You know his name. You know his face. You know his claws. You know his funky hairdo. But did you know that the mutant known as Wolverine is Canadian?
Okay, it’s not exactly a state secret. Or a province secret, for that matter. The comic featuring Wolverine’s debut even stated his Canadian heritage right on the cover. But the fact is, most people know Wolverine as a member of the X-Men, and his Canadian heritage tends to fall by the wayside.
Wolverine’s first appearance was in an issue of The Incredible Hulk where he was introduced as an agent of the Canadian government. He had been called in to put a halt to a fight between the Hulk and the Wendigo, who were trashing a sizeable portion of the Canadian wilderness. If there’s one thing us Canadians are known for, it’s protecting our national forests. We were thinking green long before it became fashionable.
There weren’t a lot of Canadian superheroes around at that time, especially in American comics, but it wasn’t really a surprise that the writers decided to make Wolverine a Canadian. I imagine when his character was conceived — a feral beast man with razor-sharp claws — they figured what better place to say he was from than that wild country up north. You know, the one composed entirely of woods, tundra, and snow. Oh Canada!
After his appearance in The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine wasn’t seen again until he quit Canadian Intelligence and joined the X-Men. Eventually, over the years, the writers filled in Wolvie’s back story in the Great White North. But let’s start at the beginning.
The man who would become known as Wolverine was born James Howlett (blah, he’ll always be Logan to me)in 19th century Alberta. After a childhood spent as a sickly boy, he reached adolescence and developed the mutant abilities he is known for today: animal-like senses, a healing factor, and retractable claws. All of which helped him greatly as he went on to fight in both World Wars, as well as a few missions with the likes of Captain America and Ms. Marvel.
Sometime in the 1960s, Logan was kidnapped by a secret government organization for a project called Weapon X. The purpose of the project was to turn people into living weapons. In Logan’s case, it was determined that due to his healing factor, he would be able to survive the painful process of having the indestructible metal known as adamantium grafted onto his skeleton. He does, but ends up going on a berserker rampage in which he kills almost all of the project workers.
After escaping the Weapon X complex, Logan spent a number of months tramping around the Canadian Rockies, until he was discovered by James and Heather Hudson, a married couple with connections to Department H, a division of Canadian Intelligence. With the couple’s help, Logan regained some measure of his humanity and eventually became an operative of Department H. It’s at this point that he acquired the codename Wolverine and embarked on his first mission, the one featured in that now-immortal issue of The Incredible Hulk.
Soon after this, Canada’s first superhero group, Alpha Flight, was formed and Wolverine was slated to become its leader. Unfortunately (at least for us Canucks), things didn’t quite work out that way.
Around the same time, Professor X began looking for mutants to fill the ranks of his new group of X-Men. Logan, apparently fed up with working for Department H, quit and signed on with Professor X. And the rest is comic-book history.
To read a Wolverine comic, you may not get the sense that he is a Canadian, and while it may not be his defining character trait (when the first X-Men movie went into production, there was talk of making him an American), it is still an important part of who he is.
Wolverine may not have been Canada’s first superhero, but he is certainly one of the most interesting, and one of the most popular.