I think we can safely call this the Summer of the Superhero.
You can’t go anywhere without encountering blockbusters, books, graphic novels, and YouTube videos, dedicated to the adventures of the suped-up denizens of the DC and Marvel (and various Independent) Universes.
(especially at the Davenport Public Library—just saying)
But when everyone is fighting for truth, justice, and the way of whichever rebooted dimension they happen to currently inhabit, and everyone’s base superpower is to look fabulous in spandex, how can a single super stand out?
With the power of Pure Obnoxiousness, that’s how.
Marvel’s Deadpool (aka Wade Wilson, aka “The Merc with the Mouth”) isn’t your usual superhero. And he definitely isn’t for the kiddies.
Other superheroes have healing factors (Wolverine) and are known for their sarcasm (Spiderman and Hawkeye), still others are egotistical (Tony Stark), have mental health issues (Duh), or dubious reputations (Winter Soldier and the Black Widow), and whatever they say their motivations are, most of them are adrenaline junkies with easily ignored self-preservation instincts.
But only in Deadpool do all these traits combine to make a deadly, invulnerable, happy-go-lucky sociopath who could use a double dose of Ritalin every four hours.
He’s often drawn as having multiple personality disorder (or being possessed, take your pick), surrounded by different narration boxes that argue with him or amongst themselves. He’s also one of the few Marvel characters who knows that he’s a character, making him incredibly delusional by the standards of the other characters and impossibly self-aware by ours. Or vice versa.
Deadpool himself is aware that he’s crazy by anyone’s standards—and he runs with it. He takes on impossible tasks, talks directly to the reader (and the artists) whenever it’s inappropriate to do so, and takes full advantage of his cartoon status by acting like a happily-homicidal, R-rated version of a Roadrunner who read Wile E. Coyote’s playbook, stole his Acme catalogs, and hung out a shingle.
And his success rate is phenomenal, if you ignore the collateral damage.
During the course of his Extremely Varied Career, he’s saved the world from alien invasions and undead presidents, punk’d Dracula, kicked it with Hawkeye, and contributed interesting things (including an excellent post credit scene) to Wolverine’s origins.
This is a man who appeares to thoroughly enjoy his (wet)work.
Though that doesn’t mean he can’t get cranky about being an immortal pawn in someone else’s script, to the point of making the odd attempt to take down everyone in all the Marvel Universes . . . and beyond.
Deadpool has a lot to be cranky about—even the mildest of his many, many origin stories is a nightmare: a highly skilled (and highly irritating) mercenary soldier, Wade Wilson was diagnosed with fast-acting, lethal cancer. In exchange for a cure, he agreed to join the Weapon X program (the one that gave Wolverine his metal skeleton), which hoped to use him to create the perfect soldier. Unfortunately, the scientists at Weapon X miscalculated (or lied); their excruciating experiments did give him a healing factor that made him essentially unkillable . . . but it didn’t actually cure his cancer or reverse the horrific effects of the disease . . . or of the experiments.*
Essentially, his cells regenerate just quickly enough to keep the cancer and his battle damage from killing him—but what’s underneath Deadpool’s mask isn’t pretty. And what’s between his ears, by most definitions, doesn’t have a firm grip on what’s left of its sanity.
Still, Deadpool is loyal (at least to the highest bidder) willing to do almost any mission (for a price), and occasionally takes a shine to other heroes (especially Spidey, Cable, and Hawkeye) and “helps” them with their own missions in a way that really, really doesn’t . . . at least, at first.
He cares, sometimes, in his own way, and if his ideas of right and wrong are a little skewed, he deserves partial credit for trying. Maybe. And it might, just might, be possible that the reason Deadpool is so completely, utterly annoying is that his invulnerability is only skin deep and he’s desperate to protest what’s left of the rest of him.
Most of the time, Deadpool wants to be The Hero—or The Anti-Hero of Awesome—of his own story, but his methods are madness.
Though even his worst enemies can’t deny that he makes it work for him.
And it really works for those of us who dare to try his kind of chaotic supercrazy.
*In another version, the Weapon X experiments worked as stipulated, and Wade Wilson was a covert superhero for a while, until he (mistakenly or deliberately) killed one of his team. He was sent to The Hospice, a rehabilitation center for damaged mutants and supers, which was actually a secret playground for the sadistic Dr. Killebrew. The doctor and his staff made bets—in a “deadpool”, get it?—on which of their patients would survive their terrible experiments. As it happened, Wade Wilson held on long enough to kill his torturers and escape . . . thus “winning” the deadpool and earning a new name. Isn’t that cheerful?