What do Deadpool, Son Goku and Peter Pan have in common?

YP Cadets Bernard Cheung Chi-wai and Cheang Kai-u

Along with Dorian Gray and Benjamin Button, these fictional characters know that age is just a number

YP Cadets Bernard Cheung Chi-wai and Cheang Kai-u |
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Peter Pan goes on endless adventures in Neverland.

There are plenty of ways that a writer can make a character interesting, from their appearance, to their “origin story”. One commonly used trope is to have them age differently to others. We take a look at five characters from books, comics, and cartoons that grow older (or younger!) in a manner that’s different to everyone else.

From old to young

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the titular character is born an old man and becomes younger as time progresses. You’d think that this would pose a massive problem for him, but Benjamin manages to go to university, become a successful businessman, and fall in love.

Still, Benjamin finds it hard to identify with people around him. For example, when he is physically old (but technically young), he prefers to do things like read encyclopaedias. When he is a young boy (but has lived for many years), he wants to play with children’s toys.

Nevertheless, Benjamin is generally happy with his lot in life, and if he can be content, then the rest of us ought to be, too.

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The boy who never grew up

Peter Pan, from J. M. Barrie’s story Peter Pan, is a boy who refuses to grow up, and leads generations of young people on misadventures through the magical world of Neverland.

Although the people he takes there return to the real world and grow up, Peter remains the same. This could be down to his choosing to forget about the friends he makes, to focus on the next big adventure. The idea is that, like a child, forgetting about something means he gets to experience it like he is doing so for the first time. His ageing (or non-ageing) philosophy can be summed up as “ignorance is bliss”.

Deadpool, like Wolverine can heal, regenerate and is nearly immortal.

Like Wolverine, but obviously way cooler

Comic book fans of the Marvel character Deadpool know that the wisecracking, fourth-wall-breaking mercenary doesn’t age – or if he does, it’s tremendously slowly.

Deadpool has an accelerated healing factor which means that the cells inside his body are constantly regenerating, which essentially makes him immortal.

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Ageless-looking, but dead inside

Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray from the book The Picture of Dorian Gray doesn’t appear to get any older. This is because he makes a wish that a portrait of him would age instead of him. Feeling like he has all the time in the world, Dorian decides to live a life of pleasure and selfishness.

The more he commits sins in the real world, the uglier and the older his portrait gets – and the longer that Dorian lives as a young, handsome man, the less he feels like a human. Maybe the lesson here is that you should be careful what you wish for!

Goku from 'Dragon Ball' is not only powerful, but also doesn't appear to age after reaching adulthood.
Photo: Toei Company

A race of ageless aliens

Son Goku, from the Dragon Ball manga series, belongs to the Saiyan race.

They are essentially a race of very long-lived aliens that seem to stop ageing outwardly as adults. This might explain why Goku (as someone in his 40s) ends up looking about the same age as his son, Gohan. One explanation for this happening is that Saiyans can suppress the ageing process themselves.

It all doesn’t seem to be very scientifically possible – but maybe we can’t expect too much realism from a series where people can shoot destructive energy beams from their hands.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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