“Time to make the chimichangas.” Deadpool is known all around the world as the classless antihero that fans just can’t get enough of. Not only was Deadpool’s 2016 titular blockbuster the biggest opening weekend that 21st Century Fox had ever seen, but it also went on to shatter the box office record for the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, earning to over $780 million worldwide by the end of its theatrical run.
But an R-rated superhero flick isn’t the only thing that drove fans to see the movie; Deadpool has been a comic fan-favorite for decades. When Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld first penned the character in the early 90’s, the demand for more Merc with a Mouth immediately took over the Marvel comic scene. Because of this, Rob Liefeld deserves almost all of the credit for what Deadpool has become over the years, and Liefeld himself has made it abundantly clear that he will always consider Deadpool to be his baby.
Considering this, it makes sense that Liefeld would want what's best for his most prized Marvel possession, but his more recent behavior on social media - like posting a graphic pic of Deadpool holding up a murdered Mickey Mouse, for example - seems to raise more questions than any real answers regarding the Deadpool franchise's cinematic future. If Liefeld does have Deadpool's best interests in mind, then why is he taking such a controversial stance against Marvel Studios and Disney, the studios that now own the film rights to the character? To find these answers that are in high demand, The Direct has taken a deep dive into Liefeld's decades-long history with Marvel and his close ties with Deadpool.
A STRONG START
Artist/writer Rob Liefeld helped create the Deadpool character alongside writer Fabian Niciezain in the early 1990’s, when he made his first appearance in the pages of The New Mutants #98. According to Nicieza, Liefeld came up with the character's visual design and name, and Nicieza himself came up with the character's speech mannerisms.
However, Liefeld isn't just known for co-creating everyone’s favorite Canadian merc. In his early 20’s, Liefeld took over the struggling comic line New Mutants and flipped it on its head to create the famous X-Force. There, he created a collection of new characters that instantly became fan favorites, such as Cable, Shatterstar, Feral, Wildside, Kane Garrison, Warpath, and tons more. Under Liefeld’s supervision, X-Force #1 sold an unprecedented five million copies in the U.S. alone, which made it the second-highest selling comic book ever.
Following the success of X-Force, Liefeld later teamed with his peers to launch Image Comics in 1992, where he found much success as part of the most successful independent comic book label in comics history. But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns (much to Deadpool’s chagrin). Many credit Liefeld for co-founding Image Comics, but are unaware that he was forced to resign from the company just four years later to avoid being voted out by his peers. He and the company had butt heads one too many times, ultimately leading to the decision that his vision for the company did not agree with that of his peers, forcing an early conclusion to that chapter in his career.
But that wasn’t the end of the road for Liefeld, as in 1996 he was tasked by Marvel with helping to reboot several Marvel icons such as Captain America and the Avengers. The event Heroes Reborn created the top selling Avengers and Captain America launches in their respective publication history, further instilling the respect that the comic book industry had for Liefeld, and giving him every right to consider himself one of the best that the field had to offer.
SILVER SCREEN SUCCESS
While Liefeld has accomplished incredible work throughout his many years as a writer, fans have made it clear that Deadpool will always be his most memorable creation - so much so that the fans themselves are the very reason the first Deadpool movie was even produced. So, when Deadpool finally got the greenlight to be made into a feature film, Rob Liefeld was one of the first people to get the call from the chosen director for the film, Tim Miller.
Liefeld revealed in a 2016 interview that he had been watching Deadpool director Tim Miller develop the film’s screenplay for years, so Liefeld was confident that Miller had more than enough respect for the character’s co-creator for him to be involved in the process of making the film. Additionally, Liefeld actually appears in the bonus features of the Deadpool Blu-ray in which he gives his commentary on the direction of the film.
Nevertheless, Liefeld’s name only appears once in the Deadpool movie credits' "Special Thanks" section, meaning that Liefeld had likely only served as a consultant for the production team and wasn’t directly involved in any big decisions for the franchise. His brief cameo in the Sister Margaret's bar was uncredited.
As for the second installment in the franchise, Liefeld admitted that he felt a lot of pressure personally for Deadpool 2 to do well, because so much of it revolved around his greatest creations, such as new on-screen characters like Cable and Domino.
"Nobody had more to lose than me on Deadpool 2. You're multiplying the amount of [my] characters going forward. Of course Deadpool, then Vanessa - can't leave her out. We have Domino, Cable, and everyone else we're adding. If Deadpool 2 somehow weren't successful, Ryan Reynolds still wakes up, he's 6'4", beautiful, and funny, and he's going to get work again. I've doubled-down on my legacy here. So, you've gotta understand how nervous I was with the entire process."
Liefeld’s presence was felt a bit more in the sequel. He was offered the chance to have a returning cameo - an opportunity to which he declined. To compensate, Deadpool himself actually takes a playful jab at Liefeld in the film, playing on the widely accepted idea that the artist “can’t draw feet.”
Liefeld's involvement in the Deadpool franchise was very much as an outsider looking in. There isn’t much evidence to support that Liefeld’s professional input was used as anything more than a baseline to produce the franchise’s second installment. But that didn’t keep Liefeld from fully investing in the project mentally and emotionally, viewing it as a defining moment in his career.
However, it is worth noting that Liefeld spent years before 2016’s Deadpool defending his character, as the Merc was grossly misrepresented in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Liefeld adamantly claims that his lack of involvement in that project led to the misuse of the character, so the level of involvement that Liefeld had in the Deadpool franchise has clearly been enough for him to be satisfied.
HERE COMES THE MOUSE
Despite the booming success of the Deadpool franchise, 21st Century Fox was otherwise struggling to stay afloat, specifically with its other Marvel properties. Their X-Men films became hit-and-miss, and 2015’s Fantastic Four is even viewed by many to be nothing more than a film produced just so that Fox didn’t have to give up the rights to the characters.
Talks had been circulating for years prior that Disney would absorb Fox and all of its entities due to their lack of performance, and much to the delight of Marvel comic fans everywhere, it finally happened. In March of 2019, the film rights to characters such as the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Deadpool finally returned home to Marvel Studios.
But this wasn’t a win for everyone. For Deadpool, it meant that any future films in the franchise would now be overseen by Disney, which raised a huge question of whether or not Ryan Reynolds would be able to continue his uncensored endeavors as the Merc with a Mouth.
Specifically for Rob Liefeld, this posed a huge problem. Liefeld viewed Deadpool as a game changer in the movie industry, believing that this franchise would break the PG-13 mold of superhero films and cater specifically to an adult audience, unlike the vast majority of Disney content. After coming so far with a pair of wildly successful films, the franchise was now in the hands of the very studios that Liefeld wanted his characters to be distinctly separate from.
Liefeld had tweeted in January 2019 that “Deadpool 3 will happen, some form, some fashion,” pointing out that Disney paid a whopping $60 billion for Fox’s properties, and that Deadpool was the most valuable asset acquired in the purchase. So, despite this change up that moved everything to underneath Disney’s roof, Liefeld remained optimistic. He continued his work with Marvel and shared fans' high hopes for Deadpool 3, as well as his excitement for a film revolving around the recently introduced X-Force.
"I know Josh [Brolin]'s contract calls for X-Force movies," Liefeld says. "Cable, Deadpool, Domino, Colossus look like X-Force to me at the end of the movie. I think, again, you've got your core. Whatever they do outside that, they do."
Rob Liefeld even went on a recruitment spree for the Deadpool threequel, most noticeably in August 2019, following the release of Universal Studios’ Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. After a surprise appearance made by Ryan Reynolds in the film, Liefeld took to Twitter in an attempt to convince Hobbs & Shaw star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to jump over to Marvel to portray another Liefeld/Marvel character, Garrison Kane. The Rock even entertained Liefeld’s idea in a same-day response to the comic artist, inquiring on how the role in question would work alongside the likes of Reynolds’ Deadpool.
Then, almost out of nowhere, Liefeld returned to Twitter that following October with a very different demeanor, tweeting that there was some “shady practices over at Marvel,” and even claimed that the studios' plans had pushed him to speak with his attorney. He specifically mentioned Disney CEO Bob Iger in his tweets, saying that there were “good times to come” for Iger. Liefeld hasn't attempted to explain these ominous tweets since then.
Later on in the month, Liefeld announced via Twitter that he would be stepping away from Marvel all together, putting an indefinite hold on any of his projects currently in the works with the company.
This wasn’t the first time Liefeld had made a scene out of exiting a project, though. In fact, it wasn’t even the first time in the calendar year. That January prior, Liefeld publicly said he had essentially canceled his Extreme Universe deal with Netflix. And in August, Liefeld cited disagreements with the Youngblood franchise co-owners as the reason for halting plans for more projects there.
Liefeld still hasn’t cleared the air regarding what caused him to walk away from the company that he built the majority of his career from. It could have been because he no longer agreed with the direction that was being taken with the Deadpool film franchise, which would explain his shots specifically aimed at Disney-boss Bob Iger.
Fans have to consider that Liefeld could have been discouraged that Disney would undo all of the hard work that was put into the Deadpool films to get them to where they are today. It’s also possible that Liefeld simply did not appreciate that Deadpool and his gang of misfits would now have to fit into the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, whereas before the production team could take pretty much whichever direction they saw fit for the franchise.
LIEFELD LETS LOOSE
More recently, Liefeld has become much more vocal about his feelings of where Deadpool stands at Marvel Studios, as if he could sense that fans wanted to know more about his grievances.
On May 8, Inverse asked Liefeld in an online interview about the likelihood of a Deadpool / X-Force film coming from Marvel Studios, and Liefeld’s outlook had flipped from optimistic to doubtful.
"I don't know. Here's what people don't want to hear, but thank God I'm a realist. I feel like Deadpool, the movies, they've set sail. We got two brilliant movies, and we live in a culture that always looks forward because all they're ever selling us is 'next, next, next.' It's the fever. For me, as the fever calms down, people just need to calm down and realize that Deadpool 1 and 2 were released within two years of each other, 2016 and 2018, and I just can't… I'm not really that crazy about Marvel's plan right now."
Liefeld went on to say that, if Marvel Studios started development on Deadpool 3 this year, "It would come out in four years. I can't be excited about that." Claiming he can't sugarcoat this news, he then added, "You want to know the plan with Deadpool right now? They have a goose egg, zero, zero."
Many fans were already concerned that the Deadpool movies were in danger of continuing after the Disney/Fox buyout, so Liefeld’s bold statements regarding the current state of the franchise stirred up quite the buzz in the weeks that followed. This also prompted many to question the legitimacy of Liefeld’s claims, wondering how involved Liefeld actually was with Disney in the decision-making process for the Deadpool films.
Fans across the board felt that these claims deserved further clarification, which warranted a follow up interview with Liefeld, this time with io9, where he only seemed to further instill his original thoughts on the matter.
“Do I know that there is no movement on a Deadpool 3 right now? I know that. Yes. And does that worry me? No. Not at all. What I did was I answered a question honestly. And what I learned this week is just lie. Just tell people everything is lollipop and unicorns and rainbows and you’ll be better off in your life because people want to be lied to. Just because some guy goes, ‘Yeah, We’re still moving along’ that’s code for ‘There’s nothing to see here.’”
He then took one step further to express his concern regarding the window of relevancy closing on the Deadpool character before his next big movie appearance:
“My whole thing is you get access to this franchise, go give it priority. And that’s not me acting pretentious. That’s me going ‘This is a pretty valuable commodity.’ And I also have three teenagers and I see how fast their interests come and go and how everything is vying for their attention at all times.”
Liefeld then plainly made it clear that he believed that a third Deadpool film would not be on Marvel Studios’ agenda within the next five years, stating:
“Regardless of whatever inside perspective I may have, what I do know is that until a movie is put on a schedule, it’s not taken seriously... And what people don’t like is that I have assessed the schedule for the next, give or take, five years and I don’t see Deadpool on it. [So] I don’t see that it can arrive earlier than that.”
Liefeld seemed to sense the skepticism that many fans held against his recent comments. To counter the assumption that he is being selfish and speaking purely from his own pockets, Liefeld felt the need to state that he is less concerned about the monetization aspect of the character, claiming to “have Deadpool revenue streams that have existed since 1991,” and that whether they “make this movie [or not, he’s] getting a fat check.”
At this point, fans didn’t know what to think. Ryan Reynolds had just gone on the record twice in the month of May, saying that he saw the franchise’s move to Disney as “a win for everyone involved.” Reynolds did also claim in the same interview that he doesn’t consider himself an insider, admitting that he’s still very much on the outside of Marvel Studios’ operations. Whether the same can be said for Liefeld is still yet to be determined, but he clearly does not share the same sense of confidence that Reynolds possesses regarding Deadpool’s MCU future.
As if Liefeld was intentionally adding fuel to the flames, he took to Instagram on May 20 to point out that Disney CEO Bob Iger “has a new [Twitter] header” which features a cartoon Deadpool in the bottom-right corner, among many other Disney characters. Liefeld claimed that he was “doing the Lord’s work” by pointing this out, only adding further mystery to Liefeld’s apparent beef with Iger and Disney.
And if that wasn’t enough, Liefeld then decided that a few days later would be an appropriate time to share an image on his Instagram story that depicted Deadpool holding up a dead Mickey Mouse (shown below), who had apparently been shot through the head by the regenerating degenerate.
No words accompanied the image on Liefeld’s temporary post, but it would be foolish at this point to ignore that he is clearly upset with Disney, specifically regarding their intentions with his beloved character. What’s most bizarre about this occurrence is that Liefeld then denied having posted the image when he was asked about it the following morning, saying that the image was posted to him on Facebook the day before. The image had then disappeared from Liefeld’s Instagram story, but MCU Cosmic posted video proof that the pic was there just hours before.
Liefeld has intentionally kept the reason behind these outbursts in the shadows, but each of his posts online paint a clearer picture for fans everywhere of what Rob Liefeld’s beef is, and just how far he’s willing to go to make sure his voice is heard.
Liefeld is an absolute powerhouse in the comic industry, so the level of respect that he’s grown accustomed to is more than justified. On the other side of things, Marvel Studios has made it clear from the very beginning that they create their own path with their films, and that they add to their narrative how they see fit. Their montra is playing the long game, so Liefeld could feel slighted if Marvel does not have any plans to incorporate his character(s) into their greater storyline any time soon.
However, Liefeld’s more recent outbursts directed at Disney are difficult to justify without any other knowledge on the matter. And since Marvel Studios and Disney have remained relatively silent regarding their plans for the Deadpool character in the MCU, the only side of the story that fans are getting is that of Liefeld’s.
One would assume that if there was any hope for his characters to be utilized within the MCU, then Liefeld would be playing nice with the new owners of the character rights. On the contrary, Liefeld has taken a full-on hostile stance against Disney, defending Deadpool’s honor and fighting for what he believes his character rightfully deserves.
Taking this into consideration, the decision of Liefeld’s involvement in future projects may have already been made for him, which would explain his bitterness towards the corporation.
DEADPOOL NOT YET DEAD
Even if Disney has silently cut ties with Rob Liefeld, that should not discourage the Deadpool fans that want to see their favorite fourth-wall breaker return to the silver screen. In fact, Liefeld has even said in the midst of this turmoil that the Deadpool franchise should be carried on solely by the Deadpool actor himself, claiming that any future endeavors could not be in better hands than those of Ryan Reynolds.
“My opinion is Ryan [Reynolds] should be steering the ship and just completely handed the reins, even to the point of plugging characters in...Give him three characters he can integrate and let him integrate them. If people ask what I want to see, that’s where it begins. Just please don’t micromanage the guy. Just give him free rein.”
Reynolds has also made it clear that he wishes to keep going with the Deadpool franchise, claiming there’s much more story to tell with the characters available. So, the only thing standing in the way of fans seeing Deadpool in theaters once again is actually Marvel Studios.
With 23 fantastic films to date, the MCU has become a vast universe (multiverse now, actually) of characters that interact with each other, but also embark on their own individual adventures. With that in mind, it certainly would not be difficult for Marvel to write Deadpool into the mix, if they see the long term value in doing so. Imagine Deadpool popping up in the upcoming Black Widow movie, or jumping in alongside Spider-Man on the streets of New York. Fans against an idea such as this are few and far between.
With all of this considered, it’s disappointing that 2018’s Deadpool 2 still has no follow up on the table. But until Marvel Studios breaks their silence on the status of Deadpool in the MCU, fans will have to accept Liefeld’s claims as the only credible talks of what the mercenary’s future holds.