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Michael Keaton’s Batman, Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Heath Ledger’s Joker – these are, perhaps, the greatest comic book inspired performances ever to grace the big screen.  But, after just one film and a whole slew of viral content, we’re ready to crown Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool the new champion.

As audiences around the world eagerly await the arrival of Deadpool 2 on May 18, the marketing campaign is in full swing and each new viral video or social media post is more calculated – and more outrageous – than the last, with the current batch poking fun at everything from painter Bob Ross, to Flashdance, to The Goonies – a film which Josh Brolin, Reynolds’ Deadpool 2 co-star, played one of the leads.  Thanks to the power of Twitter, the 41-year-old Reynolds continues to do Deadpool’s work, effortlessly breaking down the fourth wall and blurring the lines of reality and comic book amusement.

Despite having dozens of acting credits on his résumé, Deadpool is the role Reynolds was born to play.  The similarities between the actor and Wade Wilson (the alter-ego of “Mr. Pool”) run pretty deep – both are quirky, both have smart mouthed personas and both are from Canada.  Not to mention, if you want to take it next level, Reynolds made his acting debut on Feb. 3, 1991, just two days after Deadpool first appeared in issue No. 98 of Marvel’s New Mutants, before eventually becoming a mainstay character.

But Deadpool was almost doomed for a life of mediocrity on screen – that is, until one little viral video.

THE RISE OF ‘POOL ON FILM

Back in 2009, things were beginning to look great for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Fresh off the launch of the X-Men franchise, a trilogy that scored massively at the box office, the company was setting its sights on developing a storyline that would ultimately bring The Avengers to the big screen.  The previous year saw Iron Man blow the lid off of the comic book film craze, proving fans longed to see their childhood heroes come to life – and with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in the works, many wondered just how far Marvel would delve into its character repertoire.

With X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the answer immediately became apparent – almost any character, even lesser known ones such as The Blob and Kestrel, would be brought from the comics to the screen but could these less iconic roles be as well received as their Avengers counterparts?  Thanks to the origin story, the answer was unequivocally no and that was all because of Marvel dropping the ball with one significant character – Wade.  Now, everyone knows the story of Reynolds’ character and the inability to decipher just whether or not it was a lackluster attempt at Deadpool or something else.  But it’s all we had.

Sequels and reboots – unfortunately, Fantastic Four did actually happen – came and went, along with feature films around less popular Marvel creations like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, but still, no sign of anything even remotely resembling the red and black, sword-wielding “Merc with a Mouth.”

And then it happened, a 2012 Deadpool test footage video leaked and, like most things today, created a full-on shit storm the likes of which went well beyond traditional comic book nerds.  Suddenly, every social media outlet in the United States was inundated with the clip, along with the speculation of a film.  While it’s not known exactly who put the footage out there—some think it was Reynolds or director Tim Miller – it proved audiences wanted another crack at the wise mouth member of the X-Men Universe.  And, with the help of Reynolds’ convincing, Marvel came to its senses and took a shot at creating another franchise.

“When the leaked footage got around the internet, it created this enormous groundswell,” Reynolds told Variety in an interview last year.  “I credit Twitter users, Facebook users, and Instagram users for getting this movie made.”

It took another four years to release but Deadpool brought in a monster return at the box office, becoming the seventh highest grossing Marvel film ever – all while created for a measly $58 million.

Deadpool was destined for success from the start, thanks to an ingenious marketing plan by 20th Century Fox, dropping all sorts of pop culture references – from murdering Mario Lopez on the set of an Extra interview, to posing like Burt Reynolds on a bear skin rug in front of a fireplace, to a public service announcement parody instructing women on how to check for breast cancer.  With each new video, fans seemingly fell more in love with Deadpool and Reynolds’ interpretation, proving the marketing barrage was likely what the comic book version we’d come to love over the last 20-plus years would do.

REYNOLDS’ MAXIMUM EFFORT

There’s one major difference between Reynolds and others that have played iconic comic book characters on film and that’s a true, unbridled love for the character and the willingness to do just about anything for it.  Most others like Keaton and Reeve seemed primarily money driven and while that might reign true with Reynolds, there’s also a genuine love for Deadpool.  Left with a bad taste in his mouth after that Weapon XI/Deadpool fiasco in Wolverine’s origin, he knew the character was one that, if done correctly, would thrive.  His ongoing passion is reflected in the film and his viral videos.

After Deadpool’s release, it was evident that Reynolds poured himself into the character and wanted the film to be successful because, in a way, it’s kind of his baby.  Let’s be honest, he really made it happen and helped paved the way for Rated R comic book films that have the ability to reach a mainstream audience.   It was a role almost 11 years in the making for Reynolds, but he spent much of that time honing Deadpool’s personality and writing jokes, he believed, would fit perfectly with the script.  And that passion even spills into his Twitter feed.  Most of his feed consists of Deadpool related conversation – which could be the smallest detail paying homage to the comic book or an Easter egg in the teaser.  The first film – and the sequel, as evident by the trailer – is riddled with Easter eggs, some of which we have to imagine Reynolds was integral in getting on the big screen.  Most are clearly nods at other things the actor has done in his career, or things he’s passionate about – or just things he wants to ridicule.

But this is just the beginning.  It seems as though Reynolds wants to portray the character for as long as possible, admitting that they already have sever storylines for additional sequels.  He never wants to abandon the red and black spandex and, for that, I think we’re all glad Green Lantern didn’t work out.

“I never want to play another comic book character again – Deadpool, I would like to play for the rest of my life – that’d be fun,” Reynolds told IGN back in 2016. “I’ve done a number of them, and I think it’s time for other people to do them now. You’ve got to share the wealth on that one.”

Keep them coming, Reynolds.  Your love of the character doesn’t go unnoticed, in fact, it only adds to our own love for Deadpool.