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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?
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…
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…
a face of Cockrum’s own design in X-Men #98…
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…
Thanks to Peter Sanderson, the late Dave Cockrum, Clifford Meth and Roy Thomas for the quotes!
Check out the latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was Godzilla originally designed to be a giant OCTOPUS?!
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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