Move Ovah, Arnold
Oliver Queen: “Slade Wilson is alive.”
Amanda Waller: “You killed him. It’s not possible.”
Oliver: “Everything is possible where Slade is concerned. And I need your help to find him.”
Waller: “I might have something.”
Waller: “There’s a new player we’ve been tracking, a mercenary. He’s left a trail of bodies from Macau to Istanbul to Lisbon. A trail that leads right here to Starling. We’ve been calling him Deathstroke.”
Arrow, “Suicide Squad” (Season 2, Episode 16)
Four soldiers escort a scientist through a tunnel in a military complex. A grenade belching smoke rolls near them. The soldiers instantly raise their guns and surround the scientist. An object lands on the scientist’s shoulder and deploys a wire. He rockets to the ceiling as the soldiers scatter into the haze.
A soldier jerks and falls to the ground. Another finds a bullet hole in his neck. The samaritan’s head disappears in a crimson mist. The surviving duo rush off, seeking cover from the gunfire. The lights shut off. One of the soldiers gives a gurgling cry before falling over, dead. The last soldier feels explosive pain as a sword impales him. His last sight is Deathstroke’s orange and black mask.
Deathstroke the Terminator is the deadliest assassin in the DC Universe. His skills don’t make up for having the most edgelord name imaginable, but there’s way more to this hitman’s story. So who is he? Where did he get his training? How has he soloed the Justice League? Let’s find out.
Gone Horribly Right: Deathstroke’s Backstory
Deathstroke: “See, calling for help like that just pushes up the timetable. Now I can’t savor the battle.”
Young Justice, “The Fix” (Season 2, Episode 13)
Deathstroke the Terminator debuted in The New Teen Titans #2 in 1980. He was created by George Perez and Marv Wolfman. The suffix “The Terminator” fell out of use after a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger movie came out in 1984. Deathstroke was so popular he got his own series and a ripoff called Deadpool.
Sixteen year old Slade Wilson lied about his age to join the U.S. Army. He quickly made corporal and mastered a variety of fighting styles. He also fell in love with Captain Adaline King, who he later married and had children with.
Slade volunteered for an experimental treatment that would help soldiers withstand enemy truth serums. The experiment was actually the army’s covert attempt to create super soldiers. The treatment worked too well, giving Slade superhuman strength, agility, and a powerful healing factor, but leaving him prone to berserker episodes.
The Army sent Slade on a suicide mission to dispose of him, but he survived and went AWOL with his family. To support them, Slade secretly became the international mercenary, Deathstroke the Terminator.
Terminated Titans: Deathstroke’s History
Robin: “I’ve stopped you before!”
Slade: “Robin, if you’ve “stopped me”, why am I still here?”
Teen Titans, “Haunted” (Season 3, Episode 5)
Deathstroke’s son Joseph was kidnapped by a criminal who wanted Slade to do his bidding. Deathstroke killed the crook and saved his son, but not before Joseph became mute when his vocal cords were cut. His enraged mother shot out Slade’s eye and fled from their home with the children.
A decade later, Deathstroke learned that another child, Grant, had become a supervillain called The Ravager and had attacked the Teen Titans. Grant had used a flawed version of the treatment to gain his father’s powers. Unfortunately, the treatment caused his body to burn out while fighting the Titans. Deathstroke decided to avenge his son and accepted a contract to kill the Titans.
Deathstroke enacted several plots to carry out the mission, but he was always forced back by their overwhelming numbers and powers. He nearly succeeded by seducing the new Titan Terra and using her to manipulate the Titans. Terra’s former comrades convinced her that she was only a tool to Slade. She threw a suicidal temper tantrum that nearly killed Deathstroke.
After learning that Joseph had joined the Titans as the hero Jericho, Deathstroke formed a truce with them. He also learned of a new Ravager, this one his illegitimate daughter Rose. Most recently, Deathstroke has had a change of heart and leads a superhero team called Defiance.
Consummate Professional: Deathstroke’s Powers and Personality
[Lagoon Boy’s leg has been broken]
Deathstroke: “Now, that leg doesn’t look good. You know, I hate to see any poor animal suffer. You aren’t on The Light’s hit list, so how about a little anesthetic…for the pain?” [punches him]
Young Justice, “The Fix” (Season 2, Episode 13)
Writers originally explained that Deathstroke could use 100% of his brain instead of the 10% normal people supposedly use. Then science proved that was B.S. even by superhero standards.
Current canon has Slade’s physical stats just above peak human, kinda like an evil Captain America. He also has an enhanced healing factor that behaves inconsistently. Sometimes it can resurrect Deathstroke after dying, other times it can’t fix the eye his wife shot out.
Deathstroke is skilled with countless weapons, including guns, swords to bo staves, and shuriken. His armor and weapons are forged from promethium, a self-repairing metal. A battle with Kid Flash gave him a connection to the Speed Force and all of The Flash’s powers. He didn’t get to keep that power-up. Feh, he’s more interesting without it.
Deathstroke exudes an aura that makes superpowered foes act incompetent. This can range from heroes forgetting about their powers, forgoing ranged abilities, or standing aside while he pummels their allies. There’s even an famous moment where Deathstroke moved fast enough to stab The Flash. Y’know, the hero who can literally move faster than light? This only happens with certain writers, but it’s blatant when it happens.
Slade is a professional. He only kills people he’s hired to assassinate or who have made things personal. He never kills innocents and avoids killing heroes. Deathstroke is often shown to be reasonable, empathetic, and world-weary. He’s also a bastard, constantly manipulating his family and allies alike.
The Actors who play Deathstroke
Deathstroke made his screen debut in Teen Titans, voiced by Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman. The writers were not allowed to call him Deathstroke, so he went by his real name, Slade. Honestly, Slade sounds cooler than Deathstroke.
Deathstroke appeared in Young Justice where he was voiced by Wentworth Miller. He appeared in Beware the Batman,voiced by Robert Atkin Downes. Deathstroke recently appeared as the main villain in Teen Titans Go!: To The Movies where he was voiced by Will Arnett and Kristen Bell.
The Hobbit’s Manu Bennett plays Deathstroke in Arrow. His backstory is changed immensely to turn him into a rival and teacher of Green Arrow. True Blood’s Joe Manganiello appeared as Deathstroke in the post-credits scene of Justice League, meeting with Lex Luthor to form the Injustice League.
Deathstroke is scheduled to appear in an untitled Batman movie and his own movie. NYPD Blue’s Esai Morales is slated to play Deathstroke in Titans.
Didya get all that?
Deathstroke doesn’t solve problems. He terminates them.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.