Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t like Wolverine. It’s just that everyone says something about him. 20th Century Fox seems to believe that the X-Men movies are all Wolverine movies with other people guest-starring. Honestly, the over-saturation gets old quick. But, why did Wolverine take off where no one else did? I mean, Deadpool eventually got near the same level of recognition and fanboy appreciation. But, what made a Canadian midget take off and gain such approval? Would Michael J. Fox have remained as popular if he didn’t get Parkinson’s, but joined Weapon X?
The Outback era of the X-Men is where my youthful Wolverine adoration began. The first issue I read is where he gets infected with a Brood embryo again. But, I didn’t know that he got infected before. Then, he’s in Mutant Apartheid Land and then he’s fighting demons and crap during Inferno. This was over the course of a year, but it blew my brain out the back of my head. It was the era of Tim Burton’s Batman, but I didn’t care. Wolverine and his freaky friends were my new preferred comic heroes now.
Then, I stopped reading them for 2 or 3 years. I had started my comic collecting in old bookstores and not the comic rack. I would read the entirety of the 1988 books in 1989, then I’d read a few issues of Classic X-Men before returning to Justice League International. I didn’t stabilize my reading until the Muir Isle Saga appeared in its entirety on the comic rack at Wal-Mart. Yeah, they used to have racks. This was quickly followed my first trip to a real comic shop where I saw that everything was Wolverine, Batman or The Punisher. I thought Batman only worked in movies, so I turned back to Wolverine and the X-Men. What I saw was a brightly colored individual who was always on the verge of a berzerker rage. I shrugged and then bought a pack of Desert Storm and Marvel Universe trading cards.
Most creators have an innate desire to keep making Wolverine savage. Claremont started building it up first, as Wein portrayed the character as some Canadian government killer dick. When I first started reading the character, he was always on the edge of killing someone. But, his Samurai spirit held back his rage. He would eventually have a tantrum, destroy shit and then save the day. Towards the time that I started digging Wolverine, there was a push to saddle him with emotional weight. Usually this took the form of the kid Jubilee or a visit from Kitty Pryde or Albert and Elsie Dee in a pinch. This was also around the time that Mariko died in order to end a fight between her family, the Yakuza and The Hand. Wolverine was now unsaddled, except for those times that Marvel needed to cool down their FOX KIDS cartoon star.
When you play down the Savage Wolverine, you start to get the aspects of the personality that I enjoy. Wolverine during the peak of the Claremont/Byrne years was a bit of a nasty bastard. He was willing to put the moves on Jean Grey, while also being willing to gut an agent or two of The Hellfire Club. Wolverine would talk down his opponents, while letting them know that he was far better at this than they. Over the years, the healing factor he sported basically guaranteed immortality, as he could battle any enemy without threat of recourse. Over the years, the fights would carry on and on as Wolverine would drop scores of foes. Recently, Sabretooth caused Wolverine to lose the healing factor and that’s playing into the character’s eventual death. But, I’m just going to ignore that until a later chapter.
When the Wolverine mini-series debuted in 1982, I was a year old. Nevertheless, it remained popular enough that I discovered it as a trade paperback at B. Dalton’s when I was 11. There’s something about Frank Miller and Ninjas that just works. The Hand ninjas would remain part of the Wolverine mythos for decades to come, while it also represented the other half of Wolverine’s Japan fetish. I don’t know if Claremont first read or watched Shogun around that time, but it was a solid ten years of obsessively working Asian influence into Wolverine. Everything from Madripoor to Mariko to Yukio and the Clan Yashida were introduced during this time. The Hand, Lady Deathstrike and the origins of Adamantium were holdovers from Daredevil and Alpha Flight. But, it all fused together to give Wolverine the biggest boner for Asian culture since Rivers Cuomo wrote Pinkerton.
Mariko Yashida is also a big part of the Wolverine mythos. When “The Wolverine” arrived last year, I was a little dismayed to see how much she was played down. She was the man’s true love, even though later stories revealed that he bagged more women before and after. Plus, he would eventually have a team of villains made up of his bastard children. Mariko and Logan were meant to marry several times, but fate got in the way. It didn’t hurt that Wolverine also killed Mariko’s dad in a duel. Eventually, the relationship would come to an end as Mariko was poisoned trying to bring a truce to a three way gang war in Japan. She cut off her pinky to appease the Yakuza, but the blade was poisoned. She begged Logan to run her through with his claws and he obliged.
Whether you call him Logan, Bub, Patch, Weapon X or Wolverine; he’s still a feisty short round that wants to scrap. He’s lost a lot, gained a family in the X-Men and he continues to be one of the only characters that gets to mature as this series moves on. After the X-Men Schism, he would take on a leadership role as the head of the Jean Grey School. Eventually, he’d let Kitty Pryde and Storm take over as Headmistress. But, Wolverine seems to be the only one that remembers Xavier’s original intentions and lives to uphold them. Recently, he’s been going undercover and doing work that most frowned on. Whether it be his time with X-Force or Uncanny Avengers, there’s still a part of the man that loves being in trouble. But, how low could he really go?
What about the low points in the ol’ Canucklehead’s life? There’s the time he devolved after Magneto ripped the Adamantium out of his body. Look at the shot below to see the magic that was the X-Men in the mid 90s. He also argued and fought with leprechauns that revealed his name was Logan. The Punisher ran him over with a steamroller, but this was after Frank Castle blew his testicles off with a shotgun. The Hulk tore Logan in half. Cassandra Nova rendered him mindless. I think that’s about it for now. No one gets away clean, plus it helps to have moments where you can downplay a character that grows too big for his own good. Meat faced beast boy in the pic blow also took to wearing a cowl during the Onslaught event. So, you had Batman cosplaying Feral Kid for a bit.
There was an issue in the recent Jason Aaron run on the Wolverine solo book that blew me away. There’s an event staged for Wolverine to remind him that he has friends. Various players around the Marvel Universe are brought together to talk about their friend. But, it’s the three panel shot below that shows what lies at the heart of the X-Men. No matter how big of a crazed loner you become, you made friends and these guys have your back. Even when Cyclops loses his mind, betrayed Xavier’s dream and starts leading a paramilitary outfit in the wilds of Canada; your friends still care. Later in the issue, Namor insinuates that he can’t swim. I didn’t know that was a thing, but OK.
What about The Fastball Special? A few readers sent me comments saying that they were pissed that it didn’t get a mention in the Colossus chapter. Well, I always felt that it was almost always Wolverine getting used as the Fastball, so how’s about attributing to the person being hurled through the air? It takes two to tango, but Wolverine was always the one being launched claws out into a Sentinel’s face. Still, what else can you say? It’s one of the most striking visuals in American comics and it serves as a cultural touch point for all Marvel fans. Anyone who has read a X-book over the years has that moment as a shared experience and it speaks to those perfect times where everyone comes together and enjoys what matters most in our brave geek community.
In the modern era, Wolverine is the head of the Jean Grey School. After the Schism, I’m firmly Team Logan and I support the effort to bring normalcy to the emerging new mutants of the world. I was a little heartbroken to see Aaron leave the series, as I could’ve stood to see him become the new Claremont in terms of longevity. But, new teams and new changes are part of the appeal of comics. If everything stayed the same, they would be Archie books. Which now have changed rapidly to match a new fanbase that demands crazier antics. But, there’s still that looming Death of Wolverine event. While I believe death in comics can be used as an effective storytelling tool, there is the push to cheapen it. Can’t we have some middle ground? Sure, the characters will come back in time, but the setup to the event has to mean something.
Looking back with the aid of history, I can see that Wolverine was important to the overall health of Marvel Comics. He was part of the mid 70s renaissance that represented Marvel officially beginning to dominate DC in terms of popularity and sales. Plus, his popularity took X-Men from a publishing curiosity and developed it into a franchise. There’s not a lot of one-off Hulk villains that end up joining a revamped team. Especially ones that end up becoming flagship characters for a company. There’s nothing about Wolverine that isn’t odd, but who cares? He is the best there is at what he does. That being producing content for fanboys and fangirls online.
I found out that I’m legally obligated to mention something about Hugh Jackman when discussing Wolverine online. I don’t really have much to say, so I’m asking that fans create MS Paint art to help me out.