He was originally meant to be a one-shot rival for the Incredible Hulk. He appeared in one panel of Incredible Hulk #180, was featured in a battle with the Green Goliath in #181 and was expected to never be seen or heard from again. No one could ever have imaged back in 1975 how a short, scrappy feral character with claws protruding from his hands would become a major hero of the Marvel universe and the most recognizable member of the X-Men. Nor could it have been guessed that when it came time for Marvel to try and reinvigorate the Avengers, this pint-sized Canuck, along side your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, would join Captain America and Iron Man and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Superheroes.
That hero goes by only one name “Logan”, but he is better known by his code-name “Wolverine.” In the 1980s when Chris Claremont and John Byrne decided to breath new life into the X-Men roster, this would be one-shot character was chosen to join Xavier’s merry band of mutants. He had a rough, tough, no-nonsense attitude, and a personality and ethical code that were similar to many of the anti-heroes that grew during the Post-Vietnam era, mainly that he had little regard for most authority, and he was willing to kill if needed.
However he was also a man of many contradictions. While he was willing to kill, he was fiercely protective of the younger members of the X-Men such as Kitty Pryde, Rouge and Jubilee. He may not have very many friends but he had forged a “friendship” of sorts with Colussus and Nightcrawler. He may have resented authority but he still developed a sense of respect for Captain America, Professor Xavier and his on again off again rival Cyclops. He may prefer to work alone but he had few problems working alongside Daredevil or Spider-Man. He may be “the best at what he does,” but he knows what he does isn’t very nice.
He was a man who could take a hit and keep on coming, but the moment that won the fans over came during the Dark Phoenix Saga, when a secret society known as the Hellfire Club took down the other X-men. It seemed like they were all down for the count, but then in the last panel of that issue, Wolverine emerged from the waters of the sewer. His claws were drawn, his teeth were gritted, and he uttered the phrase:
“Ok, bub, you’ve taken your best shot. Now it’s my turn.”
Thus a money-maker was born. However, it would take more then shinny claws and a bad attitude to make an iconic character. Since his debut Wolverine has been explored though a variety of graphic novels. Among his character traits is a desire to rediscover the memories of the past. Wolverine knows very little about himself, however as Col .William Stryker tells him in X-Men 2: X-Men United, “If you knew the kind of man you were, you wouldn’t be so eager to discover your past. You were always an animal. I just gave you claws.”
So, just who is Wolverine? The man who would one day go by the name Logan was born James Howlett to a wealthy family in the early 1840’s in what is now present day British Columbia, Canada. James was a sickly child who was tormented by a bully named “Dawg” the son of their groundskeeper, Thomas Logan. James had only two friends, a young servant girl named “Rose” and his beloved dog, Callie. The groundskeeper was a violent drunken man who abused his son, the servant girl and even murdered the dog. One night in a drunken rage, Thomas got in an angry argument with John Howlett, James father. He shot John with James looking on.
In the X-Men universe an individual’s mutant powers emerge during early adolescents, and are usually triggered by some form of emotional trauma. Seeing his father murdered triggered that for James. He sprang at Thomas and during the fight was when his claws first popped out and he killed him. It was discovered (and implied through the art) that Thomas Logan was the true father of James. Seeing the nightmare that her son had become, his mother chased him out and killed herself. He was disowned by his grandfather and promptly banished. Rose agreed to go with him, and gave him the name “Logan” to protect him.
He and Rose made their way farther north to a logging community. Meanwhile “Dawg” (whom it is implied would go on to be Wolverine’s arch-nemesis Sabertooth) was sent after James by his grandfather in hopes of making amends. Dawg had other plans, namely revenge. The two engaged in a fight and when Rose tried to intervene Logan killed her. Devastated by his actions he fled, and his memories were so painful that his mind “erased them” due to his mutant healing power.
He traveled the wilds of Canada, and served in countless wars, including fighting alongside Captain America in World War II, and during the Vietnam War. He soon became part of Weapon X, where he received an Adamantium graft to his skeleton giving him the indestructible metal claws. However, he also performed some unspeakable atrocities against fellow mutants because he was “Following orders”. Actions were so bad that a former teammate said “There’s a special place in Hell for the likes of us.” His memory was erased and he was forever plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder.
He spent time in Japan training as a Samurai hoping to at least find inner peace. Later he joined Canada’s Department H. They assigned him to the hero team Alpha Flight and soon he became part of the X-Men. He had heard of Charles Xavier who was the founder of the X-Men and a powerful telepath. Wolverine hoped that perhaps he could help him recover his forgotten memories.
During his time with the X-Men he has been shot at, nearly blown-up, and even had his adamantium skeleton ripped out by Magneto. Because of his past Wolverine is a tortured soul. His whole life is one of pain and turmoil. He may be able to heal fast but it is still difficult. His claws, despite how cool they appear to be, are far from pleasant. When asked by Rouge in the first X-men movie if they hurt, he tells her, “All the time”. It is more then just words from this tough guy as you can see the claws split through the skin whenever they pop out.
With all his pain and his troubling past why would he seek to remember any of it? Some would say he’s better off. Even Xavier reminds him to tread lightly during their sessions, telling him in X-Men 2, “Logan, the mind is not a box simply unlocked and opened, it’s a beehive with a million separate compartments that are easily damaged with repeated poking and prodding. Sometimes it’s better to let the mind make its own discoveries in its own time.”
The big reason he tries to recover his past is because he is ultimately a man with no identity. An identity is more then just a person’s name. Part of our nexus of identity is derived within our memories. From the places we’ve been, lessons we’ve learned, names and faces of family and friends, things we like and don’t like, to the experiences we’ve had, each thing helps shape who we are. The same is true with superheroes. Tony Stark could tell you about his captivity, his childhood, his love of technology. Thor could tell you an exciting tale from his youth traveling through the nine realms on some exciting adventure. Steve Rogers could tell you about growing up in Brooklyn during the Depression, the events of World War II, and even something as trivial as baseball games he has seen. Peter Parker could tell you about growing up with Aunt May and Uncle Ben and girls he had crushes on.
Wolverine could tell you none of it. All he has is brief flashes that only further his animal like instincts. The loss of many women he loved motivates him to protect women and the defenseless. His torture at the hands of the authorities that were Weapon X, and the inhuman orders they gave him made him reluctant to adhere to authority. His love for the young, compassionate redhead servant girl named Rose gave him an attachment to Jean Grey. His experiences in World War II with Captain America fostered his respect for the man with the shield. The horrible things Weapon X did made him unwilling to join a group, this best seen in his cameo in the film X-Men: First Class when Magneto and Xavier try to recruit him for the X-Men, he tells them, “Go *#@% yourself.” Witnessing the horrors of war led him to believe that mutant children should never be forced to fight in a war and should choose to make such a choice.
He would like to know where these instincts and flashes come from, and when it comes to the horrors he did he would love nothing more then to make amends .In fact when confronted with some of the atrocities against an innocent mutant, he is deeply remorseful. Wolverine’s heroes journey is different from others because it as a journey to try and find himself. Because of this journey, and his desire to know who he is, we can’t help but find a soft spot for the gruff (really )old guy with shiny metal claws and a healing factor that would make a doctor jealous. We want him to find out who he is, in the same way we want to find out who we are. Otherwise how can he, or any of us, become a better person?
*Note, Wolverine does not appear in the “Marvel Cinimatic Universe” of films ( Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers). The film rights to his charcter ( and all other members of the X-Men Family of charcters) are owned by 20th Century Fox, while the heroes comprising the Avengers belong to Disney/Marvel Studios. However due to his prominence in the Marvel Universe, the fact that the X-Men movies helped reignite the superhero film genre ( along with the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie), and his current membership on the Avengers roster in the comic books, I felt Wolverine needed to get his day in the sun.
Claremont, Chris, John Byrne and Terry Austin. X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga. 1980 Marvel Comics.
Claremont, Chris and Brent Anderson. X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. 1983. Marvel Comics.
Gordon, Scott E. (Dir.) “Past Discretions” Wolverine and the X-Men ( TV Series) Airdate: June 5th, 2009 Lionsgate Entertainent.
Gordon, Scott E. (Dir.) “Stolen Lives” Wolverine and the X-Men ( TV Series) Airdate: July 31st, 2009 Lionsgate Entertainent.
Hood, Gavin. (Dir.) X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Lynne Collins, Ryan Reynolds, and Taylor Kitsch. 2009. 20th Century Fox.
Jenkins, Paul, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove. Wolverine: Origin. 2002. Marvel Comics.
Kirkland, Boyd. ( Dir.) “Code of Conduct” Wolverine and the X-Men ( TV Series) Airdate: August 21st, 2009 Lionsgate Entertainent.
Loeb, Jeph, and Lenil Yu. “Denial.” Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America. 2007. Marvel Comics.
McDermont David and Steven Melching. “Weapon X, Lies and Videotape.” X-Men. Original Airdate: June 11th, 1995.
Miller, Frank, and Chris Claremont. Wolverine. ( 1-4) 1983 Marvel Comics.
( Film) Paur, Frank (Dir.) Hulk Vs. Wolverine. 2009. Marvel Animation.
Rattner, Brett ( Dir.) X-Men: The Last Stand Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Famke Jansen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page and Kelsey Gramer. 2006. 20th Century Fox
Singer, Bryan ( Dir.) X-Men Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Famke Jansen, and Anna Paquin . 2000. 20th Century Fox.
Singer, Bryan ( Dir.) X- 2: X-Men United Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Famke Jansen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Kelly Hu, and Brian Cox. 2002. 20th Century Fox.
Van Lente, Fred and Gurihiru “The Kingdom of No” Wolverine: Origin of an X-Man. May 2009 Free Comic Book Day One-Shot
Vaugn, Matthew (Dir.) X-Men: First Class. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawerence, and Rose Byrne. 2011. 20th Century Fox.
Wein, Len and Herb Trimpe Incredible Hulk #180 October, 1974. Marvel Comics.
Wein, Len and Herb Trimpe Incredible Hulk #180. November 1974. Marvel Comics.
Wein, Len. “Repo Man.”X-Men.( TV Show.) Original Airdate November 20th, 2003
Wein, Len. “Old Soldiers.” X-Men.( TV Show.) Original Airdate February 22nd. 1997.
Whedon, Joss and John Cassady. Astonishing X-Men.
Windsor –Smith, Barry. Weapon X. 1991. Marvel Comics.
This Blog is not endorsed, approved, affiliated or prepared for by any persons involved in the creation, or ownership of the Wolverine Character .the views and opinions in this blog are strictly those of it’s author and do not reflect the views or ownership of Marvel Comics, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Entertainment or 20th Century Fox.
Wolverine created by Len Wein, John Romita, Sr., and Herb Trimpe.
2008 Marvel Comics. 2009 Marvel Studios/20th Century Fox.