The Old Testament is full of sex and violence, but if those sneak into the creations of Christian artists, it’s considered a no-no. Profanity is just as taboo. I just read an article where the writer’s upset because Hillsong used “hell” in a song. By that standard, “Deadpool” should be burned at the stake.
What is “Deadpool”?
Originally introduced in Marvel comic books, “Deadpool” is the creation of artist/writer Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza. He’s the costumed alter ego of disfigured mercenary Wade Wilson, who has superhuman healing and strength. He’s also a rapid-fire potty-mouth that likes to self-consciously break the fourth wall and talk to the audience.
In 2016, “Deadpool” hit the big time with a hit film adaptation, starring Ryan Reynolds in the title role. It’s a roiling soup of action, sex and over-the-top comic-book violence, wrapped in a nonstop string of foul-mouthed quips from Wilson. At the center of it is Wilson’s love affair with exotic dancer and prostitute Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), but that’s also pretty twisted.
All in all, it’s about as far from a faith-based film as humanly possible.
But, Liefeld is a self-professed Baptist, and the son of a Baptist minister.
How does that work?
Meeting Rob Liefeld …
At a recent media conference sponsored by Los Angeles-area Biola University (Biola meaning Bible Institute of Los Angeles), I saw a high-energy talk by Liefeld. In a stream-of-consciousness style, he told of being a kid obsessed with drawing, who talked himself as a teen into a job with Marvel (while delivering pizzas and working construction on the side to pay the bills).
He also spoke of his father being ill for a long time and then losing him at a young age, and how that impacted his life.
To be fair, Liefeld didn’t write or direct the “Deadpool” movie adaptation, which has a life of its own. There’s going to be a sequel, and “Community” and “Atlanta” star Donald Glover is going to do an adult-themed cartoon version for FX, to launch in 2018.
Long before the Ark was raided and lost in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was originally stolen and recovered in the Old Testament. Trade Nazis for Philistines and Indiana Jones for Samuel, the last Judge of Israel, and you have stories with great parallels, except this one is much more primitive and as a result much more violent. The Covenant is a story I’ve been crafting for a several years, I wrote the script for The Covenant in 2012 and gave refined it ever since. Thanks to films like Raiders of The Lost Ark, the Ark of the Covenant is known to a great many people but there is a particular tale in the Old Testament that inspired me. I refer to it as an untold tale of the Old Testament because, as with many bible stories, there is plenty of stuff that is left “untold” or as I call it plenty of “fill-in-the-blank” moments. So I used that as inspiration for an epic showdown between warring cultures and rival gods.
After the talk, I had a brief sit-down with Liefeld, in which he declared that he was a fan of the film “Deadpool,” and wasn’t about to apologize for what was in it.
On what he thought of the “Deadpool” movie …
I read the screenplay in 2010. That’s how long it took them to translate it to the screen. The minute I read it, it read so fresh to me. As I said in my panel, I grew up on R-rated films — Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal.
See, the violence in these comic-book superheroes has never been, not for a decade, the way it was portrayed on “Deadpool.” I mean, three guys shot in the head with one bullet, that was a show-stopper. When they showed the trailer at San Diego Comic-Con, that’s what they ended on. People flipped out.
That sent a message that this isn’t just going to be fisticuffs, run-of-the-mill stunts that you see — that are great. I love “Captain America.” I love those fight sequences, but I’ve seen them multiple times. I grew up with more graphic violence in my movies, in the comic stuff I pursued, that I collect, and that I enjoy. So, when I saw the film, I just said, “Wow. This is definitely edgier than anything Marvel’s published.” I think it works spectacularly.
The voice of the character was so fresh. I truly believe, there’s all the Deadpools that have existed, and there’s Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, who is now the Deadpool for the world. He owns that voice.
I look at art through a different lens, so I was very excited by it. Now, did I let my youngest kid see it? No. They weren’t allowed to see it.
On the perception that Deadpool is amoral …
I see a great love story. I don’t see the amorality. In my opinion, the reason the movie worked is that the movie has tremendous heart. You buy into Vanessa and Wade’s love for each other, and their commitment to each other, and everything he does — he leaves because he’s dying. He doesn’t want to hurt her and crush her. In the process, he crushes her and then ruins himself because he makes a terrible choice. Then, he comes back to try to rescue her. It’s a very simple film.
The chemistry, especially when I read it, I felt like this supersedes everything else. Everything else that’s called the naughty, the raunchy — there’s no chance I’ll be put in a position to condemn any of that stuff. I enjoyed it, because I am an adult. It was made for adults. It wasn’t put out there with a PG-13, and they snuck all that under the censors. It was what was advertised — a very hard R comic-book film.
When “Deadpool” worked, it worked because of that heart. It had emotion, and all those other things, the naughty bits.
It hit at the right time in America, in a world where everything was going crazy, and people just wanted to go away and be entertained. Even the sexual situations are very funny. They’re taboo, but they’re funny.
Again, am I guilty of really liking the R-rated version that they produced? Guilty as charged.
On the violence in the Bible and how that influenced him …
If we were to film the story of David, as it is written in the Bible, it is an R-rated story. It is not a PG-13. At one point, he cuts the foreskins of how many Philistines and throws them back at Saul in bags and says, “I did it.” I’m like, yeah! That’s the “Deadpool” level of violence. That’s some crazy stuff there.
For me, I used my window, and I created this “Covenant” comic, which is very R-rated, because the Old Testament, to me, is very dark. It’s the stuff I can relate to. If I can pique your interest with this new twist on an old story, that was my entire …
You don’t go into producing 120 pages of something, script or art or drawing — you don’t do that without passion. That’s where my passion lies. Now, as an adult, I enjoy everything. You’re talking to an almost 50-year-old Rob. All that G-rated stuff bores me to tears.
On one his favorite movies …
Let’s not forget “The Passion of the Christ” … I remember, because the media had to make something out if its success. Out of all the attempts to smear it, I read this one thing. I think it was in Variety 2004: “You know it’s doing so well because it plays to teenage boys as a horror film.” I’m like, “Well, I’ll buy that. The cat-of-nine-tails scene is monstrous.” Again, very hard R, very graphic, and to me, true. True to the source material.
Then, [director Mel Gibson] puts in a little artistry stuff with the baby and Satan … oh, great stuff.
Images: Courtesy Marvel Comics, Rob Liefeld, Image Comics