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Friday, May 1, 2009

To Better Know A Hero: Wolverine

Real Name: James Howlett

First Appearance
: Incredible Hulk #180 October 1974 (cameo), Incredible Hulk #181 (full)

Nicknames and Aliases: Logan, Patch, Weapon X, Wolvie, Ol' Canucklehead.

Powers and Abilities: Healing factor, which heals nearly all wounds (including poisons, alcohol and the effects of smoking) and slows aging; enhanced animalistic senses, speed and agility; Wolverine is also a trained martial artist, swordsman and special forces operative.

Weaknesses and Achilles’ Heels: Redheads; teenage girls in need of father figures; drowning; decapitation; intense injury applied at a constant rate faster than his healing factor can account for it; the Muramasa Blade, a samurai sword with the mystical ability to nullify regenerative powers; a tendency to slip into "berserker rages" in which rational thought is suppressed in favor of animal rage.

Gadgets and Accessories: All of Wolverine's bones, including three retractable claws on each hand, are coated in unbreakable adamantium.

Friends and Allies
: Mariko Yashida (his deceased wife); Silver Fox (his deceased girlfriend); Daken* (his son); X-23 (Laura Kinney, his female clone); Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde, his first unofficial sidekick); Jubilee (Jubilation Lee, his second unofficial sidekick); Armor (Hisako Ichiki, his third unofficial sidekick); Alpha Flight; X-Force; the X-Men.

Foes and Antagonists: Sabretooth, Magneto, Lady Deathstrike, the Reavers, Silver Samurai, the Marauders, Shingen Yashida, the Sentinels.

Movies and Appearances:
For the most part, when the X-Men appear outside of comic books, Wolverine is there:
  • In the "Pryde of the X-Men" pilot that aired in the mid-80s (as part of "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends") Wolverine spoke with an Australian accent.
  • He appeared in Fox's popular and successful 90s X-Men cartoon, as well as X-Men: Evolution later in the decade.
  • Wolverine is currently headlining another X-Men cartoon, "Wolverine and the X-Men."
  • And of course, that dude from "Kate and Leopold" played Wolverine in a few X-Men movies.

One-Sentence Origin: He's the best there is at what he does...and what he does isn't very nice.

Memorable Moment
: X-Men #25 October 1993: Magneto uses his power to forcibly rip the adamantium from Wolverine's bones.

Fun Fact: Dave Cockrum, who first drew Wolverine in "X-Men", originally intended for him to be an actual wolverine mutated into human form by the High Evolutionary.

Teebore’s Take: Star of approximately 1,256 comics books a month while guest starring in about half that many, Wolverine is clearly Marvel's bread-and-butter character nowadays, at least in terms of sales. He is also, arguably, the youngest comic book character to become a universally-recognized icon. But it wasn't always that way: he first appeared in an issue of Incredible Hulk as a one-off antagonist before getting recruited by Xavier to join the "new" X-Men. From there, writer Chris Claremont, while still keeping him firmly rooted as a member of the ensemble, laid the foundation for the character's popularity: the claws were part of him, not some kind of weapon; the mysterious past; the rebellious attitude; the struggle to control his "berserker rages"; the connection to Japan and the resultant dichotomy between the civilized man and the wild beast.

Of course, much of Wolverine's popularity stems from the growing popularity of the "anti-hero" at the time of his ascension. By the time Wolverine got his own series, he was at the forefront of a large number of new characters that "took no prisoners," "made the hard choices," "weren't afraid to cross those lines" and "lived in a world of gray," and a great number of fans loved it. As "grim 'n' gritty" characters gained popularity and boosted sales, numerous Wolverine imitators flooded comics.

Growing up reading X-Men, I certainly had an affection for the character, though I never really considered him a "favorite" (mainly because I related more to the uptight and straight-laced Cyclops than the roguish and rebellious Wolverine, and because Wolverine was already the favorite of too many other people). What I did like about the character had little to do with his "grim 'n' gritty" persona. Rather, I responded to his mysterious past (I'm a sucker for characters with forgotten, mysterious pasts) and his almost Hulk-like struggle to control the bestial rage inside him and become a better man, a hero rather than a killer.

By now, Wolverine is so overexposed and has been so copied and parodied through the years that I'm almost surprised when I read a good Wolverine story that there still is something enjoyable about the character. As his continued popularity suggests, there definitely is more to him than the generic "grim 'n' gritty" elements that solely define so many of his pretenders. What Wolverine is best at, it seems, is rising above the shortcomings of the style he helped popularize.

*The less said of Daken, the better.


  1. You forgot to say that in the 90's cartoon Wolverine called Sabretooth an egg sucking piece of gutter trash.

  2. "An egg sucking piece of gutter trash"???

    My goal is to use that insult on someone by the end of the weekend.

  3. Let us know how that turns out. Please. :)

    Sadly, yes, I forgot that bit of Wolverine trivia. Now that the first two-and-half seasons of that show are out on DVD, I might do some posts celebrating its craptacular awesomeness.

    Hopefully more lines akin to "egg sucking piece of gutter trash" await.

  4. God, that really is a great series.

    Don't forget his ample usage of the word 'cripes' because marvel couldn't/wouldn't use swear words (or even pseudo swear words, like the actual 'crap' he could've said)


  5. mutie, let's be honest .

  6. In the "Pryde of the X-Men" pilot that aired in the mid-80s (as part of "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends") Wolverine spoke with an Australian accent.

    Lord, reading this reminded me of this bit of trivia... so naturally, I had to go look it up! I'm Australian, and if I ever encountered anyone speaking like that, I'd assume that they were either insane or being ironic.


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