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Comic Book / Deathstroke

Now would be a good time to start running.

Slade Wilson, better known by his professional nom de guerre of Deathstroke the Terminator (later shortened to Deathstroke after a certain movie came out), is a fictional mercenary, freelance assassin and supervillain in DC Comics who first appeared in The New Teen Titans (vol. 1) #2 (December, 1980). He was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.

Originally, Deathstroke was intended to be a minor, one-shot villain but fan-reaction saw him become a regular, recurring character in not only the Teen Titans but in other series as well. He later starred, three times, in his own comic series. The first series ran from August 1991 to June 1996 the second started in November 2011, and the third in October 2014. In 2009 IGN ranked Deathstroke as the 32nd greatest comic book villain of all time.

Slade Wilson was just sixteen years old when he lied about his age and enlisted in the United States Army where he eventually reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. It was also in the Army that he met his future wife, and combat trainer, Adeline Kane. Slade was eventually shipped to Vietnam, where he would end up being rescued by his future right-hand man, an SAS commando named Wintergreen. After his tour in Vietnam, Slade was selected to be a test subject for an experiment designed to create metahuman supersoldiers. This left him with enhanced physical and mental abilities as well as a healing factor. Slade deserted soon afterwards to rescue Wintergreen after a vindictive superior officer sent him on a suicide mission. Deciding to put his skills and abilities to a profitable use, Slade became a mercenary.

Slade would eventually cross paths with the Teen Titans when his son Grant, following in his father's mercenary footsteps, took a contract from the Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination (H.I.V.E) to kill or capture the Teen Titans. Grant died in the attempt and Slade agreed to finish his son's job. This would be start of a long history of conflict between Deathstroke and the Titans. Because of his skills as a mercenary, Slade would eventually wind up duking it out with several DC heroes over the next three decades.

Outside of comics, Deathstroke was featured as the main antagonist in the Teen Titans animated series, with his name changed to the more kid-friendly moniker of "Slade" (voiced by Ron Perlman). A more comic-accurate version of Deathstroke (voiced by Wentworth Miller, then Fred Tatasciore) appeared in the second season of Young Justice, working as an enforcer for the Light. He appeared as a General Ripper antagonist in Smallville, played by Michael Hogan. He was a main character in the first two season's of Arrow, where he's played by mixed-race actor Manu Bennett. He also appeared in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (reprised by Perlman), was one of the major villains in Beware the Batman (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes), and was the main antagonist in Son of Batman (voiced by Thomas Gibson).

He's also appeared as a playable fighter in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (voiced by Patrick Seitz), Injustice: Gods Among Us (voiced by J.G. Hertzler), and Batman: Arkham Origins (voiced by Mark Rolston) as a villain and DLC character.

Tropes pertaining to Deathstroke:

  • Abusive Parent: Slade is not the most loving father, Even putting aside how he was heavily involved in the deaths of both of his sons, you could make a case for this solely for Slade's daughter and the emotional manipulation and abuse he puts her through.
  • Action Dad: While his fatherly instincts leave something to be desired there is no denying that Slade is a badass.
  • Anti-Hero: He has drifted into this category on a couple of occasions. It was most notable during the Total Chaos storyline.
  • Anti-Villain: Slade is a mercenary but he does have something of a fairly strong moral code. Of course, this has been subject to change from time to time.
  • Arch-Enemy: To the Teen Titans as a whole. Now the Titans have gone through tons of Big Bads, and let's face it, Slade isn't the biggest or baddest. But he is the most persistent and most personal enemy the team has ever faced.
    • Naturally, he shares a special rivalry with Nightwing.
  • Awesome McCool Name: His actual name is Slade Wilson. Deathstroke the Terminator is his nom de guerre.
  • Badass: This guy single-handedly beat the crap out of the entire Justice League... except Superman, who took him down with trivial ease. Still, when it takes Superman to take you down...
  • Badass Back: Deathstroke manages to skewer the Flash on his sword with a blind strike behind him, despite the fact that the Flash at that point is moving so much faster than Deathstroke that the villain must have looked like an inanimate statue to the hero.
  • Badass Bandolier: Look at the picture.
  • Badass Normal: If there is anyone in the DCU that gives Batman a run for his money, it's Slade Wilson. Not just give Batman a run for his money, Slade is the only person in DC to have a winning record (3-1) against the Dark Knight.
    Deathstroke: [to Batman] You've trained yourself to fight. I've trained myself to kill.
  • Badass Grandpa: He was in the army while most of the Teen Titans hadn't been born.
  • Balls of Steel: Canary once managed to land a kick on Deathstroke right in the crotch, but this trope is used as he angrily replied that he's wearing over 50 pounds of body armor, so of course he's wearing a cup.
  • Big Bad: Of the Judas Contract, Titans Hunt, and first two seasons of Teen Titans. While in scale dosen't quite match Trigon's, Deathstroke is still the the most frequent of the Titans and also served as the this in some of Dick's solo series.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Oh boy, where to start? You know, it's saying something when Slade may actually be the only sane one left in his immediate family. His wife, Addie, was ostensibly on the side of angels, but her methods weren't. They only seemed to get worse with time. Eldest son Grant was a Psycho for Hire who ended up killing himself when going up against the Teen Titans. Middle child Joseph "Jericho" Wilson was the White Sheep; a genuinely nice, artistic sort and a Titan in good standing...until he made contact with Raven's demonic side and the corrupted remnants of Azarath and went nuts as a result. Rose, the youngest, and the product of Slade's affair with a brothel keeper/mercenary, gouged her own eye out in an attempt to be just like daddy (that, before her Heel–Face Turn). So Yeah.
  • Blood Knight: Some of his statements show that he really enjoys his line of work.
    (in response to Lagoon Boy requesting backup) "See, calling for help like that just pushes up the timetable. Now I can't savor the battle."
  • Boom Stick: One of his signature weapons is a power staff that fires lethal and non-lethal energy blasts from both ends.
  • Breakout Villain: He was intended to be a minor, practically one-shot villain. Soon winded up getting his own comic book series and has become fan favorite villain of the DC Universe.
  • Break Them by Talking: He is a master at this trope.
  • Characterization Marches On: Slade was far more of a dirt bag in his earliest appearances, in sharp contrast to his eventual Anti-Villain status. One of his earliest appearances had him kidnapping Cyborg's love interest in order to lure the Teen Titans into a trap, something that would seem at odds with his Never Hurt an Innocent guidelines that would be established in later issues.
  • Colonel Badass: Slade was a Lieutenant Colonel back when he was still serving in the US Army.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Slade's the type of guy who would stab you in the back literally or shoot you in the head before you even knew what was happening.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Slade, going after an employer who betrayed him, is targeted by a second assassin, Jannissary. When Slade has Jannissary at his mercy and explains his motives, Jannissary gives him the money he had paid; Slade returns it before killing the employer.
  • Cool Sword: In Injustice: Gods Among Us he has large (but not quite BFS-level) longsword that's serrated near the hilt.
  • The Corrupter: He's tried to turn Nightwing evil, along with telling Arsenal he was gonna take his daughter after he killed him and raise her to be a mercenary assassin.
    • Slade also has a tendency to do this with mind altering drugs. He's done it on Rose and was later revealed to be doing it to Cassandra Cain in order to explain her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He's often depicted as an evil version of Batman (which makes him a good foil for Robin).
  • Cultured Badass: Slade is often seen sipping champagne and enjoying the finer things in life.
  • Dark Age of Supernames: A prime example of a character managing to stay top-tier despite a name that seems hilariously over the top today.
  • Depending on the Writer: Does he care for his children or are they his pawns? Is he really evil or just in it for the money? About the only thing that doesn't change depending on who writes him is that he's a badass.
  • Dirty Old Man: Shows this aspect on occasion. It became especially apparent during The Judas Contract arc.
  • Disposable Superhero Maker: Back in the 1950's, when Slade volunteered for the experiments that gave him his superhuman abilities, the serum eventually plunged him into a coma. The scientists decided to destroy the serum formula. Months later, Slade woke up with superhuman powers.
  • The Dragon: He's ended up serving in this position more than once in his mercenary career.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Slade was already one of the best soldiers in the US Army when he was selected to be a test subject in an experiment to create metahuman super-soldiers. This left him with physical abilities just above the human norm and a healing factor of indeterminate strength. Couple that with his training and combat experience and you got yourself one hell of a mercenary.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even he was disgusted by how Cheshire had sold out her own team and rewarded her for it by shooting her in the gut.
    • He was sickened by a village massacre his unit participated in during the Vietnam War.
  • Evil Counterpart: He's a mercenary Batman. To get more detailed both are a quintessential Badass Normal, are typically Crazy-Prepared and Deathstroke even has his own Battle Butler in Wintergreen, a sort of Evil Counterpart to Alfred. Finally there's the fact that Batman will never use a gun whereas Deathstroke is a Walking Armory.
    • Considering his origin story and power-set he could be considered an amoral Captain America whose willing to sell his services to the highest bidder.
  • Evil Mentor: He does this as a hobby. He once acted as an Evil Mentor to Terra, before he realized too late that she was even more evil than him. He also tried to turn Nightwing evil in the "Renegade" storyline, but Nightwing turned that around by acting as a Good Mentor to Slade's daughter Rose which led to her Heel–Face Turn. He also founded an Evil Counterpart to the Teen Titans twice. In Outsiders, while fighting Arsenal, he once mentioned that after he killed Roy he would take Lian and raise her to be an assassin. Slade in general has a disturbing interest in corrupting the next generation of superbeings.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: He's been voiced by Ron Perlman and Fred Tatasciore. And played by Manu Bennett, which made him sound very much like a Badass Baritone.
  • Expy: Deathstroke bears some resemblance to the Marvel character Taskmaster, whom debuted several months beforehand. Both have some similar design elements (such as the buccaneer-style boots and color scheme), their powersets are roughly similar (Deathstroke's brain enhancements compared to Taskmaster's "photographic reflexes"), and have similar roles; however given the short period of time between their respective debuts it's likely coincidence (the visual similarity may be because they both were first drawn by the same artist, George Perez). But Deathstroke also inspired a rather memorable Expy. A lot of people forget that Deadpool was originally a blatant copy-cat of Deathstroke.
    • Another Marvel character who has some simularities with him is the D-list anti-hero Solo. Both met their wife while serving in the military, both gained their powers as part of a military experiment, and both use a sword in tandem with firearms.
  • Eyepatch of Power: He wears one over where used to be the right eye when he's unmasked.
  • Eye Scream: He lost an eye when his wife shot him for endangering their son Jericho (which led to Jericho getting his throat cut and losing his voice).
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: His mask is split between black and orange. Underneath, one eye is cybernetic.
  • Friendly Enemy: Deathstroke and Beast Boy developed a relationship like this in the '80s. Beast Boy was about to fight him to the death when Deathstroke appealed to his humanity by showing up without his mask, stating that it was the faceless mask that he wanted to kill, not the person behind it. They later talked things over in a diner.
  • Genius Bruiser: He's a very good planner and manipulator as well as a Super Soldier.
  • Get It Over With: Once a young assassin named Janissary came after Deathstroke. The fight ended with Janissary's hanging by one hand from a bridge with Deathstroke standing over him and telling Deathstroke to end it. Deathstroke retorts that if J wants him to kill him, J will have to hire him.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: He and Beast Boy meet in a coffeeshop to discuss the death of Terra. This happens AFTER Beast Boy tried to kill him (and was unable to go through with it).
  • Guns Akimbo: He has been known to dual-wield pistols and SMGs.
  • The Gunslinger: Mainly of the Type C variety but occasionally drifting into Type A and B territory.
  • Handicapped Badass: You see how his mask only has one eyehole? That's because his wife shot out the other eye. Doesn't slow him down.
  • Harmful to Minors: He pumped his daughter full of mind control steroids and let her carry around a chunk of cancerous meteorite in her eye socket, the eye which she gouged out herself so as to make her "just like him." Slade still claims he had Rose's situation "under control."
  • Hero Killer: He's killed a couple of heroes, including Phantom Lady and the third Atom. Then in the trailer for DC Universe Online, he almost kills Batman. Unfortunately, while his powerset (he's basically an evil Batman with guns and a healing factor thrown in or Deadpool with sanity) should make him utterly terrifying to normals and low-level metas, it's a little more difficult to accept him as a serious threat to the likes of Superman and Green Lantern.
  • Hired Gun: The guy will fight for whoever pays him.
  • It's Personal: He originally went after the Titans because his son got killed going after them and he views them has having taken his family away from him.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: He's a damn good shot with just about any type of firearm. To give one example, in Young Justice he's introduced by shooting a shuriken thrown by Sportsmaster with a handgun.
  • Invincible Villain: Under a bad writer he can be this. His most infamous showing was in Identity Crisis, in which he demonstrated faster reflexes than Wally West and enough willpower to convince a Green Lantern ring to not attack him. The encounter ends with the entire Justice League on the floor spitting up blood, and Slade quipping that this League, made up mostly of new faces (in Comic-Book Time terms, anyway) to superheroing, is so much weaker than the old one... despite the fact that many of them (Wally in particular) are far more powerful than their predecessors. You'd think that an arrow to the eye would have done something more than force him to retreat, but he was just fine afterwards.
  • Karma Houdini: The second Titans volume may have ended with Slade's overall goals failing, but he still gets away with the brutal murder of Ryan Choi. This is later addressed in Convergence, when Slade gets his ass kicked by both Ray Palmer and a newly Back from the Dead Ryan.
  • Knee-capping: He once shot Impulse in the kneecap. To add insult to injury given the accelerated healing abilities of The Flash Family, the doctors in the ER have to re-break it repeatedly because it keeps healing automatically but incorrectly.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Things are never Lighter and Softer when Slade's around. Never.
    • ...except in Tiny Titans, where he's the school principal.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He's not quite as good at this as some other DC characters. Most of his targets tend to be damaged teenagers a generation or two younger than him, hardly the most challenging targets. When his powers of persuasion aren't enough to get them to work for him, he's not above using blackmail, death threats, mind controlling drugs, and Psycho Serum to force them to join him.
  • May-December Romance: Shortly after his introduction it was revealed that both Slade and Terra had shared an intimate relationship, despite Terra being fifteen years old and Slade having joined the Army in the late 1950s, early 1960s.
  • Mind Screw: Break Them by Talking, Mind Rape, manipulation, yeah, conversations with Slade tend not to be so good for people's sanity.
  • Mirror Universe: In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Slade is the President of the United States.
  • Morality Chain: Wintergreen was this for the entire Wilson family. His Undying Loyalty made him complicit in Slade's shadier dealings, but he always tried to bring out the best in him and his children. Wintergeen's death at the hands of the Jericho-possessed Deathstroke destroyed any chance that Slade could ever go through a true Heel–Face Turn. Rose at least managed to eventually turn good.
  • Motive Decay: He started out as a ruthless, though not unscrupulous assassin who honestly didn't have any great animosity towards the team and originally only came into conflict with them as part of fulfilling a contract that his son died trying to complete. When he dropped the contract he actually became rather amiable towards his former targets. Then he became a Card-Carrying Villain and doing things like injecting his only surviving child with a Psycho Serum and implanting a chunk of radioactive kryptonite in her eye socket and nuking Bludhaven to spite Nightwing (a character he had previously had a lot of respect for). Following the reboot, Deathstroke is a Consummate Professional who's concerned with maintaining his reputation as he gets older. No connection to the Titans, though he still can't maintain a decent relationship with his family.
  • Movie Superheroes Wear Black: In Teen Titans, Young Justice and Arrow, Deathstroke's trademark blue and orange costume is replaced with black body armor.
  • Multi-Ranged Master: It's not unusual for Deathstroke to be carrying pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, etc... all at the same time.
  • The Musketeer: He is skilled in the use of both melee weapons and guns and regularly carries examples of both types at once.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Deathstroke the Terminator. Uh yeah, I think I Need to Go Iron My Dog.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: Another one of those things that depends on the writer. During the controversial Titans issue where he murdered Ryan Choi, Deathstroke notably spared the life of Choi's girlfriend Amanda, stating that she had nothing to do with the battle.
  • Never My Fault: His entire motivation for hating the Teen Titans and trying to kill them was that he blamed them for the loss of his family. In reality, Deathstroke himself was the one who drove them away with his life as an amoral mercenary. Averted in one storyline when he eventually realized he was a terrible father. He enacted a scheme to endear his remaining two children to the Teen Titans so they could have the family he couldn't give them.
  • 90% of Your Brain: Slade had this as one of his powers (though it's not stated outright in the series, only the comics). Later retconned in saying that his grey matter got re-routed and reprogrammed allowing him uses his brain in various ways that regular humans do not.
  • Nothing Personal: When he spears Phantom Lady through her torso, she asks him why. He responds with this:
    "Sorry, darlin'. Just business."
  • Old Soldier: He joined the Army in the fifties and fought in Vietnam. Just now, though, he is a soldier of fortune.
  • Older Than They Look: He served in Vietnam, yet his healing factor has slowed his aging.
  • One-Man Army: When you take down the entire Justice League single-handed it is safe to say that you are this.
  • One Mario Limit: Ran afoul of this when that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie came out. Early issues often didn't even bother putting the "Deathstroke" part in his name, while these days the opposite was true.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: While he is an equal opportunity criminal mercenary, he holds a personal grudge against the Teen Titans (and former Teen Titans) who are all much younger than him — especially Dick Grayson. Hell, he supplies the current page image for this trope.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: He can be portrayed as someone who can hold his own against members of the Justice League of America, and be able to knock out the Flash, but also struggle against someone like Nightwing.
  • Psycho for Hire: He's an international hitman and one of the DCU's most well-known villains.
  • Psycho Serum: The formula used in the military experience left him a crippled wreck for months or years, with brief periods of increased strength and intelligence. Later, after the military cut him lose, Slade revealed that he'd started faking the bouts of weakness at some point to get out on his own.
  • Pressure Point: He knows how to apply them.
  • Private Military Contractor
  • Race Lift: White in the comics and animated series. Played by mixed-race actor Manu Bennett in Arrow.
  • Rogues-Gallery Transplant: Slade started out as a Teen Titans rogue, turned towards antiheroism, and then became (after Identity Crisis) a sort of generic DC Universe villain, being as much of a dick to as many superheroes as he could manage. It should be noted that he's never let go of his grudge against the Titans since he never completed his contract against them (a bit of a blow to his merc cred). He even went so far as to harass Damian Wayne, his Arch-Enemy Nightwing's protege.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: He once assassinated a philanthropist who was reverse engineering super-villain technology for benevolent causes (i.e. using freeze guns to reverse polar ice cap melting). No reason was given as to why Deathstroke was hired to kill the philanthropist.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: He's been involved in piracy once or twice in his career. Notably in Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Legend of the Ravager.
  • The Stoic: In contrast to Marvel's Deadpool wackiness, Deathstroke is often portrayed as cold and calculating and often emotionless. This allows him to be an effective assassin and mercenary.
  • Super Soldier: When in the army he took part in an experiment designed to create meta-human supersoldiers. He's slightly above maximum human physical ability and has a healing factor with inconsistent strength.
  • Sword and Gun: Seems to have a preference for a broadsword and a Colt .45 autoloader.
    "Do you prefer steel or lead?"
  • Team Dad: Evil version. During the Titans East storyline, he even acted more fatherly towards Inertia than he did to his own children as part of his plan to get the Titans to accept them. He gave the little psycho the serum he needed for Super Speed while warning him not to abuse it, advised him to dump his even more psychotic girlfriend, and hooked him up with the Rogues in Central City once everything went south for Titans East.
    • Word of God from Eric Wallace specifically described Slade as this for his mercenary in the most twisted sense possible.
  • The Vietnam War: Slade's a Nam Vet. He also met Wintergreen there and he first met Kane when she was training American soldiers in new fighting techniques for deployment in Indochina.
  • The Vietnam Vet: As mentioned above, he fought in Vietnam alongside Wintergreen. This also applies to his Arkhamverse counterpart, who compares Batman to a troublesome Viet Cong member.
  • Villain Protagonist: Gets his own title as part of the New 52.
  • Walking Armory: Slade never has just one or two weapons on him.
  • Warrior Therapist: Evil version.
  • Why Won't You Die?: He actually asks this to a alternate universe version of himself, which doesn't look at all like Deadpool.
    "Will you please just die!"
  • Would Hit a Girl: He'll also abuse them to the point that they go insane if he feels that it is necessary.