Monday, October 3, 2011
Moments That Made the Bronze Age: Wolverine Begins
He disappeared for a while until he was picked up in Giant-Sized X-Men #1. Ironically enough, the hero wasn't supposed to be a mutant, and his claws were actually just supposed to be attached to the gloves. That meant technically anyone could have become Wolverine later on. The guys are Marvel decided he'd make a good fit, turned him into a mutant, and threw him into the team.
Wolverine was a hit with the rest of the group, but unfortunately Thunderbird and he were both deemed too close to the same character and one had to go. Instead of just retiring the guy, they decided to kill Thunderbird in a toss-up decision that turned out to be the best one they could have made. Imagine how differently the next few years would have turned out if Wolverine had been the one they chose to kill off!
When John Byrne picked up the X-Men, he immediately focused on Wolverine as his favorite because they were both Canadian (true story) and he wanted a cool Canadian superhero. With Byrne's artwork, Wolverine became a superstar and helped propel the X-Men to one of the most popular comic titles of the 80's.
I can still vividly remember the first time I read X-Men #132 and saw that final panel where a soaked and beaten Wolverine finished the issue off with "Now it's my turn!" I couldn't wait for the next month!
When X-Men #133 came out, it did not disappoint. Wolverine was finally given the spotlight with his first solo cover! Inside he was basically the last free X-Man (the rest were captives of the Hellfire Club) and he tore through the faceless bad guys with some amazing action! There was no graphic scene of blood or guts like there would be today, but the story itself was so incredibly effective in every way. After the Dark Phoenix Saga ended, Wolverine got a new costume of brown and orange, and slowly the book focused more on him with the appearance of Alpha Flight, and even the return of the Wendigo.
If you missed out on this golden age of the X-Men, I highly encourage you to grab a copy of the "Essential X-Men" from that time. Even in black and white, Byrne's artwork and Chris Claremont's stories show you why everyone flocked to the title.
Today Wolverine is in just about every Marvel comic you pick up, either as a guest star, team member, or focal point, but back in the 70's and 80's all we had were these once-a-month appearances (imagine that: just one X-Men title a month!) to feed our Wolverine frenzy.
Eventually Wolverine moved to a regular solo title with Madripoor as the setting, and the rest is history. Unfortunately, the Marvel execs soon realized that every comic with Wolverine as a guest star sold a bunch, so they started dropping him into every comic out there. His first showdown with Captain America was cool...his "battle" with Power Pack was not. It was a hit-and-miss affair that eventually diluted the character to the point where it was actually more fun trying to find a title that went six months without an appearance by him.
Today he's in Wolverine, X-Force, X-Men, and a few other titles on a regular basis. They've stripped him of his adamantium claws, given them back, killed him off, brought him back, gave him a son and a female clone daughter, and the list goes on and on. But for me, I'll always remember him as the cool yellow-and-blue guy in the X-Men who really gave us something to look forward to each month. I guess in hindsight giving him his own title was the beginning of the end. Maybe he was just one of those awesome secondary characters who was best in smaller doses.