We’re entering what is increasingly becoming a rare lull in the superhero movie calendar. With Fantastic Four out of the way, the next stop on the tour is Feb. 12, when Fox’s Deadpool bows in theaters.
So I thought I’d spend the next however many weeks till the movie revisiting the run that elevated Deadpool from mouthy Deathstroke/Spider-Man/Wolverine ripoff to a character who could support a movie on his own: Joe Kelly, Ed McGuinness, et al’s first ongoing Deadpool series. As of right now, the plan is to focus on an issue a week, but we’ll see how things go.
Before we dive in to issue #1, however, some background:
Deadpool was co-created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza and first appeared in 1991’s New Mutants #98. Prior to getting his own ongoing series in November 1996, he starred in two miniseries. 1993’s The Circle Chase, by Nicieza and Joe Madureira, saw him tussle with Black Tom Cassidy, Juggernaut and a host of others over the will of Tolliver, the late arms dealer who was actually Cable’s son, Tyler, who actually wasn’t dead until Wolverine killed him a couple years later. 1994’s Sins of the Past, by Mark Waid and Ian Churchill, saw DP team up with Banshee and his daughter, Siryn, vs. Black Tom again. He also was a recurring character in X-Force, which remained a Nicieza joint after Liefeld left the title to co-found Image Comics. Jeph Loeb took over X-Force after Nicieza left in 1995 and continued to use the character, especially in team-ups with Siryn.
So what do we know about Deadpool going into Kelly and McGuinness’ series? Well, we know his real name is Wade Wilson; he was a by-product of the Weapon X program (this is before Grant Morrison turned it into Weapon Plus, so let’s don’t get bogged down in that); he can heal fast and has teleportation tech; he worked as a mercenary for Tolliver alongside his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa Carlyle, aka Copycat, and his tech guy, Weasel; his speech is depicted in yellow word balloons (previously white balloons with yellow borders); his primary enemies are Cable and Weapon-X-mate Garrison Kane; and as of Sins of the Past, he has a crush on Siryn.
One more thing worth noting: When Deadpool opens, it’s in a world where heroes are in short supply. Onslaught had just happened that summer, and so the Avengers and Fantastic Four were MIA, having been sucked into a pocket dimension created by Franklin Richards in a yearlong arc called “Heroes Reborn” that saw Liefeld return to Marvel alongside fellow X-pat Jim Lee. The X-Men were still around, but the events of Onslaught made them more hated and feared than normal. In some cases, villains filled the void the heroes left behind. The same month that Deadpool debuted, the Thunderbolts first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #449. The first incarnation of the ‘Bolts was, in fact, Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil. What better time for a mercenary to take a hero’s journey?
We’ll take that journey starting next week (or the week after, schedules permitting), when we analyze issue #1 in earnest. That’s right, I just gave you guys homework!
And for extra credit, here’s some recommended reading:
Deadpool: The Circle Chase #1-4 sets up Deadpool’s rivalry with a number of other baddies, including Juggernaut and Black Tom and the villain Slayback. Not long after, artist Joe Madureira would become the regular penciller on Uncanny X-Men.
Deadpool: Sins of the Past #1-4 establishes Deadpool’s crush on Siryn and gives us some background on Banshee, who was being groomed to train his own team of X-Men in Generation X. Writer Mark Waid would go on to write the adjectiveless X-Men book for a time, and artist Ian Churchill would later be assigned to Cable.
The Deadpool Classic Vol. 1 TPB compiles both DP minis along with New Mutants #98 and Deadpool #1 and is the perfect textbook for this post.
NewMutants98.com explores the market value of Deadpool’s first appearance, and why it may be artificially inflated. (The site’s a bit out of date, as it references the movie being in “Development Hell,” but it’s still a great read for those interested in the collector market.)
For more on the Weapon Plus program and how it didn’t exist when Deadpool was created, check out this installment of Comic Book Legends Revealed.
And for those of you nostalgic for other eras of Deadpool, check out this announcement about a new Cable & Deadpool digital-first miniseries coming this fall from Nicieza and Reilly Brown.
In addition to writing for The Matt Signal, Dan Grote is now the official comics blogger for The Press of Atlantic City. New posts appear Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com/Life. His new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He and Matt have been friends since the days when Onslaught was just a glimmer in Charles Xavier's eye. Follow @danielpgrote on Twitter.