Friday, February 19, 2016

Dead On Arrival

Since alert reader Colin Jones had mentioned at one time that there was a dearth of coverage at the PPC of Deadpool--that is to say, no mention of the character at all (except in passing)--it seemed only fair to set aside some time to profile this slightly unhinged mercenary who went on to become a popular character in Marvel's stable. Deadpool is well named, presumably after the rather appalling game of "dead pool" where those who participate compete at guessing when someone will die. Come to think of it, we were all probably playing dead pool when watching classic Star Trek and coming across an episode where red-shirted security men were beaming down with the landing party--we knew that these officers were dead men walking, though without having seen the episode you couldn't really predict when they would end up biting the dust. (You could probably make the argument that they were dead the moment they stepped onto those transporter pads.)

Deadpool, created by the mind and pencils of artist Rob Liefeld and first scripted by Fabian Nicieza, made his first appearance in New Mutants #98, just as the title was on its way out (and subsequently rebooting into X-Force) and the man known as Cable was taking over as the "commander" of the students that Charles Xavier had been instructing. To complicate matters, Deadpool had been hired to kill Cable by a man known as "Mr. Tolliver," who turned out to be Cable's own son from the future. There were sparse comments on Deadpool in the letters page that covered the issue (along with sparse letters, actually, with the book's editors having one foot out the New Mutants door)--but while Deadpool wouldn't be fleshed out as a character in his own right until much later, he left a respectable first impression with readers.

"Another visually appealing individual, with some character to him, too. Please don't let this be the last we see of him." (CF: From your mouth to Marvel's ear, pal.)

Another writer makes an observation that mirrors my own about Deadpool's banter essentially making him a villainous Spider-Man: "I love him. He looks cool, is obviously the best at what he does, and he has a great attitude. And he's funny. He reminds me of Spidey, both visually and with his wisecracks. In fact, Deadpool is basically Spidey wielding instruments of death rather than webs. But it works! I was hoping he might join the New Mutants, but this seems unlikely since he's a bad guy, not a mutant, and because you guys are canceling this book."

"This book needs Deadpool. I don't think I can get by without a monthly dose of this character. If not in this book, use him somewhere else. Please don't let him fade from sight, he is way too interesting."

Considering how understated you may find Deadpool's introductory appearance in the scenes to follow, you could end up wrinkling your brow in confusion at these readers' over-the-moon high praise of the character. At any rate, Deadpool would continue in X-Force for a time, and of course find his way into many stories in the future.

From what I understand, Deadpool has two distinguishing features to his character. One, he has a healing factor (who doesn't?)--and two, his face is horribly disfigured behind that mask. With the film Deadpool now in release, it appears that actor Ryan Reynolds, playing the title role, is poised to have much greater success with this film than his turn in the disastrous Green Lantern--and he had already taken a spin as Deadpool in the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But even in 2004, the character was already giving a nod to Reynolds, though not exactly a complimentary one.

As for his introduction into comicdom, Deadpool would do pretty well against Cable and his young charges with the element of surprise on his side. He also seems to be a walking weapons depot, to Cable's detriment.

You may already be thinking of four or five other characters offhand who could be plugged into Deadpool's role here and be equally if not more impressive in place of the foe being presented here. Bullseye... the Foreigner... Gamora... Fantomex... Crossbones... Mystique... Perhaps Deadpool just needed a little more build-up before turning him loose in the wake of an exploding entrance and simply depending on his willingness to use his weapons to lethal effect to establish his character and take it from there. Let's see if the addition of other combatants to the mix offers any improvement.

Chances are that if you went to the theater tomorrow to see the film, the character you're seeing here would seem almost anemic by comparison. Still, he does have the upper hand, doesn't he? Unfortunately for him, another new character, Domino, has gotten the drop on him.

(You know, I'm more interested in Domino at this point.)

Your mileage may vary on Deadpool, of course. But while he may prove to be a lucrative franchise for Reynolds and his growing family (as well as for Mr. Liefeld), the character has never piqued my interest to the degree that I might have wished for. On the other hand, for what it's worth, it seems unlikely he'll ever make a winner out of any dead pool player.


Colin Jones said...

Deadpool was introduced in 1991 which was during my, break...from comics so when I returned to reading Marvel in 2007 Deadpool was a new character to me but it was only a few days ago that I discovered he had originally been a villain when I was reading "Top 10 Deadpool Facts" on - it also mentioned how his speech bubbles had a yellow lining and later became totally yellow but here they had a pink lining. As for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" - Deadpool ends up without a mouth..??...thankfully I didn't pay to see that film, I got the DVD free with the DVD of "The Wolverine" :D

Comicsfan said...

Something tells me you're better off hanging onto your impressions from your first exposure to Deadpool, Colin, rather than seeing how he was first handled. Many of Marvel's characters fared the same way, after all--becoming more fleshed out by other writers and going on to greatness. It looks like Deadpool is shaping up to be another in a string of such successes.

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