The secret to a super-hero film, I’d argue, is a good leading man ( or woman, although that’s much, much more rare, unfortunately). One of the reasons I was so disappointed by Man of Steel was that I found Henry Cavill devoid of charisma. Not so Hugh Jackman, who has been playing The Wolverine for a dozen years now.
I was never a fan of the diminuitive, feral Canadian mutant. In my first issue of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, in the late autumn of 1975, he only appeared at the end of the story and for a couple of panels.
Romita Sr.s original design for The Wolverine
It was Canadian artist-writer John Byrne who established the Canucklehead as the breakout star of the series.
However, it was Chris Claremont (and Frank Miller) who crafted the themes and imagery that inform this movie. Claremont, who has no regular writing assignment these days, is shamefully overlooked as (next to Kirby) the creator whose work has been most mined for Marvel movies.
Claremont and Byrne were inspired by the tv miniseries Shogun to create a demure Japanese romantic interest for Wolverine. The Lone Wolf and Cub manga then inspired the 80s comics miniseries that expanded the samurai trope for Logan-san. Other , lesser creators have returned to that well but it’s Jackman who has made me an admirer of Wolverine,
Is the movie itself any good? I found the final half-hour somewhat jarring. The super-heroics involving the movie’s version of Silver Samurai and Viper seemed to strike a different, slightly campy tone. I was irritated to see the alluring but lethal Madame Hydra, created by Twitter sensation Jim Steranko, reimagined as a skin-shedding mutant with a venomous kiss,
However, most of the Japanese sequences were atmospheric and exciting and the bullet train fight reminded me in a way of a modern You Only Live Twice. In my very late teens, I was fascinated by Japanese culture and wrote a Fifth Doctor adventure set on a bullet train.
Mariko, Shingen and Harada were all present. The bisexual thief Yukio was now a precognitive Hit-Girl type and Jean Grey as Wolverine’s Angel of Death was logical and poignant. My absolutely favourite scene, however, was in the closing moments where C****** and M****** made a surprise appearance, linking with an image of Trask Industries. This ,of course, heralds the film version of the infamous and influential Days of Future Past storyline.
As a man of honour and a savage, in many ways, Wolverine is the heir to the Conan tradition in the Marvel Universe. This is best illustrated by John Buscema’s work on the character and the crucifixion sequence from the Silvestri X-Men in the 80s, which recalls REH’s own “A Witch Shall Be Born” ( or Schwarzenegger *shudder*). And of course, the Weapon X series was illustrated by Barry Smith, as was the “Wounded Wolf” story in 1986.
Byrne’s vision of Wolverine ( pre-X-Men 98)
In fact, if Curtis Magazines produced b/w comics for a “mature” market, Wolverine: Weapon X would probably have a healthy lifespan ( with Black Widow back-ups?) But Wolverine is also Marvel’s answer to Batman. He can star in any kind of story- from war comics; superhero team books ( the incorporation of Wolvie and Spidey in the Avengers was, ultimately, an inspired idea by Brian Bendis); even slapstick comedy.
“I really like beer.”
Curently, one of my favourite comics is Wolverine and the X-Men. In an hilarious and logical move, Logan is cast as the headmaster of the Jean Grey School, in the footsteps of Professor X. Scipter jason Aaron has delved deep into the enormous back catalogue of X-Men comics and references Claremont, Cockrum, Byrne, Lobdell and Grant Morrison. It’s a dramatic, darkly humorous comic, funny and touching.
In the 70s, under Cockrum’s pencil, Logan morphed quickly into the Legionnaire Timber Wolf- and Gerry Conway responded by ramping up the Wolf’s solitary nature and Noble Savage traits. This is ironic since the Wolf began as a super-acrobat and Wolverine as a super-contortionist: neither were primarily animalistic heroes, yet that trop of Claremont, Cockrum and Byrne shaped so many other characters: Sabretooth, Vixen, Wildcat, Blackmane, Talon, Catspaw and so on,
Now that the LSH has foundered as a result of Paul Levitz’s glacial plotting, Wolvie/X’s Jason Aaron is the scripter I think best suited to honouring the Legion’s wackiness, convoluted history and garagantuan cast. That is if DC hasn’t dismantled the LSH completely- I’ll know in a week or so with that final New 52 issue.
Coming soon: Saturday seaside summer specials
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