Deadpool #1, Nov. 1996
My favorite genre is and has always been comedy. If you can make me laugh, you can make me loyal. And Joe Kelly earned my loyalty in spades with his 33-issue run on Deadpool.
Credit where it’s due to Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, who created the character in 1991, but prior to ’96, Wade Wilson was little more than the occasional comic relief in X-Force and related titles, plus two four-issue miniseries.
Kelly’s run was the first sustained attempt at turning Deadpool from character actor to unhinged leading man. He mined the pain in Wade’s Weapon X past, gave him supporting characters who showed him how to be a hero and, most of all, unleashed his brand of pop culture-heavy chaos on the wider Marvel Universe.
Case in point, in the very first issue, he fights Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch. Now, I’m not saying this is a big “get,” but at the time, the Fantastic Four and Avengers had disappeared into the “Heroes Reborn” pocket universe, so Captain America and Iron Man were unavailable (and also weren’t nearly as popular as they are today). Even so, if they had just thrown Wolverine into the book, there would have been nothing to make this anything more than another X-title. Later on that first year, he mixes it up with the Hulk, Daredevil, Typhoid Mary, the Great Lakes Avengers and even gets stuck in a 1960s issue of Spider-Man.
Kelly’s writing was helped along by Ed McGuinness’ art, which was bright, clean and perfect for a book that smiled even in the darkest of places.