If you’re not familiar with Deathstroke the Terminator by now, you’re about to be. This villain is set to become a major force in the DCEU in the years to come, and that’s to say nothing of his high-profile appearances in DC’s comics, TV series and video games in recent years. Everything is coming up Slade Wilson right now.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the comic book origins of Deathstroke.
Spoilers follow for Justice League.
Slade Wilson is perhaps the most feared and respected assassin in the entire DC Universe. Known to many as “Deathstroke the Terminator,” Slade is an elite solider who gained superhuman powers thanks to secretive government experiments. But rather than continuing to fight for his country, Slade now sells his services to the highest bidder. And all his clients know that even with one eye, Deathstroke never misses his mark.
Naturally, an assassin with this much infamy is bound to attract the attention of the world’s heroes. Slade is a frequent enemy of the Batman family, the Justice League and the Teen Titans. But often, Slade’s greatest enemies are his own family members. The entire Wilson clan is made up of dysfunctional assassins and metahumans, and most of them would just as soon see Slade dead at this point. Being a master assassin doesn’t exactly translate into being a great husband and father.
Slade was already a formidable fighter even before becoming a metahuman assassin, as he trained in various forms of martial arts and weapons under tutors like his future wife, Adeline Kane, and martial arts master Natas. He’s adept at using guns, explosives, staves and blades in battle as the situation demands.
Thanks to the experimental government procedure, Slade gained enhanced strength, agility and healing (though not enough to repair his ruined right eye). Arguably Slade’s most useful ability, however, is that this experiment unlocked the latent potential of his mind. Slade has access to 90% of his brain’s capacity (compared to the average person’s 10%), making him an extremely efficient strategist who can effortlessly adapt to and outwit his opponents.
Deathstroke was among the first new villains introduced when writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez revamped the Teen Titans franchise in the early 1980s. The character made his debut in 1980’s New Teen Titans #2, though at the time he was simply known as “The Terminator.” For various reasons, including competition from a certain massively popular film franchise, he’s mostly dropped that moniker nowadays.
Deathstroke remained an active player in Wolfman and Perez’s Teen Titans run, including the seminal storyline “The Judas Contract.” There it was revealed that team member Terra was actually a mole working for Slade, feeding him the intel he needed in order to systematically dismantle the team one-by-one. Slade’s various Teen Titans appearances have also helped flesh out his family life and his dysfunctional relationships with children Joe, Grant and Rose.
Wolfman later spun the character into his own solo series in 1991, one which wound up running for over 60 issues. That book cemented Slade’s place in the DCU as a hardened, remorseless killer who nonetheless follows his own strict code of honor. And while the character faded from the spotlight in the late ’90s, stories like 2004’s Identity Crisis helped restore his popularity. Identity Crisis features one of the character’s defining comic book moments, as Slade singlehandedly took on and nearly defeated the entire Justice League.
Deathstroke has returned to prominence thanks to DC’s New 52 relaunch, having starred in three different solo comics since 2011. The current Deathstroke comic even features the character seemingly turning over a new leaf and leading a superhero team of his own.
Deathstroke’s first brush with mainstream popularity came when he appeared as a recurring villain on the 2003 Teen Titans animated series (voiced by Ron Perlman). There he was referred to simply as “Slade,” as “Deathstroke” was deemed unsuitable for a children’s show. Deathstroke has also played a prominent role on The CW’s Arrow (played by Manu Bennett), which revamped the character’s origin to tie him more closely with Oliver Queen.
DC’s direct-to-DVD animated movies have also regularly featured Deathstroke, including Son of Batman (voiced by Thomas Gibson) and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (voiced by Miguel Ferrer). Those two films re-imagine Slade as an excommunicated member of the League of Assassins, not unlike Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
Deathstroke has also started to take on a prominent role in DC’s video game projects lately. He’s appeared in multiple entries in the Mortal Kombat/Injustice series, as well as games like DC Universe Online and Scribblenauts Unmasked. For many fans, however, Deathstroke’s biggest moment came when he appeared as a major boss character in 2014’s Arkham Origins.
Deathstroke also finally made his first live-action cinematic appearance during the post-credits scene in Justice League (played by Joe Manganiello). It’s not yet clear where Manganiello will reprise the role next, but Deathstroke has been rumored both to appear in Rupert Wyatt’s The Batman and in a solo film directed by Gareth Evans.