Deathstroke first appeared in New Teen Titans #2 (written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, artwork by Perez, Romeo Tanghal and Adrienne Roy) and quickly became a popular character, appearing as an adversary for more than just the Teen Titans. He’s battled and beaten pretty much everyone noteworthy in the DC universe, including (and we’ve mentioned this before but it’s still pretty shocking) Batman! None of this is done just because he’s a bad guy because when you really start to dig deep into who he is you’ll find that, though he’s done some evil things, he’s not completely evil. He’s even aided his rivals, the Teen Titans, from time to time.
He’s appeared several times outside the comics. He was the main antagonist in the Teen Titans animated series (voiced by Ron Perlman) and he’s had several live-action appearances from his minor appearance in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (played by Antonia Sabato Jr.) to his more prominent role as an antagonist in Arrow (played by Manu Bennett). As wild as all those appearances were in their own way, we need more. He needs to have his own show. We need him to have his own show. Read on and find out why.
15. THERE’S A CLEAR DEMAND
Deathstroke has a large fanbase, which is why he was given his own comic series back in 1991 with Deathstroke the Terminator then again and again… and again. Much like the character, even when the series gets shut down, it returns bigger and better because fans want more Deathstroke.
It’s why he’s been included in so many TV shows and why he’s reportedly going to appear in the upcoming Batman film. After his most recent return in season five finale of Arrow, fans and Manu Bennett himself started urging people to rally around a spin-off project, urging producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim to create a live-action Deathstroke series. He may not be as well-known as classic DC characters like Batman or Wonder Woman but no one can deny that there is a clear demand here.
14. FILMS WON’T DO HIM JUSTICE
As we said, Deathstroke is set to appear in the upcoming Batman film set in the DCEU in which he’ll be played by Joe Manganiello. It’s a great casting choice and from what little we’ve seen, it looks fantastic. The problem here is that it’s almost a certainty that the film won’t be able to capture him in all his complexity, nor will it be able to showcase all his incredible abilities.
There are few superhero films that manage to give their villains enough breathing room to be as compelling on screen as they are in the pages of our comic books. That’s not necessarily the fault of the writers; after all, a film can only go on for so long and you can’t always expect to see everything you want from a character. We’re not saying it’s impossible, just improbable. Giving Deathstroke his own series would guarantee that everything we love about the character is shown.
13. HE’S COMPLEX
Let’s look at who it is we’re talking about. He’s not always a villain but he’s almost never a hero. Television is saturated with superheroes who are completely good and decent people. They have great messages to spread but it’s a little difficult to relate to them sometimes because no one is always good. Obviously, no one will be able to relate to Deathstroke completely either (at least, we hope not), but that mix of good and bad might just be a breath of fresh air on TV.
A lot of the time, it’s easier and more helpful relating to the guy struggling to do good than it is admiring the guy who is good all the time. That’s what Deathstroke has become, especially in recent years. He’s a master mercenary and assassin but he fights with honor and struggles with a dark past. Doesn’t that sound like something that we need to see more of in our shows?
12. HIS PSYCHE
What makes a man like Deathstroke tick? A television series could help us really explore the person behind that badass black and orange mask. The only other show to really give us that chance was the animated Teen Titans series, in which he was depicted as more of a master manipulator, driven by betrayal and revenge with no remorse over the things he’s done. We discover all of this every time he preaches to Robin in hopes of drawing the young titan to his side.
In the same way Netflix has given us a more insight into the driving forces behind heroes like Jessica Jones or Daredevil, there’s potential here for more insight into this complicated, confident mind. Is he really as confident as he seems? How did he become this coldblooded assassin? These are questions none of his other appearances have every really answered… except for Arrow but… well, their explanation wasn’t exactly faithful to the comics.
11. HIS ORIGIN
For those of you who aren’t as familiar with the character, here’s just a bit of backstory: His name is Slade Wilson and he became a soldier at sixteen after lying about his age. There, he managed to impress Captain Adeline Kane and the two quickly fell in love. They were about to start a family when Slade was shipped off to fight in Vietnam. He was disgusted by what he saw there but he fought on, saved his friend, William Wintergreen, and because of his unmatched skill, was selected for an experimental procedure.
In comics, it works because you can read through each important moment and let it sit. In a film, you don’t get a much time. Origin stories are generally rushed so we can get to the action, but this one isn’t something you want to cheapen by rushing through it. A television series would allow us to visit each and every significant moment.
10. DRAMA FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Even if you’re not all that interested in sword-swinging, gun-toting action, Deathstroke’s life is full of drama and emotion. Just take a look at his family. His wife, Adeline, was so angered by Slade’s failure to protect their son, Joseph, that she shot him in the face, causing him to lose his eye. His son Grant became the first Ravager, though was ultimately killed by his unstable enhancements and the name was adopted later by Wilson’s daughter, Rose.
That is way beyond soap-opera level family drama. A Deathstroke series doesn’t have to be pure blood, gore and mercenary contracts, it can be a lot more. Much like the more successful superhero shows airing now, Slade Wilson’s story is also rich with emotion and tragedy that can relate in one way or another with your everyday audience.
9. PROPERLY SHOWCASE HIS SKILLS AND POWERS
In the few appearances he’s been in, Deathstroke has been shown to possess regenerative abilities, superhuman strength, skill and reflexes. There was that one appearance in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in which he was depicted as having magnetic abilities but… let’s forget about that. For the most part, they’re pretty faithful to the comics but still not enough to give us Deathstroke in all his glory.
The animated Teen Titans showed him to be a tactical and manipulative genius, but they didn’t show him fighting all that much. We need a series that gives us all of that, pitting him against worthy opponents and letting us see him manipulate his enemies before striking them down like only Deathstroke can.
8. BREAKING FORMULA
When you look at the character and compare him to other TV characters, you’ll start to see that a series based on Deathstroke would be pretty unlikely to follow the same formula that so many superhero series and films tend to rely on (at least, at first). They stumble upon a mystery, make mistakes, find a bad guy and defeat that bad guy all in one episode and then repeat that for the next few until something big actually happens.
You can’t really do that with Deathstroke unless you leave the story in the hands of a really lazy writer. Slade Wilson fights both the good guys and the bad guys, which is why his stories are usually so complex, like the One Year Later storyline in which he begins blackmailing superheroes to join his Titans East.
7. EPIC YET STREET-LEVEL
As a mercenary and assassin, Deathstroke is the perfect guy to hire to take out political officials, large gangs or tough-to-kill supervillains and heroes. He was hired to take out Star City’s mayor, Oliver Queen (whose alter-ego was unknown to Slade’s employers) in Green Arrow #60 (written by Judd Winick, illustrated by Scott McDaniel among others) and during the Identity Crisis miniseries, was hired as a bodyguard by Doctor Light to defend him against the Justice League. That’s quite a range!
Look at Netflix’s various MCU series, trying to show us a more recognizable world than the wider universe we enjoy n the films. You can show all of that, both the wider and smaller parts of the Arrowverse with one character. That’s something you rarely get with superheroes. You can’t have Iron Man or Vision fighting street-level thugs. They need impossibly powerful opponents, they’re more fun that way. Deathstroke? He’s fun no matter who he’s facing.
6. FLEXIBILITY WITHIN THE DCEU
Essentially, what we’ve been trying to say is that Deathstroke is an incredibly versatile character who will work brilliantly for the various crossovers he would inevitably be placed in were he to get his own series. The thing is, there would be way more flexibility in terms of story when you consider that the evil heroes join forces against in your typical crossover could be Deathstroke!
If Arrow has shown us anything with the final two episodes or its entire second season, it’s that Deathstroke works as a team player and as a major antagonist and it’s pretty easy to write him as either. That doesn’t happen a lot on TV or even on film. You usually get characters forced into being good or bad, it’s not generally their choice. But Deathstroke can choose to be either one and that’s important. It makes these fights feel more organic and less like fan-service, adding actual depth to whatever story he’s in.
There was a brief period in the ’90s when anti-heroes were quite a big thing; The Crow, The Mask and Blade, for example. But their popularity has since fizzled out. Now, as we mentioned before, television is full of the same kinds of superheroes. They’re good people trying to make the world a better place. We need those anti-heroes back now and as we can see with the few Netflix MCU series, they’re already building up toward their return with the upcoming Punisher series.
Deathstroke is arguably even darker and comes into conflict with pretty much everyone, even when he’s trying to do good. He’s already pretty popular and as we’ve hopefully shown you, his complexity brings with it a lot of potential, not just for him as a character, but for other similarly complicated heroes and villains, just waiting to be adapted to television. Red Hood? Black Adam? Those sound like good options to us!
4. A DC REALLY STAND-OUT
All these shows set in one DC-based universe only started happening after Marvel had already begun creating their MCU. Marvel is an innovator in the media and DC needs something to really make itself stand out. If it were done right, a Deathstroke series may very well be that something. Marvel has the Punisher, it has Elektra, it may introduce Blade later on, but none of those have the potential of doing what Deathstroke can do for DC.
If DC had a successful character like Deathstroke on television, they could really distinguish themselves from other superhero films and shows and not just by being the visually darker of the two major studios. We need them to push forward a character with a story that can’t just be boiled down to the same generic superhero story we’ve all heard and seen a thousand times — Suicide Squad almost did it, but… well… no. Marvel already did Deadpool and he was created because of Deathstroke! Come on guys!
3. OTHER SHOWS HAVE FAILED
So far, the only way we’ve been able to see Deathstroke is through other shows wherein he appears as a villain and little more. Arrow has attempted to do more with his character and they’ve done so eagerly much to the joy of fans everywhere. Unfortunately, they don’t really seem to know how to work him into more stories, which might be one of the reasons they chose to shut the character away for a couple of years while hinting at his return over and over.
He needs his own show so that that burden can be removed from the shoulders of the writers working on the Arrowverse. They won’t have to find ways to work him into an Arrow episode while showcasing some of the brilliant things we’ve mentioned.
2. MANY GREAT STORYLINES TO ADAPT
Television shows are so much more popular now than they were just a decade ago. That means larger budgets and more possibilities. Deathstroke’s origins have been visited at least twice in both Arrow and Smallville but he has so many more great stories ready for adaptation, many of which include his family members, which means the showrunners would likely have a steady cast to work with.
These storylines include Deathstroke: The Hunted (written by Marv Wolfman) in which Deathstroke fights off pursuers from all over, including the infamous Deadshot. Storylines like these would be easy to adapt, especially if the show were to take place within the Arrowverse where these characters have already been established. Then there’s Deathstroke: Legacy (written by Kyle Higgins) in which he proves that he really is the deadliest assassin there is. These storylines were incredible in the comics and can’t be adapted without having Deathstroke at the center of them.
1. RELEVANT MESSAGES
We’re living in a complicated world where nothing is ever conveniently just black and white. Every show that tries to say something about it tends to gloss over the nitty gritty. Deathstroke is all about the gritty, uglier details. He’s not looking to be a hero, which makes him the perfect character to use to explore real issues.
In an age where everyone seems increasingly jaded by both the good and the bad, we need someone like Deathstroke to enter the mainstream and shake things up, make people see every side of the every issue. He’s been doing that already in the Deathstroke comic series after DC Rebirth. Deathstroke #11 (written by Christopher Priest, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz and others) for example, focuses on themes like racial divide and gun violence. We need to focus on those themes more, especially now. Given his grey area as a character, Deathstroke as a subject is better equipped to give writers the freedom to really dive into them.
Do you want to see Deathstroke get his own series? If so, which story should they adapt first? Let us know in the comments!
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