000: Whence Came The Wolverine

Version 4.00, last updated on March 12, 2011.

Original Wolverine ad for Incredible Hulk #181

While Wolverine made his first appearance in the pages of The Incredible Hulk in 1974, the earliest reference to a proto-Wolverine came much earlier from late Marvel Comics artist Dave Cockrum who claimed to have created a montage of potential X-Men characters in the early 1970s for then Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas and writer Mike Friedrich including a vulpine brother of a female vampire called Wolverine.[1] Though he sported fangs and had no claws, he had a similar hairstyle to what Wolverine would later be revealed to have and was characterized as animalistic, bestial, feral and “…one nasty son of a bitch.”[2]

Proto Wolverine by Dave Cockrum Wolverine Files reader Glen Cadigan points out, however, that the montage was actually a piece Cockrum did while working at DC Comics a year before joining Marvel. Specifically, a montage of villains for the Legion of Super-Heroes called The Devastators (seen in its entirety here at Legionworld.net) with the Wolverine character bearing a striking resemblance to Fang from X-Men #107.

Time passed and Marvel began making inroads into the Canadian market leading Roy Thomas to suggest to Len Wein that he introduce a Canadian character into the pages of The Incredible Hulk.[3] As Len Wein remembers it, Thomas “…wanted to see what I could do with a Canadian accent.”[4] Because heroes based on animals were quite popular at the time, Thomas narrowed the character’s name down to two creatures that lived in both the United States and Canada: Wolverine and Badger. Thomas finally chose Wolverine due to its similarity to ‘wolf,’ and Wein began the task creating a new superhero.[5] Accordingly, Wein “…went out and read up about wolverines and found out that they’re short, nasty creatures who have no qualms about attacking beasts ten times their size to protect their young and to protect their territory.”[6] The strong separatist movement in Quebec even led Wein to consider making Wolverine French Canadian, a concept somewhat incongruous with the present character. Fans should perhaps be grateful that this approach was not pursued further for no one would be intimidated upon hearing, “I am ze Wolverine, no?”

Original Wolverine sketch by John Romita
John Romita, from the collection of Vince Oliva

Legendary Marvel Comics artist John Romita, Sr. was then assigned the task of designing the character. At first, he “…thought a wolverine was a female wolf!”[7] He and Len Wein “…discussed Wolverine’s look after going straight to the encyclopedia… [and seeing] a shot of a wolverine… That’s the way it evolved, eventually including the claw idea and the general claw shapes repeated on the costume.”[8] It is interesting to note that Romita rejected an intriguing concept along the way. “Originally, his claws were going to come out of his fingertips like a cat’s, but that was too grotesque and they just didn’t appear as strong as I wanted them to be.”[9] Wolverine finally debuted in The Incredible Hulk #180, with Herb Trimpe using Romita’s sketches as a guide.

Original Wolverine sketch by John Romita
John Romita, from the collection of Vince Oliva

Knowing that Marvel was considering reviving the superhero team of the X-Men with an international flair, Wein intentionally made the Wolverine a mutant.[10] What is not readily apparent is that Wein intended the Wolverine to be a teenage mutant with claws extending from a pair of special gloves. “He was a mutant only in terms of his ferocity and animal senses. He was a hunter and a tracker and incredibly resilient. He was able to get the stuff knocked out of him by the Hulk and still be able to get back on his feet.”[11] In fact, Wein would have made Wolverine as super-humanly strong as Spider-Man had he continued writing the X-Men.[12] Dave Cockrum later asserted that originally, he and Len Wein intended Wolverine to be revealed as a mutated wolverine, but Stan Lee nixed the idea.[13]

First Wolverine appearance in Incredible Hulk #180
Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel, Incredible Hulk #180.

<<< Wolverine Chronology >>> Next: Lil’ Logan

[1] Peter Sanderson, “Wolverine: The Evolution of a Character, ” The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine #1, 1986.
[2] “Interview with Dave Cockrum,” The X-Men Companion I, 1982.
[3] “Interview with Roy Thomas,” X-Men Companion I, 1982
[4] Richard Ho, “Who’s Your Daddy,” Wizard #157, Nov. 2004.
[5] Craig Shutt, “Secret Origins,” Wizard’s Wolverine Special, 1999.
[6] Peter Sanderson, “Wolverine: The Evolution of a Character, ” The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine #1, 1986.
[7] “Dressed to Kill,” Wizard Wolverine Masterpiece Edition, Dec. 2004.
[8] Scott Beatty, “Beastmasters,” Wizard Tribute to Wolverine , 1996.
[9] James Busbee, “Killer Fashion Sense,” Wizard’s Wolverine Special, 1999.
[10] Craig Shutt, “Secret Origins,” Wizard’s Wolverine Special, 1999.
[11] “Interview with Len Wein,” The X-Men Companion, 1982.
[12] Peter Sanderson, “Wolverine: The Evolution of a Character, ” The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine #1, 1986.
[13] Scott Beatty, “Beastmasters,” Wizard Tribute to Wolverine, 1996.

Facebook comments:

  1. I really like what you did with the forum. This site is one of the few things I look forward to.

  2. I agree, I absolutely love this forum. I eagerly await all updates the the chronology.

  3. Does anyone have a copy of Byrne’s original mask-less concept?

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