An Ode to Domino

I’m betting you’ve all had a favorite band that was relatively unknown when you discovered them. You cultivated your fandom and, even though the band gained popularity over time, you were cool with it. For a while. But then that band got signed to a major label, started banking Top 40 hits and…it just wasn’t the same. That was your band. You felt an (admittedly unreasonable) ownership of them. Even though you are objectively happy to see the band reach new heights of success, because you like them, there’s a small part of you that misses the days when you were in the know while most weren’t.

That is EXACTLY how I feel about Domino.

A year from now, Deadpool 2 is going to hit theaters worldwide. It’s sure to be a global smash hit. Ryan Reynolds’ Merc With the Mouth will be joined by a host of new Marvel characters, including Josh Brolin as Cable and…Zazie Beetz as Domino. Beetz is best known for her starring role in Donald Glover’s critically acclaimed Atlanta, but soon enough she’ll become the living embodiment of my favorite female comic book character.

As a Domino fan, it’ll be exciting to see the character come to life just as it was seeing Hugh Jackson play Wolverine for the first time, or Reynolds as Deadpool, or Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Yet, it’s also going to raise Domino’s popularity significantly among comic book fans. Why should that bother me, even a little bit? For purely selfish reasons.

Even though Domino was created in the same epic run that brought us Deadpool, back in the early 90s by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, she’s never been a character that rose to A-list prominence. She’s had just two solo series in nearly 25 years, and neither were memorable. Domino — in the comics — has largely been a supporting character in various X-men related team books. She’s never been a character that DOMINATED fans’ interest. I suspect this movie is going to change that.

Who Is Domino?

Domino, otherwise known as Neena Thurman, is a mutant bred through a government program called Project: Armageddon. She was considered one of the success stories and is imbued with luck powers. Specifically, Domino projects a kinetic energy field that alters probabilities around her. It’s a subconscious power, but she has to be active for the power to work. In other words, if she just stood still as someone shot at her, she would get hit. But if she were diving for cover at the time the bullet was fired, her power would assuredly alter the bullet’s course in some way to keep her safe. In addition to her mutant luck power, she’s trained in multiple forms of martial arts, hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship.

When did she first appear?

That depends on how meticulous you are as a Marvel continuity wonk. Most consider her first appearance to be New Mutants #98, in the same issue Deadpool is introduced. However, the writers later retconned her first appearance to X-Force #8 — suggesting that the “Domino” we had seen in the book to that point was instead a mutant shape-shifter named Copycat who replaced Domino to spy on Cable and his team. Cable and crew rescue the “real” Domino in X-Force #8, and the rest is history. [Note: For you movie fans, Copycat’s name in the comics is Vanessa Carlysle…yes, the same name of Morena Baccarin’s character in the first Deadpool film!]

What are her best stories?

As I noted, Domino has been more of a supporting character than a lead heroine, but she’s been in a bunch of entertaining stories over the years:

  • X-Force (Volume 1) — Domino was a constant in the book, often serving as one of Cable’s main allies
  • Cable (Volume 1) — Domino was a supporting character through much of the first Cable series
  • Domino (Volume 1) — Her first solo mini-series
  • Weapon X (Volume 3) — Domino appeared in the second arc “Weapon X: The Underground”
  • Punisher War Journal (Vol 2) — In 2007, a pair of young up-and-coming writers — Matt Fraction and Rick Remender — teamed up with legend Howard Chaykin on an arc called “Jigsaw” which featured Domino
  • Domino (Volume 2) — Brian Stelfreeze gets involved as we are shown a deeper view into Domino’s origin
  • X-Force (Volume 2) — When Marvel brought back X-Force as a team of mutants who killed to protect Xavier’s vision, Domino was Wolverine’s right-hand woman throughout the run
  • X-Force: Sex and Violence — An ultra-violent (and ultra-sexual) Domino-centric mini-series that brings Domino and Wolverine together against the Assassin’s Guild
  • X-Men (Volume 3) — Domino was a member of the team for a few arcs starting with Issue 20 and ending in Issue 39
  • Deathlok (Volume 5) — She appeared throughout the short-lived series
  • Deadpool: Bad Blood OGN — Domino is one of Deadpool’s main allies in the new Marvel OGN

Why is she one of my favorite characters?

I’ve asked myself that many times. It starts with my unabashed love for early 90s Marvel and, in particular, the work of the creators who would go on to start Image Comics. I remember seeing the character designs for Deadpool, Domino and others in an issue of Comic Buyers Guide months before they were set to be published. There was something wildly exciting about Rob Liefeld’s character designs. Domino, in particular, stood out visually. The stark white skin and the black spot fit PERFECTLY with her name — Domino. Meanwhile, her name also played well against her powers, since dominoes are a game of chance. She was the female representation of a movement to reignite the fortunes of the X-Universe at a time when we were all clamoring for both non-stop action and new characters.

Her appeal rose to another level once I began collecting original comic art. In my early collecting days, I randomly asked for Deadpool and Wolverine drawings. I quickly realized many artists’ eyes glaze over at those requests…because they get them all the time. So I started asking for other characters, and Domino was a natural fit as a subject for commissions.

Why is her upcoming film appearance bittersweet?

By far and away my most popular original art subject matter is Domino. I would dare say I have the largest collection of Domino art in the world. At least, the largest KNOWN collection. It’s always been cool to think that when I request Domino as the subject matter for a commission, I’m probably one of the first — if not the first — person to request that character from the artist. I need to enjoy the uniqueness of the request while it lasts, because a year from now — and for many years later — Domino is going to be widely requested by droves of fans at every convention. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I’m still going to love the character a ton and always feel an affinity for her for a lot of reasons. But it’s not going to be quite the same.

Am I really Domino’s biggest fan?

Who knows? How does one define fandom? Can I compare my affinity for Domino against the amazing cosplayers who take the time to look just like her at conventions? Or the handful of high-end art collectors who own most of the New Mutants and X-Force covers from the Liefeld Era? I can’t in good conscience say I’m THE biggest Domino fan, but I can confidently say I’m AMONG her greatest fans.

A Sampling of My Domino Collection

Next year, when so many people are proclaiming their adoration for Neena Thurman, I’ll raise a glass to her and likely a job well done by Zazee for her portrayal and David Leitch for his directorial efforts. Yet, I’ll also know that “I knew her when…” Cheers!

 

  • derekg

    Thanks for sharing your love, Wood.

    With my deep deep enjoyment of the silver-age Doom Patrol and Zatanna, I can certainly relate.

  • Steven Earl Calamari

    I could do a Find/Replace Domino with Cable and I could have written this article (all the awesome sketches aside)