Everything You Need to Know About Deadpool

5 minute read

Ryan Reynolds has been talking about wanting to make a Deadpool movie since 2005. The character — part of the Marvel comics universe, which includes both the X-Men and the Avengers — was first introduced on the big screen in 20th Century Fox’s Wolverine: Origins. There’s a good chance you never saw him because the film flopped at the box office. But now a highly anticipated trailer for the standalone movie is finally premiering on Conan Tuesday night. Before you watch, here’s everything you need to know about Deadpool’s mercenary past, incredible healing powers and bizarre romantic entanglements.

Deadpool, also known as Wade Wilson, has become a fan favorite because he’s, well, crazy. He often breaks the fourth wall, addressing the reader directly — even commenting on the fact that he’s a comic book character. He also engages in witty banter with the many voices inside his head. Mentally unstable, sure, but definitely fun.

Wade Wilson grew up with abusive parents and ran away as a teenager. He was eventually trained as an assassin and worked as a mercenary. After being diagnosed with cancer, Wilson volunteered to let a government research lab experiment on him as part of the “Weapon X” mutant weaponization project, where Wolverine got his Adamantium skeleton.

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Wilson eventually became the experimental subject of the sadistic Dr. Killbrew, and his assistant, Ajax. During painful testing, he gained super-healing abilities that cure his cancer (similar to Wolverine’s restorative powers) but also intense scarring all over his face and body — hence the full-body suit and mask. Though the healing powers prevent him from dying — Deadpool has literally lost his head in the comics only to survive by simply growing a new one — they also reject any medicine or drugs he puts into his body. That’s bad news for someone mentally unstable.

While Wilson was being experimented upon, a group of subjects began a “dead pool,” betting on who will be the last to die at the hands of the researchers. Wilson eventually leads an escape, taking the name Deadpool and vowing to have his revenge. Dr. Killbrew will likely be the main villain in the film.

After leaving the Weapon X project, Deadpool took odd jobs working as a fighter and assassin for various people in the Marvel comic book universe, always making wisecracks as he killed. He’s fondly referred to in the books as “the Merc with the Mouth.”

Characters in Deadpool’s life include Blind Al, an old woman he kidnapped and keeps as a sort of friendly hostage, and Weasel, Deadpool’s friend and weapon supplier who will be played by Silicon Valley’s T.J. Miller in the movie.

Deadpool has also cycled through many love interests, including Copycat, a shape-shifter played by Firefly’s Morena Baccerin in the upcoming film. She is similar to X-Men character Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), except stronger because she can take on the powers of whomever she’s imitating. But Deadpool’s most interesting relationship has been with the literal incarnation of Death herself, a character in the Marvel universe. Deadpool tries to kill himself over and over to be with her, which makes for some hilarious scenarios — remember that it’s basically impossible for him to actually die.

Sadly Death will probably not show up in the Deadpool film. Avengers villain Thanos (the guy with the purple face) is also in love with Death, and in the Marvel Studios films, he’s been busy gathering Infinity Stones to destroy the world and impress her — a storyline that will come to a head in Avengers: Infinity Wars, Parts I and II. In the comics, Deadpool has battled Thanos for Death’s affections. Since Fox only owns the rights to certain X-Men characters and Marvel Studios has the rights to the Avengers characters, it’s unclear whether Fox can or will allude to this relationship in the film.

Deadpool has fought with many different villains and good guys (he is a mercenary for hire, after all). The synopsis for the film seems to suggest that Deadpool will battle Dr. Killebrew and Ajax. At one point in the comics, he begs to become a part of the X-Men, a storyline which will likely fold him into the greater X-Men universe in the upcoming movies.

There are many reasons to be excited for this spinoff, not the least of which is the teaser for the trailer already took shots at the poorly received Wolverine: Origins and the inexplicable decision to sew Deadpool’s mouth shut in that movie. Reynolds and Fox have promised a movie true to the comic, so it will likely break the fourth wall and have an R rating.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com