This past Saturday, the creator of Deadpool Rob Liefeld held a panel at Wondercon 2017 to talk about his newest graphic novel Deadpool: Bad Blood, which is available for pre-order. As a fan myself, I decided to sit in on this panel and share with you the stories and influences that helped bring Deadpool to fruition.
“There’s a little bit of Deadpool in all of us”
To start, a year after Rob Liefeld graduated from high-school, he was hired to create comics. Bob harras, who was the editor of X-Men at the time, wanted to put him on X-Men and hired him to do New Mutants, which he Later changed to X-Force. He describes that as his biggest triumph and fought for the title change for over a year. Marvel offered Rob to do X-Factor, which is a spin-off of the X-Men franchise, but he turned it down because he did not want to follow the creators.
“Maybe it’s not a good idea to follow Jim Lee on a comic. Maybe that’s not the best idea. Maybe they’ll just compare you unfavorably to Jim Lee, or God, or Frank Frazetta!”
He then goes on to explain how the New Mutants were drawn as if they were stuck in the 80s, and he credits that to New Mutants having older people working on it. Since Rob turned down X-Factor, Marvel offered him New Mutants and they told him that if the book didn’t work, it would get canceled.
“The elite characters all looked like they were dressed from 1983 and it was 1989, if you go back and get the books before me, there was a character named Rictor, he looked cool in the new Logan movie, but in the comics when I took them he had a Billy Idol jacket from the Rebel Yell period, it was 1983, I was in high school, and then Boom-Boom looked like Madonna in 1983. She had a big bow in her hair and wore pink and had little skirts and stockings”
“If you don’t have Cable you don’t have Deadpool”
The first thing Rob Liefeld wanted to do to freshen up New Mutants was to introduce a new character named Cable. He explains that Cable became so popular because he was mysterious like Wolverine, who was his favorite character. He goes on to talk about how he favored The Avengers over the original X-Men because they had weapons.
“What the hell does that have to do with Deadpool? It all has to do with Deadpool!”
Thor has his hammer, Hawkeye has his bow ‘n’ arrow, Captain America was weaponized and has his shield, and he stated that one of the reasons why he loves Wolverine so much is because he has weapons.
“They all had weapons, bottom line. The X-Men? Kay, this is why Wolverine is so important. And why if he’s not in one of those movies, they don’t do so hot . . . So when the X-Men are relaunched, Wolverines there. What does Wolverine have, what differentiates him from the original X-Men? . . . They were a bunch of arm casters.”
Now, what exactly is an “arm caster?” Rob describes an arm caster as someone who uses their powers by throwing out their arm in front of them. Think Gene Grey and Iceman. To go along with “arm casters”, he also describes the X-Men as being “temple touchers”, or, X-Men who use their powers by touching their temples like Cyclops and Professor Xavier.
“Wolverine had three knives on each hand and he would gut you with them and that was exciting to a boy.”
Rob was intrigued by Wolverine. They called Wolverine weapon X and gave him a backstory, and that is how Cable came to be. Like Wolverine, Rob gave Cable backstory and mystery. He also gave him giant guns but explains how he disliked drawing accurate guns because he would need a reference, which he hated, so he made up Cable’s guns and described them as “big vacuum cleaner made-up guns that looked cooler.” Who knew?
So he introduces Cable and New Mutants skyrockets. Marvel told Rob that they were going to let him wrap up New Mutants and start his work on X-Force.
“Be careful what you wish for. Cable was super successful. When I got on it was selling 114,000 copies, that’s what my royalty statement said. 114,000 copies. New Mutants, like #94, we were at 500,000 copies. We were cookin’. People were coming to New Mutants because they liked Cable. They liked the stuff we were doing.”
With his new found success, Rob was worried about how to keep the momentum going. He placed Domino, Deadpool, and Gideon on the New Mutants #98 cover and hoped for the best.
“One out of three of these is gonna work for me. I threw it all against the wall. Domino, Deadpool, Gideon! And Domino and Deadpool took, and Gideon went the way of the dinosaurs.”
New Mutants #98 ended up selling 750,000 copies. So, what did Rob’s continued success mean to him?
“When somebody likes you and your book goes from 114,000 copies to 750,000 copies, and with X-Force 5 million copies, . . . I think ‘They’re going to let me draw another comic next month.’ It’s job security! Wooo! I get to keep drawing!”
Rob then tells us that Marvel had never got this much fan mail on a new character before, and asked Rob if it was okay to send him all of the fan letters. They then sent him a “washing machine sized box” full of letters. By that time, Rob had already sent in New Mutants 100 and started to get to work on X-Force.
“We need Deadpool in X-Force One. That’s why in X-Force One, there’s a fax file with Deadpool in the back and there’s a trading card”
“X-Force One is the number two best-selling comic for twenty-five years now . . . It’s still number two, 5 million copies.”
“The fans, you guys, always had his back.”
“Deadpool is the creation of a couple things. My obsession with making my deadline, and my torment by my friends Todd McFarlane and Eric Carson, who were drawing Spider-Man at the time.”
Todd McFarlane and Eric Carson would playfully tease Rob about him having to draw life-like characters, while they had a more easy-going time only having to draw Spiderman’s full face mask.
“Did you steal Spiderman for Deadpool? Yes!”
“He’s Spiderman with guns and swords.”
Rob decided that he needed to get in on only having to draw a full face mask, instead of all of the lifelike features that other artists had to draw. He says only having to draw a mask saves hours of his time. He then decided to pitch the full Deadpool story to Marvel.
“Okay, I don’t know if they’re going to let me through with this. Check this out. ‘Okay, so he’s Spiderman with uh, guns and swords. And his, um, origin is from the Weapon X program because you guys called Wolverine Weapon X, is that correct?’ ‘That’s right, Rob, Weapon X.’ ‘And that’s a roman numeral for weapon ten?’ ‘Yes, Rob, weapon ten.’ ‘And, to my knowledge, we have not seen weapon one, two, three, four five, six, seven, eight, nine.’ And they said ‘Yeah.”
“This is the God’s honest story about Deadpool.”
So, how does the movie Twins relate to Deadpool and Cable? Rob explains the movie to us, telling a condensed version of the plot where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito are twins by way of experimentation, like Wolverine. Arnold is the perfection of science, and he has all of the good traits, where Danny has all of the crap.
“And I walked down there and I said ‘I’ll crack this. Deadpool is the crap, Wolverine is the good stuff.’ And Marvel said ‘Yeah, We’ll buy that.’ . . . Deadpool is in! And he’s got a Spiderman-like-costume thats easy to draw.”
“It’s still true after 26 years, Deadpool is a deadline favor.”
We all know Deadpool as the smart-mouthed mercenary, but where did his personality come from? Rob loved the old-school style Spiderman and his tendency to make fun of people, which explains Deadpools way of speaking, but what about the darker side of him? Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, and Eric Carson were all equally obsessed with The Dark Knight by Frank Miller, and how he had a knack for making his comics dark. Rob was not impressed by the newer stories of Spiderman and calls him a “sad dude”, so he decided to take the traits of the old-school Spiderman and mix it with the darkened attitude of The Dark Knight.
“We can come back with the old style Spiderman, so when Deadpools kicking your ass, hes making fun of you!”
He explains the ongoing success of Deadpool with the release of the mini-series and trading cards, and in 1993 Deadpool became an action figure released by Toybiz.
“And I literally held Deadpool the action figure in the aisle of Toys R Us going ‘I’m a toymaker.’ And honestly, to this day, I was that delusional.”
“I’m going to draw this and hopefully Marvel will publish it someday.”
Fast forward to twenty-six years later, and Deadpool: Bad Blood is set to be released. Rob tells us about his dad being a pastor, and every Sunday when he had to go to church, he would draw. The first ten pages of Deadpool: Bad Blood were drawn in a church in 2009, and he explains it had church bullet notes all over the art because he barely had any blank space to work with.
“Marvel is bought by Disney and we all know this . . . These movies, Disney, awesome, the bad guy in my comic is called Thumper . . . Bambi has a rabbit called Thumper and he’s the cutest person in the movie . . . And I said ‘This is never going to clear’ And Marvels like ‘Yeah you can do that story and uh, Thumper is good, you’re clear to go and you can do an origin story.”
“We don’t pay attention to continuity when it comes to Deadpool.”
Marvel clearly doesn’t follow continuity as they have released comics like Deadpool Kills Deadpool and Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, so they told Rob that he could pretty much do whatever he wanted with Deadpool, and we thank them for that!
He then goes on to show us some of the pages from Deadpool: Bad Blood.
“Those are the pages I drew in church! I drew those in church!”
“Nobody has ever had Deadpool land on Cabel’s gun before and since Cabel’s gun is so big and long, I figured ‘There’s a joke there!’ And so, he jumps at Cabel, lands on his gun and kicks him. Come on, that’s some fresh action!”
“This character is why Deadpool is a mercenary.”
We could never imagine Deadpool as being anything other than a badass mercenary, but that idea did not come out of thin air. When Rob was younger, he saw Star Wars in theater and was an instant fan. With the upcoming release of the sequel, Rob was excited and bought the figures that were to be released after Christmas. He goes on to explain that if you collected all six figures, you can send in your proof of purchase and they will send you Boba Fett.
“Boba Fett, and it was like, he was just a name, and he was a cool looking character and I knew jack crap about him. And people, don’t discount the importance of visuals.”
How disappointing that with the hype of such a cool, mysterious character, he only lasted for a few short minutes in the span of two movies. Rob did not like this and knew he had to make his own mercenary. As we all know, he did just that. Deadpool became a great success and has fans ranging from all ages, including children. Rob tells us a story about a mom who came up to him in Las Vegas with her six-year-old son dressed as Deadpool and was angered that the movie was going to be R-rated.
“I decided I’d go a little sideways. I said ‘Ma’am I am sorry that the movie about a mercenary killer assassin is one that little Billy here can’t see. You’re aware that he’s dressed like a Mercenary Assassin Murderer! He’s not a superhero.’ . . . And I don’t think Billys worn that Deadpool costume since”
“He is not a superhero that’s going to take your cat out of the tree, like Superman.”
And with that, we have the creation of Deadpool. From him being a subject of The Weapon X Project like Wolverine, to his personality influenced by old-school spiderman, we have the world’s greatest ass-kicking, smart-mouthed mercenary who we all love, but the story doesn’t end there. The panel was followed by a Q&A session where fans got to ask the questions we all needed to be answered.
The first fan asked how Rob felt about seeing Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool.
“Okay, so I was like Ahhhhh!”
The director of Deadpool, Ted Miller, reached out to Rob in 2011 and invited him to look at all of the concept sketches. Rob was openly excited to be on the set, but who wouldn’t be? The first footage was filmed in 2011, and Rob was able to see it in late Fall of 2011. He says that the best part of the screening was sitting next to Stan Lee. When Stan Lee was asked what he thought of the footage, he had nothing but good things to say and Rob repeats his praise to us in his best Stan Lee voice:
“That was the best movie ever! And you’re the best director ever!”
Ted Miller and Rob Liefeld were both waiting for the punchline, but it was clear there wasn’t going to be one.
“I think he just liked playing in a strip club.”
Another fan asked how much the studio went to Rob for reference, which he was unable to answer. He explained that Simon Kinberg was the idea behind bringing Wolverine into X-Men: First Class and that is why it was such a huge success, which brought him to why he thinks Deadpool was successful.
“Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool. He is Deadpool. We have to keep him alive at all costs. There are days I go ‘I hope someone’s driving him to the grocery store and driving him home in an extra armored car and that he has security around him at all times.’ Cause, to me, it rises and falls on the genius of Ryan and so we have to, we have to keep Ryan Reyolds alive.”
“There’s nights I go, I tell my wife ‘I, I just hope he’s okay today.’ I mean come on, he’s Deadpool!’ I do believe that somewhere along the lines he crawled out of the pages and embodied him.”
Continuing on with his love for Ryan, another fan asked Rob if he was excited when he finally saw him as Deadpool.
“Iron Man, you know, makes a billion dollars at the box office but in 2008 was not a popular comic, and then Robert Downey Jr. stepped into that role and owned it and for the rest of our lives has got to be him. Good luck playing Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr. just became a flamboyant, billionaire whatever and to me, Hugh Jackman did the same and then Ryan you go ‘How is anyone else ever gonna pull this off?’ Cause we have to keep him alive. We have to either get him immortal, some sort of immortality, they crack it we get it to him first. ‘Dear, you know, scientist at the drug place, mail this to Ryan now!”
Seeing as how Deadpool was heavily influenced by Boba Fett, another fan asked Rob if he would ever do a Deadpool and Boba Fett crossover comic.
“If they do that and I’m not involved I will murder everyone! Okay? Let’s just make that really clear. Like at the very least I’m doing a cover or something.”
Marvel brought Star Wars back to comics, and one of the Star Wars #1 variant covers resembled that of the New Mutants ’98 cover.
“What kind of weird mirror world am I living in where Boba Fett is in an homage to Deadpool cover!”
We all know that Deadpool was not rated R solely for his foul language, it was also heavy with adult themes. One of the fans asked why Deadpool has these “sexual fantasies”, where Rob says it depends on the writer.
“You know what? I don’t think I wrote those issues. . .I’m the guy who just wanted him to kill people. . .If he shot you, cut you, hurt you in any way, made fun of you, that’s me.”
One of the final questions was asking Rob who he would cast as Cable, which was another question he couldn’t answer due to company restrictions, but he still had something to say.
“Because one night, before I went to bed, seven weeks ago, I’m literally about to fall asleep and I see that Russel Crowe is on Twitter and I just said ‘What the hell I’m going to ask Russel Crowe if he’d ever play Cable.’ And so I fired that bad boy up, and I’m literally, drools coming out of my mouth, ‘Would you ever read for Cable? *snores*’ The next day I woke up to Russel Crowe answering me! And it scared the crap outta me! And, I got a lot of crap for that. Cause he said ‘Read? Read for the role?’ Like, who are you to tell me I should read. But then, he kind of kept it going like ‘Okay maybe if I dont really answer him back for five hours he won’t talk to me. But he kept talking to me! And then everyone did Cable as Russel Crowe avatars and I got in a lot of trouble”
So, there you have it. The complete origin story of Deadpool told by the creator himself, Rob Liefeld. Who knew that Deadpool was a huge mix of everything Rob Liefeld loved? It really shines a whole new light on Deadpool and gives us a deeper look into who he is, and how much other comics and artist have influenced Rob to create such a popular character who grew from a simple idea. Deadpool went from an idea that was thrown onto a cover to test the waters to an immensely popular character who has been going strong since 1993 with his own comics, spin-offs, limited series, digital series, a movie that is getting a sequel, and his own graphic novel. Who knows if we still would have had Deadpool if Rob decided to work on X-Factor instead? Let’s not think about that, though. Thank you, Rob Liefeld, for creating everyone’s favorite smart-mouthed, slightly insane yet agreeably lovable mercenary.
“I put all the crazy I could in there, and Chris Simms and Chad Bowers got into the car and made sure I didn’t drive off the cliff. And it’s great because they put the fun in it.”