On paper, Deadpool is a horrifying character. A ruthless mercenary, horribly scarred by the process that made him functionally immortal, now employed as a murderous prankster. While his heroic qualities and silly side make him a much more palatable character, some versions of the Merc with a Mouth fully engage with his dark side.
The darker version of Wade Wilson is nicknamed Dreadpool. He was at the heart of a multiversal threat that required stopping an entire Deadpool verse of heroes. Although he is ultimately defeated, he proves just how dark a fourth-wall-breaking character really can be.
Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1 (by Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic) introduced the timeline of Earth-12101. This world started out like many others, with Deadpool becoming a dangerous but unpredictable gunslinger. Seeking to resolve the chaos he presented to the world, the X-Men of this timeline attempted to commit Deadpool to a mental hospital. However, the villainous Psycho-Man secretly ran the institution and tried to use his abilities to brainwash his patients. The process didn’t work on Wade Wilson, however. Instead, it triggered a new voice in his head – a much darker voice than the clown Merc with a Mouth is generally known for. This version of Wade Wilson – known as Dreadpool – decided that the only way to save himself from endless suffering as a fictional character was to obliterate the entire universe around him.
Assassinating Psycho-Man, Dreadpool then killed every major superhero in his timeline. After wiping out his own universe, he decided to carry out his killing spree across the multiverse, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. He’s taken on countless counterparts of himself (recruiting an army of villainous versions of Deadpool) and even targeted the literary characters who inspired modern superheroes, all with the goal of eliminating the entire genre and fade from existence. Luckily for the multiverse, Earth-616’s Deadpool was able to rally Deadpool Corps against Dreadpool – and even landed the final blow that killed its darkest variant.
Deadpool as a twisted and broken killer is a compelling and austere concept – enough that it’s even been revisited by the same creative team with different results in Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe Again. But Dreadpool proves precisely how horrifying Wade Wilson can be. A creative monster, Dreadpool was able to use surprisingly simple tricks to slay heroes and villains – even taking down heavy hitters like Thor with a little trickery and brutality. His healing factor makes him unstoppable, and his sinister sense of humor turns him more or less into an amalgamation of Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees – an unstoppable, murderous monster who won’t stop cracking jokes.
Dreadpool’s truly unique attribute, however, was his vision as a meta-character. Deadpool – like She-Hulk before him – is firmly aware of his existence as a fictional character. It’s an aspect usually played for laughs, with Deadpool giving the creators a chance to poke fun at Marvel Comics, the fans, and even themselves. But Dreadpool doesn’t use the fourth wall for comedy. He effectively becomes a meta-textual nihilist, dedicated to destroying the inspiration that fuels cultural creations. He’s someone who rails against his god, meaning the creatives and fans who made him a star. That’s what makes his stories so chilling. After wiping out all the heroes and villains, he sets his sights on the creators of his own book, slaughtering them off-panel. Dreadpool is a memorably horrifying take on a classic comic hero, and it underscores just how scary Deadpool can be.