We Need Less Wolverine
Ok, ok, settle down. Read the article first. Then there’s a poll at the bottom so you can have your say. But seriously, we need less Wolverine.
This notion has come to the fore once again with the plot details of the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past film. It’s based on one of Chris Claremont’s popular story that revolved around Shadowcat falling through time and seeing a bleak vision of the future. The movie trailer followed the same premise…except Wolverine travels through time instead of Shadowcat.
Let’s wind it back. When the X-Men started out it was comprised of five teenagers who were codenamed Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast and Angel. They were lead by Professor X, though he was killed off early in the piece to focus on the young characters (as with many X-Men this was a mild case of death that quickly resolved itself). The title was not a big hit and before long was facing the axe. In order to breath new life into the ensemble a new group of international teens were added – Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Sunspot, Thunderbird.
Wolverine, or Logan, was an unusual addition to the line-up. He was one of the older new members of the team and had been an established character in the Marvel universe. He was introduced as a villain for the Hulk but was quickly included in X-Men. Rather than dealing with teenage issues he was a vicious, angry character with a dark past. Unsurprisingly he was an instant hit.
It’s only natural that he would become a prominent feature of the comics. The fans loved him so the writers delivered. No doubt they enjoyed writing the darker, dangerous character more than the stand-up Cyclops or the sassy Iceman. Having a mysterious past was a huge boon for the character, becoming the source of much speculation and theories.
Although Wolverine was given his one solo title to tell of his adventures he was still central to almost every X-Men story. When Psylocke travelled to Japan to seek her origins Wolverine tagged along because he had his own Japan story. When Gambit reconnected with his family of thieves Wolverine was with him. The majority of new enemies who the X-Men encountered were nursing a grudge against Wolverine.
Everything got even more ridiculous with some of the reboots, such as Ultimate X-Men where a number of previously un-Wolverine’d stories were rewritten to include him. Originally Cable was introduced as the son of Cyclops and Phoenix travelled from the future. Now he was Wolverine. When you look at the trade paperback covers you’d be forgiven for thinking he was the only character.
It isn’t until the eighth volume that any of the other characters appear on the cover.
The argument that the writers are simply giving the readers what they want doesn’t stretch to rewriting half the characters to fit in Wolverine. This is especially true when you look at the Wolverine solo titles already being published, not to mention his inclusion in other major titles such as The Avengers and Spider-Man. The odd cameo every now and then is fine but one character dominating every story under the Marvel umbrella defeats the purpose of having such a diverse range of characters. The X-Men so frequently become side-characters to the Wolverine story that they may as well rename the comic Wolverine and the X-Men.
Oh. Never mind.
Being a massive Batman fan I am not blind to there being a similar phenomenon with the Dark Knight himself. Among the 52 new titles in the relaunch we have Batman, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batwoman, Detective Comics, Catwoman, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws and the discontinued Batman Incorporated. That’s not even including other titles he crops up in like Justice League. I suspect the difference here is that Batman isn’t taking the spotlight in ensemble casts, or cameoing in any title that holds still long enough. He’s just the centre of a wide network of characters who branch out on their own, and the different titles have their own tone and style. Wolverine is just Wolverine, and across the various reboots he has managed to come out intact. Marvel knew they were on to a good thing with the grizzled, deadly and mysterious character so they just spread him across their entire industry like hairy jam.
Ultimately the problem comes down to there being to much. If you take something else that is awesome, such as a Twix bar, and include with every meal regardless of it’s suitability it is only natural that people will eventually become tired of it. They my even come to resent it, and want to spend more time with Malteasers, simply because they want to experience something different. That is what Marvel is risking doing here. By forcing the reader to include Wolverine in all of their stories and team-ups they are going to breed a generation of comic readers and movie goers who are resentful of him being in the spotlight when there are equally interesting characters waiting to tell their stories.
So what should be done? Keep the Canuk where he’s strongest. Keep him in the X-Men because every team needs someone who will ruffle the feathers. But let him merge into the collage of characters. It would make the stories about him stand out more. Save his biggest moments and real character development for his solo line where his biggest fans will appreciate it. Wolverine is a staple of the Marvel universe, but balancing that entire universe on the one character is an outright bad idea. It’s all about balance the elements of your product.
Now I’m going to buy a Twix.