If you sat back and thought about what comes to mind when you think of comics, “music” or “the soundtrack” probably wouldn’t be very high on the list. Comics, as a medium, don’t lend themselves to auditory experiences. Despite this, comic books tend to give us a lot of clues when it comes to music, voices, et al. In fact, there’s a lot of music in comics — especially DEADPOOL comics.

The only issue is, you can only read it off the page. There are limits to the medium. Except now—fanfare, please—we have movies. I think DEADPOOL 2 brought us some of the best Deadpool-related story-telling I’ve seen in a while, and I think an enormous factor to that is the soundtrack. The concept of using music to place the audience in a specific narrative and set precedent for fourth-wall breaks is one that fits in perfectly with the mode of storytelling that Deadpool needs.

Narration — Wade Wilson’s Chatter

In the comics, we’re placed into Wade’s head. As a character that can break the fourth wall, he becomes the narrator of his own story instead of outsourcing to that all-powerful, omniscient narrator that other comics may use. Wade’s infamous “boxes” aren’t just his personal thoughts, but a mode of storytelling. This especially applies because Wade is content aware and genre savvy of the story that he’s starring in.

Deadpool Soundtrack
The arguing over the pronunciation of Demi Moore’s name falls a bit flat when in text, too. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

So you may think that this easily translates into movies in the form of typical voice-over narration. On one hand, it does. On the other hand, in the time between the publication of Deadpool’s first few comics and the release of DEADPOOL, content aware narration in movies has become…well, not all that rare. Essentially, DEADPOOL and DEADPOOL 2 need to figure out ways to push the fourth wall further and keep things in line with their character.

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The best two examples I can think of are from DEADPOOL 2: the introductory credits spoof, and the soundtrack. The credits spoof was fun but was a one-off joke for the movie. I’ll be getting more into the nitty-gritty of how the soundtrack puts us into Wade’s world since it ties into the narration throughout the whole film.

Music, Comics, and Pop Culture References

Music isn’t a new thing for Deadpool stories. Far from it. For example, in CABLE & DEADPOOL, there’s plenty of scenes of Wade belting out songs, usually 80s pop. There’s also plenty of examples of Wade making up his own little songs. Comics are a text and image-based medium — so we can have multiple signifiers of music at once, but we won’t magically be able to hear it.

The main signifiers are music notes and recognizable lyrics. For Wade’s little self-made ditties (i.e. a quickly crafted tune about loving chimichangas), the music notes are our only clue. Using recognizable lyrics without music notes is a bit dicey — it can be unclear whether a character is singing, or simply stating the lyrics.

Usually, the classic combo is a well-known chorus and music notes.

Deadpool Soundtrack
Wade’s always down for ruining serious moments with Billy Joel lyrics! Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Theoretically, you can manually set music to comics, now. It’s entirely possible to set up a playlist of some of the songs Wade jams out to in Cable & Deadpool or other Deadpool titles. However, it’s not really…the same. The timing won’t be professionally set, the cut off of the songs might not mesh with the text…so on and so forth.

That’s where movies come in.

Letting Deadpool Control the Narrative

The whole point of Deadpool is that it’s Wade’s world — we’re just along for the ride. While the soundtrack of DEADPOOL is still tailored to Wade’s tastes, it seems less cause-and-effect when compared to DEADPOOL 2. DEADPOOL 2 puts Wade in a place of power over the soundtrack — he can even cue specific songs, a la 9 to 5.

Deadpool Soundtrack
If I’d known that 9 to 5 was going to be playing during this scene, I’d have gone and seen the movie even faster. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

It’s a narrative experience that feels closer to the boxes in the comics. It’s as if we’re inside of Wade’s head, knowing what songs he has stuck in his head. When he has that quick exchange with Cable over dubstep in the future, the movie treats us to a fight scene to dubstep.

Later, Wade specifically brings up wanting the dubstep back…and the soundtrack complies.

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To further the idea of being within the musical landscape inside of Wade’s head, there’s the fact that there are original songs. I have no question that You Can’t Stop This Motherf***** (the song that plays during the showdown with Juggernaut — probably better known as the “oh holy sh*tballs” song) was a creation of Wade’s imagination.

Inside Wade’s Head

The soundtrack of DEADPOOL 2 has been called weird. It totally is, for the record. Hiring a choir to sing a song composed of about three sentences—two of which contain curse words—is weird. Hiring Celine Dion for an opening credits scene is kind of weird. Having both Dolly Parton, AC/DC, and Skrillex on the same soundtrack is, again, weird. That’s the point.

Wade is an amalgam of pop culture humor and humor that distracts from his sadness. Now, instead of having to cross their fingers and hope the reader has enough eclectic musical knowledge to recognize some Men at Work lyrics, the creators can jam some of the earworms Wade deals with right into our brains. There are no worries that the songs might be too weird for the joke or reference to land — because the soundtrack means the audience has to listen to it.

Deadpool Soundtrack
Great example — I didn’t get this reference at all. Apparently, it’s a song from a coffee commercial?? Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

It’s even more powerful than the boxes or Wade’s dialogue in the comics. The creation of the soundtrack for DEADPOOL 2 means that there’s no chance of a reference not landing. If the audience didn’t know the song Wade was named before the movie, they certainly do now. Instead of leaving us to try and track down lyrics, they’re already there as a full auditory experience.

Why Does It Matter?

Screen adaptations of comics are rather hotly discussed in the community. There are things that the comics can do that movies aren’t capable of doing. When it specifically comes to DC and Marvel comics, movies struggle with time limitations that the comics haven’t had to face. Plots, character arcs, backstories, and timelines get really wonky in comic book movies.

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However, it’s time to face the facts: there are things movies can do that comics aren’t capable of doing. In fact, that’s the entire point of different mediums and adapting things across mediums. In a lot of ways, DEADPOOL 2 was able to use Wade’s musical references better than the comics. DEADPOOL 2 exemplifies what an adaptation can do when it focuses on its medium’s strengths.

Deadpool Soundtrack
Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

DEADPOOL 2’s soundtrack is enjoyable—but more than that, it made me excited about the prospect of adaptations again. It showed off what adaptations can do to bring stories to a new level of connection with the audience. With a character like Deadpool, the film was able to test the fourth wall in newer, interesting ways. In many, many ways, the soundtrack of DEADPOOL 2 is a great example of why adaptations can be a good idea.

Plus, sometimes, you really just need to watch a guy kill a bunch of people to Dolly Parton classics.

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