It’s been a few days since Marvel official killed off my favorite superhero – Wolverine. I’ve recounted some of my feelings and thoughts on The Death of Wolverine on my Instagram account (@philtasticphil), including how I first became interested in the character as a child. All these years I’ve never questioned why I have such an affinity for the Ol’Canuckle Head. I finally realized perhaps the reason I’ve always been a fan of the character is become the both of us have grown up together; me growing from a child to an adult and Logan as a fully fleshed out character.
When I first started reading Wolverine and X-Men related comics I was about 13 or 14 years old. The very first issue of the Wolverine ongoing solo series I purchased read like a scene from a high octane action film. It had Wolverine pitted against an army of soldiers with him cutting his way through a tank. Somewhere Stallone is kicking himself for not thinking of this for this scene for his last Expendables movie.
Wolverine as a character wasn’t terribly complex, he was a short hairy guy who drank heavily, smoked cigars, and was virtually unkillable. I would later realize Wolverine really wasn’t created with a particular backstory in mind, this was recently confirmed in an interview with Len Wein ( the character’s co-creator) which appears at the end of Death of Wolverine issue #1. This allowed for great writers like Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, and Larry Hama to chart the course of the character through actions and events rather than mythos. One of the parts of his past which was established was his unbreakable claws and skeleton was the result of a government experiment. He was also ladened with false memory implants, establishing an air of mystery about the character. He was a soldier in the Civil War and teamed up with Black Widow and Captain America during WW2.
He had the ninja training and personal tragedies of Batman without the brooding. His stories included him traveling to exotic locations with other popular characters and often coupling with equally exotic women, but only in an alternate reality would he marry the woman of his dreams, Jean Grey, as she was with Cyclops the leader of the X-men. So if you’re a discouraged love lorn team and the object of your affection tells you there’s no way she’d ever go out with you, remember it took Logan an alternate timeline but it happened. ( I’m kidding forget that girl she’s a loser). 🙂 So we have a short ugly character with the skills of a ninja, berserker rage, with a dash of 007, and a pinch of X-files who can’t get the girl he wants because she’s dating the captain of the football team. Is it any wonder Wolverine was able to find favor among the average male comic book enthusiast ?
I walked away from comics during my college years, for regular comic book fans this was shortly after Logan lost his nose and became a de-evolved beast. I would look online and try to see what was happening with my old friend every now and then but didn’t go back into a comic book store until 2001 when Marvel came under the toolage of Joe Quesada as Editor-in-Chief. Quesada decided he was going to make a splash by announcing a story many though would never be told, the origin of Wolverine. Many had tried in the past with everything from a caveman, to the son of his main at agonist Sabertooth, and even a mutated wolverine. Quesada had assigned top tier talent to the project including one of my favorite artists, Andy Kubert, whom I spent many hours trying to duplicate as a teenager. Needless to say I was all in. The end result was a masterpiece which stands in my mind as one of the best comic book stories to date. It showed the progression of the sickly son of an aristocrat to the early version of the character I’d come to admire as a kid. Like any good stories, it answered old questions and created brand new ones including Wolverine’s real name: Jim Howlett. If you choose to pickup the series please also read Wolverine #176 as it serves as a haunting epilogue to the series.
The real excitement came years later when for the first time ever Wolverine remembered everything, flowing the events of the House Of M mini-series. This lead him on a quest through his past in the series, Wolverine Origins. The series followed Logan as he tried to come to grips with the good and bad parts of his forgotten history as he tried to make amends for some of his past transgressions. The series included some of my favorite villains Cyber and Omega Red. The Origins series also introduced new characters who would have a huge impact on Wolverine’s history namingly Romulus, the puppet master, and the son he never knew Daken.
Post origins, Wolverine’s role shifted to a team player, a leader, and an educator. In addition to becoming headmaster of the Jean Grey School he also became a member of several Avengers squads. This was a boom for the character and for avid Wolverine readers as we saw a Logan who approached each situation with the air of experience and caution for this students and teammates.
In later volumes of his solo series, He became depowered losing his signature healing factor. This brought a series of new complications to Logan including the fact he could no longer pop his signature claws out for fear of bleeding to death or infection. As an adult this new direction for the character appealed to me. Even though the character couldn’t physically be the hero he once was he did it anyway. He went up against the odds and got the job done regardless of the health implications.
WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW
Wolverine I was told by some of the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe his lack of a healing factor would be terminal and to take it easy. In the end it wasn’t his lack of power that did him in, it was his nature. Like the scorpion hitched on the back of the frog crossing a river, he struck against the very enemy who created him knowing it meant certain death. His final adventure took him around the world and included almost all of his greatest foes ( Cyber, Nuke, Sabertooth, Viper, and Ogun). It also included his first protege, Kitty Pryde as a spiritual sequel to the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series of the early 1980s. I would have liked to see the inclusion of Omega Red as I feel he was a big part of Logan’s rouges gallery. I also would have liked to see other Wolverine allies appear such as Jubilee, Albert, Elsie Dee, and Maverick. That being said, The Death Of Wolverine mini-series brings our hero full circle to face the man responsible for his unbreakable adamantium skeleton. He sacrificed himself to prevent others from enduring the torture he went through and in the end became incased in the very substance he was defined by for many years.
Wolverine has joined the likes of Superman. Captain America, and other superheroes who have died and come back to fight another day. After reading Wolverine’s swan song I followed it with the epilogues from other comics including: Logan’s Legacy, Storm, Wolverine and the X-men, and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler was by far the most emotional and impacted story. It spoke from the perspective of a fellow newly resurrected X-man and recounted Wolverines history only as his best friend could. Wolverine will be back one day, it’s inevitable. His absence will ring through the pages of every book Marvel publishes for quite some time. As an adult, who regularly seeks inspiration from art, music, literature and pop culture Wolverine’s death will create a new benchmark for me. How hard will I fight for my beliefs ? When someone tells me I can’t do something will I allow them to impose limits on me? In the 2000 film, Almost Famous, Penny Lane tells William “…and if you ever get lonely go to the record stores and visit your friends. ” Luckily when I miss my friend Logan, I’ve got hundreds of issues of his adventures arranged in long boxes in the spare room of my home. When faced with opposition Wolverine will come to mind to remind me to be the best I am at whatever I what I do and it is not your past that defines you it is your actions. When it gets really rough, when I’m in a position that looks impossible his last words will ring true. What are they? You’ll have to purchase the last issue to find out.
Philip A. Maenza aka “Philtastic Phil” is an internet entrepreneur and consumer behavior professional whose interests include art, film, music, stand up comedy, fitness, and comic books. Phil is also a dedicated community volunteer and always open to connecting with like minded optimists. His current favorite comics are Ultimate Spider-man, X-Factor, Swamp Thing, and Uncanny Avengers