CBR's look at the villains we love to hate continues, highlighting the stars of DC Comics' Faces of Evil campaign, whereby the villains of the DC Universe take center stage in a series of one-shots and special issues of existing series. The spotlight falls this week on Deathstoke the Terminator, who returns to prominence in "Faces of Evil: Deathstroke," a new one-shot on sale now.
Slade Wilson was a mercenary and assassin first introduced in "New Teen Titans" v.1 #2 (December 1980) by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Originally, Deathstroke was referred to simply as The Terminator, and while this might evoke images of Arnold Schwarzenegger looking for Sarah Connor, the character predated the "Terminator" film by four years.
The origins of Deathstroke are no secret. As a teen, Slade Wilson lied about his age so he could join the military, where he distinguished himself as a soldier and an officer. It was in the service that Slade met Adeline Kane, a military training officer who, in a guerrilla training exercise, defeated Slade in combat. Addie and Slade were a match both on and off the field of battle. The pair were married and Addie gave birth to a son, Grant (Ravager I).
While Adeline raised her son, Slade continued his military service and volunteered for medical experiments in resisting truth agents. Those drugs were not what they were purported to be, but rather part of an attempt by the government to artificially create metahumans. The experiments appeared to have failed, and Slade was left bedridden for a period afterwards. It later became evident that the experiments succeeded in a very big way: Slade gained superhuman strength, agility and speed.
It was not long after this that Addie gave birth to the second Wilson son, Joseph (Jericho). Sadly, the happy times for the Wilsons were about to come to an end. After the birth of Joey, Slade was discharged from the military for failing to follow orders. Denied his hunger for adventure, Wilson took up big-game hunting, but even that would not satisfy him. It was then that Slade became Deathstroke the Terminator, solider for hire. It was during one of Deathstroke's assignments that he assassinated a Colonel from the country of Quarac. A terrorist known as the Jackal was dispatched by the Quarac leader to find Deathstoke and discover the identity of his employer. Knowing that Slade would not reveal the information willingly, the Jackal kidnapped his son, Joseph Wilson. The kidnapping forced Slade to come clean with Addie about his career as a mercenary. The pair confronted the Jackal, but, as expected, Deathstroke refused to comply with the villain's demands. Gambling on his superhuman skills, Deathstroke killed the terrorist -- but not before Joey's throat was slit, destroying his ability to speak. Enraged by Slade's reckless choice, Addie confronted her husband with a gun and attempted to kill him with a bullet to the head. Deathstroke's hightened reflexes saved his life, but left him with just one eye. Addie finally took her two sons and left Slade.
Grant Wilson, the elder of the two boys, followed in his father's footsteps and attended a military school. Joey, a kind and gentle child, threw himself into art and music, excelling at both. Deathstroke, on the other hand, continued his life as a mercenary. A few years after his divorce, Slade met Lillian "Sweet-Lili" Worth, an Asian clan princess who had fallen on hard times. Slade extracted Lili from Cambodia and pursued a love affair when time permitted. In time, Lili became pregnant and had a daughter, Rose Worth Wilson (Ravager III). Rose's birth was kept a secret from her father in the hopes that it would shield her from Deathstroke's dangerous lifestyle.
Deathstroke was approached by the criminal group HIVE and offered a contract to kill the Teen Titans. Slade refused the job, and it was instead given to a young villain named the Ravager, who was Slade's son Grant. The HIVE gave Grant powers and a costume, modeling him after his father. Sadly, those powers were too much for Grant and he was killed. Deathstroke vowed revenge on the Titans and to fulfill his son's contract. This was a masterstroke of manipulation on the part of the HIVE, who got what they wanted and never paid a dime.
In time, Deathstroke came across Tara Markov (Terra I), an unstable young woman with the powers to control earth. Slade used Tara to infiltrate the Titans and act as his spy within the group. With Tara as his double agent, Deathstoke was finally able to deliver the Titan's to the HIVE in the famed "Judas Contract" storyline. Dick Grayson (Robin I/Nightwing) had been on a leave of absence from the Titans, and he along with Jericho and help from Adeline Wilson, broke into HIVE headquarters and freed the captured Titans. In the battle that followed, Terra was killed and Deathstroke was brought to justice. The victory was to be short-lived, though, as Wilson's case was thrown out of court because the prosecution failed to prove that Deathstroke was in fact Slade Wilson.
Deathstroke was an incredibly popular villain, and was awarded with his own title in 1991, "Deathstroke, the Terminator." Wilson would once again encounter the Titans, this time as an ally. In "New Titans" #82-84 (January-March 1992), in a story arc called "The Jericho Gambit," the Teen Titans were captured by the Wildebeest Society. With the aid of Nightwing, Troia and others, Deathstroke tracked down the captured Titans and learned the leader of the Wildebeest Society was his son, Joseph, who had been possessed by the tainted souls of Azarath and driven to find them new hosts. Joey begged Slade to kill him. Deathstroke complied, driving a sword through his son's chest. This act deeply wounded Slade, having caused of the death of both of his sons. Transformed by the act, Deathstroke became a sometimes hero, aiding the Titans and working alone to shape the world with his own view of honor. Deathstroke's own series ran until June 1996, when it ended with issue #60.
During his period as a goodish guy, Slade prevented an assassination attempt on the President but was framed for the murder of a U.S. Senator. As a fugitive, Deathstroke was confronted by a new Ravager, who hunted Wilson's friends and loved ones. Working with Sarge Steel and the Titans, Deathstroke cleared his name and uncovered former Doom Patrol member, Steve Dayton, as the perpetrator. It was during this period that Slade discovered that in addition to his already impressive range of skills and abilities, he could not be killed.
In "Deathstroke" #15 (October 1992), Slade learned that Rose Wilson was his daughter. Fearing that he would fail Rose as he had Grant and Joey, Slade left his daughter in the care of Wintergreen and the Titans.
In "Titans" #12 (2000), tragedy would again strike Deathstroke. An encounter with the Titans landed Slade in a fight with the immortal Vandal Savage and a newly reformed HIVE. The new HIVE had a new leader, Adeline Kane Wilson. Addie had been driven insane by a blood transfusion from Deathstroke. In the throes of madness, Addie sought to rid the world of metahumans, who she blamed for the death of her sons. Addie was mortally wounded by Vandal Savage, and Starfire ended the woman's life as an act of mercy. Slade was heartbroken, as another member of his dwindling family was killed. This severed any alliance he had with the Titans, and prompted Slade's bitter return to being a mercenary assassin.
In "Teen Titans" v3 #2 (October 2003), it was discovered that Jericho had survived, with his spirit hidden deep within his father's body. With the aid of his friend Wintergreen, Slade attempted to exorcise his son, but was instead possessed by Joey. In Deathstroke's body, Jericho murdered Wintergreen and began to hunt the Teen Titans. The heroes were confused by Deathstroke's attack, but the truth came to light when Jericho revealed himself by jumping from one Titan to another, possessing each in turn.
Deathstroke began to create a new weapon to use against the Titans, who in his mind had caused so much heartbreak for him and his family. The weapon was his daughter, Rose. Slade kidnapped Rose and introduced into her system the chemicals that had given him his own powers. Sadly, the transformation broke Rose's mind, and, in an attempt to be more like her father, Rose gouged her own eye out. Rose became the third Ravager and, after meeting Nightwing, regained some of her sanity and joined the Teen Titans. When Raven cleansed Jericho of the evil influences of the Azarath, Slade was truly alone, with his children dead or in the embrace of his enemies.
"Identity Crisis" saw Deathstroke enlisted as bodyguard for Doctor Light, who was being hunted by the Justice League. The consummate fighter, Slade stood toe-to-toe with The Flash, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Zatanna, the Atom and Green Lantern. Each foe was taken out by Deathstroke's superior tactics. In the end, Slade even wrested control of Green Lantern's ring just by virtue of his own incredible willpower. Only the intervention of Green Arrow prevented total victory, when the Emerald Archer stabbed Deathstroke in his damaged right eye. Doctor Light escaped with Deathstroke, but a note was left for Green Arrow along with the villain's impaled mask. The note read: "This is yours - we're not done." In "Green Arrow" v3 #60 (May 2006), Slade made good on that promise, confronting Green Arrow on his home turf of Star City. Deathstoke was defeated and taken into custody, but, as usual, it was all a part of Slade's plans. Deathstroke wanted access to the prison, specifically to an inmate who had crucial information on Green Arrow.
With "Teen Titans" v3 #43-46 (March-June 2007), Deathstroke created his own team: Teen Titans East. This group was formed of criminals and the mentally unstable. Deathstroke charged the team with defeating the Teen Titans and recovering Ravager and Jericho. The mission failed, but the events made the Wilson children trusted members of the Titans. Unknown to everyone, this was Slade's plan, as he wanted a good home for his kids, believing that he would only fail them were they to be reunited.
Deathstroke's most recent major confrontation was in the pages of "DC Universe: Last Will and Testament" (October 2008), when he faced off against Tara's brother, Brion Markov, a.k.a. Geo-Force. The master planner was actually outwitted when Geo-Force staged their conflict in the ally where Joseph Wilson's throat was slashed. Slade found himself off guard throughout the conflict, and Markov's nearly suicidal attack resulted in Deathstroke being seriously injured with his own sword.
Apparently recovered from his injury, Deathstroke next appeared in "Faces of Evil: Deathstroke," written by David Hine with artwork by Georges Jeanty. Could this one-shot promise a new series for the world's toughest mercenary? Whatever the future holds, Deathstroke the Terminator remains a constant threat to his enemies and a constant delight to readers, as he has for 25 years.
"Faces of Evil: Deathstroke" is on sale now from DC Comics.