Sorry guys, but ‘Teen Titans’ Deathstroke will always be the best Deathstroke

Deputy Entertainment Editor
08.29.16

In terms of comic book history, Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke) is a fairly new character. First introduced in 1980 as a villain in New Teen Titans #2, the mercenary and assassin has nonetheless had a complex and varied history in his short sixteen years. Deathstroke has fought everyone from Batman and Green Arrow to (oddly enough) Wolverine. A former U.S. military veteran imbued with super soldier powers, Slade Wilson is almost always portrayed as a disillusioned fighter looking out for his wife and kids (who are sometimes dead). But while he”s shown up outside of comics in The CW”s Arrow and now on Ben Affleck”s social media feed, perhaps Deathstroke”s finest hour was on a children”s show that broke him out of his solider of fortune role.

Teen Titans.

Airing from 2003-2006 on Cartoon Network, Teen Titans introduced a whole generation to Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, Robin, and Starfire. Created by Glen Murakami (also known for his work on the fantastic Batman: Beyond animated series), Teen Titans adapted and updated the teenage heroes for a modern audience. Murakami”s first solo effort without his mentor Bruce Timm, Titans was originally designed for younger audiences, but the introduction of Slade Wilson started the series down a darker yet still accessible path. Murakami”s Deathstroke was not only a martial arts master and strategic tactician, but a supervillain on par with Lex Luthor or Brainiac.

The DC Film universe could use someone like him right about now. If Justice League follows up on the clues Batman v Superman was putting down, Lex Luthor is not in control of his own faculties. General Zod is dead (again). The Joker seems primarily preoccupied with ruling his criminal underworld. Enchantress was a one-and-done villainess. Other than Amanda Waller, the DC Universe is seriously lacking a compelling villain that offers up a real threat to the Justice League. Sure, Darkseid is waiting in the rafters, but we could use someone more present. Someone like Teen Titans' Slade Wilson.

(Fun fact: Deathstroke went by his ‘real” name in the cartoon because his supervillain moniker was deemed inappropriate by the censors.)

An enigma of a villain, Deathstroke appeared in twenty episodes of Teen Titans yet we know virtually nothing about him. We know he was determined to test the mettle of the Titans and perhaps ultimately destroy them. Yet Slade was also inexplicably drawn to Robin, going so far as to coerce the young hero into becoming Slade”s apprentice or watch the rest of the team die. Throughout the course of the series, Slade reveals he is a master of manipulation. Not only is he capable of forcing people to work against their own best interests like Amanda Waller, but in some cases he makes his victims think his plans ARE in their best interests. At least temporarily.

Like all good supervillains, Slade is constantly six steps ahead of his adversaries. Using a wide array of (seemingly) never-ending resources, Deathstroke hires henchmen to do his dirty work, sends robotic replicas to taunt the Titans, and generally makes the teens” lives miserable from the comfort of his high-tech throne room. Nothing deterred him. Setbacks were parlayed into advancements. Not even death could slow him down. Slade Wilson isn”t above making a deal with the devil (sort of literally) in return for an infusion of power. But he”s also not stupid enough to believe he could trust a demon”s word. It”s this kind of long-term calculating that truly makes this version of Deathstroke both interesting and terrifying.

In many ways, Teen Titans positions Slade as the anti-Batman. He”s monied, he”s cultured, he”s attempting to train Robin to replace him. His end goal is never revealed, as the series was cut short, but the going theories believed Slade was either Robin”s father, a dark future version of Nightwing, or actually Batman. Others believed Batman was the cause of the tragedy hinted at in Slade”s past, and corrupting Robing was just good old-fashioned revenge. Whatever the case, Teen Titans took an assassin and turned him into a Machiavellian monster. And that”s someone I”d love to see go toe-to-toe with both the Justice League AND Amanda Waller.

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