By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock (or just don’t watch the X-Men films, which pretty much construes the same thing) you’re probably at least moderately aware of the origins of Wolverine — a.k.a. Logan, a.k.a. James Howlett, a.k.a. a vehicle for Hugh Jackman’s rippling biceps.
Following his introduction to Marvel comics back in the mid-1970s, Wolverine went on to become one of the most popular of the X-Men bunch; especially when it comes to the cinematic adaptations, with Hugh Jackman leading the pack ever since 2000, sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Indeed, Wolverine is currently the only X-Man in the cinematic verse who has had his origins detailed in anything more than a passing scene — except perhaps Rogue, who went on to become one of the most poorly adapted characters in the movie series (oh c’mon, you know it’s true).
We’re two solo movies into the Wolverine series now, and with a third on its way — , or — we’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what the snarling mutant is all about, even those of us who haven’t read the comic books.
You probably know about the famous Weapon X storyline that details Wolverine’s origins as part of the Weapon X experimentation program.Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X became cemented as Wolverine’s official backstory in the early ’90s and has been explored heavily in the films — both in X2: X-Men United and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as well as .
But did you know where Logan came from in terms of his introduction into the comic books? And how he nearly wound up being called the Badger, instead of the Wolverine?
The Incredible Hulk #181
So, Wolverine’s snarling visage first popped up in the very last panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 — with his first proper appearance as a character taking place in the following Issue 181 in November of 1974.
In The Incredible Hulk #181 Wolverine blunders into the middle of a fight between Hulk and Wendigo (Paul Cartier), he attacks Hulk, then helps him defeat Wendigo, then starts fighting Hulk again. Possibly because Hulk kept calling him “little man” and you know Wolverine’s gotta be sensitive about the fact he’s only 5’3″ (especially since Cyclops is 6’3″).
The Canadian Superhero
Anyway, as it turns out, Wolverine was at this time a mutant agent working for the Canadian government, sent to stop Hulk and Wendigo who were tearing their way through Quebec as they fought.
And the Canadian part of that backstory is perhaps the most important, along with the fact that he was short in stature. Wolverine was penned by Marvel writer Len Wein, and his hulking yellow-clad visage was created by art-director John Romita Sr. As the story goes, Wein was asked by then-editor in chief Roy Thomas to specifically create a Canadian superhero as part of an attempt to break into the tricky Canadian market.
Thomas envisioned Wolverine primarily as a “hero-villain” for the Hulk “who would be Canadian, short… and very fierce”, but at the time no one had any idea how the character would evolve to become one of Marvel’s most popular X-Men.
Speaking of the X-Men, Wolverine was later recruited into the mutant group a year later in Giant-Size X-Men #1, when Charles Xavier/Professor X offered him the opportunity to work for the X-Men as a free agent, not tied to the rules of government. Wolverine being Wolverine, he jumped at the chance, and then immediately started hitting on Jean Grey.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
But how did Wolverine get his name? When Thomas was brainstorming for this new, specifically Canadian hero he had come up with two possible code names, both based on “fierce Northern animals” that live in both the US and Canada. These names were — you’ve guessed it — Wolverine and Badger.
As Thomas told writer Clifford Meth in 2008 (via Film Journal):
“I was conflicted between ‘wolverine and ‘badger’ and finally decided badger had the connotation of mere heckling or nagging, while wolverine virtually had the word wolf in it…”
Badger would later go on to be used as a code name for marital artist Norbert Sykes, created by Mike Baron in the 1980s and published by First Comics. So, lucky for Baron that Marvel decided not to create Badger first.
So there you have it, everyone’s favorite cigar chomping Canadian mutant was very nearly called Badger. As Wolverine would likely say to that concept, “Go f*ck yourself”.
What’s your favorite Wolverine moment from the movies? Tell us in the comments below!
MP Staff Writer, thinking too much about comic books since 1992. Tweet me your favourite superheroes, @katgngr