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CSBG Archive

Gimmick or Good? – Wolverine #50

Wolverine50_coverIn this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the die-cut cover for Wolverine #50.

Wolverine #50 (published January 1992) – script by Larry Hama, art by Marc Silvestri and Dan Green

After seeing that Wolverine got a brand-new ongoing series this week, I was inspired to take a look at one of the Ol’ Canucklehead’s very first gimmick covers, Wolverine #50. As the third part of the “Dreams of Gore” arc, a storyline that explores some “top secret” information about Logan’s Weapon X past, Wolverine #50 features a die-cut cover that resembles a “classified” file folder with claw marks leaving an opening in the front.

But what about inside the comic?

Just a few months removed from the publication of Barry Windsor Smith’s “Weapon X” arc in Marvel Comics Presents, “Dreams of Gore” was marketed as an official “sequel” to the storyline when it kicked off in Wolverine #48. At the state of the sequel, Wolverine and Jubilee explore an abandoned facility in Alberta, Canada, when Wolvie starts to have violent flashbacks to his Weapon X days. In the next issue, Wolverine asks Professor X and Jean Grey to telepathically explore his memories in order to explain the flashbacks. During the process, Logan becomes more animalistic and violent, but vows to keep digging into his past, bringing us to Wolverine #50, when everything hits the fan and Wolverine discovers exactly what the “Shiva Initiative” is all about.
Those who maintain that Wolverine has been completely overexposed and overdone the past 25 years, probably have a hard time remembering when a story about the character’s mysterious past could be labeled as fresh and exciting, but that’s exactly what Larry Hama and Marc Silvestri deliver in this arc and specifically in this issue. The comic is not without its flaws, but it is also the kind of well-executed, genuinely fun story that helped make Wolverine arguably Marvel’s most popular and profitable property during the 90s (and beyond).


Throughout “Dreams of Gore,” Hama establishes a swagger with Wolverine that makes the character a joy to read about. Whether he’s riding a motorcycle onto a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier in order to confront Nick Fury (a scene made funnier in how Silvestri emphasizes the height difference between Logan and Nick), or how he bursts into the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to speak to the director of the “pest control section” (the cover name for the Weapon X project), making sure to tell the churlish receptionist “I ain’t here to lobby for soybean subsidies,” Wolverine just oozes charisma without it coming across as insufferably overindulgent.


And while Wolverine might have the snappy comebacks and the “I’m the best there is” machismo, the script never gives the titular character too much credit. In one scene, Wolverine carelessly “falls for the ol’ trap door in the stairs bit,” nearly getting impaled by a room full of spikes as a result. The scene comes and goes so quickly, I don’t get the impression that readers are supposed to buy into the idea that Wolverine could be killed by such a clichéd trap, but it does demonstrate how his unyielding determination to get to the bottom of his tortured past has sapped him of his focus, ultimately setting up Logan’s pyrrhic victory at the end of the issue.


The comic’s big confrontation is between Wolverine and Shiva, a cyborg designed to kill Weapon X’s participants (there’s even a list prioritizing who dies first, and Logan’s name is at the top, ‘natch). Wolverine dispatches of Shiva pretty quickly, only for it to recouperate and start “round two,” this time having learned from its mistakes. Shiva hits Wolverine with an electronic pulse that triggers neurosynethtic implants in Logan’s brain, bringing on a rush of buried memories, and driving Wolvie to the brink of insanity.


He manages to channel his rage long enough to destroy Shiva, but his X-Men teammates find a “far different man” at the very end of the story. Given how well the comic’s plot builds and accelerates, the last page comes across a bit too overstuffed. All on one page, we learn that the evil Professor Hudson, father of Weapon X, has been killed, but not before activating additional Shiva robots to kill other Weapon X participants (such as Sabertooth). When Jean and Professor X mention that innocent mutants may be targeted by the Shiva robots, Wolverine is apathetic. Considering how the scripts sells Wolverine’s reaction as a turning point for the character, I have to think the moment would have more gravitas if it developed over the course a of a few pages, with a little bit more of Silvestri’s art driving it.

As for Silvestri, I enjoy his straightforward pencils throughout the issue. While he’d go on to be one of the founding members of Image Comics in 1992, I find Silvestri to be far less stylized than some of his colleagues (i.e. Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld). As a result, the art never distracts from or overshadows Hama’s solid script.

Verdict: Good


I bought this sucker in Australia in 1992. Most comics there have the American price on them and the retailers adjust accordingly, but this actually has the price on it in Australian dollars. It was pretty neat.

Yeah, I know – cool story, bro.

This is something I’ve been wanting to go back and read for a while, because I remember really enjoying it…I remember it being one of my first Direct Market comics, and getting like $10 in trade for it at a LCS a couple of years later. I’ll have to remember to look out for it.

My problem with Hama was the way he wrote Wolverine’s tough guy dialect. You know your dialect is bad when you make Chris Claremont’s dialogue actually seem more authentic. I especially hated how he used ” O’ ” to place “of ” in Wolverine’s speech patterns. Made him sound like some kind of leprachaun.

IIRC this is the issue he goes back to the older yellow & blue costume.

This makes me sad. I much prefer the Byrne designed brown one.

Hama also was able to toe this awesome line between badass and ultra-cheesy on Wolverine, that I thought maybe he’d be able to pull it off on Batman?

…no, he did not.

Greg, that was a magical time in Australia when we got actual American comic books in the local newsagents for a year or two.

However, anyone who collected comics knew the Aussie dollar versions would be worth nothing (it was the 90s) and thus still held out for real comics at the comic shop, so they didn’t last long. I got a few of them though, since we lived in a small town that had no comic shop. I think they stopped shortly after the Round Robin story in Amazing Spider-Man. At least I remember getting those and not much else.

“the old Canuckle-head” – reason #1 to stop reading Wolverine.

Hama was hamfisted on this title. Ugh.

This is a good issue as far as early 90’s X-stuff goes (so graded on a slight curve), and Hama/Silvestri remain one of the greatest creative teams for Wolverine. But what really stands out about this issue to me is the cover. The vast majority of gimmick covers out there simply added a gimmick to what was otherwise a normal cover, like throwing a hologram, chromium image, embossed foil, or some other thing onto a normal image. This is one of the rare exceptions, where the “gimmick” (in this case, the claw cuts) actually truly works for the enticement and image of the cover. The black pollybag with the bloody “S” from Superman #75 is another one of the rare occasions where the gimmick really made the cover great, instead of simply gimmicky. This is one of my favorite covers ever.

this was one of the first comics i ever bought, i must have read it a thousand times

science machine

February 7, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Wolverine 50 and Spider-Man 359 were the first comics I ever bought. They got me hooked on comics for life.

Any time Wolverine sticks his claws in a wall sharp end down and somehow they stick to the wall instead of cutting through it “like a hot knife through butter” I die a little.

@Greg Burgas:

Speaking as an Australian, I found your story interesting…

This issue also had the first X-23 reference ever!

Caanan: Yeah, I used to go to a comic shop in downtown Melbourne, where they had the American prices but charged me something like 7 bucks a pop. This one, however, I got at a convenience store somewhere (I can’t remember), but it might have been up north in Ballarat or someplace like that.

Drax: I feel so validated! :)

Yeah, Ballarat! (I’m from Ballarat.)

Ballarat really is a ridiculous word if you type it more than once. Sorry folks!

Our dad used to take me and my brother to Melbourne every two weeks or so to go to Minotaur. Man, he really indulged us more than we gave him credit for at the time…

This issue my Dad got it signed by the creative team for my birthday, I was such a big Wolverine fan back then

“Greg, that was a magical time in Australia when we got actual American comic books in the local newsagents for a year or two.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly what you mean – you mean we got US Marvel comic books in newsagents with covers *printed* with the Australian price for a couple of years. We got US Marvels in newsagents for at least a couple of decades. (Coincidentally on this topic, if I recall correctly, my copy of Wolverine #48 was from a newsagent, but #50 was from a comic shop.)

I remember loving this at the time, as it kind of propelled Wolverine’s mysterious past forward without actually revealing too much.

Looking back, though, I wonder if this kind of ruins it. I remember “Weapon X” being a neat story that slightly pulled back the curtain on Wolverine’s backstory–we were made privy to something that even Wolverine wasn’t. It almost seems a shame now that Wolverine got to find out about it, though I can’t put my finger on why.

I do think that “Weapon X’ is one of Marvel’s best stories ever. It’s a great Wolverine story that’s nicely divorced from the larger X-Men mythology (though it does hint at tying into Wolverine’s eventual first encounter with the Hudsons). Maybe the problem is that by bringing it into the main continuity, it’s no longer “special.”

This was my first X comic. I loved it. My issue had the cover missing, so I didn’t know what it was until years later.

Wolverine, as a character, represents everything good and bad about that era.

Yep, I have this very issue too, although I’m not sure if I bought it from a newsagent or comic shop. There were so many comic options available at newsagents at that time. These days, all you can really buy at newsagents are The Phantom, and stuff targeted for kids, like The Simpsons. Not that it matters now though. There are comic shops everywhere in the big cities. Why, here in Perth we have 3 – all within walking distance of each other!

Talented as Hama is at writing/editing non-cape books, he SUCKS at writing superheroes. His Wolverine run was no exception. Going to have to disagree with this one.

Yeah, this one’s pretty good. I assume since Wolvie’s on the motorcycle here, this is the ish where he drives into the elevator and tells the woman to be careful that the hot tailpipe doesn’t brush against her legs. Which maybe was more of an innuendo than I realized….

I actually bought 51 as part of 3 comics that got me hardcore into comics collecting at the very end of ’91, so this era is a favorite. I remember 50 being pretty good, and that the cover enhancement is actually really good and fits the issue well.

So no one noticed that the cover is an homage to Byrne’s FF #259?

Caanan: Ballarat would have been luxury to me. Try growing up in the Mallee and therefore my entire childhood the only comic I could get with any regularity was The Phantom. Would look forward to that one trip a year to Melbourne where I’d be able to go to Minotaur back when it was on Bourke St.

Though funnily enough, I also have this issue with an Aussie price on it.

What does “ham fisted” mean?
No joke, I really don’t know.

Ham Fisted was the enemy of Orthodox superhero L’Chaim, who would often lament “Oy! I can’t let this goyim hit me with this fist of his, he’s not kosher! But if I don’t fight him, my real identity as Herschel Goldberg will be revealed as a schmuck! Gevalt! I better not bend over, I don’t want to find out how committed to his name this goyim is!”

No, sorry, ham fisted refers to a style of storytelling that’s really obvious, hit you over the head with things type stuff. Subtle it’s not.

Like my ham fisted play on words and way of fitting as many Jewish references into my little bit above.

Apparently our friends at dictionary dot com tell us that ham fisted is more a Britishism, while Americans might know ham handed more. I’m American and have heard both, but I prefer ham fisted, myself.

Mmm, ham.

Greg, to continue the “cool story” theme. Did you know that Borders Australia was selling single issues for $14 Aussie! (here in Melbourne)

And they wonder why they went broke??

Oz, while I didn’t grow up in the Mallee, I was born in Mildura and we visited there a lot. Archie comics were what got me through those trips. ;)

Feeling a sense of nostalgia upon reflecting that issue. And after re-reading House of M and Wolverine Origins, this makes sense.

Kris: Hey, you wrote about a comic shop in Perth! :)

Oz: Yay, Australian prices!

Jax: Dang, that’s ridiculous.

Caanan: I went to Ballarat with my parents when they visited me – we saw the Eureka Stockade, naturally. I may have gotten it there. The girl I was dating in Australia lived up near Yarrawonga/Shepparton, so it may have been there where I bought it, too.

I can’t remember the name of the store I used to go to in Melbourne, but it may have been Minotaur, if it was around in 1992. It was a pretty cool store, whatever it was.

Ah, Hama and Silvestri… Good times. Dammit, I’m old… :(

Travis Pelkie: that was really funny, instructive, and didn’t put down either previous commenter.

You’ve just broke the Internet! :-)

Caanan, funnily enough Ballarat and Mildura were the two places I visited most growing up as I had grandparents in each and lived halfway between, near Swan Hill.

IIRC this is the issue he goes back to the older yellow & blue costume.

This makes me sad. I much prefer the Byrne designed brown one.

No, Jim Lee was responsible for that. X-Men #4.

Aw, danjack, thanks!

I must respectfully disagree with your earlier statement, though. “Ol’ Canuckle-head” is awesome.

Ah, I’m from Melbourne too and I have a whole batch of comics with Aussie prices on them. At one point at my speculator peak I considered replacing them with the US dollar versions, but when you grow up you have bigger worries than what currency is on your comic books.

Anyway, this issue was solid, not an all time classic, but better than a mere gimmick.

I still have this comic and really enjoyed it back then, still do now.

Was it a gimmick? Yeah, a lot of things in the entertainment industry are.

Gimmick – a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business.

People really need to read up on their definitions before misusing the words these definitions belong to.

It was both a gimmick and it was good.

And people really need to read the first paragraph of the post before complaining about something that was clearly explained.

That I did too Greg!

I remember seeing comics in Borders in Perth for double or triple the price of those in the LCS. Whenever I was there, and I’d see someone looking at the comics in Borders, I’d kindly tap them on the shoulder and tell them where they could get them much cheaper. Sorry Borders!

@ Iron Maiden
I think you mean FF #258.

Is it an homage? Maybe; but apart from the tearing effect, I wouldn’t say they have much in common; for one thing, on that FF cover, it’s the cover itself being torn – the Wolverine one is tearing apart a classified file (a minor quibble, but it makes a difference in the tone of the cover. And means the FF would’ve been far better suited to this gimmick than the Wolverine!)
The things revealed are completely different, too – an old Stan / Jack cover in FF, a battle from inside the comic on Wolverine.
And on the FF, Doom’s hand is still there, tearing the cover; you don’t see Wolverine’s claws on the cover. (Well, you do, but only *through* the holes in the cover, not making them.)

Oops… The thing revealed behind the ‘ripped’ cover of FF #258 is page 1 of the story, not an old Stan / Jack cover.
My bad.

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