Over at the blog Comics Should Be Good, Greg Hatcher delves into the murky but warm waters of X-Men continuity by sharing a series of letters between himself and student, Rachel. She recently became a fan of the X-Men comics, and Greg spent the “last week or so” answering her questions about Marvel’s merry mutants. Including the merriest, Wolverine:
…the Wolverine of the comics really was disliked by many people at the beginning. He started out as a Hulk villain.
And later when he was drafted for the new X-Men he was primarily the guy that nobody cared for, the agent of discord on the team. Marvel used to get letters saying “And kill off that obnoxious Wolverine.” The star character in the revival was Nightcrawler because Dave Cockrum really liked drawing him. And in fact there was a point when the Wolverine character was getting so much hate mail that they were thinking of dropping him from the book.
When John Byrne took over the art from Cockrum, one of the things he wanted to do as co-plotter of the book was ‘rehabilitate’ Wolverine… that is, make the fans like him more. Part of it was that Byrne was Canadian himself and didn’t want the only Canadian superhero at Marvel to go away, and part of it was that Byrne thought it would be a fun challenge, taking a hero so despised and seeing if he couldn’t get the fans to come around. So Byrne began, very subtly, to slant stories toward Wolverine. (In those days, Marvel’s artists had a lot more control over a story, because the art was done from a brief outline rather than a script. Then the writer would come in and write captions and dialogue based on the penciled art.)
It’s an interesting read for anyone who wasn’t around when Claremont was tearing it up on the title, or for anyone who fondly remembers spending the car ride between Dallas and Austin explaining to his two best friends what happened between Uncanny X-Men #94 and #275, just so they’d be up to speed. They probably preferred it to me making them listen to Appetite for Destruction over and over again.