Friday, September 26, 2008

Famous First Fridays: Wolverine

While the Groovy Age gave birth to many popular characters, you'd be hard-pressed to find one more popular than that midget-misfit mutant, Wolverine. Created by Len Wein (who also gave us the Swamp Thing and the All-New, All-Different X-Men) and John (Ring-a-Ding) Romita, Wolverine first appeared as "The Wolverine" on the last page of the Incredible Hulk #180 (August, 1974). The claws, cool, and cockiness we came to know and love were all there in that pulse-pounding panel. We knew Wolvie was destined for greatness from the get-go! He was far-freakin'-out, baby!

The first full-length appearance of the mutant we'd come to call Logan was in Incredible Hulk #181 (September, 1974, written by Wein with art by Herb Trimpe). Wolvie, that 5 foot 3 inch (or one, or two, or four or five, depending on who's writing the Who's Who entry) bundle of berserker rage took it to old Jade Jaws (and villain the Wendigo) like nobody's business.

According to various interviews, Wein created Wolverine at the behest of then-editor-in-chief Roy Thomas. Wein says that Thomas wanted to see how Wein could handle a character with a Canadian accent. They then decided that the new hero should be based on an animal, since animal-based heroes usually sold well. Since wolverines were dangerous creatures who would fight other animals no matter what their size, Thomas and Wein figured a wolverine would make a perfect antagonist to take on the gigantic Hulk.

Thomas approved Wein's proposal, Romita began working on Wolverine's costume, and Wein started coming up with Wolvie's back-story. Wein had many cool ideas in mind for Wolverine like, yes, he was a mutant, but he was to have been a wolverine mutated to human form by the High Evolutionary. His powers were his healing factor, heightened senses, and berserker fighting fury. The claws were originally conceived as being part of the gloves, not part of Wolvie. They simply telescoped in and out of the casings on the back of Logan's gloves. (The "...yer claws are a part of ye, laddie", along with the adamantium skeleton scenes were long-time X-Men writer Chris Claremont's flourishes added later.) Finally, Wein created Wolverine as a teen super-hero so he'd fit into the new X-Men line-up. It wasn't until All-New, All-Different X-Men artist/co-creator Dave Cockrum drew Wolverine with his mask off (X-Men Vol. 1, #98), that we learned Logan, as he was being called by that time, was actually much older than his peers at Xavier's.

All-in-all, Wein and Romita created a sensation, whose history, personality, and coolness factor was built upon by other great creators like Claremont, Cockrum, and John Byrne. Thanks, dudes!

Oh, in case you're wondering how Wolverine's tussle with Jade-Jaws panned out, here's the splash from his third appearance (his final appearance before the legendary Giant-Size X-Men #1, btw) in Incredible Hulk #182:

That was the last time you'd see Wolvie playing the good soldier, man! Next time he was given orders it was cuttin' ties--literally and symbolically!

Right on, Wolvie!

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