Dead(pool) and loving it: A conversation with Gerry Duggan

What is it like to be riding the comet? That may be the closest analogy currently describing what it must be like to be writing for Deadpool. This is a character that has experienced a meteoric rise to household-name status due to his smash hit movie that blew apart theatres almost one year ago. Before Deadpool was owning the multiplexes, the character was cementing his status as the most successful character to appear in comics over the past thirty years. Just over the past five years, Deadpool has headlined over a dozen regular series or miniseries. But even Deadpool would raise a chimichanga to the literary heights achieved in his eponymous new series by veteran wordsmith Gerry Duggan.

For the ever shrinking minority of comic fans who are not familiar with Deadpool, his real name is Wade Wilson, a.k.a. “The Merc with a Mouth”. He was created in 1991 by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, and first appeared in the pages of New Mutants. What started out as a sort of spoof of DC’s own Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) soon took on a wild life of its own. Deadpool became most noted for his unhinged persona and his ability to break the fourth wall and talk directly to his readers. His stories are an exhilarating mix of violence, mayhem and humor.

I asked Mr. Duggan, also known for his Hulk and Batman work, why he thinks Deadpool resonates so well with audiences. He responded, “The movie being a smashing success is the best primer now. For new fans, he’s got less backstory than many of the other marquee heroes. You can deep-dive into the character a bit easier than you can with the other silver-age heroes.”

In other words, access is key. Deadpool provides an easy jumping point for Marvel, and comic book in general, neophytes.

But how does a writer approach a character that has suddenly been thrust into the consciousness of such a large potential fan base? Does the pressure of meeting these new fan’s expectations of the character affect how a writer approaches the work? Apparently, when you are a veteran writer, you can rely on your process.

According to Mr. Duggan, “I can’t second-guess myself. It’s my job to write the Deadpool that’s stuck in my head. The film writers, [Rhett] Reece and [Paul] Wernick, have actually been writing Deadpool for longer than I have. I hope when I wrap on the title someday that I will have been as good to Deadpool as the character has been to me.”

This is based on a writing process that is both practiced and deliberate. As Mr. Duggan describes his writing method, “I write once for the editor, and once that script is ready it goes to the artist. I polish the script again after the artists are finished and before the letterer begins work. It’s more labor-intensive, but makes the comics better. Sometimes a joke presents itself late in the process.”

A great writer realizes that a script is ever-evolving. Mr. Duggan allows the visuals to help direct the words, which allows for the perfect intertwining of words and pictures.

This mastery over character and concept is clearly apparent within the recent issues of Deadpool. In the series’ current storyline, Deadpool finds himself up against a villain called Madcap. While the character of Madcap did not originate within the pages of Deadpool, he has quickly become Deadpool’s primary nemesis. So why does Madcap work so well as an adversary to Deadpool?

“He’s got the same regenerative abilities and questionable mental state,” Mr. Duggan said. “They were made to be mortal enemies. Their relationship was a great gift from an annual I had nothing to do with. It’s been a lot of fun building up Madcap as Wilson’s nemesis.”

An excellent example of Madcap’s propensity for tormenting Deadpool, has occurred in a recent issue of Deadpool, where Madcap has infected Deadpool with a deadly virus. But you may ask, “Isn’t Deadpool able to heal from any injury? What’s the point of infecting him?”

Great question to which Mr. Duggan responded, “Deadpool didn’t know he was a carrier for the virus. Madcap orchestrated the deaths of the people closest to Deadpool and used him as the weapon.”

Much like the Joker in Batman, Madcap has realized that the best way to hurt the protagonist is to inflict pain upon him through hurting those close to the “hero”.  This also fuels the animosity that exists at the core of their relationship.

Readers have a lot of excitement to look forward to in future issues of Deadpool.

According to the author, “2017 will be an extremely volatile time in Deadpool’s life. He’ll be attempting to finally end the Madcap threat, and will be dragged into brand new situations. Expect strife on every page.”

Clearly, Mr. Duggan is writing Deadpool and loving it.

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