Wolverine Illustrated

As I stated in a previous post, I have my own ideas about certain visual elements of the Original Marvel Universe, and this holds as true for the later period as it does for the early years. Due to factors such as artistic license, variations in drawing styles, editorial mandates, industry trends, and technical limitations, the actual comics Marvel produced between 1961 and 1991 do not always present a true and accurate depiction of what “really” occurred in the OMU reality. The printed page serves as a guide; the actual story takes place in my imagination. It is there that the characters live, move, and speak in a vivid three-dimensional world. And in my mind’s eye, irregularities are smoothed out, errors are corrected, and bad decisions are reversed. As an active reader, I have that right. I am not a slave to the text. Now, this may lead to the occasional drastic revision, when the overall thrust of the OMU leads me in a different direction than an individual issue is trying to make me go. A case in point is Wolverine #50, the last canonical issue of that title, and the final appearance of the OMU Wolverine.

In the issue, written by Larry Hama with art by Marc Silvestri & Dan Green, Wolverine is investigating the mysteries of his own past and the false memories that were implanted in his brain during the Weapon X project, and he comes closer than ever before to finding the people responsible for his adamantium skeleton and claws. For some reason that is not really adequately explained, Wolverine resumes wearing his old yellow-and-blue costume, which hadn’t been seen for about 12 years at that point. There’s something to the effect that he is regressing mentally to a more savage state as a result of recent emotional traumas. The real reason was that Marvel simply wanted to get him back into his yellow-and-blue costume; it did not grow organically from the storyline, it was imposed from outside. Well, I take issue with this decision.

At the time the story was published, Marvel was in the process of undoing much of the character development that had occurred over the previous decade and returning their characters—or more appropriately, their properties—essentially to square one. The editors feared Marvel’s bankable characters had strayed too far from their initial conceptions, and so Wolverine, for example, was to revert to the unpredictable berserker and emotionally-stunted loner he had been in the late 1970s. In essence, they were building the much-derided Second Marvel Universe, which quietly replaced the original one. Another factor in the decision to change Wolverine’s costume may have simply been a desire on the part of Jim Lee and/or Marc Silvestri to draw the character the way he looked when they themselves were young fans. That seems a bit selfish to me, and not a very good reason to move a character backwards instead of forwards.

That said, I have no problem with Wolverine getting a new costume at that point in his life, but I prefer to see something more in keeping with the natural evolution of the character. So I designed one myself.

Wolverine’s seldom-seen original costume, shown here, was provided to him by the Canadian government when he worked for their superhero program Department H. He wore it on his first major mission, when he took on both the Hulk and the Wendigo in the woods of northern Quebec. It was quite colorful, and with the cute whisker motif on what looks basically like a ski mask, it does seem like a superhero costume designed by a government committee.

Wolverine didn’t care for that mask, apparently, for he adopted a different one shortly before he joined the X-Men several months later.

He wore this second version, perhaps his best-known look, from the time he joined the X-Men until the death of Phoenix. Wolverine had fallen in love with that version of Jean Grey, and he took her death quite hard. Since his costume had been destroyed during the battle to save her, Wolverine took the opportunity to make a change.

He adopted a modified costume with a new, more somber color scheme, seen here. 

He wore this costume for several years, though after the X-Men’s supposed deaths in Dallas, Texas during the “Fall of the Mutants” storyline, he would often forego wearing this costume in favor of other attire. After he started spending a great deal of time on the island of Madripoor (in the early issues of his own series), he sometimes went into action wearing an all-black sleeveless outfit with wrist-length leather gloves and no mask. But after the world learned the X-Men were still alive, Wolverine was more likely to wear his costume in public.

Wolverine was clearly moving into darker territory, both emotionally and sartorially. So I decided to create his new costume by combining elements of his previous looks, trying to make it stylish and masculine while keeping it dark and instantly recognizable as Wolverine. Here it is:

I maintain that Wolverine adopted this look prior to his battle with the Shiva robot and wore it in the years following the cessation of OMU stories until his eventual retirement from the X-Men. After that, who knows?

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