Saturday, January 20, 2018
Home  >  Features  >  WOLVERWEEK: The True Origins of The Wolverine

It's WOLVERWEEK on MightyVille, so Sam Moyerman thought he'd shed some light on the dark origins of Marvel's favorite hairy, mysterious mutant, the man known to some as Logan and to many as The Wolverine!


It's WOLVERWEEK on MightyVille, so Sam Moyerman thought he'd shed some light on the dark origins of Marvel's favorite hairy, mysterious mutant, the man known to some as Logan and to many as The Wolverine!


At the time, it was one of the most controversial decisions Marvel Comics ever made. To finally reveal the true origin of their most popular mutant, the man known only by one name: Logan.  It had been 30 years since his introduction and no one really knew anything previous to his appearances in the book. There was some who thought he fought in World War II. That was it. Otherwise it was a big open slate. And Marvel loved to tease it.

Remember when Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father?  What about when he was his brother?  He was a samurai, a cowboy, a soldier, a spy, a father, and just about everything else they could possibly think.  Would they really close off that avenue completely?  Yes, they would.  And like everything else that we, as fans, would get up in arms over, it turned out just fine in the end.


For this task, Marvel tapped Paul Jenkins to write the tale. At present that may seem an odd choice for a company whose stable of writers included Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, and J. Michael Straczynski. But Jenkins was coming off the incredibly popular Inhumans with Jae Lee, a Spectacular Spider-Man series, and would soon be moving onto creating The Sentry.  For artwork, Marvel mainstay Andy Kubert was chosen. He had worked on the mutant franchises for years and drawn numerous Wolverine adventures, so it was a great choice. They added one new element, Richard Isanove’s inventive colors. Ironically, though the techniques were brand new at the time, they gave the story a very classic old time look by using the pencils and digitally painting over them. 

The most surprising thing about the story was how simple it was. There were no secret experiments, no government conspiracies, no alien invasions. In fact, it was a story set amongst the super rich family in rural Canada in the mid 19th Century. The narrator was a young girl set to be a babysitter for the sickly young son of the family. It seemed more like something Charlotte Bronte would write than Alan Moore, complete with a mother who is hiding in her room. It threw a swerve in there at the beginning: making the reader think that Dog, the groundskeeper Logan’s oft-beaten son, was going to pop claws, before revealing our long-beloved Wolverine was actually sickly James Howlett.  There were a few more twists in the reveal - his dead, older brother had a similar problem at a similar age, oh, and he was the product of an affair between his mother and groundskeeper Logan, so his stealing the name wasn’t too inappropriate.  But after running away (the one misstep in the series, by my estimation, was how quickly and matter-of-factly his grandfather turned on the boy), he went were Wolverine always goes - logging.  Oh, and to the woods to become part of a pack of wolves


It would be quite true to say that the story itself lacked the controversy that the telling of it created.  It’s quite impressive as to how, despite this, the story manages to hold up.  It’s paced brilliantly by the creators, each issue (including the last) ending with a bit of a cliffhanger.  The supporting characters all remain true to themselves through the end.  There are no crazy twists and turns or a floated-in deus ex machina.  It was just a simple tale of a young man learning to deal with his mutation and learning just how hard life is going to be.  Jenkins dialogue is great and there has never been a time when a Kubert was off his game.  In fact, the one thing about the book that was stylistically different, the inventive coloring system, is the one thing that doesn’t seem to have lasted in the industry.

Everything else has survived and spawned a lot more than we could have imagined.  Without this we would never have gotten the tremendous Wolverine: Origins ongoing series written by Daniel Way.  We probably wouldn’t have gotten Daken, Wolverine's "dark" son.  Entire histories opened up to the character, back-stories could finally be fleshed out.  And there was still a sense of mystery because this story ended less than 15 years after it started.  We still hadn’t seen the newly christened Logan make it into the 20th century, giving creators a lot more stories to tell, including the recently announced Origin 2.


Impressive work by Marvel to pull such a fast one on us.  Promise us a controversial story to increase sales; then work the story so it doesn’t contradict or change anything we already knew.  And then just make us more and more curious about a character we already couldn’t get enough of.  Bravo.


(Sam Moyerman is a professional demon hunter. He editorializes on the hunt while camped out within the protective womb of hollowed monster husk.)


What's your favorite Wolverine tale? Let us know!


More WOLVERWEEK on MightyVille:

WOLVERWEEK: I F*&%ing Hate Wolverine - A MightyVille Editorial




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