The Evolution Of Wolverine

Image for The Evolution Of Wolverine

With Logan presenting a very different-looking Wolverine to the one audiences have grown accustomed to, we cast an eye over comics of yore to examine the many form-fitting ensembles Logan has sported across the years. Warning: contains tiger stripes, shoulder pads and quite a lot of hair product.

The Debut (1974)

Wolverine Wolverine’s belligerent debut in Incredible Hulk #181 saw this ‘gaudily-garbed gentleman’ billed as the world’s first Canadian superhero. Rather than wrapped in a maple leaf (that particular indignity was saved for Alpha Flight), he pounced onto the page sporting a variant of the yellow and blue duds he’d eventually become famous for. Don’t overthink the reason: yellow and blue were simply two colours that Marvel had not yet paired in the world of superhero Spandex. The thinking behind his bizarre winged boots and faintly apologetic shoulderpads is anyone’s guess, but they followed him around for years thereafter. Thankfully for all concerned, the cosmetic whiskers did not stand the test of time.

The Classic (1975)

Wolvie’s most iconic look, the classic tiger stripe is an evolution of his debut look. The vestigial pointy wings on his mask evolved into the trademark upswept cowl (and matching ‘do) while cover artist Gil Kane neatly lost his pupils in favour of the more sinister, ‘glowing’ eye look when he re-imagined the character for Giant Sized X-Men #1. While Wolverine moved on from his bleu/jaune phase in the ‘80s, he reverted once X-Men relaunched in the early ‘90s, and if anything could be considered his signature attire, this is it.

##The Fang (1977) Wolverine The Members Only jacket of Wolverine’s early years, this monstrous ensemble is the character’s most egregious wardrobe malfunction to date. It darkened the pages of X-Men #107 and 108 before artist Dave Cockrum did a swift volte-face and reverted to the classic look thereafter. A tribal-inspired onesie with skull-and-tooth accessories, the only redeeming feature of the Fang costume (named for the alien warrior from whom Wolverine stole it) was the palette, which would survive to inspire his next makeover a few years later. Interestingly, the costume would rear its ugly face once more in a sly nod to fans, sported by X-23 when she first encounters the X-Men in X-Men #451.

Brown And Tan (1980)

Wolverine While his yellow and blue look evoked a hint of Cirque du Soleil, the shift to a more autumnal ensemble (sans shoulderpads) entrenched Wolverine as a Marvel badass. X-Men #139 saw its debut, with Logan offering an off-hand “Why the hell not, bub?” when Nightcrawler queried the new look. His go-to duds for the duration of the ‘80s, this is a favourite for many fans and arguably suits the character’s temperament better than the whole Wimbledon FC thing ever did.

Days Of Future Past (1981)

Wolverine Set in a dystopian future where mutants live in internment camps and many of Marvel’s mainstays have already been summarily executed, this story saw an older (though not that much older thanks to his healing factor) Wolverine sporting fifth-column attire inspired by the World War II resistance. Civilian clothes with a fleece-collared leather jacket are the signature, though most striking are the Paulie Walnuts-style white streaks in his hair. That, and the fact that a passing sentinel lends him a rather fetching ‘reduced-to-atoms’ look fairly early on.

Back In Black (1988)

A new standalone series, a brand new look. Wolverine #1 featured all-black attire complete with little leather gloves. If this was all about stealth and infiltration then clearly no one told Wolverine, who piles into the enemy (a band of Indonesian pirates), with little regard for going unnoticed. The crosshatch shading across his eyes does resemble a lacy bondage eye mask (Fifty Shades Of Jean Grey?) but we’re fairly sure that’s just a shadow. Or possibly face paint. Regardless, he switched back to the brown and tan a couple of issues later.

Patch (1989)

Since the X-Men were, at the time, believed dead and living in hiding for reasons far too complicated to explain, Wolverine cultivated the alter-ego of a one-eyed barman while laying low in the South East Asian principality of Madripoor. Often seen in a Casablanca-style bow tie and dinner jacket, his defining accessory was the pirate-issue eyewear, from which he drew his alias, Patch. First appears in Wolverine #4.

Weapon X (1991)

For those who wondered how Wolverine managed to get adamantium bones, Marvel Comics Presents #72 set out to tell the tale. Stripped, dunked in a tank and injected with molten metal, Logan soon broke out, butt-naked save for an ‘80s virtual reality helmet (or prototype Oculus Rift, take your pick). Trailing tubes and wires, he also sported some nasty-looking flesh spikes — part of the adamantium injection process. Ouch.

One Size Fits All (1991)

When the ‘90s rolled around someone decided a rainbow of multicoloured Lycra might not be the most professional way for superheroes to stroll about. Thus in Uncanny X-men #275 Professor X issued a team uniform in blue and gold with a red and black ‘X’ belt buckle. While wholly practical, it did make the X-Men disappointingly homogenous and leeched a lot of the fun out of the comics’ visuals. Wolverine swapped all of his more interesting accessories (cowl, flappy boots) and received only a few straps and buckles in exchange. It didn’t last, thankfully, though a few characters (most notably Forge) hung on to these threads for quite a while.

Team X (1992)

Wolverine flashback stories were building momentum in the early ‘90s and his time as a member of covert government kill team, Team X, was a large part of it. Kicking off in X-Men #5, this teamed Logan with Sabertooth, Silver Fox and Maverick as an elite, off-the-books fighting force. The uniform here was all ammo belts and utility pouches over black leather bodysuits. Acceptable combat chic, but the helmet and goggles were a bit much.

Age Of Apocalypse (1995)

Set in an alternate timeline in which Apocalypse ruled the world, this story saw Wolverine as a mercenary going by the Weapon X handle. With his sleeveless blue/black leotard, red tiger stripes and enormous, shaggy hair, he looked less a mutant killer than a background dancer from Flashdance. Most striking, however, was the metal cap where his left hand had been, before being blasted from existence by Apocalypse’s lieutenant… Cyclops!

Bone Claws And Bandanna (1996)

What happens when the Master of Magnetism faces off against a man with a metal skeleton? The answer can be found in X-Men #25 when Magneto rips the adamantium from Wolvie's bones. For a while thereafter, Wolverine sported jagged bone claws and, thanks to some manipulation from Apocalypse’s lackeys, ended up deformed, demented and in possession of a face-covering bandanna hood (Wolverine #100). Also known as Wolverine: The Zorro Years.

All Leather (2001)

Bryan Singer’s X-Men film gave a little back soon after its release by lending its own aesthetic to subsequent comics. New X-Men #114 showcased the X-Men in black leather uniforms heavily inspired by the movie’s costume department. The huge yellow ‘X’ across the front was a bit much but Logan, being Logan, rocked an open jacket with bare chest and dogtags. His hair was toned down somewhat, but the end result is still more Blue Oyster than Berserker rage.

Origin (2001)

The first unredacted account of Wolverine’s early years, Wolverine Origin #1 finally told the tale of young Logan, who wasn’t Logan at all but rather a posh, sickly boy by the name of James Howlett. Living among the Canadian aristocracy, young James was all jolly hockey sticks, ankle-length night shirts and velveteen dressing gowns – your average 19th century public schoolboy, really. Except with bone claws. Needless to say, tragedy struck, and as his world got tougher so did his wardrobe.

Ultimate (2001)

Marvel’s Ultimate series reimagined the whole universe for a new generation of readers, but it wasn’t just the characters’ convoluted backstories that were jettisoned. Ultimate X-Men #1 saw the entire gang outfitted in skin-hugging leather, similar to the New X-Men regalia but with more subtle detailing. More than that, however, Wolverine transformed from the hirsute character of X-Men lore to a younger, leaner and more winsome killer with significantly less body hair. He also lost his mask for the most part and became generally more Jackman-like. The costume would eventually evolve into a sleek black suit with gold tiger-striping on the shoulders and, variously, black gloves or black martial-arts-style hand wraps. The less said about the soul patch the better.

Whedonite (2004)

When Joss Whedon stepped in to write Astonishing X-Men #1, Wolverine (and the rest of the X-Men) found their S&M privileges revoked once more. Leather was out and Lycra skin-huggers were back, back, back. Logan returned to his original blue and yellow togs, slightly updated with a less sweeping cowl plus zip and stitching details, which provided the first hint as to how he actually got in and out of the thing – also accounting for the fact that his blue budgie-smugglers were finally on the inside of his costume.

House Of M (2005)

In Wanda Maximoff’s conjured House of M reality, mutants rule the planet and S.H.I.E.L.D. director Sebastian Shaw puts together an elite hit squad known as the Red Guard, tasked with taking down human terror cells. Its leader? None other than our man Logan, this time sporting a black, red, white and gold uniform with ‘M’ motif on the shoulder, armoured greaves and curiously ornate golden cuffs. He also boasted a rather snazzy double-breasted jacket, bringing to mind James T. Kirk circa Wrath of Khan.

Undead (2005)

Not so much a look as a state of decay. Marvel’s zombie series (originating from Ultimate Fantastic Four #21) saw a zombie virus taking over the planet while infecting all and sundry. Not even Wolverine’s healing factor could stave off the curse of the undead, leading to the whole ‘rot and ruin’ look pictured here. One of his arms even falls off at one point — a black mark against the efficacy of long-term adamantium use, that’s for sure.

X-Force (2007)

While Wolverine has always been one of the meanest mothers in the Marvel universe, nowhere has he looked the part more than when suited up for Cyclops’ assassination squad, X-Force. Black and silver with glowing red eyes, this is killer attire in every sense. It’s a look that went down so well that it followed Logan to the pages of his Wolverine: Weapon X series and even turned up in the Marvel Vs Capcom 3 video game.

Old Man Logan (2008)

The story that inspired James Mangold's latest film, Wolverine #67 explored Wolverine’s twilight years in a post-superhero future where he lives the life of a rustic, scraping together an existence while living off the land. Falling somewhere between an aging ronin and Eastwood in Unforgiven, his retirement sees Wolverine in a long leather duster (with curious metal elbow plates). After being tricked into butchering his fellow X-Men many years previously, OAP Logan has sworn off the use of his claws altogether. Needless to say, that doesn’t last.