Of all the characters in the acclaimed X-Men comic and films franchise, no other has left their mark quite like Wolverine (aka Logan, played by actor Hugh Jackman): the super-healing, clawed mutant with an attitude and a taste for violence. Every fan of the recent movie trilogy knows who Wolverine is. But what you may not know is that he was not always a member of the original comic book-based X-Men. Furthermore, his history is one steeped in mystery and sabotage, the origins of which will soon be displayed on the silver screen in the May 1 release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, directed by Gavin Hood (Rendition, 2007).
During the mid-1960s, it was blatantly clear who the star heroes of the Marvel Comics franchise were: Spiderman had topped out on the list, with the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four and Captain America trailing close behind. These four pop culture idols remained famous for years, until, in the 1980s, a new series of the X-Men hit mainstream. The original series of the 1960s had been short-lived and was ultimately cancelled by Marvel writer/editor Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, who had deemed it a “commercial failure.” (Sanderson, Peter. Marvel Universe, Abradale Press, 1991). The original X-Men included the retina laser-blasting Cyclops (who made it into all three films, actor James Marsden), the beautifully-winged Angel (X-Men II and III, actor Ben Foster), the savage and blue-skinned Beast (X-Men 3, actor Kelsey Grammer), and the chilling Iceman (X-Men I, II and III, actor Shawn Ashmore). So when did Wolverine show up on the comic book scene?
Believe it or not, it was not until the 1975 revamp of the X-Men series that Wolverine made his official debut. In the 1975 Giant Size X-Men #1, script/story writer Len Wein and Marvel artist Dave Cockrum introduced a new generation of fans to a new generation of mutant heroes: Colossus, Storm (played by Oscar-winning actress Halley Berry in the film trilogy), Thunderbird, and Nightcrawler (played by actor Alan Cumming). Other X-Men who came in and out of the series from time to time included Banshee, Sunfire, and, of course, Wolverine (who was more a loner than a team-player).
Originally created by Len Wein and newcomer artist Herb Trimpe for an issue of The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine became an X-Men fan favorite overnight. “Wolverine was shorter than other heroes and the seeming underdog when matched against larger opponents. His feistiness more than made up for his height, however, and perhaps if Wolverine has been bigger, he would have seemed a bully. After all, he was bad tempered and had a new kind of weapon-his razor sharp claws.” (Sanderson, 225). It was those “claws” that represented an elevated level of acceptable violence in comic books and had many parents protesting the new X-Men series.
In terms of super powers, Wolverine was unlike any other hero of his day. His claws and entire skeleton were reinforced with the Marvel Universe’s fictional and nearly indestructible metal known as adamantium, granting him superhuman strength. Early on, readers were told Logan had volunteered for a secret government project known as The Weapon X program, which was designed to transform him into a super soldier. As with most projects in the super hero realm, something went horribly wrong and Logan emerged as the savage mutant he is today. Not only had the experiment left him with amazing strength and agility, but he also possessed the ability to “recover with superhuman rapidity from lethal injuries.” (Sanderson, 225). Instead of bullets bouncing off his chest, they would penetrate his skin and cause unimaginable pain, but within minutes he would be fully recovered. Additionally, he had acquired an animal-like sense of smell and direction.
In the comics and recent film trilogy, Wolverine was cast as an angry rebel, constantly challenging the authority of the X-Men team, led by psychic professor Charles Xavier, the founder of the team and teacher of mutants worldwide. Besides wrestling with and defying authority, Wolverine caused an uproar when he became romantically attracted to and involved with the beautiful and red-haired psychic Jean Grey. Grey was already spoken for by Scott Summers (aka Cyclops), who had been courting her for years. As was depicted in the films, Scott and Logan’s relationship was strained to say the least.
Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman (The Prestige, 2006 and Australia, 2008) is reprising his role as the famous mutant in the upcoming release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. According to the International Movie Database (www.imdb.com), several other well-known X-Men characters will be introduced in the film. Wolverine’s arch nemesis and near equivalent in terms of savageness, Sabertooth (aka Victor Creed), will be played by famed actor Leiv Schreiber (The Omen, 2006 and Defiance, 2008). Another X-Man who never made it into the trilogy was Gambit (aka Remy LaBeau), the Cajun, card throwing mutant capable of imbuing ordinary objects with explosive powers. Sources say he will be played by actor Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights-TV series, 2006-2009).
The film will explore much of the aforementioned in terms of Wolverine’s creation; from his early childhood to the gritty birth of the Weapon X experiment. Marvel and X-Men fans worldwide will not want to miss this one. You can visit the official website for the film at: www.x-menorigins.com. And rumor has it there will be many more in this origins series, exploring the early days of several classic and well-known Marvel heroes. Strap yourselves in. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is going to be an extreme ride.