Spotlight on Marvel Comics' DeadpoolA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Steven M. Bari
With a new ongoing series coming out in September by Daniel Way and Paco Medina, let's take a look at everybody's favorite action-adventure/comedy -- Deadpool.
Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is many things. He's a ruthless mercenary, a comic anti-hero, and a man with significant mental problems whose outlet is sadistic violence. "He's shown himself to be proficient in multiple weapons-use, ranging from bolos to a bo staff. Known weapons preferences include long sword, throwing stars, garrote wires, small range cluster bombs and of course, his mouth" (X-Force #1, August 1991). Known as the Merc-with-a-Mouth, Deadpool is a lovable, irreverent killer who quips, banters, and discloses far too many personal details while he slices and shoots his way through your chest and into your heart.
But Deadpool's primary appeal--which grew from years of development as a side character in New Mutants/X-Force--came with arrival of his first ongoing series in 1997. Deadpool is a man who aims high but bottoms out because of his inadequacies, be it his scattered psychological state, deformed physical appearance, and/or nearly unanimous social rebuff. As series writer Joe Kelly explains, "… he's always thrown into conflict and messes things up because of his self-hatred. That's a recurring theme with Deadpool" (Writing on Comics Scriptwriting, 1999). This self-loathing stems from a history of child abuse, a sullied career of aggression, and aspirations too big for a person like him to achieve (i.e. becoming an Avenger and proper superhero). It's a theme that has resonated with fans because it's relatable, empathetic, and ripe for good storytelling.
And for this reason, writers and artists have portrayed Deadpool in a number of ways. None other than Deadpool himself has aptly addressed this: "…we have also firmly established the foundation of mushy quicksand that the whole 'identity thing' is completely dependent on who is writing my stories…." (Cable and Deadpool #48, February 2008). The first miniseries--1993's The Circle Chase--was written by Fabien Nicieza and drawn by Joe Madureira. It was followed by Sins of the Past in 1994 by Mark Waid and Ian Chuchill. Both series explored his shady mercenary past and the uneasy acceptance of his actions.
With the first Deadpool ongoing series, the character began to stretch his legs and take his emotional hang-ups on wider adventures, not just on a paramilitary level, but cosmic. He died, fell in love with Death, was brought back to life and, in parody of "The Death of Superman," divided into four separate beings, each an aspect of the Deadpool's personality. The series instituted the breaking of the fourth wall, the self-awareness of being in a comic book, and zany supporting characters like Blind Al, an elderly blind woman who was Deadpool's hostage and closest confidant.
These caustic and peculiar relationships are the only ones he has, as most heroes, villains, and the general public shun him. As Daniel Way explains, "…he's all about validation…He wants to be involved. He wants people to interact with him ... He gets people to want him because he can't stand being ignored. That would be the ultimate hell for Wade Wilson; he won't be ignored, and being alone would be the worst." Deadpool would often exploit Blind Al's disability for comedic pleasure, which she took in stride and subsequently got even by putting laxatives in his food. Their relationship was that of awareness of each other; he paid attention to her and she to him where most had forgotten or would like to disregard either of them.
After issue #69, the series was canceled, but Deadpool was re-launched twice afterwards in 2002 as Agent X and Cable and Deadpool in 2004. Both series developed Deadpool's family of characters, including counterpart Alex Hayden, sexy gunslinger Outlaw, and hostage/sidekick Bob, Agent of Hydra. Agent X, written by Gail Simone and drawn by Studio UDON, continued the satirical, slapstick comedy and intense action of the previous series. Similarly, Cable and Deadpool followed the same bent as a buddy comedy.
This series, written by character co-creator Fabian Nicieza, was cynical, subversive, and at many times, a palpable extension of the author's voice. In issue 50, after running seven issues without one of its title characters, Deadpool exclaims: "…Cable (who died and left me with a solo team book, then came back in a big successful crossover that I wasn't invited to participate in)…" Deadpool is therefore a multifaceted character, being subject to a lengthy and traumatic back-story, a source of comic relief, action hero, and cipher of the author.
So how will Daniel Way handle this complicated fan favorite? Way admits Deadpool has more fans than "Daniel Way" will ever have, so it's important to "be a steward of the character and stay out of its way" (Comic Geek Speak Podcast: Episode 416). It's about the character, not the creative team imprinting themselves on him or her.
And a glimpse of that character can be seen in the Wolverine:Origins arc "The Deep End." Way uses Deadpool's breaking of the fourth wall and the cognizance of being in a comic as an introspective tool, layering the character's psychotic delusion about himself and the world around him. In issue #23, Deadpool toggles between the reality of an angry Wolverine standing in front of him and the illusion of a wimpy Wolverine cowering childishly. This interpretation of character makes Deadpool more sympathetic but also more frightening. Deadpool isn't a person in a comic, which is comedic and surreal, but a person who thinks he's in a comic, which is a delusion of grandeur and a danger to everyone around him. He's therefore put into the scenario: "Am I crazy in a sane world? Or the only sane man in a world of insanity?"
But the series will still have its hallmark humor and tone. "We'll ping-pong back and forth between the comic and the tragic," Way explains, "so it doesn't become too staid in either playground" (19 April 2008, ComicBookResources.com). This will hopefully keep old fans satiated and persuade new fans to enjoy the character.
Making sure Deadpool doesn't become staid is the energetic art of Paco Medina, whose current work on New Warriors is full of life and vibrant action. Medina was kind enough to answer a few questions about the new series for Comics Bulletin:
Steven Bari (SB): There have been other Deadpool miniseries and ongoing series before. What will make this series different?So what can fans of Deadpool and new readers alike expect from this new Deadpool series? Daniel Way puts it eloquently: "It's high action, high comedy; it's a big f--king blow out." (19 April 2008, ComicBookResources.com).
Paco Medina (PM): Daniel is a tremendous writer. He's bringing a lot of action to the book and the fact that the first issues are a Secret Invasion tie-in is a must have for anyone, Deadpool fan or not.
SB: You've previously worked with Daniel Way on Venom in 2003. What is your collaborative relationship like?
PM: I really love working with Daniel. His scripts are really fluid and have a very good pace for me, so I really know how come up with the images as soon as I begin to read the script.
SB: What are you most looking forward about this new Deadpool series?
PM: First off, finally I can just draw one character! [laughs] I spent the last couple of years working on team books, so working on a solo title is very refreshing. This really let me handle the art in a different way. I pushed my style to be more appealing to the demands of a character like Deadpool.
Secondly, the fact that I get to work with Juan Vlasco and Marte Garcia (my inker and colorist in the New Warriors) really ensures that quality in the art. We really are looking to upgrade our styles more, so please stay tuned.
SB: Other artists have depicted Deadpool a number of ways, running the gamut between menacing to flat out comical. How do you approach his design and character?
PM: A mix of maniacal and funny guy! [laughs] Actually, Deadpool's character and personality are very easy to bring out, so I just try to adapt it to my style and perhaps improve his design a little.
Special Thanks to Paco Medina (and Juan Vlasco who helped with translations)