Is it any wonder that Wolverine scored his own movie? He’s only one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Comics stable, with his own long-running series and regular appearances in countless other titles — if he guest-starred in Betty & Veronica it would be a best-seller. Still, how much do you really know about the scrappy little Canuck? In honor of this week’s release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I’ve enlisted Matthew K. Manning, author of the new book Wolverine: Inside the World of the Living Weapon, to help me share five fun facts about everyone’s favorite Canadian killing machine. (No, not Celine Dion.) Pop open a Molson, grab a stoagie and think of your best Cyclops diss, ’cause here we go.
1. X-Men Origins: Badger?
Unlike other heroes, Logan doesn’t get his mutant healing factor and sweet claws from a radioactive wolverine bite. But he does share a few characteristics with his namesake, namely his superior hunting skills and furry physique. As it turns out, however, our boy almost ended up resembling another animal common to the wilds of Canada. Manning explains, “When then [Marvel] Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas decided there was a need for a Canadian hero, his first animal of choice was the badger,” who, we assume, would possess the awesome power of burrowing. Eventually, Thomas decided to use a wolverine, though art director John Romita Sr. “was under the impression that a wolverine was a female wolf.” Luckily, She-Wolf never came to be.
2. I’m King of the World, Bub
Like Spider-Man, the X-Men movies came out during an age when special effects were such that Wolverine’s claws needn’t resemble Lee Press-On Nails. But also like Spider-Man, Wolverine and the rest of the X-gang were almost brought to the big screen by self-proclaimed “King of the World” James Cameron. The Titanic maestro developed an X-Men movie for several years with Stan Lee and the now-defunct Carolco Pictures (T2, Rambo III). (Check out this early concept art, created by effects artist Miles Teves, of then-Wolvie-wannbe Mel Gibson with claws and mangy drifter hair.) Cameron eventually lost the rights to X-Men and moved on to Spider-man before Carolco was put down forever by Cutthroat Island — superheroes are obviously no match for Geena Davis and Renny Harlin.
3. The X-Men’s Resident Mr. Ed
While the Wolverine we know is in constant battle with his animal nature, things were almost a whole lot simpler — and sillier. “Originally, creator Len Wein had decided that Wolverine wasn’t a mutant at all, but a highly evolved wolverine,” Manning recalls. “The first few stories were actually written with this idea in mind.” Yes, the gruff tough guy we all know and love was almost a sassy talking animal. But, Manning adds, “Thankfully the idea of a talking woodland creature was nixed.”
4. Wolverine, Rock God
Hugh Jackman may be Australia’s favorite pretty boy, but 20th Century Fox looked elsewhere when it came time to cast Wolverine on the big screen. Everyone from New Zealander Russell Crowe (who turned down the role, despite being Bryan Singer’s first choice) to Scotsman Dougray Scott to the decidedly American Keanu Reeves considered strapping on Logan’s claws. Then there was rocker Glenn Danzig, whose resemblance to Wolvie — both in appearance and scrappy stature — made him a fan favorite for the role. Thankfully, Danzig passed due to scheduling conflicts, sparing us all one serious “worst actor” fight come Razzie time.
5. Call Him “Big Papa”
Sure, you buy his comics and illegally download, er, pay to see his movie. But did you know you’re supporting, as Mr. Manning describes, “one of America’s favorite deadbeat dads”? Yes, Logan has left quite the litter of offspring in his wake. First there’s his son, current Dark Avengers member Daken (not to be confused with the far cooler heavy metal band Dokken), and then a “little pup he has running around in the tropics somewhere” that’s the result of a dalliance with a cave woman in the wilds of the Savage Land. (What can I say, ladies love the muttonchops.) Let’s not get started on all the kids he has in alternate dimensions and universes. He’s the best there is at what he does — dodging child support.
Want more Wolverine fun facts? Join Matthew K. Manning and X-Men comic book great Chris Claremont at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art on Wednesday, April 29th, at 7pm for a special in-depth discussion on Marvel’s most popular mutant. And for more comic book movie news and opinions, follow Nick Nadel’s column on Twitter.