After struggling as a background character for a few years in the pages of X-Men, Wolverine soon exploded in popularity when John Byrne took over art duties on X-Men and slowly but surely turned Wolverine into one of the main characters in the series. After a solo miniseries set the sales chart ablaze, Wolverine quickly became one of Marvel’s most popular characters period. His popularity has continued in television and film, with Hugh Jackman playing him in multiple hit films over the past two decades. When you’re that popular, you’re bound to inspire other characters and Wolverine certainly has had his fair share of imitators over the years.
Here, we will look at 15 examples of Wolverine knockoff characters and then determine whether they were unable to stand on their own outside of just being Wolverine ripoffs (the “worse” characters) and the ones who have been able to become strong characters on their own (the “better” characters).
15. WORSE: WILD CHILD
Wild Child is one of the most disappointing characters on this list. He was introduced as a literal replacement for Wolverine, as he was part of the B-Squad of the Canadian superhero team, Alpha Flight. They were called Gamma Flight. When the whole Alpha Flight program disbanded, he ended up as part of the villainous Omega Flight, who fought against Alpha Flight. Wild Child was an outright villain, even committing a few murders.
He was then pardoned and eventually experimented on and turned into Weapon Omega. He later devolved into the more bestial early version of himself and joined the American superhero team, X-Factor. He was a member of that group for a few years before it disbanded and he ended up becoming a sort of pathetic minor character as part of Weapon X until he was ultimately just killed off.
14. BETTER: RIPCLAW
Marc Silvestri’s Cyberforce was literally intended as an X-Men spin-off comic book when Silvestri first came up with the idea, so a few characters bore extremely close likenesses to X-Men characters, with Cyblade (Psylocke) and Ripclaw (Wolverine) being the two most notable examples. However, over the years, Ripclaw has been able to transcend his early influences and become an interesting character on his own right.
The main way that this was achieved was by spotlighting the unique aspects of Ripclaw’s character, namely the Native American heritage of Robert Bearclaw. His stories tended to take on a more spiritual approach than the type of stories usually used by most Wolverine knockoffs (Bearclaw had an ability to astral project, as well). Ripclaw ended up being one of the more impressive Native American portrayals in superhero comic books.
13. WORSE: WILDSIDE
Wildside was one of the many new characters that Rob Liefeld introduced during just the first few issues of his stint as the artist on New Mutants. Wildside was part of a brand-new villain team called the Mutant Liberation Front. He was essentially what Wolverine would be like if he fully embraced the berserker side of his personality (and, you know, was also evil).
Wildside stayed with the Mutant Liberation Front for a number of years, outliving most of the members of the team and even leading it for a time. He ended up at Weapon X, where they experimented on him and gave him new metal claws to make him more like Wolverine. Wildside had always screamed “cannon fodder” over the years, so it is impressive that he has lasted as long as he has without being killed.
12. BETTER: DAKEN
During one of those rare times in his life when he tried to live a normal life, Logan was pulled out of that ideal situation when the Winter Soldier killed his wife and unborn child. What Logan did not realize, though, was that the baby managed to survive (likely some instinctual form of the healing power it inherited from its father) and grew up to become the villainous Daken.
Daken joined Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers and became the new Wolverine, which pissed Logan off to no avail. When Sabretooth manipulated Daken into going after X-Force, Wolverine was forced to kill his own son. Daken was brought back to life by Apocalypse and now has become a deeper character, as he deals with the new realities of his life. Daken is also one of the few bisexual characters in comics, which is an interesting facet of his personality.
11. WORSE: THORNN
When X-Force debuted, they included another knockoff version of Wolverine in their midst, called Feral. Feral was a former Morlock, who survived the Mutant Massacre and she was, well, feral. That was about it for her characterization. So when Thornn, Feral’s sister, was recruited to fight against X-Force, well, you know what happens when you make a photocopy of a photocopy? That was the deal with Thornn, she had even less of a personality than Feral.
There was a bit of an interesting twist later one when it turned out that, between the two sisters, it was actually Feral who was the evil one all along and Thornn was just trying to clean up her sister’s mess. That twist, though, was roughly 20 yeas ago and Thornn hasn’t had any interesting stories since.
10. BETTER: LOBO
The basic concept behind the introduction of Lobo in the pages of The Omega Men by Roger Slifer and Keith Giffen was to parody the increase in dark characters like Wolverine (with Wolverine specifically cited by Slifer as one of the characters he had in mind) by coming up with an even darker character. Also, “lobo” is Spanish for wolf, so he was named after an animal just like Wolverine.
Lobo, of course, went on to be taken to further extremes by Keith Giffen, Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, but in doing so, the character ended up being one of the more effective tools of the early 1990s in making fun of the “extreme” excesses of the era. The downside, of course, was when the character basically became what he was meant to satirize, but that’s the risk you always face with parody characters who become popular on their own.
9. WORSE: KILLRAZOR
When it comes to knockoff characters of Wolverine, one of the most popular things to copy was his signature claws. They have always been a huge visual element of Wolverine’s popularity and so it is no surprise that other writers (especially artists who were also serving as writers on their projects) went for visual approaches that echoed what worked for mainstream hits.
However, Marc Silvestri took things to a whole other level with one of the members of Strykeforce (the side project led by Cyberforce leader, Stryker). Wolverine had claws in his hands, but Killrazor? He has blades everywhere! Yes, his entire body was capable of having blades pop out of it. He typically just used them in his gauntlets (where there was space built in) but he could protrude blades anywhere. Killrazor was mute and his character was about as well developed as his singing voice (which is to say, it was non-existent).
8. BETTER: WARBLADE
You have to give Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri this much credit, they at least made their main Wolverine knockoff characters, Warblade and Ripclaw, a shared background to explain why they each had the ability to create cybernetic metal claws from their bodies. That made a lot more sense than it just being a coincidence that they both had such similar powers.
The greatest thing to happen to Warblade, who was a member of the WildC.A.T.s, was that both Alan Moore and later Joe Casey took over writing duties on the title and spent a lot of time focusing on developing their previously unsung backgrounds. It didn’t help that Warblade got a bit less of the focus in the series compared to main characters like Grifter, Zealot, Voodoo and Spartan. Casey, in particular, showed the wear and tear that being a superhero could have on the mental health of someone like Warblade.
7. WORSE: SHIV
In the early 1990s, Marvel tried for a big push on graphic novels, as the comic book market was doing so well that it seemed like a longer format could be huge money-makers for both Marvel and the creators who did the novels (due to the royalties paid on them). Every character had a few graphic novels, with the major one, like Wolverine and Punisher, receiving multiple graphic novels a year.
One of these Wolverine graphic novels, “Bloody Choices” (by Tom DeFalco and John Buscema) saw Wolverine forced to choose whether to allow a pedophile drug dealer to cut a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring down a whole chain of drug dealers. The drug dealer had a bodyguard named Shiv who looked like he could have been Wolverine’s brother. Nothing has ever been done with the character since this first appearance.
6. BETTER: PANTHA
When the 1990s began, new New Titans editor Jonathan Peterson wanted to change the Titans universe to make it more like the X-Men, a title that New Teen Titans once outsold in the early 1980s! Part of that involved introducing its own version of Wolverine in Pantha, a woman with a berserker rage and a mysterious past that involved her being experimented on by some covert organization.
Over time, though, Pantha developed into a fascinating maternal figure for Baby Wildebeest, another victim of experiments by bad guys. Pantha, Baby Wildebeest and fellow Titan, Red Star, soon formed an endearing form of the traditional nuclear family. Then Superboy Prime murdered Pantha and Baby Wildebeest; but hey, it was the mid 2000s, that stuff just happened all the time.
5. WORSE: SEAHAWK
Marc Barros and his brother, Alex, grew up on the ocean, as their father was a famous marine explorer. When he was tragically killed in a submarine accident that almost killed Marc and Alex, as well, they were luckily saved by the underwater hero, Roman, who brought them to his undersea kingdom and gave them superpowers.
Alex became Coldsnap and Marc became Seahawk (Marc had enhanced strength, could breathe underwater and, like most good Wolverine knockoffs, had a healing power). They were recruited by the mysterious vigilante known as Battlestone to use the fortune that they inherited from their father to fund the superhero team, Brigade. Coldsnap eventually went evil, but Seahawk ultimately became the leader of Brigade. Their personalities were never all that developed, however, beyond just general superhero tropes.
4. BETTER: WOLVEROACH
While the series ultimately began to tackle slightly more universal topics such as politics and religion (and then later, with much less acclaim, gender politics), Dave Sim’s Cerebus was originally a straightforward parody of Marvel’s popular sword and sorcery title, Conan the Barbarian. The series followed the adventures of a barbarian aardvark named Cerebus.
Over time, Sim began to expand his satirical glance to superhero characters, with the main source of this satire being a character known as the Cockroach, who would take on various identities of superhero characters (like Moon-Roach, a parody of Moon Knight and Punisheroach, a parody of Punisher). The most famous one early on was Wolveroach, a Wolverine parody who Sim featured prominently on Cerebus covers to mock the over-saturation of Wolverine. The Roach later became “Swoon,” a parody of Neil Gaiman’s Dream from The Sandman.
3. WORSE: ROMULUS
Mutant-related comic book series sometimes get teased for how often their stories involve secret bad guys being behind the scenes manipulating events, including past events when they were not even around for the first time around. It is a constant sense of “everything you thought you knew was a lie!” Romulus was precisely this type of character.
He was introduced in the pages of Wolverine: Origins as the guy who has been behind pretty much every facet of Wolverine’s life for decades; heck, maybe even longer than that! Romulus was allegedly an immortal who had been around since the earliest days of man! No one particularly cared for Romulus, so his influence has been de-emphasized in the years since his debut. No one even mentions him anymore.
2. BETTER: ALL-NEW WOLVERINE
Introduced to give a teen version of Wolverine on X-Men: Evolution because Wolverine was an adult on that series (while the rest of the X-Men, other than Storm, were teenagers), X-23 was a clone of Wolverine who was raised to be an assassin. She translated into the comics with that same basic origin (after a bizarre detour that involved her becoming a teen prostitute) and the X-Men tried to help her get past her early training as an assassin.
After Wolverine was killed, X-23 decided to step up and take over from her “father” and become the new Wolverine. She has really come into her own in this new role, as she has shown a sense of maturity that is much greater than her actual young age. She has been a worthy successor to one of the greatest X-Men of all-time.
1. WORSE: DEADLOCK
In the early 1990s, Rob Liefeld launched two superhero titles that were tied together. One was called Brigade, which was led by Battlestone, while the other was Bloodstrike, which was led by Battlestone’s brother, Cabbot. Brigade was a straightforward superhero title while Bloodstrike was based around “Project Born Again,” a group that could bring people back from the dead.
Deadlock had been a terrorist who was sort of also a vampire. He was bloodthirsty and an evil dude. When he died, though, he came back through “Project Born Again” and was now significantly mellowed out. He was more of anti-hero now and he served with Bloodstrike for a few years. An odd aspect of his character is that he had no claws, but he would still use his fingers to slice at people. It was an odd look. When Bloodstrike disbanded, it was unclear what happened to Deadlock.
Which Wolverine rip-off is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
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