Looking at the posts I’ve made so far, I’ve yet to talk about superhero comics and philosophy. This must of course be because there’s nothing of philosophical merit to be discussed in mainstream superhero comics, right? … well, no, it’s not because of that at all. I’ll admit it certainly is easier to sit down with the work of Alan Moore, or Grant Morrison, or Warren Ellis etc. and see the philosophical reflections. If I want bad philosophy I can sit down with one of the various Objectivist-influenced characters or books I mentioned in a previous post. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t philosophical thinking to be found in mainstream superhero comics, it just means it can harder to find. So today we’re going to find some, dear readers, and I’m going to reveal to you the name of the most philosophic superhero of them all.
And the winner is…
“Wait, wait,” you cry, “is Deadpool even a #$%##!@& superhero!?” The answer is sometimes… and sometimes is good enough.
I could say that the origins of everyone’s favorite Merc with a Mouth are shrouded in mystery, but that would be a lie. Deadpool first showed up as a supporting character in X-Force way back during Rob Liefeld’s run on the title. From there he went on to do a couple of limited series, and then got a series of his very own before sharing billing space with Cable, only to wind up with a book of his own again, not to mention his numerous guest appearances in other books.
Over the course of his adventures Deadpool has died (repeatedly). He’s been a hero. He’s been a villain. He’s also suffered from doubts about what he is, and where he fits into the grand scheme of things. He also went through a nasty run where every time a new creative team came on board his world would go to shit and he’d have to start again from scratch. All of which is a rather truncated retelling of the (mis)adventures of Wade Wilson.
Most of our lives aren’t like a comicbook. We don’t fight supervillains (or superheroes). We don’t get to come back from death time and time again. We are, however, conflicted. We all face pressures from the world around us, and we all ask, or should ask, the same kind of questions that Deadpool does. Who are we, and where do we fit in the world?
Some people might wonder why we have to ask ourselves who we are and where we fit into the world. The answer to that one is simple: the world is meaningless. Yes, I said it. There is no secret plan, no purpose behind the existence of the world. The only reason any of us are here is because our parents happened to fuck. Not that it stops there. One day I will die. One day every single person reading this blog will die. Even the universe itself will one day come to an end. In that respect the universe isn’t just meaningless, it’s outright absurd. Which isn’t a very cheery thought. So why should we get up in the morning and do anything at all? Why not just commit suicide? Well, you could lie to yourself and pretend that there is meaning in the universe. You can just ignore the question and let your job, or your family, or other outside forces dictate your identity to you. You can also suck it up and be like Deadpool.
Deadpool is aware, at least at times, of the absurdity of his own existence. He knows that he is simply a comicbook character. In that respect his awareness of absurdity is somewhat different that ours, in that it is an absurdity thrust upon him by the will of an evil overlord. However, just like us Deadpool has to go on knowing that the universe is absurd. When he’s confronted by an old foe by the name of T-Ray, and told that he is not who he has always thought he has been, Wade goes into a crisis of identity before finally saying “Fuck it, I’m me, and nothing you say is going to make me anyone other than me.” Admittedly I’m paraphrasing a bit. The point is that Deadpool resists the imposition of identity; he is not a collection of statuses, be they achieved or ascribed, he is instead the man he chooses to be.
Even if the world wasn’t meaningless, it’s important that we ask these kind of questions. If we don’t question, we never find answers. More importantly, if we don’t question we never really look at the kind of assumptions we operate under, and if we don’t do that we end up with the kind of nonsense I’ve discussed in previous posts. Deadpool, for all his sometimes sophomoric antics, is frequently a walking example of the kind of questions we all need to ask. So the next time someone tells you that superhero comics are just silly men in tights punching each other, go ahead and smack them in the mouth with a copy of Deadpool. If the ask you why you did it, I refer you to the man himself, and what is perhaps the deepest response of them all, “The answer to your first question is shaddup!”
P.S. Dear Mouse Overlords. Still waiting for that job offer. Just sayin’.