Today, Ethan and Patrick are discussing Deadpool 13, originally released July 17th, 2013.
Ethan: Back in issue #7 of Deadpool, the writers and artists took us on a timewarp with a faux, never-before-printed “inventory special”. The issue was allegedly produced in the late 70s/early 80s giving the team an excuse to indulge in 10 times the saturation of pop culture references in the already saturated title. It was an entertaining issue in its own right and a nice break after the Zombie Presidents arc. Now that Vetis is taken care of, writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn and artists Scott Koblish and Val Staples are back to their tricks with another trip back to the era of disco. And if you think the bell bottoms and dated catch-phrases were flying thick and fast last time, you might want to sit down and hold onto something before you open #13. The hair is longer, the polyester is louder, and the racism is, if far from accurately depicted, at least touched on.
Deadpool sees an ad in the paper for the Heroes for Hire – Luke Cage & Danny Rand’s private-investigation-slash-superhero firm. When Deadpool literally smashes his way through their door with his enthusiasm, Cage and Rand waste no time in explaining that the two of them are the eponymous heroes who hire out their services; they are NOT a service that hires other heroes, and even if they were, they would not be calling Deadpool. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of getting the facts from their latest client, and Deadpool manages to stick around long enough to hear the details of the case. So when Power Man and Iron Fist go undercover at their client’s bodega to catch some extortionists red-handed, Deadpool shows up disguised as “Deadpimp” in a misguided effort to flush out the criminals by visibly poaching on their turf. Deadpool wrecks the shop and flees with the money, right into the arms of the thugs the heroes were looking for. This group is led by a villain named The White Man, a gangster easily recognized by his albino-white skin and white pimp suit. Deadpool is taken back to the gang’s HQ and tossed into a room with Carmelita, the beautiful daughter of the bodega’s owner. Just as the two are about to get it on, Power Man smashes through the wall, grabbing Deadpool. The two rush off to go help Iron Fist with a good ol’ fashioned beatdown of the entire group of thugs and their boss, turning The White Man to stone with his own magic pimp staff. As the issue closes, we jump forward to present-day where The White Man – accidentally freed from his statue-state – is swearing vengeance on the trio of heroes who trapped him.
Re-reading this issue for the tenth time, I’m STILL trying to unpack this thing. It’s like the creative team took the best parts AND the most painfully, intentionally tasteless parts of the last “inventory special” and amped them wayyy up. First, I have to gush about the art. The aggressive attempt to reproduce the halftone printing style is back – yes the characters may be filled in with solid colors, but colorist Staples allows the manic, pointillist background pattern to bleed just enough over its borders. This panel is my favorite for that effect – check out the spaces around Deadpools afro and Luke Cage’s jaw:
The art also continues the title’s tradition of packing as many or more jokes into the backgrounds as are featured in the dialogue. And like the dialogue, the jokes range from the safe nostalgia of the ABBA poster hanging in Deadpool’s apartment to the wildly inappropriate. For example, tucking a PanAm advertisement (“Always There For You”) into the chaos of the subway walls in a book that’s set in 1977, the year of the deadliest accident in aviation history.
Back in the foreground, we get more of the classic Deadpool discomfort as Duggan and Posehn turn their attention to the era’s race relations. I say “classic Deadpool” because, not only do they manage to barrel into the topic headfirst, Deadpool manages to break the fourth wall along the way.
Yes, the villain’s name is “The White Man,” which opens up delightful lines like the ones in the panel above. Later, when Deadpool confronts the gang, one of them shouts “Let’s get him. For The White Man!” Even The White Man himself gets a piece of the action, yelling “Kill these zeroes that think they’re heroes — with EXTREME PREJUDICE!” You get the picture. It’s clear that the team isn’t really trying to represent the racism of the time in anything even remotely close to reality, but I think it’s safe to say that we certainly don’t expect reality from this title. Just like the disco duds and the dialogue are compressed parodies of the time, The White Man is a shameless, straightforward vehicle for parodying racism without slowing down enough to get into the sticky bits of that conversation.
Finally, I love the dynamic between the Cage-Rand duo and Deadpool. As usual, Deadpool is unwelcome in every way, but squirms his way into the thick of things. I love the way he uses his signature dogged persistence to try to party with the cool kids, as if by calling himself a member of the team enough times they’ll eventually accept him as such. It’s only near the end of the issue that he starts to acknowledge his unwanted presence. If only when prompted.
So, Patrick – I failed to do anything but scratch the surface of this incredibly dense issue. I didn’t mention the terrific panels making fun of Iron Fist’s iron fist, nor the entire page devoted to sex metaphors. How’d you like this issue, were there any fun oblique references that caught your eye? For example, I can’t quite name the album cover in the lower-left of the first panel and it’s driving me nuts!
Patrick: That’s a copy of Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation (released September of 1977). There’s also some graffiti on a subway wall on the bottom of page four that reads “BLANK GENERATION.” It’s a surprisingly non-metal reference for Posehn, but it’s an iconic American punk record from a time when most of those iconic records were coming out of the UK. But I guess it’s fitting that an issue of Deadpool start off acknowledging the character’s rock punk don’t-give-a-shit-ness, especially considering the intentionally low-fi appearance of this issue. Here’s the title track:
And besides, Duggan and Posehn get their metal fix by inserting an AC/DC reference a few pages later, so all is right with the world. I like Deadpool’s revision to “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” as “Dirty Deeds Done at a Reasonable Price.”
I also noticed a bunch of movie posters in Deadpool and Carmelita’s love nest, but I’ll be damned if I can identify them all. There’s definitely one for the shitty 1976 King Kong and another one for Rocky (also ’76), but like Ethan said, there are just so many pop cultural references in the average issue of Deadpool, and the “inventory issues” double down on that considerably. It’s a lot to take in — and probably impossible to keep up with unless you lived through the decade — but that almost makes it more fun. I love these inventory issues as sort of twisted false time capsules, projecting whatever pop garbage was in our writers’ heads when they looked back on the period. But that’s cool; nearly every time Deadpool has a 2013 perspective, it kinda throws me out of the fun novelty of the thing. Like, why can’t Wade make Iron Man 3 and Battleship: The Movie jokes next issue? (Also, they’re both sort of cheap shots. Not that I look to Deadpool for subtlety or anything, but mentioning that Battleboat would “make a terrible movie” reads like an insult joke, but just has no fangs.)
And then there are the bevvy of editorial jokes, both in the form of extra narration boxes that take on Stan Lee’s more charming affectations (“True believers!”) and the insistent notes on the bottoms of some of the pages, urging us to continue reading the story “after next page” or “on second page following.” This issue seems a little more densely populated with this style of joke than issue 7, culminating in the thing about Iron Fist that I totally don’t understand.
Marvel historians, clue me in: is that something that would happen in Iron Fist books? Is there something about his lore that, like, the reader is Iron Fist or something? It reads like a bit a Dungeons & Dragons narrative text that accompanies a spell or special ability. Like every time you cast a spell, the DM is supposed to read a short paragraph describing the effects of said spell, and something like “your chi is ready to explode” would be right at home in those things.
You really could write a book (albeit a slim volume) just about the cultural references in this issue. I like that this was able to maintain its Deadpool-identity through humor and mega-violence. That same page as the goofy Iron-Fist-charging-up panels I posted above shows one dude getting his arms yanked off by Cage and another dude being sliced in half vertically by Deadpool. Mega-violent. Also my favorite bit of comedy in this issue is a decidedly modern idea – going undercover as the shop owner, Iron Fist is still wearing like 90% of his costume. I’m not sure that description sells it at all, but it’s funny as hell.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?