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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To Better Know A Hero: Wolverine

In honor of the release of The Wolverine, the second solo film featuring Hugh Jackman as the X-Men's Wolverine, in theaters this week, I've reformatted and slightly updated my original "To Better Know a Hero" post on comics' favorite mysterious mutant with razor keen claws. Also, be sure to check out my X-amination of his original miniseries and subsequent adventure in Japan from Uncanny X-Men #172 and 173, two stories which reportedly were significant influences on the new film. 

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
Wolverine is a mutant with a healing factor, which heals nearly all wounds (including poisons, alcohol and the effects of smoking) and slows his aging. Additionally, he has enhanced animalistic senses, speed and agility, and is a highly trained martial artist, swordsman and special forces operative.

Weaknesses and Achilles’ Heels
Drowning, decapitation and intense injury applied at a constant rate faster than his healing factor can account for it, and a tendency to slip into "berserker rages" in which rational thought is suppressed in favor of animal rage. 

Also, redheads and teenage girls in need of father figures. Then there's the Muramasa Blade, a samurai sword with the mystical ability to nullify regenerative powers.

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 almost-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, the Avengers, X-Force, the X-Men.

*The less said of Daken, the better. 

Foes and Antagonists
Sabretooth, Magneto, Lady Deathstrike, the Reavers, Silver Samurai, the Marauders, overexposure, 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 most recently headlined another X-Men cartoon, Wolverine and the X-Men, as well as an original anime series. 
  • And of course, that dude from Kate and Leopold has played Wolverine in a few movies, with at least one more on the way.

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 (in terms of years in publication) 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 keeping him firmly rooted as a member of the ensemble, laid the foundation for the character's popularity: the claws (which 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 overall popularity of the "anti-hero" at the time of his ascension. By the time Wolverine received his own solo 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 grew ever more popular 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.


  1. Love the article, and the line that takes the prize is "Also, redheads and teenage girls in need of father figures."

    L to the OL.


  2. "Do you have any gadgets or accessories to report?"
    "Let's see... I have a smartphone, and it comes with a snazzy case."
    "Gadgets or accessories, miss?"
    "Accessories? Like my scrunchie?"
    "Hello, sir. Do you have any gadgets or accessories?"
    "My bones, including three retractable claws on each hand, are coated in unbreakable adamantium."

    I know it's standard handbook terminology, but...

    The "overexposure" is still priceless, BTW.

  3. @Kessel Junkie: the line that takes the prize is "Also, redheads and teenage girls in need of father figures."

    Thanks! Glad you liked it. :)

    @Blam: I know it's standard handbook terminology, but...

    Yeah, that info doesn't quite fit anywhere real well. I may have been influenced by the "gadgets and accessories" subset from one of the old Marvel Universe trading cards series, which included Wolverine's claws as a gadget/accessory.


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