My Golden Age: Our Hero Misses the Wounded Wolverine

Growing up, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wolverine. I didn’t not like him, I just tended to lean towards a different set of characters.

Every kid I knew loved Michelangelo from the Turtles, my favorite was Leonardo. When G.I. Joe was huge, every kid loved Snake Eyes, my loyalty was and will always be to Flint. Never cared for Optimus Prime. Hot Rod and Prowl were my favorite Autobots. It was not a conscious decision to dislike the “most popular” character of any particular franchise, I was just willing at a young age to stick to my guns and not buy into hype. When the X-Men animated series debuted on Halloween of 1992, you couldn’t escape Wolverine, he was suddenly the Bart Simpson of the superhero world. Shirts, backpacks, lunchboxes, the ol’ canucklehead was everywhere. With his legend and popularity growing, unfortunately so did his power.

Uncanny X-Men #133

See, at the time I naively didn’t like Wolverine because of his amped up healing factor. How much peril can our hero be in if he just runs around stabbing things, getting a nuclear bomb dropped on him and being able to come back from a drop of blood. (seriously, this has happened recently, twice. It’s ridiculous) But, then I discovered in a back issue bin Uncanny X-Men #133.

Wolverine gets taken down in the previous issue by Harry Leland (an inner circle member of the Hellfire Club) and then spends the following issues tearing through Hellfire Club guards, trying to rescue his teammates. This issue stuck with me because it showed a Wolverine that could be hurt, and that it might take time for his healing factor to get him back into fighting form. So, he’d have to sneak in the shadows, in order to give himself time to get back to normal.

Another excellent example of Wolverine, at his very best, is Uncanny X-Men #205 “Wounded Wolf” a single issue story written by Chris Claremont with art by the amazing Barry Windsor-Smith. It also ties into Uncanny #133 as Wolverine is being hunted by Lady Deathstrike (now reborn by the Body Shop in order to take revenge on Wolverine) and the Reavers Cole, Macon, and Reese (who just happen to be the same cyborg enhanced Hellfire Club guards who Wolverine took down, in #133). A wounded Wolverine is being helped by a young Katie Power, helping him buy time until his healing factor does it’s work and he’s able to defeat Deathstrike and the Reavers and get Katie Power to safety.

Uncanny X-Men #205 WolverineThe issue’s greatest achievement (besides the ridiculously gorgeous art) is the tension that’s built in knowing that Wolverine’s ability still takes time. He’s in actual danger. He’s being hunted and now, unfortunately, a little girl is caught in the middle. There are moments in the story where you feel as though, if not for Katie being in harm’s way, that Logan might just give in, that he’s had enough and this is the end of the line for him.

Logan’s ability to fight and power through awful pain, his ability to always make the hard decisions where others couldn’t is what finally made me appreciate the character. This is best shown in X-Men #25 when, finally, after years of tolerating Logan buzzing around him like an annoying fly, Magneto did the unthinkable. He pulled the adamantium off of Wolverine’s bones, through his pores. Not only did this result in Wolverine’s healing factor being pushed to the max, it finally gave fans the answer that yes, the claws are part of his mutation. During this time, you had interesting stories dealing with Logan now processing the fact that he wasn’t “untouchable” which he had been for years.  He was vulnerable, he could be hurt, and that made him all the more interesting.

Logan is at his best when he’s on the ropes. When he’s beaten, broken and almost down for the count. That’s when you want to cheer the most. It’s the Rocky moment. If you know that the poor fella can get nuked, shot, stabbed, sent to hell, shot into space, and nothing ever happens he becomes boring. He’s not interesting. You don’t have to root for him to get up, because you know he always will. So, I’m hoping in the coming months with Marvel Now! That one of the things they focus on is getting Wolverine back to what made him the most interesting:  A man who just won’t give up.

Let’s turn that healing factor down a bit, and get back to the noble samurai who would throw himself in harm’s way to save his friends, even if he didn’t have a virtually invulnerable healing factor on his side.

About Sean Pigeon

Sean Pigeon (@seanpidge) is our lead comics cheerleader, and is always good for a high five. Sean believes Cyclops was right! He can often be found offending people on Twitter and helping out the shop with auctions and events.

Comments

  1. M. Lapham says:

    Well, the first par of my post is gone, so here it was…

    I am going to have to begrudgingly agree with you. A similar thing happened to batman. From 1970- 2000, he was tough and smart, but after that he was unbeatable. No one could out think or out fight him. The essence of a story is struggle. If the hero isn’t struggling the story diminishes. And, call me the stereotypical comic geek, but I don’t want to but a diminished story. And I don’t. The fact is that ol’ Bruce and Logan get to these points it becomes harder to tell a good story and plot and characterization often suffer. The struggle often becomes ludicrous. In the 50’s Super man got so powerful nothing was difficult. This is what created the market for “The Marvel Revolution” of 1961 and beyond. I can’t help but wonder if the writers admiration for the character and fan based discussions sometimes over power a natural instinct for story telling.

    And now for your previous post…
    You know there is a whole gamete between friend and enemy, so feel free to expand your world and vocabulary

    (this is where the other post begins, I don’t know why this was cut off)

  2. This is also one of the reasons it’s so hard to get a good Spectre story. When you have an entity that represents the “Hand of God” and can instantly strike an entire country off the map, it’s really hard to come up with a suitable challenge. An invulnerable god-like character is pretty boring.

  3. Dave Marchand says:

    A character doesn’t get more interesting by a writer putting limitations on that character….a writer finds ways to take what they have, limit it, and make it interesting. Spectre was never more powerful than under John Ostrander…and never more interesting.

    Ditto for Tony Stark/Iron Man (do a search here for an early Iron Man article of mine….), and the same is true for Wolverine. After all, didn’t Wolvie NOT heal in X-Men #142 (when blasted down to his bones…or, “damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a janitor!”

  4. This is an issue with any popular character, it’s happening with Deadpool right now. Deadpool set on fire before was no big deal, he was already disfigured and he would just heal from it. Now he just got set on fire w/o his healing factor and he didn’t even realize it or feel the pain from it. I remember reading wolverine when he had just his bone claws and some wrote stories where he was still slicing through anything, I finally gave up and thought it was stupid.

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