In this era of anxiety and uncertainty, it is understandable that the superhero genre would be popular. Superheroes are supposed to be able to defeat villains and overcome odds that would seem impossible to the ordinary man. When we have a lot of seemingly insurmountable problems to solve, it is nice to pretend there is a hero who can solve all of them with a special power. One of the cinematic and comic book heroes that have resonated most with fans everywhere is Wolverine.
Wolverine is a mutant with the ability to extend claws from between his fingers. He is also very strong and his bones have been fused with adamantium, a fictional substance that is indestructible. This, in turn, makes him virtually indestructible, though he is not invincible and can be killed. He also seems to have a very wild nature and is, in some ways, like the wild man of Medieval and classical Greek legend. Let us explore this superhero and why he is so popular.
Wolverine gets his name from retractable bone claws that extend from his hands. A particularly painful aspect of this mutation is that the claws are enclosed beneath skin and muscle, which must be torn every time the claws are extended … ouch!
Luckily, Wolverine has the ability to rapidly heal. He can heal from minor wounds such as cuts or bullet wounds in non-critical areas within minutes. It takes him longer to recover from more serious injuries. He recovers more quickly than any ordinary human and from injuries that would kill an ordinary human being.
This attribute has made Wolverine immune to most diseases and poisons. It has also slowed his aging process, so he is still in his prime even though he is over a century old. Wolverine is described as being very ferocious and strong.
According to the original comic, Wolverine was originally born James Howlett. Son of wealthy landowner John Howlett, James grew up privileged but was emotionally neglected by his parents, particularly his mentally disturbed mother. He became friends with a girl named Rose, who was brought to the estate to keep him company, and a boy he nicknamed Dog who was the son of the groundskeeper, Thomas Logan.
As the three youths grew older, Dog began to take a romantic interest in Rose. Rose spurned his advances and the aftermath resulted in Dog and his father being expelled from the estate after Dog killed James’ dog as retribution for James telling his father of Dog’s improper behavior.
Thomas Logan and his son attempted to break back into the estate. In the process, Thomas Logan killed James’ father. This caused James to exhibit his mutation for the first time. He sprouted claws and in a rage, killed Thomas Logan and injured Dog, leaving a scar across his face.
It is at this point that Dog and James began to become enemies. James fled to British Columbia with Rose, where he worked at a mine going by the name Logan. Eventually, he was discovered by Dog. This led to a violent confrontation in which James accidentally killed Rose while fighting Dog. In horror, Logan fled into the woods and lived among wolves for many years, growing increasingly wild.
James served in the Canadian Army during World War II, where he met Captain America. After the war, he worked for Canadian Special forces as a secret agent. He eventually met Professor Xavier, who introduced him to the X-men. It is around this time that James became known as Wolverine. With the X-men, he fights a plethora of villains.
Through his adventures in the comics, Wolverine seems to be an embodiment of sheer force. He tries to be a force for good, but at times, is manipulated through mind control or other means to become a force either for evil or chaos, such as when he is manipulated by Apocalypse or when an attempt to restore adamantium to his bones causes him to temporarily go feral.
Wolverine as a Wild Man
What shall we make of Wolverine? He is powerful and clever, but also has a wild side which makes him unpredictable and a little dangerous. This trope appears in literature and mythology from many cultures.
In the West, you have legends of wild men, such as the woodwoses of Medieval Europe and satyrs of the ancient Greeks. Woodwoses appear in Medieval artwork as men who are covered in fur and live in a forest. They represent man without civilization, completely wild. The satyrs represent more or less the same thing. There are many Greek legends of fur-covered satyrs living in places such as India and Libya. They were described by classical authors as animal-like and without language.
This idea also appears in Mesoamerican culture. The city-dwelling people of central Mexico called the nomadic people who lived in the more arid northwestern part of Mexico the Chichimec, which means “dog-people.” The Chichimec were considered uncivilized by the inhabitants of Teotihuacan, Tola, and other central Mexican cities.
The Aztecs of Tenochtitlan believed themselves to be partly descended from the Chichimec. They believed this gave them the strength that the pure city dwellers of the valley of Mexico did not possess. This is because of a longstanding Mesoamerican belief that the Chichimec wild men were wild and dangerous, as well as strong.
This idea of a wild man who is strong but, at the same time, intelligent is exemplified in Wolverine. He is definitely strong, both in terms of physical strength and in terms of mental and emotional endurance. Anyone who has gone through the difficult times of Wolverine, of losing his parents, accidentally killing one of his good friends in a moment of rage (Rose), and having his strength manipulated for personal gain must be strong in character. He also has a wild side, even living with wolves for a time. This wildness and ferocity are difficult to control. For these reasons, Wolverine seems to be a modern version of the archetype of a wild man.
Whatever the reason for the modern resurgence of the wild man persona, Wolverine continues to delight fans throughout the world. Will he delight them again when Logan hits theatres in March? We’ll have to wait and see.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!