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Nov 8

The Incomplete Wolverine: 1974-1975

Posted on Sunday, November 8, 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

After ten chapters of prehistory, last time we reached an Erik Larsen flashback story that ended with Wolverine arriving back at Department H, and being told that he was needed to fight the Hulk. Yes, we’re here at last.

Just 46 years to go!

And in this extra length episode, we’re going to cover Wolverine’s stories from 1974 and 1975. There aren’t many of them… or rather, there weren’t many of them. But a vast amount has been added around the edges over the years.

INCREDIBLE HULK vol 2 #180-182
“And the Wind Howls … Wendigo!” / “And Now … the Wolverine!” / “Between Hammer and Anvil!”
by Len Wein, Herb Trimpe & Jack Abel
October to December 1974

Wolverine is sent to face the Hulk (Bruce Banner), who is already locked in battle with the cursed Wendigo (at this point, a guy called Paul Cartier). Wolverine is given six hours to beat the Hulk, and is very keen to try and pull it off. Wolverine doesn’t know or care why the Hulk and the Wendigo are fighting – but basically, Cartier’s sister Marie is planning to cure him by magically transferring his curse to the Hulk, so she’s lured the two monsters together.

The Hulk is so dim that he assumes anyone fighting the Wendigo must be his friend – so Wolverine strings the Hulk along until the Wendigo is out of the picture. Then he fights the Hulk for a while, and gets to show off by holding his own. But it’s not his book, so in the end he gets distracted by Marie screaming, and the Hulk knocks him out. Wolverine has failed, and the Canadian authorities airlift him away.

(Marie was screaming because she found out that her friend Georges Baptiste had taken on the curse himself in order to cure Paul, thus becoming the new Wendigo. Wolverine will fight the Baptiste Wendigo in a few years time.)

Wolverine only appears in the final panel of issue #180, and the very start of issue #182 (the rest of the issue introduces the, er, high concept duo of Hammer and Anvil). The story is remarkably vague about what his powers actually are, and it’s pretty clear that the details haven’t been worked out yet (which remains the case some way into his X-Men appearances). He’s certainly meant to be an underdog against Wendigo and Hulk – his claws can’t cut the Hulk – but the story still calls him a “powerhouse” and plays up his speed. (“Moving is the thing I do best!”) He punches the Hulk off his feet at one point – you can fudge it and say the Hulk was already off balance, but it’s clearly not the original idea. Wolverine also seems to believe that he’s strong enough to “burst” out of an iron chain. There’s no mention of his skeleton, or his senses, and no reason to think his claws are anything more than gimmicks built into his gloves. He hasn’t picked up his standard speech patterns yet either; on that side of things, Wein writes him more like a superhero Mountie. (“That’s about the size of it, sonny! The government sent me to take care of you, Hulk – and I’m a gent who always does his job!”)

More recognisably, this story does play up Wolverine’s savagery. He unquestionably tries to kill the Wendigo at the first opportunity, without making any attempt to subdue him first, and without offering any of the usual “no other choice” justifications. This is odd behaviour for a superhero in 1974, and even though he’s the antagonist, he is clearly billed as a hero – the cover of issue #181 says outright that he’s “the world’s first and greatest Canadian superhero”.

As you might imagine, plenty of other stories have revisited these issues, though mostly with straight flashbacks:

  • X-Men vol 1 #139 has a recap of the story from Wolverine’s perspective. Retelling it through the prism of Wolverine’s development by that point, Chris Claremont has Wolverine concede that attacking both monsters simultaneously was “a bit headstrong”, and claims that he’s in a berserker rage throughout this fight. (That’s clearly not the intent of the original story, where he’s lucid throughout – but back issues weren’t so readily available in those days, so you could get away with “folk memory” continuity that aligned closely enough with the bits people remembered.)
  • Wolverine appears briefly in a flashback in Marvel Comics Presents vol 1 #59, which shows that Calvin Rankin (the Mimic) happens to be in the area. Rankin’s powers automatically mimic Wolverine, and over time he’ll turn into a physical copy of Wolverine. This is all back story for a Hulk/Wolverine storyline in MCP.
  • Flashbacks in Wolverine: Origins #28 retell the story within the context of Daniel Way’s Romulus conspiracy. It takes liberties with some of the details, but for the most part it’s quite faithful so far as the events on panel are concerned. In Way’s version, Wolverine is still receiving secret missions from Romulus during his time with Department H – presumably the black ops missions that the Hudsons aren’t meant to know about. Romulus has nothing to do with the Hulk/Wendigo incident, but he does have things of his own going on at the same time. Specifically, Romulus has told Wolverine that someone called “X” will soon recruit him, and that he should accept the offer and kill X. Meanwhile, in flashbacks in Wolverine: Origins #29, Professor X secretly reads Wolverine’s thoughts from afar, in order to assess him as a potential X-Man. He learns about Romulus’s orders, and decides to plough on anyway. As with much of Way’s storyline, it reads oddly these days because while the Romulus stuff is officially canon, to all intents and purposes it didn’t take root.
  • The final page of to Free Comic Book Day 2009: Wolverine leads directly into this story. As originally written, it’s plainly meant to continue directly from the main story (which is Wolverine’s first mission in costume and can’t possibly lead directly into the Hulk fight), but if you squint a bit – well, a lot – it’s possible to treat the last page as a free-standing epilogue. That’s a real strain but it’s how the official chronologies approach it, and the alternative is to reject the story (or at least its epilogue) as non-canon.

Wolverine’s doesn’t appear again before being recruited into the X-Men. In X-Men vol 1 #139-140, he says that he wanted a rematch with the Wendigo, but never got a chance because a string of missions kept him away from Canada. But Wolverine: Origins seems to assume that Wolverine’s recruitment into the X-Men follows soon after his debut.

Chapter 1 of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1
“Second Genesis”
by Len Wein & Dave Cockrum
July 1975

This story is in four chapters, and as you might imagine, there’s a lot that’s been added over the years. So we’ll start with Chapter 1, in which Professor X recruits all of the new X-Men. In Wolverine’s brief scene, he meets with Charles Xavier and Major Chasin. When Xavier invites Wolverine to join the X-Men, Chasin is appalled, and tries to throw the Professor out. But Wolverine jumps at the “chance to get out from under the red tape and rigmarole”, resigns on the spot, slashes Chasin’s tie, and leaves with the Professor – while Chasin vows that Wolverine hasn’t heard the last of this. And now, the expansion pack…

  • A flashback in Wolverine: First Class #5 (if it’s canon) takes place earlier that day. Still looking for a treatment for Citadel, James Hudson voices his theory that Wolverine’s bestial rages and memory loss might be due to long term adamantium poisoning. (They aren’t.) There’s also a retelling of the resignation scene, which inexplicably renames Chasin as “Kinney”. In this version, Wolverine resigns because he’s discovered that the Canadian government was involved in the adamantium experiments that may be killing him.
  • Over in the flashback in Wolverine: Origins #28, evil Romulus agent Wolverine is expecting to be recruited by Xavier. Before Xavier arrives, Wolverine kills some people in the base (presumably soldiers) who were on Romulus’s hit list for whatever reason. The scene with Chasin plays out rather differently, since Xavier is telepathically controlling him throughout. Wolverine naturally realises that this is the guy he’s supposed to kill, but Xavier hints that he knows Wolverine was expecting him and implies that he’s offering Wolverine a way out. It’s a stronger motivation for Wolverine to suddenly resign than the original scene had, but like most things in Wolverine: Origins, it simply didn’t take, and it just feels anomalous.
  • In Alpha Flight vol 1 #52, a flashback shows James Hudson cornering Wolverine as he leaves the building, and trying to persuade him to stay.
  • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there’s an expanded version of the scene, in which Chasin tries to throw Xavier out, and Xavier freezes him in place telepathically so that he can continue the talk. The angle in this version is that Xavier tells Wolverine that he can be something more than a living weapon, and that they can unlock his past together – essentially a milder version of the Wolverine: Origins approach, and one that feels more in key with the character.

None of these versions suggests that Wolverine recognises Professor X or vice versa – despite the fact that they met in First X-Men and, in some later Claremont stories, they served in the military together. But see below on that one.

After retelling that scene, X-Men Origins: Wolverine continues with eight pages of entirely new material. Wolverine accompanies Professor X to his private jet, which comes under attack by Department H soldiers (who put a power suppressor collar on Professor X). Wolverine flies into a berserker rage and slaughters all the soldiers. He nearly turns on Professor X, who manages to calm him down at the last minute.

Chapter II of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1

At the Mansion, Wolverine meets the other new recruits to the X-Men: Storm (Ororo Munroe), Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), Colossus (Peter Rasputin), the Banshee (Sean Cassidy), Sunfire (Shiro Yoshida) and Thunderbird (John Proudstar). We’ll find out later that Logan and Sean have been in the same room before, but this is the first time they actually talk.

Professor X introduces Cyclops (Scott Summers), who explains that the existing X-Men team are all prisoners of Krakoa the Living Island, and need to be rescued. So everyone sets off to rescue them. Wolverine is present throughout this chapter, and contributes very little.

Since it’s the first time the new X-Men meet on panel, this innocuous bit of exposition has received an absurd number of expansions, including two entire stories.

by Joss Whedon & Neal Adams
June 2005

This short story seems to take place before Chapter II of Giant-Size #1. Within an hour or so of arriving at the Mansion, Wolverine tells the other recruits (except Banshee) that as a bonding exercise, they’re going to fight until one of them is dead. Naturally, most of the group refuse to have anything to do with this nonsense, but Sunfire takes the bait. Banshee breaks up the fight, and Wolverine admits that he made the whole thing up so that they could learn more about one another. It’s meant to be Wolverine in his early “dangerously unpredictable” mode, though it’s so over the top that it winds up in Wolverine: Origins territory. At any rate, for all Wolverine’s conviction that this is somehow a useful exercise, the main lesson he draws from it is that Thunderbird (the character most similar to him) will do well – so presumably the idea is that early Wolverine is a bit of an idiot.

by Len Wein & Jorge Molina
November 2013

Another short anthology piece. While Cyclops is delivering his briefing, Wolverine is busily figuring out ways to murder all his new teammates. He decides that Storm looks like the biggest challenge.

Also hanging around the fringes of Chapter II:

  • X-Men Origins: Colossus ends with a panel of Colossus meeting his new teammates.
  • X-Men: Liberators #2 has a flashback to Wolverine taunting his new teammate Colossus and trying to provoke him into attacking – which he does. Wolverine is pleased that the farmboy will stand up for himself when he has to.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine ends with two pages of Professor X talking with Wolverine in his study before they go to meet the other X-Men. Wolverine again says that he isn’t a hero. Professor X insists that he can be, and welcomes him to the X-Men.

Chapters III and IV of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1

The new X-Men fly to Krakoa and split up to take different routes across the island. The original team are rescued – and Wolverine meets Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), the Angel (Warren Worthington III), Iceman (Bobby Drake), Havok (Alex Summers) and Lorna Dane. It turns out that Krakoa was feeding on the captives’ mutant energies (whatever that is), and the rescuers have walked into a trap. Nonetheless, the X-Men defeat Krakoa, and Polaris blasts the island into space. As the X-Men return home, Angel wonders what they’ll do with thirteen X-Men. Wolverine doesn’t get a huge amount to do in these chapters either – he fights some giant crabs, and he’s generally surly towards everyone around him.

The only notable flashback here is in X-Men: Deadly Genesis #6, which contains the retcon that Krakoa isn’t really talking to the X-Men, and it’s all Professor X trying to cover up his tracks after an entire other team of X-Men got killed on a previous rescue attempt. Wolverine’s there, but the scene isn’t about him.

What follows is… well, crowded. Several stories have tried to do “what happened on the X-Men’s first day together”, and reconciling them is next to impossible. If you want all of this to be canon, it’s probably best to take a more impressionistic approach to the timeline.

“First Night”
by Chris Claremont & John Bolton
September 1986

Classic X-Men was a 1980s series which reprinted the Claremont X-Men run, initially with added scenes and rewrites by Claremont (which help to smooth things over with the benefit of hindsight), and with assorted back-up strips that have to be fitted in between the main stories. Issue #1, however, is a bit weird – it reprints the recruitment scenes from Giant-Size X-Men #1, but then skips over all the Krakoa stuff before moving on with some completely original scenes. After all, nobody really cared about Krakoa in 1986.

It’s the evening of the battle with Krakoa, and the new X-Men settle in and get to know one another. Logan makes an incredibly heavy handed pass at Jean Grey, and declares that he can tell from her reaction that she feels the same way. Remarkably, he seems to be right, despite Jean’s unconvincing denials. Angel tries to break them up, which leads to a fight. Afterwards, Angel protests that Logan was trying to claw him, and refuses to work with this “lunatic”. Logan admits to Jean that Angel is right, but she tells him that she and Xavier can both feel his pain, and that he’s welcome with the X-Men.

Like a lot of Classic X-Men extra scenes, there’s a bit of finessing with hindsight here. Although Logan did indeed pine after Jean in his early years (until he meets Mariko Yashida), it wasn’t really played as reciprocal at the time. But in this story, one of Jean’s reasons for leaving the X-Men is that Wolverine is just too darned tempting. (She also writes about these feelings in her diary, which you can read in X-Men: The Wedding Album if you want.) Wolverine’s feuding with Angel is also an on-and-off subplot being retroactively added to their first meeting.

But that’s not all…

  • Flashbacks in X-Men: Original Sin, X-Men: Legacy vol 1 #217 and Wolverine: Origins #29 (which were all part of the same crossover) also claim to take place on the same day. Acting under Romulus’ programming, Wolverine tries to assassinate Professor X, and gets psi-blasted. Xavier imprisons the berserk Wolverine and calls in Moira MacTaggert to consult. They conclude that Wolverine has been brainwashed, and Professor X decides that the best course is to exploit Wolverine’s existing psychic damage by breaking his mind and re-forming it. The Professor tells Wolverine that he has no moral responsibility for his crimes as an agent of Romulus because he was under outside control, and then offers to telepathically block all of Wolverine’s programming so that all he will know is that he’s forgotten it. Wolverine worries that he won’t remember who he is, but Professor X disingenuously tells him that he’ll remember that he’s an X-Man – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
  • Weapon X: First Class #1 and Wolverine: First Class #1 both have flashbacks where Professor X solemnly promises to help Wolverine uncover the truth about his past no matter the cost. And on several occasions Xavier apparently will enter Wolverine’s mind alone, and try to retrieve his memories, without success.

There’s an obvious tension with those two stories. You can just about square them by saying that Xavier intentionally messed up Wolverine’s memory in order get rid of his brainwashing, but always intended to sort it out. Like a lot of Wolverine: Origins material, the idea that Wolverine loses his identity on joining the X-Men simply never took hold in continuity, probably because (1) it’s there to explain the break with Romulus, who never took hold either, and (2) it only makes sense if you take it very loosely, since Logan always seems to remember his time in Department H.

“Danger Room is Down!”
by Dan Brereton
November 2020

The Beast (Hank McCoy) drops by, to join Xavier, Scott and Jean in monitoring the new X-Men. Wolverine is so obnoxious that Scott and Hank recommend getting rid of him, but he turns into much more of a team player once the training session begins and the focus turns to action. Jean and Xavier privately agree that he has the makings of an X-Man.

If this story is canon, it has to go before X-Men vol 1 #94 (since Sunfire is still around). Unfortunately, it means that the Beast also meets the X-Men before X-Men vol 1 #94, where he’s surprised by seeing the new line-up – so it creates a continuity error.

X-MEN vol 1 #9495
“The Doomsmith Scenario” / “Warhunt!”
by Len Wein, Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum
August 1975 / October 1975

It’s “barely two days” after Giant-Size X-Men #1. Angel, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Havok, Polaris and Sunfire all quit the X-Men, so the team now consists of Professor X, Cyclops, the Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Thunderbird and Wolverine. After several weeks of training, the X-Men go into action to save the NORAD command centre from Count Nefaria, and his henchmen the Ani-MenFrog-Man (Francois Le Blanc), Cat-Man (Townshend Horgan), Bird-Man (Henry Hawk), Ape-Man (Gordon Keefer) and Dragonfly (Veronica Dultry). The X-Men win, but Thunderbird gets himself killed in a misguided attempt to prove himself.

Chris Claremont’s first Wolverine story is finding its way with the X-Men, and figuring out how the team work together. Thunderbird’s death is the one thing about this story that people really remember, because it’s such an unexpected way of kicking off a new series. But you can see why they got rid of him – Wolverine, Sunfire and Thunderbird are all disruptive, surly characters, and a team doesn’t need three of them. Now the way is clear for Wolverine to take that role.

Wolverine’s much more recognisable by this point: he’s started saying “bub” and he’s obnoxiously feuding with Cyclops. As Cyclops recognises, Wolverine can’t resist needling anyone in authority, and his gimmick at this stage is that he’s unmanageable. As these stories were first written, our sympathies are clearly meant to be with Scott, who has to keep this macho thug under some sort of control.

Wolverine claims to have friends in the base (not too much later, Claremont will decide that he doesn’t have any friends), and he’s already talking about cutting Nefaria into pieces, which his teammates find a little bit unsettling. And his powers are still only vaguely defined at this point.

The expansion pack for this storyline:

  • Classic X-Men #2 reprints X-Men #94 with an alternative version of the training montage (and some other bonus pages where Wolverine doesn’t appear).
  • Giant-Size X-Men #4 takes place during the training montage as well – more on that below.
  • X-Men: Legacy vol 1 #218 has a brief flashback of Wolverine getting some private training with Professor X to help him control his rages. In this version of history, Wolverine is very upset about his lost memories (and presumably concealing that from the rest of the team behind a front of bravado). This doesn’t really have to go in the training period, but it might as well go as early as possible.
  • Wolverine: Weapon X #16 has a string of flashbacks charting the development of Wolverine’s relationship with Nightcrawler. In the first, Wolverine dismisses Nightcrawler as an acrobat rather than a fighter. When Nightcrawler mentions God, Wolverine gets even more scornful and makes it abundantly clear that he’s an atheist. (Wolverine’s religious views do get established quite early on, but not just yet.)
  • Classic X-Men #3 is an expanded reprint of X-Men #95, in which Wolverine gets to use his senses and do a bit of scouting.
  • Classic X-Men #4 mentions that the X-Men start hanging out at local bar Harry’s Hideout around this time, so presumably this is where Wolverine first meets landlord Harry Morell.

“Finding Home!”
by Chris Claremont and Rick Leonardi
August 2005

This short story (which rounds out a reprint package) expands on the training montage from X-Men #94. As he often does when writing continuity implants, Claremont tries to make things fit with the way the characters eventually ended up. So Wolverine and Nightcrawler have already started their series of friendly bets over beer. And this is one of the stories where Claremont was trying to establish that Logan and Xavier had served in the military together – Logan has a photo of them together. In this version, Xavier says that he brought Logan into the team to help Cyclops lead it. This is all really quite far removed from the original stories, and the whole military-service angle is a retcon that didn’t take.

CLASSIC X-MEN #3 (backup strip)
by Chris Claremont & John Bolton
November 1986

The X-Men go to New Mexico for Thunderbird’s funeral, but the body is stolen. Logan tracks it to younger brother James Proudstar, who idolises his sibling. Rather misreading the situation, Logan reports back to the X-Men that all is well and there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, James is planning to take revenge on the team as the new Thunderbird – but he won’t get around to it for ages.

“The Song of Storm”
by Jim Alexander and Mark Campos
May 1997

This is a recap of Storm’s back story, but it ends with an original scene of the X-Men and Jean Grey posing for a photo. It’s clearly meant to come early, but the absence of Thunderbird and the generally upbeat mood means it has to come after his funeral.

X-MEN vol 1 #96
“Night of the Demon!”
by Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum
December 1975

“Several weeks” after Thunderbird died. During a training session, Wolverine remains cheerful despite being accidentally whacked by Colossus. But when Nightcrawler makes fun of him, Wolverine absolutely flips out, and leaps on him with claws out. Everyone gives him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t really mean it, and he’s just reckless.

Moira MacTaggert moves into the Mansion as the new “housekeeper”; as mentioned above, Wolverine’s met her before while in a blinding rage, but this is the first encounter with her that he’ll remember. Meanwhile, Cyclops accidentally opens a portal to the dimension of the demonic N’Garai (as you do), and the demon Kierrok attacks the Mansion. When some of his teammates are hurt, Wolverine flies into a rage and seemingly kills the demon. Afterwards, Wolverine explains that he’s spent ten years trying to overcome his berserker rages, and while he regrets backsliding, he’s glad it worked. This is the first real attempt to add some depth to Wolverine, and the start of the whole “berserker rage” concept.

  • The reprint in Classic X-Men #4 adds a comedy scene, where Ororo is wandering around naked and can’t understand her male teammates’ reaction. It hasn’t aged well.
  • The back-up strip in the same issue strongly implies that Wolverine wasn’t really trying to hurt Nightcrawler, and only wanted to freak him out – if Kurt had frozen, Wolverine would have retracted his claws. As we’ll see in future, though, not all these scenes can be explained away like that.

CLASSIC X-MEN #4 (backup strip)
“The Big Dare”
by Chris Claremont & John Bolton
December 1986

Accompanying the reprint of X-Men #96 is this rather charming story, in which Wolverine chides Kurt for using his image inducer instead of appearing openly in public, and pushes Kurt to walk down the street with his true appearance. It’s a good use of Wolverine’s role as someone who’s both fiercely protective of his teammates and keeps needling them to push themselves, partly for his own amusement.

Next time, we start to settle into the Claremont/Cockrum run, with the Wolverine stories of 1976.

Bring on the comments

  1. […] 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 | 1978 | 1979  1980 | 1981 | 1982 | […]

  2. […] 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 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980  1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | […]

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