If you like Unshaved Mouse please consider supporting my Patreon.
When it comes to the various eras of comics history, the nineties have an image problem.
And that’s not fair. Not fair at all. There were some fantastic comics released during the nineties. Jeff Smith’s seminal Bone came out in this decade. You had Neil Gaiman writing Sandman over at DC. And at DC, the Batman titles were doing memorable storylines like No Man’s Land and Long Halloween. Meanwhile, at DC, Mark Waid and Alex Ross were creating one of the most visually beautiful mainstream comics of all time with Kingdom Come…
And yet, despite some very good comics being produced during this era by almost half of the two great American comic publishers, “nineties” is basically short-hand for “crap” amongst comics fans. Here’s the problem. Say I want to sum up the Golden Age of comics with one panel, it’d probably be this one:
Kirby’s cover of Captain America 1. If had to choose a panel to represent the Silver Age? Probably something like this from Sheldon Moldoff (if for no other reason than it doesn’t seem fair to have Jack Kirby define two eras):
And if I want a single panel that sums up the Bronze Age? That’s easy, Rorschach entering the Comedian’s apartment by Dave Gibbons.
But if I want a single panel that represents the Dark Age? Probably something like this.
And that’s your problem right there. All these eras were incredibly diverse in terms of the comics that were actually created during them, but they’re all defined in the popular consciousness by a single aesthetic. And the aesthetic that defines the nineties, whether fairly or unfairly, is that of one man. Rob Liefeld.
And it’s pretty objectively terrible. Now, this review is not going to be me dunking on Rob Liefeld for five thousand words because obviously I’d need more words and I don’t like to half-ass things NO BAD MOUSE.
I’m not going to dunk on Liefeld because that’s just beating the fine horse powder that at some point in the distant past was (if the elders are to be believed) a dead horse. Hell, making fun of Rob Liefeld was pretty much the reason we built the internet in the first place (don’t believe the porn industry’s revisionist propaganda). Liefeld was one of a rising generation of new comic artists in the nineties, and that generation was markedly different from the ones that had come before. See, if you look at the really big names of the Silver Age, your Stan Lees, your Jack Kirbies, your Julie Schwartzes, you’ll notice that these were all dudes who had were already working in comics during the Golden Age. The Silver Age was not the New Guard taking over, it was the Old Guard refining and improving on their first draft. But by the nineties, the Old Guard was ageing out of the industry and rising to replace them was a generation that had actually grown up reading the classic comics of the Silver Age and actually had “comic book writer/artist” as their dream job rather than simply something to fall back on if that career in publishing/fine arts never panned out. These kids, unlike their forbears, had come to the comics as fans rather than just professional artists or writers who needed a steady gig. They had read all these comics when they were twelve year old boys and dreamed of creating their own.
Unfortunately, if you read the comics they were putting out, you would have been forgiven for thinking that they were still twelve year old boys. Liefeld wasn’t the only one of this generation, but he definitely epitomised them. Much as the Impressionists were identified by their use of open composition and an accurate depiction of light, the artists of the “Hot Comics” style were identifiable by blood, guts, gratuitous swearing and a…free-thinking…approach to accurate depictions of female anatomy. They also freaking idolised Jack Kirby which I find BAFFLING. Not because Jack Kirby doesn’t deserve to be idolised (and I got the shrines to prove it) but because Jack Kirby is legendary for:
- Technical excellence.
- Clarity of visual storytelling.
- A fearsomely original imagination.
- A work ethic that allowed him to smash deadlines like they’d been cracking wise about Mrs Kirby.
Basically, everything Liefeld and his ilk were not about. So you had a lot of talentless fanboys creating comics that only had merit to clueless, hormonally addled infants. So, of course, they were hugely, horrendously successful.
Liefeld is in this weird space of being simultaneously one of the most and least influential creators in the history of the medium. As I said, his style defined an entire era of comics history in a way very few other creators can be said to have done. Honestly, I think only Kirby rivals him in that regard. But whereas Kirby’s legacy on both the Marvel and DC universes will stand the test of time, very little of Liefeld’s influence remains in the modern Marvel universe. Certainly not his art-style, and precious few of his intellectual concepts proved to have any real staying power. Mostly because, well, his character concepts were possibly the only thing in the world that could have made you say “Jeez dude, just stick to art.”
“But Mouse” the strawman I have created for this very purpose cries out “didn’t he create Deadpool? Isn’t Deadpool a beloved character and permanent fixture in the Marvel universe?”
Well, the answer to both those question is indeed “Yes” but there’s a lot of history between the first “Yes” and the second. Liefeld did indeed co-create Deadpool with writer Fabien Nicieza but the character they created was impressive only in how much they managed to rip off in one sitting. So Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson is an “homage”…
…to DC’s Deathstroke aka Slade Wilson. See? It’s completely shameless. That makes it okay. They then added Spider-Man’s costume as imagined by a Taiwanese supermarket, threw in Wolverine’s healing factor because nineties, strapped a couple of guns on him and set him loose on the world. I’m not saying there weren’t the germs of a good character there, but they were just that, germs. Capable of only being seen with a microscope.
It was other writers that saw the potential in the character and added the elements that really made him click, most notably that he’s insane and that this insanity manifests in him actually being aware that he’s in a comic book. This is the version of the character that has won legions of fans the world over, including Canada.
One of said fans was actor Ryan Reynolds who is a huge Deadpool fan and was so gosh darned happy to be cast as the character in Wolverine Origin only to learn that this Deadpool would be a mute with his mouth sewn shut and THIS IS WHY WE DON’T MAKE WISHES ON CURSED MONKEY PAWS CHILDREN.
After Origins came out and did for Deadpool’s reputation what Superfriends did for Aquaman’s, Reynolds laboured with various collaborators to get his own vision of Deadpool to the big screen, with blackjack and hookers as God intended.
This movie almost died on the operating table multiple times. Consider:
- It’s about Deadpool, a character no one outside of comics fandom knew about unless they’d seen Origin in which case they hated him. Strike 1.
- Instead of being rebooted, he was still being played by the same actor. Strike 2.
- Said actor also made Green Lantern. Strike 3. Actually, let’s make that two strikes. Strike 4.
- This was going to be a Hard R rated movie full of tits and effin’ and jeffin’, likely to send dowagers across the land toppling in a epidemic of the vapours. Strike 5.
So, on paper at least, this movie was going to suck at baseball and Fox were considering scrapping the movie when somebody, some mischevious scamp, some mysterious rapscallion who shall remain forever nameless…
…leaked some test footage that saw the cry of “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” echo throughout the internet.
The movie begins in media res which is a pretty highbrow move for something with this amount of dick jokes. After a slow motion credits sequence where the writers get to mock literally everyone involved in the making of this movie from the Best Boy on up, Deadpool is taking a taxi where he gets chatting to the driver, Dopinder, and gives him some advice on how to win the girl he’s sweet on. This opening tells you everything you need to know about the movie. Firstly, Ryan Reynolds is such a natural fit for this role that I’m not entirely sure the comic character didn’t just become self-aware like he’s always been threatening to do and sneak into our reality through a magic wardrobe. Secondly, the costume in general and the CGI augmented mask in particular belong in the pantheon of perfectly realised comic-to-film translations. And lastly, that despite all its foul-mouthed, jaw-droppingly violent, snarky, too-cool-for-school affect, the movie is a big softy at heart. If the movie can be said to have a theme it is “True Love Conquers All” which is an unexpected message in a motion picture that includes a unicorn masturbation scene.
Pool ambushes some common or garden mooks on a freeway and goes through them like a burrito made of glass and barbed wire. His massacre catches the attention of the X…man.
Colossus thinks that the homicidal and mentally unbalanced serial killer carrying a lifetime of psychological trauma would be the perfect fit for the school of vulnerable teenagers he works for.
So he goes to recruit Wade along with Negasonic Teenage Warhead, we have officially run out of names. She has next to no similarity with her comics counterpart, the creators just really, really dug the name. We learn that Deadpool is after a dude called Francis. But Colossus shows up and distracts him long enough for Francis to escape so all that murder was just wasted. Deadpool flies into a rage and beats himself to a bloody pulp against Colossus and then escapes by sawing off his own arm and jumping into a garbage truck.
In flashback we learn the secret origin of Deadpool, who he is and how he came to be. Wade Wilson was just about the most adorably precious badass mercenary who spent his time defending teenage girls from stalkers and being respectful to women. Particularly Vanessa, a lady of negotiable affection who Wade meets in a bar where they hit it off performing a childhood abuse themed version of the Yorkshiremen sketch.
Vanessa and Wade fall in love and have a whirlwind year of romance and quickly aborted pegging that all comes crashing down when Wade is diagnosed with all the cancer in the world. Desperate not to die just when his life was starting to look up, Wade reluctantly accepts an offer from a shady looking motherfucker to undergo experiments to cure his cancer. Of course, when the experiments turn out to be taking place in a secret blacksite that should have been his first tip off that not everything was on the up and up. Scientists who are really trying to cure cancer don’t keep it a secret. They never shut up about it, they’re like vegans. Wade is introduced to the dude running this horror show, a guy called Ajax played by Ed Skrein, who I honestly can’t figure out if he’s giving a great performance or if I’m just in love.
Wade also meets Ajax’s enforcer, Angel…
Fox, you name one more character “Angel” and I will start throwing paws. So Ajax reveals the lab’s MO, subjecting people to torturous experimentation until they turn into mutants who are then sold as super soldiers. Y’know, because that’s so much cheaper and more efficient than just finding any of the bajillion mutants who live in this universe and just offering them a job.
Wade and Ajax begin a deeply unhealthy relationship where Wade mocks and belittles Francis who then straps him to a rack and shoots electricity through his knackers and they really should just bone already. Like right now. But when Wade reveals Ajax’s real name (Francis) to the other inmates, Francis decides to take the kink up a notch and locks Deadpool in a glass coffin with just enough oxygen to stop him from dying. This being a comic book movie, it activates his latent mutant gene, giving him crazy high healing factor and a face that makes him look like he was bitten by a radioactive scrotum who then punched him repeatedly in the face. Wade steals a matchstick from Angel which allows him to blow up his oxygen tank and set the lab on fire. I feel I should mention this is probably the single most homo-erotic superhero movie ever made.
Like, this scene where Francis is walking through the burning lab in a white T shirt, spraying everything with foam from a fire extinguisher while the camera lovingly caresses his crotch and then he Wade fight and it ends with…
Yeah. More subtext than the Red October’s user manual. Francis leaves Wade for dead and doesn’t even leave his number, the callous bastard. But Wade isn’t really dead and so he goes to look for Vanessa. But he can’t bring himself to approach her because of his appearance because, as someone who was a sex worker for many years, she’s only been with handsome men. Instead, Wade looks up his old friend Weasel who runs the mercenary bar he frequents and they plot Wade’s revenge. So begins the career of Captain Deadpool, later renamed Deadpool after he is dishonourably discharged for conduct unbecoming of an officer. Wade cuts his way through Francis’ entire organisation and we’re all caught up.
So, bruised, bloody and missing an arm, Wade goes back to the house he shares with Blind Al, an old lady who is blind to everything including Wade’s defects as a human being. She tries to convince him to go back to Vanessa and let her know he’s still alive but he refuses because he looks like a taint and won’t go to her until he’s made Francis change him back.
Meanwhile, Francis now knows that the guy he rode hard and put away dead is the same dude in a red gimp suit who’s been slicing up his men like salami so he pays Weasel a visit where he finds a picture of Wade and Vanessa together. This allows him to track down Vanessa to the strip club where she works…somehow and he kidnaps her and leaves a message for Deadpool to come and get her, but not before Wade visits the strip club in a scene that is entirely justified artistically.
Realising that he finally needs help, Deadpool asks Colossus and Negasonic to tag along as he rescues Vanessa.
Deadpool was made for just under $60 million (which, for a superhero film, is practically a microbudget), but it was smart with its money. And where the budget really shows, Deadpool gets over it by just mercilessly mocking it, like drawing attention to the fact that the studio wouldn’t even pony up for a third X-Man. Anyway, the three mutants get a ride with Dopinder over to the massive wrecked aircraft carrier where Francis is holding Vanessa but when the taxi drives off Deadpool realises he’s left his massive bag of guns in the car. This, incidentally, was another cost saving measure as the film-makers were told they could have a big shoot-out or an aircraft carrier but not both.
Deadpool cuts his way through Francis’ security detail, and then uses their corpses to spell out his name, leading Francis to drawl to Vanessa “does he leave you notes too?”
Wade and Francis have their final no holds barred fist based hate-sex substitute which ends with Francis a bloody mess in the ruins of the aircraft carrier. Wade demands that Francis fixes him and Francis taunts him by saying that his ugliness is beyond mere human science’s ability to cure. Deadpool loses it and is about to shoot him when Colossus tells him that he has a chance to prove he really is a hero after all…and Wade fucking shoots Francis in the head because he’s never going to be a nice, safe, squeaky clean superhero that you can market to kids.
And the movie ends with Vanessa and Wade tearfully reuniting and Vanessa telling him that she still loves him despite being so totally, utterly, inhumanly hideous.
Deadpool shows why sometimes creative freedom is more important than a big budget. This is exactly the movie that it wants to be, and more power to it. It’s filthy, hilarious and actually weirdly sweet at the same time. In a world where all everyone seems to care about is being nice and wholesome, Deadpool showed that there was still an audience for good old fashioned violence, profanity and tits. Now that sounds like a fuckin’ franchise.
Deadpool rips off Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by telling the audience that they need to go home and that they didn’t have money for a stinger. This is almost certainly true, and that makes it even funnier.
And the audience went
Hey, was that Stan Lee?
That was Stan Lee, working as the DJ in the strip club which is a bit like watching Santa Claus using a sex swing.
Department of Duplication Department
After being played by Donald Mackinnion in X-Men and Daniel Cudmore in X2, The Last Stand and Days of Future Past Colossus is now played by a combination of CGI, motion capture and the voice of Stefan Kapičić.
How worried is Guinan right now?
Guinan’s not sweating it. This movie just takes place in it’s own little meta universe and holds the very idea of a consistent X-Men timeline in open contempt. And Guinan’s down with that.
Wait, Magneto is how old?
Not that it matters as he doesn’t appear or even get mentioned, but if the movie is set in 2016 that makes him 86.
Mutant Heaven has no pearly gates, only revolving doors.
No resurrections unless you count Deadpool surviving a run in with Francis’s massive phallic symbolism.
Today, mutants are…
Pushy studio executives who want you to be more kid-friendly and marketable.
This movie is…
Dead on Arrival
NEXT UPDATE: 23 January 2020
NEXT TIME: Damn it Japan, that restraining order wasn’t me playing hard to get!