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Abandoned Love: So Is Sabretooth Wolverine’s Dad or What?

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Every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without explaining that the previous story was retconned away. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Inspired by a few commenters (namely Laurence S. and Gokitalo) who noted some lines of dialogue alluding to this storyline during my spotlight on the bizarrely awesome Elsie Dee, I figured I’d feature this unique edition of Abandoned Love, in the sense that technically, the same writer who abandons the plot is the same writer who INTRODUCED the plot, but in this instance, the introduction of the plot was in response to a longstanding belief among fans (and, at one point in time, the intention of Sabretooth’s creators, Chris Claremont and John Byrne) that Sabretooth was Wolverine’s father,,,

Chris Claremont and John Byrne introduced Sabretooth in the pages of Iron Fist, but even back then, Claremont and Byrne were thinking that this new character was tied to the character Claremont was then writing in the pages of X-Men (and who Byrne would soon be drawing on a regular basis), Wolverine. In fact, as noted in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed, Byrne gave Sabretooth the face that he initially had come up with for Wolverine when Wolverine had not yet been shown without his mask (in between Byrne sending to Claremont his idea for what Wolverine looked like, Dave Cockrum ended up revealing Wolverine’s actual face in an issue of X-Men).

A few years later, when both men were plotting X-Men together (as related in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed), they actually came up with a plotline where Sabretooth is revealed as Wolverine’s dad. The idea of the story is that Wolverine has been tortured by Sabretooth his whole life, and Sabretooth always got the upper hand. However, after killing Wolverine’s girlfriend, Mariko, this drives Wolverine basically nuts, and he is able to successfully defeat (and kill) his father. Byrne left Uncanny X-Men before the storyline could come about, and Claremont went in a different direction with new artist/co-plotter, Dave Cockrum.

In the Wolverine mini-series, though, that Claremont did with Frank Miller in 1982, roughly a year after when he and Byrne were planning on revealing Sabretooth as Wolverine’s father, Claremont has Wolverine note that he DOES know who his father is, something we never knew until that point and a bit that no one would ever actually explicitly return to…

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However, Claremont then used the baaaaaasic plot that he and Byrne had come up with for Uncanny X-Men for a memorable issue of Wolverine’s ongoing series, Claremont’s last issue as the writer on the series, Wolverine #10 (with artists John Buscema and Bill Sienkiewicz), where we discover that Sabretooth tortures Wolverine ever year on Wolverine’s birthday. The story is intercut between Wolverine working on a case in the present day and the story of the day in the past when Sabretooth killed Wolverine’s girlfriend just to mess with him…

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We see that Sabretooth is clearly trying to teach Wolerine SOME sort of twisted lesson…

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And it comes to a head later in the issue in the flashback….

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Wolverine ends up sort of defeating Sabretooth for the first time by, in effect, trying to kill both of them by jumping off of the mountain with Sabretooth in tow. This obviously led to a change in their relatonship, as Wolverine finally showed him something.

However, in the present day, we see that Sabretooth is still keeping an eye out on Wolverine…

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This take on Sabretooth didn’t necessarily work well with the character as then-presented in stories like Mutant Massacre, which is why Claremont also intended (as established in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed) to reveal that Wolverine #10 was the first appearance of the REAL Sabretooth, and all those other Sabretooth appearances were by inferior clone versions of Sabretooth created by Mister Sinister, which is how Wolverine was able to defeat Sabretooth so easily in Mutant Massacre and Inferno (and why Black Cat was able to defeat Sabretooth and why Rogue got her ass kicked by him…okay, that last part doesn’t make sense no matter what).

However, that take on Sabretooth also seems to pretty clearly indicate SOME special relationship between the two, right? Claremont certainly seemed to be on the way towards establishing that Sabretooth was, indeed, Wolverine’s father (particularly whan coupled with the bit he wrote in the Wolverine mini-series about Wolverine knowing his father). Claremont, though, around the beginning of the 1990s, stopped being the driving force behind the character of Wolverine (or any X-Men character, really), as X-Office Editor Bob Harras began to take on that role a bit more.

Thus, we got Wolverine #41-42. Go to the next page to see how it all went down…

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39 Comments

I remember as a reader throughout the 80s and 90s getting all those tiny snippets of information about Logan and his mysterious past with his parentage and the Weapon X stuff and scrutinizing every little detail until they all started contradicting each other and eventually I didn’t give a crap anymore.

I wish Claremont had been allowed to continue to write and lead the X-books.

Sabretooth as Wolverine’s father makes sense (he even calls him ‘Boy” – Claremont I notice now reading back issues always sprinkled little clues to mysteries in his characters dialogue). Another clue that seems obvious now – Sabretooth attacks Wolverine on his birthday – how would he know when his birthday is? Especially someone as long lived as Wolverine…he knew because he was there…!

There was also a great Classic Xmen back up story by Claremont and Bolton that had Sabretooth stalking Wolverine on his birthday.

They did eventually give wolverine a canonical origin, right? So we do know who his father is? I’d lost interest in Logan’s history due to the endless amount of mindwipes and revisions to it.

Did they ever explain why Sabertooth thought he was Logan’s dad?

They explained that he thought he was Logan’s dad because he had his memories altered by the Weapon X program.

I know this is an alternate reality but I seem to remember Claremont using the real Sabretooth is Logan’s father in his X-Men Forever series.

@Fraser

Yeah, Wolvie’s true parentage came to light in the Origin mini-series. We learned his real name was James Howlett. And, while it wasn’t, explicitly, stated, it was heavily implied that Wolvie’s mother, Elizabeth Howlett, had an affair with the Howlett’s groundskeeper, Thomas Logan, who happens to look just like the adult Wolverine. You do the math.

Jason Aaron, also, touched on this during his run on WOLVERINE. Wolvie met up with his dad when he went to Hell.

In the Spider-Man comic strip, they said that Wolverine and Sabertooth were brothers. I think the comic strip is it’s own continuity separate from the comic books, though, as they briefly undid the Peter and MJ marriage to match the comics (but with no in-story explanation of the change this time), but quickly undid this change after people complained.

Tony Centofanti

January 16, 2016 at 9:41 am

Brian,

I’m pretty sure Claremont said the Sabertooth from Iron Fist 14 was going to be the real deal, too.

“Another clue that seems obvious now – Sabretooth attacks Wolverine on his birthday – how would he know when his birthday is? Especially someone as long lived as Wolverine…he knew because he was there…!”

No way!
The esteemed Kieron Gillen explained this in 2013 with ORIGINS II.
IT WAS BRILLIANT!

Logan had killed Saul Creed who was the baby brother of Victor Creed aka SABRETOOTH!
On every birthday of Saul Creed, Victor gave him a beating.
On every birthdayof saul Creed, Victor’s ‘birthday present’ for Saul was always a beating.
When Victor learned from his baby sister Clara Creed that Saul was dead and that Logan killed him, he tracked Logan down.
When he found him he gave Logan a beating and informed him that today was his birthday.
Logan has believed from that day onward that that particular day was indeed his birthday since Victor always found him on that day, no matter what Logan was doing or wherever he was, every year.
Logan NEVER realized that Victor ‘gave’ him Saul Creed’s birthday and with it he gave Logan every year the same ‘birthday present’ that he gave Saul Creed when Saul was alive.

So to conclude, Sabretooth does not know, nor did he ever, Logan’s TRUE birthday.
Sabretooth simply gave Logan his baby brother Saul Creed’s birthday to him.

Kieron Gillen wrote a truly BRILLIANT explanation in ORIGIN II in 2013.

Origin two never showed Victor beating up Logan they only heavily implied he would.

if i remember right after they did away with wolverine having sabertooth as a father idea. that in wolverine origins it was revealed that sabertooth and wolverine are now brothers sabertooth also going by the real name dawg the son of wolverines family grounds keeper. for other wise keeping the wolverine has sabertooh for a father means in some way he is related to nightcrawler and rogue too since sabertooh shares a kid with mystique aka craydon creed night crawler and rogues half brother.

plus one could do a whole abandoned stories column on just clarmonts xmen stories alone.

@rollo tomasi: Spot on. We came up with explanation after explanation to contain every new info on Logan, such as him never realizing he had claws for about a hundred years – and really lost heart when Marvel’s official line usually came out as “We can’t be bothered by that.”

I never noticed that bit from the 1982 series. Back when Logan knew himself and didn’t reveal things, instead of the crazy mess we got later between him not knowing things and turning around to find out something that ends up a lie anyway

Fun piece, as usual.

So is the Claremont/Miller Wolverine series the first time the first-person narration was done in comics? (As opposed to thought balloons, which it eventually seems to have replaced, thus moving comics closer to movies as the first-person narration is really similar to voice over.) I remember Tony Isabella’s Iron Fist using odd second-person narration, but don’t remember the use of that first-person narration before the Wolverine limited series.

It may have been the first time it was used in a mainstream American comic book, but European comics and American underground comix had done it before. For example, Art Spiegelman’s “Prisoner on the Hell Planet”, a 1970s underground comic that was included in [i]Maus[/i], has first person narration.

Your comments on the trustworthy nature of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents made me wonder if it couldn’t be retconned that this was part of the Weapon X information coverup. Nick Fury was part of the coverup a few issues later, or at least he knew their location.

Its great seeing Buscema’s Wolverine on one page, and Silvestri’s on the next. I forgot how similar 80s Buscema and early 90s Silvestri were, especially on the same title.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Golden Age comic book stories with first person narration. And I’m sure some of those pre-Fantastic Four Marvel monster stories used it.

From what I remember of comics since 1985 or so, I kinda doubt Claremont had much of a plan for Sabretooth and Wolverine. His writing was meandering quite a bit since at least the Fall of the Mutants.

People tend to be a bit generous on what they remember of that time. There is a reason why he lost control over the line.

@Kimota- I thought that was horrible. There was no need for an explanation. Wolverine’s not that old- he was born in the late 1880s. Sabretooth could have easily researched when Wolverine was born.

The narration in the Wolverine limited series raises a question about superheroes fans have always wondered about- Wolverine says he gave his deposition for the criminal. Does that mean he would have to show up for the trial?

This is a good example of why you shouldn’t let subplots drag on for too long.

@SPS: indeed, Claremont did decide to make Sabretooth officially Wolverine’s dad in his two X-Men Forever series, and even used his idea to reveal that all Sabretooths save the one from Wolverine #10 were clones of the original. it’s not outright mentioned in X-Men Forever that the Sabretooth from Wolverine #10 was the original article, but it’s implied: one of the cast (I forget who) references the fact that Sabes likes to rough Logan up on his birthday. Claremont revisited quite a few lingering plots he had from his original run on that series.

Thanks for using my suggestion, Brian!

Just gonna say, once you introduce clones to try and explain away earlier iterations of a character, you’re officially trying too hard.

Whoever read wolverine #10 and could in anyway consider wolverine winning in any possible way is just delusional. He get annihilated by creed in the flashback and saved by him in the present. Aye aye aye

Its great seeing Buscema’s Wolverine on one page, and Silvestri’s on the next. I forgot how similar 80s Buscema and early 90s Silvestri were, especially on the same title.

It’s really striking, right?

As a young fan, I never bought the idea that Sabretooth could be Wolverine’s father for the simple reason that Sabretooth was always drawn to look younger or close to the same age as Wolverine. Plus, Sabretooth was never given the same past life attention to detail that Logan got. There were plenty of stories featuring Wolverine in the 1940’s, for example, but not a one of Sabretooth.

Also, I long considered Wolverine’s scream of “NoOoOoOoO!” upon hearing the news to be the hokiest use of a “No!” in all of fanboydom…until Episode III Darth Vader took it’s title.

First person narration has been used in mainstream comics long before the Wolverine mini. For instance, in the Enemy Ace comic, that predates even Shang Chi.

What I find weird is how much second-person narration there was in 1970s Marvel comics. Both Iron Fist and Man-Thing had a lot of stories narrated like, “your fist becomes like into a thing of iron” or “you sense only fear, and whatever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing!”

@Al Lobama,

Sorry to disagree, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Luke’s “no” near the end of ESB is the indisputably hokiest “no” in the history of pop culture. It can never be dethroned.

Butler –

I think second-person narration was very clever with Man-Thing. Somehow it got across that he was a very passive, reactive character, trapped in his own body.

DC’s “My Greatest Adventure” used first-person as might be expected from the title. So did a number of Strange Adventures/Mystery in Space stories.

Michael:
” Back when Logan knew himself and didn’t reveal things, instead of the crazy mess we got later between him not knowing things and turning around to find out something that ends up a lie anyway” I don’t think it’s ever been put better.

I’d love to know what was so classified about Creed that Fury couldn’t tell Wolverine why he thought he was his father. Other than plot convenience.

And Justin, the flashback was before Logan got his adamantium, and, at the time at least, before he had his claws. So it’s certainly possible that a bigger, stronger version of Logan is someone he couldn’t beat, but once he was enhanced with metal bones and claws there were superior, he was more of an equal for Sabertooth. They thought so much so that they later tried giving Sabertooth the metal too.

And in Origins wasn’t the groundskeeper son supposed to make people think he was Sabertooth, which the movie adopted, but the comics never really did, making Dog a separate character they brought back? Even in the modern day with Spider-Man and time travel, which the less said the better.

@Erich: Clones are still better than memory implants…

This was back in the day when Nick Fury was still a pretty stand-up guy, and honest with his friends and allies, so I tend to take Nick’s word. It wasn’t until later (not sure precisely when, but definitely most prominently around the time of the Ultimates Nick Fury) that he became a completely untrustworthy guy. Sigh.

Cthulhudrew: probably close to the time of The Secret War (singular} if you’re focussing on the 616 version. When I read Original Sin/s my reaction was there was no way I could reconcile that take of the character with the one from Nick Fury vs SHIELD, the guy who was prepared to defy the organization he loved the most to do the right thing.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

April 14, 2016 at 11:52 am

I could go either way on the father-son relationship. Yeah, it makes sense that they would be on a certain level, but I’m not generally crazy about those “I am your father’ moments. Seems a little cliche.

And I’m on the fence about the multitude of clones that would’ve introduced (leaning toward the negative). It made sense when Thanos did it because he’s a master strategist, and it would make sense that he’d have a buncha clones. Having Sabretooth clones running around doing all this stuff would just make it seem like Mr. Sinister can’t keep the damn gate shut. Seriously, what would be Sinister’s motivation for having a Sabreclone attack Spider-Man or Black Cat?

I prefer the idea of Sabretooth just hating Wolvie a whole bunch as the reason for screwing with him so much. As for Gillen’s Origin II explanation, it’s not bad. A little underdeveloped, but not bad. It is interesting in that it makes it seem like Sabretooth has to direct all that animosity/aggression somewhere, but, like I said, it’s underdeveloped.

If we want to talk BAD, we can bring up Neal Adams’s First X-Men, where it came down to Sabretooth’s girlfriend dying. Ugh. What a frakking awful series that was…

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