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A Step-By-Step Guide To How Wolverine Became Wolverine As You Know Him

He’s the ragin’ Canadian, the ol’ Canucklehead, and the best there is at what he does, bub. Sometimes he goes by Logan, other times it’s James Howlett and, often, he’s known by reputation alone. The Wolverine is not just one of the most notable superheroes in the world, but he’s now one of the most famous and well-known fictional characters, period. Wolverine’s basic attributes, like his claws, his healing factor, and his bad attitude, are widely recognizable, and his masterful portrayal by Hugh Jackman in many X-Men films has only helped his visibility. Wolverine is undoubtedly one of the most valuable properties that Marvel Comics owns, but it wasn’t always that way.

The interesting thing about Wolverine’s climb to fame is how late of a start he got when compared to other superheroes. Classic characters like Batman and Superman got their start in the 1930s, Captain America was around in World War II, and even Silver Age heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers showed up in the ’60s. Wolverine, on the other hand, didn’t make his first appearance until 1974. Despite this delay, Wolverine became popular almost immediately, and it wasn’t long before he was considered one of the very best Marvel had to offer. However, the character needed to experience plenty of change, growth, and development to become the Wolverine that he is today. Over the years, countless creators have contributed to crafting the mutant hero that we’ve all grown to love and admire.

  • Chris Claremont Almost Ditched Wolverine, But He Was Saved By Fellow Canadian John Byrne

    Chris Claremont really wanted to keep his X-Men roster fresh. He killed off one hero, Thunderbird, very early in the series, and was actually considering dumping Wolverine, too. He very well might have, had Dave Cockrum not been replaced as series artist by John Byrne. Byrne, a proud Canadian, was not about to let Claremont cut his fellow Canuck, and so he fought to keep Wolverine around. It was “the only instance of ever wrapping myself in the Canadian flag in the 22 years I lived in that country,” Byrne recalled. He said to Claremont, “We are not getting rid of the only Canadian in the book!”

    Byrne also went to work developing the character further in order to justify his continued existence. It was during this time that Claremont and Byrne collaboratively started to add now-integral aspects to Wolverine’s character, like his healing factor and his enhanced senses. There were still many questions left unanswered about Wolverine, but the creators managed to make this air of mystery a central part of his identity, which only served to make him more popular.

  • When Byrne Finally Revealed Wolverine's Face, He Based It On An Obscure Movie Character

    Claremont and Byrne really tried to stretch out their reveals of the various mysteries surrounding Wolverine. In fact, the two would be on the X-Men title for quite some time before they even depicted Wolverine without a mask. Nobody really knew what Wolverine looked like—or how old he was—until Byrne decided for them. Others had envisioned Wolverine as young, or at least youthful-looking, but Byrne had other ideas. He modeled Wolverine on Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken, a character from the cult favorite hockey film Slap Shot, as portrayed by Paul D’Amato. Dr. Hook’s personality certainly matched Wolverine’s, and his wild hair also happened to match the pre-established shape of Wolverine’s mask pretty perfectly. Wolverine was a new kind of hero, gruff and gritty, not like those pretty boys over at DC Comics.

  • The Clothes Almost Made The Man, But One Of Several Career Costume Changes Occurred

    Photo: Marvel/John Byrne

    When a comic book character is created, the original vision for them may be quite different than what actually ends up on the page. In the case of Wolverine, this was definitely a blessing. When Len Wein got his hands on the character, he loved the idea of Wolvie’s claws but thought that they should be a part of his costume. Wein envisioned high-tech adamantium claws that retracted into sheaths that were housed on the back of Wolverine’s clothes. Basically, if he wasn’t wearing gloves, he wouldn’t be able to gut anyone. Justifying this, Wein stated, “my original idea was for Wolvie's claws to extend from the backs of his gloves. I figured that since Adamantium is indestructible, telescoping claws no more than a molecule thick could fit into those casings in the backs of Adamantium gloves, which had then been covered in cloth. Dave and Chris definitely improved on that idea.”

    Another creator pointed out this would mean anyone could pick up the gloves and become Wolverine, at which point the decision was made to make the claws part of his body. Now, Wolverine was truly unique and irreplaceable. That was the first costume-related change Wolverine faced, but it was far from the last. His yellow-and-blue attire would soon switch to a tan model, and he’s been switching outfits ever since.

  • Wolverine's Actual Origins Remained Muddled

    By the late '70s, more of Wolverine’s backstory started coming to light. It took a while before readers even learned that his real name (for the time being) was Logan, a fact that was revealed by a literal leprechaun in one off-beat story. Other elements of Logan’s past, from his time with the Canadian government and history in Japan, also got peppered into various storylines. Wolverine’s shaky past became a plot point itself when it became apparent that the hero’s own memory was incomplete, leaving even him in the dark about his own history.

    Easily the strangest bit of backstory that was considered for Wolverine has to be the mutant-wolverine origin. It has been debated who exactly came up with the idea but, at some point, Marvel considered revealing that Wolverine was actually a real wolverine that had been mutated into a man by the High Evolutionary. Len Wein strongly denies that it was his idea or that he ever really considered going with it: 

    “I absolutely DID NOT ever intend to make Logan a mutated wolverine. I write stories about human beings, not evolved animals (with apologies for any story I may have written that involved the High Evolutionary). The mutated wolverine thing came about long after I was no longer involved with the book. I'm not certain if the idea was first suggested by Chris Claremont, the late much-missed Dave Cockrum, or John Byrne when he came aboard as artist, but it most certainly DID NOT start with me.”

    Whoever came up with it, the idea was definitely put out there.