Wolverine was never supposed to be this popular. Created as a one-time villain for the Incredible Hulk to fight, the Marvel character soon made his way onto the revamped X-Men team of the ‘70s and eventually became one of the mascots of the entire company. He has since starred in dozens of comic book series, been a member of countless teams, and is the subject of what could be one final movie (at least with Hugh Jackman in the role) when Logan hits theaters on March 3. Before this version of the character rides off into the sunset, here are 10 facts you need to know about Wolverine.
1. THE CHARACTER WAS ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CANADIAN MARKET.
In the book Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics, author Les Daniels interviewed editor Roy Thomas about the creation of Wolverine. According to Thomas, he approached writer Len Wein about creating a Canadian character because "we had a fair amount of sales there." While the hope was to bolster sales in a burgeoning market, Thomas had a few ideas in mind to make Wolverine stand out.
"I thought Wolverine was a good name," Thomas said, "and I wanted him to be a little, scrappy guy." After those directives, though, Wein was allowed to craft the character how he wanted, with the help of art director John Romita Sr., who drew the initial design for Wolverine. Though Wolverine's first full appearance takes place in 1974's Incredible Hulk #181, he makes a teaser appearance on the last page of issue #180.
2. NO ONE COULD AGREE ON HIS EARLY ORIGINS.
Before Wolverine's full origin was revealed in the appropriately titled 2001 comic series Origin, the character's early days had been a mystery to fans and the folks at Marvel. There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that the character was originally meant to be a super-evolved wolverine that had been experimented on by Marvel's resident geneticist, the High Evolutionary. Wolverine creator Len Wein adamantly denies that this was his intention, but admits it could have been an idea toyed with by Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont or artist Dave Cockrum after he left the book.
Another potential origin that had been teased for years was Sabretooth as Wolverine's father. The two characters had been linked since the beginning—Sabretooth's original design was actually a discarded makeover that artist John Byrne intended for Wolverine—so it was only natural to add a familial conflict to the mix. It was all set to come to a head in a storyline where Wolverine kills Sabretooth as revenge for Sabretooth killing Wolverine's girlfriend, Mariko. Byrne, however, left Uncanny X-Men before the story was ever finalized, and the whole book went in a different direction afterwards.
3. FANS WERE UNDER THE ASSUMPTION HIS CLAWS WERE JUST PART OF HIS COSTUME.
Wolverine unsheathing his adamantium claws while out of costume for the first time, it was never specified that the claws were actually part of his body. In fact, Wein wrote the claws as if they were just attached to his gloves the whole time and not a product of his mutation. Of course, decades later, it was revealed that his claws weren't just made of adamantium coming out of his skin; the indestructible metal is just coating preexisting bone claws that Wolverine has had since his mutation began.
4. IN THE ‘70S, MARVEL HAD A RULE THAT WOLVERINE COULDN’T HAVE ARM HAIR WHILE IN COSTUME.
Comic books have a surprisingly strict history when it comes to editorial rules and guidelines. Former editor-in-chief Mark Gruenwald, for example, wrote a lengthy list of time travel rules for all writers to follow. And it was recently revealed by one comic writer that under no circumstance was Peter Parker allowed to drink a beer. Wolverine isn’t immune to the all-mighty red pen of an editor, either.
In the character’s early days, artists were told that Wolverine could certainly have arm hair—but only when he was out of costume. So whenever he strapped on his famous yellow and blue spandex—poof—the arm hair had to disappear. Artist Dave Cockrum followed this rule carefully, but when George Perez and John Byrne later started handling the X-Men books, the arm hair slowly started making its way onto Logan, both in and out of costume.
5. WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN GLENN DANZIG AS WOLVERINE (OR A BALD RUSSELL CROWE).
Hugh Jackman has been chugging along as Wolverine since the Clinton administration, but he was far from the studio's first choice. Former Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig was one of the early people on producers’ radar when casting the original X-Men, only to turn them down. Russell Crowe also flirted with the role, but he apparently wanted the character to be bald, which is the comic book equivalent of making James Bond drink Jack and Coke. The role then went to Dougray Scott, who was all set to strap on the claws until his filming on Mission: Impossible II got delayed, forcing him to drop out. Jackman was a last-minute fill-in.
6. HE CAN’T SMOKE CIGARS IN THE COMICS ANYMORE.
If you read the X-Men comics through the '70s, '80s, and '90s, chances are you wouldn't be able to get through two or three issues without seeing Wolverine chomping down on one of his trademark cigars. But in 2001, then-editor-in-chief Joe Quesada imposed a smoking ban on all of the company’s main heroes, specifically citing Wolverine and Thing (though certain villains and background characters were still allowed to smoke). The ban was so comprehensive that, at times, Marvel has edited cigarettes and cigars out of Wolverine’s mouth when reprinting older art.
You’ll notice, though, that this ban does not affect the movies. Until Disney instituted a no-smoking policy in its films in 2015, Marvel movies did occasionally still feature smoking. However, the X-Men and Wolverine movies are technically 20th Century Fox productions, where there is no ban, so the only place you’ll likely see Wolverine smoking is on the big screen.
7. WOLVERINE WAS ALMOST DROPPED FROM THE X-MEN IN THE MID ‘70S (BUT WAS SAVED BY A FELLOW CANADIAN).
Before Wolverine became one of Marvel’s cash cows, he was seen as something of a background character by Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum. The duo preferred pushing characters like Colossus and Nightcrawler to the forefront of the book, and even considered dropping Wolverine from the team altogether.
The character’s only saving grace turned out to be a fellow countryman, Canadian artist John Byrne, who replaced Cockrum on Uncanny. He insisted that the X-Men keep its only Canadian character, and he and Claremont eventually crafted a direction for Wolverine that propelled him to becoming the overall focus of the franchise for decades. Claremont, of course, took such a liking to the character during the Byrne years that he wound up writing the famous 1982 Wolverine miniseries along with artist Frank Miller.
8. WOLVERINE’S SIGNATURE MASK WAS CREATED BY ACCIDENT.
Wolverine may prefer to stick to jeans and a leather jacket nowadays, but there was a time when his signature blue and yellow spandex (or brown and yellow, if you prefer) was one of the most iconic sights in a Marvel comic. And, like so many comic book staples, the whole thing happened by accident. When Wolverine first appeared in the final pages of Incredible Hulk #180, he was sporting short, stubby ears and some very peculiar whiskers on his mask. Not very intimidating for a trained killer.
When the character next appeared on the cover of Giant-Size X-Men #1, artist Gil Kane had to look at that Hulk issue for reference when drawing the character. Fortunately, he accidentally drew the mask differently; gone were the whiskers and kitten ears, which were replaced with longer, pointier ears and sharp white eyes. Looking more like Batman than Garfield, this new take on Wolverine is still the standard that all artists follow today.
9. FOR SOME REASON, HE WAS AUSTRALIAN IN THE CARTOONS.
When Wolverine made his highly anticipated animated debut in the 1982 Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends episode “A Fire-Star is Born,” something was a bit ... off. Rather than be the pint-sized Canadian scrapper he was in the comics, this version of Wolverine inexplicably spoke with an Australian accent. And the character's tenure as an Aussie didn't end with that series: when he reemerged years later in 1989’s Pryde of the X-Men cartoon pilot, he was again from the Land Down Under (and even called one villain a “dingo”). It wasn’t until 1992’s X-Men animated series that Wolverine ditched the accent and sounded a bit more Canadian (though it still wasn't very authentic). Of course, Jackman, a notable Australian, has been playing the character for the past 17 years—though you’d never notice the accent by listening to him.
10. HE'S A MAN OF MANY NICKNAMES.
In addition to the Wolverine code name he uses when performing his superheroics, the character also goes by Logan—and most people just assumed that was his real first name early on. Well it turns out that "Logan" is just another alias, as Wolverine's real name is James Howlett. But the nicknames and alter egos don't end there: Wolverine has gone by more than a dozen names since his debut, including Patch, Weapon X, Agent Ten, Death (while under Apocalypse's control), and the adorably underappreciated nickname "Ol' Canucklehead," which appears to be self-appointed.