“Because ‘New Mutants’ was a dog. It was in bad shape.”Deadpool was the next major character he created for the series, the superhero, or super-anti-hero, identity of mercenary Wade Wilson who, after he has developed terminal cancer, agrees to a dangerous experimental treatment that unlocks powers, including the ability to self-heal from any injury, making him more or less unkillable but also horribly scarred and seeking revenge. “They said, ‘If you want this, you can have it.’ I said, ‘That’s my baby.’ ”After Cable, a menacing mercenary, was introduced, sales of the series jumped higher, Liefeld says, and Marvel gave him freer rein to make more changes.“At that point, they said, ‘Whatever you got, Liefeld, go with it,’ ” he says. “I took over a dog book and I was determined to turn the train around,” he says.
Liefeld, who started working for Marvel and DC within a year or so of graduating from Whittier Christian High School, says he felt good about “Deadpool” for a handful of reasons.“My comp that I tracked it on was the first ‘Ted’ movie, where you’ve got a foul-mouthed teddy bear, and it did big box office,” he says. “And then there was the pent-up demand for Deadpool from the fan base and the quality of the material, which had been there since the writers turned in their script.”Those last two points had a long history. We’ll start with the backstory of red-and-black-suited, criss-crossed, katana sword-wearing Deadpool’s journey to the cinema first, which begins in 1989, when Marvel Comics gave Liefeld control over its “New Mutants” series, one of the poorest-performing offshoots of the “X-Men” franchise.
After all, who’d bet against a funny, foul-mouthed, horribly scarred, violent and slightly deranged mercenary winning the hearts and minds and box-office dollars of moviegoers the world over?“Trust me, I was the most bullish on ‘Deadpool,’ ” says Liefeld, 49, an Orange County native who lives in Yorba Linda. “When I was day one on the set, I said, ‘This is going to open at $75 million,’ and they all said, ‘Shut up, Liefeld; you’re jinxing us.’ ” Comic book legend Rob Liefeld had a hunch that one of his most-loved characters was poised for a very good year.
It turns out, he wasn’t nearly bullish enough, as the Ryan Reynolds-starring Marvel movie hauled in $132 million on its February opening weekend — $152 million if you count the Presidents Day holiday that Monday — on its way to the fifth-highest box office domestically this year with $363 million to date.To add a tad more context, that’s the biggest opening weekend for an R-rated movie ever. It’s the biggest debut for any comic book adaptation from the “X-Men” universe. And it’s the second-highest-grossing R-rated movie ever, about $7 million behind Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ.”