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Deadshot: beginnings SC
by Robert Greenberger
The cover featured a Bat-spaceship responding to a Bat-signal being flashed on the moon, promising readers a look at “Batman in the Future”. but first, Batman #59 used kids “The man who replaced Batman”, a seemingly innocuous tale featuring Floyd Lawton, a bored, affluent Gothamite who used his deadly marksmanship in an effort to supplant the Caped Crusader. after that 1950 story from David Vern, Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz, and Charles Paris, he was never seen again.
Detective Comics #474
Well, that is until desperation prompted Steve Englehart to resurrect and revamp Lawton into the killer assassin named Deadshot. Englehart had agreed to write a cycle of Batman stories for Julie Schwartz to use in Detective Comics, partnering him with artists Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. Englehart wrote full scripts and left for a planned trip to Europe. Meantime, over in Batman, Vern, back for a second run with the character, had worked up the multi-part “Where Were You on the night Batman was Killed?” and as happenstance had it, the Joker’s turn to answer the question would have come out the same month as the first part of “The laughing Fish”. Schwartz contacted Englehart for a story to slot in between the Penguin tale and the Joker two-parter, so the inventive scribe found Lawton and wrote the story. The new, modern-day outfit was created by Rogers and verified captivating.
After that point, Deadshot caught the attention of readers and creators alike, so he began reappearing in the Bat-titles, including a one-off story by Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, with great art from Don Newton and Bruce Patterson, which ran in Detective #518. Newton drew him again in Batman #369, in a story from Doug Moench, with inks by Alfredo Alcala.
When John Ostrander and I were seeking to fill out the roster for the forthcoming suicide Squad, he was flipping through Who’s who and Rogers’ art caught his eye. He made a decision then and there to include the character, delving into the psyche of a man who would become an assassin for hire. From the first issue, Lawton was clearly one of the most appealing members of the team and one Ostrander loved to explore. When his partner Kim Yale joined as cowriter, things got even a lot more complex as we began to reveal his backstory.
His popularity with readers and the series’ overall success allowed us to pitch a spinoff solo miniseries which was readily approved. given his speed, series artist Luke McDonnell was ready to join in on the fun. As he named his favorite character in a Wizard interview: “Mine would be Deadshot, just because he was such a loose cannon. He was the Batman of the series, basically.”
I still recall the afternoon Luke came in from Westchester and laid out four different cover designs for the four-issue miniseries. we all fell in love with the countdown technique with the large numbers functioning as a frame and, by having all four done in advance, it allowed us to market the tiny in a special way. He put his all into the project, which I think shows and still holds up.
The miniseries gave Lawton a tragic backstory and explained how he developed his death wish and how genuinely scary he was, given his lack of interest in living. All this plays out against a mission to take down the gangster known as El Jefe. Lawton turns out to have a son, Edward – named after the brother he inadvertently killed when trying to stop him from killing their father, on their mother’s orders – and when he’s kidnapped, nothing will stop Lawton from finding the one good thing in his life. Making it a lot more interesting was how his psychiatrist, Marnie Herrs, tried to help him, but only managed to fall in love with him, warming his heart for the first time considering that childhood. However, what she witnessed as she accompanied him on the hunt for his kid was a bit much for her.
It was dark and a lot of unusual even back in the late 1980s when “grim and gritty” was practically demanded of a lot of DC titles. As a result, readers sat up and paid attention, turning it into one of the best remembered miniseries from that era. Still, it has never been reprinted.
Until now. Coming this fall, Deadshot: beginnings will collect Deadshot #1-4, Batman #369, Detective #474 and 518. All that’s really missing is the very first appearance and a diehard fan even started a Facebook page to insist DC put the 10-page story in the book.
This is back when character, plotting, and subplotting was still king, punctuated by action. There’s a density to the storytelling that is absent today and the Lawton there remains far richer and a lot more fascinating than the new 52 incarnation. I remain exceptionally pleased of the work we did here, and hope you pick up the book and see for yourself.
Deadshot: beginnings SC
Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database.
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