"X-Force is the inevitable next step" - Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld on sequels, superheroes, and what's next for the Merc with a Mouth

Deadpool 2

Bigger doesn’t always mean better. But by adding another two of his fan-favourite creations in the shape of Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz), Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld says the Merc with the Mouth’s second big- screen outing is a step up from 2016’s inaugural instalment. With the leading comic book writer/artist comparing it to the leap from 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the sequel significantly boosts the stakes and broadens the breadth and scope of Wade Wilson’s increasingly deranged world. 

“No one expects the second movie to be a smaller film,” admits Liefeld. “People expect the follow-up to expand, and Deadpool 2, by having Cable and Domino involved, easily fulfils that promise.” With Deadpool clocking in at a relatively succinct 108 minutes, Liefeld believes that audiences didn’t actually get to spend as much time as they would have liked with Ryan Reynolds’s inspired turn as hyperactive mutant mercenary, Wade Wilson. 

“In an age of not just superhero films but movies in general tending to be more bloated and longer, it was a short movie,” says Liefeld. “It’s become very common to get a two-and-a-half-hour experience if it’s a comic book, sci-fi or fantasy film. But Deadpool was like ‘boom!’ in and out. People walked out of the theatre and they’d had such a great time, and that’s the crucial thing. The character is associated with having a good time, and expectations are high for that achievement to be unlocked again.”

Arriving hot on the heels of Avengers: Infinity War, Liefeld suggests that Deadpool 2 will be something of a palate cleanser after the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most ambitious and wide-ranging crossover to date. “Infinity War is in pole position as it comes out three weeks ahead of Deadpool 2, so it’s demanding a lot of attention,” reasons Liefeld. 

“It’s the epic that my 18-year-old son, who I took to see Iron Man when he was eight, is really anticipating as he’s telling me, ‘Dad, Infinity War is the epic of my generation, as it’s the culmination of so many movies.’ Infinity War is a giant saga and it’s going to drain you of all your emotions, and then three weeks later, there’s a knock at the door and ‘hey there, want to have a good time?’ And everybody is going to go and have a good time with Mr Wade Wilson and Deadpool.” 

While original director Tim Miller departed after creative differences with Reynolds, Liefeld insists that Deadpool 2 is in more than capable hands after John Wick/Atomic Blonde helmer David Leitch stepped into the breach. “I was thrilled about David coming on board, as who doesn’t love the John Wick films?” he says. “Atomic Blonde was also masterfully made, as David can really shoot action, and he gets great performances out of everybody. The days that I was on set, I couldn’t believe the stuff that he was shooting.”

Bad boys

Praising the former stuntman’s eye for a good action scene, Liefeld believes that Leitch has also brought some more subtle qualities to the film. “Deadpool 2 has tremendous heart but I can’t tell you how or why that is,” he says. “But the spark of the film is once again that there is tremendous heart in what Wade is doing that puts him in conflict with all sorts of characters, chief among them being Cable and that creates that dynamic between Cable and Deadpool, and Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin, who have this fantastic chemistry between them.” 

While its budget is reportedly not much larger than its predecessor, Leitch has been granted a bit more leeway on Deadpool 2. “When people ask, ‘What’s the most impressive thing about Deadpool 2?’ I tell them, ‘I’m just impressed by how far back we can pull the camera on this one’,” says Liefeld. 

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“You’ll see that the scale is much bigger, and that’s because the first movie had a small $58 million budget. So it was very tight as you only occasionally saw the camera being pulled back a little on the freeway scenes and in a couple of shots at the end. With Deadpool 2, it’s a bit like the difference between Ridley Scott’s original Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens, which was much more action-oriented and also had bigger tech and way more aliens.” 

Rather than Cameron’s classic T-800, Cable owes more to Lee Majors’s The Six Million Dollar Man, which was adapted from Martin Caidin’s 1972 novel Cyborg. “The Terminator was a complete robot while Cable only has one cybernetic arm just like Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man,” says Liefeld, who first joined New Mutants as penciller with 1990’s issue 86 before also assuming writing duties with issue 98 in February 1991. 

“I was tasked with turning around what was then the poorest selling X-Men related book,” he continues. “I loved the concept of New Mutants but I thought it was being done very poorly. Being 19/20 at the time, it didn’t speak to me as a young person. What I thought New Mutants – and the larger X-Universe – needed was a new voice as the entire mutant franchise at that point was balanced between Charles Xavier, a pacifist who wanted to live among mankind, and Magneto, who was more like ‘we have to destroy them, they’re the enemy.’ 

“Cable then comes into this as a commando-type man of action, who takes no prisoners, which was just what was needed.” rather than Professor X or Magneto, Cable was based on the equally enigmatic Wolverine. “I modelled him after my favourite man of mystery, who to this day is my favourite mutant,” reveals Liefeld. 

“As a kid in the ’70s, I lapped up Wolverine’s first appearance in 1974 in Incredible Hulk #180, and i’ve followed him with great interest ever since. the first 10 years of Wolverine/Logan were tremendously fulfilling, as they revealed more about this wild man with his berserker rage and how he would tame it. With Cable, I said that we needed a new man of mystery because I loved the soap opera of it all. Cable then took off like a rocket after his first appearance, and New Mutants became a balls-to-the-wall action book.”

Along with the return of Cable, New Mutants #98 saw the debut of not only Deadpool but also domino, who was inspired by one of Liefeld’s favourite childhood pastimes. “A lot of the characters that I've developed have been built up around a visual and a name,” he explains. 

“People are always asking me, ‘Where did that character come from?’ but I was literally a collector of names, and I've always had a sketch pad. Domino was always female, and she played off the black and white motif of an actual domino. 

"Deadpool is about having a good time."

Rob Liefield

“I was an avid domino player as a kid, and I would love lining them up as you’d never know what way they’d fall. It could be left or right depending on the sway of the motion, so i’d established that she affected probability and luck, hence the name, Domino. At that point, she was a love interest for both Deadpool and Cable, as I figured that she had a path with both of them.” 

Describing Zazie Beetz as “perfect” for the role, Liefeld has never specified any ethnicity for Domino in the comic books. “I know that Domino’s appearance has set some people off but I choose to drown that out,” he says. “It’s not going to be a factor once they see her on screen, as she’ll be everyone’s domino. There’s no stopping it because the way it’s going to play out is that she is going to be beloved.”

However, Liefeld is more reticent when it comes to the unnamed character played by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian dennison. “He’s so good, which is all that I can tell you,” he teases. “I enjoyed what he’s done immensely, and he’s such a sweet-hearted person. I’m a huge fan of his as well, and I tried not to fanboy out on him too much. What a great kid, and he’s yet another reason why people are going to love this movie.” 

As the latest trailer appears to indicate, Deadpool 2 seems to lead directly into the establishing of X-Force. Spinning out of 1991’s New Mutants #100, the mutant black-ops group’s original members included Cable, Domino and the regenerating degenerate himself in addition to other Liefeld creations such as Shatterstar and Feral.

“You’ll have to see the film!” says Liefeld. “But it’s fairly common knowledge that Fox has that movie lined up to go next, and Drew Goddard is writing and directing. I believe X-Force is the inevitable next step but right now i’m just excited for this film to reach the audience that it’s been waiting for these past two years, as I think everyone is going to be very pleased with the outcome!”

This feature originally appeared in our sister publication SFX magazine, issue 300. Pick up a copy now or subscribe so you never miss an issue.