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How Deadpool survived the ’90s, a decade when most new comics superheroes faded away

Deadpool’s cinematic style this month isn’t far off from his comic-book look when he debuted in 1991. (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.)
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PERHAPS EVEN more impressive than mutant regenerative abilities or ninja-level skills with katana blades, Deadpool has one super-power that now seems to stand above the rest:

The “Merc With a Mouth” somehow survived the ’90s.

This from a character who is so connected to one of that decade’s best moments: His co-creator, Rob Liefeld, was a crucial factor in the founding of Image Comics.

So surely few might have guessed that when Deadpool debuted on Marvel’s New Mutants No. 98 back in 1991, sharing a cover with Cable (arguably one of the most popular X-Men/Force characters of the ’90s), this red- and black-clad mercenary would be poised today for a movie franchise.

Yet just days from the highly anticipated release of “Deadpool,” you can look close and see that not much has changed when comparing the superbad/not-really-a-good-guy suit that Ryan Reynolds now flaunts with the suit first spotted in the comics a quarter-century ago.

Ah, comics in the ’90s. Red and Blue Superman. Batman gets his back broken (and unlike Christian Bale’s version, he doesn’t come back in enough time and is replaced with an iron-suited psychopath). Superboy wore a leather jacket and shades — and not his emotions on his sleeve, as he does in the Young Justice cartoons. Spider-Man’s clone situation was so severely confusing and maddening — well, let’s not even go there.

Elsewhere from that decade: Night Thrasher and the New Warriors? Gone. Does anyone know what happened to Darkhawk? A whole lot of good came out of comics in the ’90s, but there were an embarrassment of “meh” moments, to be sure.

So just how did Deadpool survive being born in an era of hologram covers — and the promise that you could have a collector’s item in your hand (yeah, right) because the covers themselves claimed they were collector’s items? How did Deadpool emerge from the decade that gave us the 100th issue of Web of Spider-Man and all that foil-cover glory?

Not many comic-book characters jump from the page to the big screen untouched, with arguably only Spider-Man being the exception. Batman’s and Superman’s trunks have even been taken away ahead of their forthcoming big-screen battle.

Yet there’s something about Deadpool’s classic look that still works today. Given the role of the dice that this movie is, 20th Century Fox risked alienating the fanboys even before the first trailer hit if Deadpool didn’t look like Deadpool.

In the early ’90s, when Image Comics was aiming to reinvent what a comic-book character could look like, Deadpool gave Marvel a character that didn’t look as if he were tied to past times. Deadpool was always a little cooler-looking than whomever he shared a comic panel with. And he had a likably witty, sarcastic personality that contrasted with his assassin’s costuming.

The character emerged as unconventional, but that seems to have worked in his favor, since Deadpool is still here.

Also worth noting: Marvel Studios doesn’t own the Deadpool film rights (Fox again benefits from its X-clusive film rights). But given the character’s popularity, Marvel Comics is prompted to keep multiple Deadpool titles in print.

And in 2016, Deadpool now has so much commercial swagger, he has even made it cool for Ryan Reynolds to be in a comic-book movie again.

What other comic character could ever do that?