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Long Beach Comic Expo 2016: Breaking the Fourth Wall with Deadpool – Panel Coverage

“In fiction, ‘breaking the fourth wall’ often means having a character become aware of their fictional nature.” – Urban Dictionary

If ever there was a character of late that consistently violated the barrier between actor and audience, then Wade ‘Merc with a Mouth’ Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is guilty as charged. At Long Beach Comic Expo last Saturday afternoon, Deadpool co-creator/writer Fabian Nicieza and current Deadpool artist Scott Koblish sat before a packed room for the “Breaking the Fourth Wall with Deadpool” panel to discuss the evolution of this supervillain turned anti-hero who first appeared in The New Mutants #98 in February 1991 (Marvel Comics).

The hour started out with the two panelists introducing themselves and commenting on the impact of the recent release of Deadpool that has been breaking opening weekend and MPAA rating records. Koblish, who began working on the series three years ago, said that at that time, people were generally aware of Deadpool, but people that he would not expect to even know who Deadpool is do now thanks to the popularity of the film. Nicieza, who co-created Wade Wilson with writer/artist Rob Liefeld, was at the film’s premiere and said that he takes the success and spotlight on Deadpool with a grain of salt. 

Nicieza went on to describe the process that he and Liefeld used to conceptualize Deadpool. Liefeld wanted an agile character that could move spryly around the hulking character, Cable. For Nicieza, he expressed that after writing about macho men, he was ready for a wise-ass character that did not know when to shut up. The letters that came after Deadpool’s first appearance conveyed essentially the same sentiment: “Deadpool was funny – bring him back!” Koblish interjected that “you can do anything you want with him” because there is no end to what he will do and say. For the artist, he revealed that he was only bound by his own creative limits; however, with the decade of stories in Deadpool 2099 (written by Gerry Duggan), he said he wanted to leave the readers breathless, so Koblish typically throws in extra jokes.

In contrast, Nicieza wrote in short story format (one-shots for example) rather than the month-to-month of an ongoing comic book story arc. He explained that his Deadpool was more grounded than fantastical; however, he tried to write his stories without negating or destroying any of the other writers’ stories. That said, Nicieza was very clear about certain facts: (1) Wilson’s father was a good guy with a military background; (2) Wilson was born in Ohio; (3) Wilson was drummed out of the military, turning to mercenary work; (4) Wilson’s military background made him a good candidate for the medical program; and (5) Wilson was an “ass”-pirational character. Koblish agreed, especially with the last point. And, Koblish stated that with 25 years of history, there is a lot of cast for Deadpool to interact with in the various comic book series out right now, a fact that may hint to things to come for the film franchise.

Interestingly, Koblish mentioned that Deadpool was more violent than what he had drawn in the past. In fact, he has downplayed some gore that makes him uncomfortable. For example, he will play up the joke aspects of a violent killing instead. Nicieza, on the other hand, realizes that readers want to see more gore, so he is trying to give it to them, with a bit of humor that readers have come to expect.

As to the fourth wall, Joe Kelly, who wrote Deadpool in 1997, was credited with using the device, although Nicieza mentioned he thought that Kelly said he does not remember doing so. Nicieza explained that he made a conscious decision to break the fourth wall. He said that instead of the lengthy text recap of past issues, he incorporated the character Deadpool and speech bubbles to summarize prior issues’ events. This effort was bookended by Nicieza writing replies in Deadpool’s voice to letters received. Nicieza then peppered the same technique within each issue.

While the topic of the fourth wall was only briefly touched on, the audience seemed to appreciate a history lesson from the original co-creator, as well as a peek inside the current Deadpool 2099 series from the artist. When asked who had not seen the film – there were a few hands raised, but not many – Koblish playfully chastised those individuals to immediately go and see Deadpool!


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