If you've seen any trailers for the upcoming movie, you probably know that Deadpool is very good at killing people really fast with katanas, guns or anything else that comes to hand. He also has the ability to face the world with an endless supply of wisecracks and a song in his heart (most days), which some would argue is the greatest super-power of them all!
But if you haven't followed his comics career over the last twenty-five years, some or even all of his other abilities may have escaped your notice. And since Deadpool is less straight-up superhero than kill-happy mercenary, not knowing those abilities may be hazardous to your health.
So in preparation for the movie, here are 11 Super Powers You Didn't Know Deadpool Has.
If you did have the misfortune of seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, even though that movie’s version of Deadpool won’t be the one we see in theaters this month, you probably picked up a few things. Deadpool, a.k.a. Wade Wilson, may have borrowed his name and appearance from Slade Wilson, but he has a lot in common with Wolverine. He was a part of the Weapon X/Weapon Plus program, his memories are likewise a mess, he’s a kinda-sorta member of the X-Men and the Avengers despite a moral alignment a little unlike most traditional superheroes’, and he’s even better than Wolverine at healing. Like, so good that he can regenerate from just a head… or even less: he’s regrown brain tissue plenty of times. That isn’t the only reason he’s so crazy, but it sure doesn’t help.
In fact, he’s effectively immortal, since his regeneration also prevents aging. In the 2009 story “Messiah War,” he turned up alive and well 800 years in the future. Most of us would call that a big win against the Grim Reaper, but Wade doesn’t quite see his relationship with Death as a competition. More of a thwarted romance. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
There’s a reason that movie Deadpool is promoting his film with a testicular cancer PSA, and a reason that “the Merc with a Mouth” usually acts less mercenary – and mouthy – when the welfare of cancer patients is at stake. Unlike Wolverine, Wade was a volunteer for the medical experiments that made him what he was, but on the other hand, he really didn’t have much of a choice: it was take the treatments and maybe die serving medical science and his country, or definitely die of cancer (brain cancer in the comics, cancer all over the place in the movies).
He picked Option A, and the uncontrolled cell growth associated with cancer cells is where he gets his healing power. However, that growth makes his skin look like something out of The Walking Dead (although more the early seasons than the later ones, since he at least has a fully functioning set of organs instead of an eye hanging out of one socket or whatever). Worse yet, the combination of cancer and healing ability means that plastic surgery isn’t an option for Wade: even if he spent a long weekend under the knife getting skin grafts, his powers would reject them and “heal” him back to what is now his natural state.
The two most "reliable" sources when it comes to Marvel superhero facts – Marvel.com and Wikipedia – flatly disagree on whether Wade Wilson is super-strong or not. Wikipedia (at this writing) says, “Although in earlier years he was originally portrayed as having superhuman strength, he is no longer depicted as having this ability (Cable & Deadpool #36).” But Marvel itself, in the “Powers” section of Deadpool’s profile, says “His natural strength, agility and reflexes have been enhanced to levels that are beyond the natural limits of the human body.”
To be honest, the comic-book source material is a little inconsistent on this point, too. Editors and writers do their best to keep such inconsistencies out of their fictional universes, but when a lot of different ones work on a character, sometimes they creep in.
It seems like he might be around Captain America’s weight class (strengthwise, not in terms of fighting skill or always-finds-a-way-to-win-iness). Deadpool is certainly not at Colossus’ level, as evidenced by the fact that he’s using swords and guns to kill most of his marks, not just throwing cars or pianos at them, because come on, that’d be a lot funnier. Let’s just say he’s strong enough to punch you or me unconscious in about three seconds, and how much stronger than that does he need to be, really? Pulling triggers only takes a gentle squeeze.
Oddly enough, while early Deadpool might have been depicted as having super-strength, he definitely didn’t always have the healing power, and it seems his early creators (Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza) made a conscious, retroactive decision to give it to him. In his second appearance (when he was still a villain in X-Force), he mentions that his last fight (from his first appearance) left his jaw wired shut for a month – which, as his opponent observed, must have been agony to a compulsive jokester like Wade. But even then, Wade was getting right back into fights that left him punched in the jaw again, though that might not demonstrate any super-powers so much as a general lack of foresight.
His most dependable power, however, has always been endurance: the ability to take an incredible amount of punishment and either keep getting up after getting the snot kicked out of him. And while healing or knowing that you will heal helps with that, there are plenty of heroes, super and otherwise, who take that ability to seemingly inhuman levels. Muhammad Ali in his later career comes to mind. But in the comics, that’s something Wade has in common not only with Wolverine, but also with Spider-Man, which brings us to…
Other things Wade has in common with Spidey: a motor mouth, improv comedy skills that Louis C.K. would sell his soul for, a red-and- black costume with white eyeholes that covers him from top to toe, and dizzying acrobatics.
In fact, the artists of some of Deadpool’s early adventures mayyyy have traced older drawings of Spider-Man here and there, as the two characters often leap around in a similar way. In at least one story, this tracing was done in service to the plot: in Deadpool #11 from 1997, Deadpool goes back in time and ends up standing in for both Peter Parker (using a special holo-disguise, but we’ll get back to that later) and Spider-Man (without ever realizing the two are one and the same). Much of the story reworked art from 1967’s Amazing Spider-Man #47 with only minor changes, meaning that Deadpool was the one to fight Spider-Man’s battle with Kraven in a partly constructed high-rise building.
The big difference in their fighting styles is that Spider-Man won’t be aiming anything more dangerous than a web-shooter when he does his Olympic gymnast parkour, while Deadpool might have a Glock. Certainly Ryan Reynolds was especially fond of this particular super-power, as the leaked test footage from an earlier version of the movie showed a few years back.
All of the five powers mentioned above are likely to show up in the movie: a few have shown up just in the trailers. One shouldn’t put anything past Ryan Reynolds, whose comics-scholar skills are hard for anyone to rival. Still, we’re getting into more obscure territory with these next five, which makes them more unlikely to reach the big screen, but far from impossible.
As he was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the comics’ Deadpool was a villain at first, and remained one (or at least a wild card) for years after that. He used teleportation devices to get away from irate heroes he’d failed to kill, leaving him free to fight another day.
But as he got more popular and started acting like a protagonist, the rules changed. Protagonists need to spend more time in trouble than antagonists do, and writers had trouble creating much suspense for somebody who could not only heal from anything but could also just disappear when something wasn’t going his way.
The teleporters started going on the fritz or developing quirks, and finally Deadpool himself gave them up because they “made it too easy.” (Though he probably regretted that decision when he faced off against an evil version of Nightcrawler.)
Back in the 1990s, superhero fashion was super into pouches. Batman had almost always had pouches on his utility belt, but now superheroes just had pouches everywhere. Just look at twelve comics covers from 1990-1995 drawn by Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee or any of their many imitators. Pouches pouches pouches pouches pouches! And unlike Batman’s, most of these pouches didn’t seem to serve any actual purpose.
But comic book creators can always retro-engineer an explanation when they care to, and some of Deadpool’s adventures, especially his appearance in the already exaggerated Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, feature him drawing all kinds of improbably big things out of his tiny little pouches or out of a simple sack. (No, not “his sack,” we mean a bag made out of cloth. Why would we ruin a family-friendly article with an image like that? It’s not like we’re aiming for an R rating.)
For old-school nerds, this power recalls the “bag of holding,” a similar contrivance that allows fantasy adventures to lead nomadic lifestyles without lacking tools or weighing themselves down by carrying too much gear.
This sometime-power seems connected to Deadpool’s secret knowledge that the physics of his existence are more flexible than anyone else would suspect, but more about that below.
Deadpool’s split personality makes the Hulk look like a paragon of mental health: he frequently argues with two major voices in his head (signified by captions with different lettering), who more or less represent order and chaos, and the more deeply he explores himself, the more “Deadpools” he can find.
But while he may be beyond therapy, that fragmented psyche has its advantages: while the Marvel Universe is filled with mind-readers and mind-controllers, not even the most powerful can follow the twisted contours and corridors of Wade’s brain. Trying to do so is not recommended. This has made even the X-Men reluctant to trust him, and that team adopts reformed supervillains like it’s going out of style: they’ve brought in Magneto – their own greatest enemy – what, three times now?
Sometimes that brain can even play host to other fully formed consciousnesses, like the minor, disembodied Captain America villain Madcap, who spent a long time acting as Wade’s “bad conscience,” or the recently deceased S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Emily Preston, whose soul was placed in Wade’s body by a sorcerer hoping to save her, as his brain had “more than enough room.” By now both Madcap and Preston have found new bodies, meaning there’s more empty space between Deadpool’s ears than ever before. So climb on into his head, everyone! There’s plenty of room!
Every so often, it pays for a mercenary hitman to look a little inconspicuous. Even Deadpool sometimes wants to make his assignments a little easier by sneaking up on a target before breaking out the big guns. Or maybe he wants to enjoy something resembling a normal day off. He could try some elaborate disguise involving a trenchcoat and fedora, an excessive amount of bandages, or a baseball mascot uniform, but Marvel technology has given him another way to address these needs.
The Marvel Comics Universe (though perhaps not the X-Men cinematic one) has an “image-inducer” that allows its permanently odd-looking residents like Nightcrawler and the Beast to enjoy an ordinary day in Central Park, sheathed in a hologram of a normal person. They can even walk around eating hot dogs and nobody seems to notice their fangs, although maybe that’s just because New Yorkers don’t really look that closely at each other very often and the tourists know to expect some weirdness.
Wade has made occasional use of the inducer, but when he goes out for a walk in the park, his disordered mind tends to flip through different appearances every thirty seconds or so, which kind of defeats the purpose. And even then, he can only disguise himself over his costume. Most of Deadpool’s problems aren’t easily diagnosed, but it’s clear his insecurities about his cancer-laden skin go pretty deep.
Deadpool has, on occasion, flirted with the actual personification of Death itself – herself. It would be easy to chalk this up to a hallucination, if it weren’t for the fact that one other person has had the privilege of socializing with Death without actually dying.
That other person is Thanos, and to say he is jealous and entitled now that he knows Death has shared her favor with another would be a massive understatement. He salted Deadpool’s game the only way he could: by cursing Wade with eternal life, so that even suspending his healing factor may not be enough to kill him.
Since Deadpool and Thanos’ film rights are still owned by two different companies, this love triangle is unlikely to come up on the big screen, but it still qualifies as a power of sorts. If Death is a person, she is definitely a useful person to have on your contact list: she has alerted him to cosmic threats and granted him the occasional favor. However, he is in another committed relationship at this point, so any communication with Death now carries the same sort of risks for him as getting too chummy with an ex on Facebook.
The sublime irony of Deadpool is that he’s both the looniest Marvel “hero” ever, yet also the sanest, if your definition of “sane” is “knowing who you are and deriving happiness from fulfilling your purpose in life.” Deadpool, in general, seems to know he’s a comic book character (and now a movie and TV character, too).
However, this awareness comes and goes. At times he seems fully engaged with his life and treats it as if it were reality. At times he just makes a little self-aware nod that goes over everybody’s head – “Forget it. It’s too hard to explain in one panel.” But in one recent series, his self-awareness grew so extreme that he simply started killing every hero and villain Marvel ever published as a way of protesting the fact that none of their adventures were real: “We’re puppets!”
Of course, he couldn’t stop Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe from being non-canon, nor has even attempting to kill his readers allowed him to die. You’re stuck in an endless lucid dream, Deadpool, just like most of us are stuck in an ultimately finite existence. So, just like us, you might as well try to find ways to enjoy it.
Can you think of any other powers that we should have mentioned? Let us know in the comments!