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How the Wolverine: Origin Comic Changed the X-Man

Further explaining Wolverine’s powers, family and present day predilections, Origin would continue to influence the Marvel Universe and even a movie.

The X-Men’s Wolverine has always been an enigmatic character, with his origin consistently shrouded in mystery more than any of the other X-Men. Over the years, clues to his past were slowly introduced, with many of the assumptions about him eventually being proven false. In the early 2000s, however, the truth was finally revealed about his true origins, at least to the eyes of readers.

Origin goes all the way back to the 19th century, exploring a side of Wolverine completely unseen theretofore. Further explaining his powers, his family and his present day predilections, Origin would continue to influence the Marvel Universe and even a live-action movie.

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James Howlett

james-howlett-became-wolverine in origin

Origin was created by Bill Jemas, Paul Jenkins, Joe Quesada, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove. The story begins with the youth of the pampered James Howlett, the puny son of a rich plantation owner who befriends a young redheaded girl named Rose. Their adventures are typically joined by Dog, the son of Howlett family landscaper Thomas Logan. Thomas Logan is an extremely callous and violent man, while Elizabeth Howlett, James’ mother, is a manic depressive after the death of her eldest son, John Howlett Jr.

Dog and Thomas’ increasingly violent behavior results in their leaving the Howlett residence, though Thomas briefly returns to try to rob the place and make Elizabeth come with him. It’s heavily suggested that Thomas had an affair with her beforehand, an idea furthered by Thomas’ resemblance to an adult Wolverine. In an ensuing scuffle, Thomas kills Elizabeth’s husband John Sr. Seeing this, James freaks out and unsheathes his organic bone claws for the first time, killing Thomas and injuring Dog before going into shock from the event.

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Claws of the Wolverine

The tumultuous events had a traumatic impact on James, who promptly forgot what had happened after going into shock. This first bout of amnesia is explained as his healing factor literally healing his fractured mind by making him forget what had happened. He and Rose are forced to flee, with their surviving friends and family either suspecting them of the murders or simply abandoning them. While on the run, Rose continues to use her name, but to disguise James’ identity, she begins referring to him by Thomas and Dog’s last name, Logan.

They’re taken in by a foreman named Smitty, whose strict persona masks a kindness that sees the trio grow closer over time. With his developing healing factor helping him to overcome his youthful allergies and weakness, Logan becomes a strapping young lad who hunts in the wild amid a pack of wolves. He also develops a rivalry with a cook named Malone, who eventually receives a savage walloping at Logan’s hands. Due to their pretending to be each other’s cousins, Logan can’t publicly admit his deep love for Rose, made worse by her developing relationship with Smitty. Burying himself into manual labor around town, his tendency for digging draws comparisons to that of a wolverine.

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Logan eventually relents and allows Smitty and Rose to marry each other and live peacefully. Unfortunately, their plans are brought to an abrupt halt when an older Dog attacks them at a bar, having been sent by James’ grandfather. Logan brutally beats his possible half-brother, but as he unleashes his claws, he accidentally impales and kills Rose. This causes another instance of healing factor induced amnesia, and Logan retreats to the woods to live among the animals. Rose had secretly been keeping record of his true past in a diary, but these notes are found by Malone and casually thrown away.

The series would receive a sequel that introduced Mr. Sinister, revealing even more about Logan’s past. This story was also the basis for the first section of the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, showcasing James Howlett’s tragic first use of his bone claws. The series is also meant to establish many of the tropes and relationships that would define Wolverine as an adult. His love for the redheaded Rose is comparable to his feelings for Jean Grey, while the stern, by-the-books but noble Smitty is sort of a predecessor to Cyclops. Likewise, Dog was a stand-in for Wolverine’s arch-rival and nemesis Sabretooth, albeit with a canine name instead of a feline one. It remains to this day Wolverine’s canonical origin in the Marvel Universe, and will likely stand the test of time for showcasing the inherent tragedy in the life of Wolverine.

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