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Dec 20

The Incomplete Wolverine: 1978

Posted on Sunday, December 20, 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

If 1977 was something of a quiet year, 1978 is much busier. That’s not because Wolverine starts making more guest appearances – at this point, the X-Men still held little interest to writers who weren’t Chris Claremont. But this is the year when the X-Men shifted to a monthly schedule. And a lot of the continuity implant stories set in this era have to fit between the 1978 issues, simply because Claremont didn’t leave an awful lot of gaps – he tended to run one story into the next, and to keep the X-Men away from home for extended periods.

X-MEN vol 1 #109
“Home are the Heroes!”
by Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Terry Austin
February 1978

The X-Men finally return home, having been shunted directly from one storyline to the next ever since issue #98. They’re joined by Phoenix, Moira, Lilandra, and Jean’s parents John Grey and Elaine Grey.

This is a Wolverine-centred issue. For one thing, it’s got the iconic scene where Logan goes hunting in the woods, Storm is appalled, but Logan reveals that he only stalks animals without killing them. Claremont is starting to develop the hidden depths angle by this point, but at the same time, the sullen Wolverine isn’t bothering to explain himself to his teammates because he takes offence at the way they see him – even though he often talks about himself in the same way.

Then there’s the main story, where James Hudson – now Weapon Alpha – shows up to retrieve Wolverine for Department H. Wolverine flatly refuses to go back, and they fight. Since the new X-Men have yet to do very much in public, Weapon Alpha has no idea who they are. But he does recognise Banshee, knows he’s outmatched, and retreats. Wolverine tells the X-Men that he and Hudson were once almost like brothers, and that today was just the beginning of something.

Alpha Flight vol 1 #17 contains an extended flashback which re-tells this story from Weapon Alpha’s point of view. Much of the issue is just an altered reprint. (This issue was also reprinted in Classic X-Men, but Wolverine’s not in the added pages.)

There’s a lengthy break in the action between issues #109-110, which has to accommodate a lot of implants…

CLASSIC X-MEN #28
“Who Am I”
by Ann Nocenti & John Bolton
December 1998

One of the guests at the Harry’s Hideaway Hallowe’en party is being stalked by her abusive ex-husband, and the X-Men sort him out. Logan’s appearance is little more than a cameo.

(This backup story has to come miles out of sequence because it features Jean/Phoenix as a team member. The only possible gaps for that are #109-110 and #110-111, and the latter gap has stories expressly set during the summer. I don’t pay that much attention to seasonal reference, but it’s nice to distance them enough to avoid outright whiplash.)

Wolverine: First Class #12 has a single-panel flashback where Logan and Jean have a pleasant chat in the Mansion grounds, while a vaguely jealous Scott watches.

UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS GIANT-SIZE SPECIAL
by Jeff Parker, Scott Gray, Roger Langridge and various artists
June 2009

The largely forgotten Uncanny X-Men: First Class consisted of a special and an eight-issue mini. The whole mini has to take place between issues #109-110, since Phoenix is on the team, and Moira and Lilandra are still at the Mansion.The Special is more of a problem, because it’s obviously meant to take place shortly after the new team was founded, and Jean is said to be “recuperating from her ordeal on Krakoa” – but at the same time it’s got Moira working openly as a scientist, which just can’t happen any earlier than this. So let’s stick it next to the rest of the mini, and with the usual caveat that First Class is of doubtful canon – though the mini is clearly meant to be in continuity.

The main story is about Cyclops struggling to establish himself as leader of the new X-Men. The team investigate a new mutant which turns out to be some sort of spore culture. Ignoring Cyclops’ protests, the rest of the team treat it as a monster and destroy it. As it turns out, they were actually right, because unless nipped in the bud, it would have spread uncontrollably. Cyclops apologies to the team for doubting their instincts, and they apologise to him for not following his lead.

The story also has a string of flashbacks in which the individual X-Men recount their back stories to Moira. Most are done straight, but Logan gives a completely facetious account parodying the origin stories of other superheroes, in which he claims to have spent time as a member of SNIKT (the Sturdy Network of Intergalactic Kickin’ Troubleshooters), battling the evil BIMBO (Bastion of International Models for Benevolent Obliteration), which he describes as a “terrorist group composed entirely of hot babes”. Ridiculous as all this is, bear in mind that Wolverine won’t even tell the other X-Men his real name until 1980 – he claims at that point that they never asked, but it seems much more plausible that he was kept dodging the question with obnoxious nonsense like this.

UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #1-2
“Refuge” / “To Err is Human…”
by Scott Gray & Roger Cruz
July & August 2009

The miniseries itself is mostly a string of spotlight stories, none of which focus on Wolverine – in fact, the series consistently sidelines him in favour of less overexposed characters – so this bit won’t take us as long as you might fear. First up, the X-Men are visited by the Inhuman Royal Family – specifically Black Bolt, Karnak, Gorgon, Medusa, Triton and Lockjaw. Right at the outset, Wolverine gets into an argument with Gorgon, who kicks him practically into orbit. As a result, he misses the rest of the story, in which Nightcrawler visits Attilan and massively offends the Inhumans by objecting to the Terrigen Mists.

UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #3
“The Next Life”
by Scott Gray & Roger Cruz
September 2009

A Banshee solo story. Wolverine appears briefly in a training session.

UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #4
“Sisters of the Dragon”
by Scott Gray & Roger Cruz
October 2009

A Storm solo story. Again, Wolverine appears briefly in the Danger Room.

UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #5-7
“The Knights of Hykon” / “The Sky is Falling” / “The Shattered World”
by Scott Gray & Roger Cruz
November 2009 to January 2010

The X-Men battle the Knights of HykonBurning Moon, Cloud Runner, Sky Song, Sleeping Mist, Drowning Shadow and Bone Dancer – and their referee Lifecode. The Knights are cosmically-powered warriors who started off as heroes, but who see no purpose in life without battle – so they turned to fighting among themselves after they killed their world’s final villain. Since then, they’ve wandered around finding new worlds to fight on, destroying them as collateral damage. Lifecode is destroyed, and the Knights are banished. Wolverine’s in this one, but he still doesn’t contribute much – it’s meant to be a story about Phoenix’s cosmic power driving a wedge between her and Scott.

UNCANNY X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #8
“The Curse of Craeliach”
by Scott Gray & Fernando Blanco
February 2020

Finally, Sean, Logan, Kurt and Peter investigate the murder of one of the leprechauns of Cassidy Keep. Not the top of anyone’s wish list for returning concepts, but this issue does a reasonably well-intentioned job of trying to rehab them as a less stereotypical bunch. Again, Logan’s there, but it’s not really his story.

And with that, we return to the main narrative.

X-MEN vol 1 #110
“The ‘X’-Sanction”
by Chris Claremont & Tony DeZuniga
April 1978

The X-Men battle Warhawk (Mitchell Tanner), who sneaks into the Mansion by pretending to be a telephone repairman, drugs Moira, Charles and Phoenix, and tries to kill the rest of the team by trapping them in the Danger Room. Nightcrawler teleports himself and Wolverine out of the room, and Wolverine shuts down the Danger Room and fights Warhawk until the others can join him (at which point the X-Men win easily).

Classic X-Men skipped reprinting this issue, but it’s hard to see why. It does contribute to the plot: Moira leaves the Mansion, Jean decides to stay, and we eventually learn that Warhawk was bugging the Mansion on behalf of the Hellfire Club. But more than that, it features the first X-Men baseball game, which goes on to be one of the series’ tropes! Naturally, Wolverine is insanely competitive, and pops his claws on Colossus – only to get sat on. There’s also a brief scene where Jean kindly encourages him not to be such a loner (before walking off hand in hand with Scott), and Logan thinks to himself that he never knew or cared about love until he met Jean. Obviously, that’s been retconned into oblivion, but it was the idea at this point.

Logan does in fact invite Jean for a drink later, and Scott promptly blocks it by announcing a training session. Oh, and Wolverine does save Cyclops from Warhawk during the fight – it’s made very clear that Wolverine is not going to betray his teammate over this.

MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #26
“At the Sign of the Lion”
by Mary Jo Duffy & Ken Landgraf
1980

Logan goes to a bar to get away from his squabbles with Scott and his feelings over Jean. When the bombastic Hercules shows up, their personality clash leads to a bar fight, which they both enjoy so much that they stop and share a drink in the now-deserted bar.

This was the token original story rounding out a package of Incredible Hulk reprints – and, in fact, it first saw print in March 1979 in Marvel UK’s Marvel Comic #335 (a chaotic issue of last-minute fill-ins). It’s the first Wolverine solo story, and the first time he’s written by a woman. And it’s quite fun, too. Years later, Wolverine & Hercules: Myths, Monsters & Mutants #4 suggests that Hercules was deliberately seeking Wolverine out in this story in order to see if he was a fellow immortal – which makes more sense than the chance meeting, but isn’t as fun.

Despite the publication date, this story has to go between X-Men #110-111, because it’s the final gap where Logan is still preoccupied with Jean. By the time we reach the next break in the action, he’ll have moved on to Mariko Yashida.

CLASSIC X-MEN #18
“Stalking Life”
by Jo Duffy & John Bolton
February 1988

Jean goes camping, but Logan, Sean and Kurt are worried that being alone isn’t the best thing for her, so they go after her. Mainly a Phoenix story.

CLASSIC X-MEN #27
“Backlash”
by Ann Nocenti & John Bolton
November 1988

Scott, Logan and Jean go for burgers. While Scott is away, Logan tells Jean that she’s suppressing her feelings for him; she replies that one of them will have to leave the X-Men. They fight a sludge monster, and Logan and Jean wind up trapped inside it in, er, close proximity until Scott rescues them. A smirking Logan says it was the best time he’s had in months. One of the most direct continuity-implant stories to push the love triangle angle that was never really developed in the original stories.

A flashback in Wolverine vol 2 #176 shows the X-Men of this period playing cards together.

CLASSIC X-MEN #17 (backup strip)
“A Taste for Vengeance!”
by Chris Claremont & John Bolton
January 1988

This is a lead-in to X-Men #111, depicting the X-Men’s capture by Mesmero. Just as the original story described, he hypnotises Phoenix and then uses her to get the rest of the X-Men. Wolverine puts up the biggest fight, but all are defeated in the end.

Mesmero decides to take revenge on the X-Men for his previous defeats (er, at the hands of a different roster) by putting the hypnotised X-Men on show in a travelling carnival. Professor X is absent by this point, and plays no part in the upcoming storyline.

X-MEN vol 1 #111-113
“Mindgames!” / “Magneto Triumphant!” / “Showdown”
by Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Terry Austin
June to September 1978

Tipped off by Moira that the X-Men aren’t answering calls, the Beast tracks the team down to Mesmero’s carnival, where they’re all working a sideshow freaks – Wolverine is the “manbeast of the Yukon”. Seeing Beast brings Logan to his senses, and somehow or other he tears his way free of his chains through brute force (again, we still haven’t really settled on what Wolverine’s powers are at this point). He goes after Jean, which gives him a wonderful excuse to deck the brainwashed Scott. Logan frees Jean by, er, slapping her repeatedly – though she does respond by blasting him across the room. Jean/Phoenix quickly frees everyone else, and the X-Men prepare to fight Mesmero, only to find that Magneto has got there first.

Since Phoenix’s cosmic powers are still a bit flaky at this point, Magneto defeats the X-Men. He imprisons them in his Antarctic base, and puts them in chairs that reduce their co-ordination to infant levels. This is supposed to be revenge for Professor X helping to reduce him to infancy in Defenders vol 1 #16. The X-Men escape anyway, and fight him again. He escapes, and the base collapses. Beast and Phoenix escape into the Antarctic, while the others tunnel into the Savage Land. Each group thinks the others have died. (That’s important: Logan thinks Jean is dead now, and remains under that impression when he meets Mariko Yashida in a few issues time.)

By now, Wolverine is increasingly getting to be the tough one who rescues the rest of the team. He’s more effective against Mesmero, but he does have a mini arc in dealing with Magneto: he starts off desperate to fight Magneto again, gets nowhere thanks to his metal claws, and grudgingly follows Cyclops’ lead so as to have a proper plan for the rematch.

Oh, and it’s during this arc that the series shifted to a monthly schedule.

The expansion pack for this arc:

  • Classic X-Men #18 reprints X-Men #112. The extra pages expand a couple of scenes without adding much of note.
  • Classic X-Men #19 reprints X-Men #113. The extra pages include a scene on Wolverine’s reaction to the infancy chairs, which he fears will drive him mad.
  • X-Men vol 1 #125 has a brief flashback showing more of the X-Men’s escape from the collapsing base.
  • Classic X-Men #20 is a reprint of X-Men #114, but its extra pages include a flashback expanding on the X-Men’s escape into the Savage Land.

X-MEN vol 1 #114-116
“Desolation” / “Visions of Death” / “To Save the Savage Land”
by Chris Claremont, John Byrne & Terry Austin
October to December 1978

The X-Men recuperate in the village of the Fall People. Colossus starts flirting with a local girl, Nereel, while Wolverine mourns Jean. The X-Men team up with Sauron (Karl Lykos) and Ka-Zar (and his sabretooth Zabu) against Garokk the Petrified Man and his high priestess Zaladane, who are trying to establish a benevolent dictatorship in the Savage Land. Worse, Garokk is building a city which will cause the Savage Land to turn back into an icy wasteland. Ultimately, Garokk falls into a volcano, the city crumbles, and the Savage Land returns to normal. (Garokk survives, and he’ll be back in issue #149.) The epilogue to issue #116 shows the X-Men setting sail out through an underground tunnel out of the Savage Land.

Naturally, Wolverine likes the Savage Land – and while he continues squabbling with Cyclops, the story’s sympathies are starting to shift towards him. Increasingly, Wolverine is doing cool, risky heroic things, while Cyclops has become a pedantic nitpicker. Cyclops even tries to insist that the X-Men ignore Garokk and go back to civilisation, until he learns that the Savage Land’s survival is at stake – this is the first time when Wolverine has been right, more or less, about Cyclops running from a fight. Admittedly, Cyclops isn’t on top form in this story, since he thinks Jean has just died. Logan is also preoccupied with Jean’s death – we discover that he’s been carrying her photograph with him. Yet again, the story insists that she was “the first person I ever really cared for”.

Wolverine takes very badly to Sauron hypnotising him, which fits quite nicely with his eventual backstory. Of course, he breaks through the illusions thanks to his animal instincts.

Issue #116 has Wolverine apparently able to talk to Zabu – but to be fair, Ka-Zar can kind of do that, and Wolverine does claim that Zabu is unusually intelligent. Still, Claremont is now hammering that there’s more to Wolverine than meets the eye. Storm says so outright. Issue #116 also has the notorious scene where Wolverine seemingly sneaks up to a guard and kills him (off panel – we only see Storm and Nightcrawler’s horrified reactions). This is not conventional superhero behaviour, but it is well within normal parameters for the hero of a spy or war story, and it’s worth noting that Kurt and Ororo seem horrified more by the gore; neither acts as if they feel Logan has crossed a moral line. More significantly, they defer to him as a leader for the first time, trusting to his judgment and experience. The final version of Wolverine is starting to emerge.

The expansion pack for this arc:

  • Wolverine doesn’t appear in the extra pages in Classic X-Men #20-21. The backup strip in Classic X-Men #21 is a Colossus story set during issue #115; it contains an alternate version of the scene from that story where Logan sees Peter and Nereel together.
  • Classic X-Men #22 is a reprint of X-Men #116. It expands slightly on Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler approaching the city.

CLASSIC X-MEN #22
“Solace”
by Chris Claremont & John Bolton
June 1988

This is a Storm backup, set while the X-Men are recuperating with the Fall People after defeating Garokk (i.e., between the main story and the epilogue of X-Men #116). As part of the set-up, Storm goes off alone to brood over her failure to save Garokk’s life, and Wolverine persuades the team to respect her wishes.

Next time, Wolverine makes his first published visit to Japan.

Bring on the comments

  1. SanityOrMadness says:

    How much of the character shift in Wolverine this year was Byrne’s doing, one wonders. It doesn’t *strictly* coincide with him taking over from Cockrum as artist, since there’s a few issues delay, but #109 is pretty early in his run and is both a spotlight issue and includes the “hunting but *not* killing deer” thing. And you note just how the story’s sympathies have changed by #116.

  2. Nu-D says:

    Claremont has confirmed that Byrne was a major voice in shifting focus to Wolverine and developing him further. Cockrum was far more interested in Nightcrawler.

  3. Chris V says:

    Apparently Jim Shooter had input in how Wolverine was written also.
    There is an interview with Claremont somewhere that states that Shooter told Claremont that Logan was starting to be written as a “wimp”.
    Shooter wanted Logan to be a loose cannon who was as much a threat to his own team as to enemies.
    Claremont said he didn’t see Logan in that way, but wanted to appease Shooter at that point.

    It would make sense that focus would shift to Wolverine under Byrne though, as Byrne was Canadian.
    Cockrum would have had a soft spot for Nightcrawler, as he originally designed the character for use in Legion of Superheroes and then brought the character design to Marvel when he left DC.

  4. Col_Fury says:

    Ah, Classic X-Men #27’s backup strip. One of my all-time favorites. It’s almost perfect, really. 🙂

    Speaking of practically perfect, this batch starts the stretch that defines the X-Men for me. The carnival stuff, the Magneto fight, and the Savage Land story is just great. Really, #109-140-something is just really, really good superhero comics. I may be biased, though, as these stories were my first introduction to the X-Men by way of Classic X-Men. I read a friend’s brother’s collection in one big batch around the same time as the Inferno crossover, (1989! cripes) give or take.

    So yeah. Good stuff.

  5. Col_Fury says:

    Just pulled out #27 and re-read it. Yep, still holds up.

    It’s too bad, though. They never got to eat their burgers!

  6. Luis Dantas says:

    A small correction: the lead-up to #111 was not Moira contacting Beast. It was Lorna doing that, in Marvel Team-up #69.

  7. Nu-D says:

    I also think the Byrne-Claremont run is just about the best it gets. One of the first comics I bought on the newsstand was Classic X-Men #40, in the middle of the Dark Phoenix Saga. The CXM reprints were far less expensive than back issues of Uncanny, so I collected a complete run of CXM from #1 to it’s end.

    At the time, I didn’t realize that changes had been made to the reprints. So this series of posts, along with a recent collection available to read for free on Amazon, has really highlighted that some of the seamless continuity I always thought was there was actually a revision in these reprints.

    Nightcrawler’s ability to travel and hide in the shadows, for example. In the reprints it’s portrayed simply as blending in to the shadows. But I learned that originally it was much more of a power, where he could travel through a shadow-dimension.

    The Scott-Jean-Logan love triangle is another example. It’s much more developed in the CXM (especially in light of the backup stories) than it was in the original run.

  8. Nu-D says:

    Oh, yeah, the CXM reprints of the fight under the volcano and the Savage Land arc were the first back issues I bought. I loved that story, and read them over and over again. The Proteus arc was the next one I bought, and I loved that too.

    The stories in Japan and Canada were some of the very last back issues I bought. I had decided to give up comics around the time of AoA in 1995, but I wanted to complete the CXM run. So I tracked down those last few issues before leaving comics behind for the next 10 years.

  9. Adam says:

    “Home are the Heroes!” is a hilarious story title.

  10. the new kid says:

    This is really where Wolverine comes into his own. Misunderstood instead of the crazy little asshole from the earlier stuff.

    The Miller mini too, I suppose, but they may have overdone some of the ronin stuff afterwards.

  11. Josie says:

    I know the Dark Phoenix saga is the capstone to this run of stories, but I really enjoyed the world tour arc as perhaps the pinnacle of the series, despite the misguided premise (that everyone else assumes they’re dead).

  12. […] Team X | Part 8: Weapon XPart 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | […]

  13. […] X | Part 8: Weapon X Part 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age 1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979  1980 | 1981 | 1982 | […]

  14. […] Team X | Part 8: Weapon X Part 9: Department H | Part 10: The Silver Age1974-1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | […]

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