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The History of Wolverine a Reader's Perspective Part 1

By: NLogan
The Wolverine!

Wolverine art by John Byrne



Chronological Wolverine facts as revealed to the reader.

Many times when discussing the Wolverine character, his origins, and facts about his history, it is easy to get confused by writers and artists seemingly contradicting each other and what was previously written and drawn. There is also the dreaded retcon where artists and writers purposely attempt to revise and change the history of the man as we have come to know him. There was a time when Wolverine fans could collect every issue that he ever appeared in without breaking the bank monthly; from his first appearance in 1974 to about 1984 he appeared in about one book a month with the occasional guest appearances. Compare that to the 1990s or 2000s and he was in, on average, around 13 issues a month with guest appearances, multiple team affiliations, bi-monthly, tri-monthly, and sometimes even weekly appearances in books that he was the title character in. With that many artists and writers handling the character (sometimes with disdain) errors, contradictions, retcons, poor representations, and poor quality "official" canon appearances were bound to happen and did time and again. Some were due to lack of research by the respective creative teams others were through laziness, or uncaring attitudes about a throwaway character in their opinions.

Wolverine art by Arthur Adams



The character changed drastically from his beginnings as a dynamic loner in the middle of a group experience, and a violent individual attempting to control himself through self disciple, friendship, and love. Marvel's greed killed the character for me and many readers. In an attempt to have his history revealed there were too many inconsistencies, contradictions, and there were just too many adventures to all fit coherently into any one time line. Just like an urban legend new characters were suddenly there watching historical Wolverine moments or manipulating them all along from behind the scenes. Soon everybody was there whether they really were in the beginning or not and there was no possible way he could have been in different places around the globe simultaneously. Memory implants, false memories, etc. were introduced as a way to control some of these seemingly contradictory happenings.

Ironically I started collecting comics around the time of his popularity explosion. He could be found in Uncanny X-Men and the collected reprinted stories in Classic X-Men, and in his own four part mini-series and later a six part team up with Kitty Pryde, to his own monthly series in 1988, and his other monthly series (basically) in Marvel Comics Presents. As the complex character was whittled down to tropes, prejudicial characterizations, bastardizations, and a mere shadow of his former self I began to collect in earnest all the back issues that I could find and all the current Classic X-Men to date.

Any attempt at an official chronology will be impossible because of inconsistencies and contradictions in comics about Wolverine but no one can argue with the facts. Before you go trying to call me out with, "well the official Marvel" this or "but he was shown to" that, remember this, regardless of creator interviews, recollections, and memories, or the official stance on his past as we now know it in retrospect, there was a time when facts could only be gleaned from issue to issue and month to month. No one can argue with the chronological publication history of the comic books the character appeared in and how he was presented to the reader. So from a reader's point of view here is Wolverine's history, and who he was, and how we learned it! Since his first few appearances are so important in establishing the character I will delve more in depth into them than in future installments.

The very first time a Marvel subscriber or casual reader ever came across the Wolverine was not in an Uncanny X-Men comic but was in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.

His debut in a Hulk story came not in Incredible Hulk 181 but at the very end in a single panel in the previous issue.

October 1974

The Incredible Hulk#180 "And the Wind Howls...Wendigo!"
Writer: Len Wein
Penciler: Herb Trimpe



Wolverine's first debut in comic books!



The first time Wolverine is mentioned is by the code name Weapon X. We learn that he is sent by the Royal Canadian Air Force from a tracking installation in Quebec in response to the Hulk's presence on Canadian soil.



Wolverine has a harsh voice, more like a snarl. At least during battle.



We learn that Wolverine is a Caucasian male who speaks English. His code names are Weapon X and The Wolverine. He has six claws that extend from the back of his hands and he wears a yellow, blue, and black costume with whisker lines on the mask, and a red belt with buckle. He is described as a raging powerhouse.

True believers his second appearance was in an ad found in various titles with the cover date of Nov 1974. Some of which were Thor #229, Daredevil #115, and Marvel Premiere #19. Comic books are always on the shelves about four months before their cover dates so the in-house advertisement tell us to watch for Incredible Hulk 181 (Nov 1974 cover date) to see a brand new hero or villain the Wolverine at the end of July.



From the ad we immediately learn that Wolverine is from the wilderness reaches of Canada and that he is dreaded and deadly.

November 1974
The Incredible Hulk #181 "And Now... The Wolverine!"
Writer: Len Wein
Penciler: Herb Trimpe

Wolverine's first full appearance in comic books!





Because they may not have heard him clearly the first time Wolverine again challenges them changing up his wording. He is described as having feral fury and savage ferocity.



He has incredible agility and astounding speed. Moving is the thing he does best.
The Canadian government sent him to battle the Hulk.
He estimates the Hulk outweighs him by 100 stone which is equivalent to 1400 lbs. The Hulk's height during his savage phase is estimated to be around seven to eight feet tall, Wolverine thinks the Hulk is at least two feet taller than him.
He thinks his claws are ineffectual against the Hulk's thick skin but it is actually the Hulk's regenerative powers healing him so quickly as to appear not to have been cut.
His claws are made from Adamantium.



He has heard of the legends of the Wendigo back at base and didn't believe them.
Wolverine is 5'5" tall!
His claws or talons as they are sometimes referred by in the story are shown protruding from housings on the back of his hands. He has heard that the Wendigo is immortal and believes it when after attacking with his claws the Wendigo is down and the Hulk believes Wolverine has killed him. Wolverine tells him that he should be dead but he knows he is not, "My talons only rendered him unconscious!" Wolverine is deceitful taking advantage of the Hulk's trusting nature and simple misunderstanding pretending to be friends while taking out the Wendigo and then immediately turning on the Hulk with a surprise attack.



The Canadian government has invested quite a bit of time, effort, and money training Wolverine. Developing his natural speed, strength, and savagery. They have given him the skills and made him a professional warrior. Wolverine is a mutant! The Canadian government knows he is a mutant. He has a few psychological issues. Wolverine has the stamina to battle the Hulk and the Wendigo non-stop for several hours during the night clear until sunrise.



Wolverine is susceptible to magic falling along with the Hulk to the enchantress Marie Cartier's spell of subjugation carried to the battle as an invisible gas.



Marie wraps Wolverine with chains and binds his hands. Notice something? His claws are retracted! Contrary to many creator interviews about the nature of his claws and how they were originally conceived as non-retractile or even a part of his gloves (both ideas were nixed because anyone wearing the gloves could be Wolverine). From the beginning his claws were drawn as retractile! Marie is lucky they are as she would be impaled by the claws of his left hand if not! The proof is right there on page 23 in the 1st panel! Don't believe me? Compare it to page 26 on the 2nd panel, Wolverine is in the same position and awake claws extended.



In addition to this bewildering fact about Wolverine always having had retractile claws contrary to conventional wisdom about his claws in his first full appearance, we learn that he swiftly revives from the magic attack. Wolverine has the ability to burst chains or at least is confident he will in a few seconds but he is interrupted by the Hulk. Hulk hurls him down with bones shattering force but his bones do not break!



Wolverine has heightened senses and is able to dodge Hulk's blow by sensing it coming from behind. His speed and his astonishing stamina save his life, but he is knocked unconscious ending the battle. Also note that regardless of whatever color your reprinted edition shows Wolverine's eyes as, I have the original, and his eyes were not colored and remain the flesh tone of the rest of his skin. Some reprints have his eyes as blue in that panel.

As far as I know it has been reprinted around 28 times in various collector's editions or omnibuses as of the date of this article! Here are two reprints that I have that are from 1986 and 1989.





So what have we learned from the first full appearance of the Wolverine?

Wolverine has incredible speed, strength, stamina, and agility.
Wolverine had Adamantium claws that are retractile.
Wolverine is five feet five inches tall.
Wolverine is a mutant.
Wolverine was trained by the Canadian government.
Wolverine has unbreakable bones.


December 1974
The Incredible Hulk #182 "Between Hammer and Anvil."
Writer: Len Wein
Penciler: Herb Trimpe

Wolverine's third appearance.





Wolverine quickly recovers from Hulk's knockout blow only to be pulled off assignment after battling the Hulk for six straight hours. Wolverines claws are again retracted while entering the lift-capsule on page 1 panel 3. Wolverine's cowl is business in the front and party in the back.

I hope you enjoyed this and maybe learned a fun fact or two to debate against your fellow comic geeks. They may think they know but at RetroDaze we know better! 'Nuff Said!
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NLogan Posted on Jan 19, 2017 at 10:54 PM

Heh, thanks guys!

jkatz Posted on Jan 19, 2017 at 08:09 PM

It's finally back, thank Stan Lee and The One-Above-All!

echidna64 Posted on Jan 19, 2017 at 03:16 PM

Yasss, the legend returns!

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