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Comic Book Legends Revealed #472

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Welcome to the four hundred and seventy-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and seventy-one. This week, in an all-X-Men edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed, learn whether Dave Cockrum actually invented Wolverine! Did the X-Men cartoon series inadvertently lead to the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey? And finally, did Thunderbird actually get his own X-Men series?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Dave Cockrum had a hand in the creation of Wolverine.

STATUS: False Enough for a False

Where the inspiration for certain ideas comes from is a very tricky subject at times. We’ve recently discussed here both a fan inventing a character named Wolverine a couple of years before Wolverine debuted in Incredible Hulk #181 and a fan suggesting a reboot of the Justice Society, complete with a story titled “The Justice League.” The latest in the line of proto-creations is Dave Cockrum’s Wolverine.

Dave Cockrum in the early 1970s was just filled to the brim with great character ideas. While he was working on the Legion of Super-Heroes for DC Comics, he had a number of ideas for new characters for the book and he also re-designed a bunch of characters.

Most famously, in 1972 Cockrum worked up a pitch for a new series set in the Legion of Super-Heroes timeline about a new team called the Outsiders and their enemies, the Strangers. When DC passed on the idea, Cockrum then took it to Marvel and then some of the characters were adapted into the All-New, All-Different X-Men two years later, as Cockrum worked on them with writer Len Wein.

Nightcrawler, as established in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed, came over pretty much whole cloth.

Storm was created via a combination of a few different characters, as established in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed.

That brings us to Wolverine.

Here’s the villain group Cockrum invented, the Strangers…

cockrum-villains

That fellow with the fangs? His name was Wolverine.

In an interview with Peter Sanderson for the X-Men Companion, Cockrum explained how he pitched Roy Thomas on the characters in 1973 to see if Marvel had any use of them (I presume DC had showed a lack of interest in them by this point)…

Sanderson: “How about Wolverine? Did you have anything to do with his creation?”

Cockrum: “No, but I resented his existence for a long time because I had come up with a Wolverine and shown it to Roy (Thomas, editor of the X-Men at that time) before this Wolverine. I had a series of characters I suggested could be X-Men… How should I put this? I did a montage piece of art with a lot of brand-new characters on it, none of whom was really identified as anything. One of them would up later being used as Tyr in the Legion of Super-Heroes, the guy with the gun on his hand. But anyhow, two of them were brother and sister. She was a vampire who, by one method or another, was going to try to keep it under control, possibly just bite people once and leave them alone, and not kill them off. He was a vulpine type: animalistic, bestial, feral, whom I called Wolverine.”

Sanderson: “Complete with claws?”

Cockrum: “No, he didn’t have claws. But he had fangs and he was a nasty son of a bitch. He had almost the same haircut that Wolverine has now. In the interim, somewhere along the line, Roy suggested to Len, ‘How about a Canadian mutant called Wolverine?’ I assumed Roy just forgot that I showed him my Wolverine. I was kind of miffed about the whole thing, but it seemed kind of pointless to carry it on. I never did like Wolverine for a long time…”

So this story has always been a bit odd to me, as I often see stuff like “Dave Cockrum played a role in the creation of Wolverine” or “Marvel took Cockrum’s Wolverine idea” or whatever, while Cockrum flat out says in the quote in response to the question “Did you have anything to do with his creation?” “No.”

As Cockrum notes, the only thing that ties the characters together besides the name was their faces, which are sort of similar. But that, of course, is a result of Cockrum himself giving the Wolverine character, who debuted wearing a mask…

wolverinedebut

a face of Cockrum’s own design in X-Men #98…

wolverineface

As for the name, Roy Thomas has always been clear about how the name came about. He wanted to introduce a Canadian character, and as he noted to my pal Clifford Meth, “[W]hen I decided we should have a Canadian character and even that it would be named after a fierce Northern animal, I know I was conflicted between ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Badger’–finally decided Badger had the connotation of mere heckling or nagging, while Wolverine virtually had the word wolf in it.”

So just like I think it is a coincidence between the fan having his own Wolverine and Thomas and Wein having their Wolverine, so, too, do I think that it was a coincidence between Cockrum having a character named Wolverine and Thomas and Wein later creating a completely unrelated character also named Wolverine.

As Thomas pointed out in the full text of the above quote:

I have no doubt that Dave [Cockrum] and Mike Friedrich [Friedrich was talking about Cockrum showing the Wolverine character around, leading to Meth contacting Thomas about the story – BC] were telling the truth about his having a Wolverine character,” said Roy, “though I have no conscious knowledge of seeing it. It can’t have had too much of an influence on me, because when I decided we should have a Canadian character and even that it would be named after a fierce Northern animal, I know I was conflicted between ‘Wolverine’ and ‘Badger’–finally decided Badger had the connotation of mere heckling or nagging, while Wolverine virtually had the word wolf in it.

Cockrum also likely used his Wolverine design on his Timber Wolf analogue, Fang, in the Imperial Guard when they were introduced in X-Men #107…

fang

Thanks to Peter Sanderson, the late Dave Cockrum, Clifford Meth and Roy Thomas for the quotes!
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Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was Godzilla originally designed to be a giant OCTOPUS?!
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On the next page, how did the X-Men Animated Series lead to Cyclops and Jean Grey getting married in the comics?

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54 Comments

Just to nitpick something in the first one…while a lot (a LOT) of Legionnaires had Boy and Girl names, the one Fang aligned with was Timber Wolf

I’ve said it before, but early Wolverine’s widow’s peak…wow.

Timber Wolf. Although Timber Boy made me laugh.

Just to nitpick something in the first one…while a lot (a LOT) of Legionnaires had Boy and Girl names, the one Fang aligned with was Timber Wolf

Ha! I can’t believe that I seriously wrote Timber Boy. That’s hilarious. Silly brain gremlins! Fixed now.

Timber Boy was a separate character who could turn into a piece of wood and he could control all wood products and he could create forcefields out of wood.

He dated Sonic Girl for a while before he was killed in the Future Crisis cross-over. (That’s the consensus. No one is 100% sure what happened because Jeph Loeb wrote it.)

Yeah, I’m pretty sure Wolverine wouldn’t be the star of six movies if he was called Badger.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure Wolverine wouldn’t be the star of six movies if he was called Badger.

He would’ve only had a supporting role on a critically acclaimed cable show.

I always liked the Psylocke subplot. They kinda just dropped that though.

Well, again, the guys behind it left the book, ya know?

I recall Jean confronting Psylocke about it, but I don’t recall how it ended. I think that was the same issue Revanche showed up, too.

Damn, that cel from the X-Men cartoon is sooooooooooooooooooo ugly.

But the cartoon was great.

I recall Jean confronting Psylocke about it, but I don’t recall how it ended. I think that was the same issue Revanche showed up, too.

I just updated the piece with some thoughts about the resolution of the Psylocke/Cyclops thing.

Jean confronted Psylocke, but Revanche showed up and interrupted the confrontation. I think the idea was that Psylocke’s seduction was somehow the result of Kwannon’s corrupting influence. Once Kwannon was wiped out, or whatever, Psylocke became less culpable. But the story was pretty confused; I never really sorted out who was who.

Of course, the story was repeated and improved by Grant Morrison with the White Queen.

Captain Haddock

May 23, 2014 at 10:39 am

Am I the only one who thinks Cockrum’s Wolverine face looks like Jack Nicholson?

Jeff Nettleton

May 23, 2014 at 10:41 am

Well, the stories were great but the animation was sooooooo stiff. Part of it was that they shot themselves in the foot by trying to make the characters so buff and detailed. BTAS showed the way to go, as the figures were simpler and more fluid, so the animation was so much smoother. Also, I was never a big fan of a lot of the voicework. Gambit sounded pretty laughable and Rogue was the worst caricature of a southern accent I ever heard. I got used to it after a while, but was never completely satisfied. However, they did a great job (usually) in adapting the stories. I was on the fence with the series, at first, until they started adapting the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix stuff. Then, I was hooked.

While I’m in cranky old man griping mode, what body is proportioned like Psylocke in that reveal panel? Even Barbie has better dimensions that that! Never quite got the appeal of much of the Image crowd; though, to be fair, I was weaned on Neal Adams and John Buscema and the guys of the Bronze Age. Lee has improved, though I still think he needs to clean up his figures, and stop trying to give texture that way. Use the colorist more for that. Lee, at least, grew as a storyteller, though I still think his work lacks subtlety. Then again, a lot of that has to do with the script/plot, so it’s not all on his shoulders.

While we (the royal we, in this case) are bashing Image, it is interesting to compare Cockrum’s multiple character designs to, say, Rob Liefeld. Cockrum had tons of characters and designs/redesigns, but you can see the potential in many, based on his ability to convey some kind of personality. Not always, as many start looking kind of cookie cutter, but more often than not he hooks you with the image and you can see the underlying personality. Liefeld had tons of designs, but they were so generic and cold. He used so many stock poses (and character types) that they could be anyone. It helps that Cockrum had a firm grasp (ok, a bit stylized) grasp of the human anatomy, whereas Liefeld had so many weaknesses he had to disguise areas he couldn’t draw well (hidden feet, hand holding objects so fingers are barely visible, pouches and gear helping to hide wonky proportions, noses disappearing, etc…). Don’t get me wrong, Liefeld found an audience and made a ton of money (though if there hadn’t been a speculator boom going on, I think his bank account would have been more modest).

The female Stranger holding the whip (not sure what her name was) looks like she was later used as one of the Shiar Imperial Guard, with red skin and bald on top (though not sure what her name was either — maybe Hussar?). And her eye makeup obviously looks like Shiar eyes. The strangers’ Lizard Guy and Gun Hand Guy look to me a bit like the Starjammers’ Ch’od and Raza.

I consider myself a serious fan, and so I avoid dubbing whenever possible. I always watch foreign stuff with subtitles (and American stuff is foreign to me). The original voices and sound is almost always superior. However, I make an exception when it comes to certain cartoons. The Portuguese dubbing of X-Men Animated was actually pretty good. You could see they took it seriously, not under-emoting or over-emoting. I was seriously disappointed when I tried to watch it with the original sound.

And I know this is blasphemy to many, with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil and the rest being so beloved, but I also prefer the Portuguese dubbing of BTAS. But in that case nostalgia may play a factor.

That Thunderbird mini has nice art, but it was written by Lobdell? Looks just like a Lobdell X-Men story to me, probably with 3 pages of action versus 20 pages of conversation and philosophing around the X-Mansion. I think we all dodged a bullet.

Gaetano marchiol

May 23, 2014 at 11:55 am

Congrats Brian! Been following you for a solid six! These columns are absolute labors of love and one of the highlights of my week!

Thanks, Gaetano! I think I’m probably off by a week or two for nine years (I think it was the first week of June) so I probably shouldn’t be “celebrating” as of yet. Still, I appreciate the loyalty!

Scott Summers and Jean Grey are like Real World cast members aren’t they? They are in a committed relationship, but there is not a place in the X-Mansion where one of them hasn’t made out with someone else.

I just love how Jim Lee drew the X-ladies. Anyway, I remember in Jim Lee’s X-men 4, Psylocke already showed signs of flirtations to Cyke when she boarded the plane in two-piece attire (she’s taking a pool then when Cyke called his team to rescue Logan and others).

I’ve been reading this column since the beginning, and I’m glad to see it still going.

Is it just me or is Wolverine noticeably absent from the Jean and Scott Marriage cover?

@Zane: Wolverine was absent from the wedding too. Or rather, he was lurking off panel. He had just had his adamantium removed, and he was taking a leave of absence while he recovered. He sent a card.

@Zane and @Nu-D: These days, he’d be on the cover even if he wasn’t in the actual book. Or he’d inexplicably be at the wedding, regardless of anything going on with him in another title that would prevent his attendance.

I just find it amusing that Psylocke’s swimsuit seems to have Pikachu on it…

@yu go re: according to wikipedia, Picachu made his debut in 1996, five years after that swimsuit saw print.

The problem wasn’t so much the flirtations ending abruptly as that Nicieza hinted at an ulterior motive for the flirtations that was never clearly explained.

nice. jim lee created pikachu. this is why i read, to learn.

Wow, nine years! I haven’t been reading this column from the beginning, but pretty close, as the entries were in the 30s when I first came across it. Crazy how time flies. I always look forward to getting a new installment every Friday; at some point in the afternoon, when I need to take a break from whatever project I’m working on, it’s good to know I can head over here and check out a new set of legends.

That wedding issue of X-Men is significant in my comic reading history, as it was the last X-Men comic I bought for many years. Knowing now what all came afterward, I count myself lucky that I got out when I did.

So, I noticed something in the panel of Jean talking about Xavier while Scott watches Psylocke. Beast and Jubilee are standing in the background. Check out Jubilee’s pose. That is such a ’90s pose. Who stands like that? Ever? The only people who ever stand like that are in ’90s comics, where people just stood around like that all the time.

@Tiamatty; ironically, your point about 90’s poses is good, but doesn’t apply to that panel. If you look closely, Jubilee has a hula-hoop around her waist. She’s hula-hooping (is that a verb?), which explains her funny position.

To really drive the Fang/Timber Wolf/Wolverine point home, Wolverine temporarily used Fang’s costume when his yellow/blue costume got damaged in a fight with Fang, but Logan quickly dropped it for the orange/brown one that he wore for the duration of the 80s.

That’s weird, Drunken Fist. That was the last X-Men comic I bought for years as well. I guess it was a perfect jumping off point haha

ParanoidObsessive

May 24, 2014 at 12:20 am

These days, he’d be on the cover even if he wasn’t in the actual book. Or he’d inexplicably be at the wedding, regardless of anything going on with him in another title that would prevent his attendance.

Nah, these days they wouldn’t have the wedding in the first place, because it would totally mess with the implied love triangle between Scott, Jean, and Logan that the movies helped hammer into the general audience’s awareness.

I mean, it’s been an on-again, off-again thing in the comics almost from the beginning (Logan flirting with her before she turned into Phoenix and Scott getting crazy jealous, Logan flipping out after smelling her scent in the Morlock tunnels before the X-Men realized she was alive again, the Age of Apocalypse story having the two of them be a couple instead of Scott/Jean, etc), but the movies definitely gave it new life. And probably more so than ever before.

Sooo, where can I find more pages of this unpublished Thunderbird mini?
The link you posted has only 3 pages :(

All we really have is what Lopresti decided to post.

Any excuse to post those Psylocke pages, eh?

Glad you mention Lois and Clark, as I was just thinking about how that is the opposite of that situation

I will admit that there’s a certain nostalgia factor to seeing those pages and remembering how teen me reacted to them. ;)

Christ that 90’s X-art is terrible. Poor Psylocke!

Me and Larry would love to see a Badger movie.

Too bad Marvel never published that Thunderbird miniseries. At least Thunderbird got a very prominent role in the X-Men: Chaos War miniseries. But maybe one of these days that Lobdell & Lopresti story will eventually see print. You never know. After all, Marvel had a couple of inventory stories penciled by Dave Cockrum sitting around unpublished for almost two decades until they were finally published in the X-Men: Odd Men Out special in 2008.

Speaking of Cockrum, as I’ve probably said before, I love his work. Not only was he an amazing artist, he was also a fantastic character designer. He was almost like a Bronze Age incarnation of Jack Kirby, coming up with all sorts of cool new characters, as well as revamping & redesigning a number of older ones. Yeah, yeah, I know, no one else in comic books has ever devised anywhere near as many concepts as Kirby did, but Cockrum was still pretty darn creative.

I did a blog post about Cockrum several months ago, on what would have been his 70th birthday…

http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/remembering-dave-cockrum/

Wow, a Thunderbird miniseries. I’d say that would be like doing a Swordsman miniseries, but actually Swordsman was around much, much longer than Thunderbird.

I dunno; if Cockrum designed Wolverine’s face, one of the most iconic faces in comics, then I’d say he had a pretty big hand in the creation of the character.

Timothy Markin

May 25, 2014 at 6:06 am

So if Roy Thomas had chosen the Badger name over Wolverine, would Mike Baron have then created Wolverine?

Was T-Hawk from Street Fighter II a ripoff of Thunderbird from X-Men?

But the cartoon was great.

For real? The writing and animation in that cartoon were atrocious.

Hey Brian, the third legend isn’t loading properly and I’d love to see that Art Adams cover!

Why has nobody mentioned FOOM? A good case can be made that a fan invented Wolverine in 1973.
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/12/22/foom-2-the-first-appearance-of-wolverine-in-1973/

Perhaps because it was mentioned right at the start of the piece?

Where the inspiration for certain ideas comes from is a very tricky subject at times. We’ve recently discussed here both a fan inventing a character named Wolverine a couple of years before Wolverine debuted in Incredible Hulk #181

Found this a bit before #100. Love it. Keep up the good work.

“Me and Larry would love to see a Badger movie.”

I totally agree with Larry about it!

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