Since the X-Men debuted in September of 1963, literally dozens of mutants have joined the team for at least some length of time. Naturally, some are going to be more popular than others; everyone knows who Storm and Cyclops, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any casual fan who knows who Maggot is. Don’t look him up, his mutation really isn’t pretty. However, there is one member of the X-Men who has definitely broken out from the pack, it’s the man with adamantium claws. He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice.
Wolverine was created by writer Len Wein and artist John Romita, Sr. at the suggestion of then editor-in-chief for Marvel Roy Thomas. It may be a surprise that one of the most popular superheroes of all time actually debuted as an antagonist for another hero: Hulk. Debuting in the final panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 and making his full debut an issue later, the man we would come to call Logan was a mutant with enhanced senses and metal claws. Working for the Canadian government, he fights the Hulk to a stalemate and somehow survives his ridiculous original mask to become part of the “all new, all different” X-Men team that debuts in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Wolverine was now a part of the X-Men, and rest is history.
Logan stood out from his fellow X-Men in several ways. First and foremost was his age; physically in his forties, Wolverine is in actuality much older that that, born in the nineteenth century. While most of the X-Men were young adults with little formal training, Logan was a grown man with a ton of combat training and a willingness to kill those who deserved to be stabbed with his claws. Wolverine was also a victim of experimentation; his ability to heal at an extremely accelerated rate allowed him to survive the process where the virtually indestructible metal known as adamantium was bonded to his skeleton. This process made Wolverine an even more deadly killing machine, and also cost him most of his long-term memory.
The Beast and The Samurai
The character of Wolverine is a man at odds with dual natures. On one hand, he is essentially a good man, a noble warrior who wishes to protect the innocent. Logan has trained as both a ninja and a samurai, and his body is a lethal weapon even without the metal bones (or the claws). He wants to be a good man, a protector, but this puts him at odds with another aspect of his mutation. In addition to his animal like senses, Wolverine occasionally falls victim to a berserker rage in the heat of battle, This anger has caused Logan to take several lives that he wishes that he hadn’t, and is something he always struggles to control.
Logan is a loner both by the nature of his personality and the fact that his anger makes him a danger to those closest to him at times. Not to mention people like Sabretooth and Silver Samurai who are always trying to kill him. Logan tends to discourage people from making friends with him, but once he considers someone a friend he is an incredibly loyal one. When he first joined the X-Men his gruff, cynical and sometimes violent nature put him at odds with many of the team, but he gradually comes to accept them as his family and has formed several close relationships. He has served as a father figure to Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and his clone (and eventual successor) X-23. This trait even made it into the movie adaptations where he serves as a protective father figure to Rogue.
The Best There Is
Chances are that is somebody only knows one member of the X-Men, it’s Wolverine. He was the ensemble dark horse of the Claremont era and starred in both a mini-series and a separate ongoing series before the 1990’s. By the time I was first getting into superheroes as a kid Wolverine was literally everywhere; along with Spider-Man and Batman he was definitely the superhero that everyone thought was cool. Logan’s status as something of anti-hero who wasn’t afraid to kill made him stand out and it inspired a new kind of comic book hero. Though one can argue the merits of having so many anti-heroes, it’s impossible to argue the impact Logan has had on the comic book business.
Despite being a relative newcomer to comics with just forty years of publication, Wolverine has already cemented himself as one of the most popular and enduring icons of the industry. In fact, one could make the argument that Wolverine is responsible for bringing superheroes to the point of mainstream acceptance they enjoy today. Hugh Jackman’s take on the character was the centerpiece of the X-Men movies and were it not for their success I would argue that we would not be enjoying Avengers movies today. He’s the favorite of many and certainly a favorite of mine.