Final Cut: Wolverine From Comics to Screen

Wed, May 13th, 2009 at 10:58am PDT | Updated: May 13th, 2009 at 1:10pm

TV/Film
Matt Adler, Contributing Writer
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"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" took inspiration from "Wolveirne: Origin"

X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is already a smash hit at the box office, with an $85 million opening weekend and sequels and spin-offs in the works. But the movie was not spun whole cloth from the imaginations of its writers and director. Like most films based on Marvel Comics properties, “Wolverine” looked to the original source material for inspiration and direction. CBR now takes a look back at the comic books that went into making this blockbuster.

The first scenes of the film are set in 19th century Canada, at the estate of John Howlett. A young and frail James Howlett is shown along with a young Victor Creed, as the two witness a confrontation between their fathers. In a fit of anguish, James discovers his bone claws and learns the elder Creed is his real father. This sequence is taken, with some minor changes, from Paul Jenkins and Andy Kubert’s 2001 book “Wolverine: Origin,” which revealed Wolverine’s roots for the very first time. Probably the most significant change from the comic to the film is that Victor Creed, a.k.a. Sabretooth, is explicitly stated as being Wolverine’s brother. In “Origin,” there are some tantalizing hints dropped which have been the subject of much fan speculation, but it has not been confirmed. Whether the comics’ storyline changes in the wake of the movie remains to be seen.

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” shows Wolverine and Sabretooth eventually joining up with a government-run mutant black-ops team and performing dirty deeds with them. These sequences were largely taken from Larry Hama and Mark Texeira’s detailing of Wolverine’s history with Team X in “Wolverine” #60-65. As in the film, Sabretooth, John Wraith (will.i.am), and Silver Fox (Lynn Collins) all figure prominently in this arc, which explores Wolverine’s twisted memories as a result of the Weapon X program. Towards the end of the arc, we are given a glimpse of Logan’s life with Silver Fox in a small cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness.

Probably the most iconic of Wolverine’s stories, Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Weapon X” saga, which originally appeared in “Marvel Comics Presents” #72-84, forms the basis for the film’s scenes where Wolverine is subjected to the adamantium bonding procedure. The most significant deviation from the source material in this area is that in the film, Wolverine undergoes the process willingly; in the comics, he is kidnapped and forced to become a test subject.

Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X" also informed the film, and Wolverine's time with Alpha Flight was briefly referenced

The kindly old couple who rescue a naked Wolverine after he flees the project are modeled on the much-younger James and Heather Hudson, better known in the comics as Guardian and Vindicator of Alpha Flight. Obviously, it would have cluttered the movie too much to get into Wolverine’s history with Alpha Flight, so the characters are reduced simply to kind strangers who are quickly (and brutally) shuffled off-stage in the film, but the initial set-up is still very similar to what was shown in “Alpha Flight” #33, by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, which explains how the Hudsons found Wolverine. One other noticeable difference is that when the Hudsons found Wolverine, he was out of his mind and completely feral from the tortures of the Weapon X project. Their assistance in the reclamation of Wolverine’s humanity plays a much bigger role in the books than it does in the film, where he is essentially coherent following his ordeal.

One of the break-out characters of the film, Deadpool, who is slated to receive his own spinoff movie, has a somewhat more peripheral connection to Wolverine in the comics. Deadpool underwent experimentation at the hands of a later incarnation of the Weapon X project, as detailed in the “Deadpool and Death 1998 Annual” by Joe Kelly and Steve Harris. While disfiguring him, these experiments also gave Wade Wilson his comically extreme healing abilities and drove him more than slightly insane. In the “Wolverine” film, Deadpool is brought back as “Weapon XI”, an amalgamation of various mutants’ powers. Grant Morrison was the first to suggest that Wolverine’s designation of “Weapon X” was actually the Roman numeral ten, and that there were later editions to improve upon him, as shown in Morrison and Chris Bachalo’s “Weapon Plus” arc from “New X-Men” #142-145.

Deadpool and Agent Zero also made it into the film

Finally, two members of Wolverine’s team with smaller roles in the film were also derived from the comics, though less directly: Agent Zero (played by Daniel Henney), the ruthless acrobatic sharpshooter; and Bradley (played by Dominic Monaghan), the mutant with electrical powers. In the comics, Agent Zero is originally known as the member of Team X called Maverick, and appears in the aforementioned Hama/Texeira arc. Maverick became a fairly popular character in his own right, and eventually went on to have a 12-issue series by Jorge Gonzales and Jim Cheung in which he partnered with a young mutant named Bolt, a.k.a. Chris Bradley. Maverick would become Agent Zero and cross paths again with Bradley during Frank Tieri and Georges Jeanty’s “Weapon X” series. Their final confrontation plays out across issues #20-21.

Which Wolverine comics might be next for the big screen treatment? In some theatrical releases, Wolverine is shown post-credits in a bar in Japan, and asked if he is “drinking to forget.” He replies that he is “drinking to remember.” Both the director and star of the film have stated that they would like the next film to be based on the classic Chris Claremont and Frank Miller “Wolverine” limited series from 1982, which features Wolverine in Japan. Still, only time, and the vagaries of Hollywood, will tell if these plans come to fruition.

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TAGS:  wolverine, x-men origins: wolverine, marvel comics, x-men

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