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Comic Book Legends Revealed #472

by  in Comic News Comment
Comic Book Legends Revealed #472

Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and seventy-one. This week, in an all-X-Men edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed, learn whether Dave Cockrum actually invented Wolverine! Did the X-Men cartoon series inadvertently lead to the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey? And finally, did Thunderbird actually get his own X-Men series?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Dave Cockrum had a hand in the creation of Wolverine.

STATUS: False Enough for a False

Where the inspiration for certain ideas comes from is a very tricky subject at times. We’ve recently discussed here both a fan inventing a character named Wolverine a couple of years before Wolverine debuted in Incredible Hulk #181 and a fan suggesting a reboot of the Justice Society, complete with a story titled “The Justice League.” The latest in the line of proto-creations is Dave Cockrum’s Wolverine.

Dave Cockrum in the early 1970s was just filled to the brim with great character ideas. While he was working on the Legion of Super-Heroes for DC Comics, he had a number of ideas for new characters for the book and he also re-designed a bunch of characters.

Most famously, in 1972 Cockrum worked up a pitch for a new series set in the Legion of Super-Heroes timeline about a new team called the Outsiders and their enemies, the Strangers. When DC passed on the idea, Cockrum then took it to Marvel and then some of the characters were adapted into the All-New, All-Different X-Men two years later, as Cockrum worked on them with writer Len Wein.

Nightcrawler, as established in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed, came over pretty much whole cloth.

Storm was created via a combination of a few different characters, as established in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed.

That brings us to Wolverine.

Here’s the villain group Cockrum invented, the Strangers…

That fellow with the fangs? His name was Wolverine.

In an interview with Peter Sanderson for the X-Men Companion, Cockrum explained how he pitched Roy Thomas on the characters in 1973 to see if Marvel had any use of them (I presume DC had showed a lack of interest in them by this point)…

Sanderson: “How about Wolverine? Did you have anything to do with his creation?”

Cockrum: “No, but I resented his existence for a long time because I had come up with a Wolverine and shown it to Roy (Thomas, editor of the X-Men at that time) before this Wolverine. I had a series of characters I suggested could be X-Men… How should I put this? I did a montage piece of art with a lot of brand-new characters on it, none of whom was really identified as anything. One of them would up later being used as Tyr in the Legion of Super-Heroes, the guy with the gun on his hand. But anyhow, two of them were brother and sister. She was a vampire who, by one method or another, was going to try to keep it under control, possibly just bite people once and leave them alone, and not kill them off. He was a vulpine type: animalistic, bestial, feral, whom I called Wolverine.”

Sanderson: “Complete with claws?”

Cockrum: “No, he didn’t have claws. But he had fangs and he was a nasty son of a bitch. He had almost the same haircut that Wolverine has now. In the interim, somewhere along the line, Roy suggested to Len, ‘How about a Canadian mutant called Wolverine?’ I assumed Roy just forgot that I showed him my Wolverine. I was kind of miffed about the whole thing, but it seemed kind of pointless to carry it on. I never did like Wolverine for a long time…”

So this story has always been a bit odd to me, as I often see stuff like “Dave Cockrum played a role in the creation of Wolverine” or “Marvel took Cockrum’s Wolverine idea” or whatever, while Cockrum flat out says in the quote in response to the question “Did you have anything to do with his creation?” “No.”

As Cockrum notes, the only thing that ties the characters together besides the name was their faces, which are sort of similar. But that, of course, is a result of Cockrum himself giving the Wolverine character, who debuted wearing a mask…

a face of Cockrum’s own design in X-Men #98…

As for the name, Roy Thomas has always been clear about how the name came about. He wanted to introduce a Canadian character, and as he noted to my pal Clifford Meth, “[W]hen I decided we should have a Canadian character and even that it would be named after a fierce Northern animal, I know I was conflicted between ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Badger’–finally decided Badger had the connotation of mere heckling or nagging, while Wolverine virtually had the word wolf in it.”

So just like I think it is a coincidence between the fan having his own Wolverine and Thomas and Wein having their Wolverine, so, too, do I think that it was a coincidence between Cockrum having a character named Wolverine and Thomas and Wein later creating a completely unrelated character also named Wolverine.

As Thomas pointed out in the full text of the above quote:

I have no doubt that Dave [Cockrum] and Mike Friedrich [Friedrich was talking about Cockrum showing the Wolverine character around, leading to Meth contacting Thomas about the story – BC] were telling the truth about his having a Wolverine character,” said Roy, “though I have no conscious knowledge of seeing it. It can’t have had too much of an influence on me, because when I decided we should have a Canadian character and even that it would be named after a fierce Northern animal, I know I was conflicted between ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Badger’–finally decided Badger had the connotation of mere heckling or nagging, while Wolverine virtually had the word wolf in it.

Cockrum also likely used his Wolverine design on his Timber Wolf analogue, Fang, in the Imperial Guard when they were introduced in X-Men #107…

Thanks to Peter Sanderson, the late Dave Cockrum, Clifford Meth and Roy Thomas for the quotes!

Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was Godzilla originally designed to be a giant OCTOPUS?!

On the next page, how did the X-Men Animated Series lead to Cyclops and Jean Grey getting married in the comics?

COMIC LEGEND: The X-Men Animated Series led to Cyclops and Jean Grey getting married in the comics.

STATUS: Basically True

Somewhat recently (anything within the last year or so seems recent to you when you’ve been writing a column for…oh man, I think this is essentially the NINTH anniversary of this column – nuts!), I wrote about how Whilce Portacio originally was going to have Cyclops and Jean Grey get married in the pages of X-Factor. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco, though, thought that it made little sense to do it in that book when Portacio was moving over to Uncanny X-Men very soon, along with the characters Cyclops and Jean Grey.

However, it seems very likely that when the changeover to X-Men/Uncanny X-Men happened, Jim Lee and Portacio decided to put the marriage on the back burner. Cyclops and Jean Grey were not even on the same squad of X-Men and Lee, in particular, seemed to be introducing a subplot where Cyclops and Psylocke would have a flirtation with each other.

Now it is very possible, heck LIKELY, that Lee and Portacio were planning to string the subplot along before getting back to the Cyclops/Jean Grey status quo and perhaps the wedding itself? Sure, but they left so soon after that it’s hard to say for sure.

However, it appears that behind the scenes that there was a different drama playing out (using the word “drama” very loosely here), as Bob Harras, who was the editor of X-Factor when the wedding was going to originally happen and was also the editor of all the X-Books, wanted the wedding to happen and STILL wanted the wedding to happen, but Editor-in-Chief DeFalco was not willing to go through with it.

Even a couple of years later, with Lee and Portacio long gone and Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza taking their place as the writers of the two X-Men titles, Harras was still fighting to get the wedding in there. The turning point was, interestingly enough, in the X-Men Animated Series.

In the Summer of 1993, Harras was at a story conference for the second season of the X-Men cartoon series and learned that they planned on marrying Cyclops and Jean Grey on the show.

Harras decided to use the opportunity to get the marriage into the comic. Firs off, he successfully convinced the show to hold off on marrying them (it turned out to be one of Mr. Sinister’s annoying ruses – that guy’s such a dick).

But then, he told DeFalco about the show getting the characters married and used that to convince DeFalco to agree to let the characters get married in the comic. So finally, three years after the fact, Harras got the marriage he wanted!

It’s especially interesting as this was pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of how Lois and Clark’s wedding was tied into the TV series, as explained in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed.

EDITED TO ADD: It is also interesting re-reading this old Comic Book Legends Revealed where Fabian Nicieza gave me the answer regarding the seemingly abrupt end to the Cyclops/Psylocke flirtation. Nicieza noted that it was always planned that the Cyclops/Psylocke flirtation would ultimately lead to Jean Grey and Cyclops getting married. However, now that I think about it, doesn’t it make sense that it seemed abrupt because Nicieza likely figured that it would go on longer but when Harras made his move after the X-Men cartoon situation, Nicieza had to draw it to a close sooner than he expected. That makes a lot of sense, right?

Thanks to Bob Harras and Tom Russo from Marvel Age #133 for the information!

On the next page, did Thunderbird nearly have his own mini-series?

COMIC LEGEND: Marvel completed a Thunderbird series but never published it.


Poor Thunderbird. Killed off after just a few issues as an X-Man.

However, now only did he miss out on being an X-Man, he had a chance to have his own mini-series, but lost out on that, too!

In 2000, for the 25th anniversary of the introduction of Thunderbird, Scott Lobdell and Aaron Lopresti did a two-issue series about the character, with an AMAZING cover by Art Adams…

The series was completed in full. Here are some of Lopresti’s pages (it looks like he did a really nice job on the project)…

Lopresti is selling the original art for these pages on his site. Check them out here.

However, right around this time, Chris Claremont had just returned to the X-Men to take over the titles for the first time since 1991 and there were likely two events that conspired to hurt the Lobdell/Lopresti mini-series.

First off, Claremont was introducing a brand NEW Thunderbird…

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, with Claremont now on board he did his OWN 25th anniversary project, the little-remembered Black Sun, which had a spotlight comic on the various members of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, including one on Thunderbird (and Wolverine)…

So one or both of those reasons (with perhaps a side of Marvel and Lobdell being a bit on the outs at the time mixed in there) almost certainly led to the series being squelched (Aaron Lopresti didn’t recall exactly why it was canceled when I asked him).

Anyhow, go buy some Lopresti art!

Here’s a double-page splash by Lopresti (and his inker on the project, Randy Emberlin) that is unfortunately already sold (well, not unfortunate for the lucky person who bought it, as it is a sweet double-page splash)…

Thanks to reader Mario suggesting this one a few years back. It didn’t take me TOO long to get to it, did it, Mario? 😉

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