DC Comics LEGACIES: A Field Guide #7: DEATHSTROKE

DCU LEGACIES: Field Guide: DEATHSTROKE

DCULegacies Field Guide #1: Superman and Batman

DCULegacies Field Guide #2: Aquaman

DCULegacies Field Guide #3: Flash Facts!

DCU Legacies Field Guide #4: Original Green Lanern

DCU Legacies Field Guide #5: Green Arrow

DCU Legacies Field Guide #6: Bizarro

Sometimes you have a heroic legacy.  Sometimes you have a villainous legacy.  And sometimes you have a knotty, confused, occasionally heroic, occasionally villainous legacy that includes statutory rape.  Welcome to the Wilsons!  Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke the Terminator claims a legacy that’s frequently complex, but always dangerous.

Slade and Adeline:  Slade Wilson first appeared in New Teen Titans #2 in 1980.  Initially, he was largely just called The Terminator; witness, for example, the cover to New Teen Titans #10, which proclaims “The Terminator is back—and, boy, is he mad!”  It’s widely understood that, over time, the Terminator assignation fell away as the primary way of referring to the character due to the rise of the Cameron/Arnold “The Terminator” in 1984.  Granted, Slade Wilson came first, but it makes sense, in retrospect (particularly given the later Ellison lawsuit and the subsequent move of the Terminator film franchise to comics, beginning with NOW in 1988).

At any rate, Slade’s future wife Adeline was in fact one of the trainers that made Slade a badass in the first place.  As revealed during the course of the Titans storyline “The Judas Contract”, Slade was part of an experiment to create super-soldiers, including treatments that gave them use of a much larger brain activity capacity than normal humans.  Slade abandoned the orders of his superiors in order to rescue his captive friend Wintergreen, even designing an early version of his costume to undertake the mission.  After that, Slade quit the military and became a mercenary, with Wintergreen as his assistant.  Though he married Adeline, he kept her in the dark about his other life.   They had two sons, Grant and Joseph.

Slade’s secrets would later bite the Wilson family hard.  One of Slade’s enemies kidnapped Joseph to use as leverage on Slade.  The mercenary refused to give in to their demands and instead attacked the kidnappers.  Slade killed them all, but the fallout was the Joseph had his throat cut during the course of the fight.  Joseph lived, but was rendered mute.  Furious at the injuries to Joseph and in a rage at the lies that led to his kidnapping, Adeline attempted to shoot Slade.  Slade lived, but at the cost of his right eye.

The first Ravager:  Years later, Grant underwent treatments by the H.I.V.E. that gave him a similar power set to his dad.  Named the Ravager, Grant took a contract to capture or kill the recently formed “new” Teen Titans.  Unfortunately for Grant, the powers he received from the H.I.V.E. killed him.  Slade took over the contract on the Titans.  This led to many subsequent clashes with the team.  During one (in the aforementioned #10), Slade nearly killed Changeling (Gar Logan/Beast Boy), beginning their lengthy feud.

Later, Deathstroke created a hostage crisis in New York.  Changeling and Titans ally Terra (the younger sister of Outsider Geo-Force) intervened.  Terra’s heroic actions landed her an invite to join the Titans.  Then, in one of the great all time shock moments in comics, it’s revealed that Terra was actually working WITH Slade so that he could plant a traitor in the group.  Possibly even more shocking than that, the 15-year-old Terra was also carrying on a sexual relationship with the much older Slade.

After months of fighting and living alongside the Titans as an ally, Terra sprung the trap.  She and Deathstroke took the Titans to the H.I.V.E., with the exception of Dick Grayson, Robin, who had escaped.  Dick encounters Adeline and Joseph, and learns the origin of Slade.  To undertake the rescue mission, Dick dons the Nightwing identity for the first time.  The meta-powered Joseph joins him as Jericho.  The two heroes end up freeing the Titans at one of H.I.V.E.’s HQs.  Deathstroke realizes that Joseph is his son, and at more than one critical juncture, hesitates, allowing Joseph to defeat him.  Seeing Slade’s feelings for his son, Terra has a complete psychotic break, leading directly to her death in an avalanche caused by her own powers.  After this, Changeling, who had fallen in love with Terra, hates Slade even more.  Changeling fixes Slade’s trial so that he has a chance to kill him, but Slade points out that Terra was, well, batsh!t crazy all on her own.  The two men agree to stand down (with Gar apparently giving Deathstroke a pass on the whole statutory thing), with Slade and Wintergreen departing the country.

 

Jericho:  After the death of Terra, Jericho joined the Titans.  He served as a member in good standing for quite some time.  Deathstroke would return, and actually aid the Titans on a couple of occasions.  Deathstroke would become a full-fledged ally of the Titans during the Titans Hunt.  This was precipitated by the kidnapping of the Titans and several of their allies by the villain Wildebeest.  It turned out that there were in fact many Wildebeests, all part of a society dedicated to bringing the Titans down. 

A stand-in Titans team of Deathstroke, Arella (Raven’s sorceress mother), Steve Dayton (the former Mento and stepfather of Changeling), Nightwing, Red Star, and new allies Pantha and Phantasm attempted to save the Titans.  During the course of the “Hunt”, Cyborg was severely injured and practically lost his humanity for a while.   It was eventually revealed that the chief Wildebeest was, in fact, Jericho!  He’d been possessed by souls of Azarath, Raven’s extradimensional home, after an earlier battle with Trigon.  He was going to use the super-powered bodies of the Titans and their friends as new hosts for the souls.  During the battle that ensued, Joseph’s true personality broke through for a minute and begged Slade to kill him.  Slade impaled his son with his sword.  Before the battle had ended, the souls were absorbed into a new Phantasm entity and Arella, Titan’s ally Danny Chase, and Raven (once again corrupted by her father’s grip on her soul) all died.

After this, Slade still assisted the Titans from time to time, particularly during the battles with Lord Chaos.  Slade went on to have many adventures as a mercenary.  It was during this time that he learned of Rose, the daughter he never knew he had.  More on her in a bit.  Slade also underwent new treatments, gaining a healing factor (won’t fix the eye though; insurance labeled it a pre-existing condition).  When later compelled to give Adeline a blood transfusion, the new power drove Slade’s former wife insane.

Adeline went so crazy, in fact, that she brought back the H.I.V.E. to get revenge on the re-re-formed Titans for Jericho’s death.  In a fit of irony, Adeline’s throat was slit.  This wouldn’t kill her, but it wouldn’t heal either, due to the corruption of the healing factor in her blood.  Adeline begged Slade to kill her so she could be with the late Grant and Joseph, but Slade wouldn’t it.  Titan Starfire, however, disintegrated Adeline at her request.  From that moment, Slade’s tentative friendship with the Titans was dead.

Rose:  First appearing in Deathstroke’s own series (#15 in 1992), Rose is the daughter of Slade and Lillian Worth.  Lillian kept Rose a secret over time, but she was discovered by Wintergreen when Lillian aided Slade at her brothel.  Wade DeFarge, Deathstroke’s half-brother, took on the identity of the Ravager and attempted to kill all of Slade’s remaining family and associates.  He kidnapped Rose, but Wintergreen rescued her; Lillian died during the attempt.  Rose wishes to be with her father, but the deaths of Grant and Joseph weigh heavily on him.  Slade left her with the Titans.  Rose is part of the Titans allies that gathered during “The Technis Imperative” ; for a time, she’s also the babysitter of Lian Harper.

 

Ravager Rose:  Rose, still a minor, is adopted by a family from Chicago.  Unfortunately, DeFarge re-appears and kills them (paid, unknowingly, by Deathstroke, who wanted to bring Rose back to him, sick bastard).  Deathstroke also secretly tells the Titans that Rose is in danger, part of an elaborate ruse to get her back.  Slade asks Rose to become his new student, and gives her the chance to kill DeFarge.  She does, and she takes the name Ravager for herself.  Slade also shoots Rose up with the treatment that gave him his powers, but it makes her psychotic.

Jericho Returns:  By this point, Jericho had returned!  Apparently, Jericho’s spirit form had survived the stabbing by leaping into his father.  Upon the apparent death of Donna Troy in “Graduation Day”, Jericho took over Slade and attacked the re-re-re-re-reformed Teen Titans .  Jericho-possessed-Slade killed Wintergreen and tried to cripple Kid Flash (Bart Allen).  The reborn Raven’s soul-self absorbed Jericho during leaps between bodies.  Once out, he tried to possess Cyborg, who cleverly converted Jericho into digital file (somehow) for storage in Titans Tower.  Raven later uses the same ritual that gave her a new body to make a new body for Jericho; healed mentally and physically, Jericho joins the post-Infinite Crisis Titans.

He did this partially to be with Rose. During the previous battle with the Titans, Rose hesitated to kill Joseph (who was in Beast Boy’s body).  To make amends, Rose cut out of her own eyes to show her commitment to her father.  Deathstroke is then duped by Nightwing, who is masquerading as a villain.  Nightwing trains Rose, and eventually, after numerous circumstances, is able to show her that Slade doesn’t care about putting her in danger.  Rose joins the Teen Titans.  Though she’s suspected of being a traitor at one point, Ravager saves Raven from actual-then-traitor Bombshell, enabling Raven to conduct the above ritual to restore Jericho.

Deathstroke Loves Teenagers:  Deathstroke had been a busy guy in the past few years.  In addition to his dealings with the Titans, he found time to keep taking contracts, join the Society, and generally be the scary go-to villain.  Deathstroke also organized the anti-Titans of Titans East, a team of teen villains featuring Batgirl (Cassie Cain, since recovered), Risk, Inertia, Bombshell, Duela Dent, Enigma, Kid Crusader, Match, and Sun Girl.  Deathstroke overtly wanted to take his children back, but later it was indicated that what he really wanted to do was make his kids accepted by the Titans since they didn’t have a real family.  He figured the best way to do this was to make them close ranks against him.  Yes, I know; the Wilsons have more heel-face-heel turns that the McMahons.

After this, Slade tried to manipulate Terra’s older brother, Geo-Force, into being his spy inside the JLA.   Slade was also responsible for the super-villain army that attacked during Green Arrow and Black Canary’s wedding.  The Geo-Force gambit backfired when the two nearly killed each other during DC Universe: Last Will and Testament.  Ravager attempted to kill him while he was recovering, but he escaped.

Jericho Gets Into Politics: During the battle with Titans East, Jericho possessed Match and went to S.T.A.R. Labs to see if there was a way to get the creature under control.  However, long-term residence in Match’s head made Jericho crazy again.  Jericho tried to interfere in the presidential election, but was defeated by the JLA.  Jericho escaped and tried to hide out in Nightwing; the pursuing JLA caused him to body-hop into Superman.  It seems that Superman’s alien body is too strong for him to take over, and Jericho disappeared.

Jericho came back during the “Deathtrap” story, trying to use Titans Towers systems against the team.  Static caused an overload that blasted Jericho out of his host, Cyborg.   Jericho battled the latest iterations of the Titans and the Teen Titans before being defeated by the newest Vigilante; Vigilante gouged out Jericho’s eyes, the instruments by which he made contact for possessing people.

 

Damn Dirty Zombies: It was a big old Wilson Family Reunion during “Blackest Night”.  Black Lantern versions of Grant, Adeline, Wade and Wintergreen came after Slade, Rose, and Jericho (whose eyes had grown back; Dad must be envious).  Jericho confuses the BLs to the point where they destroy each other.  He reconciles with Slade, but Rose rejects them both.  Rose does, however, have hope that her mother is alive, considering she wasn’t one of the attacking Black Lanterns.

Slade Wilson, Titans Leader:  These days, Slade runs his own team of Titans, a group of villains that includes Chesire, Osiris, Arsenal (see the Green Arrow legacy), Cinder and Mark/Tattooed Man.  According to writer Eric Wallace, at the DC blog, “Slade is a dysfunctional father to these “children” (Osiris, Mark, Cinder, Cheshire, and Arsenal). So I often find myself drawing on the lessons of childhood and parenthood when shaping how and why the characters act or react in a particular situation. And what kind of dad is Slade? Well, there are many kinds of fathers out there. A father can be good, bad, selfish, honest, dangerous, self-destructive, loving, homicidal, stressed out, kind, gentle, or pure evil. Slade is all of these and more. It’s what makes him, and all fathers, human.”   That, and the occasional illicit congress with a disturbed teenager.  The first mission of Slade’s new little family was the murder of The Atom, Ryan Choi.  The team’s ongoing fate is addressed in the present Titans: Villains for Hire series.

Slade Wilson, Deathstroke the Terminator, represents an extremely complicated figure in the DCU.  He’s a murderer that’s committed despicable acts, but he’s also done positive things in adherence to some strange, diffuse moral code.  He apparently loves his children with no idea of how to actually do it.  His offspring have often shown heroic tendencies, but frequently offset that with distrust, violence, and insanity.  Whatever his fate, Deathstroke will continue to be a major part of the DCU and progenitor of one of its darker legacies.

Is Deathstroke irredeemable?  

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