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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

X-amining Incredible Hulk #180-182

"And the Wind Howls...Wendigo!" / "And Now...The Wolverine!" / "Between Hammer and Anvil"
October -December 1974

In a Nutshell
The first appearance of Wolverine

Writer: Len Wein
Pencils: Herb Trimpe
Inks: Jack Abel
Letterer: Artie Simek
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Roy Thomas

Plot
The Hulk enters Canada, drawn there by the sister of the Wendigo, who hopes to transfer the Wendigo curse from her brother to Hulk. Meanwhile, the Canadian military dispatches Weapon X to capture the Hulk. Wendigo and Hulk fight one another, pausing only when Weapon X, calling himself Wolverine, arrives on the scene. Realizing both his foes are nearly invulnerable, Wolverine convinces Hulk to help him defeat Wendigo. Thinking perhaps this means Wolverine is his friend, Hulk agrees, but once Wendigo is defeated, Wolverine turns on Hulk, determined to complete his mission. But Hulk manages to land a glancing blow on Wolverine, strong enough to knock him out, and when he wakes up, his superiors order him out, his time limit to capture the Hulk on his own having expired.

Firsts and Other Notables
These issues represent the first appearance of Wolverine, with the character referenced once and then appearing on the final panel of issue #180, then featuring heavily in #181 (which is considered his true first appearance) before appearing in the first page of #182. After that, he next appears in Giant-Size X-Men #1, when Professor X recruits him for the "All New, All Different" iteration of the team.


As a result of first appearing in the Hulk's book to fight Wendigo, Wolverine has something of special relationship with those characters, with the animosity between him and the Hulk a recurring theme throughout the two characters subsequent meetings, even as both have changed and developed over time.

Wolverine is a textbook case for the difficulty in assigning creator credits to characters devised in a collaborative, work-for-hire environment. He is generally credited as the creation of Len Wein (who wrote these issues) and John Romita Sr., Marvel's art director at the time, who created the look of the character, including his claws. But Romita never drew him in a published comic; Herb Trimpe's intrepretation of the character is the first the public saw (though Trimpe has routinely denied any creator credit for the character). And Wein only created the character after being asked by Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas to create a small, feisty Canadian character named Wolverine, so at least some of the character's initial attributes came from Thomas, rather than Wein. Artist Gil Kane, drawing the cover to Giant-Size X-Men #1, mistakenly tweaked his mask to give it it's now iconic look, a mistake Dave Cockrum ran with as he drew the character regularly in X-Men. And, of course, a case can be made that Wolverine as he's generally known today is in large part the creation of Chris Claremont, who wrote and developed the character for decades.

And, of course, one of the more infamous "aborted" origins for Wolverine was that he was, in fact, a wolverine mutated into human form, an idea often erroneously attributed to Len Wein (notably by Dave Cockrum in 1982's X-Men Companion) but which in fact didn't really come along until Claremont started writing the X-Men (and which was promptly dropped), along with the fact that Wolverine was, in fact, older than a teenager (as revealed when Cockrum first drew him without his mask.

Incidentally, you can find a whole list of comic book legends pertaining to Wolverine (his creation and otherwise) here.

A Work in Progress
Wolverine is referred to alternative as both Weapon X and Wolverine throughout this story, usually the former by his Canadian superiors and the latter by himself.


As drawn in issue #181, Wolverine's claws are thicker and rounder than the angled blades they'll later be depicted as, in part because, originally, they were intended to be part of his gloves and not protruding from his body.


The claws are said to be made of adamantium, though Wolverine claims they can't cut through Hulk's hide, something that will later be shown to be false.


Though the details are vague, the idea that the Canadian government has spent time/money developing Wolverine as a superhero is here right from the start. Also, while it's clear he's a mutant from the start, this story suggests his powers are simply his increased speed, strength and savagery.


Wolverine basically convinces Hulk that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" in order to get them to team up againt Wendigo.


That 70s Comic
At one point, Hulk punches Wolverine, but his speed and stamina save him from having his head knocked clean off.


The Best There is at What He Does
Wolverine declares here that "moving" is the thing he does best.


Having failed to capture the Hulk within his given time limit, Wolverine is retrieved by the Canadian military; he's reluctant to leave, but acquiesces when told "not to disobey orders".


Austin's Analysis
As someone attempting to assemble a complete run of both X-Men and Avengers series, I've always had a lot of sympathy for anyone trying to do the same for Incredible Hulk, because I suspect the hardest issue for them to find, and the one they'll pay the most for (possibly even beyond #1), is #181, all because it's the debut of a character who is insanely popular but, in the grand scheme of things, really isn't all that important to the Hulk.

Because, of course, Wolverine as presented here bears little resemblance to the character he'll become, functioning mainly as a minor antagonist intended to add a different wrinkle to another standard Hulk/villain-du-jour fight, and to play up some of Hulk's trust issues (with Wolverine first aiding Hulk against Wendigo, then immediately turning against him once Wendigo is seemingly defeated, since stopping Hulk is his mission). It remains unclear if Wolverine was created with the intention of seguing him into a new group of international X-Men after his tryout here, or if he was simply meant to be a one-off antagonist for the Hulk (earning more appearances, of course, based on fan reaction), but what is clear is that while the broadstrokes of the later character are there - the claws, the small stature and fierce personality - it is with the X-Men - and Chris Claremont - that Wolverine will become the character we know him to be today.

From the perspective of an X-Men fan (rather than a Hulk fan), these issues are little more than a curiosity then, the proof of the fact that the character who most represents the X-Men in the eyes of the general public did not first appear in an X-Men comic or anywhere near one. Squint hard, and the future of the character can be seen in these pages; certainly, little here is overtly contradicted by later stories, even as those stories develop and expand greatly on what is presented. But taken on their own, without any knowledge of what's to come, it'd be hard to believe that the character introduced here, across three otherwise workmanlike issues of The Incredible Hulk, would go on to become, arguably, Marvel's most popular character.

Next Issue
Madrox the Multiple Man makes his first appearance in Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4.

13 comments:

  1. The published time on the article mentions Wednesday the 1st but I didn't see it on the page until late Friday night/early Saturday morning. I checked the site each day this week to see when the article would be up. I'm in withdrawals with the lighter load, I need notblogx to do some X-Men or something more along 90's comics to pick up some of the load. Now that he's done with the look at Wizard, I'm missing his witty commentary on things I care about.

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    1. Yeah, I came down with some kind of flu bug late last week so I didn't finish up the post until Friday, but I backdated it to noon on Wednesday to keep in consistent with previous posts (a trick I've pulled more often than I'd care too lately).

      I've been missing G's Wizard posts as well. Those were tons of fun.

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  2. I recall reading that Wolverine was always intended to be used in Giant Sized X-Men and that the Hulk isues were, as you suggest, a try-out appearance. But for the life of me I can't remember where I read that.
    -Pushpaw

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  3. At one point, Hulk punches Wolverine, but his speed and stamina save him from having his head knocked clean off.

    The panel says it's "probably" those things. But obviously as we know now it was the adamantium-strenghtened skull and the healing factor. That "probably" being there is absolute perfection now in hindsight.

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  4. I fell compelled to point out that #182’s story was inked by Trimpe and lettered by John Costanza, since you are officially writing up all three issues.

    // Wolverine basically convinces Hulk that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" in order to get them to team up againt Wendigo. //

    Um, actually... 8^) Hulk sees Wolverine attack Wendigo and in a brief, highly amusing (to me, anyway) soliloquy convinces himself that Wolverine is his friend, which being no idiot Wolverine piggybacks on (figuratively, while he’s literally piggybacking on Wendigo).

    // the idea that the Canadian government has spent time/money developing Wolverine as a superhero is here right from the start //

    You can read the dialogue in that panel more vaguely if you want to, like Wolverine’s now deemed ready to face a challenge as great as the Hulk — and you have to read it that way in hindsight — but it sounds rather like he’s finally being sent out on his first mission.

    // It remains unclear if Wolverine was created with the intention of segueing him into a new group of international X-Men after his tryout here, or if he was simply meant to be a one-off antagonist for the Hulk //

    Wein, in a phone interview with me, for the X-Men piece in Comicology Vol. II #2 (Fall 2000): “There were always discussions and offhand comments made around the [Marvel] offices about reviving the X-Men as an international group like the Blackhawks. … When I created Wolverine, I made him a Canadian mutant specifically so that whoever got [the job of relaunching the group] would have something to start from.”

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    1. I fell compelled to point out that #182’s story was inked by Trimpe and lettered by John Costanza, since you are officially writing up all three issues.

      To my chagrin, I didn't go back and double check the credits on that one, assuming they'd be the same and thinking "eh, I'm technically only reviewing one page of that issue". Now I look like a horses...patoot. :P

      Hulk sees Wolverine attack Wendigo and in a brief, highly amusing (to me, anyway) soliloquy convinces himself that Wolverine is his friend, which being no idiot Wolverine piggybacks on (figuratively, while he’s literally piggybacking on Wendigo).

      Ha!

      Yeah, I misunderstood my notes and phrased that all wrong. It is indeed Hulk himself which talks himself into a variation on "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", which is pretty amusing.

      "When I created Wolverine, I made him a Canadian mutant specifically so that whoever got [the job of relaunching the group] would have something to start from"

      First, thanks for the quote, which I knew I'd read somewhere but couldn't source because everything is a mess right now. Second, it's curious, since other things I've read suggest that Roy Thomas tasked Wein with creating Wolverine specifically as a Canadian, which doesn't necessarily change Wein's point so much as re-attribute it to Thomas, rather than Wein.

      Making it yet another example of how difficult a lot of this "who created what?" stuff is to source, given just how much time has passed and how rarely anyone working on this stuff back then thought they were doing anything that was going to be the focus of critical discussion decades later...

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    2. Blam: it sounds rather like he’s finally being sent out on his first mission

      UXM #139: "I fought that monster durin' my first mission, as Wolverine, for Department H. My first mission -- my only failure."

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    3. @Teebore: // First, thanks for the quote, which I knew I'd read somewhere but couldn't source because everything is a mess right now. //

      You’re welcome. I should emphasize that while I knew it was there I feel like Wein’s said the same thing elsewhere. Roy talked about the international impetus for the new team to Peter Sanderson for the 1981 X-Men Companion books. He’s a stickler for credit wherever it’s due and usually happy to answer questions, so the fact that I didn’t get any new quotes out of him for my piece suggests to me that he was particularly busy and/or inaccessible at exactly the wrong time, especially since Alter Ego and Comicology were then being published by the same outfit.

      I do have more from Wein on the international setup, along with quotes from Thomas’ and Cockrum’s interviews with Sanderson, but didn’t feel the need to retype several paragraphs. 8^)

      @Teebore: // Second, it's curious, since other things I've read suggest that Roy Thomas tasked Wein with creating Wolverine specifically as a Canadian //

      Wein does credit Thomas with suggesting the name Wolverine, per the piece, but there’s no direct quote to that effect nor any mention of his Canadian origins’ origins beyond what I shared above. Unfortunately, I don’t have the raw interview transcript easily accessible — just the printed version — and when you’re doing interviews for an article-style… um… article rather than a straight Q&A there’s usually plenty of stuff that gets paraphrased for space or readability. One fine day I hope to rescue old files like that from the Zip and Jaz disks they were (thankfully) backed up to before my computer of that era died.

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    4. Meant to add that “Canadian” might be nigh-implicit in “wolverine”… 8^)

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  5. Len Wein is a talented creator and he's given a lot to the worlds of both Marvel and DC, but I still sort of, I dunno, cringe a bit whenever I see him credited with creating Wolverine. I mean, technically it's true, but everything Wolverine is today is owed to Chris Claremont. Yet even Hugh Jackman has said he owes his career to Wein, when really I think we all know he owes it more to Claremont.

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  6. Yeah, that sticks in my craw a bit too...
    -Pushpaw

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  7. Though the details are vague, the idea that the Canadian government has spent time/money developing Wolverine as a superhero is here right from the start.

    "Professional warrior", the men say to be exact. Which obviously is synonym to a 'soldier'. What WEAPON X and WOLVERINE have been doing lately in the X-aminations, and what Claremont has been suggesting down the road is no 80's deconstruction of a supposed 'regular superhero' setup. He's really been a supersoldier project on the loose since GIANT-SIZE #1.

    Weapon Alpha or Alpha Flight weren't really doing the angels' work when trying to retrieve him for Department H and the Canadian government. Which is probably why they felt that the Canadian PM had to officially shut down the team in the end of the UNCANNY Wendigo story as the setup for an independent, genuine superhero team in ALPHA FLIGHT.

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  8. These issues are bloody dreadful. I just love that the only female character in the story just can't handle the mental strain of all the wacky doings (even though she instigated them), and her "tenuous hold on sanity" snaps by the end. Chicks ... they're crazy, am I right? Like, literally crazy!

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