Just in time for Halloween, we’re back to feature all those creepy, kooky, and scary characters of comic book lore! This time, we’re going to take a look at monsters from the vaunted House of Ideas. So, enter, if you dare, for Comic Book Monsters 2012: The Mighty Merry Marvel Edition!
Comic Book Monsters – October 31st: Wolverine
And so we’ve made it. Happy Halloween everyone! For a treat, I decided to go all out for this last Comic Book Monsters until next year and feature one of the most popular characters in the history of Marvel. If you look at the upper echelon of Marvel’s characters, in terms of popularity, you have Spider-Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and Thor (in recent years thanks to their movie appearances hitting pay dirt), and then there’s Wolverine.
Long before he was ever a movie star (portrayed about as perfectly as anyone could on the big screen by Hugh Jackman), the X-Men was the best selling Marvel Comics series in history. X-Men #1 from 1991 was the highest selling single issue ever coming in at around 8 MILLION copies. Let’s put that in perspective for a moment… When Marvel launched the extremely popular Avengers Vs. X-Men series this year, the first issue sold well at about 250,000 copies. All twelve issues of the series ended up selling a hair under 2 million copies total. X-Men #1 did that four times over. While it was undoubtedly a very popular comic since 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1, there’s never been a question as to who was the most popular character on the team. That honor didn’t go to the longtime leader of the team, Cyclops, or the African weather goddess, Storm, or even my favorite X-Man, the Beast. Nope, it was this tiny, little, hairy, Canadian who called everyone “Bub”.
As was the case with a lot of characters in the earlier Marvel Age, Wolverine didn’t first appear in the X-Men book. Actually, he sprung into action in The Incredible Hulk #181 (though he did have a cameo at the end of issue #180 – another classic move by comics of the time). When the Hulk came across Wolverine, he was revealed to be not much more than a super-powered agent of the Canadian Government. There was nothing much to assume much about him other than he was a tough little bastard. Six months later, Wolverine popped back up in Giant Size X-Men #1 as part of a brand new team of X-Men.
What’s interesting is that for as popular as the X-Men have been since the launch of this new team, prior to this comic, they were incredibly unpopular. In fact, it was a series that had published sixty-six issues of stories before spending the next twenty-seven issues reprinting old stories. It’s not unknown that Marvel’s “Merry Mutants” were near cancellation. When Chris Claremont (starting with issue #94) came on after Len Wein’s Giant Size #1, history would be made and the X-Men would go from fledgeling title to simply “Uncanny”.
Wolverine would be a major part of this success. Here was a character who didn’t fit the usual stereotype of a hero. He was short (listed as 5’2 in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe). He drank… A lot. He smoked cigars… A lot. He killed… A lot. He often lost his temper and had an overall sour disposition. He was the classic anti-hero which wasn’t all that uncommon in the 70s. In fact, a whole genre of movies were dedicated the anti-hero with three of the most popular being Dirty Harry, Popeye Doyle, and Jack Nicholson in every movie he ever starred in during that time.
He was also shrouded in mystery. Over time, Wolverine realized that his rapid healing capabilities made him age slower than others so he was likely decades older than his teammates. As it turned out, he was quite a bit older than the rest of the X-Men. He was born in the 1880s in Alberta. He was raised by John and Elizabeth Howlett, but was actually the illegitimate son of Elizabeth and the Howlett groundskeeper, Thomas Logan. After a brutally murdering Logan in revenge for the latter killing John Howlett, he was cast out into the wilderness where he spent a great deal of time with wolves in the Yukon (where he adopts the name of Logan – which most know him as today), then later the Blackfoot Indians. There were stories of him fighting in both World Wars, with the second featuring him as a soldier-of-fortune alongside Captain America.
Wolverine’s most characteristic attribute is definitely his claws. They first showed themselves when he killed Thomas Logan. In an indeterminate time following the war, he was recruited by a secret project known as Weapon X. Here, he’s given false memories that even Professor X was unable to unlock. More importantly, his skeletal system, including his trademark claws, were coated in the indestructible element adamantium – a process few could survive, but Wolverine could thanks to his healing factor.
But what makes him a monster, you ask? Ha, well, there are three reasons for why I chose him to round out this year’s cast of Marvel Monsters. The first is that he’s simply a giant in terms of comic book characters. He’s generated so many sales and is just as often seen as the face of Marvel Comics as Spider-Man. So I guess you can say he’s a “monster” like you could say Metallica is a “Monster of Rock”. The second reason is because of his claws, skills, and demeanor. There’s a particular move Wolverine is known for. Thanks to his occasional lapses into a wild mindset called a “berserker rage” when he’s in close, hand-to-hand combat. When this happens, he pretty much flies into an animalistic rage that comes after his enemies with all the aggression of a wild animal. Even though he hates going into this state, he admits to it saving his life on more occasions than he can count. If you want to see a great example of this killer rage, check out the Dark Phoenix Saga where he slices and dices his way through the Hellfire Club’s armed lackeys.
Well, it’s time to put Comic Book Monsters 2012: The Mighty Merry Marvel Edition to bed. It’s been a fun one this year, and I thank everyone who stopped by to check out the articles. Oh yeah, that reminds me… The third reason for Wolverine being chosen as the final feature of this year’s group… I decided he’d be the perfect segue for what I’ll be featuring in next year’s Comic Book Monsters. Wolverine isn’t much of a monster in appearance, but his abilities, mutation, and disposition certainly makes him one. So, why not have a whole crop of these “human” monsters next year? Comic Book Monsters 2013: Monstrous Humans will feature characters who may look like you and me, but perhaps they are aliens from another planet with powers beyond our comprehension, or suit up as flying rodents to strike fear in the hearts of those who would do wrong, or possibly even thunderous gods who have command of the elements. Each one will be normal in appearance, but have the power to turn this planet upside down if the mood strikes them right. So come back next year and until then… Pleasant nightmares!