Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie is still two years away (at least) but plot details are already starting to sneak out of the production, including yesterday’s sizeable revelation that Deathstroke will be the Caped Crusader’s main antagonist.
Initially teased in a cryptic tweet from Affleck on Monday, the news has since been confirmed by The Wrap, sending fanboys into meltdown. Showing the black and orange-armoured antihero striding towards the camera in a very cinematic fashion, he certainly looks like the type of guy you don’t want to mess with.
But just who is Deathstroke? Here’s the lowdown on Batman’s latest foe.
What’s his alter-ego?
Slade Wilson. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Marvel’s cult hero Deadpool – the fourth wall-breaking antihero who took the box office by storm earlier this year – was originally created as a riff on DC’s fan favourite villain, right down to the name Wade Wilson. Could the surprising success of the Merc with a Mouth’s recent cinematic outing be the driving force behind Deathstroke’s selection as Batman’s nemesis? That seems unlikely given Deadpool has since crafted his own very unique identity as a bizarrely meta mercenary. Still, it probably didn’t hurt.
Where did he come from?
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Deathstroke first appeared in Teen Titans #2 in 1980 as an assassin and a mercenary. Initially introduced as a vietnam vet who goes rogue after being handpicked for a secret experiment to create super soldiers, the character’s origins were later re-worked to make him a member of special-ops force Team 7 who becomes imbued with superhuman strength as the result of emergency surgery after being seriously injured on a secret mission. He leaves the force after defying orders to rescue war-buddy Wintergreen and eventually dons the Deathstroke moniker to begin work as an assassin for hire.
What’s his tragic backstory?
Essential in creating sympathy for even the most sadistic of individuals, every DC super villain worthy of the title needs a tragic backstory, and Deathstroke is no different. When he first emerged in the 1980s, Slade was tipped over the edge by the murder of his son Joseph during a botched kidnapping designed to bait Deathstroke into revealing the name of his employer. (FYI, that event led his understandably enraged wife Adeline to shoot him through the eye, which explains the lack of eyeholes on the right-side of his mask.) Future reboots see the character loose both his wife and son at the hands of a gang of North Korean soldiers. Most recently, his backstory was reworked yet again to have Slade’s son, now renamed Grant, offed when he tags along on his father’s mission in North Korea. Expect Deathstroke’s origins to be reworked once again for the upcoming movie to place Bruce Wayne at the centre of Slade Wilson’s misery.
Who are his enemies?
Deathstroke is something of a rarity among DC villains in that he is not strongly linked to one particular superhero. Originally seen as an arch-antagonist of the Teen Titans, a series in which he attempts to blow up the team with a Promethium bomb and almost mortally wounds Beast Boy, he has cropped up as an adversary to most DC heroes throughout his run. He’s perhaps best known as the primary villain during Arrow’s second season where Manu Bennett’s interpretation of the character arrives in Star City hell-bent taking down Oliver Queen as revenge for the death of his lover on Lian Yu.
What’s he beef with Batman?
If you think selecting a lesser-known rogue means Batman is going to get an easy ride in two years time, think again. Deathstroke is an incredibly formidable combatant – he once famously battled The Flash, Arrow, Green Lantern and Captain Marvel single-handed. And won! The character has crossed paths with the Caped Crusader on multiple occasions, most memorably in 1991’s City of Assassins arc, where Deathstroke mercilessly beats the Dark Knight to a bloody pulp. What’s more enticing is that the character is often referred to as the anti-Batman due to his reliance on his skill and cunning to overcome opponents and his disturbing world view of “I will do what I want because who will stop me?”, uncomfortable parallels Affleck is sure to draw upon for his solo movie.
Who will play him?
Considering news of Deathstroke’s appearance has only just been revealed, the identity of the man behind the mask is still anyone’s guess. Rumours have long focused on True Blood’s Joe Manganiello – who’s currently hanging out in London near to where Justice League is being filmed (can anyone else smell a cameo coming?).
One man who is almost certainly out of the running is Manu Bennett. Despite playing the character on the small screen in Arrow, Bennett’s version of Deathstroke has since been scrapped from the series to make way for a new interpretation on the big screen (a fate similarly suffered by Deadshot and Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad). Since his exit Bennet has had many not-so-nice things to say about the series.