A lot has been said about how the new Deadpool movie is true to the comics, but not as much focus has been put on how different it actually is.
This isn’t too surprising, given that it’s nearly impossible to retell a serialized story as a two-hour self-contained one without changes being made. Those changes sometimes even improve the character, such as the personality transplant that was given to Tony Stark by Robert Downey, Jr. Other times you end up with Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, possibly the most wrong-headed reinterpretation of a comic book character since Howard The Duck.
Thankfully, the new movie repairs the previous damage by finally doing the character right. But doing the character faithfully? That’s a tricky prospect when the only consistency in Deadpool’s portrayal since he was created 25 years ago is how consistently his personality has changed with every new writer (and sometimes even with the return of an old writer).
In this way, you could say the movie remains perfectly faithful to what’s come before, by presenting yet another new take on the character.
Granted, it’s a take that manages to feel familiar to every fan of a previous portrayal by paying tribute to all of them: from Nicieza’s “The Circle Chase” Deadpool who made references instead of jokes to Nicieza’s “Cable &…” Deadpool who likes saying “chimichanga” and knows a henchman named Bob; from Joe Kelly’s cruel and self-referential Deadpool to Gail Simone’s crude and self-referential Deadpool; from Daniel Way’s very divisive take on Deadpool to Duggan & Posehn’s more compassionate Deadpool.
But the Reese & Wernick Deadpool of the movie does more than just compile all previous renditions into a single entity. The writers have made a few significant changes of their own.
[SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Deadpool movie and the comics.]
Pre-Cancer Wade & Vanessa
Given how much time is spent on-screen establishing Wade & Vanessa’s relationship, you might be surprised to learn that the entirety of their pre-cancer interaction in the comics amounts to a single page in Deadpool: The Circle Chase #3 which was only once briefly revisited in Deadpool #-1.
What makes these pages particularly jarring to revisit is how devoid they are of a sense of humor. Or chemistry, for that matter. Or really, any semblance of a personality. We’re never shown how they interact with each other beyond the scene where Wade leaves her (without telling her about the cancer). We’re also never told how they met, or shown what makes them compatible. All we know is that Wade was once a bland blonde brute and Vanessa was a generic prostitute, and that’s it.
The film writers did a great job of transforming this relationship into one that not only seemed plausible, but charming and entertaining to watch. For all the talk on the internet of Deadpool being pansexual — his attraction to others — this movie was the first time I’d ever seen the character convincingly portrayed as someone who could be loved back by an actual human mortal.
It works in the movie partly due to his never being portrayed as anywhere near as cruel and sociopathic as he was during his earliest and darkest days in the comics — he was not kind to Weasel and Blind Al — but also because he’s finally been paired with someone who shares his warped sense of humor, with a quick wit to rival his own.
They seem like such a perfect match that we become invested in wanting to see them together. Here’s hoping they don’t go the Austin Powers 2 route with the sequel. Though worse things have happened…
Post-Cancer Wade & Vanessa
In the comics, Wade isn’t particularly motivated to hook back up with Vanessa after he leaves. She doesn’t even know he has cancer, Wade just leaves her once day.
The next time they run into each other, they’re both mercenaries. Now calling herself Copycat, Vanessa at some point discovered she was a mutant with the power to shapeshift and absorb personalities, and made a sudden career change from prostitute to merc. Deadpool and Copycat restart their relationship, but it doesn’t work out and they split again.
Yet despite all the potential for an interesting story, this period was left unexplored. These details are only revealed via throwaway lines dropped here and there to give them a sense of history. We’re never shown the dramatic moment where Vanessa discovered her powers, nor is it ever revealed why or how she became a merc. We’re also never shown how their second attempt at a relationship went, and never told why they broke up.
In Deadpool: The Circle Chase, it’s revealed that she’s now in a relationship with Deadpool’s rival Kane. After Deadpool saves her life, she tells him she still cares for him, but isn’t in love with him.
However, if Deadpool has historically been written inconsistently, Copycat has even more so.
At one point she begins inserting herself into Deadpool’s life disguised as different women. Eventually she reveals herself and they attempt the relationship thing again, but this time she becomes irrationally and violently jealous of one of Deadpool’s girl friends. She tracks down the friend and beats her to a pulp, while disguised as Deadpool. She then returns to Deadpool’s house to watch Deadpool’s reaction to the friend getting upset with him, after which she breaks up with him. And then blows up his house. After having spent all his money.
Copycat’s descent into madness was later explained as a negative reaction to an attempt by the Weapon X Project to increase her powers, which allowed Deadpool to care about her again just long enough for her to be fridged by Sabretooth. She’s remained dead for going on 15 years now, which must be a record for a ‘90s character.
Where the Wade Wilson of the movie was determined not to let The Workshop destroy his sense of humor, the Wade Wilson of the comic never had one. Instead, it’s the people in charge who find this all hilarious.
The Workshop section of the movie is based on Deadpool/Death Annual 1998. The character of Ajax in the movie is a combination of two characters from the comic: Dr. Killebrew, and his assistant, The Attendant. The Attendant’s real name is Francis, and he still gets very upset when people call him that, though he doesn’t start calling himself Ajax until after the Workshop is gone.
The function of the Workshop is also a little different in the comics. Rather than being a place that cons people into becoming “super slaves” (assuming Ajax wasn’t messing with Wade in the movie), it’s a place that collects the rejects from actual super-soldier programs. If something goes wrong and the volunteer ends up with uncontrollable or useless powers, the Workshop makes them disappear, no questions asked.
Wade ends up here because his bumpy skin has made him suicidal and uncooperative. This wouldn’t have worked as well with the movie’s Wade, who laughs in the face of adversity, so the dramatic tension was changed from “will Wade find a way to kill himself?” to “will Wade lose his sense of humor?”
I particularly liked the writers’ idea to have torture required to trigger a mutation, rather than just something they do because they’re sadists. Ajax is definitely still a sadist, but he also has an end goal in mind.
In the comics, the Hellhouse is owned and operated by a short old man called Patch. It’s not really a bar so much as a “hangout” where Patch dishes out freelance merc assignments.
Deadpool’s friend Weasel — or his closest thing to a friend, anyways — isn’t an employee of the Hellhouse, just an information broker and arms dealer who hangs out there.
Also, there was no dead pool at the Hellhouse with mercs betting on each other, but there was one at the Workshop with rejects betting on each other. However, there was no actual board, just a number-crunching reject who could calculate everyone’s odds. I’m not really sure what they won, though, being that none of them seemed to have any money. Just personal satisfaction? It seems like a smart decision for the dead pool to have moved to the Hellhouse.
Deadpool and his roommate Blind Al were a lot more cruel to each other. Also, Blind Al didn’t find Deadpool on Craiglist; in a shocking reveal, we eventually discover she’s actually a prisoner being held against her will.
You might be thinking “that’s not funny…,” but Joe Kelly’s Deadpool started out very differently to how the character is portrayed now. He was a villain at the time, for one thing.
This version of Deadpool played a little like Always Sunny In Philadelphia…if Dexter was one of the lead characters, and if Dexter never had an “Uncle Ben” figure to point him in the right direction. At its core it was a comedy about horrible people doing horrible things, but it would also wait until just the right moment, when your guard was down, to hit you with a soberingly dark reminder that this guy is a straight up sociopath. The pathos came from him being sociopath who was trying so hard to learn how to do the right thing, without the benefit of a moral compass to point him in the right direction.
I admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that the movie didn’t at least leave an opening for a scary reveal in the sequels, because I love how emotionally complicated Kelly’s run could be, but it just wouldn’t have worked with this version of the characters. Starting Deadpool out as a villain so he can have a character arc that’s Walter-White-in-reverse is probably the sort of thing that could only work in a TV series, where things aren’t tied to a strict three act structure that audiences expect to leave them feeling good.
Deadpool turning down the X-Men mirrors Deadpool turning down a group during Joe Kelly’s run, though the group eventually convinces him to try and be a hero. Will that tie into X-Force? Who knows. Will Vanessa become Copycat, maybe fighting side-by-side with Deadpool as part of an action-comedy duo? That’s what I’d love to see. But the most exciting thing to me about how different the movie was is that I have no idea where it’s going to go next.