5 Times Deadpool Broke the Fourth Wall So Hard It Shattered
1. “Dreadpool,” Who Killed the Marvel Universe and So Much More
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe is exactly what it sounds like. Deadpool, finally fed up with the knowledge that he’s fictional, goes on a rampage. One that ends with every major hero and villain in the Marvel universe dead (or otherwise taken out of commission).
The miniseries started as a send-up of Garth Ennis’ one-shot: Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. However, it rather quickly spun out into its own saga of stories which set the precedent for a string of Deadpool miniseries that has continued to this day. All of this despite the fact that the original mini is kind of terrible.
Oh, sure. The premise is sound. Put Wade “The Canadian Katana” Wilson up against each and every Marvel character of note? It’s the perfect vehicle for banter and shenanigans. And Deadpool is about nothing if not banter and shenanigans.
Instead, the story is about as nihilistic as its namesake. Even Marvel itself describes the series as more of a horror story — what with Wade murdering beneficent characters like the Fantastic Four in front of each other — than a comedic romp.
That changes over time, however. After working his way through his own universe this alternate Deadpool (christened “Dreadpool” by writer Cullen Bunn) the Merc with an Existential Crisis goes on to kill his own creators, readers, inspirations, and cross-dimensional doubles. All with the express intention of erasing his need and ability to exist in fiction.
Of course, only one Deadpool can stop him in the end. Our Deadpool. The one that doesn’t care about the horrors of being an ageless, immortal, and unchanging ball of crazy caught in the inescapable flow of continuity. In that way Deadpool has rarely felt more like us, as we try to navigate this horrible existence which does not include a living T-Rex dressed up in red spandex.
2. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 does not give a damn about anything
The Marvel vs. Capcom series already starts off in the right frame of mind for Deadpool’s brand of reality-bending humor. The entire game is, itself, a massive break in the fourth wall with characters coming not just from completely different universes, but totally separate company brands. So, of course the developers had to take Wade’s antics up a notch in accordance with the setting. After all, the bar had already been raised.
They must have taken that metaphor literally, however. Besides constantly referencing the fact that he’s in a video game Deadpool literally uses this new medium against his opponent. The fighter’s level three Hyper Combo is, directly enough, referred to as “4th-Wall Crisis.” It is, essentially, a finishing move which sends his opponents into the stratosphere using his own hyper meter and health bar as blunt instruments.
That’s certainly the most flashy inclusion, but the reality checks don’t end there. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is filled to the brim with character-specific callbacks and mockery. When fighting Magneto, Deadpool taunts the master of magnetism with the snipe “Welcome to die!“ That’s a callback to a simpler, less quality-assured era of video games during which Capcom rival company Konami published an X-Men game for arcades.
Then there are more on-brand references. Like when Deadpool matches up against fellow red costume lover Spider-Man. At this point he makes mention of roughing up Spidey “like a Broadway musical.” Only to conclude by lamenting his foe’s decision not to “turn off the dark.” That’s cold, Wade. Ice. Cold.
It’s just a shame that a game with such an irreverent take on cross-promotion and branding seemingly fell prey to the very thing it mocked. In 2013 Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and all of the games’ DLC were delisted from the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live. In fact, rather a lot of Marvel games started disappearing around this time. Even Deadpool’s own game (titled, uh, Deadpool) was de-listed before Activision ponied up the dough for a re-release around the time the movie came out.
Rumors abound that this was because Disney wanted control of the video game licenses it had purchased several years earlier. Which was fine, except that it makes finding those legacy games that much harder for those who didn’t know what they were missing at the time.
3. Deadpool is Secretly Behind Secret Wars
Deadpool’s popularity has given rise to any number of zany crossovers and team-ups over the years. Which is, more often than not, totally fine. One might even say that the Merc’ with a Mouth is best served by having straight-faced companions off of which to bounce his nonsense. It certainly worked with Cable, a hero with a face so literally and metaphorically straight you’d need a Hulk-level air drop of puppies just to make him stop frowning.
One event that Deadpool sadly missed out on was the seminal, company-wide Marvel crossover Secret Wars. The likely reason for his lack of inclusion being that he didn’t exist at the time. Secret Wars launched in 1984, while Deadpool was a child of the early 90s. Somehow, that didn’t stop Marvel from going back to include Wade in the be-all-end-all event more than 20 years later. More than that, they made his role a central one in the story that helped redefine Marvel at the time.
Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars was a more recent retelling of the basic events from its namesake. This time, however, a thoroughly modern Deadpool hobnobs with the 80s versions of heroes from the era. He bumps up against Doctor Doom, hooks up with The Wasp, becomes the reason behind the Venom symbiote turning twisted, and gets his wish for a thoroughly handsome and undeniably of-the-decade makeover. Though by the end his contributions to the cosmic battle go completely forgotten. All thanks to The Wasp “wishing” everyone to forget about Wade in order to salve her own, guilty conscience over being superficial.
It’s a… bizarre story, even by Deadpool standards. As far as breaking the fourth wall goes, it’s also one of the more subtle instances in the character’s run. Indeed, everything Wade does technically could have occurred — though it would mean rewriting one of the biggest moments in Marvel continuity for the sake of a joke. Though oddly enough that seems entirely appropriate for a character that seems to pull everyone and everything into his wacky, gravitational pull.
4. Deadpool Predicts Ryan Reynolds, Then Plots Vengeance
Ryan Reynolds basically is Deadpool at this point. Oh, sure, cartoon and game fans may put one Nathan Drake’s voice under the red, stretchy mask until the end of time. The other $700 million-plus worth of moviegoers out there would likely disagree. And, you know what? That’s okay. The Deadpool movie was fantastic not just on the strength of the character and production team, but also an actor who clearly wanted to bring that role to life.
Apparently the team behind Cable & Deadpool (which included Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld on covers) also wanted Reynolds for the role. That was five years before one fourth of Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place picked up a pair of katanas and an unhealthy sense of humor in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though you can all bet the writers and artists weren’t expecting what they got in that particular cinematic dumpster fire.
In a sense this isn’t really breaking the fourth wall, given Deadpool is referencing something that hadn’t happened yet. Unless, of course, his powers of reality awareness transcend not just his universe, but time itself. Which… Well, we’re not ready to put anything past Deadpool just yet. One way or another, the message reached Reynolds himself, who claims the aforementioned issue was the first one he ever read.
Eventually, however, Wade got to make good on his cinematic counterpart’s painfully awful role. Well, very nearly at least. Five years after Origins (and two years before Reynolds and company made the sad times go away with a proper Deadpool movie) Wade was hanging out with the Thunderbolts. At the time, this was a group of variously powered or un-powered antiheroes with a red color scheme. So, of course, that included Deadpool.
The team took to drawing lots. Whoever’s name was pulled out of the hat could count on the resources of Elektra, Ghost Rider, Red Hulk, Venom, Deadpool, and a newly altered version of the Hulk villain, Leader, at their disposal. Once it was Deadpool’s turn to choose we got tantalizingly close to learning what revenge he had in store against Reynolds, though he was quickly interrupted.
Now, with the whirlwind romance between Reynolds and Wilson at a high point, it’s probably time for another comic to revise that somewhat menacing sentiment.
5. The Entire Deadpool Marketing Campaign
You could compile a list of only the best five Deadpool movie ads and still not have room for every gem in the deluge of marketing this movie received. Despite running on a (comparatively) paltry $58 million budget, the folks behind Deadpool found outstanding ways to get the word out about their passion project. From emojis on billboards, to massaging Conan O’Brien with panda tears.
Much of the genius behind the campaign was that most of it was performed in character. Which is to say that Deadpool teamed up with the likes of Conan, Mario Lopez, and often (bizarrely) Ryan Reynolds himself. All to pimp his very own movie.
Despite being likely very cheap to produce, the complete and utter Deadpool saturation was ridiculously effective. Partly because Deadpool leveraged social media harder and better than just about any project in cinema history (likely out of necessity). But also in part because it turns out you can make a lot of ads with an iPhone, Photoshop, and an Instagram account. The months leading up to the release of Deadpool were soaked with more posters, animated gifs, Twitter posts, and fake (but technically real?) clickbait than the movie itself was with CGI blood and bullets.
It would be impractical to list everything the no-doubt-in-need-of-a-raise marketing team came up with, but we definitely have our favorites. Like when he mocked Hugh Jackman on Twitter, or the time thatDeadpool spent Halloween night swearing at elementary school kids.
The one and only true icing on the cake, however, was only visible to the either the very dedicated, or the very confused. We’re referring of course to the official Deadpool movie account following just one fellow multimedia kingpin.