The Merc With the Mouth has returned with Deadpool 2, and so have the conversations surrounding his sexuality. Wade Wilson, former member of Special Forces turned mercenary turned genetic experiment, has been in romantic relationships with many different people and shown an attraction to folks of different genders.
In 2013, Gerry Duggan, Deadpool writer from 2012-15, confirmed Deadpool’s attraction to “anything with a pulse” on Twitter. A couple years later in 2015, Gail Simone, who wrote the character off and on over 12 years, tweeted that she, too, “always thought of Deadpool as pansexual.”
The discussion of Deadpool’s sexuality prompted a fan to write an essay (no longer available online), which she sent to Deadpool creator Fabian Nicieza via Twitter. His response was unexpected, to put it mildly.
According to Nicieza, Deadpool was created to be fluid in general due to his cancerous cells, a belief Nicieza expounded on in ways that show how poorly he understands sexuality and mental illness, not to mention authorial intent. As he conflated sexuality and sex, Nicieza bemoaned the constant questions regarding Deadpool’s sexuality and explained that the character vacillated between gay and straight. The irony is that, by definition, pansexual folks are attracted to people without regard for their sex or gender identity, so rather than bouncing between being gay or straight, pansexual is another discrete, valid sexual identity.
Sometimes creators don’t intend their characters to be queer, but the way they’re received is beyond the creators’ control. Think of this as the opposite of the Lando Calrissian problem. While Solo writer Jonathan Kasdan states that Calrissian is pansexual, we never see that on screen. In this case, despite Nicieza claiming Deadpool isn’t pansexual, or at least muddying the waters regarding claims to his sexuality, we do see Deadpool engage in pansexual attraction on the page. So, is that enough to declare Deadpool out and proud?
In the panel seen above, Wolverine and Deadpool embrace as a fire rages behind them. Wolverine’s head tilts back and smoke escapes his mouth as his eyes fall open in what is perhaps ecstasy or shock. His arms curl around Deadpool, whose head is tilted forward, eyes closed in what could be reverie or contemplation or the final rest. The two are pinned together by Deadpool’s katanas, which he has buried in Wolverine’s ribcage, and Wolverine’s claws, which are likewise buried in Deadpool. A handgun rattles to the ground with a clak! Blood pours from both our heroes.
Deadpool holds the only man who has ever understood the incredible weight of his abilities, the only other man who outlives everyone, the only other one who heals despite being battered time and again, the only one who is also treated like a hunting dog and sent out to dispatch the people more seemly heroes cannot be seen killing.
If Wolverine and Deadpool were any combination of a male and female pairing, we would read a loving embrace, attraction commingled with hatred—a common trope in almost any genre. A Deadpool who loves Wolverine, but must kill him for a contract. Wolverine hates Deadpool, but even in death finds himself wrapped in his embrace. It’s almost like Mr. and Mr. Smith. This moment makes up the final panel, a full page spread, of Wolverine: Origins #23.
Throughout the comics, Deadpool and Wolverine have a rivalry. They’re both antiheroes, but on the opposite sites of the spectrum. Deadpool is a pretty good bad dude and Wolverine is a pretty bad good guy. They have all the sexual tension of any longstanding relationship, and if they weren’t hell-bent on killing each other they’d probably make a pretty cute couple. Wolverine isn’t usually the first person on the list of Deadpool’s many love interests, but some readers have often walked away with the impression that there’s something deeper going on between the two.
Deadpool’s flirtation with male heroes doesn’t end with Wolverine. The Merc With a Mouth and Spider-Man have a long history of quipping and almost-kissing, and a mix of flirting and tension. Cable and Deadpool share an attraction that has manifested mostly through their individual dreams. When he accidentally hits on Thor, Deadpool almost dies of embarrassment—which may fall outside of his healing factor’s capacity to recover. Outside of main canon, Deadpool fans have taken matters into their own hands and enjoyed writing storylines that show Deadpool acting on his flirtations with various heroes. (Seriously, just search [insert hero]/Wade Wilson fanfiction and you will have plenty of NSFW reading to enjoy.)
In reality, though, the only characters Deadpool has had sexual relationships with in the comics or the films have been women, or women-presenting. Shiklah, his once-wife, appears in both a busty, feminine humanoid form and her true form: a giant purple demon with gnarly teeth and glowing eyes. When Deadpool pisses her off by ignoring her and not killing people, she looms over him, all teeth and purple skin. “I know my true demon form is not pleasing to you, husband,” she says. A frightened Deadpool replies, “Um… the middle one was better…” referring to her transformation process. It’s an interesting moment, because the huge being in front of Deadpool is entirely naked and lacking in any breasts or genitalia (not that those are the only markers of gender).
While we're at it, let’s take a moment to talk about Death, another love interest of Deadpool’s. Death is a cosmic entity as old as the universe who appears in a few forms: a hooded skeleton (that sometimes has large breasts), a sexy white lady, and occasionally a dude. Death and Deadpool share an attraction that leads Thanos to become very jealous. Death can’t live. Deadpool can’t die. Their romance is basically West Side Story if the Sharks were omnipotent, immortal, sentient life forces and the Jets were scarred mercenaries. And Thanos isn’t having any of it. It’s the most deadly love triangle ever!
So, what does his attraction to Shiklah and Death say about Deadpool’s sexuality? They each use she/her pronouns and are generally referred to and depicted as women, but not in every instance. Besides, why would a demon subscribe to our society’s gender binary? How on earth does a cosmic entity have a gender to begin with? And, perhaps more importantly, do these depictions really tell us something about the characters, or do they tell us more about the limited imaginations of the creators when it comes to gender?
The films are another story. When it comes to romance in both Deadpool and Deadpool 2, Deadpool is focused on his relationship with Vanessa, whether actively attempting to “fix” his face so he can return to her, or trying to kill himself because he can’t save her. When Vanessa is killed off before the opening credits even run, a sad repetition of the trope of fridging female characters, Deadpool turns to a journey of self-discovery while also trying to save a kid from being killed by a time-traveling cyborg. Enter Cable.
Ah, Cable. The connection between Cable and Deadpool has been the source of much speculation (and was one of the subjects of the aforementioned fan essay). When I heard Cable would be appearing in the new film, I was excited to see how the creators handled their chemistry. While there is certainly some sexual tension there, culminating in Deadpool holding Cable close and suggesting they try a certain sex act, while Cable responds by holding a knife to Deadpool’s groin—for the most part (in both films), Deadpool engages in more queerbaiting than actual queer attraction.
I’ve argued elsewhere that it is Deadpool’s relationship with Colossus that really takes center stage in Deadpool 2. There is a good deal of romance between the two, from Deadpool trying to coax Colossus to join him in battle to Colossus showing up last minute to help. What’s unclear, though, is to what degree this is a shared attraction, a one-sided attraction, or just a LOL-so-hilarious gag.
In a film that shows two female heroes, Yukio and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, in an acknowledged relationship, and uses a thin metaphor for gay conversion therapy in Russell's treatment at the "Mutant Reeducation Center," it’s hard to know what parts are ultimately queerbaiting and which ones really show us a Deadpool more comfortable with his attractions to men. Despite Ryan Reynolds saying he wants to see Deadpool explore love for himself, supposedly advocating for Deadpool to even have a boyfriend in a future film, it looks like we’ll not see that on screen anytime soon, particularly given the credits sequence at the end of Deadpool 2.
So. Is Deadpool pansexual? Yes. Deadpool is pansexual, even if he never, ever has an on-the-page or on-screen relationship with a man. No one has to perform their sexuality for their identity to be valid. Just because the films haven’t figured out how to have a fully realized pansexual Deadpool yet doesn’t mean his identity is any less real. That being said, Deadpool may not be the pansexual icon we want, but maybe he’s the one we deserve: a pseudo-maniacal jerk who is deadly, terrible at human interaction, funny as all get-out, and not really that concerned with what you think of him or his sexuality.