This weekend’s movie-goers may be asking themselves the same question comic book legend Stan Lee posed at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con.

“Who the hell is Deadpool?”

Spawned in the comic dark ages of the early 1990s, Deadpool was one of the few bright spots for the major publishers. The brainchild of Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, Deadpool started out his comic book life as a supervillain to the next-generation X-Men known as the New Mutants. But the character soon took on a heroic life of his own, evolving (if that’s the right word choice) into a popular anti-hero.

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In a world before Tony Soprano and Walter White, the anti-hero in popular culture was a bit of an anomaly. But with Marvel’s history of characters like the Punisher and Moon Knight, it wasn’t much of a stretch for Deadpool to shoot someone in one panel, then munch on a chimichanga in the next. The trend made sense for an era that saw Batman grow increasingly darker while the ultimate hero, Superman, was killed (at least for a while.)

Ryan Reynolds's Deadpool relaxes before a battle.

Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool relaxes before a battle.

In the comics, Wade Wilson (a wink and a nod to DC Comics’ Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke) joins the infamous Weapon X program – the same organization that fused adamantium into Wolverine’s bones. As a result, Deadpool has incredible regenerative powers, effectively making him immortal. He’s a deadly assassin proficient in multiple forms of weaponry.

And he’s also mentally unbalanced. That, of course, it what makes him endearing. He doesn’t think twice about breaking the heroes’ no-killing code. (This weekend’s release wears its R rating like a badge of honor.) He’ll make jokes even as his own head is being removed from his shoulders.

Depending on your point of view, his irreverent quips are downright hilarious or more groan-inducing than Spider-Man’s. That’s why he’s known as the Merc With a Mouth.

Portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool made his cinematic debut in the maligned “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” While Reynolds showed promise as Wilson, the writers made the inexplicable decision to sew his mouth shut when he transitioned into Deadpool, thus robbing the character of his greatest weapon.

That won’t be an issue with the new movie.

The film promises more death-dealing one-liners than 50 years of James Bond movies. And talk about a “Deadpool” sequel has already started. It looks like we’ll have more attitude and bloodshed than we know what to do with for quite some time.

Deadpool Fast Facts:

  • His aliases include Jack, Chiyonosake (“the Wolf of the Rice Wine”), Rhodes, Corpus, Lopez, Hobgoblin, Thom Cruz and Peter Parker.
  • The character first appeared in “New Mutants” #98 (1990).
  • He is fluent in many languages including Japanese, German and Spanish.
  • Leaked footage of Ryan Reynolds as a fan-friendly version of Deadpool, and the positive feedback from it, helped make the movie a reality.