Wednesday, April 4, 2018

THE UNCANNY BUT TRUE CREATION OF THE WOLVERINE


THE UNCANNY BUT TRUE CREATION
OF 
MARVEL'S MOST POPULAR MUTANT,
THE WOLVERINE


BY
"RASCALLY" ROY THOMAS
AND
JOHN "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" CIMINO 

I first wrote an article about the history behind the creation of Wolverine in BACK ISSUE #76 (October, 2014). But for this write-up, I wanted to go a lot more in-depth. While there are many articles and books written on the origins of Marvel's most popular mutant over the years, there is also a lot of misinformation. So much so that fans, historians and even comic creators alike are not fully aware of who was truly behind the creation of the character. So what can a mere-mortal, like myself do to educate the masses on this convoluted mystery? Why not have my good buddy and the co-creator of Wolverine himself, Mr. Roy Thomas help me put an end to the confusion once and for all. No more false information. No more exaggerations. And no more bogus claims. Here are the facts, and nothing but the facts on the true history behind creating one of comicdoms most popular and influential characters ever -- James Howlett aka Logan aka Weapon X aka the Wolverine!

The "Let's Get Small" issue of BACK ISSUE #76 (2014) that I first wrote the history of Wolverine in for TwoMorrows Publishing. Without a doubt one of the best comic-book magazines on the market today.

The idea and concept of Wolverine was birthed by then Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas. Being the successor to Stan Lee as the head-honcho editor of the company were some pretty big shoes to fill. But Roy understood the dynamics of the comic-book business pretty well. He had been a comic fanboy since he was a wee young lad, so to him, the job was pretty simple: make captivating and interesting stories to sell a bunch of comics. Period. In 1974 it occurred to Roy that something like 5% or so of Marvel's readers were Canadian, so it seemed well past time that there should be a Canadian superhero in a Marvel comic. And why not base that character on a tough and fearsome Canadian animal? A wolverine perhaps? Why not. And Wolverine was a great name! Roy also briefly considered the name The Badger, but the connotations of the word "badger" included pestering, bothering... i.e., being annoying. While a wolverine was not only a fierce little beast that was known to attack animals far larger than itself--its name also was close to the word "wolf," and thus a much more dramatic word than "badger."  So "Wolverine" it was!

Roy's idea for a Canadian character was based on the wolverine (also spelled wolverene). It is also referred to as the glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, and is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae. It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids. A solitary animal, it has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself. The wolverine is found primarily in remote reaches of the Northern boreal forests and subarctic and alpine tundra of the Northern Hemisphere, with the greatest numbers in northern Canada.

Here's Roy explaining the creative process of creating Wolverine:

I told Len Wein to write the character because I had liked the accent he had given Brother Voodoo earlier (Jamaican for a Haitian character, but at least it had character, and Len did it well). I gave it to him because he was one of Marvel's best writers, and because I was busy just being editor and writing the various Conan comics.

I had only three requirements of the Wolverine, all of which I gave to Len in my office: (1) He was Canadian, and announced as such right away. (2) He was short, because a wolverine is a small animal. (3) He had a quick temper, because wolverines are known for being fierce and taking on beasts far bigger than they are. 

That was the blueprint. The idea. The concept. The groundwork.

The advertisement Roy Thomas used to promote THE INCREDIBLE HULK #181 features the coming of the dreaded deadly Wolverine that was seen in three issues; DAREDEVIL #115, MARVEL PREMIER #19 and THE MIGHTY THOR #229. These comics came out a month after THE INCREDIBLE HULK #180 that had Wolverine appear in the last panel of that issue.




Len Wein went off to write and develop the Wolverine into a 3-part Hulk story. While the costume and look of the character was designed by John Romita, who was the Marvel art director. It was John who added the claws, and ironically the metal Len wanted the claws to be made from was Adamantium which was also created by Roy back in AVENGERS #66 (July, 1969).

AVENGERS #66 (1969) first introduced the Marvel Universe to the hardest metal on planet earth -- Adamantium. Written by Roy Thomas with art by Barry Windsor-Smith.

Since art director John Romita remembers me asking him to design a wolverine costume, I may have looked at it once or twice before Herb Trimpe drew it into the story. Nor did I have any special contact with Len or Herb about the character after that. I had done my job by coming up with the general concept and name of the character called the Wolverine, who would be introduced as a villain (but, of course, at Marvel, that didn't mean he wouldn't be a hero any day now, and I wouldn't have bothered conceiving a Canadian super-character who was ONLY going to be a villain, would I? That might just annoy Canadians, when I was trying to give them an extra reason to buy Marvel comics). After that, Len did his part, which included developing the Wolverine. I consider that I, Len Wein, John Romita, and Herb Trimpe are all the co-creators of the Wolverine, in that chronological order--no one else was involved, unless you want to count the colorist.

The Wolverine character sketch conceived by John Romita.

Artist Dave Cockrum may or may not have shown me his notion of a character called the Wolverine, one of a number of Legion of Super-Heroes types he'd created... I don't recall... but I already knew what a wolverine was.  If I had taken the name from Dave, then I wouldn't have been debating in my mind for a short time, before the meeting with Len Wein, about whether to call the hero Wolverine or Badger.  I decided on "Wolverine" because that sounded fiercer than "Badger," a word that has the connotation of "to annoy," while "wolverine" sounds a bit like a wolf.  In fact, John Romita has said that when assigned to design the character, he thought a wolverine was a female wolf.  I chose Len because he was a good writer, but if Len had preferred not to do so, there would've still been a Marvel Wolverine who was Canadian, short, and vile-tempered... but he would've lacked Len's particular virtues.
 
Herb Trimpe drew what Roy, Len and John formulated in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #180-182 (October to December, 1974). And as much as I personally would also like to credit Herb as an "official" co-creator of Wolverine, Marvel does not consider him one. He just got paid for the job and that's all he was legally entitled too. Even Herb himself stated he had nothing to do with the creation of the character. He was just the artist doing what he was told. But Roy insists:

I myself have always considered Herb a co-creator of Wolverine. If he isn't, then neither is George Tuska a co-creator of Luke Cage (which I do consider him to be), because he, too, "just drew the story" of a character written by Stan, Archie Goodwin, and myself and visually designed by John Romita. 

The Wolverine bursts into the last panel of THE INCREDIBLE HULK #180 (1974) and the comic-book world was never the same.






THE LEGENDS WHO CREATED A LEGEND 



Roy Thomas  (1940-)
Created the concept and blueprint of Wolverine and had the final say in the overall creative process (subject to publisher Stan Lee, who did not get involved in the process).



Len Wein  (1948-2017)
 The developer and writer of Wolverine in his Hulk story and in the first "New X-Men" story or two.



John Romita, Sr. (1930-) 
Wolverine's visual designer.



Herb Trimpe (1939-2015)
 He first drew the stories to feature Wolverine, which involved depicting how he moved, reacted, fought, etc.


Roy, Len, John and Herb were 4 equal parts in the creation of the Wolverine character. But, as we all know, comic-book characters and stories continually evolve. And when new writers and artist come along and take over stories and concepts, new ideas formulate. These creators listed here were most responsible for bringing Wolverine out of the doldrums of a "back-up" character and changed him into a full-blown Marvel Comics superstar!



Gil Kane  (1926-2000)
Accidentally changed Wolverine's mask on the cover of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975) from the original design that John Romita came up with and gave him that cool "Batman" look that has become so iconic.






Dave Cockrum  (1943-2006)
 Came up with the idea of the claws being part of Wolverine's body and was the first to draw the mutant unmasked with his funky hairstyle and hairy chest. He also liked how Gil Kane changed Wolverine's mask and kept doing it in the issues making it the standard look.






John Byrne (1950-)
His art modernized Wolverine/Logan and gave him the iconic look and feel that has become the standard for every other artist to this very day.






Chris Claremont  (1950-)
 The father of the X-Men, wrote and developed the heart and soul of Wolverine. He fleshed out and streamlined the past, present, and future of the character and gave him his Clint Eastwood as Outlaw Josie Wales and Dirty Harry attitude/personality/speech that comic fans adored. "I'm the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn't very nice." Claremont's work is the foundation and the benchmark for who Wolverine is, and all writers just expand on the concepts that he had already laid out. He's also the guy who gave Wolverine the name: "Logan" (and that's a great name, bub).







Hugh Jackman (1968-)
I have to give a mighty shout out to the actor who has superbly portrayed Wolverine on the big screen from 2000-2017. Nobody can claim to have made the character more recognizable to a world-wide audience. Len Wein himself said, "When I got my first glimpse of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, my breathe caught. In that single instant, he was Wolverine." And to be honest, when most people think of Wolverine, they think of Hugh Jackman.


End credits from the LOGAN (2017) movie.

Final Jeopardy question in 2017. Can you answer it?



ICONIC CANADIAN COMIC-BOOK CHARACTER



Writer: Chris Claremont (co-plotter)  Artist: John Byrne (co-plotter)  Inker: Terry Austin

Without a doubt, THE UNCANNY X-MEN #133 (May, 1980) is one of the most iconic Wolverine issues ever, and the one most responsible for cementing him as the fan favorite, breakout character in the title. While Wolverine had a few "cool" moments to shine since issue #94 as a background character. It wasn't until issue #109 that he really started moving into the forefront of the X-Men stories and began capturing the reader's imagination. Whether you think it was because of Chris Claremont's writing, John Bryne's art, Terry Austin's inks or a combination of all three, Wolverine just kept getting better and better. Like his silent take down of a guard in the Savage Land in issue #116, his off panel escape from Alpha Flight in issue #121 and his rising from the sewers in issue #132  saying, "Okay suckers -- you've taken your best shot! Now it's MY TURN!" (which is one of the most iconic images and cliff-hangers in comic-book history). But issue #133 features the extensive of all those moments, as Wolverine takes on a group of Hellfire Club mercenaries and mounts a rescue operation all by himself. Thrusting him into the spotlight for the first time! It put Wolverine onto the path towards becoming not only the most popular X-Men character, but arguably, the most popular character at Marvel. 

If there was ever a time for Wolverine to capture readers imagination, THE UNCANNY X-MEN #133 did it in spades! The opening page sent them on a wild ride never seen before in the history  of comics.

In the issue, Hellfire Club mercenaries are searching the basement to confirm Wolverine's death when he suddenly emerges from the shadows and attacks them. Quickly dispatching of the mercenaries, Wolverine intimidates the fourth into surrendering before pressing him for information about the Hellfire Club (this was another truly iconic moment for the Wolverine-mythos and comic-book history in general because never had a superhero used such methods to scare a villain). Wolverine was becoming this new type of more darker and violent hero who would go to extreme methods to get the job done. It was such a bold new concept that readers couldn't help but jump on the Wolverine bandwagon and express to even non comic-book readers how cool this character was. Wolverine truly was the forerunner of the "anti-hero" that ushered in the Modern Age of Comics and this issue was the beginning of it.

It was revolutionary to have a comic-book superhero act so brutal to his enemies. Wolverine was the prototype character to pave the way for all the other anti-heroes who followed and ushered in the Modern Age of Comics.


LET'S HAVE ROY THOMAS SNIKT! US ON THE WAY OUT


 



LINKS TO OTHER "MEGO STRETCH HULK" AND "RASCALLY ROY" HERO ENVY ARTICLES...

THE ROY THOMAS SPIDER-MAN COSTUME

DAYS OF GRIMLOCK, ELVIS PRESLEY AND ROY THOMAS 

Roy William Thomas, Jr.
Roy Thomas is a legendary comic-book writer and editor, who was Stan Lee's first successor as editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. He is known for co-creating some of comics' greatest characters including Wolverine, Carol Danvers, Iron Fist and Morbius. He introduced the pulp magazine heroes Conan and Red Sonja and sci-fi fantasy Star Wars to Marvel Comics. He's also known for his championing of Golden Age comic-book heroes -- particularly the 1940s superhero team the Justice Society of America. Roy had lengthy writing stints on Marvel's X-Men and Avengers, and DC Comics' All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc., among many other titles, books and a couple of movies. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2011 and currently edits the comics-history magazine Alter Ego and works with Stan Lee on the Spider-man newspaper strip.


John Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, RETRO FAN, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing, runs the Roy Thomas Appreciation Board on Facebook and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. John also hangs with Roy Thomas, bringing him to a Comic Con near youContact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow him on Instagram at megostretchhulk.

www.heroenvy.com

11 comments:

  1. Very interesting--was not aware of how much Roy was involved with the creation of the character.

    The whole "creator" credit is one that is subject to much confusion. Most sources seem to simply slap it on to whoever was writing and drawing the first story with a character. But, that ignores the internal discussions, which readers are often not privy to and often unaware of, and gives credit to someone who may or may not have actually created the character. My understanding is that Gardner Fox came up with the character Space Ranger but he had nothing to do with writing or drawing any of the stories.

    And then there is confusion about a creator's input into a character after it was first created. For example, I think Bill Finger deserves being considered a co-creator of Batman because of his signficant input in developing the character; but his role in creating other characters, from the Joker to Alfred, is irrelevant to the question of whether he created Batman. There are certainly many creators that developed characters signficiantly, but can't be considered to be the character's creator.

    Then, sometimes artists are not treated as co-creators. HG Peter certainly helped design the look of Wonder Woman, but he is not recognized as a co-creator.

    -Paul Z.

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  2. Good blog. There was a Hulk vs Wolverine back in the late 80's that reprinted Wolvie's debut and featured an article about Wolverine's origin and evolution, that stated a lot of the facts presented here.

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    1. Yes, but that wasn't complete, had some inconsistencies and definitely wasn't as in-depth. Besides Roy Thomas wrote this with me and he knows better than anyone because Wolverine was his idea and he was in charge of the whole process. BOOM!

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  3. Interesting. I always thought it was solely Len Wein who created Wolverine with Johnny Romita providing the visual duties. Didn't know Roy Thomas had such a role in the creative process, I thought he was just the editor and sat back only to say 'yes' or 'no'. Good information. And I agree, Herb Trimpe should be an 'official' co-creator and Marvel should acknowledge him as one. Thanks again.

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  4. Very cool that Mr. Thomas was willing to chime in on this subject.

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    1. Yup. When it comes to comic history and facts, my buddy is the master. So, I go to him to put an end to all the BS out there. Once Roy puts his hands on something it cannot be disputed because he's the definitive source. NUFF SAID.

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  5. I find it funny how Len Wein tried to take all the credit for creating Wolverine. He even went around calling himself the "CREATOR" of the character a few years before his death in 2017. I even saw him with a banner saying this in San Diego. Seems he was arrogant enough to leave out Roy, John Romita and Herb Trimpe, yeah, I know Herb doesn't get "official" credit but he should. Maybe getting small roles in X-Men movies and paling around with Hugh Jackman went to Len's head. Glad Roy is setting the record straight. Wolverine was his idea and he picked Len to complete it. That's the real story that Len always forgot to mention in interviews. It's a shame that Len passed away, but he gets no excuses from me for being a "pompous dick" for trying to steal the credit from his fellow co-creators.

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    1. I agree. You've got to give credit where credit is due. Almost nobody created something in comics all by themselves. It's a collaborative medium, and Len's part in Wolverine is no different.

      Thank you Roy and John for this.

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    2. Strong words, but they ring true. In an age where there is so my lying and propaganda, it's refreshing when one of the icons come forward and tells it like it is. Roy Thomas is many things in comic history, but a historian and comic fan is gift to us.

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    3. Read the Rolling Stone interview with Len Wein a few years ago on Wolverine. He didn't mention anything about the other creators. He really was on an ego trip. Sad to see he was secretly not giving credit to the others. I'll respect the dead, but not cool Len, not cool at all.

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