Welcome to the four hundred and ninety-third 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 ninety-two. This week, in commemoration of the Death of Wolverine this week, it’s an all-Wolverine legends week! Did Wolverine not have healing powers for the first five years of his existence? Did an added in “snikt” turn Wolverine into a killer before Chris Claremont wanted him to? Finally, how close did the Fang costume for Wolverine come to being his actual costume?
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: Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum originally had healing as one of Wolverine’s mutant powers.
The weird thing about plans for Wolverine is that his creator, Len Wein, only wrote five issues with Wolverine in them before he stopped writing the All-New, All-Different X-Men. So Wein never had time to really give Wolverine’s origins a whole lot of thought. Therefore, Wein’s take on the character tends to be a pretty basic one – he was a ferocious hunter with animal senses and gloves that had claws on them. Wein actually was the first one to suggest any sort of healing power for Wolverine in the sense that Wein viewed Wolverine’s resiliency as one of his key attributes. You know, a dude who will scrap with the Hulk, get his ass kicked and then get back up and scrap some more. But that, of course, was not a reference to an ACTUAL healing power – just that Wolverine was a tough S.O.B.
So when we think of “original” plans for Wolverine, we’re often thinking of Dave Cockrum and Wein’s successor, Chris Claremont, who came up with a lot of back story for the All-New, All-Different X-Men. One of these early ideas was the infamous idea that Wolverine was an actual mutated wolverine (by the way, I recently saw an interview with Wein where he expressed surprise at how anyone could have associated him with this origin. Well, here’s a quote from Dave Cockrum from Peter Sanderson’s excellent X-Men Companion from back in 1982:
Cockrum: As far as his origin goes, originally we had intended to have him be a mutated wolverine and–
Sanderson: Like on of the High Evolutionary’s New Men.
Cockrum: Yeah. Yeah.
Sanderson: Might he have even been developed by the High Evolutionary?
Cockrum: Possibly, I don’t know. Len and I kicked that out, but I don’t think we ever developed it very far.
Obviously, Cockrum is mistaken there, as it was not until Claremont had joined the book that the evolved wolverine idea was developed, but come on, it’s pretty easy to see how someone might think Wein was involved in the idea when Cockrum specifically said that he was). But I digress!
In X-Men #114, the X-Men arrive in the Savage Land. Wolverine’s costume is damaged and he must fix it. He takes his shirt off while he is working on it and check him out…
The guy’s clearly got scars on him. So definitely no noteworthy healing factor there. A couple of issues later, we get the first official statement about his healing powers…
But even there, it sounds more like a guy just trying to sound cool, right?
No, it would not be for roughly another TEN issues before Wolverine “officially” got his healing power, and it came about for an interesting reason.
In X-Men #124, we get the first mention of Wolverine’s unbreakable bones…
And two issues later, we learn for the first time that Wolverine’s skeleton is made out of adamantium (later restated as “laced with adamantium”).
It was HERE, then, that Claremont and Byrne determined that Wolverine must, in fact, have a healing power, for as Byrne noted:
The “healing factor” was retro-fitted in part to explain how he could have undergone the many, many invasive surgeries that would have been needed to replace his entire skeleton with adamantium.
Amusingly enough, with the power now established in their minds, Byrne and Claremont decided to play with it some more and planned to demonstrate its ability in X-Men #133 by showing Wolverine surviving a gun shot directly to his midsection…
However, Jim Shooter felt that that was too powerful of a healing power so he made them edit it to the gun shot only GRAZING Wolverine.
Isn’t that hilarious? Wolverine surviving a gunshot wound was once considered too much of a healing power! Oh, how the times have changed!
Thanks to reader Tim B., who asked me to tackle Wolverine’s healing power history.
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Barack Obama personally squash a controversial SNL sketch that was scheduled to appear in the same episode he was going to appear on?
On the next page, how was Wolverine edited into a killer?
X-Men #116 was a very controversial issue for quite some time because of the following scene…
It’s hard to really relate now just how shocking this was back in the day. A hero doesn’t HAVE to kill a henchmen and he does because it is just better, strategy-wise? That was quite a dramatic shift and even other creators (like Wein and Cockrum, for instance) felt that that scene went too far at the time.
However, so did Chris Claremont. In his original plot for the issue, it is made clear that there are a bunch of winged riders flying nearby and if they don’t take care of the guard quickly and quietly, they’ll be discovered. So Claremont believed that that was a situation where a hero might realistically be forced to kill (although Wolverine specifically would have the stomach to do it more so than others). However, as the issue developed, there was no room for the original scene so the scene ended up being similar but not as obvious that it was either kill or see them captured. So Claremont decided that the best way to handle it was to leave it to the reader’s imagination as to what Wolverine does to the sentry. Like it might have been just that he beat the hell out of him and THAT’s what Nightcrawler was shocked at. Just how violent Wolverine was, ya know?
But after Claremont’s part was done, artist John Byrne and editor Roger Stern debated the issue and decided to add the sound effect and viola, instant killer.
It is funny how important just one added sound effect has been to the development of a character’s identity.
On the next page, how did John Byrne replacing Dave Cockrum save Wolverine from a new costume?
In X-Men #107 by Claremont, Cockrum and Green, Wolverine’s costume is burned off (this is also seen as an early indication that he has healing properties, but I think the dialogue makes it pretty clear that the Imperial Guard member specifically controlled his flames to ONLY burn off Wolverine’s clothes) so Wolverine must find some new duds…
Later in the issue, he shows up in new clothes…
Originally, Dave Cockrum intended for that costume to be his official new costume going forward (as everyone kept saying that Wolverine shouldn’t have such a bright costume).
When the X-Men guest-starred in Iron Fist #15, that’s what Wolverine is wearing…
However, X-Men #107 happened to be Dave Cockrum’s LAST issue of X-Men for some time. John Byrne took over as a fill-in artist with the next issue and became the full-time artist with #109, which opened with…
(I seem to recall there being something weird about that opening page. Something Shooter pushed on Byrne. I can’t recall what. Maybe my buddy JohnByrneSays will help me out!).
So had Cockrum remained on the book, that would have been Wolverine’s costume, but he didn’t so it wasn’t.
Byrne later designed his OWN new darker costume for Wolverine…
Okay, that’s it for this week!
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