Recently, we learned that Deathstroke will be appearing in Justice League and is set to be the primary antagonist in Ben Affleck's stand-alone Batman movie. The character has had previous live-action incarnations in Smallville and Arrow and has appeared in several animated projects and video games. The thing is, almost none of them really got into his backstory or his mindset. As arguably the greatest assassin in the DC Universe, he's a fascinating villain that hasn't really been done justice yet. What's he all about? Here's what you need to know about Deathstroke before his big screen debut:
Deathstroke's Origin Story
Slade Joseph Wilson was just 16 when he joined the United States Army. Due to his abilities and intelligence, he quickly climbed up the ladder to the rank of Major. After some time, he met his future wife, Adeline Kane, who was tasked with training young soldiers that would go to Vietnam. During this training, Wilson showed prowess in combat training, easily adapting to new methods and styles. Eventually, he and Adeline fell in love. Slade was incredibly proficient, mastering several different fighting styles in less than a year and was eventually promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
Shortly after, Adeline got pregnant. Slade was then shipped to Vietnam and his wife gave birth to their son, Joseph. Eventually, Wilson volunteered for an experiment to stimulate adrenal glands and make people resistant to truth serums. In actuality, it was an experiment to create super soldiers. But it's a comic book, folks, so of course the experiment went wrong and put Wilson in a coma. He woke up enraged and unstable and had to be sedated.
When he woke up the second time, he discovered he possessed super strength, super durability, better reflexes and an enhanced mind. Unfortunately, he was given a desk job that frustrated him, which led him to become a hunter.
But the turning point for the worse was when his life-long friend William Wintergreen was sent on a suicide mission and subsequently captured. With his superiors unwilling to help, Slade single-handedly rescued his friend. Unfortunately, he was discharged from the army due to his reckless actions. Realizing he was now free, he took up the name of Deathstroke, The Terminator.
He continued his career as a famous mercenary without telling his family and was eventually hired to kill a colonel from the Qurac army. It all took a turn for the worse when another group of mercenaries kidnapped Joseph (Slade's son) and offered to return him only if Deathstroke told them who had hired him to kill the colonel.
Despite his wife begging him to give them whatever they wanted, Slade decided to fight them; while he managed to kill them, his son had his throat slit and became a mute. Adeline, enraged at Wilson, took a gun and shot him in the head; he dodged the bullet but it managed to take out his right eye. After this, they divorced. Wanting to protect their son, Adeline never revealed to their boy who his father was.
His History In The DC Universe
Deathstroke's affiliation with the Teen Titans began years after his divorce when H.I.V.E. offered Slade a contract to kill the Titans. The mercenary refused but, ironically, his other son, Grant — who was obsessed with Deathstroke — had taken the mantle of Ravager and accepted the contract in exchange for the organization giving him superpowers.
Ravager went after the Titans, but his cells overloaded because of his unstable power and he died. Deathstroke then took up his son's contract to kill the Teen Titans (because when your son strikes a twisted deal with a criminal organization, you have to fulfill it for honor's sake, right?). Thus began an on-again, off-again conflict with the Titans that has continued:
He realized that taking on the Titans by himself would be too difficult so he recruited Tara Markov - a teenager with Earth-bending powers - to infiltrate the Titans and inform Wilson of their weaknesses and secrets. Now, this is the part that makes me a little nauseated because Slade Wilson, being a man over 40 at this point, was in an intimate relationship with Tara, who was only 16 years old.
Tara's infiltration helped Deathstroke take down the Titans and finally deliver them to H.I.V.E. Fortunately, Wilson's ex-wife, Adeline, offered her help in freeing the Teen Titans with Dick Grayson. The Titans were freed and Wilson was apprehended.
But His Story Gets Even More Crazy
While it's easy to assume that Deathstroke only acts as an enemy to the Teen Titans, there have been instances where they've not only worked together, but also become friends. One notable instance was when the Wildbeest Society captured the Titans. Deathstroke helped the New Titans find the young heroes and discovered that the person behind it all was Jericho, Slade's other other son (the guy got around), possessed by the corrupted souls of Azarath. Ultimately, Deathstroke was forced to kill his son in order to free him from the pain, which caused a great deal of sorrow and conflict in him for a long time.
After these events, he's gone through adventures that would look pretty impressive on a resume. He discovered he had a daughter named Rose (seriously?!) and subsequently left her in the care of his best friend; he made his ex-wife insane by giving her a blood transfusion, had his deceased son, Jericho, living inside him, became one of the few villains who have not only beaten but humiliated Batman in hand-to-hand combat and also hired a killer to murder his daughter's surrogate family to get close to her (that's one way to get closer to your kids). He also became part of the Secret Society of Super Villains, who he worked with to invade Bludhaven.
What Are Deathstroke's Abilities?
Deathstroke's abilities are a combination of his own attributes, and the upgrades given to him by the super soldier experiment. He possesses super strength to the point of being able to rip off the door of a plane and enhanced speed, being able to run at 60mph so...don't try to outrun him in your car.
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One of his most impressive abilities is being able to process things nine times faster than a normal human. This grants him a sort of sixth sense, making him able to detect changes in the air and know when he is being attacked and even dodge bullets at point-blank range (take that, Superman). And let's not forget that he is one of the world's greatest tacticians.
He also has extremely high endurance and a pretty awesome healing factor; injuries such as broken bones and stab wounds can heal in minutes and he is able to sustain a considerable amount of damage. The endurance, however, has had inconsistencies, an example being when Deadshot was able to take him down by shooting him in the shoulder.
All of these abilities have earned him the rightful title of the best assassin in the DC pantheon. His talents go so far that he was able to take down an entire Justice League consisting of Zatanna, Wally West, Kyle Rayner, Elongated Man, Hawkman, Black Canary and Green Arrow.
But Who Is The Man Behind The Trauma And The Powers?
Deathstroke may seem like a villain to people who aren't into comic books but... that's not exactly the case. Don't get me wrong, he's a very sick and sadistic individual but his main goal in life isn't to cause chaos or to get revenge on a particular superhero. As a mercenary, his general goal is to make money. For example in the new iteration of the Suicide Squad, he switches allegiances and leaves Task Force X the minute he's offered a better proposition.
An aspect of his that's always interested me is his shifting morality. As mentioned above, he's not always considered a villain. He can be selfless, such as saving the Teen Titans' lives or giving his ex-wife a blood transfusion to heal her. However, he can turn around and do something as horrible as join the Secret Society of Super Villains and help destroy Bludhaven, betraying a deal he held with Nightwing, manipulating a troubled teenager to date him and destroy a group of superheroes, being willing to sacrifice his innocent son or trick his own daughter into wearing a kryptonite eye without telling her that the radiation from the rock would eventually kill her.
So, is he a good guy? No. Is he an anti-hero? I don't think so. Is he a character that shifts a lot depending on the writer but still retains his core awesomeness and makes you want to see him do his thing? Absolutely.
Deathstroke Is A Great Character That Needs To Be Handled Carefully
Deathstroke is very complicated. He is a really cool character with an interesting backstory and a motivation that occasionally makes him transcend the usual bad guy standard. However, his penchant to do heinous things and betray those who trust him can make him a very unlikable entity in stories.
Where am I going with this? That you need a writer that creates a balance between Deathstroke's good and bad side. Make him an interesting character who may have a shifting morality but is sympathetic. Make him an emotionally relatable villain in the Batman movie, not just a challenge for the Caped Crusader to overcome.
Deathstroke deserves a strong arc in live action and he is one of those characters whose traits make that a very easy task. One of my hopes is that, even though he supposedly has a small cameo in Justice League, he's given a strong foundation as a worthy adversary for Batman. Now you know the most important aspects about Deathstroke and you can hopefully enjoy his role in the DCEU more.
Are you excited to see him as the main villain in Batman?