With Deathstroke finally making his way to the big screen, it's worth looking back at how he influenced one of 2016's biggest hits. Justice League may have been a disappointment to most but the post-credit scene ended things on a high thanks to the introduction of Deathstroke to the DC Extended Universe. News that Joe Manganiello would be donning the black and orange suit of the DC villain hit the internet in October 2016, after Ben Affleck posted test footage of Slade Wilson earlier that month. Since then the anticipation has only intensified for the proper introduction of Deathstroke in, potentially, the Justice League sequel and his own solo outing said to be written and directed by The Raid’s Gareth Evans.
However, many audience members may well have noticed the similarities between Deathstroke and a certain Marvel Comics mercenary and assassin. And that's no accident: Deadpool wouldn’t have been what he is today without the DC villain created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
Deathstroke “the Terminator” made his debut in The New Teen Titans issue 2 (volume 1) in 1980 and went on to appear in his own series in 1991 after earning considerable popularity from readers. Named Slade Wilson, he enlisted in the army when he was 16 and rose up the ranks to become a major after excelling in combat and warfare. A Captain Adeline Kane noticed his talent and invited him to train with her, alongside other young soldiers with potential, to learn more modern forms of combat. He impressed her so much that she taught him privately in guerrilla warfare and eventually fell in love and married him.
Unbeknown to Adeline, Slade became a mercenary after taking part in a military experiment that imbued soldiers with superhuman capabilities. He used his new powers - strength, speed, durability, agility - to rescue an army buddy of his called Wintergreen who was sent on a suicide mission by a disgruntled C.O. From there he became the world’s greatest assassin-for-hire, finding himself in both conflict and camaraderie with the Teen Titans, which sparked the interest of Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefield.
Deadpool was first introduced in February 1991, in a similar title to The New Teen Titans: Marvel’s The New Mutants issue 98. From the start, Liefield wasn’t trying to pretend that his idea for a new Marvel Comics character wasn’t inspired by Deathstroke. The fact that Deadpool’s real name is Wade Wilson is obviously the biggest giveaway; the whole soldier-turned-mercenary-turned-assassin-turned-super soldier is the second. Fellow writer Fabian Nicieza even said this to Liefield when he rang him up to pitch Deadpool’s design concept and name. That said, this is where Wade's the similarities with Deathstroke end. Yes, their outfits are kind of similar, they use the same sort of weapons (though Deadpool’s are more ninja-like) and have a similar military background, but personality and age-wise they are completely different.
As Liefield told CBR in 2012, there are “no likenesses” between the Marvel and DC assassins:
“While ruthless, there is certain nobility to Slade. He tried to have a normal family at one point, and believed in honor amongst thieves. Wade, while canny, is an insane person. The similarities are they both shoot guns and wield swords.”
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Liefield finally got his childhood dream of penning a Deathstroke series after joining DC Comics in 2011. “I love Deathstroke” the artist-writer told YouTuber’s Nerdy Pop last year. “I’ve loved Deathstroke my entire comic book collecting career. He’s a great character. He deserves to be loved on his own merits.” Liefield took over the creative direction of the character, coinciding with The New 52 relaunch, because of the dwindling book sales; Deathstroke was earning just 15% of the sales achieved by Batman in 2012, and sitting at 104 on the popularity charts, so he had the task of reviving the series to achieve better critical and commercial appeal. This came with a few changes.
Slade still marries Adaline and they have two sons, Grant and Joseph, but he gets his super-strength after becoming gravely injured during mission for Team 7 - a squad put together by International Operations (I.O.) - to combat the growing meta-human threat. Sadly, he loses his family in various incidents making him more jaded and willing to undertake any task in order to keep safe his last surviving child Rose Wilson. If anything, Deathstroke shares more similarities to The Punisher; Frank Castle has a military background and finds himself on a murderous path, skirting the moral line of right and wrong, because of the loss of his family.
It’s likely Warner Bros. will look to The New 52 version of Deathstroke for his DCEU outing - as they're reportedly doing for their Gotham City Sirens and Batgirl movies. However, the Justice League post-credit scene seems to suggest that his next appearance will be as part of the Secret Society of Super Villains; Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor suggests to Slade that they start their own rival group, which Deathstroke was a founding member of in the Infinite Crisis arc.
While Deadpool’s next outing, called Untitled Deadpool Sequel (we think), will be in cinemas on June 1, 2018, there’s yet to be a confirmed date for Deathstroke’s next appearance. He was going to be the main villain in The Batman when Ben Affleck was penning the script and directing, but now that War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves has taken the helm and totally redone the story, he's presumed to have been written out.
Read More: Batman’s Uncertain Future In The DCEU
No matter which film he makes his first significant performance, Manganiello’s Deathstroke will be a veritable force to be reckoned with, and hopefully the only similarities we’ll see between his solo movie and Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool is the critical acclaim and box office success.
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