, Deadpool is easily more popular, Slade only becoming better known after he began appearing on the hit series Arrow.
Deadpool’s aforementioned healing factor regenerates damaged or destroyed tissue at such an incredibly fast rate that he can heal from seemingly any injury and is protected from psychic attack. While he can also no longer contract any disease, the healing factor’s effect on the cancer cells already in his body have left him horribly disfigured. His healing factor is actually stronger than Wolverine’s despite being based on it, though this may be because Wolverine’s healing factor is under more stress than Deadpool’s, as it is constantly working to keep his adamantium (a fictional metal alloy) skeleton from poisoning him.
While the speed at which Deadpool regenerates makes him borderline immortal, including aging at a much slower rate, he can still die and, in fact, has died multiple times. This is due in part to the “Mad Titan” Thanos (seen in the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy films), who is in love with the Marvel Universe’s personification of Death; Death is in love with Deadpool, so Thanos works to keep the two separated out of jealousy by keeping Deadpool alive and reviving him any time he manages to die. (For the record, Deadpool is asexual; what he prefers sexually changes on a moment-to-moment basis.)
Aside from his healing factor, Deadpool is also a highly skilled combatant, trained in multiple fighting styles and skilled with both swords and guns. At one point, he realized he was using his healing factor as a crutch, causing his skills to wane, and underwent further training to make up for his handicap. He is also multilingual and skilled at distracting his enemies by never shutting up, a tactic shared with Spider-Man, with whom he also shares costume comparisons with.
The Fourth Wall
Unlike most comic book characters, Deadpool is fully aware that he is a fictional character. This is usually used for comedic effect, such as acknowledging speech bubbles and thought balloons and speaking directly to the reader/viewer, a trait the movie version seems to share. However, he can also use this trait as a weapon, using “access” from older comics to know things he otherwise shouldn’t and, in the video game Marvel vs. Capcom 3, using his on-screen health bar as a weapon.
While more serious versions of the character exist, most Deadpools of alternate universes share this special “ability.” The “main” Deadpool once led a team of these alternate selves, which included Girlpool, Dogpool, and even Zombiepool, who was just a head that got around using a beanie with a working propeller (Zombiepool lost his body in an earlier incident). One version of Deadpool is notable for killing every other hero and villain in his universe and others in an attempt to fight back against the Marvel Comics staff that controlled him.
The Movie and Casting
Deadpool first appeared in live action in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was played by Ryan Reynolds. While the character was well-received in the first half of the movie, the version that appeared at the end, which had almost no similarities to the comic version, was despised. This hatred was also expressed by Reynolds himself, who is a self-proclaimed massive fan of the character.
The Deadpool movie we finally get this Friday was in development hell for over a decade, regularly switching writers, directors, and even studios; Reynolds, determined to see the character done right, was the only constant, though delays occurred when he chose to do Green Lantern. It also didn’t help that Deadpool is far more violent and vulgar than most comic characters put to film, and is a niche character on top of that.
However, the film only finally got made because of a leak. In July 2014, test footage from 2012, which featured Reynolds in an accurate version of Deadpool’s costume through motion capture, made its way online. The response was so positive that Fox finally greenlit the movie, which has already received a slew of positive reviews following the advanced screenings.
As an aside, Reynolds isn’t the only person who has a chokehold on playing the character. Nolan North, best known as Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series, has voiced Deadpool in most of his animated and video game appearances, including the self-titled game the character received in 2013. But while Reynolds has played the character both times for Fox, North keeps getting the gig despite most of the games being released by different companies.