Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

As a pretty ridiculously huge fanboy, I don’t play a lot of favorites.

I mean really, there are very few characters, comic books and publishing companies that I don’t like. I have probably, at one time or another, been completely into almost every DC and Marvel superhero series available. Because really? There’s something about every character, and every writers and artists’ spin on that character, that interests me.

But I WILL admit this- if there’s one writer that I really have to point to and say ‘that’s him, that’s the guy that started me reading comic books like they were candy through my adolescent years’- it’s Chris Claremont. Claremont was the guy who put X-Men on the map (credit to John Byrne, legendary F.F. scribe and book co-writer, is due). He revamped the team without hastily dispatching any of the characters from the original line-up, introduced dozens of X-Men allies, villains, and plot threads that are huge parts of the comics’ lore today, and- made the X-Men human.

Back in the day, X-Men had a certain quality to it- and I’m not talking about the all out science-fiction-mutant warfare that the comic is so fond of today (although there was plenty of that on the side, now that I think of it). God, I hate to say it, but X-Men was kind of…sweet. Sort of like it had the sentimentality of a daytime soap opera.

I’m not making this up! Kitty Pryde was the sort-of star and was the all-American teenage girl. She was sensitive, intelligent, and quickly becoming an adult. It’d be sort of like, through Kitty, you’d get a better sense of WHO the X-Men were. And who they were wasn’t always readily apparent based on the way they acted- but Kitty started to pick up on it. Nightcrawler was cheery, but really, had been through some terrible stuff, Wolverine had a scary past but somewhere in there he was sensitive, and maybe in some other time, some other place, Storm could have been the benevolent ruler of a kingdom all her own. You throw in Jean Grey and Scott Summers’ complicated (but daytime-soap-opera-perfect) romance, Illyana Rasputin recovering from what you can basically think of as interdimensional child abuse (LONG story), and Kitty’s maybe-not-so childish feelings for Colossus- and you get the picture, right?

Now, eventually, Claremont started to up the ante- things for the X-Men got WEIRD. Some of the storylines from the 80’s (practically forgotten now, so sad) are my favorite- Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, X-tinction Agenda…things got crazy. But one thing stayed constant, I think, and it was this- life, in X-Men, wasn’t cheap.

Violence was…well, violent. Fighting, with mutant powers or otherwise, was DANGEROUS- in movies, people get punched in the face and take it. In real life, injuries like concussions and broken collar bones kill people. X-Men was sensitive to this I think (okay, maybe the 90’s a little less so- suddenly the X-Men were looking a little more decked out in body armor and guns, but what the hell). Getting hit in the head by someone or something was a BIG deal, and the X-Men had to work carefully to avoid injury both to themselves and others. Because TAKING a life was something you regretted until the day you died- just ask Wolverine.

You knew he had crossed that line- and that it had changed him. But you also knew that he would have fought to keep ANY of them from having to do the kinds of things he HAD done. And that made him this kind of martyr. And, in a bizarre twist? The moral conscience of the team- the ‘loose cannon’ -understood life and death and how you have to live with the choices you make better than any of them.

Now, when I was a kid, the big X-Men ‘secret’ traded in comic book stores and in middle school lunchrooms was THIS:

Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father.

Everyone who read X-Men and Wolverine knew this…somehow. Instinctively, it just HAD to be true, right? The powers, the shady history together…somehow it just fit. Now- there was never a single comic book ever published that suggested this to be the case, directly. And of course, nowadays…it is common knowledge that Victor Creed is NOT Logan’s father. Instead, they’ve got this sort of schoolyard-older-brother-bully thing going on. Vic just can’t stand to see Logan have anything good in his life (because, well, he’s always been treated like a monster himself) so he just takes it upon himself to wreck what Logan has. This includes killing people, viciously.

But actually, originally? This was ALWAYS Claremont’s intention and the dialogue was written to suggest as much to the readers (other little discrepancies like this exist…don’t get me started on who’s the real son and who’s a clone, Cable or Stryfe. Man.) I can’t help but wonder if the comics didn’t take a mis-turn here.

It’s not that I don’t like how the whole thing is set up now, exactly- in fact, it’s kind of brilliant that there’s NO relation between them. Creed is just like this wild dog that wants to hurt people. Hate and jealousy are perfectly reasonable motivations for Creed to do what he does- so, I guess in the current interpretation, Logan has always been ‘top dog’ and Sabretooth is nipping at his heels.

…but I guess I just love the way the older comics are written. The difference in size between the two, the ferocity of their fights, all the ‘runt’ cracks Sabretooth whips out...and Vic has such CONFIDENCE here. There’s no hesitation, no bitter resentment- more just like he knows the right buttons to press. Not out of insecurity- but because he just knows Logan so well. Let’s SAY, hypothetically, Sabretooth had BEEN Wolverine’s father: you’d see the whole thing in a different light, wouldn’t you?

See, here- Vic is Alpha male. He’s the original, the ‘best he is at what he does’ so to speak. And he’s taught Logan everything Logan knows. How to hunt, how to kill…in a way, he created Logan. Bred him to be as good as him. Logan is ‘his’. Except Logan was never fast enough, never brutal enough, and never EVER enjoyed it enough to please daddy dearest. Wolverine’s likely the most popular character at Marvel. And yeah, the cigar, the tough-as-nails attitude, the claws…it’s all cool. But what people REALLY like is this- he’s a trauma survivor. He’s ‘healing’. He’s been abused and betrayed, in so many ways. Ways that would break most people.

Now- IS there an abuse more insidious than a parent who insists that you are something that you don’t want to be? Who tells you have to be? Laughs at your attempts to make yourself different? Pushes you to behave like an animal and than says ‘see, look! I knew you would- you’re pathetic.’ I think Logan’s not-so-humane suicidal mother from Origins was a nice homage to this original idea for where Logan came from.

But still- to have the father figure in FRONT of you, taunting you, preying on that fear- that fear that you can’t do it. You CAN’T be someone else, no matter how hard you try to be. So the question for the readers is- can Wolverine do it? Can he not only take his father in a fight, but prove that he’s better than where he comes from? Or is he just damned to inherit daddy’s sins, from day one- pop’s nature?

Alas, there’s no going back. I’m not really complaining about the direction things have shaped up- I love Origins and I commend ANYONE who can take the complex and scattered pieces of Wolverine history and string them into something cohesive. I’m just pining for the good ol’ days- and I dunno.

Actually, Claremont followed up on this plot point! X-Men Forever, an X-Men series that is written in it's own continuity, allowed Claremont to continue his run of X-Men as though he had never stopped and reintroduces Sabretooth as Wolverine's paternal figure. Check it out...