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Comic Book Questions Answered – When Did Deadpool Become an R-Rated Character?

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Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.

This time around, the question comes courtesy of my friend, Chris N., who asks:

The petition to get a PG-13 cut of Deadpool has generated some internet backlash, with a lot of fans claiming a Deadpool movie that isn’t R-rated just isn’t Deadpool. Now I haven’t read much Marvel this past decade, but I read plenty of Deadpool from the character’s first 15 years, and the comic was never R-rated. Where are people getting the idea that Deadpool is an R-rated character?

I think it IS pretty clear that, when introduced, Deadpool was not an R-Rated character. So when did the change occur?

There are four notable ways that a movie is rated R, nudity, sex, profanity and violence. The first two really don’t apply to Deadpool (although Deadpool Max has had nudity in it, but that didn’t come about until nearly two decades into Deadpool’s history). The last two, though, are more at issue here.

Of the two, when it comes to an R-Rating, profanity is a lot stricter than violence.

Profanity-wise, Deadpool used censored comic book cursing very early on. Here it is in just his second appearance in X-Force #2 (by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza)…

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He did it frequently enough that Daniel Way and Steve Dillon even made fun of it in Wolverine: Origins #23…

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Bleeped out cursing is not a common trope in films, so you could say that he would therefore “need” to curse in the film, which would lead to a R (you can curse in PG-13 films, but in very small quantities). However, for the sake of argument, let’s even say that cursing is not an important part of Deadpool. The key part is the next step – the violence. Go to the next page to see how Deadpool’s violence has evolved over the years into R-Rated territory…

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35 Comments

I always thought it was just a convention of Marvel books of the time to to minimize the blood and guts ( I believe all the Marvel books were code approved in 97,98). As a reader I always thought a movie version would have to be rated R just for the sheer number of bodies and the pleasure Wade took in killing people. If you’d asked me during the Kelly run I would have said R rsting, absolutely. Good article!

Excellent analysis of what is kind of a slippery slope for character evolution. I suspect in a few years a similar question might be asked about Harley Quinn.

So basically, the same people wanting the R-Rating are the same people that loved Waypool… T_T

It’s still kind of funny we’re getting an R-rated Deadpool movie when he showed up in one of Marvel’s kid’s shows and the Lego game not that long ago.

Ticktock:
Exactly. These people claim to be huge Deadpool fans, but they don’t seem to respect or understand the character at all. I’ve been saying since it was revealed that the movie was rated R that there’s no need for an R-rated Deadpool. As stated in Brian’s great post, extreme gore was never part of the character. Although I loved the write-up, I would argue, personally, that I never really saw cursing as part of Deadpool’s character. Sure there’s been a lot of “bleeped out” words in the comics, but if you asked me to describe Deadpool pre-Way, I wouldn’t really consider cursing to be integral to his character. Now, judging by all the ads for the movie, cursing and extreme gore seem to be the main attributes of movie-Deadpool, which really saddens me. I’ve been following this movie for years, ever since Reynolds first announced that he wanted to do a solo movie. Saldy, it seems from the trailers that this Deadpool more resembles Waypool that Kelly’s Deadpool which, IMO, is the best characterized he’s been. I really hope I’ll be proved wrong when I see the movie. Here’s hoping.

@Craig,
You mean how she went from a demented, but loveable foil for the Joker to a trashy-looking Suicide Girl wannabe? I’d call that devolution.

@Jeff
Agreed on all points, but much like Deadpool it seems to coincide with a rise in popularity. Much like I prefer original PG-13/serious Deadpool, I prefer PG attired/whimsical Harley.

For violence, i was thinking of that scene in the dead presidents arc, when DP is gored by an elephant’s horn, and his entrails are all over the place.

This:

“Of the two, when it comes to an R-Rating, profanity is a lot stricter than violence.”

Plus this:

“The issue really is blood. Fair or not, the main issue with violence when it comes to PG-13 films versus R films is the amount of gore with the violence.”

Sometimes I just hate mankind so much. Let’s make a movie about a polite killer that kills hundreds of people without that nasty blood and gore, and we’re all good.

Rene, I think two of the reason profanity ratings are stricter than violence are:
It’s easier / likelier to be imitated
and
on-screen violence is imitated. On-screen profanity is real (they don’t simulate somebody using the F-word, somebody *actually* uses the F-word).

What’s weird is, I’ve been playing catch-up for a long time now, reading the back-issue articles on this site, and just yesterday I read the meta message about Shooter vs. Gerber, which was based around this very issue (Gerber wanted people to see the results of all the violence he was writing about, Shooter made a parody character based on him and that philosophy).

Le Messor –

That is a good point about profanity. It’s only that the consequences of using profanity are so minor when compated to violence… The absurdity is more evident when we compare with other behaviours that may be outre, but are equally harmless. Say, let’s censor a character making a bad fashion choice, because it’s easier for people to immitate wearing an ugly shirt than shooting people.

I agree with Gerber here. I love both SEVEN and DIE HARD, but I think SEVEN is less objectionable, because it will probably cause people watching it to consider violence something horrible and soul-crushing, while DIE HARD feels like explosions and gun shots are great fun. Michael Moore (yeah, I know he is controversial) makes a good point about it in an interview. He says that if his buddies in the 1970s had grown up watching war movies like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, that has lots of blood and gore and “bad” death, they might be less inclined to enlist and go to Vietnam. Instead, they grew up watching John Wayne movies with “clean” violence.

I don’t have an issue with PG-13 Deadpool. He’s a 90s comic book character. Thirteen year olds are exactly the demographic Deadpool was created to appeal to.

Deadpool may feel right at home among gore, profanity, and nudity, but those things aren’t essential to the character.

“Essential to the character” or not, the movie was created as R-rated, and there’s no reason to pander to parents like the woman who started this petition. Just grow a backbone lady, and tell Junior that he can’t see the movie until he’s older. Problem solved. You know, unless you have several million dollars to pay to get a custom cut of the movie for your precious baby snowflake.

Given the character, it would be funny if Deadpool’s profanity in the movie were censored…but he can hear the censoring.
.
“Holy !! Wait…what? Did I just say “Bleep”? Why the did I say “Bleep”? There it is again.”

Let’s try that again. It apparently didn’t like the characters I used.

.
“Holy {BLEEP}!! Wait…what? Did I just say “Bleep”? Why the {BLEEP} did I say “Bleep”? There it is again.”

More of a topic around the LCS is how Deadpool became so popular among kids way too young to be reading any iteration.

It’s, seriously, so recurring that it’s a cliché. The little boy dragging his parent into the shop, never been in, know nothing about comics, don’t want any help finding anything … and then he just eventually “happens” upon Deadpool.

“Um, you might want to flip through that before you buy it for him …”

Thanks, Brian!

2007 was just about when I mostly stopped reading Marvel.

Given the character, it would be funny if Deadpool’s profanity in the movie were censored…but he can hear the censoring.

That’s exactly what I was hoping for, but then the violence couldn’t be censored the same way, so it would have been weird to have language controls but no violence limit.

He could shoot and cut people, but there never would be any blood (or it would be black), which would drive him nuts, because no one else would think it’s strange. But it would be way too silly and over the top as opposed to simple gag with the blipping.

Deadpool is rated R? Wow. That’s stupid.

I think a PG-13 cut that makes the changes @Grum and @Marek suggest could be a lot of fun — I remember the TV version of Howard Stern’s Private Parts had some extra scenes in it where he’d come on and say “We can’t show you this scene on TV, but here’s what happens…” or suchlike.

Similarly, in the UK version of Life, the Universe and Everything, there’s a gag involving someone winning the award for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Fuck” in a Serious Screenplay. In the US version, it’s bawdlerized to Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Belgium” in a Serious Screenplay, and there’s something like a page and a half of extra content explaining that “Belgium” is the dirtiest word in the galaxy and there’s only one planet where they don’t know that.

While I like the simplicity of the original, I think the whole digression about “Belgium” made for a funnier scene.

(On the other hand, the US edition also inexplicably bawdlerizes “arsehole” into “kneebiter”, which doesn’t even make sense. What’s a kneebiter? Have you ever heard *anyone* call somebody that? That one’s not funny, just weird. You win some and you lose some…)

A properly self-aware censored version of Deadpool could be fun, but I think you’d need some kind of backdrop to *point out* that it’s censored, that this has to happen this way because they’re shooting for a PG-13.

Demanding an R RAted Deadpool movie just seems strange. We used to ignore those types of people, or at least make-up snide nicknames for them. Good times…

What’s funny for me is this article seems to think that Hollywood decided to go for an R rating because they care about the character.

More likely they decided on am R for demographic ans marketing reasons than any opinion on Deadpool’s history.

Kid Kyoto- I don’t see anything in the article that expresses any kind of opinion about why Hollywood decided to go for an R rating. The article’s about why many Deadpool FANS think of him as an R-rated character, not why the movie is rated R.

“Said rating really didn’t accurately reflect the comic cover, though, which was more of a PG-13 book.”

One point for Deadpool being an R-rated movie – we already have a stack of PG-13 superhero movies, and if any character should do an extreme take, Deadpool is a worthy candidate.

@Mike Haseloff

Why would we give people who want a R-rated Deadpool movie “snide nicknames”? Well, unless we’re a-holes, that is. Deadpool has been a R-rated character in the comics for quite some time, so it’s understandable (even if you don’t agree with it) that many people (especially those who started reading the character in the last 10 years or so) would want a film adaptation to be the same. Did you also make fun of people who wanted the Watchmen movie to be consistent with the source material in that area?

Any comic book character that sticks around for more than a few years is likely to change a lot. For most superhero movies, a studio has lots of different versions to choose from. Taking Batman as an example, there are some TV shows and movies that go the old campy route while others choose to be all dark and serious. When a comic book character is in lots of different books and has been written by lots of different writers, you’re bound to see different versions. Whatever version the studio decides to go with won’t represent all of the comics anyway.

Anyway. The reason Marvel movies continue to be successful is that they experiment with genre and content. They aren’t JUST superhero movies. Guardians of the Galaxy is an action space movie. Captain America is a period piece, and the sequel is a spy thriller. Ant-Man is a heist movie. I could go on. While Deadpool is produced by Marvel Entertainment, not Marvel Studios (I’m not sure if there is a difference) it does look like ME is trying to go the whole “different genres” route too. An R-rated comedic film would be something new and it would help the movie stand out.

interesting always thought the reason deadpool started in the pg range was because marvel wanted to be able to still sell his book to differant readers which ment toning down some of the violence of the characters nature till they decided oh heck the all age days are over with lets just let creative team if they want to go nuts with deadpool let lose even if it means r now.

This article gives me diabetes. Marvel has always cut out swearing and tried to keep gore to a minimum. That doesnt mean that a comic about a mercenary should have a pg13 movie because the comics try to stay somewhat kid friendly. Mercenaries kill and do bad things. So when you have a schizophrenic character who likes to make light of death the stories will get pretty demented. Even the Wolverine movies would have been better if they went with an R rating because they could have done more with a character who is the best at what he does and what he does isnt very nice. Anyone who is surprised with Deadpools rating knows little about the character and needs to except that when some of the bad content is only implied in the comics it will be projected differently on the big screen. Deadpool is a bad person just because he is likable doesnt mean he is good and doesnt mean children should see everything involved with his franchise.

we already have 900 superhero films with PG-13 ratings, why can’t Deadpool be R just to give us something different? I’m a huge fan of the character and thought the movie was spectacularly done and incredibly accurate.

I have not seen the movie but thus far I’m turned off by the offensive trailers I caught in theatres. As a kid who grew up in the 90’s and had a Deadpool action figure, I never envisioned the character as this over the top amoral nut job he’s currently depicted as.

Slightly off-topic, but related to some of the comments: I don’t mind Harley’s modern design. In fact, I would say the costume change was nigh unavoidable, as her original costume looks too goofy outside of a cartoon. It looked pretty ridiculous in the comics, which have a more realistic art style than the cartoons, and it certainly would have looked awful on the big screen.

So, I just started reading Deadpool, although I have always known the character. Started with Classic Deadpool since that is a good enough start as any… but you talk about this shift into the cursing and graphic character that starts around 2007…. what comic would that start with? This newer version of deadpool that I have heard about. To some, that is the funny and version of deadpool that has the fans of the movie loving him. Classic deadpool as you stated is nothing like he is portrayed now… He was quick wit with comments but never cursing and the violence/gore was not there (a marvel thing). So where in the comics or writers did this start and is that what is true in todays comics of deadpool (not sure if they still have them, just started reading his)

what comic would that start with?

Pretty much every Deadpool comic since Daniel Way’s run began (which was in early 2008) has been a “parental advisory” comic book.

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