This installment of underrated heroes may seem to be a little ironic considering I am going to be talking about probably THE most popular member of the X-Men, Wolverine. Wolverine was already a popular character in Marvel comics for decades before Hugh Jackman brought him to the silver screen with his iconic portrayal. While there have been 5 different Batman actors, 3 Spider-Man, 2 Hulk, 2 Captain America and 2 Superman… there has only ever been 1 Wolverine. While Jackman’s run with the character finally came to an end last year with James Mangold’s Logan, his run in the comics recently got revived to bring back the classic character. Following the iconic story arc of The Death of Wolverine, Logan was put on ice while his cloned daughter, Laura Kinney (X-23), took the mantle over for several years. Logan’s history has spanned decades from his first inclusion in Marvel Comics in The Incredible Hulk #180 from October 1974 to his recent return in 2017.
Let’s dive into everyone’s favourite Canadian…
*This is a brief overview of the important aspects of his history, not a complete recount*
Wolverine was born James Howlett in Northern Alberta Canada (rumoured to be Cold Lake) in the late 1880’s to wealthy landowners John and Elizabeth Howlett. He was born very small and frail, often getting sick for extended periods of time. During his early years, it is revealed that his father is not John Howlett as he thought, but actually Thomas Logan, the groundskeeper of the Howlett Estate. One day after Thomas’ older son, Dog, attempted to rape James’ young friend Rose O’Hara, James told his father John Howlett what had happened getting Dog in trouble. In retaliation for James telling Mr. Howlett what had happened, Dog murdered Jame’s puppy which resulted in him and his father being expelled from the Howlett grounds. Thomas returned later that night with Dog in tow, in order to take his former lover, Elizabeth Howlett, away with him. There was a scuffle and Thomas shot John in the head with his shotgun. James, who had entered the room to see what the commotion was, witnessed his father’s murder and his mutation manifested. He sprouted three bone claws out of each hand and attacked the Logan’s with the ferocity of a wild animal. After killing Thomas Logan and scarring Dog’s face, Elizabeth suffered a mental break and drove James away before taking her own life with the shotgun.
Rose and James fled the estate and hid in a shed where Jame’s powers continued to manifest even more granting him his heightened senses and healing factor. Rose and James attempted to return to James’ grandfather for help but were turned away and told to get on a train and leave town. With his newly discovered powers and the trauma he suffered, Jame buried the memories of that night under deep layers of psychosis and became a partial amnesiac. James and Rose ended up working in a stone quarry in British Columbia under the guise of cousins to avoid suspicion, it was also during this time that James adopted the name of Logan, to hide his true identity. As the months wore on James became more and more ferocious and his senses continued to heighten until they reached the superhuman level he would continue with for decades. As he grew up, he earned the respect of the other miners because of his work and his ethics but as he grew older he became to resemble Thomas Logan in appearance rather than his birth father, proving that John Howlett was not his father.
As he continued to work in the quarry he became a favourite of the foreman, Smitty, who took a liking to Logan for his work ethic and efficiency. This brought him into conflict with another miner, Cookie, who had been the foreman’s favourite before Logan arrived. Cookie saw to make things difficult for Logan by bullying him, cutting his and Rose’s rations and even shortening a fuse on an explosive Logan was using resulting in the deaths of five men. Logan took this in stride and hunted deer in the woods, sharing the rest with the neighbours making him even more popular than Cookie. Finally, during a cage match night, Cookie fought Logan. It was during this fight that Logan earned the name “The Wolverine” due to his ferocity while fighting. Rose and Smitty became engaged and Logan, who had developed feelings for Rose, put his feelings aside for Rose’s happiness.
Old Man Howlett (Logan’s grandfather) hired Dog to track and find Rose and James so he could reconcile with them on his deathbed. Dog tracked Logan to the small town outside of the Quarry and fought him in the street. Besides being the physically stronger and larger combatant, Dog was defeated by Logan. As Logan unsheathed his claws to kill Dog and end the memory of his past, Rose jumped between them and was killed by accident. Logan fled the town and ended up living with a pack of wolves for several years.
In 1907, Logan was away hunting for his pack when a genetically modified polar bear was released into the Southern Canadian wilderness by Nathaniel Essex (Mr. Sinister). The bear overwhelmed Logan’s pack, killing them all and feasting on their bodies. When Logan returned, he went to battle with the bear and emerged victorious. A circus promoter and his trackers eventually captured Logan and promoted him as “the missing link between man and beast” during their circus. While one of the trackers, Clara, believed Logan had a soul, Logan refused to acknowledge her and accepted his new life as penance for killing Rose and failing his pack. Eventually Nathaniel Essex convinced the Circus promoter to being Logan to his lab so he could authenticate “the specimen”. Once at the lab, Essex killed the promoter and began experimenting on Logan to test his healing factor. The two trackers Clara and her brother Saul, eventually helped Logan escape and Clara began teaching him to be a human again. Saul grew jealous of their bond and sold their location to Essex. Clara is apparently killed in the attack and Logan allies with Saul to take down Essex’s men. It is revealed that Clara and Saul are mutants with their own healing factors and that Clara wasn’t dead but had learned of Saul’s betrayal. Enraged at Saul, Logan drowned him in a vat of chemicals. Clara rejected Logan saying ” the man inside wasn’t worth as much as an animal” and left him alone. It is later revealed that Clara’s last named was Creed and she informed her older brother Victor Creed (Sabertooth) of what Logan had done.
Logan moved around North America working odd jobs and eventually made his way to the fruit orchards in California. It was here that he had a brief romance with a Mexican migrant worker. They made love in a fruit orchard before she left, never revealing her name and never seeing Logan again.
Logan had many romances with many women and fathered a lot of children. One of which, Romulus, the immortal mastermind of the Lupine, began to erase and alter Logan’s memories with his telepathic powers to make him suitable for Romulus’ needs. As he traveled the world, Logan came into contact with the Hand and Sabertooth. He fought Sabertooth and believed to have killed him unaware of Sabertooth’s healing factor. Logan then returned to Canada and fell in love with a Blackfoot native woman named Silver Fox. On his birthday, under Romulus’ orders, Sabertooth attacked and raped Silver Fox leaving her for dead. Logan confronted Sabertooth at the local bar and attacked him. Logan was beaten and in his rage reverted to his mindless feral state. Sabertooth convinced Logan that the local people didn’t want him there and thus hired him to kill Silver Fox because “she was the only thing keeping him there”. Logan proceeded to murder the whole down before he snapped out of his rage and realized what he had done.
In 1914, WWI had broken out in Europe, and Logan enlisted in the Canadian Army. He was assigned to the Devil’s Brigade, a special forces unit often used by Romulus. Logan fought and defeated a man named Lazaer, on the battlefield of Ypres in 1915. Lazaer was actually the Angel of Death, Azrael, who thought he had killed Logan by stabbing him in the chest with his sword before Logan turned the table stabbing Lazaer with the sword he pulled out of his chest. Logan was launched into a depression as ‘punishment’ for denying the natural order of things with his healing factor. For several years after the war, Logan roamed the earth as he saw fit and under the unknown guidance of Romulus. He partook in conflicts throughout the Middle East and Asia before returning to Canada before WWII.
In 1939 when WWII engulfed Europe, Logan once again enlisted in the Devil’s Brigade under his former commander Silas Burr. Burr was working for Romulus during both World Wars to influence Logan to Romulus’ will. Unaware of Burr’s connection to Romulus, Logan joined his company again and partook in D-Day and the liberation of the Netherlands. He aided Captain America during several mission to disrupt an alliance between Hydra and the Hand, joined Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos, and stopped a young Black Widow from killing the Jonin (Leader of the Hand). In 1942 Logan was captured by Japanese forces and taken to a prison camp outside of Nagasaki. Logan and another soldier escaped the camp and Logan fell in love with a Japanese woman named Atsuko. Lt. Warren (the other soldier Logan escaped with) attacked him and murdered Atsuko, as Logan and Warren fought, the atomic bomb was dropped leaving Logan as the only survivor.
Following the war, Logan took refuge in Japan and engaged in Bando Saburo, in order to learn to be a man again and not the animal he had been before. He fell in love and married Itsu Akihiro, the two of them conceived a child unknown to Logan. After being banned form the village for accidentally stabbing someone, Logan returned to his house to find his wife murdered by Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier). While Bucky was working for the USSR, Romulus had ordered him to kill Itsu and remove the unborn child from her womb. The Child was given to a Japanese family and raised without Logan knowing. The child was named Akihiro but eventually took the name Daken and fell to Romulus’ manipulations. Logan believing his child had died, moved back to the United States for a few years before returning to Canada for the Weapon X program.
During the Weapon X program, Logan was experimented on by several doctors under the leadership of Dr. Abraham Cornelius, and had Adamantium (an indestructible metal) grafted to his skeleton; it also coated his bone claws with the metal making them razor sharp adamantium claws. To test his efficiency in combat, he was released on the nearby town of Roanoke with brutal efficiency. In order to turn him into a mindless killing machine Logan was hypnotized and told he was nothing but a mindless killing machine and that being a man disgusted him; eventually, Logan broke free of this programming and escaped the facility with the help of the Winter Soldier. On his way out of the facility he slaughtered nearly everyone in the complex having once again reverted to his animalistic berserker state. He wandered for many months potentially years before he was discovered by James Hudson ( to whom he was related on his mother’s side), founder of Department H. He was brought back to sanity and joined Department H, a superhuman division of the Canadian government. He worked for years on spy missions and assassinations before being set to take control of Alpha Flight (the Canadian Government’s superhuman team). Wolverine fought the Hulk and was then approached by Charles Xavier and asked to help him rescue the X-Men from an island being named Krakoa. During the flight to Krakoa, Romulus instructed Wolverine via telepathic link to assassinate Charles Xavier, before he could finish the task, Xavier cleansed Romulus’ control of Wolverine’s mind leaving him 100% in control of himself for the first time in a long time. Wolverine saved the X-Men and decided to stay on with the team, formerly resigning from Department H and the Alpha Flight.
Logan remained on the X-Men for years going through many events and even losing his healing factor until his death in 2014 during the event titled The Death of Wolverine.
The Death of Wolverine began when he met with Mr. Fantastic. Reed assured him that while he would be able to reactivate Logan’s healing factor it would take him time and not to fight while he did it as using his claws could kill him. Logan promised not to use his claws and departed from the Baxter Building to return to Canada. When he returned to British Columbia, Logan was attacked by AIM agents, mercs and ninjas all trying to collect a bounty that had been placed on his head. The various bounty hunters mostly took each other out with Wolverine mopping up the rest. He left a note with a local bartender that if anyone is looking for him they could find him on the island where he has fought the other bounty hunters. Nuke and several of his mercs showed up to collect the bounty and Wolverine but failed in their attempt. After dispatching the underlings it was just Nuke and Logan left for a final fight. When Nuke got the upper hand, Logan headbutted him with his adamantium skull until Nuke gave in. Wolverine then interrogated Nuke and found out the bounty was for him to be brought in alive had been placed on his head by Viper, the Queen of Madripoor, Logan’s ex wife and former lover.
Wolverine disguised himself as an arms dealer and traveled to Madripoor to get an audience with Viper to find out why she put the bounty on him. When they met, Viper saw through his disguise right away and ordered her guards to take him down. Logan defeated the guards with ease and then demanded an answer as to why she had put the bounty on him. Viper explained that she had put the contract out for a third party and told him she would reveal the name if he could beat her “pet”, a chained up Sabertooth. Logan and Sabertooth fought with Sabertooth landing a lucky slash on Logans eye severely injuring it in the process. Lady Deathstrike showed up and nearly killed Sabertooth before Logan stopped her. When he found out the bounty wasn’t just on him but anyone from the Weapon X program, Kitty Pryde arrived and phased her hand through Lady Deathstrike’s chest, threatening to kill her. As Logan passed out from his wounds, Kitty let Lady Deathstrike go injected him a regen serum that healed his injuries and brought him back to fighting strength.
Wolverine and Kitty then travel to Japan under the instruction of Deathstrike who had mentioned Lord Ogun had taken up the contract. Upon arrival in Japan, Logan is beset upon by Kitty who was under the control of Lord Ogun. Kitty/Ogun fought Logan and ended up throwing Logan through a house during the fight. This allowed Logan the time to don some samurai armour and grab a sword to even up the fight. Eventually Ogun was defeated by Logan taunting him and Kitty was released from his control. After Kitty regained consciousness she told Logan that she heard the name of the man who put the contract on him, Abraham Cornelius. Logan tracked Ogun to a factory complex where he was melting the body of Cyber (Silas Burr) because Cornelius was paying a hefty price for his adamantium skin. Ogun offered to provide Logan with the location of Dr. Cornelius and more regen serum if Logan left him alone. Logan responded saying he was done living forever and to tell Cornelius he was coming. Ogun revealed the location of Cornelius’ lab in Paradise Valley Nevada, and Logan set off to confront the doctor.
When Logan arrived at the laboratory complex, he used improvised fake claws to kill the guards and stormed the lab. When he entered the lab proper, he was greeted with Cornelius experimenting on innocent people claiming he was “getting it right”. Logan demanded to know why he was doing this and Cornelius responded with ” I want to be known for more than making a killer unkillable”. Cornelius stated that his creations were perfect and all he needed was Logan’s healing factor to make them unstoppable. Logan then cut his hand with a knife showing Cornelius that he had lost his healing factor. Cornelius ordered one of his test subjects, Sharp, to kill Logan while he taunted him from behind protective glass. During the fight with Sharp, Logan tricked him into breaking the protective barrier between him and Cornelius before knocking him out and crushing his armour. In fear of his life, Cornelius activated the Adamantium bonding process on the rest of the patients and attempted to flee the facility. In a desperate attempt to save the other patients Logan unsheathed his claws and sliced the leads from the Adamantium vat to the patients, coating himself in molten Adamantium. He injected the patients with doses of the regen serum, which had been created by Dr. Cornelius to supplement Logan’s healing factor, before heading off after the doctor. Logan caught up to the doctor on the roof of the complex and stabbed him through the chest with his claws as he asked Cornelius “…what he ever did besides killing?” With Cornelius dead and the lab destroyed, along with all the research data, Logan knelt down on top of the complex in the sunset and contemplated his life as the Adamantium hardened before he finally died of suffocation.
In Marvel Legacy #1, Logan is somehow resurrected and broken out of his Adamantium coffin. It is unclear how this happened, and even Logan himself is unsure. It is revealed that he is also the keeper of the Space Stone;which he defends from Loki, Frost Giants, and Ultron infected aliens.
POWERS & ABILITIES
Almost everyone on the planet knows Wolverine’s powers and abilities, but some people might not know all of them…
- Regenerative Healing Factor – Capable of healing almost all damage done in mere seconds
- Contaminant Immunity – Immunity from almost all poisons, sicknesses, diseases, medicines and alcohol
- Decelerated Aging – Wolverine is Well over a hundred years old but retains the appearance and physicality of someone in their mid 20’s
- Telepathic Resistance
- Superhuman Strength – able to hold the weight of a dozen men with a single arm and lift a 955lb bear over his head and throw it
- Superhuman Speed – Able to move at speeds capable of blitzing oppenents before they can pull their trigger fingers, able to keep up in a fight with Spider-Man
- Superhuman Durability – Due to his healing factor and Adamantium skeleton he is virtually indestructible
- Superhuman Stamina – Due to his healing factor he is able to fight at peak performance for over 24 hours straight, able to hold his breath for extended periods of time for combat underwater
- Superhuman Reflexes – On par with Captain America, able to dodge bullet fire at close range, able to dodge Cyclops’ optic blasts with ease
- Superhuman Agility – Able to dodge bullets and jump over 30ft in the air with a running start
- Insulated Weather Adaptation – Immunity to climate and weather conditions, able to sleep nude in arctic temperatures with no damage
- Animal Empathy – Able to sense basic emotions of animals and communicate with them
- Superhuman Acute Senses – able to see incredibly great distances with clarity, perfect nightvision, enhanced hearing, incredible sense of smell akin to that of a wolf, able to track enemies over great distances by scent alone, able to detect lies being told by someone from the chemical change in their scent when lying
- Retractable Bone Claws – 3, foot long retractable claws on each hand that extend through the skin between his knuckles. Dense enough to cut through woods, metals and some rock. Coated with Adamantium during his time in the Weapon X program to made them virtually indestructible.
- Adamantium Poisoning Immunity – Due to the fact that Adamantium is a heavy metal, anyone using it without a healing factor will suffer from heavy metal poisoning.
In addition to his powers Wolverine is also: a Master Tactician, Master Martial Artist, Expert Marksman, Master Swordsman, Expert Acrobat, Master of Advanced Covert Ops, Skilled Mechanic, and Multilingual ( fluent in English, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Cheyenne, Lakota, and Spanish. He is also proficient in French, German, Thai, Vietnamese, Farsi, and Portuguese)
His only weaknesses are: Sensory overload from his heightened senses, Decapitation or severe spinal damage inhibiting his brains ability to trigger his healing factor, Adamantium Allotropes, and Drowning.
WHY THEY’RE UNDERRATED
So Wolverine isn’t exactly that underrated in the classical sense, but when he is compared to literal Gods and beings with universal level power, he tends to be put on the back burner. Logan has seen his fair share of combat and use throughout his comic career. During his most popular time in publication he was in January of 2009 where he appeared in 24 different issues of Marvel publications ranging from X-Men to Avengers and even Alpha Flight. The Death of Wolverine story line sold incredibly well and brought one of the most recognizable faces of Marvel comics to a close, at least for the time being.
Wolverine is one of the most popular characters in comics the world over. While Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man retain the top three spots, Wolverine would be at least number 5. He is by far the most popular X-Men character and I for one, really enjoy every time he’s included in the Avengers story arcs.
Mostly, Logan has shown time and time again that regardless of what the Joker from DC Comics says, it takes more than one bad day to turn the sanest man alive into a complete psychopath. I’m not saying Logan was a poster boy for pinnacle mental health his whole life, he definitely had lapses, but he always managed to bring himself back. Also, make no mistake Logan is definitely not opposed to killing but despite a few moments in his history, he didn’t enjoy doing it. In Punisher:War Zone from 2012 by Greg Rucka, Logan was shown the be sympathetic to Frank and his crusade. So much so, that when it came time for the final battle he was asked to sit out by Captain America. While Logan obeyed Cap, due to the respect Logan had for Steve, he did make a point of saying that sometimes the only way to stop bad people is to kill them. Logan also starred alongside 2 of my favourite characters, Punisher and Ghost Rider, in a one off story called Hearts of Darkness. It’s a brutally violent comic that pits the three heroes against Blackheart and an army of demons to save the soul of a little girl.
Hugh Jackman did an amazing job bringing the character to the big screen, and helped to make fans out of some people who might otherwise have never read a comic book. While his over 6 foot frame was a little much, for most people it wasn’t a big issue. As I said before, while many other heroes got cast and re cast, there was only ever one Wolverine and that was because of how awesome a job Hugh Jackman did. He brought the tortured nature of ol ‘canucklehead as well as his ferocity to the screen in a manner that was completely unique.
I really do think Logan should get more solo adventures and team ups with various other heroes. While I did enjoy X-23 (Laura Kinney) as the Wolverine following the death of Logan, she never had quite the same air of badassery as Logan himself. Logan represented the level of animalistic nature in all of us that sometimes can come to the forefront if pushed enough. He dealt with his consequences and never tried to hide what he did from anybody. This got him into some hot water a couple of times, but you can’t always please everyone. I am very happy that he was brought back and that we are also keeping X-23 as Wolverine so that we can hopefully get a bit of a mentor mentoree relationship.