Friday, November 5, 2010

Nerd Rage #3: Join C.L.A.W. Today!

Marvel finally drops the pretense about who the star of the X-Men really is


This post marks my 50th official blog, so long as we discount an early post from January announcing I was too sick to finish my SMCS Transformers Blog on schedule. Regardless I’m pretty satisfied with writing that much under a year. My primary reason for starting this blog was to force myself to write something regularly under the hopes that it would a) help my writing in general and b) help my ability to work within a deadline. I suppose it’s helping on both fronts, though not as much I’d hope (The secondary reason involved a crush a on girl whom I’m 100% certain has never been to this blog, but let’s ignore that less than noble aspect). There haven’t been that many visitors to this site but I am thankful for what traffic I get as well as the few comments I received. Funny trivia: the most read article I’ve written is essentially Nerd Rage #1: Cassandra Cain as Batgirl but that seems to be due to the popularity of Google searches for Cassandra and people looking for pictures. Lame, but such is the nature of the beast we call the internet.
Anyway I’ve decided to celebrate the milestone of reaching fifty articles with a special comic related topic, one that I’ve alluded to and joked about many times before but haven’t specifically written about. I’m, of course, referring to the abortion of a story known as Spider-Man: One More Day the popular Marvel Comics character Wolverine, seeing how Spider-Man has never been married to my recollection so clearly I shouldn’t be annoyed by that.
Warning: The title of this article should be pretty self explanatory BUT just to make sure we’re all on the same page the following is going to be very opinionated stuff and will surely sound fanboy-like. It can’t be helped; I will attempt to back-up what I say with logical reasoning as opposed to emotional gibberish but at the end of the day I am voicing my opinion about a fictional character on the internet thus robbing me of any reasonable credibility. If you prefer snarky reviews feel free to check out others parts of the blog, because this right here is about to get dorky.
If you’ve read my blogs with any frequency you may have noticed that I greatly dislike the X-Men character Wolverine. After recently starring in his own movie four movies, three of which were disguised as ensembles, he’s more or less a household name these days. I basically understand the appeal of the guy: he’s a badass, doesn’t take crap from any one, and plays by his own rules. We’re Americans, damn it, and we like that archetype (Note: Wolverine is a portrayed as being Canadian). The problem is that he tends to be contrary with my superhero ideal and more in line with the superhero deconstruction from the 80s leading to the rise of the violent anti-hero type of the 1990s, or The Dark Age of Comics, considered by many fans to be one of the lowest creative depths in comic book history. That Wolverine is the poster child of the era of comics I despise the most is just enough to make me dislike the character, but in addition his amazing and unwavering popularity with fans has led to insane amounts of overexposure as well as power upgrades that kill my suspension of disbelief (And since I regularly read superhero comics you know that must take a lot of work to do) with a lot of this happening at the expense of my favorite X-Men character.
Even Spock hates Wolverine
We’ll get back to that in a second. Let’s fist take a look at Wolverine’s history.
Wolverine made his debut in The Incredible Hulk #180 (Properly in #181), introduced as an enemy of the Hulk but not necessarily a villain. His background at the time was not fleshed at all and aside from being a Canadian government agent with claws not much was know about him even to the writers. In fact the exact details of his past would remain a mystery for the next 27 years in real time. Fast forward a year later to 1975 and the revamp of the X-Men comic which had been brought back after several years of cancelation, the comic known as Giant-Size X-Men #1. Logan (The main alias used for those 27 plus years) was brought in as a member of the “All New, All Different” X-Men alongside fellow future long time teammates Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler. If you ever read those early issues it’s pretty clear that the writers don’t have a lot of use for him; he’s kind of just there and his now-famous conflict of personality with leader Cyclops was actually used for fleshing out Thunderbird, an Apache mutant with a chip on his shoulder who did almost nothing but argue with old “One-Eye” for the first four issues. After Thunderbird’s shocking death in the new team’s second mission Wolverine sort of fell into his spot, was written as being attracted to Cyclops’ girlfriend Jean Grey and played up his anti-authoritative stance. Ironically Chris Claremont, the writer, and Dave Cockrum, the artist, preferred Nightcrawler and Colossus to Wolverine and were planning to kill him off fairly early on, but soon Cockrum was replaced by John Byrne, who is Canadian, and he talked his way into keeping the character around long enough for him to gain enough popularity to justify not writing him out of the book. So this is what I want you to understand: Wolverine was a superfluous character that kind of blended into the background and the reason he wasn’t written off was because of his nationality. If he was French he would have been killed and we would probably only half remember the guy. But this is the real world, sickness and poverty run rampant on the world, senseless wars wage on, and Wolverine is still alive.
By this point Marvel was firmly in the Bronze Age of Comics and writers were starting to write more mature stories and distance themselves form the campy Silver Age of Comics. Wolverine’s character started to become more fleshed out as he is revealed to have a mysterious and possibly a less than altruistic past (Which included him being a samurai for some reason), as well as apparently suffering from an unstable mental state that sometimes made him slip into an unstoppable berserker rage. Now I’m not sure having a potential psycho murderer on a superhero team is the best way to run a tight ship, but hey, it was the late 70s and rules were different then I guess. Anyway Logan got more and more popular through the 80s, mirroring the industries love affair with “Bad Boys”. As comic books started spiraling into a void of gritty cynicism many fans started to view Wolverine as a new ideal for a comic hero while characters closer to, say, Superman were starting to be looked at like old relics that didn’t have a place in the modern world leading a slew of rip-off characters (See: Early Image Comics). Logan wasn’t just a 90s Anti-Hero; he was THE 90s Anti-Hero. His popularity during the Dark Age skyrocketed with only brief periods of cool downs and has managed to last to the Modern Age of Comics during which he was added to the roster of The Avengers. He currently stars in two or three ongoing solo series and is featured in the X-Men books, a few Avengers books, and Uncanny X-Force.
There’s a few reasons why I hate this guy, so let’s break this is down, shall we?
He’s an Anti-(Super)Hero
When it comes down to it Wolverine portrayal in the comics is just not what I like to read from my superheroes. If someone asks me what is my superhero ideal I’d say it has a lot to do with doing the right thing while also standing for something greater. Superman, Captain America, Spider-Man when he’s not written as being a coward who will sacrifice all personal integrity by battering with Satan-like entities married are some examples. I like anti-heroes well enough on their own, but in superhero comics I gravitate towards the more classic archetype. The closest thing to an anti-hero I tend to enjoy in superhero comics is Batman, but seeing as he works closely with the police commissioner, has a strict no killing policy (And frowns on brutal beatings as well), and is looked up to by the rest of the superhero community as an example they should follow I’d hesitate to address him as such. In Wolverine’s defense though the X-Men aren’t actually superheroes (Most of the time anyway); they’re a mutant strike force that police their own species to show good will towards humans despite the fact that they are often branded as outlaws, so really he’s not so much a superhero as he is a Mutant Dirty Harry. Even so when I’m looking to buy superhero books I walk past Spawn, I walk past The Punisher, and I walk past Wolverine and pick-up the new issue of Superboy instead.
Logan: Texas Ranger
Actually Chuck Norris is more of a team player than this guy
Unlimited Healing Factor
When his healing powers were first conceived the writers actually envisioned it to be fairly mundane. In fact one proposed origin that didn’t get made for Wolverine was that he had been seriously wounded but his mutant power didn’t work on bones so he was forced to get an unbreakable adamantium replacement skeleton just so he could walk. Even though the “can’t heal bones” aspect was never actually used in the comic his powers were still not too bad at first but as the years went by his abilities were upgraded from “accelerated healing factor” to “Deus ex machina” allowing him to basically be as unkillable as the current writer deems fit. I am currently looking at an issue of New X-Men where Logan gets all the flesh burned off his arm leaving nothing but bone which results in no long term effects other than his needed “time to heal”. I’ve seen him enter a planet’s atmosphere without a ship and being able to continue his adventure after getting “time to heal”. He’s been killed numerous times in increasingly brutal fashions but has managed to come back every time because all he needed was “time to heal”! In his review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine Robert Ebert asked the question of why the audience should care about a character that can’t be hurt and can’t be killed. That’s really my point here: Wolverine is dull. There’s no real tension when he shows up because he’s indestructible. Marvel needs to set limits to his powers and they need to force those limits on any writer who takes the character on, since technically he does have vague limitation but they are often ignored. Seeing as there’s now a strict rule in Marvel Comics that bans all characters from smoking I assume that an editorial mandate lowering the scope of Wolverine’s powers shouldn’t be impossible to do.
By the way, it’s said that Wolverine’s healing factor is actually hindered by the adamantium in his body and his younger female clone X-23 (Don’t ask) has commented that she heals much faster than him. This completely depends on who’s writing at the time and often forgotten.
He’s Freaking Everywhere
Wolverine isn’t the only culprit in comics of this crime (spider-Man and Deadpool come to mind), but he does take it to somewhat insane lengths. Logan shows up in a ton of comics per month, having his own solo titles, appearing with the X-Men, leading X-Force, and also being a member of the Avengers and somehow appearing in multiple squads. Add to the numerous guest appearances he makes and various mini-series he may be starring in he’s easily the most visible character in Marvel right now. I know this is all just fantasy and none of it is real or anything but I cannot suspend my disbelief over this. How in the blue hell can he make time for all of this? Marvel is aware of this aspect, and joke about it all the time, but don’t seem to view it as a problem. Really the idea is that Wolverine = $$$, so logically the more comics he appears in per month the more fat cash monies Marvel can rack in. From a business standpoint that may make sense but from a creative standpoint it feels shoehorned in.
Obviously Spider-Man and Wolverine are Super Best Friends
...wait, what the hell?!
For example Wolverine was part of the roster of the New Avengers in 2004. Why? Is he really Avenger material? During the first story arch Captain America is forced to attack Logan with his mighty shield to prevent him from killing one of the goons attacking them. Wolverine seemed completely confused as to why Cap wouldn’t allow him to make the kill, implying that he’s apparently never met the war hero in his life and doesn’t know how he operates (Which is of course not true, more likely he doesn’t care). Later after capturing (key word) the leader of the attackers (Black Widow II), once it’s clear that they won’t be getting any information out of her, Wolverine’s suggestion of how to treat the prisoner (key word) is, and I quote, “Just dice her and let’s get out of here”. WHAT?! Killing an opponent trying to kill you is one thing; even superheroes can’t always avoid lethal force. But killing a helpless captive in your custody without due process is murder and last time I checked murder wasn’t the Avengers’ modus operandi. My point is that it seems out of character for Logan to be a member of a team like this and is certainly out of character for key members (Captain America) to allow it. But Marvel forced him in anyway because he’s popular, not because it was logical and certainly not because it was the natural progression of his character development.
Cyclops is My Favorite X-Man
Look, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t biased against old Wolvie. I love Cyclops and a lot of comic book fans will tell you that if you love one you’ll likely dislike the other. The obvious reason is that the writers fairly early on put the two characters at odds with each other but I think that is only the background for the real issues. While Wolverine represents the new, rebellious type of hero I think Cyclops represents the character type that hero tends to rebel against: the “lame” and “outdated” superhero from the 60s. I feel a lot of times Cyclops is made to look like a punk in favor of Logan (And Storm too whom I also dislike) and has been the case for a number of years depending on the writer. Like Wolverine Cyclops’ character has been dragged through many annoying interpretations by ignorant writers but unlike Wolverine Scott Summers never seems to fully recover from it which greatly bothers me.
Warm? No. Jovial? No. Samurai? No. Badass? Yes
For example a few years ago Cyclops made what many readers and characters in-story felt was a line crossing decision: the re-formation of X-Force as a black opts assassination squad, which I always thought was a weird out-of-character move. A lot of X-Men fans rightfully said he was making a dick move. Wolverine was picked as the leader of this team, but apparently made it clear that he thought Summers was wrong for doing it and that he would only lead the team out of concern for the others that were flagged to join. That’s all well and good and chances are he was right but recently Cyclops finally agreed that he had gone too far and disbanded the team…only for Wolverine to secretly keep it going without the rest of the X-Men’s knowledge and somehow I haven’t heard the same outcry of “You’re a monster” that I heard from fans when Cyclops was calling the shots!
He’s a Dick
He sure is. He’s totally mean. What a jerk.
You big stupid head!
This is, of course, my personal opinion and you’re free to have your own. I cannot deny that I am proud member of Cyclops Lovers Against Wolverine or C.L.A.W. for short, a Pro-Cyclops organization that also happens to think Wolverine is an ass. You can become a member by…um, juts declaring yourself to be a member. It’s pretty easy to join.
Anyway I hope this rant wasn’t too painful for you. Thanks for reading my 50th (Official) blog. Here’s to the next fifty!

3 comments:

  1. I think that you left out another perfectly good reason to hate Wolverine. In addition to being so invincible that it is an insult to the intelligence of even young readers to assume that our suspension of disbelief can be maintained, Wolverine also has the ability to kill virtually anything. For a non super-strong guy whose offensive power is basically 'knives', Wolverine can stab through giant robots, super armors, solid walls, and occasionally the Incredible Hulk (pretty sure that's happened). I understand that it's pedantic to argue with comic book physics, but even if you have a big knife made out of the strongest metal possible, and even if it is very sharp, you will not be able to swing it through a tree. Best case scenario, your knife gets stuck an inch down, and you have to leave it in the tree. Three knives would encounter triple that resistance. That said, my point, agreeing with yours, is that on top of being as mystifyingly invulnerable as he is popular, he's also one of the most dangerous people on Earth. I mean, the same thing is true of Superman, or Thor (and I would argue that in each case, it makes them more boring and difficult to relate to), or the Hulk, but unlike Superman or Thor, he's also a relatively indiscriminate murderer. And unlike the Hulk, he isn't basically mentally incompetent, and is indeed fully responsible for his actions. If there were justice or consistency in the Marvel Universe, then Wolverine would be recognized as the impossibly powerful, dangerous, loose cannon that he is, and he would be hunted down and shot into space.

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  2. That's an excellent point. I couldn't have put it better myself. Although I'm actually very fond of Superman and Thor but that's neither here nor there.

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  3. Thor and Supes have other redeeming qualities. As you said, though, being too powerful is something that writers have to work against if they want you to care about the character.
    Wolverine is the best at what he does, and what he does is entirely two-dimensional.

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