As the star of his own successful movie franchise, Deadpool may be the character that your average person on the street is more likely to recognize, but DC’s Deathstroke came first, and it’s been an ongoing accusation among comic book fans that Wade Wilson is little more than a Slade Wilson ripoff.
It’s a criticism that Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld has no doubt heard before, and when the artist was asked during a panel at Los Angeles Comic Con whether he used Deathstroke as a starting point for the model, he launched into an explanation.
“I did not. I can do this,” Liefeld began. “If we had Deathstroke here: buccaneer boots, buccaneer gloves, half an effin’ mask, chainmail. Where is the chainmail?
“Let me tell you guys how it went: ‘Hey guys, Todd McFarlane, he’s kind of blowing up on Spider-Man. I need a Spider-Man in my book. Oh, wow, so, I also like Wolverine. He’s my favorite character. Black and red, black and red. Can I tie him into Wolverine’s origin? So, can I do Spider-Man with guns and knives?’”
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Liefeld next recounted Marvel’s response to his suggestions:
“‘Liefeld, Cable’s blowing up for us. We’re selling a million copies of New Mutants. Whatever you want to do Liefeld’…I didn’t even hear about this until 10 years ago.”
Regardless of when Liefeld heard about it, the fans have been aware of the similarities of Wade and Slade’s designs for some time now, so much so that the recent Teen Titans Go! To The Movies featured a scene where Deathstroke gets worked up about being compared his alleged imitator. Perhaps there’d be less potential for confusion if Slade ever managed to land his own movie, but despite his post-credits teaser scene in Justice League, it may be some time before we see the character’s big screen presence extend much beyond his Teen Titans appearance.
As for Wade Wilson, Liefeld is currently at work on Deadpool: Badder Blood, the sequel to last year’s Bad Blood. And with the character set to return to screens with the upcoming X-Force, it’s clear that rip-off or not, there’s a demand out there for the Merc with a Mouth.