Character Reference is a weekly spot where I provide a letter of recommendation for a series you should try, kicking off with a selection of comics. Every Thursday will have an overview of a fantastic comic book series that you might otherwise have missed, covering a range of genres, styles and characters. Enjoy!
This week is notably different in a couple of respects to most of the Character Reference posts; whereas as usually I’m talking about a specific run, this recommendation is broadly about a character which encompasses a range of writers, artists and story arcs, with a few specific mentions thrown in. Secondly, the character I’m going to talk about is a man. These posts are intended to introduce people who are new to comics to the wonderful and varied world of comic book characters beyond predictable, mainstream, muscle-bound heroes like Batman and Captain America. Personally I favour kick-ass women and femme characters, which is why they feature most prominently in this column, but who can resist the anarchic, fourth-wall-breaking, pansexual anti-hero that is Deadpool? And quite right too.
Deadpool has smashed his way through from cult geek obscurity to widespread popularity and recognition this year after the release of the Deadpool movie starring Ryan Reynolds, which was the surprise hit of 2016, making back a staggering 1348% of its budget, as well as being nominated for two Golden Globes. As anyone who has watched the film will know, this isn’t the family friendly heroics of The Avengers, but filthy-minded, sweary good fun with a self-aware and self-loathing protagonist that revels in the darkness and excessive violence as much as the puerile humour and dick jokes.
If all that makes it sound like a hard sell (hehe), that’s part of the irresistible pull of Deadpool as a series and as a character. Wade Wilson is a cynical, smart-mouthed Canadian mercenary with a penchant for katanas, guns and gallows humour, and a morality that’s more than fifty shades of grey. Yet this comedic anti-hero is more of a sad clown, his wise cracks and his literal mask masking his tragedy; like the more well known Wolverine, Wade was imbued with a healing factor in an attempt to cure his cancer, but unlike the more famous mutant, the near-immortal Deadpool was left with a disfigured visage as his cancerous cells are renewed every time he heals from damage. You can’t help but feel sympathy for Deadpool, but his weaknesses as well as his idiosyncrasies make him more relatable than most of the Marvel superhero roster. There’s a boyish charm to the character, and the fourth-wall breaking feels like less of a cheap trick than a roguish wink at you, the reader, personally. Proving humour truly is more appealing than looks, Deadpool is one of the sexiest superheroes to grace comic books. Even Death can’t resist him.
Deadpool was first created in 1991, but there are a few excellent jumping on points for new readers. Deadpool: Dead Presidents was my introduction to the character in print; it’s a fast-paced, action packed volume which sees Deadpool recruited to kill evil zombie versions of American Presidents. It’s as bonkers as you would imagine, and features a cameo from Doctor Strange, the ghost of Benjamin Franklin and an exploded elephant. Alternatively, Deadpool Classics Volume 2 begins Joe Kelly’s acclaimed run, which is often seen as the best Deadpool run of all time. The modern resurgence of Deadpool came with Daniel Way’s run, beginning with Deadpool: Secret Invasion. If you’re a Spider-Man fan there’s also currently a Spider-Man/Deadpool series currently being released. So, what are you waiting for?
Created by: Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza
Status: Multiple volumes and runs, currently Spider-Man/Deadpool by Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness and Deadpool by Gerry Duggan and various artists are on-going, plus a mini-series