Ever since the viral marketing for 20th Century Fox's Deadpool took off last year, everyone and their cat's mother has a pretty good idea of who the Merc with a Mouth is and what he stands for.
A refreshing take on the antihero superhero, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds in the movie) is best known as the wise-cracking, fourth-wall breaking Deadpool who sports a bad skin condition ("like an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado") and super-human regeneration capacity.
But why is Deadpool the way he his? Something that you didn't see in the viral marketing was a man with a tormented origin. His tendency to break the fourth-wall has been theorized as a symptom of his mental illness: a coping strategy that he uses to deal with the reality of his existence.
In the eyes of pop-culture he's a funny and crude antihero, but some of the storylines he's lived through in the comics are far darker and more brutal than anything we saw in the movie...
Wade Wilson's Parents
The 2012 onwards run of the Deadpool comics saw the titular merc facing off against the Butler (Bartol Utler). A former member of the Weapon Plus program, the Butler became obsessed with Deadpool as he believed he held the key to curing his sister's cancer, and he put Deadpool through hell to get to him.
During the Original Sin crossover event (which centers around the murder of the Watcher, Uatu), it's revealed that the Butler erased Deadpool's memory and — as part of the experiments to see how far he could manipulate him — sent him to kill his own parents. Which he does by burning down their house, not knowing that it's his own family that he's been sent to kill.
Deadpool doesn't seem to remember that this has happened however, due to having his memory tampered with, which is probably a small mercy.
This is one of many stories involving Deadpool's parents; other origin recollections show his father as an alcoholic who died in a bar fight when Wade was a teenager, and another paints him as a seemingly loving father who abandoned his family so — like most of the Deadpool canon — it's a little conflicting.
For example in Deadpool MAX (which is worth noting does have a separate continuity from the main run of comics) we're shown that the young Wade, growing up in a violent and abusive household, was molested by his mother and beaten half to death by his father when he found out, hospitalizing him. Yikes.
Eleanor & Carmelita
As part of his ongoing schemes the Butler kidnapped Eleanor, the daughter that Deadpool didn't know about, along with her mother Carmelita in order to use them as leverage to keep Deadpool captive as a willing experiment subject.
The extent of the manipulation was later revealed when Deadpool discovered that the Butler had actually given the young Eleanor to his brother Joshua Utler to raise as his own daughter. It was also revealed that the experiments he had performed upon Deadpool had caused his sporadic memory loss and contributed to his mental instability.
Deadpool eventually killed the Butler, but not before discovering Carmelita's corpse in a prisoner camp (above), frantically searching the pile of bodies for fear that he would find Eleanor there too.
And this isn't the first time he's held the dead body of a lover either, longtime on-again off-again girlfriend and sometime antagonist Copycat (Vanessa Carlysle) - who was portrayed by Morena Baccarin in Deadpool - was killed by Sabertooth and died in Deadpool's arms, but not before she confessed her undying love for him. It's tough being a superhero's girlfriend.
Typhoid Mary — a mutant supervillain with psionic powers and dissociative identity disorder — is a long running enemy of both Deadpool and Daredevil, and she plays a part in another disturbing story from the Deadpool comics.
In Deadpool #13 Wade is having somewhat of a crisis of self, fearing that he's a bad person and seeking validation for his sins. He turns to his friend and love interest Syrin (Theresa "Terry" Cassidy, later known as Banshee) for comfort and confesses his feelings for her, telling her that he needs her. She rejects him romantically, though they decide to stay friends.
Deadpool stays up all night drowning his sorrows but suddenly Terry appears, telling him that she needs him too, and she kisses him. They sleep together, but when Wade awakens the following morning Terry reveals herself to in fact be Typhoid Mary in disguise.
Realizing that he's just been sexually assaulted, Deadpool is understandably traumatized. When he asks why Mary did it she replies, "Because I could, lover." and licks his face. Talk about adding insult to injury.
When his friend / housekeeper Blind Al (who we also saw in the movie, portrayed by Leslie Uggams) finds him sitting on the floor of his bathroom she enquires as to what's going on, he replies, "Al... can... can you hand me a towel... please... I need to take a shower."
Speaking of Blind Al, the story of how she came to live with Deadpool isn't exactly all fun and games either. Again, Blind Al and Deadpool have somewhat of a confusing history with different retcons revealing differing storylines, but the generally accepted "origin" of Blind Al is pretty disturbing.
Before he got avocadofied Wade Wilson was hired to kill Blind Al, who at this point was apparently working for the British secret intelligence in some capacity. For an unknown reason Wade spared her life, instead killing everyone around her. After he became Deadpool the two met up again, but this time Wade kidnapped her and kept her as a prisoner in his home.
During their early relationship Deadpool was a cruel captor to her, locking her up in the Box (above) — a room filled with sharp objects — or torturing and killing her friends if she disobeyed him or tried to escape (as shown in Deadpool #14).
Despite this over time they developed a friendly accord, with Al striking back at him when he pulled cruel pranks on her and throwing insults back at him, eventually becoming one of his closest friends and confidants.
While you can easily point to this as Stockholm Syndrome, Blind Al generally seems content to stay under Deadpool's protection as there are other people from her past life out to get her, and he saved her skin on more than one occasion. We saw this playful aspect of their relationship in the Deadpool movie, but thankfully were spared the trauma of the Box...