Today's release of Deadpool #1 marks the beginning in earnest of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, as from here on in fans will see dozens of new first issues of new series launching weekly for the next three months or so. From the screenwriting team of Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn (who you might also recognize from his sitcom and sketch comedy work), the title features art by former Venom and The Walking Dead artist Tony Moore.
It also sees Deadpool separated from fan-favorite writer Daniel Way for the first time in years and while Way's comedy was infused with action and superhero stuff as often as not, Posehn and Duggan have promised to incorporate some espionage and horror elements into the book. They also have said in interviews that, given how difficult it is to kill Deadpool, they aim to see how much punishment and torture his already-fractured mind can take.
Posehn and Duggan joined ComicBook.com for a discussion of the series.
One of the things that really struck me is that your first arc revolves around all of these reanimated dead Presidents of the United States. It seems like an apt story to launch this week.
Brian Posehn: It sort of just worked out that way. I mean, this was an idea we both had a long time ago but as it got closer—once we knew this was our first story…did we pitch this as our first story?
Gerry Duggan: I think we pitched it sort of hoping that they would say yes and knowing that it would fall close to Halloween and the election but also knowing that if Marvel didn’t say yes to the first arc that it might not be very well-timed after.
BP: We knew we’d launch in November—we knew that a while ago…but as we got closer, it was like, “Wow, that’s really great timing. This is going to be great.”
GD: Luckily, the one thing we did guess right is that everyone is sick of the election.
They’d be even more sick of it if they were still counting today.
GD: Oh, man, that would be the worst—but maybe the best for the book! I wouldn’t mind recounts and riots and stuff…!
Now, all these Marvel NOW! launches have gone pretty much the same: you get the one-word teaser and then the full teaser so you know what the book is. It was a little different for you guys, because it’s hard to imagine anyone else using that word for their teaser.
Series Editor Jordan D. White: You only say that because you didn’t read their Iron Man: Chimichanga pitch!
See, I’d read that book.
GD: Oh, man, can you imagine Iron Man eating Mexican food in his armor? That’s not going to work out very well.
BP: We have an arc!
GD: Yeah, there you go.
Well, and then of course you got the D-List thing within about 24 hours of that and Marvel kind of inadvertently confirmed you before the second teaser, because Axel Alonso stepped in to say, “These guys are great, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
GD: Yeah, we tried to ignore all of the other sideshow aspects of it all and just stick to what we were doing. We were scripting the first arc but already plotting the second one so I felt like I’d been living with Deadpool for a long time when that happened.
BP: And for me, negative press, I’ve noticed, can be helpful. It kept us in the light for a couple of weeks. Otherwise the news would have just been announced and people would have said, “Oh, that sounds cool, I’ll check that out.” Instead, by somebody calling us D-list and getting this nerd army riled up, wound up keeping us on blogs and comic book websites for a couple of weeks. It ended up being great. Gerry and I stayed out of it because we didn’t want to be like, “Hey, we’re not D-list!”
GD: There’s nothing more D-list than going, “We’re not on the D-list.”
BP: We aren’t proven, but we are about to prove ourselves—that’s what I feel like. We’re really happy with the way these books are coming together. We’re already seeing art for halfway through—we’re seeing art for issues eight and nine and we’re really excited for this whole run. I think people that doubted that we’re the right fit will come around.
And somebody that said that “D-list” have already said that they liked the first issue. I don’t know if that means anything.
Because Deadpool kind of exists in his own little bubble, he’s not quite as affected by AvX as everybody else. Was it freeing to not have to worry about that kind of stuff or was it harder to be handed a book with the vague direction of “make it different”?
GD: He is unencumbered by some of that stuff and like you said, it is liberating. We don’t have to worry about how Xavier’s death affects him. Obviously some of this might come up later but Marvel did hand Brian and I a clean slate and I hope we made the most of it.
All that said, I don’t think if you pick up the book you would be turned off by the fact that we’re not really dealing with the repercussions of that. It doesn’t feel disconnected from the Marvel Universe, even though those problems are not front and center.
BP: I think the fact that Deadpool already isn’t a part of any of those teams—it’s not like we’re doing anything new. We’re just continuing to not have him be an Avenger and not have him be involved in the X-Men.
Deadpool is Deadpool and he doesn’t really function without comic relief. But it sounds like you guys are going down a pretty dark direction with the story and getting the humor from character beats. Is that a fair assessment?
BP: Yeah. That’s perfect. Gerry and I, before we did this, wrote features together. And the two movies that we keep bringing up that we have in our heads as we’re writing this is Big Trouble in Little China and Ghostbusters. And yeah, those movies have big laughs but they’re also big stories and action stories and that’s been the most important thing.
GD: I think there’s some smart laughs and then there’s some laughs that might seem…
…Look, there’s no point in dissecting a laugh. If it’s there, it’s there, but I think Brian’s point is well-met that these threats are real and I think the tone gets a lot darker as it goes on.
BP: But there will still be fart jokes because that’s just the way I am and Gerry’s very similar.
GD: But they’re the thinking man’s fart jokes.
BP: If I’m burying my grandfather, I’m still going to be telling fart jokes. No matter how dark things get, that’s how I deal with things is to say something stupid while things are horrible and dark.
That’s my life approach and it just fits with Deadpool, so it’s been nice.
And it’s weird because I think a lot of people think of Deadpool and they think the stories tend to be more wacky—but at the end of the day it’s not that much different from Spider-Man, right? You’re going about your business and cracking wise while you’re doing it.
GD: That’s how it feels to us while we’re doing it.
BP: Right—and we will do the fourth wall gag now and then, but basically the stories are pretty grounded. We’ve already done stuff where he breaks the fourth wall and then everybody else in the scene is like, “Who are you talking to?” It’s part of his insanity, maybe, is that the reader exists. The other characters in the book are just living their lives and they have no idea that the reader exists.
Well, and in the more recent past he’s developed a supporting cast and been surrounded by people who kind of get his brand of crazy. Are you going to strip a little of that away and give us a new chance to see people reacting to him for the first time?
BP: Yeah. That was a big thing for us and that came from introducing these new characters and having him have to work out this new relationship in the beginning where he’s working for this S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Agent Preston, who knows him, knows his past, but has never worked with him and is now like, “Wow, you are really violent and you’re kind of nuts.”
We bring Ben Franklin in, but only Deadpool can see Ben Franklin, so everyone else around is like, “Who are you talking to, weirdo?” That’s been fun, having these new people around. We’re not really using any of his old villains or any of his current allies or past allies. At least in the first half of our run, we’re creating new people.
GD: We wanted to make it very accessible to someone, too. It’s not a reboot—those characters are all still there and we’re going to revisit them later…
BP: …and then we’ll set up their history but for now we just wanted to make this a good jumping-on point for people who are reading the book for the first time. Quite honestly, we thought with me coming from my background, there are going to be people who just know my work and want to check it out but have never read the book. There will be people who know Gerry’s work on Infinite Horizon and want to check out what he’s doing now.
Of course, most of the people who are going to be reading it are the people who are Deadpool fans. I hope this is hitting on what they already love about the character—just obviously our take on it.
In our first issue, by showing Thor and Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s like, “Well, this guy’s on his own.” And you see him with his guts hanging out on page eight and pretty soon they’re back in, so you see he can regenerate. And by him being a smartass for twenty pages, you see that he’s a smartass.
GD: We had a lot of help editorially from Jordan but I do think that I do think that whether you’re a long-time fan or you’re picking the character up for the first time, that you do meet him and understand who he is pretty quickly.
So since the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is named Preston, can I just pretend he’s Bill S. Preston, Esquire, for my own personal amusement?
GD: Preston is a woman, but there are a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents we’re reintroducing that will be fun to hang out with for a little while, I think.
BP: Tony Moore drew one to look like Scott Adsit from 30 Rock, allegedly, and we’ve named him Adsit since then. I happen to know him, and he’s very excited to be in the Marvel world. He’s a big comic book reader.
I’ve known Scott for years through the Mr. Show world, so it was cool to see Tony draw him in, because Tony’s a big fan.
How do you guys deal with having a character who has some of the most committed fans, but off-the-wall fanbase and oddball cosplayers and stuff?
GD: Yeah, that was the most of any one single character I saw at New York Comic Con was Deadpool. It was a little overwhelming.
It’s a really good time to be on the book. Dan finished up a really popular run and there’s a video game that’s definitely on the horizon and a movie that’s possibly on the horizon. There’s really only downward for Brian and I to go.
BP: Yeah, we could single-handedly sink the ship. No pressure.
GD: There’s literally no upside for us.
Were you guys involved in the game at all?
GD: Not at all. Those guys do their own thing and we’re looking forward to playing it as fans.
BP: I think they started well before we were involved with the book. If they do a Deadpool 2 game, I’d love to help out but now I’m just waiting to check out the game myself.
Tony Moore is obviously a huge get and he’s got a ton of range. Is it kind of cool having an artist who you know you can write any crazy thing into the script and it’ll find its way onto the page?
BP: That was super important with us, was to get a guy who gets the comedy as well as he gets the ultra-violence. I can’t think of a lot of other guys who can do that as well as Tony can. He was our dream guy for the first run, definitely.
GD: Look, we’re not objective so I won’t try to tell you that we are but when you see these pages…he gets better and better. It’s his best work; some of the stuff goes back to old EC horror, truly, later in the run. He also has comic timing so he’s indispensable to us.
BP: We’re hearing comparisons to old MAD Magazine and that kind of thing, and that’s great for us because that’s what we were going for, old EC and MAD. Those are things for Gerry and I that are some of our most beloved stuff. That was always the tone in our heads.
Gerry and I talk to each other every day all day, so when this art started to come in, we were both freaking out. We knew Tony would be the guy, but he just killed it every panel, every page. We have not been jaded by it—we’re looking at issue three art and issue four art coming in and we’re like, “Oh my God, did you just get that?”…and then we go back to him and we’re like, “Hey, buddy, nice job.”
GD: He makes it so good that we have to then go back and re-write our stuff. That’s been the secret ingredient in all of this, is looking at what Tony made better and going, “Oh, man, we gotta punch up this balloon here” and so we’re rewriting after he’s done to bring our stuff up to his level.
BP: I don’t know how other comic book guys do, but Gerry and I coming from features and TV and me coming from a sketch background, I’m used to punching things up until you can’t anymore. Like, now we’re shooting it, so we’re done. That’s what we’ve been doing with the book, is right before Jordan needs the final version of it, we’re adding and tweaking and making it better.
Most comic book writers when they talk about visual storytelling, it’s mostly about fight scenes and characterization is important but it’s not everything. You guys coming from a comedy background and saying that Tony has great comic timing—was that another thing that you guys really knew you needed to try and find?
GD: Sorry, I missed the question. I was looking at some Tony Moore art.
There’s a few artists that can do a lot of that stuff well but they don’t seem to have all of those skills, whether it’s the horror stuff or the action stuff. We can’t write comic timing for someone, or their ability to sell a joke on a page.
There’s a few guys, like Hilary Barda can do it and Rick Remender can draw like that and some of the Bongo guys that we’ve worked with over the years but I think you’d agree that list is short. If you were doing an action book, you can make a list as long as your arm that you’d like to see do action but that list shortens dramatically when you need to flex some of those other muscles.
BP: When the idea of having Tony draw this book was first raised, I was like, “Oh, he’s perfect.” Obviously he’s drawn stuff that is not funny—Venom is not a funny book—but you can see that he’s got an energy to him where he can do that. Look at Fear Agent and that’s a book that’s horribly depressing sometimes but other times it has a humor to it and a vibrancy to it that fits this book very well, I think.