Deadpool gasping with his hands pressed to his face.
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Explaining the Enigma of Deadpool in the Marvel & DC Universes

Language!

Who doesn’t love Deadpool? Wade Wilson, played by Ryan Reynolds in the 2016 movie, has the filthiest mouth and the raunchiest sense of humor of all of superhero-kind. Deadpool is the antihero you want to follow if you love blades, bullets, and blood. But is Deadpool a Marvel character, or DC? Why doesn’t he seem to fit into either universe?

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Also known as the Merc with a Mouth and the Regenerating Degenerate, Deadpool has superhuman strength and speed, a mastery of various weapons, and the ability to heal his own wounds and regenerate damaged or lost parts of his body. Although his origins in the comics are never made clear, in the movie, he gains his powers when being involuntarily subjected to an experiment in which he’s tortured in order to trigger his latent abilities. The experiment also irreparably damages his skin, though, leading him to wear a mask and seek revenge. Deadpool loves to crack jokes and break the fourth wall.

Why is Deadpool so Hard to Pin Down?

Deadpool’s first comics appearance was in The New Mutants #98, published in February 1991. The mutants are a Marvel property, but that’s not always obvious if you don’t know the convoluted history of Marvel’s licensing agreements with various film studios.

First off, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is produced by Marvel Studios, but you’ll notice that the mutants, including the X-Men, have been noticeably absent so far (except for a cameo in Doctor Strange 2, in a scene that took place in an alternate universe). For years, the rights to the mutants have belonged to 20th Century Fox. All those X-Men movies over the years? Fox, not Marvel Studios. They take place in a different universe than the MCU, which is why you never see any real crossover.

Secondly, the tone of Deadpool is closer to Suicide Squad (a DC property) than it is to the MCU. The MCU is aggressively family-friendly, so much so that it’s a little startling when a character says “shit.” It took the MCU over a decade to include its first milquetoast sex scene, while Deadpool opens with Wade telling the audience he had to fondle Wolverine’s junk just to get his own movie. Deadpool’s R rating, f-bombs, and copious amounts of gore make it almost unrecognizable as a Marvel movie if you’re only familiar with the MCU.

A quick aside: it’s worth noting that Deadpool will be joining the MCU soon, which will make his connection to Marvel more explicit. Deadpool 3 will be an official installment in the MCU, although the Deadpool franchise will still be R-rated. Will Deadpool make his entrance through the multiverse? Will it turn out that he was on Earth-616 all along? We’ll have to wait and see! In the meantime, here’s a promo for Ryan Reynold’s movie Free Guy that’s kinda sorta Deadpool’s first MCU appearance.

Deadpool’s DC Counterparts

Making things even more confusing is the fact that Deadpool has multiple doppelgängers running around in the DC universe. First, there’s Deathstroke. Deathstroke is the codename for Slade Wilson, an elite assassin and mercenary for hire who comes across as a villain, but considers himself a good guy. Like Wade, Slade gains superhuman powers while undergoing an experimental procedure. In Slade’s case, the researchers performing the experiment hope to turn him into the perfect soldier. Slade gains superhuman strength, speed, and durability, but his behavior becomes erratic and aggressive.

Then there’s Wayne Wilkins, A.K.A. Red Tool, and Devon, A.K.A. Death Masque. Wayne is a cybernetically enhanced vigilante who’s obsessed with Harley Quinn, and Death Masque is a former Arkham Asylum inmate who has been known to work with Deathstroke. Both Wayne and Devon’s costumes resemble Deadpool’s.

But that’s not all! There’s yet another DC character, Ambush Bug (real name Irwin Schwab), who’s portrayed as a Deadpool parody. In 2022’s Suicide Squad #12, Ambush Bug travels to a planet populated by parodies of Marvel characters. There, he meets a parody of Deadpool, making the comparison between the two characters explicit. Some fans are now declaring Ambush Bug to be the “official” DC version of Deadpool.

So there you have it: Deadpool is a Marvel hero, not a DC hero, but given Deadpool’s potty mouth and his DC counterparts, it’s easy to get confused.

(featured image: Marvel)


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Author
Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>