It's hard for a comic book writer to have a better — or busier — month than the May that Gerry Duggan just experienced. In no particular order, Duggan: continued his run on Marvel's Infinity Prime series, released a new Guardians of the Galaxy comic, announced that he was writing a comic about Woody Harrelson's Star Wars character, had his own Image comic book optioned to be a movie directed by John Wick's Chad Stahelski, and finished his run on Deadpool.
Oh yeah, and Duggan also killed himself — on the pages of Despicable Deadpool #300, his final issue writing the Merc With a Mouth after a six-year run that he wasn't sure would last more than three issues. When he got the gig, along with his pal and co-writer Brian Posehn, Marvel was going through a bit of a creative shuffle, and like the character, he just went for broke.
"It felt like getting the keys to a rental and checking out all the boxes for full insurance," he says in a new episode of The Fandom Files. "I'm not sure how you're going to get it back, exactly, but we're going to go have fun. That's such an important thing, I think, for anyone that is in that position, to approach it like every comic is your last comic. That was the driving philosophy behind all of the Deadpool."
They wound up putting a ton of miles on that car, with his final Deadpool comic coming over half a decade later. That he would stick himself into the middle of an important, climactic storyline is a sign of just how far both he and the character got in that rental car over that six-year span. Looking back on his first year writing the comic, Duggan remembers a conversation he had with director Tim Miller back in 2013, when the idea of a blockbuster Deadpool film was mostly a pipe dream and his own security as a writer was in no way guaranteed.
"I was working at Attack of the Show and Tim Miller came through. I was early days in the writing of it and he goes, 'Oh, you're the Deadpool guy,'" Duggan remembers. At the time, Miller and Ryan Reynolds had filmed some test footage, to demonstrate their vision for an extreme R-rated mutant flick. The filmmaker took out his phone and showed Duggan that footage, which blew the writer away.
"I laughed and I said to him, 'Well, if you think that leaking this would help…' He goes, 'Would you want to do that for me?' I was like, 'Uh, I don't know if I'm the guy for that. I just got this job. I don't want to leak my way out of it, but I'm sure if you ask your way around here, someone will be very happy to help you,'" Duggan recalls. "He was just pretty frustrated at that moment. They all believed — and rightfully so — in what they had cooked up."
The filmmakers went through 60 drafts, Duggan says, a figure no writer would ever envy. "Then on top of it, having to leak the test footage in order to get it done, which is sort of the most Deadpool thing you could do," he adds, laughing.
Five years after that conversation, a sequel to that Deadpool is a monster hit, and Duggan has a huge shout-out in the movie. Not bad for a guy who was made to wait three years to even get a crack at the character. With help from Posehn and several artists, he redefined the sh**-talking assassin, putting him through more torture than ever before. Fittingly, at the end of that epic run, Duggan decided not only to kill himself via cameo, but also to kill off the seemingly immortal Wade Wilson, a death that tied him into Marvel's Secret Empire storyline and paid back all the despicable actions the character took over the last half-decade.
"I knew that there were plans to subvert Captain America in a way that was going to be bad for Wade, and I resisted that for a hot minute until I realized, oh my gosh, that's my last act, to be able to be the arsonist that like burns everything down in Wade's life," Duggan says. "Usually a writer leaves the book and then either is amused or horrified as the next creative team comes in and burns everything down they have built. Here, it was so cathartic to go, oh yeah, everything must go. It's a literal fire sale."
Duggan has plenty left on his plate. Along with the Infinity Stone saga, the ongoing Guardians book, the Tobias Beckett Star Wars one-shot, and his Image comic Analog, which is getting the big-screen treatment — no leak necessary. The book is less dystopian than an exploration of our probable near future, when the cloud bursts and everyone's private information gets leaked out into the world. There is no longer any kind of digital discretion, which leads to an underground economy of couriers, who generally deliver for very unsavory individuals.
Incredibly, the idea came to Duggan in 2015, before the great Russia hack and Cambridge Analytica scandal. When those things shook the world, Duggan had to double down on keeping the book far ahead of the breakneck pace of our morbid news cycle; issue four, out later this summer, will offer a new way to portray artificial intelligence, with more curve balls on the way. And now he has to start planning for a story for the movie, which he'll write with his friend Ryan Condol, who is the showrunner on USA's Colony. The hope is that they'll begin making a movie in 2019.
Staying ahead of the game on that will be even harder, so Duggan doesn't even want to hazard a guess about what the world will look like in a few years.
"I have been wrong before, but if you said [Trump] would be president for two more months, I'd believe you, and if you said that he'd be president for 20 more years, I would also somehow believe you," he says, laughing. "The funny thing about Analog too is there are some days I think, 'Oh my gosh, what a nightmare this world is that I'm helping to create.' And then there are other days where I go, 'Oh no, this is a total joy. This is everything. How do I live in this world and not the world that I'm actually living in?'"
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