erik lundegaard

And Now...The Wolverine!

I collected Marvel Comics in the 1970s, and The Incredible Hulk was a regular buy, so I first came across Wolverine in the first place possible: Hulk #181. Well, if you want to get technical (and Lord know comic-book nerds want to get technical), it was Hulk #180, last panel. And no, I didn’t remember that. I had to look it up.

I wasn’t impressed. I had a weak boy’s respect for the Hulk as the strongest character in the Marvel universe — Thor Schmor — and this guy in yellow spandex with the whiskers hardly seemed in the same league. And he was Canadian? That was the point of Wolverine, initially. On the cover of #181, Marvel didn’t trumpet him as a badass. They wrote: “HE’S HERE! THE WORLD’S  FIRST AND GREATEST CANADIAN SUPER HERO!” It’s been a while since I collected comics, and more than 25 years since I looked at that cover, but it strikes me now that the introduction of a “first” kind of makes the secondary claim of being  “greatest” rather pointless, doesn’t it? Almost patronizing.

A few years later, a friend started talking up X-Men, which for my entire collecting history had been nothing but lame, smeary reprints. Now they had all new stories but I wasn’t biting:
EL: I’m not into those characters.
PL: No, they’re all new characters.
EL: Like who?
PL: Well, they still have Cyclops and Professor X...
EL: Professor X? I just don’t get him.
PL: ...plus a bunch of new guys like Nightcrawler and Colossus. Oh, and Wolverine!
Me: The Canadian? You’re kidding. How is that dude even a mutant?
Turns out Wolverine was the most popular new character. He was the brooding badass — the guy who was such an outcast he didn’t fit in among a group of outcasts. Now that I think about it — again — there’s a Ben Grimm vibe there, isn’t there? The cigar-chomping dude who didn’t want to be part of the super group but never let his partners down. Wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t intentional.

I collected the new X-Men for a few years then stopped collecting comics altogether around 1979, but I’ve obviously warmed to the character in his Hollywood incarnation. He was in two of the top 10 superhero scenes I wrote about in 2007 and among the top 5 superhero casting decisions written about last year — although his (or Hugh Jackman’s) no. 3 spot might now be taken by Robert Downey, Jr. At the same time I don’t love Wolverine nearly as much as others do. To some, he’s the greatest comic book character ever created.
 
I’ll post a review of the film tomorrow — the buzz, thus far, isn’t good — but I wanted to add this thought: As much time has passed between now and the introduction of Wolverine (35 years) as between the introduction of Wolverine and the introduction of.... Superman (36 years). Seems impossible. Makes you wonder where the time has gone.

Posted at 08:49 AM on Fri. May 01, 2009 in category Superheroes  
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