I don’t remember my introduction to the mutant superhero known as the Wolverine. I met him within the pages of the Spider-man Magazine, which started in 1994, so I know it was no earlier than that. The magazine often featured other Marvel characters having adventures with Spidey, mainly members of the X-men and Avengers. Including Wolverine.
I formed a swift attachment to Wolverine because he was always sarcastic and annoyed. Teenage me was also sarcastic and annoyed most of the time, so I quickly felt a kinship to him. Yes, to a growling mutant who chomps on cigars and calls people ‘bub,’ and who is, by his own admission, the best there is at what he does, even though what he does isn’t very nice. It wasn’t long before I was choosing Wolverine over all my brother’s other action figures when he asked me to play with him.
A few years later, I learned they would make a movie about the X-men. I learned they’d cast Patrick Stewart as Professor X, which thrilled me. Then I learned they’d cast a guy named Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, which didn’t please me at all. I saw pictures of Jackman all over the internet and in magazines, and I could see just how wrong he was for the role. You see, in the comics, Wolverine is built kind of like the animal he gets his name from. He is, to quote Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish, and short.” Mean as poison, with a penchant for slicing and dicing his enemies, ugly, and short. But Hugh Jackman is handsome, tall, and exudes a charming kindness and good will.
I boycotted the movie. They had cast my Wolverine all wrong, and I would not have anything to do with it. I understood Wolverine, and they didn’t. I knew he needed to be savage and snarling and ready to snap someone’s head off (either figuratively or literally) at the least provocation. That long-legged, smiling Australian could never embody my Wolverine.
I might not have a clear recollection of the first time I read a comic with Wolverine in it, but I recall the first time I saw the movie X-men. I was on a bus with a whole lot of my fellow college students, and someone had brought their copy of the movie on VHS so we could all watch it via the bus’s spiffy VCR-and-tiny-screens technology. I decided to ignore it. My best friend told me I was being dumb and should watch until after Wolverine’s first scene. And if I hated it, then I could do my homework or whatever I’d originally planned to do.
My best friend had already seen it, and she was convinced I was being unreasonable about this whole Hugh-Jackman-could-never-be-Wolverine thing. I was tired of her telling me that, so I agreed to try it. If you’ve seen that movie, then you remember Wolverine’s introduction. He’s cage-fighting, mean as an angry tiger. He beats the snot out of his opponent with an indifferent swagger.
I was in love in a matter of seconds. By the time he popped his claws for the first time, I was ready to swallow every skeptical bit of nonsense I had previously spouted, no questions asked. Hugh Jackman and the film’s creators really did understood Wolverine, and I wanted to hug them for that.
It’s weird, though, isn’t it? That I love this baddest of all bad-boy superheroes? I don’t go around swaggering and sneering and beating up anyone who looks at me funny. I advocate no one doing that. In real life, I’m much more of a kind, smiling Hugh Jackman than an angry, snarling Wolverine. But I understand Wolverine. I understand that desire for being left the blankety-blank alone. And what I love about Wolverine the most is how he works so hard to rise above his baser instincts. Time and again, he does not walk away from the helpless. He doesn’t turn from doing what is needed just because it’s hard. He sacrifices his own desires and needs and instincts to do what needs doing.
Wolverine doesn’t want to be a hero. But he accepts that others need him to be one. Time and again, he steps up and fills that role. And that is a big part of why, whether or not he’s short, brutish, or nasty, he will always be my favorite superhero.