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Friday, 2 September 2016

Comics Explained: Deathstroke

Earlier this week, as of writing, Ben Affleck tweeted a photo of the newest villain in the DCEU: Deathstroke. It is a strong possibility that Deathstroke will be appearing in Ben Affleck's solo Batman movie, entitled The Batman, and he is a clear fan favorite. Not only is he my favorite DC villain but he is a much loved villain, and at times anti-hero, among the comic book community. Many comic book fans fell in love with the character thanks to him being the main villain in the excellent animated TV series Teen Titans, voiced by the excellent Ron Perlman. I actually watched an episode of the terrible Teen Titans Go! because it hinted that Deathstroke would appear in it, (turns out he didn't). He's appeared in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and the far better Injustice: Gods Among Us. He's also been featured in Arrow as a villain. Today we'll look at the character's history.

First Appearance
The New Teen Titans #2
Deathstroke first appeared in 1980, and was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in The New Teen Titans #2. However, in his initial appearance he was not called Deathstroke; instead he was called The Terminator, (four years before James Cameron's hit movie). In the comic the Teen Titans have a hit put on them by the criminal organization the H.I.V.E, and they wanted Deathstroke to do it. Deathstroke refused to take the contract as there was no advance. Instead his son who he had trained, called Ravager, took up the contract. As the Ravager fought the Teen Titans the H.I.V.E's experiment to make his brainpower greater caused him to age at an accelerated rate leading to his death. When Deathstroke arrived to claim his son's body he vowed vengeance against the Titans, (which the H.I.V.E wanted), and since he has become the Teen Titans' greatest foe.

Origin (pre-52)
Part of his origin
The New 52 changed his origin slightly, (which we shall get to), but it has remained somewhat the same as his initial appearance. Slade Wilson managed to lie about his age and managed to join the army aged sixteen. After briefly serving in Korea he got sent to Camp Washington, was promoted to major, and trained new recruits alongside Captain Adeline Kane. They fell in love and Adeline started to secretly train Slade in guerrilla warfare so by the time the Vietnam War broke out he was a master in countless martial arts and styles of warfare, (earning him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel). He and Adeline married a few months later, and Adeline became pregnant with their first child. His actions during the Vietnam War, including being horrified about his unit massacring a village and meeting a SAS solider called Wintergreen who would later become his right-hand man, led the army to choose him to take part in a program to create superpowered soldiers. The experiments led him to fall into a brief coma, but when he awakened he found he could use more of his brain capacity, was extremely agile, and his strength and durability had drastically increased. He left the army to take up the life of a mercenary, (just as Adeline became pregnant with his second son, Joseph), which attracted the attention of unsavory people. A rival mercenary named the Jackal had his younger son Joseph kidnapped and threatened to kill him unless Slade released important information about a client. Slade gambled on trying to rescue his son before the mercenaries acted but he was too late. Before he could prevent it one of the criminals slashed Joseph's throat. He survived but was rendered mute as his vocal cords were cut. Adeline was so furious that his lifestyle had almost ended their son's life that she tried to shoot Slade. Due to his agility the bullet only managed to destroy his right eye. Despite only having one eye Slade remained the best mercenary around and started to train his elder son, Grant, to become the Ravager.

The Judas Contract
Tales of the Teen Titans #42
The Judas Contract, a story starting in Tales of the Teen Titans #42, best shows the skill and strategic planning of Deathstroke, and another villain called Terra. Deathstroke had periodically fought the Titans since his initial appearance and, he was defeated by the Titan Beast Boy and the newest Titan Tara Markov, Terra. However, Terra turned out to be working with Deathstroke and had staged the battle so Terra could earn the trust of the Titans. Terra remained among the Titans and managed to learn their identities. With the identities of the Titans known the two villains started to take down the heroes one by one. Donna Troy, (Wonder Girl), was gassed in her photo studio, Beast Boy, (then going by the name Changeling), was poisoned using envelopes when responding to mail, Raven was taken down by Terra herself, Cyborg was electrocuted by a chair in his apartment, and Starfire was taken down by a device which affected her powers. Only Dick Grayson, the first Robin who had adopted the moniker of Nightwing, managed to escape. Grayson went to rescue his friends with the help of Deathstroke's son Joseph who had become Jericho. Jericho was born a metahuman, (the DC Universe's version of Marvel's mutants), who could possess people. Jericho managed to possess his father's body, and with Nightwing's martial arts managed to destroy the H.I.V.E facility that the Titans were held with. Terra was killed in the battle and Slade was taken into custody. However, the Titans chose to honor Terra's passing showing the optimistic nature of the team.

Own Comic
Deathstroke the Terminator #1
In 1991 Marv Wolfman and Steve Erwin got Deathstroke his own series. It was in Deathstroke the Terminator #1 that we found the details of Deathstroke's past and as the comic progressed we saw a wider aspect of Slade. In #15 we saw the first appearance of Rose Wilson, a daughter which he had with Lillian Worth following his divorce. Lillian his the existence of Rose from Deathstroke until his half-brother, the new Ravager, started murdering Deathstroke's family. Slade and Wintergreen managed to rescue Rose from Ravager but he chooses not to train her after what happened with his two sons, (especially Jericho who got possessed by a demon forcing Slade to stab him in The New Titans #83). However, Rose managed to get training and became the new Ravager working with the Teen Titans. 

In his own comic series Deathstroke first came into contact with Batman and since he has become one of the Dark Knight's greatest enemies. Fans have pointed out the similarities between the two characters with their high intelligence; both are martial arts experts; both have a code of honor; both use technology to their advantage; both are expert fighters; and both are expert planners. 

New 52
Deathstroke in Deathstroke vol. 2 #8
In 2011 DC rebooted the universe with the New 52, (called this as it had 52 new series). In Deathstroke #0 he got a slightly altered origin story. Most of his origin has remained intact except that after Camp Washington he was drafted into a special ops group called Team 7. In one of Team 7's missions he was badly injured leading to the operations which gave him superpowers. After the birth of Joseph he received intel that his friend Wintergreen had been captured in Somalia so he went after the kidnappers donning a mask. He slaughtered the kidnappers causing his fame to grow earning many enemies. After an attack by North Korea bombing his house, seemingly killing Adeline and Joseph, he massacred North Korean soldiers resulting in his eye being lost. In Teen Titans: Deathstroke #1 his origin was slightly changed again. This time he left Team 7, resulting in it disbanding, when the army bombed a children's hospital. This infuriated him so became a mercenary with a code of honor, and began training his son Grant. Missions together caused their bond to grow and Slade started seeing Grant as the only person he could trust. Unfortunately, during a mission in North Korea, soldiers found their refuge and started firing at them. Checking on Grant cost Slade his eye and he proceeded to massacre the soldiers when Grant was presumed dead. Now Slade only works to look after his daughter Rose seeing money as the only way to protect her. 

Other Appearances
Deathstroke is one of the most popular DC villains and has made many appearances in non-canon comics and media. In 1982 there was a Marvel/DC crossover called Marvel and DC Present: The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans which featured Deathstroke going after the X-Men. He manages to easily defeat Colossus, (who incidentally appeared in the movie Deadpool, a character who is a partial parody of Deathstroke), and a fight with Wolverine results in a draw. During the Flashpoint story, (where the Flash accidentally changed time and ended up resulting in the New 52 when the timeline was restored), he was a pirate in the Paris after the city was flooded by Aquaman looking for treasure and Rose. He also appears in the Injustice: Gods Among Us prequel comics, and later the game itself, where he has been forced into retirement by Superman's increasingly authoritarian One World Government. When Batman and Lex Luthor require a device from S.T.A.R Labs to help bring heroes from another reality to help them topple the regime Deathstroke quickly accepts. He breaks into the facility and gets hold of the device, but the hero Metamorpho, (who allied himself with the regime), comes to stop him. Deathstroke kills Metamorpho only to realize he will be unable to get the device to Batman and Luthor, so he instead sends the device's blueprints via the internet. He is then quickly captured by Raven and Cyborg who would interrogate him for a year, which is where the game picks up.

Deathstroke has made several non-comic appearances. As mentioned earlier many people first encountered the character in Cartoon Network's Teen Titans, and has such a big following thanks to the show. Due to censorship he was only called Slade in the show. Later, Teen Titans Go! announced they would have him appear in The Return of Slade in what transpired to be one of the worst episodes of a terrible series. Not only does Slade not appear, it acts as a rating trap for fans of the original series, and proceeds to insult said fans by saying the original was terrible and fans only regard it positively thanks to nostalgia. Not only was this incorrect and a Straw Man fallacy but it also was an insult to fans of Teen Titans Go!, (like my younger cousin), who expected a villain built up in the first half of the episode only to not appear. I digress though. Deathstroke was a playable character in Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe and appeared in DC Universe Online. He also made an appearance in Batman: Arkham Origins in one of the greatest fights of the Batman: Arkham games and, in Batman: Arkham Knight in one of the most disappointing fights of the series. He's made many movie and TV show appearances including Son of Batman, Smallville, Arrow, Beware the Batman, and the upcoming animated movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Not only that we have the DCEU Deathstroke...
DCEU Deathstroke

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