Thursday, January 22, 2015

'Wolverine: Origin' is a story Marvel should have left untold

The worst way to "ruin the mystique of a character" is to tell his origin.
This is "my" Wolverine!
(By artist John Buscema from the WOLVERINE
series, which lasted from 1998 until 2003)

Tom DeSanto, executive producer and co-writer of the first "X-Men" film, says so in his introduction to the WOLVERINE: ORIGIN hardcover collection. And I couldn't agree more.

DeSanto even argued with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesda that "Logan wouldn't be as big a hero if we knew his past" — and even admittedly "stooped" to telling Quesada "you should let the reader flesh out that mystery in their head."

I completely agree.

Who says every character has to have a detailed origin? Yet Marvel went ahead with telling Wolverine's origin a few years ago. And sure enough, Logan has never been as mysterious; I won't say all the intrigue has worn off my favorite X-Man, but his origin just doesn't match the badass that Wolverine is.

Readers and audiences don't have to know every detail of a character's past. In fact, I'd argue it's better not to know with some characters.

For superheroes such as Spider-Man and Batman, their tragic origins help us understand them better. Knowing the loss they went through makes it easier to understand why Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne act and interact the way do.
Is Darth Vader less menacing once you know his origin
from the disappointing "Star Wars" prequel trilogy?

In the case of Wolverine and Darth Vader, knowing all the information from their lame back stories kills a lot of the coolness of each character — at least what was cool about their once mysterious past. Let's face it: That's the case with Vader/Anakin Skywalker and Wolverine (whose birth name is James Howlett and later is given the name Logan).

I'll address Vader first.

How can any of us consider Skywalker's journey to the Dark Side of the Force cool, much less tragic, when you get down to it that he's a mama's boy with a poor attitude and anger management issues who is fooled into being Emperor Palpatine's menacing right-hand man?

Somehow knowing Skywalker was duped makes Darth Vader less threatening — so I simply don't watch the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy as much as I do the classic trio.

Wolverine's past isn't much cooler.

This is another of this blogger's favorite renditions
of Wolverine (by artist Frank Miller
in the 1982 limited series written by Chris Claremont).
I don't want to know this man's man grew up in a house of privelege as a frail boy with severe allergies. Can I imagine the adult Howlett is as much of a badass when as a young boy, he witnessed his father being murdered in cold blood?

Logan is a cool name with more than a bit of intrigue and toughness to it. But the Logan whom Howlett grew up knowing was his father's ranch-hand — a cruel man even when he wasn't drunk who looks for any reason to beat his son (who was the unfortunate name of Dog). And that same name murdered Howlett's father for no reason other than feeling disrespected by the elder Howlett.

So why in the name of all that makes sense would young Howlett and fashioned his hair after such a nasty man? And why did Howlett's tutor and friend Rose decide that's the name Howlett needs to adopt when they are in hiding after the murder? Why would the quiet Howlett agree to the new name — one that marks such excessive abuse and poor decisions?

The name Logan is nothing more than a burden and it's not as if Howlett ever said he could use the name as any sort of redemption. Keep in mind Logan is the first man Howlett kills in his first beserker rage, when he pops his bone claws for the first time. None of those circumstances are cool; it's insane.

Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine seven times since 2000. 
Quesada and Marvel must have decided they needed to tell "the greatest story never told." They undoubtedly felt pressure to tell Wolverine's origin story before "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was released in the theaters in 2009.

Despite all the ideas that were thrown around and tweaked (as seen in the correspondence included in the WOLVERINE: ORIGIN hardcover, the story fails to live up the greatness of the Wolverine character. Writer Len Wein created him and Chris Claremont cemented Wolverine's legacy of being a cool badass with a heart of gold in his X-MEN stories.

ORIGIN takes away from Wolverine's enigmatic personality. There's no mystique to this tragic tale — only poor decisions, almost as ill-advised as telling this story at all. Marvel — not to mention Wolverine and his fans — would have been better off if his origin remained "the greatest story Marvel never told." Grade: D

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