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My Comic Rewind: Origin – The Wolverine

Origin covers, art by Joe Quesada- Marvel Comics

Almost 19 years ago, one of the greatest mysteries in Marvel Comics had the veil pulled back. From his first cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk #180 back in 1974, Wolverine has been one of the most enigmatic comic mysteries going. Twenty-seven years later, Wolverine finally got his canon backstory; a six-part arc called Origin.

Origin: Who’s the creative team?

Wolverine’s origin story was contrived by three genius veteran comic minds: Joe Quesada, Paul Jenkins, and Bill Jemas. Jenkins did the final script and Andy Kubert is the pencil-slinger on this one. Richard Isanove took on digital paint/color duties. This team put together an awesome series that answered all the fan questions about where our angry, furry Canadian superhero came from.

Origin Penciler Andy Kubert
Origin Penciler Andy Kubert

The Plot of Origin

While the plot wasn’t earth-shattering, it was incredibly well-crafted and delivered a beginning fitting for the angry, sad, secretive and broody Wolverine. He was born James Howlett to wealthy Canadian plantation owners in the late 1800s. He’s a sickly child with no real friends, so his dad brings an orphan girl, Rose, to be his friend. She’s a dead-ringer for Wolverine’s later love interest, Jean Grey. He’s also an acquaintance of a young Dog Logan, son of the Howlett’s less-than-desirable groundskeeper, Thomas Logan. Throughout the beginning we’re led to believe Dog is Wolverine, however, that crashes to a halt at the end.

James Howlett has claws - Marvel Comics Origin
James Howlett has claws – Origin, Marvel Comics

Sickly young James sprouts his bone claws after Dog’s father, Thomas (who looks like an adult Wolverine), blows away James’ father (John) with a shotgun. James proceeds to kill Thomas in front of Dog and his own mother, Elizabeth. Apparently by her reaction, she’s not a stranger to her children having claws and has a thing for Thomas instead of her husband. When James and Rose run off into the snowy night, Elizabeth takes her own life in front of Dog, scarring the kid beyond repair for life. Turns out, Thomas is James’s father instead of John, making he and Dog half brothers. The rest of the series covers Wolverine’s early desire to be under the radar and anonymous, his lost love with Rose, and a final confrontation with Dog, which results in Rose’s death. From there, he takes to the wilderness to be alone and savage.

The death of Rose - Origin, Marvel Comics
The death of Rose – Origin, Marvel Comics

The Controversy of Sabertooth

Wolverine's nemesis, Sabertooth, is not addressed in Origin.
Wolverine’s nemesis, Sabertooth

Sabretooth is Wolverine’s nemesis, and has been a long time. In the Origin comic series, the character of Dog has many similarities to a young Victor Creed. His look, mannerism, actions and general loathing of Wolverine leads readers to believe Wolvie’s half-brother has been by his side from an early age. In a later interview, writer Paul Jenkins talked about the parallels:

“I had not intended it (Dog) to be him (Sabretooth), but wouldn’t have a problem with another writer doing it later.”

Paul Jenkins
Writer of Origin, Paul Jenkins
Origin writer Paul Jenkins

A later comic one-shot, X-Men Origins: Sabretooth, reveals that Dog is not Victor Creed. They both come from abusive family backgrounds, but have very different childhoods. In the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a trivia caption says Creed’s nickname as a child was Dog, but nothing else ties the characters together. Origin got a sequel in 2013 titled Origin II, written by Kieron Gillen and penciled by Adam Kubert (Andy’s brother).

The impact of Origin on Wolverine’s story

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in Logan (2017)
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in Logan (2017)

Origin was the inspiration for the beginning scenes in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine feature film. The movie lends to the early lives of Logan and Victor Creed being close-knit, however the comics take them on different arcs. In the nineteen years since Origin‘s release, several major films star Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, up to and including the character’s death. Even in the grave, Wolverine remains one of Marvel’s most successful properties.

The summary of Origin written above focuses on the first issue mostly, but that’s not to dismiss the other five. Origin is an awesome arc because it doesn’t take the spandex heroes-and-villains road. It’s a gritty look into the life of an antihero and what made him the way he is. If you haven’t already read them, Origin is well worth your comic reading time.

For more information on Wolverine, check out https://www.marvel.com/characters/wolverine-james-howlett, and for everything else trending in geek pop culture and all of our comic rewinds, stay with us at That Hashtag Show!

By Lyle Russell

Parks and Rec Programmer by day, writer by night! Outdoorsman, historian, author, woodworker, falconer, and lover of all things Star Wars. And before you ask... yes, working at Parks and Rec is just like the tv show, only crazier.
Debut novel, "Code Name: Augustine" due out by Spring 2020. Check it out!

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