Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Deadpool 3, originally released December 9th, 2015.
Patrick: The book responsible for shaping most modern improvised comedy is titled, simply Truth in Comedy. The title comes from the idea that the most honest reactions to unusual stimulus are going to be the funniest – essentially espousing that the truth is the ultimate punchline. That’s surprisingly poignant in a medium that could so easily be — and so frequently is — desperate performers mugging for a laugh. Real, sustainably funny scenes can only come from emotionally honest performances. But the title of the book actually implies something else: that the greatest truths can be found through the vehicle of comedy. I have yet to really come to a meaningful conclusion about why that is, but laughing with a character for long enough makes me sympathetic to them, and forges a connection between them and the audience. Deadpool is a fine case study of this phenomenon – through thousands of gags, and a handful of vulnerable turns, the audience is trained to trust and love him in a way we simply cannot extend to his facsimiles in the Mercs for Money.
Issue 3 ends up being an interesting exploration of the various ways the Mercs fail to fill Deadpool’s shoes. Solo, Stingray and Foolkiller all end up having very humanizing faults. Solo’s maybe too trusting, not discerning enough to know that he’s never going to see a payout from Deadpool. Stingray is selling out his own organization to S.H.I.E.L.D., but has also confessed as much to Deadpool. It’s like he’s overly loyal to everyone, even when the objects of his loyalty are at odds with each other. And then Foolkiller’s got that Deadpool-ballsiness with none of the foresight or tactical skill to back it up. He tries to get guns on-spec from an arms dealer by threatening him. Yeah, Foolkiller’s so short-sighted he didn’t think an arms dealer would have protection.
But there are also far weirder points of comparison to be found in Terror, Madcap and Slapstick. Actually, it might not be fair to mention Terror in the context of this discussion – he’s got one line in the issue and his appearance is most notable because it brings Shiklah howling into the room. I don’t know much about any of these knock-off Deadpools, but I gather that Terror is one of Shiklah’s monster subjects (why else would he be seeing Dr. Morbius in Monster City?). Shiklah doesn’t give a shit about him, however, which is more illustrative of the kinds of connections the real Deadpool makes. Where the comparisons start to get really interesting are when we drop in on Madcap and Slapstick.
Madcap is a lunatic – a living cartoon character. Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Mike Hawthorne hammer this home like they’re afraid someone’s going to take the character away if they discover just how silly they’re being with him. Stingray and Steve drop by to intimidate Madcap into cooperating with them, but there’s really nothing for them to latch on to.
I love that all of the details are wacky, but sort of limited to the kind of wackiness a real person could achieve. There aren’t any floating-dildo-chairs or anything fantastical like that – just some everyday, attainable insanity. I don’t know which is crazier: two lava lamps or four welcome mats? Or the bubble machine? The point is: that’s he nuts, and cuts his own finger off to escape Steve. Madcap is the desperate improv performer I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
Which brings me around to Slapstick, and perhaps the weirdest point of celebration for Deadpool: his sexuality. Slapstick tries to use his Merc Money to hire a prostitute and some other dude to play his wife and son (respectively). The prostitute eventually storms out — Slapstick doesn’t have the money after all — and makes some comments about Slapstick “not having a tool between [his] legs.” Again, I don’t totally understand Slapstick’s deal, but it seems like he’s sort of a cartoon character as well, so he lacks some features that would make him more human – like genitals and human sexuality. He knows he’s supposed to want it, just like he knows he’s supposed to want a son, but ultimately, he doesn’t have either appetite.
All of the qualities that the Mercs lack, Deadpool has: family, cunning, sexuality. We may not be any nearer to understanding the plot of the yet-another-Deadpool-imposter, but this issue is a pretty stunning demonstration of why we should care about Deadpool in the first place. He is so much richer and better developed than half-a-dozen similar heroes.
Spencer, I really enjoyed this issue, but I’ll confess to having to take notes on each of the Mercs to keep them straight. Also, maybe it’s overkill to demonstrate how hollow shitty versions of Deadpool are when the main action is so bright, fast and fun to begin with. What’d you think?
Spencer: I think that we’re on the same page here, Patrick — or at least dancing around similar conclusions. Like Patrick, I too was immediately struck by the fact that our six “Mercs for Money” each basically have just one prominent personality trait, but to expand upon that train of thought further, what I find most interesting is that, if you combined all six traits, you’d essentially create Deadpool — it’s like some sort of perverted Captain Planet.
In other words, each Merc inhabits one of Deadpool’s core personality traits. Madcap, of course, is Wade’s sheer oddball insanity, while Stingray represents Wade’s loftier, more heroic moments, the side of Deadpool that pals around with Steve Rogers and goes Avenging and all that jazz. In contrast, Foolkiller represents Wade at his morally lowest.
From there, things get more interesting. Next up is Solo, who shows parallels to Wade’s ties to his family, in some ways quite literally; both Wade and Solo have biracial daughters that they try their hardest to support even if it means never seeing them, for example. But even on a less precise level, Solo’s inability to be with Catita and their daughter seems to represent the way Deadpool’s slowly found himself isolated from his family, be it of his own doing (as in the case of his distancing himself from Preston and his daughter) or unintentionally (as is the case with Shiklah).
(And actually, while we’re on the subject, can I take a moment to express my frustration with what Duggan’s been doing with Shiklah lately? “Perpetually angry, nagging wife” is by far the least interesting facet of Shiklah’s personality, but it feels like all we’ve seen of her ever since the Honeymoon ended. It looks like Duggan’s building to something between her and Wade, but I wish that he’d either get there faster or find room to do more with her until then, because these one-note appearances are getting old fast.)
Our last two Mercs are Terror and Slapstick, who both represent Deadpool’s monstrous side, but in completely different ways. Terror is Wade’s physical scars, a walking manifestation of the cancer eating away at him (to the point where Terror’s organs even seem to be failing, much like Wade’s failed clones). Slapstick, though, represents something much worse, but also something much harder to see; much like Deadpool, he’s fundamentally broken inside.
Patrick, I don’t read Slapstick as lacking a sex drive — if anything, what I see when I read this page is a man who desperately wants sex, wants a family, wants the normal suburban experience (just look at his stereotypical “Dad” outfit even), but just can’t have it. Slapstick literally isn’t built for it, and the facsimile he tries to build to replace it is worthless, and it’s tearing him apart inside. Even if this isn’t completely true of Wade, I do think it’s how he views himself — Slapstick is every self-loathing thought Wade’s ever had, every moment he’s ever thought himself unworthy of his friends or family, every time he’s thought himself broken because of what people’ve done to him or made him do.
So what are we supposed to do with this information? Again, Patrick’s on the right track when he mentions how this emphasizes that the real Deadpool is better than half-a-dozen less developed heroes; not only does that make our impostor antagonist an even cleverer play, but it’s a concept Duggan’s absolutely, 100% earned after all the work he’s put into expanding Wade’s world throughout his runs on Deadpool.
The thing is, I don’t know if Deadpool himself really agrees with this interpretation.
Wade’s train of thought seems to be that all these various complexities he’s picked up over the past few years are actually diluting his effectiveness, wearing down the very core of his character, distracting him from what’s really important. This reminds me of one of my favorite moments in Retcon Punch history, the epic debate in the comments of our first Deadpool discussion. What that drove home for me is that everybody has a different take on Deadpool, and that almost all of them are valid in one way or another. Wade is growing tired of his new “take” (including his newfound fame for sure, and perhaps some of his other responsibilities as well — he certainly doesn’t seem too choked up about the possibility of losing Shiklah), perhaps longing for his more lighthearted adventures the same way I am.
Seriously, this is a particularly grim take on Deadpool — his internal monologue is more hard-boiled than half-baked — and that kinda bums me out, even if Duggan has earned every ounce of that angst. Duggan’s take on Deadpool has been continually shifting and evolving since the very first issue of the previous volume, and that evolution has been fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. Still, much like with Shiklah, I can tell that this is all leading somewhere, and the Mercs for Money boys are a brilliant new device to make the trip of exploration all the more interesting. History — and our comments section — has proven that nobody will ever pin down a definitive take on Deadpool, but I’m certainly having fun exploring all the available options.
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?