Wolverine is Marvel’s most popular character after Spider-Man, and he’s everywhere. Hugh Jackman has played him in four X-Men films, one solo film, and is set to return for a solo film this summer along with X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014. In comics, Wolverine can be found in Savage Wolverine, the upcoming Wolverine book, and in multiple team books as he is a member of multiple X-Men and Avengers squads and X-Force. However, he was once not so ubiquitous. He began as stocky, impetuous Canadian costumed adventurer who guest-starred in Incredible Hulk 180-182 (1974) where he teams up with Hulk and then fights him. Wolverine’s co-creator Len Wein made him a member of his relaunch of the X-Men with new, international characters in Giant Size X-Men 1 (1975). Even thoughthe original design for Wolverine was created by John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe, Wolverine started to become the character we know today because of Giant Size penciller Dave Cockrum.
Dave Cockrum (Uncanny X-Men from 1975-1977, 1981-1983) Even though Dave Cockrum wasn’t a Wolverine fan and wanted to kill him off, he revolutionized the character. After cover artist Gil Kane messed up Wolverine’s mask on the cover of Giant Size X-Men 1, Cockrum accentuated the darker part of the mask and gave it pointy “ears”, like Batman’s cowl. He also made Wolverine’s claws retractable, drew him without a mask, and gave him his trademark hairstyle. As far ascharacterization, he and Chris Claremont created his conflict with Cyclops over Jean Grey and his “fastball special” with Colossus. After John Byrne’s run, he worked with the character again pitting him against Magneto and the Brood Queen, whom he alone was able to defeat.
John Byrne (Uncanny X-Men from 1977-1981, 1991-1992; X-Men in 1991) If Dave Cockrum made Wolverine, John Byrne turned Wolverine into a star. A British-Canadian art school dropout, Byrne worked for Charlton Comics before teaming with Chris Claremont on Marvel Team-Up and Champions and eventually succeeding Cockrum as artist and co-plotter on Uncanny X-Men.Wolverine was one of his favorite characters, and he helped flesh the character out, such as taking him back home to Canada where he faced his old Department H friends and Alpha Flight. He also created Wolverine’s brown costume in Uncanny X-Men 139 (1980) after the events of the “Dark Phoenix Saga” in which he singlehandedly took down the Hellfire Club. Byrne drew Wolverine as older than the other X-Men and even drew a much older, future version of him in “The Days of Future Past”.
Frank Miller (Wolverine 1-4 in 1982) Before The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, 300, or (unfortunately) Holy Terror, Frank Miller pencilled Wolverine’s first story sans the other X-Men with Chris Claremont. This storyline set in Japan forms the basis of the upcoming film The Wolverine. In this miniseries, Miller portrayed Wolverine as more violent and feral than the Byrne and Cockrum incarnations. However, he also holds to a samurai code and desperately loves Mariko Yashida. Because of these new elements, Miller’s incarnation of Wolverine has claws like samurai blades. His work with Claremont on this miniseries showed that Wolverine had depth as a character and could work by himself because of his unique mixture of conscience and brutal violence that reappeared in later stories.
Barry Windsor-Smith (Uncanny X-Men 186, 198, 205, 214 in 1985-1987; Marvel Comics Presents 72-84 in 1991; Wolverine 166 in 2001) One of the first British authors to succeed in American comics, Barry Windsor-Smith became famous because of his lengthy run on Conan the Barbarian. Because he was good friends with Claremont, he drew some issues of Uncanny X-Men and later wrote and pencilled the “Weapon X” storyline in Marvel Comics Presents that showed how Wolverine got his adamantium skeleton. Windsor-Smith broke Wolverine down as a character with no cameos from other superheroes, just him and the Weapon X contraptions. He revealed the tortured nature of Wolverine’s past through the perspective of the scientists working on him and didn’t spare the reader the horrors of this painful process that turned Wolverine into the hero he is today.
Jim Lee (Uncanny X-Men 248, 256-258, 267-277 in 1989-1991; X-Men 1-11 from 1991-1992) Jim Lee didn’t turn Wolverine into a star, but he became a star while drawing Wolverine and the other X-Men. Instead of going to medical school, Lee won a Harvey and Inkpot (1990, 1992 respectively) while working on X-Men which he centered around Wolverine and new creation Gambit. Lee artwork on these characters influenced the “dark and edgy” anti-heroes of the new Image Comics, such as his own WildC.A.T.S. series. He and Claremont split the X-Men into the Blue and Gold teams, and Wolverine was on the Blue team with Gambit. Lee’s redesign of Wolverine’s costume influenced his look on the Fox animated X-Men show (1992-1997) which introduced a whole new generation of fans to the character.