He’s the most popular member of the X-Men, he’s an Avenger, he’s fought in World War II and he’s Canadian. He’s Wolverine and he’s got a new movie out. Time to look at who our favourite Canuck actually is.
It was 1974, the day The Incredible Hulk #180 came out. Written by Len Wein with art by Herb Trimpe, the comic book saw The Hulk in the Canadian wilderness. While the military decides to mobilize Weapon X, The Hulk meets a shaman and a creature named Wendigo. And they get interrupted by this fellow.
This is Wolverine’s very first appearance. He was the big cliffhanger – the element at the end of an issue that wants to make you read the next one. Wolverine announced that he’s to “take care” of Hulk and Wendigo. Despite the two other characters being insanely strong, Wolverine holds his own in a fight against them. The Canadian government officials mention that Wolverine is a mutant. He has enhanced speed, strength and savagery. He also possesses something that can only be quantified and certified in comics: The Skills of a Professional Warrior. As opposed to the skills of an amateur warrior.
And with that issue of Hulk, a story in comics began like no other. While all the trademarks of Wolverine as we know him today where there – ferociousness, rage, snarling, claws, gaudy costume – this was merely the groundwork. But what author Len Wein didn’t do was supply the character with a story that explains how Wolverine became to be who he is. In fact, Wolverine didn’t even have a name. He was Weapon X, also known as The Wolverine. The man beneath the mask didn’t remember his own past.
What he did have, though, were claws. They’re made of Adamantium, the most durable metal of them all. In addition to that, Wolverine’s entire skeleton was laced with Adamantium, so his bones are impossible to break and due to his so-called Healing Factor – the ability to heal from any injury – he was really hard to kill.
In 1975, Wolverine met the X-Men for the seemingly first time. Over time, it would be revealed that he had met many mutants over the course of his life, but he just couldn’t remember. It was also there where he first revealed that the three claws he has on each of his hands are retractable. When slipping in or out of the back of his hands, they make a sound effect that only ever happens when Wolverine retracts or ejects his claws: The now legendary SNIKT.
As a member of the X-Men, he quickly found an ally in Scott Summers, known as Cyclops. However, they had their share of conflict. Bascially, Wolverine was a valued member of the team. The X-Men could count on him, but he wasn’t much of a team player.
In 1982, legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont and artist Frank Miller of Sin City fame teamed up and created a four-issue series starring Logan. His catchphrase was introduced: “I am the best at what I do, but what I do ain’t pretty.” It was also the first time he was portrayed as a killer, who uses his claws to maim his enemies without mercy. He also – while on a quest of love – had a thing going on with a woman named Yukio. Wolverine was not a nice person. Readers loved it.
From there on out, Wolverine was made out to be angrier, more savage and more brutal. He got something referred to as Berserker Rage that makes him kill everything in sight. At some point, Magneto who has magnetic powers ripped all the Adamantium from Logan’s bones. This drove him into a feral state and he was more animal than man.
And then, Wolverine saved Marvel from bankruptcy, which is a story for another day, because this article would go way over length. Anyways, in 2001 – 27 years after his first appearance – Wolverine got his origin revealed. Logan’s healing factor not only heals all his injuries but also keeps him young. Logan was born James Howlett in the Canadian mountains at some point in the 1880s. After his mutant powers manifested, he was exiled and travelled the world. He went to the fictional country Madripoor, trained as a Samurai in Japan, fought in both World Wars and was even a member of the secret organization named S.H.I.E.L.D. before he joined with the Canadian government. They bonded the Adamantium to his bones and claws and Professor Xavier, the leader of the X-Men, wiped his memory because Logan’s last mission before that was to kill Xavier.
After this, Wolverine was treated as a serious character, getting centre stage in three X-Men films as well as his first solo movie. He became an Avenger and leads his own school of mutants. Wolverine is everywhere and while not everyone might agree with him being in every Marvel book there is, everyone has a soft spot for the grumpy canuck.