The Character Spotlight – Issue #9: Deathstroke (Slade Wilson)

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It’s time for the ninth edition of The Character Spotlight! He’s been appearing on our television screens thanks to CW’s hit new show Arrow. His portrayal by actor Manu Bennett verges as the highlight of every episode he appears in and he always leaves the fans wanting more. In the comics world, he used to be one of DC’s premiere bad guys, an antagonist that would strike fear in a hero’s heart by the mere mention of his name. He’s an emotionally complex character that you can never quite figure out, one that has had to make some extremely hard choices over the years. With a renewed focus on him thanks to the TV show, I thought now was the perfect time to give him my attention. Slade Wilson, the Spotlight is yours:

DebutNew_Teen_Titans_Vol_1_2The New Teen Titans #2 (Cover Date: December 1980)

Biography: At the age of sixteen, Slade Wilson lied about how old he was in order to enlist in the US Army. He fought bravely for his country and is eventually promoted to the rank of Major. He is later chosen to be trained by Captain Adeline Kane, along with his fellow younger soldiers, to learn new fighting techniques. The two fall in love, marry, and she becomes pregnant with their first child, Grant Wilson. After serving his country yet again and being saved by a SAS member known as Billy Wintergreen, Slade volunteers for a medical experiment that he is informed will create a defense against the Truth Serum but is in actuality an attempt to create a super-soldier. He reacts violently to the experiment and remains bedridden through the birth of his second son, Joseph Wilson. Upon recovery, Slade learns the true nature of the experiment and finds out that it was a success: along with his vast knowledge of fighting techniques he now possesses enhanced senses, enhanced reflexes, enhanced intellect, enhanced speed, enhanced stamina, enhanced strength, and his overall ageing process is slowed done as well.

When the man who saved his life and lifelong friend, Wintergreen, is sent on a suicide mission, captured, and left to die, Slade defies his superior’s orders and saves him which earns Slade a discharge from the army. He hides this fact from his family and decides to embark on a mercenary lifestyle creating a costume and an identity as Deathstroke. His new career catches up to him when Joseph is kidnapped by a criminal whom wants Slade to divulge the name of a client who had hired him as an assassin. Not willing to break his client’s confidentiality clause, Slade engages in combat with the kidnapper and defeats him but not before Joseph’s throat is slashed damaging his vocal cords and rendering the boy unable to speak. Unable to hide his secret from Adeline anymore, she explodes in a fit of rage after learning what has happened to Joseph because of her husband and tries to shoot Slade dead but only manages to wound his right eye.

Years later, Deathstroke is offered a job to kill a group of teenaged superheroes known as the Teen Titans by a villainous group called H.I.V.E.. He refuses but Slade’s firstborn son, Grant, who has become a mercenary called Ravager accepts their offer and is granted powers by H.I.V.E. to achieve his goal. These enhancements prove to be too much for his body to handle and he dies in battle with the Titans. Deathstroke vows to fulfill his son’s contract and thus begins his storied rivalry with the Teen Titans. He tries to kill the group with a Promethium bomb but when that plot fails he decides to switch strategies. He fakes a fight involving a new ally of the Titans known as Terra and she “defeats” him singlehandedly. This victory ensures her acceptance onto the team, a fact that Slade had anticipated all along as this girl, who is also his lover, is now in the prime position to learn the team’s weaknesses and secret identities. After learning all he needed from his spy, Deathstroke and Terra take out the whole Titans team with only Nightwing escaping their clutches. Nightwing then encounters Slade’s ex-wife Adeline and her son Joseph, now known as Jericho. They offer their help on the one condition that Jericho is accepted onto the Teen Titans as their new member and Nightwing agrees to the proposal. The duo manage to save the team, capture Deathstroke, and Terra ends up accidently killing herself because she is unable to control her powers. Slade is put on trial but fellow Titans member Garfield Logan sabotages the trial to get his own personal revenge because he blames Slade for Terra’s betrayal. Unable to kill him, the two talk and in the end he realizes Slade is not to blame and the two part ways. Slade retires as Deathstroke and retreats to Africa.

Slade eventually returns to being Deathstroke but with a stronger moral fibre that actually sees him aid the Titans occasionally. On one such instance the Titans are kidnapped and Slade, who is hired to find them, discovers that the perpetrator is his own son Jericho who has become possessed. Seeing no other choice to save the Titans and to spare Jericho anymore pain, Slade kills Joseph, an act that would haunt him as now both of his sons were dead because of him. He continues as a mercenary and occasional hero aiding the Titans and other times acting on his own. He is forced to go underground after he is framed for the murder of an US senator and becomes a wanted fugitive. On the way to clearing his name, the true perpetrator behind it all makes Slade’s friends and loved ones targets including having his daughter, from a love short-term love affair named Rose Worth, kidnapped. Slade’s old ally, Wintergreen, manages to save her but her mother is murdered and Slade leaves Wintergreen to take care of her fearing he would make a terrible father. During this time, Deathstroke also undergoes a procedure to speed up his healing factor which enables him to become virtually immortal as long as his brain is intact. Unfortunately for him, since his eye injury was sustained before the procedure it is still damaged. Soon afterwards, Slade gives his ex-wife Adeline a blood transfusion to save her life and passes on these regenerative abilities but they have the added side effect of driving her crazy. She becomes the H.I.V.E. mistress and Slade teams-up with the Titans yet again to stop her. Due to the interference of a villain known as Vandal Savage, Adeline is wounded to a point that she couldn’t heal but couldn’t die. She momentarily regains her senses and pleads for Slade to end her life but he refuses. Titans member, Starfire, then decides to take it upon herself to end Adeline’s suffering and disintegrates her completely. This act causes Deathstroke to sever his alliance with the Titans once and for all.

At the same time a new group of Teen Titans emerge, Slade learns that the consciousness of Jericho had been transferred into his body before Slade had killed him and Jericho was slowly seizing control. Slade seeks Wintergreen to help him expel his son but Jericho takes over and murders Slade’s long-time ally. Jericho then uses Deathstroke’s body to go after the Teen Titans to prevent kids from becoming costumed heroes. The Titans succeed in defeating him, separating him from Deathstroke, and imprisoning his essence in Titan’s member Raven. Slade escapes, depressed at the loss of another friend, and decides to seek out his daughter, Rose. In order to gain her trust, Slade hires the same assassin (Slade’s half-brother Wade Defarge) that killed Rose’s biological mother to kill her surrogate family. Deathstroke comes in to “save” her and double-crosses Wade by murdering him. Rose becomes the new Ravager and she aids her father in tracking down Raven, who loses control in battle, and frees Jericho. Slade orders Rose to kill her half-brother but she hesitates and they are forced to retreat. After this, Slade begins to question having Rose as his protégé and this, coupled with a watered down super-serum Slade had been injection in her that was causing her to become psychotic, leads her to snapping and cutting out one of her eyes to prove her devotion to her father. He is then hired to be Doctor Light’s bodyguard and encounters the Justice League, systematically defeating almost the entire team by himself. While taking on the last member standing, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Green Arrow manages to muster up the energy and fires an arrow into Slade’s damaged right eye which enrages him causing him to lose focus and resulting in his defeat. He later leaves an ominous note for Green Arrow saying they are not done as he is upset about this embarrassment. He then joins Lex Luthor’s Secret Society of Super Villains which quickly brings Nightwing to his door who is seeking a way to gain access to the sinister syndicate in order to destroy them from within. He agrees but only if Nightwing trains Rose. He agrees but while training her he secretly tries to convert Rose into a hero which Deathstroke quickly catches onto and threatens to kill Nightwing. He agrees to leave Rose alone on the condition that his city of Bludhaven is left alone from the threat of the Society. The deal lasts 34 hours until Slade helps the Society destroy Bludhaven completely by dropping a villain that was a walking radioactive bomb onto it. Seeking revenge, Nightwing bursts into a training session between Deathstroke and Rose and reveals that the Kryptonite that Deathstroke had put in her missing eye to defeat Superman would eventually kill her. This revelation ends Rose and Deathstroke’s relationship and leads her to joining the Teen Titans with Nightwing’s help.

Deathstroke then assembles a team of superhumans, dubbing them Titans East, and sends them to destroy the current Teen Titans which includes Rose and a resurrected Jericho. His patchwork team falls apart and they are defeated in the end though Slade escapes. Despite this, he is happy as the reason he went through all of this was to enable his daughter and his son to be trusted by the Titans in order to give them a new family as aiding them in their father’s defeat proved their loyalty. Afterwards, he twists Terra’s half-brother Geo-Force into acting as his spy on the Justice League but the hero manages to break free and warn the Justice League of his plot to ruin Green Arrow and Black Canary’s wedding. Subsequently, Geo-Force manages to impale Deathstroke on his own sword after recreating the events that caused Jericho to lose his voice all those years ago which causes Slade to drop his guard. He recuperates in prison and is visited by Rose who intends to kill him but he’s still able to fend off her attacks and manages to escape the facility. He works for Talia Al Ghul against his old enemy Nightwing, now Batman, by controlling his partner Damian through a neural implant in the young Robin. After failing in killing him, Deathstroke assembles a team consisting of various villains, dubs them the Titans, and utilizes this team for his goal to cheat death itself. They perform various jobs, including killing superhero Ryan Choi (the Atom), and acquire various objects which eventually leads to the creation of the Methuselah Device. He uses this device to restore his dying son Jericho’s life and offers his teammates a similar proposal to resurrect their dead loved ones. The Titans fall apart due to disagreeing on what to do and Jericho possesses his father’s body, appalled at what he went through to achieve his goal, and destroys the device. Slade returns to his solo career before the advent of the New 52 changes his life yet again. In the New 52, Slade’s backstory is still forming but the one thing that is consistent is that he is the top mercenary in the world. Wanting to maintain this title he takes on ever increasingly dangerous missions to prove his worth after a recent employer thinks he can’t hack it by himself due to his age. How wrong they are.

Notable Series/Key Issues:

The New Teen Titans Vol. 1 (#2, #9-#10, #34)
Tales of the Teen Titans (#42-#44, Annual #3, #53-#55, #87)
The New Teen Titans Vol. 2 (#11, #16, #27, Annual #3, #47)
The New Titans (#62-#65, #70-#79, #82-#86, #90, Annual #8, #100, #122)
Deathstroke the Terminator (#1-#40, Annual #1-#2, Annual #4)
Team Titans #1
Titans Sell-Out Special #1
Chain Gang War (#3-#7, #9-#10, #12)
Green Arrow Vol. 2 (#84-#85)
Deathstroke: The Hunted (#0, #41-#47)
Deathstroke Vol. 1 (#48-#60)
Teen Titans Vol. 2 (#22)
The Titans (#9-#12, #21-#22)
Nightwing Vol. 2 (#79-#82, #111-115, #117)
Teen Titans Vol. 3 (#2-#4, #1/2, #5, #7-#12, #17-#18, #22-#23, #33, #40-#41, #43-#46, #72-#73, #77-#79, #82, #100)
Identity Crisis #2-#3
Green Arrow Vol. 3 (#50, #57, #60-#66, #69, #71, #74-#75)
Villains United #1-#6
Infinite Crisis #1-#2, #7
Villains United Infinite Crisis Special #1
Batgirl Vol. 2 (#1-#4)
DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1
Faces of Evil: Deathstroke #1
Titans (#9-#10, #12-#13, #17, #24-#38, Annual #1)
Vigilante Vol. 3 (#5-#6)
Blackest Night: Titans #1
Titans: Villains for Hire Special #1
Deathstroke Vol. 2 (#1-#17, #0)
Team 7 #0-#5

Appearances In Other Media:

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (TV)
Teen Titans (TV)
Smallville (TV)
Arrow (TV)
Young Justice (TV)
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (MOVIE)
Teen Titans (GAME)
Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (GAME)
Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (GAME)
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes DS (GAME)
Injustice: Gods Among Us (GAME)

My Take: My first experience with Slade Wilson came from the Teen Titans animated television series. Robin’s main question early on in the show was “Who is Slade?”, and what I found to be the answer over the course of the show was Slade Wilson was an intimidating, calculating, powerful badass whose mere presence signified big things. He was not to be trifled with and his portrayal was only heightened by the awesome vocal talents of Ron Perlman. My next experience with him was in Identity Crisis when he singlehandedly almost defeated the entire Justice League by himself. I thought how could this guy get any cooler? The more and more I read of him, the more and more I became intrigued by him as each new story produced an added dimension to him. The thing I love about him is that Slade never makes a wasted motion, it all has some meaning in the grander scope of events. I feel the New 52 version of him has taken that edge he previously possessed and dulled it down. Slade works best as a villain in my opinion, one that will occasionally team-up with the heroes if it suits his own purposes. He’s had many heated rivalries with Green Arrow and Nightwing but it is his feud with the Titans that he is best known for. It’s only a matter of time before they cross paths yet again and DC elevates him back to the level of prominence he once enjoyed. I look forward to that day. Thus ends Issue #9 of Character Spotlight. Any thoughts/opinions on this character? Comment below!

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8 thoughts on “The Character Spotlight – Issue #9: Deathstroke (Slade Wilson)

  1. Each time Green Arrow, Nightwing or the Teen Titans cross their path with this character, I exult. He’s one of the best not – related – to Batman villains DC has ever created.
    The problem is, DC doesn’t portray him as a villain anymore. They’re trying to make a good guy out of him, but, as you pointed out, the only result they get is distorting the character and making his fans less passionate towards him. That’s why Deathstroke’s solo series lasted less than 2 years.
    As for the Wolfman & Perez Teen Titans you mentioned in the Key Issues section, I’ve always wanted to read that hugely acclaimed run, but, each time I look for it at a convention or on ebay, sellers always ask outrageous amounts of money. The cheapest collection I’ve ever found was a reprint, offered on ebay for 70 € + shipping expenses. Maybe one day I’ll find it at a convenient price… fingers crossed!

    • Hopefully with his series’ cancellation it can free him up to be a straight-up bad guy!

      “Maybe one day I’ll find it at a convenient price… fingers crossed!”
      Maybe with Slade’s prominence in Arrow they’ll do a reprinting? One can hope…

      It’s also too bad the planned animated movie of the Judas Contract fell-through as well. DC decided fans only will buy Batman, Superman, and JL movies. Real shame.

      • “DC decided fans only will buy Batman, Superman, and JL movies.” Exactly. Some years ago, Marvel said: “Hey, most people know only Spider Man and the Hulk: let’s make them know some other guys, like Iron Man and Thor!” That was the best choice Marvel has ever made, and DC should do the same. Thank you for your replies! : )

        • “That was the best choice Marvel has ever made, and DC should do the same.”
          That’s what DC should do…but DC is stubborn. If Green Lantern had a better story to it and was more well-received we’d be enjoying Flash and Wonder Woman movies by now. Ah, what could of been…

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