Killing presidents is not a plotline that typically gets played for laughs in comics, but comedian Brian Posehn is not a typical comics writer, and Marvel Comics' "Deadpool" is not a typical superhero series. Across its first four issues as part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, the series co-written by Gerry Duggan and drawn by Tony Moore has taken the sarcastic madman of the Marvel U and let him slice, dice and explode his way through an army of zombified Commanders-in-Chief.
"I think we had the most fun with Lincoln just because we kept him around for a couple of issues. A lot of these guys, you see them for one issue, then you kill him. We kept Lincoln around for a while, and that's made him more fun," Posehn explained of the story during a signing this weekend at Challengers Comics in Chicago.
"Kennedy was a lot of fun because our approach was basically just writing Mayor Quimby from 'The Simpsons.' Just add a lot of 'Ahs' and 'Ers' and that was great," the comedian laughed. "They've all been fun on their own, and the Reagan one in issue #5 was a blast because he's someone from our era who we knew growing up. The others are just characters from history we had to play with. We did very little research on the book. There are a couple of guys we didn't know as well, so we had to think of bits for them to do. As you see as we go on, we had to work through some quick like in issue #4 where we had this montage where I killed ten guys in four pages. A couple of those guys didn't get the treatment that the more famous presidents got. I think we even called them 'D-List' guys because somebody online called us 'D-List Writers.'"
The story continues on next week in "Deadpool" #5 before wrapping in March with #6, and the writer promised that the story's final turn would play up some of the more action aspects of the story. "Washington is our biggest villain, and there's some really cool stuff coming up with him in issue #6," he said while promising some more of Ben Franklin's ghost as the HYDRA Bob-esque sidekick of the piece. "Some people got mad at us that we ditched the inner monologue and the yellow balloons of Wade talking to himself. Franklin was our way of doing that. It's like, 'Is he real, or is Deadpool nuts?' Then you start to realize that other people like Michael the wizard see him too. But we've got some other things coming up where he'll have other voices in his head, but it'll happen organically.
"#5 and #6 have some pretty brutal things happen that will carry over into the next arc. I wouldn't say we're abandoning all the jokes, because we're not, but it does become a little darker because we're going through darker times. We still have him responding the same way he always has, but he also deals with his world crashing down around him."
The writing partnership between Posehn and Dugan is an equal one, and he explained that many fans would be surprised to find out which parts of the story came from which half of the duo. "I've written a lot of screenplays that no one will ever see," he laughed, noting that in years when fans have seen him less in films he's been polishing his story chops outside of comedy. "We outline everything together. To me, plotting is super important. I do these big outlines, and I'll have joke ideas in there. But it's pretty fleshed out. In the beginning Gerry did the odd issues, and I did the evens, but now it's whoever has the most time when a first draft is due. Then we'll do the rewrite together, but we already know everything that's happening because we had such a detailed outline. Then we'll come up with more jokes after Tony Moore has turned in the pages. We've even done joke passes when we're just supposed to be reading and making sure things are clear in the balloons. We're always trying to funny it up as much as possible."
Overall, the arc of this "Deadpool" series will draw the character a bit closer to the wider Marvel Universe including his current partnership with S.H.I.E.L.D. "I can't reveal where we go with S.H.I.E.L.D., but it's safe to say that halfway through our run, he'll be out on his own again. The S.H.I.E.L.D. thing does not end well. Wade can not keep relationships together," Posehn promised. Regardless of when or how the faux spy stories wrap, expect more guest stars to appear including an Iron Man cameo in a flashback to the 1980s in issue #7.
"It is an Iron Man issue, but we also do a lot of setup for our next arc. There's a guy who shows up in #8 that we've never seen before, but he also appears in a flashback in #7. We meet him in the '80s and then he's changed by issue #8. He's a new foe. I won't get too much into it, but Deadpool kind of works for him. So #7 is a fun one-off, but it also lays a lot of pipe for our next arc."
Expect the stand alone issue with guest artist Scott Koblish to play off of classic stylistic twists from the Armored Avenger's past in a uniquely Deadpool manner. "We're influenced by 'Demon In A Bottle' so it had to be after that story which was published at the end of the '70s. We've been trying to get Marvel to let us fuck around with Iron Man for a lot of years. We wanted to do a book called 'The Adventures of Drunk Iron Man,' and they were like 'No way.' We always wanted to dabble in that world, and this is our shot at doing a book with a little bit of drunk Iron Man."
Moving forward, the team will work one-off issues in between all of their arcs while trying not to lose a stronger story thread through the entire run. "#13 will connect," Posehn said. "It's another flashback to the '70s where we've got some 'Deadpool if he was drawn by Kirby' stuff. It's a totally different costume that has a real Kirby look to it. Those stories have been awesome to play with but also connect up to the larger story."
Ultimately, the writer said he and his scripting partner have been embracing a steep learning curve for monthly superhero comics after their own creator-owned projects put them on the comics map, and their artistic collaborators have helped along the way. "It's totally different. We both had no idea how much work this would be," he said. "'The Last Christmas' was five issues, and 'The Infinite' was five issues with Phil Noto that took forever. So we had a ton of time there. With this we have deadlines, and they come up on us pretty quickly. Now everybody knows that Tony won't be with us for the whole run, but at the start even we were turning in issues for Tony as we were also doing stuff for Mike Hawthorne. We were finishing the first arc as we were halfway through the second arc, which is hard to wrap your head around. We had it all plotted out, but there's still a little bit of 'Where are we at?' You'll see how things have happened to change Wade's world which makes it hard to write issue #5 and #9 at the same time."
But the write promised many familiar artistic faces will be along for the ride long term even as cover artist Geof Darrow wraps his involvement with the book. "Geof doesn't do all the covers, but we've got Art Adams coming in next, which is pretty amazing. When that happened, I was like, 'Holy crap!' And Tony Moore is going to do some covers down the road too. I'm excited about that."
"Deadpool" #5 ships next Wednesday, Feb. 20, from Marvel Comics.