Adamantium Origins: Wolverine Clawing His Way Through History

I’m impressed that Marvel finally went out on a limb and gave Wolverine an origin story. A pretty good one too. It was all as perfectly grizzly and nasty as you’d expect for the ole’ Canuckle head (when’d they’d start calling him that anyway?!).

Still, it was a bold move. One of the things that always tantalizes you about characters like the Joker and Wolverine is that you don’t really know who he is or where he came from. In fact, there’s even conflicting stories about the Joker’s origin just to add to the confusion (Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight did this exceptionally well).

Wolverine had much of this same appeal for a long, long time. You knew he had walked some rough patches in life but he had, apparently, also walked through some rough patches that he couldn’t even remember. Add to that the fact that his healing factor resulted in an increased longevity and suddenly you were really confused about who he was and where he came from.

But what I give Marvel credit for isn’t just the original Origin story set at the turn of the century (I have to say, gving Rose red hear is a nice touch). It’s keeping the Origin comic going past that initial arc to incorporate every element of Wolverline’s past life that has ever been hinted at in an X-Men comic.

This is by no means a small undertaking. I mean, the complete chronology of Wolverine’s life includes:

1. A LONG history with Sabretooth.
2. The Weapon X program.
3. Being involved with Captain America and fighting in WWII.
4. Some sort of history of being part of a military outfit or mercenary group, which may have included run-ins with Sabretooth, Silver Fox, Maverick and other mutants.
5. The possibility that everything Wolverine remembers from #3 never really happened or didn’t happen the way he vaguely remembers because his memory was tampered with.
6. Involvement with Canada’s mysterious Department H program
7. Some involvement with Canada’s superhero team Alpha Flight
8. Some time spent in Madripoor, a fictional Asian country, under the alias ‘Patch’.

This isn’t even an exhaustive list. It’s just some of what I remember being hinted at over the years. But like a lot of things Marvel does, they keep their canon their canon and they use ALL of it. You have to respect that.

Of course, there are one or two alternate histories just sort of out there floating around about Wolverine.

The following is highly controversial, adamantly denied by Wolverine co-creator Len Wein and probably just a rumor that materialized into mistaken fact. There have been rumblings that originally Wolverine was going to be an actual Wolverine that had been evolved by the High Evolutionary. Evidence that this was the case is scarce, but it’s an interesting and weird take on the his background, right?

Of course, there were the John Byrne/Chris Claremont years too. I’ve already touched on this in a past post about Sabretooth but, essentially, there were plenty of plot threads in Uncanny X-Men that would lead you to believe that Sabretooth is Wolverine’s father. The similar powers, the way they spoke to each other. It’s just sort of in there. Intuitively you knew this to be true.

Byrne did say that Sabretooth, originally developed as a walk on villain for Iron Fist and just bore such a striking resemblance to Wolverine that they figured what the hell?. Behind the scenes they sketched out a brief outline about the two of them being father and son.

These are two interesting takes on the guy’s past. Still, I think Wolverine’s difficulty remembering his past--whether we, the reader, know it ourselves or not-- is his most compelling feature.

Wolverine is all about healing and he has plenty of trauma that he needs to heal from. Being able to start a new life and sort out what was what and what the past means for who you are now is not an easy thing to do. And I think THAT’S the part about the character that has always appealed to such a big audience.

It isn’t that he’s so hardcore. It’s that he’s a survivor trying to recover from some terrible things. And at one point or another in our lives, we can all relate to that.