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What Could Have Been / Wolverine

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As quite possibly the most iconic Canadian character in the history of comic books, Wolverine has a rather complex history.

  • He was originally intended to be, on separate occasions, bisexual, a teenager, an actual wolverine who'd mutated into a human, an expatriated Australian, or Sabretooth's son. Some of these were carried over into alternate reality versions.
  • Dave Cockrum came up with the codename Wolverine before the character was created. He was working on a team concept called Outsiders, that he never managed to sell. This team would have a rival team called the "Devastators" or the "Strangers". One of their members was going to be "a vulpine type: animalistic, bestial, feral, whom I called Wolverine." He proposed the character concept to Roy Thomas. He in turn suggested the codename to Len Wein, but for another character: "How about a Canadian mutant called Wolverine?" Cockrum then quit working on his version of Wolverine, figuring there was no point to make a duplicate character. The character design and concept was later reused for Fang of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard.
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  • The codename Wolverine was not the only one considered for the character. According to Roy Thomas, several were considered. Among them were the codenames Captain Canada and Captain Canuck. Thomas settled on the name Wolverine because "that animal inhabits Canada as well as the Northern United States and would be familiar to both."
  • Co-creator Len Wein considered making Wolverine a teenaged mutant. According to Chris Claremont, Chris and Dave Cockrum considered the idea but went to a different direction. "Len thought Wolverine was 19 years old. Dave is the one that came up with the look, the hairline. (...) The way Dave drew him, he looked older. As I wrote him more and more, he felt older." When John Byrne came along, he also thought of Wolvie as an older man. "I got to thinking he looks pretty rough and tumble for a guy who has a Healing Factor. Maybe he's been around a long time." The character ended up depicted as over a century old.
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  • Wolverine's costume for the X-Men differed from his original from the pages of the Incredible Hulk. It had a face mask with much larger and more pronounced black points extending over the eyes of his mask and into high points. Dave Cockrum wanted to redesign Wolverine's face mask but his concept was different and more animalistic in theme. When he gave instructions to Gil Kane, the cover artist for Giant Size X-Men #1, Kane misunderstood them and drew the mask design in a different way. Cockrum conceded the mask looked better this way and decided to draw Wolvie like that. It became Wolverine's classic look.
  • Dave Cockrum would become the first artist to draw Wolverine's uncovered face and had to decide what the character looked like. He originally considered a young adult. A character sketch by John Romita Sr. inspired him to instead draw Wolvie as a hairy 40-year-old. The distinctive hairstyle, with the "horns" on the side, was chosen to resemble the face mask that Wolvie was wearing.
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  • It was Len Wein that originally came up with the idea of Wolverine being a humanoid animal, a wolverine cub that was evolved to humanoid form by the High Evolutionary. Then the origin story of Spider-Woman came up and revealed her to be an evolved spider. Publisher Stan Lee was disgusted by the whole idea and insisted that her origin had to be changed. Both Dave Cockrum and Chris Claremont figured that Lee would also reject Wein's origin of Wolverine for the same reasons, so the concept was scrapped. Some hints of him not being human were still published in Uncanny X-Men before the idea was dropped, though. In issue #98 (April, 1976), a technician who scans the captive Wolverine has this to say: "Is this Wolverine a mutant? His reading are nothing like the others'." The technician's boss, Dr. Stephen Lang, replies: "The Sentinels say he is...but mutant or no, whatever the Wolverine is, he isn't human."
  • Wein also conceived Wolverine's retractable claws as just a feature of his gloves. He did not know when did Davew Cockrum and/or Chris Claremont came up with the idea of them being part of Wolverine's body. According to Claremont, he and Cockrum agreed on that to make Wolvie something more than another weapon user. "If they're in the gloves, then anybody could wear the gloves. We needed something that made him a mutant, something that made him unique. The claws were obviously artificial, and if the claws were part of the glove, what made him a mutant? The reductium of the equation was what makes him a mutant is the Healing Factor. But if he has a Healing Factor, what about the claws? Well, let us make the claws part of him. The healing factor enables him to survive with the claws." The idea that Wolverine's claws (in bone form) were natural would not become official until the 1990s and even as late as the 1992 animated series, Wolverine would pop his claws and warn enemies, "There's nothing mutant about these!" when his mutant powers were suppressed.
  • John Byrne came up with a story where it is revealed that Captain America knows Wolverine since World War II. This story never came to be. "(Writer) Roger (Stern) and I have a Captain America story we'd like to do, guest-starring the X-Men, where Cap will be talking to a couple of them, and Wolverine is real quiet at first. And when he finally speaks, Cap will do a take and say, "Corporal Logan?" Because, you see, Cap met him during the war. And that might be the first time in one of the books we come out and say just how old this guy is." Stern and Byrne left Captain America before getting around to doing this story, though, so it wasn't until Uncanny X-Men#268 in 1990 that Chris Claremont wrote a similar story revealing Captain America and Wolverine's history. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! also has a nod to this, with Logan, then known still as James Howlett, being among Cap's Howling Commandos.
  • Wolverine was a part of the cast in Uncanny X-Men since 1975. But by 1978, Chris Claremont reportedly had no idea what else to do with the character. He was supposed to be Put on a Bus. At this point new artist John Byrne protested and took the character under his wing. "Chris told me at one point, "We're going to write Wolverine out because we don't know what to do with him." And I stamped my little foot and said there is no way you're writing out the only Canadian character. And so I made him mine. Whenever I do a group book I make one character mine and sort of focus on that character so I have a focus for the book." This story should be taken with a grain of salt, since Dave Cockrum who assisted Claremont with the plotting did not remember any plan to write out Wolverine.
  • Sabretooth first appeared in Iron Fist #14 (August, 1977), designed by John Byrne. The design of the character was based on what Byrne thought Wolvie should look like when not in costume. "I had done a design for what I thought Wolverine looked like without his mask on, which I sent to Chris [Claremont]. And Dave [Cockrum] had already done one, which I didn't know about. And I ended up using that design for Sabretooth."
  • John Byrne was the first to think about making Sabretooth and Wolverine father and son. And somehow this would make Wolvie a species of his own, rather than a real mutant. "I got to thinking about that storyline, that typically Chris throwaway line in that Sentinels story (in X-Men #98, 1976) in which the Sentinels said Wolverine was a mutant and a technician said he wasn't. And I suggested that Sabretooth was his father and that Sabretooth was the mutant and that the mutation had bred true. So Wolverine was actually the first of a new species, and that's why it confused the technician. Then we got to playing about how Wolverine is 50 years old and Sabretooth is 100 years old." Chris Claremont liked the idea about the father-son connection and for years had plans to use it in a storyline. In both Classic X-Men #10 (June, 1987) and Wolverine Vol.2 #10 (August, 1989) it is established that Sabretooth stalks Wolvie once a year. The second story establishes that this occurs on a specific date, Wolvie's birthday. This was intended as a clue to their connection, since Sabretooth knows when Wolvie was born.
  • John Byrne thought of giving Wolverine a Mixed Ancestry. Giving him a connection to the First Nations. "His mother was a Native Canadian and he'd lived up in the mountains for most of his life, feral, until he was found by James Hudson."
    • Byrne also intended for Wolverine to not know who his father is. "I was never entirely sure whether Wolverine would ever learn for himself that Sabretooth was his father. I thought that perhaps Sabretooth would know, but that Wolverine himself might not ever know."
  • Wolverine has faced Sabretooth many times. But according to Chris Claremont's plans for Sabretooth, Wolvie would turn out to have only faced Expendable Clones of the original. "What I ultimately was going to establish was that all the Sabretooths we had seen heretofore, with the possible exception of the one in Iron Fist #14, were clones made by Mr. Sinister. They were Xeroxes." "Sinister's modus operandi was to capture an operative, stick him in a stasis chamber, clone a copy and send that person out to do battle. So you have an inexhaustible supply of Marauders from his clutch of villains." This was most strongly hinted to be the case with Vertigo, who has made appearances with both the Savage Land Mutates and the Marauders.
  • According to Chris Claremont's plans, the real Sabretooth has never faced the X-Men, nor will he ever do so. He only cares about Wolverine himself. In the case of Sabretooth, you had a Xerox of a Xerox. That's why the Sabretooth that has always appeared working for Sinister has been so flawed and so easily beaten. We've never seen the real thing. The real thing is quite happy lurking around the fringes of the X-Men universe without any interest whatsoever in the X-Men, but an abiding interest in Wolverine. And Wolverine knows it. But that's one of those unknown stories that'll probably forever remain untold."
  • Louise Simonson ended up dropping a hint that Sabretooth is only a clone in New Mutants #75 (May, 1989). The New Mutants encounter a dying Sabretooth and soon get to examine his corpse. Danielle Moonstar feels this is odd as her Valkyrie powers should have let her see Death coming for him. But her powers see nothing, Death isn't coming after all. Simonson never got to follow up on the clue and later writers ignored it. While several Sabretooth clones have turned up since the 1990s, the identity of the original is never questioned.
  • Mariko Yashida, Wolverine's wealthy lover was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #118 (February, 1979). Chris Claremont had planned for her to become the X-Men's new housekeeper. Dave Cockrum convinced him that this role is beneath her. "Chris! She's got housekeepers! She wouldn't become one!"
    • Speaking of Yashida, she ended up killed by Wolverine in 1992. The story of her death was written by Larry Hama. Years before, Chris Claremont had his own plans about a story featuring the death of Mariko. "We kicked around the idea that we'd get into a wedding, they'd say, "I do," Sabretooth would jump out and kill Mariko on the altar and leave, and that would be that." John Byrne said that the story would not end with a death at the altar. "Sabretooth was going to attack her, but she wasn't going to die at his hands. She was going to end up basically brain dead and in a hospital and Wolverine just doesn't believe that she's gone, and Jean links their minds, and he sees that there's nobody there and he pulls the plug on her." The story would then continue with Wolverine seeking revenge against Sabretooth. "There will be a big fight and (Wolverine) will kill him on camera, and there will be no doubt about it. And that will be the one instance where because of the way the story is set up I don't think even (Editor-In-Chief Jim) Shooter would be able to object to a good guy killing somebody."
  • In Uncanny X-Men #133 (May, 1980), Wolverine attacks and kills several Hellfire Club mercenaries: Wade Cole, Angelo Macon, and Murray Reese. Cole turns up alive in issue #152 (December, 1981). All three turn up alive in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 (May, 1982). According to the explanation given, Wolverine cut them up really bad and they were dying. But the their employers at the Hellfire Club rescued them and turned them into Cyborgs. All three go on to recurring recurring foes as members of the Reavers. But the original plan of their co-creators Chris Claremont and John Byrne was for them to be simply disposable Mooks. Their return was a result of Executive Meddling by Jim Shooter, whom objected to the idea of Wolverine killing people. According to Claremont: "Evidently, John went to a convention and Jim was appalled to hear John saying, "Yeah, Wolverine killed the guard in X-Men #116 (in 1978); yes, Wolverine's a crazy guy; yes, Wolverine will cut people to pieces without a second thought. Jim came back to the office and said we must either present Wolverine's victims alive and hale and repaired and unhurt, or Wolverine must pay for his crimes, stand trial and be punished. His feeling was, X-Men don't kill, and he wanted us to establish that all the Hellfire guards and the Savage Land guys were still alive somewhere, they were banged up really bad, but he hadn't killed them. Whereas I think both John and I felt that it was very important to establish that Wolverine had this inner lethality about him that marked him as different from the rest of the X-Men." According to Byrne: "Shooter was the one who insisted that everyone that Wolverine had ever killed should turn up alive, possibly with bionic parts (which they did in Uncanny X-Men #152, 1981). Heroes shouldn't kill." I said, "Well, Wolverine isn't really a super-hero, is he? Not in the classic sense, anyway. That was sort of the whole point." "
  • Wolverine was supposed to one be of the characters most affected by the The Dark Phoenix Saga and have a complete change in attitude. The plan was cancelled due to Executive Meddling by Jim Shooter. According to Chris Claremont: "So we began toning Wolverine down, making him more rational, the rationale for this being that he could not have loved Jean, could not have experienced X-Men #137 (1980) and not be changed. Wolverine's response was to grow up. Then, after we set this process in motion, Jim came in and demanded to know why Wolverine was invokedbeing turned into a sissy. Evidently, what he wanted was for Wolverine to have the capacity to go crazy and kill but never be allowed to kill. He wanted Wolverine to be as much of a potential danger to the X-Men as to other people. So we turned right around and had Wolverine try and cut Nightcrawler's head off over Mariko (in X-Men #143, 1981), which made no sense whatsoever. According to John Byrne: "That's what Shooter wanted, this sense of a time bomb ticking away in the midst of the X-Men. This guy, at any moment, for any reason, could go off, and he wouldn't necessarily kill a villain. He could turn around and deck Nightcrawler just for something to do." According to Dave Cockrum: "When he attacked Nightcrawler for kissing Mariko Under the Mistletoe (in X-Men #143)... Come on, he knows these people are friends; he's not going to do that. I mean, that was no menace. That was apparently done on Shooter's orders, "Make Wolverine do something crazy." Personally, I think that was a bad choice. That's all inconsistent with what they've done with him."
  • John Byrne had an idea about Wolverine killing Kitty Pryde that was never used. "The definitive Wolverine sequence is he's sitting at the breakfast table, eating a bowl of cereal, and Kitty comes in and says, "Hi!" in exactly the wrong tone of voice, and Cyclops comes in, and there's Wolverine eating his breakfast cereal, and Kitty lying on the floor disemboweled."
    • Byrne also had an unused idea about child Wolverine being raised by Sabretooth and suffering child abuse. Which shaped his later violent life. "I think a lot of that comes from his upbringing, from having Sabretooth as his father. I would think that this is an abused child like nobody's been before. I think that along came World War II and he was told, "Go out and kill," and he discovered that he could send a great deal of his angst that way."
    • Byrne further notes that Chris Claremont intended for Wolverine's adamantium claws to be a result of his mutation. "Chris said that Wolverine had mutated these claws, which were biological adamantium." This idea was never used; one of the storylines Claremont supposedly planned to pursue in the 1990s if he had not left the book was the "Dark Wolverine" saga, in which Wolverine would turn against the X-Men under the control of the Hand and end up having his claws torn out in a fight with Colossus, after which his bone claws would be revealed (a similar idea would end up being used when Wolverine lost his adamantium in the "Fatal Attractions" story arc).
    • Previously, Byrne had his own theory of how and why did Wolverine get the adamantium. "His power is total regeneration, except it didn't work on his bones. One day he was in a tremendous accident and every bone in his body got broken, and everything regenerated except that when he got up out of bed, his weight broke his legs. And they realised that whatever it was he had didn't work on the calcium-based bones or whatever excuse you want to use. This happened a long time ago well, just after the war and it was some twenty odd years, or longer, as Marvel time goes, before James Hudson (Vindicator) found him. So I figured that Wolverine was a basket case, basically. Terribly crippled, in a wheelchair, body brace, the whole thing, living out in the woods as much by himself as he could and just becoming more and more bitter over the years. Then Vindicator came along and said, "Listen, the way your body heals, we can do something we can't do with any other human being. That is, we can remove each of your bones individually, cast them in adamantium and replace them," and that's what they did - a very long and probably painful process. They removed every one of his bones, except the spinal column and the skull, which they reinforced. And as for the question, "Where do the red blood cells come from?" which everybody hits me with, his power is total regeneration and his red blood cells don't wear out, so he doesn't need new ones."
  • Over the years since Wolverine debuted, there were several attempts by Marvel Comics to retcon him into being an American, for fear that a Canadian character wouldn't sell. These have been successfully defied on every occasion, and being Canadian has become an integral part of the character's identity.

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