Deadpool vs. Deathstroke: The Inter-Promotional Rivalry

Wade Wilson and Slade Wilson may exist under different publishers, but that doesn't stop them from referencing each other now and then.

Deathstroke and Deadpool

There would not be a Deadpool if there was no Deathstroke. Or maybe there would be in another form. I don’t know. Back when Marvel’s New Mutants #98 was being made, Rob Liefeld really wanted to draw DC’s Deathstroke and made enough alterations to his new character to make it legal. Fabian Nicieza gave him a more unique voice and, gradually, other writers gave him his own identity.

Sure, the basics are still there. They have extremely similar names, the same job, healing factors, and both rock guns and katanas. Yet by this point, the two are accepted as two very different characters that stand on their own. As intellectual properties, they’ve both found huge success. Deadpool is the king of R-rated cinematic superheroism while Deathstroke has been a major villain on two separate TV shows, got the post-credit treatment in Justice League, and is the main antagonist in the upcoming Teen Titans Go to the Movies animated movie.

It’s a shame that nothing happened between the two characters back when Marvel and DC were friendlier and did crossovers on the reg. Amalgam Comics came out before Joe Kelly made Deadpool memorable, so instead they just merged Deathstroke together with Daredevil and created Dare the Terminator…who was for some reason a woman. Even when Deathstroke appeared in Marvel vs. DC, it was a one-panel showdown with the Punisher. Ponytail Punisher. Friggin 90s.

Even though we’re past the days of Marvel and DC crossovers, the two characters have still referenced their connection in one way or another. Here are five such instances.

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Ravager III

DEATHSTROKE’S HALF-BROTHER

Back when Deadpool was nothing more than a recurring X-Force villain, Deathstroke had his own solo series. Since Deadpool wasn’t a breakout character yet, all he really had was the fact that he was a Deathstroke ripoff, his snarky dialogue, and his unique word bubbles (more thick outline than yellow background). Marv Wolfman and Sergio Cariello introduced Ravager III in the pages of Deathstroke the Terminaot #41.

He had the same word bubbles, an appearance that merged Deadpool with any given Liefeldian X-character, and the name Wade. He was introduced as Slade Wilson’s half-brother, but due to sharing the same mother, he didn’t share the same last name. Wade LaFarge became a regular villain in the series, at least succeeding in killing Deathstroke’s mother as well as the mothers of Slade’s various children.

Years later, during Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans run, Wade returned for the sake of being killed by Rose Wilson. She avenged her mother and took up the Ravager mantle herself.

Earth-3 Deathstroke and Batman

THE DEATHSTROKE OF EARTH-3

Because comic books are weird as hell, it’s worth noting that Superman and Batman discovered each other’s identities via an old comic where Kent and Wayne shared a room in a cruise ship, saw trouble was happening, turned off the lights, changed into their tights, turned the lights back on, and were all, “Huh. Awkward.”

With Superman/Batman Annual #1, Joe Kelly decided to do a post-Crisis update on that idea by showing a more modern and humorous take on that adventure. He had Ed McGuinness on art and wouldn’t you know it, they’re the creative team that helped make Deadpool into a brilliant character in the first place. In this comic, Deathstroke was hired to assassinate Bruce Wayne and the ship’s journey took them all into the Bermuda Triangle, which in turn brought in some of the doppelgangers from Earth-3.

We already know Ultra Man and Owlman, but we also got the alternate counterpart to Deathstroke. Even though he was wearing the same color scheme as Deathstroke, the Earth-3 version had the physical appearance and behavior of one Deadpool. In fact, one of the running gags was that he is actually named “Deadpool” but he was constantly maimed before he has a chance to identify himself and make this an issue with Marvel’s lawyers.

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Deathstroke remained grounded and very annoyed, making things even better.

Ravager and Earth-3 Deathstroke are just two of three Deadpool knockoffs in the DC Universe. More recently, Harley Quinn’s comic introduced Red Tool who is just…an excuse to write Deadpool into Harley’s series as a supporting character and nothing else. I mean, turnabout is fair play (this is how Street Fighter got Dan Hibiki, after all), but at least OG Deadpool wasn’t a total carbon copy. As far as I know, Red Tool’s yet to run into Deathstroke.

Deadpool kills Deathstroke

DEADPOOL KILLS DEATHSTROKE

Cullen Bunn is a guy who writes a gazillion Deadpool miniseries and will probably write a gazillion more. He’s likely writing one right now as you read this. One of his stories includes Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe (based on the concept of Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe), which not only got two sequels in Deadpool Killustrated and Deadpool Kills Deadpool, but also a redo of sorts in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again (which itself is a subtle prequel to Old Man Logan).

This is not to be confused with the unreleased late-90s one-shot Deadpool Almost Destroys the Marvel Universe.

Anyway, the initial Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe is about an alternate version of Deadpool who finds out that he’s a fictional character and becomes a brutal nihilist instead of wise-cracking and going with the flow like the Deadpool we know. Deadpool Kills Deadpool involves a multiversal war between the good Deadpools and the evil Deadpools. While it’s mainly about mainstream Deadpool vs. nihilist Deadpool, there are still plenty of appearances by other established Deadpools of the multiverse. 5 Ronin Deadpool is there, there’s a cameo by Ultimate Deadpool, and hell, the whole miniseries is practically an excuse to kill off the mooks from Deadpool Corps like Headpool and Lady Deadpool.

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There are a lot of other Deadpool variants tossed in there, but one that’s notable is one that appears to be Deathstroke the Terminator, only with a black and red color scheme. Unfortunately, nothing is really said of this guy as he’s taken down in one panel during a montage.

Sabertooth and Deadpool

THE SHADE OF SABRETOOTH

During the Gerry Duggan/Brian Posehn run of Deadpool, there was a sweet gimmick where every now and then, they would do a flashback issue. Scott Koblish would attempt to make the art look like it was straight out of a specific decade. This led to a very important issue taking place in the 90s with art made to look like Rob Liefeld.

Years ago, Deadpool was working for a scientist named Butler. Butler claimed that with the help of studying Deadpool and removing his organs (which would just grow back), he could help cure diseases and the like. Deadpool went along with this, not realizing that Butler had more devious plans for him.

Butler sent Deadpool and Sabretooth to Canada to pull off a hit. At first, the two got thrown off course with a random fight with Alpha Flight. Then the two regrouped at a bar, where they had an argument and Deadpool stormed off to do the job himself. The job turned out to be Deadpool unknowingly burning down his parents’ house and then having his mind wiped over again just to test Butler’s memory-wiping serum. Even psychotic killer Sabretooth gave Deadpool a look of silent sympathy over this situation.

Years later, Deadpool did start to gradually recall the incident like an unraveling sweater. The loose thread was from recalling Sabretooth insulting him. The insult was Deadpool calling Sabretooth a Wolverine ripoff, only for Sabretooth to respond, “Tell Slade I said hi.” Even with memory scrubbed, that line still stuck with him deep down all those years.

Weird for Sabretooth to be the one to break the fourth wall, but there it is.

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Deathstroke in Teen Titans Go to the Movies

TEEN TITANS GO TO THE MOVIES

Getting to this point feels like the culmination of a brilliant punchline. First we get the Teen Titans cartoon that ran for five seasons that was silly when it needed to be and serious when it needed to be. Deathstroke was the main recurring villain, known only as Slade (voiced by Ron Perlman) and had barely any similarities to Deadpool to begin with. Not that it mattered, since Deadpool had yet to be recognized as a mainstream entity.

Then Teen Titans Go happened. The same five heroes in a sillier, stupider, and far more successful series where everyone is a piece of shit and nothing matters. It’s fucking great. Fans of the old show call it the Devil and the show laughingly flips them off in response. Slade is a non-entity to the point of it being a gag.

Now with Teen Titans Go to the Movies, they’re finally blowing that Slade load (now voiced by Will Arnett) and the first thing the Titans do upon meeting their marquee villain is confuse him for Deadpool. Because animated Slade hasn’t been around for over a decade and Deadpool’s become the big hotness. Even if Deathstroke was first, he’s always going to be weighed down by the fact that he’s labeled as the guy Deadpool was based on.

Ah well. At least their movies both agree that Green Lantern was a mistake.

Gavin Jasper still chuckles over how downright mean that “Return of Slade” episode of Teen Titans Go was. Follow Gavin on Twitter!