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Dec 6

The Incomplete Wolverine: 1977

Posted on Sunday, December 6, 2020 by Paul in Wolverine

Part 1: Origin to Origin II | Part 2: 1907 to 1914
Part 3: 1914 to 1939 | Part 4: World War II
Part 5: The postwar era | Part 6: Team X
Part 7: Post Team X | Part 8: Weapon X
Part 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age
1974-1975 | 1976

1977 is the last year in Wolverine’s history that could honestly be described as quiet – well, unless you count 2015-2017, when he was dead. At this point, he’s still only appearing in X-Men, and that book is still only shipping six times a year. Nobody is interested in using him as a guest star yet – well, nobody except Chris Claremont. And his lengthy storylines run directly from one issue into the next, leaving only occasional gaps for guest appearances anyway… with none of those gaps actually falling during 1977.

It won’t stay this way.

The February 1977 issue is the tail end of the Cassidy Keep storyline, which we covered last time.

X-MEN vol 1 #104
“The Gentleman’s Name is Magneto”
by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum & Sam Grainger
April 1977

Worried that she hasn’t heard from Muir Isle in a while, Moira MacTaggert drops her “housekeeper” act – which never really gets explained – and asks the holidaying X-Men to drop by and check the place out. Muir Isle turns out to be a combined mutant research facility and prison, and Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr) has just escaped. Thanks to later retcons, Wolverine has met Erik before – in First X-Men. Neither of them seems to recognise the other here. That’s fair enough; aside from the fact that Wolverine’s had his memory messed about with since then, neither of them was in costume last time they met.

Magneto easily defeats the new X-Men, with Wolverine’s metal claws proving a particular liability. Cyclops and Moira show up in time to lead a tactical retreat – partly because the new team are completely outmatched, but also because Cyclops has figured out that it’s all a diversion set up by the new Eric the Red, to make them leave Professor X unprotected. Wolverine, being the 1970s proto-Guy Gardner that he is at this point, complains bitterly about retreating for any reason at all, and whines that Cyclops is making them into cowards. Granted, he’s acting like this partly because he’s jealous of Scott’s relationship with Jean, but Wolverine really does come across as a complete idiot at this point.

The reprint of this story in Classic X-Men #12 includes extra pages expanding on the X-Men’s approach to Muir Isle. Wolverine gets to use his enhanced senses, which still haven’t cropped up in the series proper.

X-MEN vol 1 #105
“Phoenix Unleashed”
by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum & Bob Layton
June 1977

On arriving back at the Mansion, the X-Men and Moira are ambushed by Eric the Red and his duped ally Firelord. The X-Men pursue the villains to New York, where Professor X and Phoenix have met up with Lilandra Neramani, a refugee princess from the Shi’ar Empire. Eric, who turns out to be a Shi’ar agent, captures Lilandra and takes her through a “stargate” to the Shi’ar Empire. Phoenix charges up the portal so that the X-Men can follow.

Wolverine’s entirely marginal in this issue. He gets a brief moment to continue whining about Cyclops, but that’s about it.

The reprint in Classic X-Men #13 adds a brief prologue (which is just a recap), and an extra page of fighting (in which Wolverine has a go at killing Firelord, with predictably bad results).

X-Men #106 was an inventory story, presented as a flashback with a brief framing sequence by the regular creators. We covered the flashback last time, and Wolverine isn’t in the framing sequence.

X-MEN vol 1 #107-108
“Where No X-Man Has Gone Before!” by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum & Dan Green
“Armageddon Now!” by Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Terry Austin
October and December 1977

This two-parter marks the end of the first Dave Cockrum run, and the start of the Claremont/Byrne era. Using the stargate, the X-Men (now including Phoenix again) follow Eric and Lilandra to an alien world that houses the giant M’Kraan Crystal. There, Lilandra’s mad brother, Emperor D’ken, plans to sacrifice her to a demon in order to gain vast power.

Much fighting and introduction of new characters ensue. The X-Men meet and battle the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (Gladiator, Starbolt, Midget, Electron, Impulse, Fang, Mentor, Smasher, Quasar, Oracle, Titan, Nightside, Hobgoblin and Astra) and defeat them with the help of the debuting Starjammers (Corsair (Christopher Summers), Ch’od, Raza and Hepzibah). Oh, and Ch’od’s pet Cr’reee. Wolverine meets him too.

During the fight, Wolverine’s costume gets burned off, and he steals Fang’s – one of those minor moments that for some reason stuck in people’s minds. It’s one of the earliest points where Wolverine gets to be cool – but it’s cancelled out by his petulant reaction when Oracle laughs at him. And he’s still whining about Cyclops whenever the slightest excuse presents itself.

Despite the Guard’s defeat, D’Ken soldiers on with his plan. He damages the M’Kraan Crystal, which threatens reality itself. Jahf, the guardian of the Crystal, won’t let the X-Men near it. Unimpressed by the little guy, Wolverine takes him on alone… gets literally punched into orbit… and misses the rest of the story entirely.

In his absence, the other X-Men make it into the Crystal, and Phoenix fixes it. D’Ken is left catatonic, and Lilandra decides to come back to Earth with the X-Men while she waits to be formally appointed as the new empress. (Which seems like a mad thing to do in an unstable quasifeudal empire, but it works out fine, so I suppose she must know what she’s doing.) As for Wolverine… he’s still unconscious, and has to be carried home by Nightcrawler.

There’s a bit of expansion of this story:

  • The reprint of issue #107 in Classic X-Men #14 adds a little bit more of the X-Men’s transport from Earth. (Wolverine doesn’t appear in the added material in issue #108 because, well, he’s unconscious.)
  • Issue #109 has a flashback to the aftermath of the fight. Wolverine’s there, but again, he’s unconscious.

Well, what a banner year for Wolverine that was. But wait, there’s one more story…

IRON FIST vol 1 #15
“Enter, the X-Men”
by Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Dan Green
September 1977

Despite the publication date, this story takes place between X-Men vol 1 #108-109 – the X-Men are just back from outer space, and Wolverine is still wearing Fang’s costume. It’s the final issue of Iron Fist, and the outgoing creative team – Claremont and Byrne – take the chance to plug their new project, X-Men. As such, it’s really a bonus X-Men story, and this one does spotlight Wolverine.

For whatever reason, instead of going back to the Mansion, the X-Men decide to hang around in New York for a day or two, so that Jean can throw them a party. While everyone else is off sightseeing, lovesick Logan mopes around outside her apartment, and winds up confronting an intruder. Of course, it’s Iron Fist (Danny Rand), who was looking for Jean’s flatmate Misty Knight. (Misty is away, but Wolverine will meet her soon enough.) The obligatory fight ensues. Eventually, the other X-Men show up to help, and Phoenix has to calm everyone down. Later, she orders him to sort out of the damage.

This issue is far more direct about Logan’s unhealthy obsession with Jean than anything in X-Men itself, and arguably a key text for how Claremont saw that subplot at the time. This Logan is a lifelong loner with no grasp of his emotions, completely baffled by how a woman like Jean could possibly prefer a “gutless wimp” like Cyclops to a real man like him. Remarkably, he even accuses a baffled Iron Fist of “trespassing in my woman’s place”.

True, there’s a hint of Logan as redeemable damaged goods in this story. He does genuinely think he’s fighting an intruder, and he has every reason to. But he’s still played here as a borderline stalker – albeit one who’s not a threat to Jean, so much as to any potential competitor for “his” woman. Even when the X-Men come to his aid, Nightcrawler openly doubts whether Wolverine has really found an intruder, and gently reprimands Colossus for trusting Wolverine’s word. (“Where Wolverine’s concerned it could just as easily be the mailman.”) In later years, Logan and Jean are written as being mutually attracted from the off, but that’s not how it was presented at this point.

And that’s Wolverine’s 1977 – one of the quietest years of his publication history. 1978 will be a very different proposition…

Bring on the comments

  1. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    I love the early, goofy loon Wolverine and the fact that he’s basically the Worf of the team. Before he gets cool he’s there mostly to get beaten up to show how powerful the villain of the issue us.

    Also his early dialogue is hilarious.

  2. Thom H. says:

    I love the idea that Wolverine spent the latter part of 1977 running around in someone else’s costume like a dork. He should be written that way more often. It’s funny and endearing.

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    So true.

  4. Zoomy says:

    It’s amazing how rarely Wolverine makes the cover of the first couple of years of X-Men!

  5. SanityOrMadness says:

    Well, the original intent was for the Fang costume to be Wolverine’s new look going forward. Obviously, they changed their minds on that, although his post-Dark Phoenix suit is kind of a hybrid between that and Cockrum’s version of Romita’s original design.

  6. Taibak says:

    And to think, in 1977 Wolverine missed Sabretooth by one issue….

  7. Thom H. says:

    Tan and brown is such a better color scheme. What about yellow and blue says “woodland creature”?

  8. Luis Dantas says:

    @Taibak: Claremont actually has Iron Fist wondering if there is a connection between the two.

  9. Rob says:

    I wish the Epic/Omnibus collections included some of these guest appearances, especially ones like Iron Fist, which were by Claremont/Byrne and published around the same time.

  10. Taibak says:

    Thom: Not just “woodland creature”. Nothing about bright yellow and blue says “skilled hunter” either.

  11. Andrew says:

    Thank god they didn’t stick with the Fang costume. Its an awful, awful outfit.

    I was always partial to the Byrne tan redesign. In the right hands, it looks absolutely spectacular. Jim Lee’s interpretation of it was always terrific, as was Art Adams.

  12. Paul Fr says:

    @Rob the Epic collection (vol 5) did include Iron Fist 14 & 15 and some Marvel Team Up issues

  13. Adam says:

    Y’know, I’ve actually always liked this primitive version of Wolverine and his role in the classic X-Men. As a member of an ensemble, he’s great.

  14. Rob says:

    @Paul Fr, ah good point. I guess I wish they were more consistent then. I’ve been buying the Omnibuses of the Claremont years and Epics of the 60s era, and Omnibus Vol 1 skips the guest starring roles as do the 60s Epics.

  15. Nu-D says:

    Didn’t the Fang costume pop up again years later on Sabertooth? I always thought that was indefensibly lazy on the part of the artist.

  16. Newkid says:

    He was portrayed as a sad insecure broken little man back then. We tend to be less forgiving of such toxic masculinity in fiction these days.

  17. Luis Dantas says:

    On the other hand, we accept a _lot_ more violence and killing.

  18. Josie says:

    I feel like nobody got a handle on “Wolverine as just some scrappy guy on the team” since Claremont (or more like, since very early Claremont) until Morrison. I didn’t love everything he did with Wolverine, especially the Weapon 10 stuff, but that first year especially used him in just the right amount.

  19. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Hm. How about Whedon? Wolverine is always there, always cool, but he doesn’t steal the spotlight.

    …actually he might be the least important member of that team? He’s always there, but the story is never about him, now that I think about it.

  20. Nu-D says:

    Of course, Claremont’s Logan evolved from “scrappy guy” to Wizened Elder with Emotional Problems, which so why future writers didn’t stick with the early type.

    Whedon’s Logan was an Elder, but not one to be taken too seriously. He was preoccupied with beer during fights, and whined about clothes.

  21. neutrino says:

    Blue and yellow are the colors of the University of Michigan’s Wolverines football team.

  22. […] to Astonish’s complete character biography of James “Logan” “Weapon X” “Wolverine” Howlett continues apace, as he’s still in the 70s, and *checks notes*, yup, still […]

  23. Taibak says:

    Neutrino: Not only that, but the design on Michigan’s helmets looks like those flap things on Wolverine’s mask.

    AFAIK, nobody who worked on the character has said anything about the similarities.

  24. Rob says:

    I think Wolverine sort of meets Misty Knight in #105/#108, before and after going through the Stargate. They’re both in the same panels as that happens.

    (Though how that fits with IF #15 telling us that Misty’s been away in the Caribbean for several months is anyone’s guess).

  25. Rob says:

    Wolverine also makes a brief appearance in the Classic X-Men #15 backup, voicing encouragement to Jean as she attempts to repair the neutron galaxy, so maybe he’s not unconscious.

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