Wolverine is the most popular of the X-Men. Joining the team in 1975’s relaunch Giant-Size X-Men #1, he gradually eclipsed his teammates in popularity. By the 1980s, Wolverine was an institution, receiving a solo series and membership of every X-Men spin-off team.
With how many Wolverine-focused stories there have been over the years, it’s no surprise that there have been some retcons, especially since the character’s past was murky to begin with. Fan have reacted warmly to some of these retcons, coldly to others.
10 Loved: Claws, Not Gloves
When Wolverine debuted in Incredible Hulk #180, Len Wein intended the character’s iconic adamantium claws to simply be a part of his costume. The claws were affixed to his gloves, rather than retractable into his knuckles. When Wolverine joined the X-Men, Chris Claremont and David Cockrum instead revealed the gloves to be part of Wolverine’s body, reasoning that anyone could assume the role of Wolverine by wearing the gloves, which in turn robbed the character of his uniqueness. Most fans agree that Claremont and Cockrum’s change was for the better, especially since it raised an obvious question which increased Wolverine’s mystique; since the claws were clearly artificial, how did he get them?
9 Hated: Bone Claws
Wolverine’s claws were long assumed by writers and fans alike to be pure Adamantium constructs. When Magneto pulled the Adamantium from Wolverine’s skeleton in the 1993 storyline Fatal Attractions, however, Marvel didn’t wish to deprive Wolverine of his defining trait. It was thus retconned that Wolverine’s claws were in fact part of his mutation and made of bone, only being coated in Adamantium. The concept of the bone claws was a bit too silly for many, and others felt it took away from the horror of Wolverine’s experiences with Weapon X.
8 Loved: Healing Factor
Aside from the claws, Wolverine’s other most defining trait is his rapid healing, enabling him to survive most any injury, though not freeing him from the pain they cause. Yet, despite this being an iconic trait of the character, it was not originally intended by Len Wein when Wolverine debuted.
The healing factor was also devised by Claremont and Cockrum, who reasoned that, since Wolverine’s claws were artificial, he must have another, innate power which made him a mutant. The two abilities were cleverly tied together, with Wolverine’s healing factor being the very reason he can survive having the claws implanted inside his arms.
7 Hated: Sabretooth Isn’t Related To Logan
Wolverine’s greatest enemy is Sabretooth, aka Victor Creed, a mutant with similarly enhanced senses and healing, but one who embraces his animalistic nature instead of suppressing it as Wolverine does. The origin of the two’s feud is murky; Chris Claremont had intended Creed to be Logan’s father, but in the Larry Hama-penned Wolverine #41, a DNA test conducted by S.H.I.E.L.D. confirmed this wasn’t the case. The 2002 Origin mini-series introduced Wolverine’s half-brother Dog Logan, a character many fans assumed to be the future Sabretooth. The theory was so widespread that X-Men Origins: Wolverine incorporated it. However, this was eventually proven to not be the case either. The origins of the rivalry are as mysterious as ever, while fans are miffed that these explanations, which would’ve clarified much about both characters, were passed over.
6 Loved: Memory Implants
Wolverine’s past was always mysterious, but it eventually turned out that there was a deeper reason for this than just him being secretive; Logan couldn’t recall many details of his life for himself. In 1991, Larry Hama revealed that during his captivity by Weapon X, Logan’s memories was erased while new, false ones were crafted for him wholesale. Fans responded well to this revelation and its become an integral part of the character, for it deepens not only Wolverine’s mysteriousness but also his tragedy.
5 Hated: Romulus
During Jeph Loeb‘s run on Wolverine, he killed Sabretooth and introduced a new villain to replace him as Logan’s nemesis: Romulus. The villain bore essentially the same powers as Wolverine, right down to the adamantium-laced skeleton and claws, Romulus claimed to be the one who backed Weapon X and orchestrated much of tragedies Wolverine faced throughout his long life. Fans reacted negatively to the character, both in concept and execution, particularly the attempts to position him as integral to Logan’s backstory over more established characters, and thus, Romulus has been ignored since Loeb ended his run.
4 Loved: An Immortal
Wolverine’s healing factor has gradually increased in its intensity since the concept’s introduction until it was revealed that the ability slowed Logan’s aging. Despite appearing to only be in his late thirties, Claremont established Logan as a WW2 veteran, and as Uncanny X-Men #268, he’d even encountered Captain America in Japan during the war. Paul Jenkins’ Origin mini-series took this a step further, establishing Wolverine to have been born in 1886, putting him just under a century-old when he debuted. Fans have reacted positively for this idea, for it increases the character’s innate sadness. He’s outlived everyone he’s ever known or loved.
3 Hated: Lupines
Yet another reason that Romulus and his associated storylines were scorned by fans. Romulus revealed (or at least claimed) that he and Logan, along with other, similarly animalistic mutants such as Sabretooth and Logan’s long-lost son Daken, were in fact not human mutants at all. Instead, they were something different altogether, “Lupines,” or a human-like species which evolved from canines instead of primates. While it attempted to explain the common power-sets between Wolverine and his many fans, the change was viewed as both too drastic and too goofy, and it has been essentially forgotten since.
2 Loved: “Origin”
With so much of Wolverine’s appeal coming from the mystery surrounding him and where he came from, its most surprising that, when the definitive account of his origin was given, it was mostly welcomed. Published in 2002, the mini-series revealed that Logan was born in the 19th century as James Howlett, the seeming son of a wealthy plantation owner John Howlett.
His powers manifest the night the groundskeeper (and Wolverine’s birth father) Thomas Logan killed John. James was exiled alongside his friend Rose O’Hara (a red-head, perhaps explaining Logan’s later crush on Jean Grey). The tale was well received, with most believing the origin provided stayed true to the tragic spirit of Wolverine’s character; it was even semi-adapted into (the less well-regarded) X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
1 Hated: A Real Wolverine
Before the pen was put to paper in Origin, the various writers of Wolverine kicked around many origins for many a fan’s favorite mutant. One of the more bonkers ideas was proposed by Wolverine’s own creator, Len Wein, who considered revealing that Wolverine had once been an actual Wolverine genetically engineered into human form by the High Evolutionary. This would explain Logan’s animalistic nature and his seeming lack of a past, but the idea was shot down by Marvel editorial before it could be properly revealed. Considering how fans look back at the idea with ridicule these days, it’s safe to say those editors made the right call.
Wolverine is a character with a long and sometimes muddled history. Some of the changes made over the years were great but others were hated.