Written by Matthew K. Manning
Published by Insight Editions
It’s fair to say the response to Ryan Reynolds’ belated Deadpool movie took everyone by surprise. Sure, it had been touted for years and the smart marketing campaign certainly helped, but who could have predicted an R-rated movie featuring a relatively obscure Marvel character would become the biggest X-Men movie to date? Probably no one.
If there’s one message to take away from the new art book Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth: Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art, it would be to not underestimate his appeal. Deadpool has come a long way from his humble origins in The New Mutants, where he was just a quirky guest villain with a cool outfit. The Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza-created character quickly become a hit with readers, leading to more guest appearances and eventually his own solo titles.
He’s bounced around a lot since then, and his popularity only seems to grow. Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth by Matthew K. Manning recount the character’s 25-year history, illustrated with a vast array of cover artwork and interviews with the writers and artists who shaped him. For Deadpool fans, this will obviously be catnip since there’s no stone left unturned. The book also welcomes total newcomers, since it takes the reader step by step through all of his insane adventures.
While the book does a thorough job recounting this history, it has to be noted there’s not much flair to the writing. Given the nature of the character, you might expect the author to try something creative with the presentation like breaking the fourth wall or have Deadpool himself comment on the quality of the book. Nope, instead you get a detailed – if somewhat dry – recounting of his various storylines.
The interviews are the real meat here, with Nicieza, Mark Waid and many others providing insight into their creative process. Surprisingly, Liefeld himself is mostly absent, which leaves a noticeable gap in this history lesson. One thing that really shines through in the interviews is how much fun Deadpool is to write for, since his genre-bending nature means writers can sculpt a wacky comedy, a tragedy or outright horror tale with him. The sheer variety of storylines he’s been part of is testament to that, even if his wackiness can be grating at times.
The presentation of the artwork is also impressive, with some gorgeous reproductions of Deadpool’s finest – and even his not so finest – covers. From his many duels with Wolverine or Cable to parodies of Alien or Mad Max, the book contains just about everything. Oddly, there are no work-in-progress sketches or abandoned cover ideas, so if you’re a hardcore fan, you’ve probably seen this art before. Fans of the movie should also look elsewhere since the book focuses almost exclusively on the comics.
Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth isn’t the most in-depth exploration of the character, and if you don’t like him, this won’t change your mind, but for fans it collects some great interviews and eye-popping artwork. Newcomers will get a valuable illustrated rundown of his past too.