Axel-In-Charge: Alonso & Duggan Dissect 25 Years of "Deadpool"

Fri, February 12th, 2016 at 1:37pm PST

Comic Books
Axel Alonso, Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief
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Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso developing storylines as envisioned by Skottie Young

Fridays on CBR mean Axel's In Charge.

Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR's regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!

An editor with years of experience in comics receiving both critical acclaim and best-selling status, Alonso stepped into the chair at the top of Marvel's Editorial department and since then has been working to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Community, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

Merc With A Movie: The 16-Year Odyssey of the "Deadpool" Film

This week, "Deadpool" series writer Gerry Duggan joins Alonso for an exclusively Deadpool-dominated discussion, on the occasion of both the 20th Century Fox film's release -- in theaters now -- and the 25th anniversary of the character, created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza and introduced in 1991's "New Mutants" #98. Alonso -- who edited the series during the Daniel Way & Paco Medina run of the series starting in 2008 -- talk what they like about Deadpool, the surrealness of the inescapable "Deadpool" movie marketing campaign and what qualities make a good Deadpool artist. Additionally, Duggan discusses his current run on the series, including this week's "Deadpool" #7, an anniversary issue with a main story illustrated by Scott Koblish and back-up stories starring the "Mercs for Money," written and illustrated by a variety of high-profile creators.

"Deadpool" #9 art by Matteo Lolli"Deadpool" #9 art by Matteo Lolli"Deadpool" #9 art by Matteo Lolli
EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Deadpool" #9 by Matteo Lolli

Albert Ching: Axel, Gerry, the first thing I'm curious about -- both of you have been involved with Deadpool for years. How surreal is it to see this current massive marketing campaign? It's character that up until very recently was popular with comic book fans, for sure, but not really known outside of that -- and now we're seeing Deadpool billboards, bus stop ads, TV commercials.

Gerry Duggan: I've found it to be a totally surreal experience. I remember the first night that I saw the crew changing the movie posters at the bus stop, and they're putting up a "Deadpool" poster, I was looking around, going, "Is this a bit?" [Laughs]

Axel Alonso: It's surreal for me, too, because when I inherited Deadpool [as an editor], he had half a book. He shared a series with Cable. And that series had a very ardent fanbase, but the sales weren't that good. When he got his own solo series again, Daniel Way & Paco Medina -- who are being overlooked in the pre-premiere promotions -- took the ball and ran with it. The new series was zany and ultra-violent and different from anything else we were publishing at the time. Deadpool's fight with Bullseye was, I think, one of the best superhero fights ever. That meatsuit was classic.

RELATED: 25 Greatest Deadpool Stories Master List

Duggan: To that point too, about Dan and Paco, I felt very grateful that when Brian [Posehn] and I inherited the book, that fans were already gobbling up the collected editions of the previous runs. We didn't just inherit the character, we inherited stability which gave us the shot at a long run. We were standing on the shoulders of other creators that came before us that really made Deadpool popular. There's a scene -- without any spoilers -- directly out of that run that Axel mentioned. They really nailed the tone very well.

So you've seen the movie?

Duggan: I did. I saw it last night. I actually, for the first time in my life, was recognized out and about.

Well, if that was going to happen anywhere...

Duggan: Yeah, if it was going to be anywhere. But I was just laughing because my wife wasn't there -- it was almost like it didn't happen, because there was no one there to see it. [Laughs] The audience I saw it with -- and I tried to lurk and get a sense of what the reaction was afterwards -- it was extremely positive, and even people remarking, "I didn't think I was going to like it or I thought it was going to be too violent, and I laughed and enjoyed it." It looks like, once again, Deadpool's reaching out and making new fans. It should be a fun weekend.

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"Uncanny Avengers" #7 art by Ryan Stegman"Uncanny Avengers" #7 art by Ryan Stegman
EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Uncanny Avengers #7 by Ryan Stegman

Deadpool is certainly a unique character in the Marvel pantheon, and became a cult favorite because of that. As people who have worked on this character for a long time and know Deadpool very well, what qualities in the character make him appealing to both of you?

Alonso: Wade is a deeply flawed "everydude." More than almost any other character, he is adored for his flaws -- for what makes him less than heroic. He is a kinda like Bob Odenkirk in "Better Call Saul" -- he's doing his best, honest!

Duggan: I think that's a perfect summation of Wade. When we talk about who are his nemeses, you'd have to put Wade Wilson, Deadpool, at the top of that list. It's fun to see the struggle of Wade trying to do the right thing, or sometimes doing the right thing in a very circuitous route. That struggle is what makes it all so fun to read and enjoy.

Not only is the movie out this week, but we're also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the character, as commemorated in the freshly released, oversized "Deadpool" #7. A lot of hallmarks were there originally with Deadpool, both visually and personality-wise, but like all good characters, the character has evolved a lot, as well. What do you like about how the character has grown and taken shape over the years?

Duggan: With each fingerprint that gets left on the character, he gains depth. Whether it was Rob and Fabian obviously to kick it off -- and much love to those guys for birthing this amazing character -- everyone got a crack at him and left something behind. Someday I hope I'll be able to look back and say, I was as good to Wade as Wade was to me.

There's pathos to this character when you take a deep dive inside the comics. I think sometimes new Deadpool readers are a little uneasy with the fourth wall breaks, but they come around. I think fools have secret knowledge sometimes. I'm not saying Wade is King Lear's fool, but there are definitely comments that Wade can make that ring true, that not every character will get to make. That, to me, is real fun. If I'm having fun, my collaborators will have fun, and hopefully that means our readers have fun.

Alonso: I think there's sort of a unique camaraderie amongst Deadpool writers. There's less rivalry, less competition; more respect. Writers with wide-ranging senses of humor have tackled the character and each has brought something new to him. Like Gerry says, they've left a fingerprint -- or more.

RELATED: CBR's Complete Coverage of the "Deadpool" Movie

And we've seen plenty of past writers come back to the character, like in the wedding issue [2014's "Deadpool" #27].

Duggan: To that point, I'm always very happy to be available to be interviewed about Deadpool, but I'm so grateful that Joe Kelly's back doing Deadpool, and Cullen Bunn has written some of my favorite Deadpool stories.

As one of the folks back in the kitchen, I know what's coming down the road a year or more. But I get to pick up Cullen's books as a fan. I've asked Jordan D. White, our editor, "If there's something I have to know, great, let me know," if not, the other folks writing Deadpool is my chance to be a Deadpool fan and enjoy those comics as they are sent off to the printer.

"Spider-Man/Deadpool" #3 art by Ed McGuinness"Spider-Man/Deadpool" #3 art by Ed McGuinness
EXCLUSIVE: Art from "Spider-Man/Deadpool" #3 by Ed McGuinness

Alonso: Cullen Bunn can't be overlooked. His contribution to Deadpool over the last few years has been massive. His limited series -- "Deadpool Kills...", "Return of the Living Deadpool," "Deadpool Killustrated" -- have mined gold on the periphery of the core series.

Duggan: I've signed as many Cullen Bunn stories as I have [my] Deadpool stories. [Laughs] I'm always very flattered when I'm mistaken to be the writer of one of those stories.

As a testament to what was just said -- there have been a lot of different Deadpool stories released by Marvel in recent years. Gerry, you've been writing the book since 2012 and have taken the character to a lot of unexpected places -- do you see Deadpool as surprisingly flexible, creatively?

Duggan: I think so. He's a very malleable character. The cornerstone of our take on him initially was that nobody would want to be seen next to him -- the other heroes were going, "Oh god, I don't want this team-up." That always made for very fun odd couple situations. Something for us was always when someone can see the other side of Wade -- even if it ends up being a joke, they can see how sad and messed-up his life is. That was always as important as any gag.

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I wouldn't have thought when we started that we could have made him an Avenger, but I think -- at the risk of disappearing up my own butt -- I think we all earned that, through the way that Steve Rogers now sees him as a soldier who is better with a commanding officer. I sort of say this with a wink, but sometimes the higher the pedestal, the greater the fall. We're having fun with the elevated status now, and that was something that has been expected. But it'll be fun if we get to tinker with that status again later on. Collaborating on Deadpool doesn't feel like work. That's the highest compliment I can pay my editors, artists, and letterers.

To that point about the fun of it -- how much fun did you have putting together the team of the Mercs for Money? It includes some of my favorite obscure Marvel characters, specifically Foolkiller and Slapstick.

Duggan: When we hatched the idea, Axel, Jordan and I, we thought, "Here comes this big event ("Secret Wars) that will allow us to really shatter some status quos. What's the most surprising thing that we could do?" These were some fan-favorite characters that hadn't been seen in a while, and it was an opportunity to reimagine some of them, and put them around Deadpool.

Deadpool's all about the relationships. If you see the movie this weekend, you know he's around some very different people. That's part of what makes him so fun. We're building towards a big story that begins in issue #7. There are a few discoveries to be had in some of the back-up stories that star these mercs. I've always loved Stingray, I thought he was one of the coolest-looking [characters], but also a really cool character. He's a scientist, he goes under the sea. All these characters have their biggest fan, and they're all very happy to see them struggle in Deadpool's orbit. A lot of that will come to a head after "Deadpool vs. Sabretooth."

Art from "Deadpool and the Mercs for Money" #2 by Salva Espin
EXCLUSIVE: "Deadpool and the Mercs for Money" #2 art by Salva Espin

Axel, for you from your position as Editor-in-Chief, you spoke about how Deadpool not too long ago had half a book, and now he's inescapable. Where do you see him in terms of his importance within the current Marvel line? Is he up there with some of the biggest names?

Alonso: He's up there. Just look at the numbers, month after month after month. Deadpool is unique. He's part Bugs Bunny, part the Punisher, and he allows creators to break the fourth wall in ways that no other character can. For the longest time, "Deadpool" was our sole entry point into doing "dramedy" -- part drama, part comedy. In a way, he kept the door open for books like "Howard the Duck" and "Squirrel Girl." But he practically has the patent on that weird juxtaposition of humor and ultra-violence and social commentary and infomercial and horse-whispering and dot, dot, dot.

Do you see "Deadpool" as paving the way of those books to succeed in today's market?

Alonso: Always. When there were people that said "Humor doesn't sell," you could always point to Deadpool, right? [Laughs]

I'm talking to an editor and a writer, but of course an artist is crucial to "Deadpool" -- you need to find the right person to execute the combo of brutal violence and madcap comedy. For both of you, what kind of skills do you think make a great Deadpool artist?

Alonso: The ability to "execute the combo brutal violence, and madcap comedy." [Laughs]

Duggan: 100 percent.

Alonso: Not everyone can do humor. It's a gift. Some people are magnificent draftsman, they can widescreen the daylights out of you, but they just can't make you laugh. It's not their thing. I'm pretty sure that Gerry will agree that every writer wants their script to get elevated by their artist -- they want their joke to be even funnier when it's drawn. That's the kind of artist we shoot for.

Duggan: We've been so grateful that our editors, starting with Axel on down, have given us a chance to work with artists that help us succeed. We opened with Tony Moore, and we were lucky enough to the find Scott Koblish and Mike Hawthorne, Declan Shalvey and so many more partners have made us look good. Sometimes your favorite gag is not from my mind, it's from theirs. We're very grateful. Enjoy the film this weekend, and thanks for reading "Deadpool." I think our funniest and most tragic stories are literally on drawing boards right now.


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TAGS:  axel-in-charge, marvel comics, deadpool, deadpool (film), axel alonso, gerry duggan, rob liefeld, fabian nicieza

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