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Deathstroke (real name Slade Joseph Wilson) is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. He is a mercenary and assassin who serves as the archenemy of the Teen Titans, specifically Dick Grayson. Over the years, writers have developed him as an adversary of other superheroes in the DC Universe as well, such as Batman and Green Arrow.
Deathstroke has been ranked as the 24th Greatest Villain of All Time by Wizard magazine, and as the 32nd Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time by IGN. The character has been substantially adapted from the comics into multiple forms of media, including several Batman-related projects and the Teen Titans animated series. He has been portrayed in live-action by Manu Bennett on The CW's television series Arrow, and by Joe Manganiello in the DC Extended Universe, beginning with a cameo in the 2017 film Justice League.
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, the character was introduced as "Deathstroke the Terminator" in The New Teen Titans #2 in December 1980. Due to his popularity, Deathstroke received his own series, Deathstroke the Terminator, in 1991. It was retitled Deathstroke the Hunted for issues #0 and #41–45; and then simply Deathstroke for issues #46–60. The series was cancelled with issue #60. In total, Deathstroke ran for 65 issues (#1–60, plus 4 annuals and a special #0 issue).
Following his injury in DC Universe: Last Will and Testament, Deathstroke appears in one of the four Faces of Evil one-shots, written by David Hine. Hine has explained that the series is part of the set-up for future stories: "All of the characters in this ‘Faces of Evil’ series were selected for their potential as major players in the coming year."
Even though the character of Deathstroke the Terminator predates James Cameron's film The Terminator by four years, the Slade Wilson character is now simply called Deathstroke, even by characters who had called him Terminator for decades. The full title has not completely fallen out of use, having been referenced as recently as Justice League Elite.
Christopher J. Priest said of Deathstroke:
“[N]ot only was Marv’s Deathstroke a villain, he was also kind of an asshole, which I thought was unique. He wasn’t some misunderstood anarchist; he deliberately did skeevy things - most notably sleeping with Terra, a presumably underage girl - in his quest to exact revenge against his enemies. I read that and went, “Whoa.” This was beyond The Joker, well beyond Lex Luthor. Marv created the first modern supervillain. He broke every rule by making Deathstroke three-dimensional and giving him internal conflicts while maintaining a level of skeeve we weren’t used to seeing from a typical 2-dimensional bad guy.”
―Christopher J. Priest
Slade Wilson was sixteen years old when he first enlisted in the United States Army, having lied about his age. After serving a stint in Korea, he was later assigned to Camp Washington where he had been promoted to the rank of Major. In the early 1960s, he met Captain Adeline Kane who was tasked with training young soldiers in new fighting techniques in anticipation of brewing troubles taking place in Vietnam. Kane was amazed at how skilled Slade was and how quickly he adapted to modern conventions of warfare. She immediately fell in love with him, and realized that he was without a doubt the most able-bodied combatant she had ever encountered. She offered to privately train Slade in guerrilla warfare. In less than a year, Slade mastered every fighting form presented to him and was soon promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Six months later, Adeline and he were married and she became pregnant with their first child. The war in Vietnam began to escalate and Slade was shipped overseas. In the war, his unit massacred a village, an event which sickened him. He was also rescued by SAS member Wintergreen, to whom he would later return the favor.
Chosen for a secret experiment, the Army imbued him with enhanced physical powers in an attempt to create metahuman super soldiers for the U.S. military. Deathstroke became a mercenary soon after the experiment when he defied orders and rescued his friend Wintergreen sent on a suicide mission by a commanding officer with a grudge. However, Slade kept this career secret from his family, even though his wife was an expert military combat instructor.
A criminal named the Jackal took his younger son Joseph Wilson hostage to force Slade to divulge the name of a client who had hired him as an assassin. Slade refused, claiming it was against his personal honor code. He attacked and killed the kidnappers at the rendezvous. Unfortunately, Joseph's throat was slashed by one of the criminals before Slade could prevent it, destroying Joseph's vocal cords and rendering him mute.
After taking Joseph to the hospital, Adeline was enraged at his endangerment of her son and tried to kill Slade by shooting him, but only managed to destroy his right eye. Afterward, his confidence in his physical abilities was such that he made no secret of his impaired vision, marked by his mask which has a black, featureless half covering his lost eye. Without his mask, Slade wears an eyepatch to cover his eye.
The Teen Titans
Nightwing and Birds of Prey
One Year Later
Batman and Robin
Titans: Villains for Hire
The New 52
Powers and abilities
Slade Wilson's physical and mental attributes have been enhanced to superhuman levels as a result of the experimental serum he was given; he possesses heightened strength, agility, durability, and reflexes, and has the ability to utilize up to 90 percent of his brain capacity. Deathstroke also possesses a regenerative healing factor that enables him to recover from physical injury much more rapidly than a normal human; it does, however, have its limits, as it could not heal his missing eye nor can it regenerate entire limbs. This enhanced endurance enables him to survive otherwise fatal injuries, though recovering from such injuries renders him temporarily insane and ferociously animalistic. In addition to being a tactical genius with years of military experience, Deathstroke is an expert in many forms of unarmed combat and martial arts as well, serving as a master of Bōjutsu, Boxing, Jojutsu, Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, and Ninjutsu.
Deathstroke is highly proficient in the use of various firearms and melee weapons. He typically wields a wide variety of swords, including katanas, giant broadswords, and volatile Promethium-forged swords that can redistribute copious amounts of energy from any source directed against them. Deathstroke also utilizes a ballistic staff that fires energy blasts from both ends, though in more realism-focused versions, it fires bullets and miniature cannonball-like pellets instead. His staff can bend and stretch to adhere to his different martial art forms. Deathstroke's Promethium body armor is composed of a mesh-woven, kevlar chainlink mail capable of deflecting small arms fire. In the New 52, this armor is meshed with Nth Metal as well, allowing it to absorb blows from Lobo and Hawkman, although it could not withstand the power of Mazahs.
Deathstroke would eventually don the "Ikon Suit", a prototype point defense gravity sheathe controlled by bodily gestures alongside EEG (Electroencephalography) leads in his mask. When a source of kinetic energy comes up against its protective shielding, a gravitational tidal effect occurs; a greater surface area causes a weaker the defense shield, but a smaller surface area results in the sheathe being virtually indestructible. However, the suit's programming can be manipulated by any another ikon suit with the master programming, allowing one who wears a perfected Ikon Suit to activate or deactivate other ikon suits at their discretion.
Deathstroke has also briefly wielded a divinely forged sword, crafted by Hephaestus, called "The God Killer". This sword can discharge vorpal shock-waves and redirect whatever force it is met with, and the primordial energy crackling within it enables it to shape-shift into a Bo Staff, Twin Swords, Cat-o-Nine tails, etc. The sword is known to be semi-sentient and can be summoned to its owner via a mental link. This powerful weapon enabled Deathstroke to take on supernatural deities, a Kryptonian and a Half-Amazon Demigoddess. If broken, The God Killer sword can recreate itself from its scattered remains at will.