THE COMIC COMPENDIUM #2: Wolverine – Origin (2001)

Who made it?: Joe Quesada, Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins (Writers), Andy Kubert, Richard Isanova (Artists), Marvel (Publisher).

Who’s in it?: Wolverine (James Howlett/Logan), Thomas Logan, Dog Logan.

Original run: Limited series, 6 issues.

Published: November 2001 – March 2002.

Wolverine is probably the most identifiable figure in the X-Men franchise, if not the whole Marvel universe. In the last decade, the character has embraced the mainstream with Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the adamantium-clawed hero in the recent film trilogy, and 2009’s X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, which drew some influence from this very comic. The overwhelming interest in the character’s back-story led to this 2001 Origin series, which was a limited run of six issues. Despite a short length, the story left a lasting impact on the character’s legacy.

The idea came on the back of Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film, which hinted at Wolverine’s tortured history. For many years, the origins of “Logan” were a mystery. All we knew about him was his involvement in the Weapon X project, which turned him into the clawed, beer-drinking, cigar-smoking mutant we all know and love today. The details were sketchy at best. Until Joe Quesada came along.

At the time, he was Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, and he liked the idea of telling the tale of a young Canadian boy who became the Wolverine. He assembled a writing team,  composed of himself, former Marvel Vice President Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins, and artists Andy Kubert and Richard Isanova. Kubert has worked on a variety of Marvel and DC titles, including Batman and Thor, while Isanova may be best known as the illustrator of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.

Origin centres on James Howlett, the son of a rich plantation owner in late 19th Century Canada. For years, the boy has suffered from various allergies. He is a sickly child, so his loving father, John Howlett, Jr., brings an orphaned girl named Rose back from town to be his companion. The two children often play with Dog Logan, son of the Howlett’s cruel groundskeeper, Thomas Logan (who resembles Wolverine so much, that he may be his biological father).

As a result of beatings and alcohol, Dog, over the next few years, becomes increasingly like his father, and his misdeeds, including an attempted assault on Rose or the killing of James’ pet, become so violent that he and his father are expelled from the manour. Seeking revenge on the Howlett family, Logan returns to the house and changes the young Wolverine’s life forever.

After an altercation that leaves both Thomas Logan and his father dead, Wolvie and Rose go on the run. After assuming the Logan name, and posing as Rose’s cousin, they end up in a quarry town. Logan becomes close to the foreman, Smitty, who is shown to have many of the traits that Wolverine possesses in his later years. Rose also bonds with Smitty, and they plan to wed, angering Logan as he has his own feelings for her.

While such a romance is usually perfunctory in comic books, here it serves as vital character development, since Logan’s future flirtation with Jean Grey can be traced right back to the red-headed Rose.

To raise money to leave with his bride-to-be, Smitty enters a cage fight match, and encounters Logan. After some soul-searching, he realises that he only wants Rose to be happy, allowing Smitty to defeat him. Before they have a chance to leave, Dog appears in town, blaming Logan for the events that led to his father’s death. In the ensuing brawl, Rose is accidentally impaled on Logan’s claws. Stricken with overwhelming guilt, he retreats into the woods and lives like a wild animal.

Overall, this is a very different Wolverine story to anything you’d have read in an issue of Uncanny X-Men, or the character’s own series. It barely focuses on his mutation, and we only see him use his claws twice. At this point, they’re still bone, not adamantium, an element that the 2009 movie utilised.

As you’d expect from a series penned by three writers, the story is very well-written and filled with engaging moments. Origin maintained my interest, and by the end of the tragic saga, it left me wanting to find out what happens next. The art compliments the writing style beautifully – it’s almost like a child’s storybook; it has a warm appeal and simplicity that is hard to describe.

As the story unfolds, we see the young boy transform more and more into the character that has become such a much-loved icon by the comic buying public. There are a few caveats: I would say that the series took a little too long to get going, and almost feels rushed in the hectic finale, but such deficiencies never spoiled my enjoyment. Anyone expecting a comic in line with the film will be disappointed – the opening scene aside, Origin has very little in common with that big-budget clusterfuck. The collected graphic novel comes highly recommended to any serious X-Men or Wolverine fan, and anyone who’d like to read an origin story that is about the character and his development, not simplified eye candy. There’s plenty to sink your claws into.

Useless Trivia

  • Wolverine’s first appearance was in the final panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 (1974). He was created by writer Len Wein and Marvel art director John Romita, Sr.
  • The final issue of Origin was ranked second in Marvel’s sales for January 2002.
  • There has been some speculation over whether or not Dog Logan grows up to be Wolverine’s arch-enemy, Sabretooth, but writer Paul Jenkins denied this in interviews. No connection has been established in the Marvel Universe to date, although a trivia caption in the video game X-Men Origins: Wolverine states that Sabretooth’s nickname as a child was “Dog”.

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About Matt Hakin

26 Year Old Geek Comic Collector Movie Lover Amateur Photographer Warhammer Player Real Ale Drinker
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