Though he only recently crossed into the realm of general knowledge with a memorable stint on The CW's Arrow, Deathstroke has been kicking around (and kicking ass in) the DC universe since the early 1980s.
Hoping to capitalize on the Arrow buzz, DC is launching a new Deathstroke comic from writer/artist Tony Daniel (Detective Comics) this fall that will take another stab at Slade Wilson’s vicious alter ego. Daniel told MTV he hopes to “deconstruct Deathstroke a bit before I build him back up,” and have him facing off against baddies even worse than himself.
But before you add this one to your pull list at the local comic shop, let's get caught up on this stalwart badass of the DC universe.
So who is Deathstroke?
The alter ego of soldier/mercenary Slade Wilson, first introduced in the December 1980 issue of New Teen Titans. Sometimes goes by the name Deathstroke the Terminator. He’s been played as both a villain and an antihero over the years, and he’s been ranked among the greatest comic villains of all time by publications like Wizard Magazine and IGN. He also has enhanced physical abilities and healing, and is expertly trained in many fighting techniques.
But most average fans might know the character best from Manu Bennett’s fantastic portrayal over the past season and a half on The CW’s Arrow. The TV arc borrowed several elements from the character’s comic origins, but gave him a closer tie to Oliver Queen/Green Arrow by making him a mentor before turning him into full-on, super-powered baddie in season two.
Bennett absolutely killed it as Deathstroke, and is one of the few actors with the pure physicality to pull it off and really seem like he could literally beat the crap out of admittedly burly Arrow star Stephen Amell. If you’re interested in Deathstroke, and don’t already watch Arrow, we’d highly recommend you check out the first two seasons. It’s a great, nuanced arc that hits the high points of Slade’s development (albeit with a few tweaks).
Though the Arrow TV series turned Deathstroke into a key part of the show’s mythos, his biggest connection historically is to the Teen Titans — whom he menaced for several arcs before expanding out into the larger DC universe. Slade is one of those characters who really belong to the universe as a whole, and has popped up in half a dozen books in various roles as a formidable warrior — usually as a villain.
But the Arrow connections didn’t come out of nowhere. Slade tangled with Oliver Queen during the Identity Crisis miniseries, which found Oliver Queen jamming an arrow into Slade’s eye socket. Not surprisingly, he was pissed, and it inspired a vendetta that has defined the character in the modern era. Plus, it cemented his status as one of Green Arrow’s greatest rogues, and even directly inspired a scene or two in the Arrow TV series.
After his early-to-mid-1990s comic wrapped up, Deathstroke bounced around various other books until DC's New 52 relaunch in 2011 finally gave him his own full series once again. But the buzz wasn’t there (since he wouldn’t become a key player in Arrow for another year or so) and DC pulled the plug after just 20 issues. But now, after just a one-year hiatus, the folks at DC apparently think the time is right for a new (new) Deathstroke series from Daniel. Here’s hoping they’re right.