‘Magic Mike‘ actor Joe Manganiello wanted to push beyond the realm of a cameo in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League‘ as Slade Wilson, the DC Comics rogue Deathstroke.
Deathstroke would have appeared in a Zack Snyder produced and Ben Affleck directed Batman film where the Dark Knight would have battled the assassin. Slade would have used the knowledge of Batman’s identity to slowly tear Bruce Wayne’s world apart and for some reason would give himself a mohawk.
Snyder fans got this idea trending on social media with #DeathstrokeHBOMax after the Pee-wee’s Big Holiday actor commented, according to CinemaBled, “Unfortunately, I don’t own the IP, but I think fans appetites are wetted for more. They want more.” While I have no issue with the Caped Crusader defeating the World’s Deadliest Assassin, this shows how ignorant so many are of the history of DC Comics, Slade Wilson, and his history with Batman.
There is this idea that has developed, primarily on social media, that Deathstroke is somehow a Batman adversary who has frequently arrived in Gotham City for a showdown. This is not the case historically and is a somewhat recent development. What is their real story and how did this come about?
Deathstroke is primarily an antagonist of the Teen Titans and a rival of Dick Grayson. He was created by writer Marv Wolfman with artist George Perez and first appeared in the 1980s series “The New Teen Titans.” Originally meant to be a minor villain, his popularity saw him as a recurring antagonist. He became the star of his own comic series in the 1990s where he became more of an anti-hero. This would see his first meeting with Batman where the pair teamed up to search for a mob witness who has gone missing. In the issue, Slade Wilson’s ferocious tactics see Batman being defeated at the hands of the assassin in “Deathstroke the Terminator” issues 6-9.
The two would have a rematch in “Detective Comics” issues 708-710 by Chuck Dixon where Deathstroke is trying to kill the Batman foe Gunhawk. He defeats the Guardian of Gotham once again, but Batman gets the upper hand after utilizing a stealth attack. The Dark Knight defeats the World’s Greatest Assassin, proving the Batman’s superiority.
Deathstroke would continue to appear to combat the Teen Titans, Green Arrow, and would join the Secret Society of Supervillains, battling the Justice League. It was during the Infinite Crisis that would see Batman and Deathstroke battle once again, with the former winning again. This would lead to the way to the New 52 and the solidifying of their rivalry.
The year 2013 would cement Deathstroke into the Gotham mythology. He became a boss in video game Batman: Arkham Origins and an antagonist in the disastrous Cartoon Network show Beware The Batman. That show would see Slade Wilson being a wayward apprentice of Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth. Everything wrong with that would have to be its own article.
Batman would face Deathstroke again in the Christopher Priest series “Batman Vs. Deathstroke.” Despite my criticism of this pairing, I actually enjoyed this story quite a bit. However, this “relationship” between Bruce and Slade would bleed into everything from the DCAU to animated films to television. It is an exaggeration of a villain who has primarily served as an antagonist for the Teen Titans and Green Arrow, not for the World’s Greatest Detective.
Formerly, Ra’s al Ghul, Bane, and the Beast were shown to be Batman’s equal as far as fighting prowess, strategy, and overall combat skill. Deathstroke was never meant to be a part of his rogues gallery. Does this mean he cannot fight Batman ever or even battle in a film? Of course, not. However, this dynamic feels forced and inorganic. Almost as if industry betters are trying to change history.
It does show how little filmmakers and even modern comic book writers know about the history of the characters they are adapting. Getting your cues from social media very rarely works. Hopefully, there will be a course shift soon, but I am not holding my breath.
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