The titular character of Tim Miller’s Deadpool (2016) is Marvel’s most notorious anti-hero. Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, the character first appeared in The New Mutants #98 in 1991 as a super-villain. With an accelerated healing factor, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is nearly invincible, but his regenerative properties come at a price. Endowed by the Weapon X Program, Deadpool’s cellular structure is the result of experimentation that modified his body, mind and attitude in a multitude of ways.
Disfigured and unstable, Deadpool has earned the nickname “the merc with the mouth” for his sarcastic and regularly offensive vocabulary. Unlike most heroes in the Marvel universe, Deadpool is aware that he is a comic book character, regularly breaking the fourth wall to engage the audience in humorous ways. His backstory has never been fully fleshed out in the comics, leaving many details subject to change in the film. He is also unable to remember his own personal history due to the mental consequences of the procedures that provided his enhanced healing abilities. He goes by the “real-life” name Wade Wilson, but that may not be his real name (it is contested in Deadpool #33 by T-Ray, one of Deadpool’s nemeses, who claims to be the real Wade Wilson). The fact that Deadpool is aware of his comic-book status allows for a highly versatile, self-referential, contemporary style of storytelling. Deadpool can joke about his dubious history and retcon various facts as he sees fit, attributing the discrepancies to the writers who build his world.
Deadpool’s healing factor allows him to take considerable damage without permanent injury. He is also immune to typical human diseases and ailments. Enhanced cell regeneration builds tissue at an incredible rate and heals wounds rapidly; however, it also causes psychosis and mental instability. These side effects make the hero unpredictable and borderline insane, but his chaotic, improvised fighting style renders him a challenging opponent in battle. In comic lore, he has been incinerated, decapitated and crushed by the Hulk, surviving it all. Moreover, his knowledge that he is a comic character provides him with insight that he shouldn’t technically possess, which he uses in battle—for instance, he can read past issues of his opponent’s comic books to discover their weaknesses.
Early in the Deadpool canon, the character had superhuman strength. This has since become untrue, and his training as an assassin skilled in swordplay, martial arts and marksmanship have replaced superior physical strength. Handily enough, he possesses a magic satchel which provides him with an unlimited supply of ammunition and weapon resources.
Deadpool’s healing factor and awareness of his storytelling medium combine to make him a strikingly odd character with a humorous, addled, adult-oriented demeanor. He is a unique entry in the Marvel universe and a colorful, vulgar character with mass appeal for his action and comedy storylines.