Marvel is getting ready for the official return of Wolverine to the Marvel Universe and the company is celebrating his return by providing the mutant hero with a brand-new costume designed by Declan Shalvey, who will be drawing the last three issues of the upcoming Return of Wolverine miniseries.
The costume has generated its fair share of controversy in fandom, with reactions ranging from enthusiastic support to abject horror, but it must be taken into consideration that Wolverine has perhaps gone through the most major costume changes of any the most popular superheroes. It was a big deal when Spider-Man got a new costume for a few years after having the same one for twenty years. Wolverine changed his costume in his second appearance! He then went through a major change after just five years! With Wolverine, a variety of costumes is his normal state of being. With that in mind, we will share with you his entire costume history in his 44-year (and counting) history!
When Wolverine was introduced in 1974's Incredible Hulk #181 (after a brief cameo in the last page of the previous issue), it was at the direction of the then-Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, Roy Thomas. In 1972, Stan Lee moved from Editor-in-Chief and Art Director of Marvel to become the company's new Publisher. Thomas inherited Lee's Editor-in-Chief gig and eventually John Romita took over the Art Director role. Thomas came up with the idea of introducing a Canadian superhero and he told Incredible Hulk writer Len Wein to also name him Wolverine.
As de facto Art Director, Romita designed most of the major new costumes for Marvel characters at the time and Romita came up with the original Wolverine costume, which leaned heavily into looking like an animal (with whiskers on the mask and everything). It is just a coincidence that the colors that Romita chose, yellow and blue, also happened to be the colors of the Michigan Wolverines football team.
KANE'S MISTAKE BECOMES CANON
Similar to how John Romita designed the costumes for most major new Marvel characters, in the mid-1970s, Gil Kane also drew the covers for most of Marvel's more notable issues. He did a lot of covers for Marvel at the time, since he was such a good cover artist, but he was particularly used on notable issues, like debuts and things like that. When Dave Cockrum drew the debut of the All-New, All-Different X-Men in Giant-Size X-Men #1, Wolverine was a member of the team and Cockrum remained faithful to Romita's original design. On the cover, however, Kane dropped the whiskers and gave Wolverine a cowl on his mask.
Cockrum liked it so much that he went back into his interior pages and re-drew Wolverine's mask throughout the issue to have it match Kane's change. That became Wolverine's official costume in the X-Men.
FANG'S FOR NOTHING!
Dave Cockrum's big break as a comic book artist was drawing Legion of Super-Heroes for DC Comics. In the final issue of his original run on X-Men with Chris Claremont, Cockrum helped introduce the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, who were based on the Legion of Super-Heroes (Gladiator was Superboy, Oracle was Saturn Girl, etc.). In the middle of the fighting, Cockrum came up with the idea that Wolverine would gain a new costume. After one of the Imperial Guard burned his costume off, Wolverine attacked another Guard member, Fang (based on the Legionnaire Timber Wolf), and took his costume.
However, incoming X-Men artist John Byrne did not like the new costume and he particularly disagreed with the idea of Cockrum, in effect, "sticking" Byrne with a new costume in Cockrum's final issue on the book. So in X-Men #109, Byrne made sure that Wolverine ditched the Fang costume as soon as the X-Men got back to Earth...
It would not be long, though, before Byrne also decided to change Wolverine's original costume.