EW's quick guide to all of the comic references in the new superhero movie

By Christian Holub
May 18, 2018 at 05:44 PM EDT
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Warning: This article contains spoilers from Deadpool 2. Read at your own risk!

Like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 talks a mile-a-minute. If you go to the bathroom at any point while watching, you’ll probably miss at least three different references to X-Men movies, Marvel comics, and/or Barbra Streisand musicals. And even if you’re watching the whole time, you may not get every single reference made by the Merc with a Mouth. Here, EW breaks down all of Deadpool 2‘s best Easter eggs and X-Men comic references.

Comic book origins

Contrary to what you may believe after years of tongue-in-cheek cameos in other Marvel movies, Stan Lee did not create every single Marvel superhero (mostly just the ones from the ‘60s). Deadpool, by contrast, was created in 1991 by writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Rob Liefeld (neither appear in Deadpool 2). That doesn’t mean Lee isn’t worthy of a nod, though. In the first movie, he makes a brief appearance as a strip club emcee, a role he wishes had actually been bigger. He does appear in the latest movie, though it’s not per se a cameo, instead appearing in graffiti—the epitome of an Easter egg.

Deadpool 2 also makes plenty of references to the comic history of its characters. Liefeld gets a tongue-in-cheek shout-out when, at one point, Deadpool rhetorically asks what kind of crazy comic artist could come up with all this. He immediately replies to his own question by shouting, “Probably someone who can’t draw feet!” This is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Liefeld’s art style. As one of the superstar comic artists of ‘90s Marvel, Liefeld excelled at drawing bursting muscles and huge guns but was significantly less interested in drawing characters’ feet. As an example, witness this cover for X-Force #3 from 1991. There are seven characters on this cover (including Juggernaut, who emerges as the surprise villain of Deadpool 2), but only five feet are visible, and the ones that are there barely match their characters’ proportions. Liefeld apparently loved the film, so it’s all in good fun.

Credit: Marvel

Although Liefeld returned to Deadpool for last year’s graphic novel Deadpool: Bad Blood, for the last few years most of Marvel’s Deadpool comics have been written by Gerry Duggan. Duggan gets his own shout-out in the film when the new X-Force team is planning an attack on the convoy carrying young Russell Collins (Julian Dennison). Weasel (T.J. Miller) notes that one of the roads involved is “Gerry Duggan Parkway.” These kids grow up so fast, but they never forget where they came from!

Cable to the past

In his classic fourth-wall-breaking style, Deadpool appears in an intro video before some theater screenings of the film, warning viewers not to look up the backstory of Cable (Josh Brolin) when they get home because it doesn’t make any sense. Cable’s origins are, indeed, quite confusing, and Deadpool 2 narrows them quite a bit. Josh Brolin’s version of the time-traveling mutant is streamlined from the comics: He’s a soldier from the future with a glowing eye and cybernetic arm, and he’s here on a very specific mission.

Nonetheless, Deadpool 2 does contain some clear nods to Cable’s convoluted backstory. At one point, a shirtless Brolin is staring at himself in the mirror, and the camera lingers over his robotic arm and how its roots stretch deep into his chest. This scene makes a lot more sense if you know that Cable’s robot parts are not prosthetic replacements, but the result of a “techno-organic virus” he was infected with as a child. As the son of Cyclops and Jean Grey, Cable inherited his mother’s vast telekinetic powers, but is forced to use them mostly to keep the virus at bay. Nevertheless, it’s always in danger of taking over his whole body, and there are times in the film where Brolin seems very haunted by that ever-present possibility.

The other comic book nod involves Cable’s daughter. Throughout the film, Brolin’s Cable sports a ruined teddy bear on his belt as a reminder of how his daughter was killed by a future version of Russell. Once Deadpool succeeds in fixing the timeline and preventing the death of Cable’s family, the teddy bear turns back to normal. At that point, Cable reveals his daughter’s name: Hope. This is a clear reference to the last few years of Cable comic story lines, when the warrior took a young mutant child named Hope into the future to prepare her for her eventual responsibilities as the “mutant messiah.”

Cable’s own name, by the way, is Nathan Summers.

When small characters hit the big screen

Brianna Hildebrand reprises her role as Negasonic Teenage Warhead for Deadpool 2. This character is indeed from X-Men comics, although she’s gotten quite a makeover for the movie version. She was first created by writer Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely in their early-2000’s New X-Men series as one of Emma Frost’s students on the mutant island of Genosha. Due to her telepathic and precognitive powers, Negasonic Teenage Warhead was one of the only people to predict the mass slaughter of Genosha’s inhabitants (including herself) by mutant-hunting Sentinel robots.

Hildebrand’s version, obviously, does not have any telepathic powers. Instead, she has the explosive abilities of another classic X-Force member, Cannonball. Reportedly, the comics-to-screen change came about as part of a deal between Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox, in which Fox was able to alter adaptation in exchange for Marvel getting to use Ego the Living Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (where he was portrayed memorably by Kurt Russell).

Another minor character from X-Men comics also shows up in Deadpool 2 in the form of Black Tom Cassidy (Jack Kesy). Though Deadpool mostly uses his name as a joke (calling Cable “racist” after killing him), Black Tom was the Irish brother of X-Men ally Banshee. He often teamed up with Juggernaut, but his partner in crime gets a much bigger role in the film.

Past X-Men movies

Although Deadpool 2 takes aim at pretty much every modern superhero movie (from Avengers: Infinity War to DC Universe films like Justice League), it saves most of its fire for fellow X-Men movies. The film literally starts with a close-up of a figurine in Deadpool’s apartment depicting Wolverine’s death scene from the end of Logan. Deadpool then tries to blow himself up. Though his death drive through the rest of the film is partly fueled by his longing for Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Deadpool is also clearly jealous of Wolverine’s heroic exit.

That’s far from the only visual Wolverine reference in Deadpool 2. While fighting Cable on a moving truck, Deadpool successfully blocks several bullets with his katanas, a reference to his character’s fighting style in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. There is an even more explicit reference to X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Deadpool 2’s mid-credits scenes.

Though Wolverine usually hogs the spotlight, there are plenty of other X-Men out there, too. References to Professor X, for one, abound. Deadpool takes the professor’s iconic wheelchair for a spin while convalescing at the X-Mansion, and even tries on Cerebro, the equipment Professor X usually uses to amplify his powers enough to locate other mutants (Deadpool, sadly, is not capable of achieving the same effect). Elsewhere, when Deadpool is loudly wondering why the only X-Men he ever interacts with are Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the full cast of X-Men: Apocalypse (including Professor X himself, James McAvoy) can be briefly seen closing a door to keep him away from their space.

Deadpool 2

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