So I’m lying on the physical therapy table today, mostly trying to not concentrate on how painful whatever my therapist is doing is (“But it’s the good pain – the good pain!” I assure myself as I grasp the edge of the table) when the therapist next to me and his patient start talking about having just seen the Deadpool movie. Naturally I can’t help but join the conversation.
“So what did you think?” I inquire, and both of them enthusiastically agree that it was great. “Have you read the comics, or did you come to the character through the movie?” I ask. Neither has read the comics, although the patient’s son has. But both agree that they are looking forward to the sequel already; and after some talk about Deadpool, the conversation slides easily and naturally into Netflix’ Jessica Jones and Daredevil, and then hops over to The Dresden Files. The therapist and his daughter have found much to discuss in Jessica Jones; the patient agrees with me that The Dresden Files show was mostly a hot mess, but that was a real shame because Paul Blackthorne was so good and we’re big fans of the books. “It’s like you’re all in the same club,” comments my therapist, around this time.
And so we are. Whether we come to it through reading, the screen versions, other avenues, or what-have-you, it’s clear that we three are, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “kindred spirits” (also referred to mysteriously as “the race that knows Joseph,” and “the Tribe of Joseph”) when it comes to genre entertainment. We vary in age, race, gender, profession, and probably many other demographics, and we’ve only just or recently met; but in discussing these creations, we easily converse like old friends.
I find it interesting, the ability of some people to meet and immediately have a sociable and passionate conversation on these topics; when others either wouldn’t care, or would only want to discuss them because they are the topic du jour and they don’t want to be left out. And I have noticed that amongst these people, there seem to be less misunderstandings; or at least, more easy understandings of what the other person means or how they feel, even if it’s not always conveyed perfectly. I don’t think the ability to find such kindred spirits only applies with genre entertainment fans – in fact, there is certainly a larger pool of kindred spirits in my world than just these sort. And I don’t think that every geek fits this mold – certainly there are misogynists, pedants, and the like present in any field of interest. But I do perceive a vast overlap in the geeks and kindred spirits in my life; and notice that I get along particularly well with people who are passionate about genre works and the creative arts.
It seems to me that it is a very good thing to be of this “Tribe of Geekdom.” I think the people I meet who are kindred spirits in the enjoyment of comics, genre literature, sci-fi and fantasy TV and movies, and the like are simply more. More vibrant, more clever, more adaptable, more understanding, more creative, more passionate, more adventurous, more fearless; more interesting. And it leads me to wonder why that is. Are some people just made that way? Or is it perhaps because they were introduced in childhood to creative works that opened their minds? Or has our mutual love of these creations simply built a foundation of common ground that has brought us to a similar way of thinking before we even meet?
It also leads me to wonder what the world looks like to the “other kind of folks” (as Captain Jim of Anne’s House of Dreams would say). Does my tribe only look like the most interesting one because I’m in it? Whatever do the other folks think of us, talking enthusiastically about lightsabers, musing on what it would really be like to fight with superpowers, dreaming about living amongst Ray Bradbury’s Martians, or discussing how the rules of magic would function as laid out in our favorite book. And do they, in fact, think that they are the ones in the most interesting tribe? Do they feel like “more” to each other?
Which leads me to also wonder, are there really “two kinds of people”? Or is it simply our view from the “darkness behind the eyes, where the little voice is” as Lady LeJean of Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time described it, that both defines our place in the universe and provides a viewpoint to categorize others in relation to our selves? Is it more likely that we all land on a spectrum of understanding in relation to each other, and those who are too far down the spectrum from ourselves seem, indeed, like another sort of folks entirely? And if they move up the spectrum, will it seem to us like they’ve switched tribes?
Heck, I don’t know. I just know that, like L.M. Montgomery, I perceive a dichotomy of understanding; that it makes me happy to encounter by happenstance as I go about my daily life other people who seem to understand the world in the way that I do; and that many of those folks seem to be, in my experience, most definitely of the Tribe of Geekdom.
So, hooray for the Tribe! And until next time, Servo Lectio!
We spent last weekend at the 6th annual Long Beach Comic Expo. Basically we shopped and counted Deadpool costumes, but we also interviewed some comic creators and went to some panels too. Here are some of our highlights, so you can feel like you were there too. We’ll be back next week with some interviews.
Oh, and our final Deadpool count was 68. Maddy won.
Back in 2010 and 2011 I was going through a bit of a hard time. For those who don’t know, I have a degenerative eye disease, keratoconus, which had at that time progressed to the point where it looked like my next step in attempting to retain my vision was going to have to be corneal transplant surgery. Fortunately, it turned out there was a less drastic option that would halt the degeneration I was experiencing. However, because that option was experimental it wasn’t covered by my health insurance, and was going to be very expensive.
In a demonstration of how wonderful the fandom community is, a number of friends convinced me that in a situation like this accepting assistance was not a bad idea, and then worked together to raise money to pay for the surgeries, primarily via a fandom auction (a fact I will never forget and for which I continue to feel blessed). It was a dramatic demonstration of how supportive the fandom community can be; and not only the fans, but also the creators, as several comics and literary professionals who learned of the auction or my situation contributed auction items or funds as well.
One of those creators is a wonderfully nice dude who also happens to be one of my favorite Deadpool and comics artists, Reilly Brown. I’ve been privileged to know Reilly since my first New York Comic Con in 2009 and can attest to the fact that he’s an all-around good guy who cares about the comics community and has occasionally done things like reviewing portfolios for free just to help new artists out. For the auction, he contributed this beautiful Deadpool piece along with a nice post asking for support for my situation, and it was a big help and really meant a lot to me.
Recently, Reilly’s had some really great things happen – getting to see a character he’s worked extensively on in his very own successful box office hit; seeing his co-creation Bob, Agent of HYDRA, show up in the Deadpool movie); starting work on a new Deadpool & Cable project; and most important, welcoming his adorable son William (seen here wearing a Deadpool hat to continue the theme) into the world.
Unfortunately, on February 13 (shockingly, not a Friday), one epically bad thing happened as well – a fire started in an apartment building near the one Reilly, his wife, and their new baby live in and quickly spread from building to building. Although no one was hurt (thank goodness!) and the fire itself didn’t reach their apartment, it did hit the apartment directly next door, and the resulting smoke permeated everything, including everything the Browns own. The water the firefighters used to quench the blaze also damaged their belongings.
Reilly writes about the experience here and notes that, although insurance will cover some of the damage, it will not be enough to assist with cleaning or replacing everything, or with moving expenses. Happily, he also includes several means by which you can assist him and his family in getting back on their feet, if you’d like to do so. Among them are purchasing original comics art he currently has for sale; contacting him via his website to commission an original piece; and purchasing a downloadable version of one or both of his sketchbooks for whatever amount you’d like to contribute.
From experience, I can tell you that when going through a hard time, every little bit helps; and knowing there are people out there rooting for you and wanting to help means a lot as well. In addition, lessening the financial worry for someone in difficulty makes it easier for them to bear the stress attendant on a bad situation. In my case, not having as much money stress, and knowing people were out there caring about my situation, made having to go through two surgeries and recovery periods more bearable. I can imagine that, likewise, whatever people might be able to contribute will help the Browns in dealing with the stress and daunting list of things to be done to get back to equilibrium after losing a large chunk of their belongings, as well as a settled place to live (not to mention dealing with all of that and taking care of an infant!).
So if you’re in the market for some really cool comics art, or if you can spare a little bit for a family who needs it (and are also wonderful people), please consider looking at the options Reilly has provided and giving your assistance. Let’s continue to be a great comics community that cares about and looks after its own.
Toy Fair, the Toy Industry Association’s annual convention, has been held for years in New York City and offers purchasing agents from different retailers the opportunity to preview toys from different manufacturers. Retail buyers evaluate toys, games and “youth entertainment products” and place orders with their manufacturers for upcoming selling seasons.
Having their orders in hand, the manufacturers would then scramble to make the toys and meet the delivery dates. But the world has changed so much in many ways:
Both retailers and toy companies have consolidated, while niche manufacturers continue to emerge
The Internet has transformed the way toy consumers shop, as it has for every other industry. For toys, this translates into a whole new way of managing inventory demands and producing the initial quantities of products. Online toy retailers don’t need to stock their shelves the way brick and mortar retailers once had to.
Buyers and sales reps don’t really need to meet once a year in New York. The world is smaller and communicates more regularly. Why would a salesperson want to wait until an annual event to speak with buyers?
And as we know from Geek Culture, super passionate consumers and fans are eager to know what’s going to be on sale in the future. In our anticipation-driven economy, teasing is a standard part of the game. It’s not enough that a retailer’s buyer plans ahead for what the store will be selling in the months to come – consumers want to know too.
And that’s why this year saw the debut of Play Fair. Created by Left Field Media, Play Fair is a consumer show bolted onto the traditional Toy Fair. It provides an opportunity for fans and families to enjoy a sneak peek at the upcoming toys.
Toy Fair has always had a “business person only” policy. In fact, their site posts this admonishment in bold letters:
Toy Fair registration is open to the trade only; Toy Fair is not open to the public. NO ONE under the age of 18, including infants, will be admitted.
The publishing industry’s Book Expo had a similar policy, although it was enforced to a lesser degree. But recently they added a consumer element to their convention, and actually welcomed their industry’s most enthusiastic supporters. It was a great success and helped breathe new life into a stodgy show.
Left Field Media’s management is the team behind that new welcoming strategy. And these folks are also responsible for the launch of New York Comic Con, C2E2 and the ReedPop consumer events division or Reed Elsevier. They understand fans and consumer events.
I saw so many smiling families just loving Play Fair. Bone-chilling temperatures didn’t deter families – it was a big event with enthusiastic kids and parents celebrating toys and playtime.
Play Fair’s inaugural debut showcased so much, including the newest cinematic Batmobile, Target’s new line of Super Heroine merchandise and play areas hosted by family friendly companies like LEGO.
But back at Toy Fair, another big takeaway was the overwhelming influence of Geek Culture on the toy industry’s merchandise. The days of a brand created by a toy company (for some reason Hungry, Hungry Hippo comes to mind) seem to be fading. Instead, creative toy designers are more likely to embrace a pop culture license and show the world the unique spin they offer upon it.
So this year, for example, Toy Fair showcased a myriad of Batmobiles from a myriad of companies – expensive Batmobiles, big Batmobiles, small Batmobiles, radio controlled Batmobiles, TV inspired Batmobiles, movie-inspired Batmobiles, silly Batmobiles, bottle opener Batmobiles – the list goes on and on.
Similar examples can be provided from all the pillars of Geek Culture – Superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead and more. And of course, Underground Toy’s unique Star Wars lightsaber BBQ grilling tongs debuted last year, but they are still the perfect example of this trend.
It was especially fascinating to see newer Geek Culture brands like Deadpool,Dr. Strange and Spider-Gwen on the Toy Fair exhibition floor at multiple manufacturers.
Toy Fair offers a glimpse of the future. And looking ahead, it’s clear that the toy industry and retail sales are going to continue to be driven, in a very big way, by the passion that fuels Geek Culture.
Deadpool is a good superhero movie that people are going to convince themselves was an excellent superhero movie. It’s got a couple good action beats, it feels like a cohesive part of a larger universe without being overly constrained, it has a serviceable (and age appropriate) love story, and it’s clever… but not quite as clever as it thinks it is. You can wink at the camera and tell me that you know that you’re doing all of the usual genre clichés, but that doesn’t make the clichés any less boring. I wanted Deadpool to be a movie that broke the mold, but instead it just spends a lot of time telling you it’s better than the mold and not showing you.
Ryan Reynolds is kind of a fiat movie star; he’s handsome and famous but if you look at his credits it doesn’t seem like an impressive career. I have very few distinct memories of Ryan Reynolds performances but I do remember leaving Green Lantern and thinking, “This movie was kinda bad but it wasn’t Ryan Reynolds’s fault.” These are not the kind of ringing endorsements that careers are built on, but Reynolds feels like the perfect choice to play Wade Wilson. He’s funny and charming and the self-deprecation feels a little more real because he isn’t an A-list actor in his own right. The only other actor I could even imagine playing this part with the same zeal is James Franco, and that’s an objectively worse choice (although think of all the Spider-Man 3 jokes we could have gotten). Everything that doesn’t work about Deadpool is saved by Reynolds’s overwhelming performance, and all the things that work are pushed to even greater heights.
The rest of the cast fine but there are precious few standouts among them. I’m fond of Morena Baccarin but this part, even as the female lead, is small and gives her very little room to show anything. Gina Carano is the most imposing woman working in film this side of Gwendoline Christie and she looks like a million bucks in this, her second consecutive feature film that’s barely asked her to talk. T.J. Miller plays a comic relief character in a movie full of comic relief characters, and while he hits every punchline I never wished he was on screen more often. Ed Skrein might do the movie the biggest disservice as the main villain Ajax, as he’s just so unbelievably boring that while I want Deadpool to get his revenge I wish he could do it without having to hear another generic British bad guy deliver generic bad guy dialogue. Brianna Hildebrand seems like she could be a breakout star if she’s given enough chances to play Negasonic Teenage Warhead, although she’s certainly not in the next X-Men movie, would likely feel shoehorned in to any sequels in this franchise, and might simply never get another chance.
So I’m generally fond of the acting in Deadpool, and the action is a solid B+ (even if three of the top five moments were given away for free in the trailer) but where it fails to deliver for me is in the story. This is the same origin story then damsel in distress formula I’ve seen a thousand times. I was tempted to use hyperbole and say a million but I’m confident it has actually been at least a thousand times by this point. Deadpool loves to show how it knows that it’s a movie and how familiar it is with all these tropes but it isn’t brave enough to actually break out of them in any way. I’m sick of origin stories and telling me I’m going to see one doesn’t make it better. I’m slightly less sick of hostage girlfriends but only because a lot of movies don’t bother to develop enough characters to have compelling alternative hostages. It’s also disappointing that for all the snark they have about the genre that they direct none of it at the sexualized violence the genre is often bogged down in and even contributes some for itself. Deadpool is going to get credit for being clever and subversive and it’s only doing those things at a four out of ten and for it to feel real I need them to aim much higher.
I’m happy that Deadpool exists and I enjoyed watching it (when I wasn’t groaning at the idea of watching another person get experimented on until they develop super powers) but it isn’t there yet, and I hope the praise it’s getting doesn’t make it sit on its laurels. There’s a spark of great potential here and I’m instantly more excited for Deadpool 2 than I am for any superhero movie that isn’t Civil War because it could actually be something unique and clever. Deadpool is a great first step but I need them to keep going.
As a rule, I don’t look to celebrities for advice or insight about anything except celebrity. Actors know acting, musicians know music, authors know how to write, but these talents don’t mean they know politics or finance or relationships. There are exceptions (e. g. George Clooney is smart about Darfur, Martin Sheen knows his pacifism), but, in general, I seek my expertise from experts.
So I was more than a bit surprised when Ryan Reynolds said something smart about marketing. His new movie, Deadpool (which I haven’t seen yet but I will, I promise) set a record by earning $135 million on its opening weekend, the highest ever for an R-rated film.
It earned that much money by attracting both men and women to theaters. Cue the proponents of the conventional wisdom, who insist that women don’t like superheroes. As Reynolds said, “It’s sort of like… well, no. Women love fucking superhero movies! Clearly they go to these movies. It’s sort of funny that the studios are sometimes the last to know that.”
Ryan Reynolds, at least, gets it. Maybe he’s interested in the movie business and not just movie acting, so he pays attention. Maybe he wants to have a career with some longevity, so he pays attention to his audience as well as his opportunities. Maybe having a daughter has shown him how unique each human personality will be.
And, yes, the studios are the last to know. The only people who might also be just as ignorant are the Big Two comic book publishers and toy manufacturers.
Why is it so important to so many of our popular culture institutions to divide our entertainment choices into those for men or for women? The assumption that boys won’t like things that girls like, an assumption that ruled my childhood, has been demonstrated to be (generally) false. Girls will play with Legos that are not pink. Boys will play with E-Z Bake Ovens.
Neither will get cooties.
I think they are afraid that gender is contagious. One of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron, described this mind-set decades ago, in her hilarious essay “A Few Words About Breasts.” To quote:
“In grammar school, in the fifth and sixth grades, we were all tyrannized by a rigid set of rules that supposedly determined whether we were boys or girls… We learned that the way you sat, crossed your legs, held a cigarette, and looked at your nails-the way you did these things instinctively was absolute proof of your sex… I thought that just one slip, just one incorrect cross of my legs or flick of an imaginary cigarette ash would turn me from whatever I was into the other thing; that would be all it took, really. Even though I was outwardly a girl and had many of the trappings generally associated with girldom – a girl’s name, for example, and dresses, my own telephone, an autograph book – I spent the early years of my adolescence absolutely certain that I might at any point gum it up.”
We know, of course, that’s not how gender identity works, of course (the essay is from 1972, referencing events that took place several decades earlier). And yet it seems as if movie companies, comic book publishers and toy companies would rather leave money on the table than adjust their views about gender roles.
Deadpool? Who the heck is Deadpool? What the heck is a Deadpool?
That’s Deadpool? Looks like he’s wearing a costume that Spider-Man gave to the Salvation Army. Superhero, huh? With his own movie. It made how much? A hundred and thirty-five million dollars opening weekend? American money?
Yeah, I didn’t see Deadpool coming either. Oh sure, I caught some of the television commercials, but nothing on the screen made me want to plunk down the price of admission. I thought that maybe I’d watch it on cable, maybe some night after Marifran’s crashed. Or maybe we’d watch it together. Some time. Maybe.
Deadpool is not exactly a household name, like Superman or Spider-Man. Despite a connection with the über-popular X-Men, I doubt that Deadpool has penetrated the public consciousness – or at least he hadn’t, before all those TV ads.
Now? Bet the mortgage money that a sequel is already heading our way.
Savants-to-come may extract meaning – or Meaning – from the Deadpoolian success. I won’t even try. Instead, I’ll content myself with observing that, obviously, the Great Superhero Surge has not waned. And if the showbiz folk can extract a Deadpool from the yellowing pages of ageing funnybooks and transform him into profit, mightn’t there be other forgotten/obscure/abandoned characters waiting for similar transformation?
Here’s a thought: why not take these almost-anonymous characters half way back to their birthplaces – those yellowing pages – and reinvent them as animated cartoons? Not the kind of paperdollish creations that used to inhabit the Saturday morniing wasteland. No, give them the same prime time treatment that was once given to The Flintstones and is currently accorded The Simpsons and The Family Guy. And while, yes, I’m proposing that these new shows feature superheroes, I wrote nothing about human superheroes. With a nod to Ralph Bakshi’s version of Mighty Mouse, let’s resurrect funny animals and, as is done with the Simpsons and Family Guy, give them not-so-funny themes.
Hoppy The Marvel Bunny, anyone?
Another idea? Sure. Four words: Herbie The Fat Fury. And who might he be? Herbie – last name Popnecker – was a tubby, lollypop loving kid who had secret superpowers. These he used to fight evil, which is, after all, what superheroes do, even if they’re not terribly imposing superheroes. Herbie lived on the newsstands, in various titles published by the American Comics Group, from 1958 to 1964. Then, poof. Gone!
I think Herbie has possibilities. He could work as an animation property – again, let us remember Family Guy – or in live action. It might be difficult to find the right actor to play him, but hey! that’s why those folks out on the west coast get the big bucks. The only other snag I can foresee is the “fat fury” sobriquet. Some citizens might find it offensive. Well, okay, drop it if that seems prudent. Not much will be lost if you do.
And admit it: aren’t you just a wee bit weary of muscled people in tight costumes? Like Deadpool?
Seven random thoughts on a post-Valentine’s Day afternoon.
I’ve started to measure time in “DC Comics Reboots.” Usually about four years, give or take. In other words, if Abe Lincoln used that designation his most famous speech with have started “21 DC Comics Reboots ago…” Yes, I know DC insists it’s not a reboot, despite cancelling and replacing their entire superhero line with new versions of the same old thing. And I suppose Superman doesn’t have a Big Red S.
O.K. Jughead is asexual – although I’d bet he won’t be in the CW teevee series. But I ask you this: did Kevin Keller out him by saying so in public at Riverdale High? Don’t get me wrong; that was a great scene and it feels as though the revelation was common knowledge. But, like Martha and Joe before me, I hadn’t thought about asexuals being a class of people subject to routine discrimination. It’s been a while since a mainstream comic book actually lit the flames of thought inside my fevered brainpan.
Deadpool was the Airplane! of superhero movies. Brianna Hildebrand’s scene where she halts the big battle sequence in order to finish texting was brilliant and Stan Lee’s cameo was the finest use of a nonagenarian comic book writer ever. However, I think Stefan Kapicic owes Paul Frees’ estate a check for his use of Boris Badenov’s voice, and at the end where Morena Baccarin worked things out (no spoiler alert), I kind of felt sorry for Detective Jim Gordon. Although, to be fair, Morena’s had a great deal of varied superhero work in recent years.
In last month’s issue of Doctor Fate – a wonderful and soon-to-be-cancelled New52 series – writer Paul Levitz deployed my favorite verse from the Koran. Yes, sports fans, I actually have a favorite verse from the Koran. Of course, Islam being an organized religion and therefore greatly disorganized, the verse is phrased in a variety of ways and its veracity has been questioned by some. But the line goes “Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh” and I think that’s a great sentiment. Nice job, Paul.
Riddle me this: How many Spider-Men does it take to fill the Marvel Universe? Answer: How many have you got? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Spideys right now than Green Lanterns. So stop bitching about the inevitability of concurrent Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers Captains America. That’s only two. Thus far. Oh, wait. Isn’t there a teen-age girl from 2099 or from another, no-longer existent universe? O.K. Three.
Counting up the number of secret origins devised for Wonder Woman over the past 75 years is akin to defining π to the last decimal point: you’re going to give up or die of old age before you complete your mission. I might have read them all, but I’ve probably read nearly all. And the current one that’s unfolding in Legend of Wonder Woman is, by far, the best thought-out and best realized of the bunch. Kudos to Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon on a thankless job – thankless because it’s not the origin in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie and, therefore, probably will be ignored. I hope not.
Now that Playboy magazine has dropped the tits’n’snatch, the relic from the beat generation has decided to off the cartoons as well. This surprises me only because its two most famous cartoonists, Gahan Wilson and Hugh Hefner, are still alive. Well, in ‘Ner’s case, that’s subject to debate. Nonetheless, it’s a shame that the magazine that regularly gave us the work of Jack Cole, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Bobby London, Harvey Kurtzman and Willy Elder will not extend that welcome to a new generation of artists. I’m not sure what Playboy’s place in this world might be, but I’ve been asking that question for several decades now… as have a great, great many of former and current employees and contributors to the publication. It’s not the end of an era; that era ended the day Al Gore learned how to spell “Internet.”
After what seems like decades of waiting (oh wait: it was actually about 10 years!) the Deadpool movie finally opened in theaters this past weekend to the tune of a record-shattering $135 million at the box office; and it was everything I’d hoped for. It was exactly the Deadpool movie that we needed at this point to get the franchise rolling – a dynamic R film that pulls no punches about who Deadpool is and why he’s not a traditional hero, yet invests us in his unorthodox character and worldview and gets us rooting for him anyway. And as I walked out of the theater, despite any minor critiques I may have, I felt distinctly the warm, zen-like glow of happiness from having just experienced the fulfillment of longtime hopes I’ve cherished for the manifestation of just such a Deadpool film.
Well, friends and internets – My opinions: let me tell you them.
(Warning: spoilers ahead!)
Deadpool is a crazy, hilarious, action-packed, totally inappropriate, slightly heartwarming, somewhat horrifying, gleefully violent, fourth-wall-breaking, satisfyingly mixed-up bag of awesome that makes way more sense than that sounds. It’s a welcome addition to the universe of comic book movies, and one with the potential to add both more fun movies to its own franchise, and bring some levity to upcoming X-Men ensemble movies. It’s also a take on the early Joe Kelly issues of the Deadpool comic, issues I’ve always loved and that did a lot to define the character, including establishing his incessant, pop-culture heavy banter, his work as a mercenary for hire, his romance with Vanessa Carlysle, and his relationship with supporting characters Weasel and Blind Al. The movie pulls heavily and, despite some necessary screenplay alterations, pretty faithfully from Deadpool’s origins as told in Kelly’s 1998 Deadpool & Death Annual, which establishes the backstory of Wade Wilson getting cancer and being given Wolverine’s healing factor by a shady Canadian government program in an attempt to cure him so he could work for them, his manifesting his mutate powers and in the process the ugly cancer tumors and scars we know so well, and his creating the Deadpool persona after his transformation.
Deadpool is an origin story that makes you forget it’s an origin story; a uniquely off-kilter flash back-and-forth plotline that manages to interweave the frenetic fight scenes and scattered behavior and commentary of post-op Deadpool with the more straightforward backstory of Wade Wilson in a way that keeps both interesting and interlocked, and allows for a story beyond his origin. This fits the character to a T; and also makes it possible for a movie starring a character known for random comments and wacky unpredictability to include a lot of heart in the form of a sweet (and salty) love story (the Deadpool marketing people weren’t completely pulling your chain on that one) as well as moments of gravitas and even desperate sadness. And that’s important, because although you won’t often see Deadpool crying into his beer, his origin is a damn sad story, and the dark undercurrents beneath the wisecracking guy in the red-and-black suit are what make him so interesting.
To portray that character, they couldn’t have found a better actor than Ryan Reynolds. Not only has Reynolds got the physique and athleticism for the role, but he also is a master of quick, snarky or sardonic comedic timing and delivery. However, as with the comics character, the over-the-top action and comedy are only two facets of a subtly complex character. The success of Reynolds as Deadpool comes from his ability to marry the snarky persona believably to the darker aspects of Deadpool’s personality, and deftly convey both Deadpool’s genuinely bizarre sense of black humor, and the manner in which the character also uses humor as his armor and as a mask for his pain and despair. Reynolds moves seamlessly from sight gags to exuberantly violent fight scenes to tender moments to intense anger to desperate sadness, and the undercurrents of strong emotion he manages to convey beneath gags and lightning-quick comments are what keep this from being just another ultraviolent comedy. I don’t know that there is another actor out there who could break our hearts during the scene in which Wade cries quietly in the bedroom as he decides to leave Vanessa; and a few beats later, have us roaring with laughter along with Deadpool at the sheer absurdity of a man being murdered via a slow-moving Zamboni.
Of course, in real life, we wouldn’t think any of that violence so funny; but Deadpool’s moral compass is so far off that if we tried to follow it, we’d end up (knowing him) somewhere on Uranus. Reynolds gets that, and plays the character with a charismatic, exuberant energy that pulls us fully into Deadpool’s worldview and makes us forget we’re laughing at, e.g., someone being “skewered like a fucking kabob.” As a passionate fan of Deadpool, Reynolds is wholly invested in this character, and has been wanting to play him in a movie for years (and actually got to play Wade Wilson for a good 15 minutes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but we won’t say any more about how that turned out). The Deadpool of the comics has, in fact, compared his appearance to “Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar-Pei” – and the movie cleverly acknowledges that (as well as Spider-Man’s origin) when Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool says he was “bitten by a radioactive Shar-Pei.” (Other fun facts: both Deadpool and Reynolds hail from Canada, and both have thrice alliterative names – Wade Winston Wilson and Ryan Rodney Reynolds. It’s like he was made for the part!)
Reynolds as Deadpool drives this movie; but it also succeeds in the realm of pulling the character’s look and fighting style from the comics onto the screen. The red and black costume is Deadpool to the last detail, including the inevitable pouches (which are sent up subtly in the movie when Deadpool puts a pamphlet from the cab into a pouch, then minutes later when it’s time to pay says he never carries a wallet when he’s working because it ruins the lines of the suit. There have been many jokes in the comics about what on Earth he keeps in all those pouches). And because the choreography of Deadpool’s completely badass fighting style (a parkour-like mix of elegance, economy, humorous distraction, efficiency, and brutality) was done so well that it was like seeing his comic book fight scenes come to life, Deadpool is the only action movie about which I’ve said, “I would have been happy to sit through more fight scenes.” I’ve always liked the mixture of fighting styles portrayed in the comics, and seeing them on the big screen reminded me of all the comics storylines that have established just what a powerhouse fighter Deadpool is. Sure, he’s not a tank like Colossus; but with his level of precision and skill, his unorthodox and unpredictable but successful tactics, and his healing powers, there’s a reason Deadpool stands above pretty much every melee fighter in the Marvel universe (bucking for first with Wolverine).
Although I say I’d be happy to see more fight scenes in theory (and in future Deadpool movies!), of course in reality too many fight scenes can overwhelm the story. The screenwriters struck the right balance here, devoting enough time to the establishment of Wade’s prior character and relationships to give them meaning alongside his transformation into Deadpool and into his action-heavy revenge scheme. They also did a good job introducing a roster of interesting character relationships without an excess of heavy-handed exposition; and when exposition was needed, cleverly used Deadpool’s fourth-wall-breaking trait to help things along. I do think that the main villains (Ajax and Angel Dust) are fairly opaque, and we don’t learn much about their motivations, but they are well acted and delineated enough to be effective in the story; and Ed Skrein’s Ajax, while he may not be the most horrifying villain I’ve ever seen on screen, is definitely one of the ones I’d most like to punch in the face.
Deadpool’s allies fare a bit better in the development category. T.J. Miller is excellent as Wade’s buddy Weasel, serving as a sort of loyal sidekick who prefers not to actually be around when the action goes down. In character, he’s very like the Weasel of the later comics (Cable & Deadpool era, because in the earlier comics Deadpool was much harsher to him), despite some differences in detail. Miller’s dry delivery makes him memorable, and Miller and Reynolds have a great rapport on-screen, which makes their friendship believable and their banter very amusing. Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) is great in her roommate role, and despite the movie losing some of the weirder, darker aspects of the Wade/Al friendship (see DeadpoolVolume 1 Issue 14), manages to nail the bickering but weirdly caring dynamic they have in the comics. (“Listen Al, if I never see you again, I want you to know that I love you very much,” says Wade as he leaves for the big showdown. “I also buried 1,600 kilos of cocaine somewhere in the apartment – right next to the cure for blindness. Good luck.”) Even the cabbie, Dopinder (who is not featured in the comics) has his moments and his own little difficult romance going on, which results in a pretty damn funny scene with “Mr. Pool.”
Although X-Men ally Colossus (voice, Stefan Kapicic; facial performance, Greg LaSalle) isn’t given much dimension, he does well as a moral foil for Deadpool, and is endearing in his patient attempts to convince Deadpool to be a hero. And his superhero speech and Deadpool’s ensuing choice at the climax of the movie make for the most morally thought-provoking moment of the film. Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), the other X-Men character and Colossus’s trainee, doesn’t get a ton of dialogue, but Hildebrand manages to do a lot with her screentime and I love what the writers have done with both Negasonic’s character and her powers thus far (which they’ve changed from the comics, but given she’s barely in the comics, I don’t foresee any fan rage). In outward character she is the quintessential moody teen (as per the hilarious opening credits), which Deadpool instantly calls her on; but that interaction establishes an immediate mocking rapport between the two, and by the final fight scene, they are working together as a better team than he and Colossus ever do. And of all the superpowered characters in the film, her powers are undoubtedly the most bombastically badass, as she can basically be a human bomb (slightly similar to Nitro). Negasonic is also a cool choice because she’s previously unexplored in the X-Men movie realm, and would make a good possible addition to the roster of characters that orbits Deadpool for a sequel, or could be explored further in other X-Men movies.
Of course, the driving force for much of the movie’s plot is Wade Wilson’s love story with Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin). And if Vanessa and that relationship had not been completely believable, the movie would have fallen apart. Kudos to the writers for penning one of the weirdest, but also possibly most human and authentic, big screen romances I can think of; and to Baccarin (and Reynolds) for making it feel entirely credible and natural. As the lovers note in the movie, they work not because they look like they should on paper, but because their individual quirks fit perfectly together, “like the weird curvy edges of jigsaw puzzle pieces” to form a whole picture. Although Baccarin unfortunately has to fill the damsel in distress role for a while in order to further the plot, there is enough substance built into her character and the romance prior to that point that she transcends that role because we already know her as a whole person, and their relationship as a solid, real thing. Plus, Vanessa does get to do a little ass-kicking of her own, getting in at least one solidly impressive blow on Ajax. And although I was slightly sad she’s not Copycat simply because I would have liked to see it, its canon and it works much better at this point in the movie franchise’s story to have her be a non-mutant. At least we got a little nod to Copycat in Vanessa’s white-streaked hair; and it’s possible that if she shows up again, we’ll get to see her in her full mutant glory.
Although we didn’t get to see Copycat, Deadpool gave us plenty of other references to the comic outside of, obviously, the main cancer and Ajax/Workshop storyline and key supporting characters Vanessa, Blind Al, and Weasel. Along with things I’ve mentioned like the pouches, Vanessa’s hair, and the Shar-Pei bit, other favorites of mine include:
Deadpool running into Bob amongst the faceless lackeys hired by Ajax (and although in the comics Bob’s wife is named Allison, I’m assuming in the movie she’s Gail for Gail Simone, a fantastic comics writer who wrote some great Deadpool comics);
The Hellhouse, a.k.a. Sister Margaret’s School for Wayward Children, in all its seedy glory;
A revenge plot flipped from the early Deadpool issues, in which Ajax is hunting down Deadpool via tracking his former Weapon X buddies (who did time with him in The Hospice/Workshop) and then killing them after they’ve given him the information he needs;
The heel-face turn plot point of Ajax telling Wade the “superhero” program was never meant to turn him into a hero, but was intended to turn him into a super slave (in the comics origin story, Wade did have a chance at being permitted to be Weapon X’s version of a superhero, but the cancer cure didn’t take, which is how he ended up in The Hospice). This echoes the Landau, Luckman, and Lake comics storyline wherein Deadpool signs on to save the world and then discovers that they never actually intended for him to be a hero in the sense he thought, because LL&L’s idea of “saving” the world is allowing an alien being to bring “peace and bliss” to Earth by robbing everyone of free will, leaving inhabitants in an inert stupor).
Deadpool seeking a fix for his ugly face. There are actually several stories in which Deadpool temporarily becomes handsome again/loses the ugly mug, but none of them end well (except, arguably, that thing with the One World Church, since it kicked off Cable & Deadpool, the most awesome reluctant buddy comic ever).
Deadpool bonding with Worm. Although not referred to as Worm in the movies, Deadpool’s Workshop friend David Cunningham has something subtly wrong with his right eye and side of his face, which echoes the cybernetic implant on Worm’s face in the comics, and Worm’s last name in the comics is Cunningham. The two become friends, and as in the comics, Cunningham dies near the time of Deadpool’s escape (although in the comics he’s lobotomized by Ajax, and Deadpool kills him in a mercy killing. This is itself likely an homage to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which Deadpool’s comics origin echoes in many ways).
Several references to Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, creators of Deadpool, including Liefeld’s name on a coffee cup and one of the characters in the Hellhouse being named Liefeld; and both names appearing on freeway exit signs. There’s also a line in the credits that thanks Liefeld and Nicieza “(With Tongue).” Oh, and let’s not forget the waitress in the Hellhouse, Kelly, who I assume is a reference to writer Joe Kelly;
Deadpool with a knife in his skull, à la oh-so-many of Deadpool artist Reilly Brown’s awesome Deadpool sketches, in which he loves depicting the merc as a literal human pincushion stuck full of things, being gnawed by rats, or even on fire. (The scene also references Daniel Way’s Pool-o-Vision, but I hate that in the comics, so pffft. It’s excusable in the movie because of the knife in the brain, though. Speaking of Daniel Way, the pizza guy scene echoes one in his run on the comics.)
Wade’s Bea Arthur shirt (in the pizza scene). Deadpool in the comics has an obsession with Bea Arthur, who he thinks is uber sexy.
Deadpool breaks his limbs to escape shackles in Issue 9 of the Joe Kelly run, when he’s escaping from Deathtrap. (I love that issue so: “Die, Teddy Ruxpin, Dieee!”) The broken limbs he gets during the Colossus movie fight, and then sawing off his hand to escape the handcuff, both echo that scene. Also, the baby hand growing back in the movie echoes a plotline in Issue 3 in which his finger had been cut off, and he’s trying to grow it back but only grows back a tiny stub at first.
The Dead Pool. Although in the comics Wade names himself after the Dead Pool run by Worm in The Hospice, and in the movie it’s run by Weasel at the Hellhouse, the inspiration is at least similar. The reference to Captain Deadpool is also great.
The way Deadpool impales one of the guys on the freeway with two katanas echoes the cover of Wolverine Issue 88, the issue where Deadpool and Wolverine first meet.
The way Vanessa touches Wade’s face after seeing his scars for the first time is reminiscent of Siryn’s gesture in the comics when she first sees him without his mask.
Meta fourth wall-breakage. Deadpool references the fourth wall a number of times in the movie, as in the comics, but the Blind Al bit where he breaks “sixteen walls” was probably my favorite allusion to it.
When Wade and Vanessa are finally together again and about to kiss, he says, “And now, the moment I’ve all been waiting for.” I’d take that to be a subtle reference to the multiple voices/speech boxes he deals with in the comics.
The little Deadpool bust on the shelf in Wade and Al’s apartment is a nod to how into his own brand and merchandise Deadpool is. (I was honestly surprised not to see the Deadpool boxers and the boots with the Deadpool symbols on the soles!)
The flipped running joke about Deadpool joining the X-Men is great. For some time in the comics, Deadpool liked to refer to himself as part of the X-Men team, and the team continually told him with great exasperation that he’s not a part of the team. Of course, I assume this is also set-up for bringing him into the greater X-Men movie universe, as he eventually does work with the X-Men in the comics.
And speaking of the X-Men universe and the future of Deadpool, now that we have this movie in theaters and it’s doing so well, naturally everyone is speculating about what comes next (besides the release of the soundtrack with that hilarious Deadpool theme song. Of course Deadpool gets his own theme song, along with the best Stan Lee cameo to date). The sequel was greenlit a few days before Deadpool opened; and in the fantastic end credits scene, Deadpool confirms (if you can believe him) that we’ll be seeing Cable in the next film. Given I’ve been saying since the moment Deadpool was a reality that the next logical step is filming the best messed-up bromance ever, a.k.a. Cable & Deadpool, I’ll be overjoyed if that’s the case. And it makes so much sense. Now that the character in both tone and origin is established, it will be easy to introduce Deadpool, e.g. through an X-Force movie (which Ryan Reynolds wants to see happen), to the larger ensemble franchise; and then to roll from that into Cable & Deadpool, a storyline that again primarily focuses on Deadpool (and Cable), but also involves a number of other mutants and has a much grander scale, since Cable is literally trying to save the world before he dies.
Going next to Cable & Deadpool will allow for further development along the lines of the absolute funniest moments in the film, which are when Deadpool is mocking others (particularly Colossus, Negasonic, and “Agent Smith”), skewering the X-Men franchise and superhero movies (“McAvoy or Stewart!?” killed me, and his excitement at the “Superhero Landing!” was a riot) and engaging in or laughing to himself at gallows or black humor (the aforementioned Zamboni scene, spelling out FRANCIS, and the T-Rex joke being good examples of this). Yes, a surprising amount of the crass humor in this movie does land (and Deadpool’s creative cursing is pretty good, his reference to Ajax as a “shit-spackled Muppet fart” being the best), but I’d love to see the sequel really keep focus on the satire and the more complex humor; and bringing Deadpool into the larger X-Men universe or pairing him with Cable (a man who he grudgingly respects, even when he doesn’t always like him) will allow for that. (Side note: I’ve seen some speculation already that maybe other superhero movies should up their ratings to R, considering that Deadpool is doing so well; but I think that would be a mistake. The smartest move, for both future Deadpool movies and other superhero movies, is to stay true to the character(s), and base both content and choice of rating on that. Deadpool being what he is, I had no issue with this film being R, and think future R-rated Deadpool films would be perfectly appropriate – but I also hope the most important goal remains making movies that capture the tone and essence of the character.)
Moving to the Cable & Deadpool storyline will also create an opportunity for another story that will hold together underneath all the jokes, and a more thorough exploration of morality through Deadpool’s eyes. In this film, Colossus’s speech as Deadpool is about to shoot Ajax in the head, and Deadpool’s reaction, which is hilariously and typically Deadpoolian, are also a pointed commentary on the superhero world and the way superheroes’ choices to rise above the villains they fight can be seen as noble and heroic, but could also be viewed simply as an unwillingness to be the one to rid the world of their evil. Of course, taking that final step is also problematic, as it gives rise to the concerns that started Marvel’s Civil War storyline, about having superpowered beings running around accountable to no one. The majority of the superpowered need to walk the line to remain in the good graces of the public; whereas Wade simply does not care and follows his own skewed code.
But examining that code, and Deadpool’s struggles in the comics with making the right choices and being a hero, could make for a great and complex movie sequel, and the Cable & Deadpool storyline has the moral questions and hard decisions built right in. Now that Deadpool has been established, I want to see the sequel delve even deeper into what’s underneath the wisecracks and the crazy now that he’s post-op Deadpool. I want to see Cable developed into a three-dimensional and perfect foil for Deadpool, and I want to see Deadpool forced to make hard choices in his own unique way. And, of course, I want them to showcase more of that crazy elegant fighting style, because it is badass. And, and, and…is there anything else I want? Well I would say a Deadpool unicorn, but I already have one. So I guess all that’s left to say is, OMG Deadpool was super awesome and I want to see it again; and…
Over the last week or so, we’ve seen two positive affirmations of the greater queer community at two of the biggest comic franchises. Over at Archie Comics, Jughead is officially asexual. Down at Marvel, the pansexual Deadpool crushed box office records for an R rated movie at the box office. Will these queer portrayals in comic culture start a push for better and more complex looks into the sexualities of the characters we read and watch, or are we in for more of the same?
Let’s start with Archie. For years, Archie Comics has been slowly reinventing itself. With the help of creators like Dan Parent, the openly gay Kevin Keller has been a breakout student down in Riverdale. Following some years later, Chip Zdarsky has Jughead officially come out as asexual. I think it was an interesting choice having Kevin Keller be the one to use the word asexual in conversation with Jughead, rather than Jughead use the word himself, as a way of seeming to carry the tradition on from one character on the queer spectrum to another. And the way the conversation went did so without taking away from Jughead’s agency, unlike Marvel’s poor handling of Iceman being outed in All-New X-Men nearly a year ago.
I applaud Archie Comics and Chip Zdarksy for expanding its representation to this sexual orientation minority. Asexuality is something that both inside and outside the queer community has been argued over and is often misunderstood. Asexuality manifests in different ways for different people. For Jughead, he also identifies himself as aromantic, which is perfectly fine. Not all asexuals are aromantic. Asexuals don’t necessarily have an entirely non-existent sex drive. They may just have a low sex drive. They may end up in a monogamous relationship with an opposite sex or same sex partner where they may engage in sexual activity. That doesn’t mean they aren’t asexual. Just like when a bisexual person is in a monogamous relationship, that doesn’t suddenly mean they aren’t attracted to the opposite gender of their partner. And no, it is never, ever, ever your job to try to help them see that sex is great and they’re missing out. Ever. Never ever. Please always remember that.
This isn’t something I immediately knew and understood at a young age. It took time. I remember as a teenager on the internet in the late 90s to early 2000s checking out sites like the now defunct xy.com and chatting with a few men who identified as asexual. At the time, I thought if they weren’t sexually attracted to the same sex they wouldn’t be here, and that they were repressed and looking for someone to help them come to terms with their sexuality. That was wrong of me and I understand that now.
Some of the arguments and tension towards the asexual segment of the queer community comes not only from some of the misunderstandings, but it also comes from asexual treatment in our society and laws versus treatment of people in the LGBT community. The asexual community hasn’t necessarily in the minds of other people been affected the same way by our laws. That’s not entirely true in that an asexual who is not also aromantic could have potentially been denied the ability to marry who they wanted until recently, as well as being affected by other homophobic or transphobic laws on the books.
Asexuals also have to deal with societal pressures like most people in the queer community do. I certainly can relate to being in uncomfortable conversations with people that were aggressively heterosexual in nature when I was younger, either not out or not as confident at the time and not being sure how to handle the situation. Not to mention the conversations about how you need to have hetero sex before you can rule it out. Again, please don’t tell people they need to have sex to understand themselves and especially never imply to people that you are the one they should be having sex with in that scenario.
Moving on to Deadpool, I’ve mentioned in at least a few of my previous columns that although Deadpool is being billed as the first pansexual superhero in a major motion picture, that we have to wait and see how that ends up being handled. My fear was that most of Deadpool’s behavior that falls outside of the heteronormative would end up being joke fodder. I was at least partially right.
This isn’t really a spoiler for anything major in the movie, but if you’re avoiding anything regarding details in the Deadpool movie (or want to avoid the kind of vulgar subject matter that conspires in the movie) you may wanna skip the next paragraph.
Now that we got that out of the way, here’s the deal. We do see Deadpool engage in some behavior that’s considered outside the norm. He’s confident in himself, his sexuality, and it doesn’t make him any less of a powerful and threatening character. However, most of the instances when he’s doing something outside the heteronormative, it’s a joke. When he’s with his girlfriend they have a montage of different holidays they have sex on. For International Women’s Day, she ends up pegging him. It’s played for laughs. Other instances including kissing a pizza delivery boy on the cheek after threatening him, and complimenting his male taxi driver. This doesn’t necessarily help all that much in terms in pansexual representation.
If sexuality outside the norm is played purely for laughs, it’s just a joke and it’s not about being inclusive. That’s not also to say that we shouldn’t have any fun with sex and sexuality either. And I will give Deadpool credit in that it’s good to see more heroes who have less traditional sexualities and can help combat the dated and offensive notion that queer people are somehow weaker and can’t be taken seriously. More and more characters in nerd culture like Doctor Who’s Captain Jack Harkness have been coming out and combating this for years now, but stereotypes are damaging and linger.
Between Jughead and Deadpool in this last week, I feel that it was one of the best weeks for greater queer representation in comics and comic culture. Sexuality is not black and white, and I think these characters and the stories being told with them in comic culture are helping to show that sexuality is complicated, fluid, and can’t truly be encompassed by a single word.
Oh, and it can be profitable at the box office too.