Wolverine In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Originally envisioned as an enemy to The Incredible Hulk in the 1970ís, Wolverine made his debut in the title as a villain to olí Jade Jaws but quickly found himself answering a plea for help from Professor Xavier after finding out that his X-Men were missing and needed rescuing. So, in Giant Sized X-Men #1, a slightly revamped Wolverine joined The X-Men and their popularity soared onto legendary levels a few short months afterwards as Chris Claremont took over the book and began a run that helped turn The X-Men from B stringers into the most popular superhero team in comics.

Due to their ever-increasing popularity, Marvel hoped The X-Men would become as popular on Saturday mornings as they were in comic stores and made a few attempts to get them on TV by having them as guest stars on Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends. Surprisingly, considering his popularity, Wolverine was not amongst those shown in their first animated appearance in the 80ís, as it was reserved strictly for the original members of the team, complete with Jack Kirby jumpsuits. Indeed, as Arsenal pointed out in The X-Men retrospective, even Toad was on the small screen before the most popular X-Man ever. It seems odd, but considering Loganís debut later on in the show in A Firestar Is born, it becomes clear as to why this was.

The episode in question sees Firestar and Iceman return to Xavierís Institute for a reunion and they met the new members, including Cyclops, Angel, Storm, Xavier and at long last, Wolverine. Wolverine dons the traditional yellow and blue costume and oddly enough, is apparently Australian. The episode is probably best known for completely and utterly embarrassing Wolverine, making the most bad ass X-Man ever into a complete jobber for Juggernaut. After fighting Juggy for all of 5 seconds, Wolverine gets his claws stuck in the wall and spends the rest of the episode watching Spider-Man defeat Juggernaut. For shameÖ

It appears that the 1980ís werenít quite sure what to do with Wolverine, as his claws were no doubt too violent for the intense standards of BS and P, who believed fighting, violence and fisticuffs had no place in action cartoons. You can check out Arsenal's humourous review of the episode over at our Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends site.

Back on topic, The X-Men later appeared in another backdoor pilot for their own show on Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, dubbed The X-Men Adventure. Wolverine wasnít present, but Thunderbird made the cut. No one was impressed after the episode aired.

Tired of pleading to networks how good an X-Men cartoon could be, Marvel decided to bite the bullet and produced a full pilot episode, which they funded themselves. Practically unheard of then and even rarer now, Pryde Of The X-Men featured a completely different X-Men cast and was worlds apart from their previous appearances. The roster included Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Collosus, Dazzler (?!), newbie Kitty and of course, our beloved Logan.

The pilot is typical 80ís cheese despite itís breathtaking animation, and the less said about this version of Wolverine, the better. Once again, the annoying Australian accent returns (Sorry Crow) and he spends most of the episode complaining about how annoying Kitty was, whilst the audience agreed with his every word, completely unaware that they would share the same grievances about Jubilee years later. Undoubtedly the best thing about this version of Wolverine is his costume. The tan suit makes its only animation appearance here and thanks to the high quality of the animation, it looks fantastic. In short, sounds bad, looks great. The series was never picked up, but made a killing on VHS.

Looking back, it appears the only people who didnít want The X-Men on TV was the networks. As with the spectacular Incredible Hulk cartoon of the time, it didnít appeal to the executives who firmly believed that The Smurfs were the future of animation. Horrifyingly enough, the same mentality that ran networks in the 80ís seems to be returning to modern childrenís networks, meaning weíll soon have a line up of childrenís TV which will be as awful as it was back in the day. Yes folks, the 80ís were a bad time for childrenís TV. Except The A Team, that was awesome. Many years passed and many networks continued to turn down The X-Men, until 1991, when Margaret Loesch, a former employee of Marvel became President of FOX KIDS and finally gave Marvel the opportunity to bring X-Men to the small screen.

With 13 episodes and a fall 1992 premiere date set, the crew went to work. Done with what appears to be a tiny, tiny budget and the cheapest, most God awful animation studio youíve ever seen, Night Of The Sentinels made itís debut a few months later than originally planned and featured a whole glutton of mistakes that had to be corrected for future airings.

Now, people have conflicting opinions on this show, mainly since X-Men: Evolution came along, but there is one thing that I donít believe anyone can deny Ė this shows version of Wolverine is the balls. A tortured warrior without a past, this show had everything youíd expect to see from Wolverine bar violence. People often complain that he couldnít do much with his claws due to the increasingly annoying BS and P, but I found the character too interesting to care. He once again donned with yellow and blue costume and was obviously intended to be the favourite Ė which made his inclusion in the love triangle between himself, Scott and Jean all the more interesting.

ďShow me a hero and Iíll write you a tragedyĒ defines Wolverine. I know it was itís a line from Spider-Man and a lyric from one of my favourite Harvey Danger songs but whoever originally wrote it probably had Wolverine in mind, even if he hadnít been created yet. Indeed, TAS had a very flawed character on their hands, as from when the show began, Scott and Jean were the happy couple, and Wolverine loved another manís girl. He also didnít care for Cyclops in the slightest, partially because of Jean, and because Logan blamed him for Morphís death and Beast jail time. His reaction, a vicious punch to the gut that I still feel every time despite having seen it dozens of times, doesnít surprise me in the slightest. With the exception of Jean, I donít think he liked anyone else at the school. He was jealous of Cyclops, Gambitís arrogance annoyed him to the point where he constantly played one-ups-man-ship with him, he rarely interacted with Storm, Rogue didnít appear to care for him, and he was pissed at Xavier for allowing Sabertooth to receive medical attention at the school.

Having had enough, he left the mansion, only to return and save Jubilee from Sabertooth, who was working for Magneto. Proving himself right not to let Sabertooth into the mansion, he was injured in the fight and up and left as soon as he recovered, still feeling his hatred for Cyclops and his relationship with Jean.

Attempting to find peace in Canada (remember folks, Wolverine is Canadian!) he was once again stopped by Sabertooth. His rivalry with Sabertooth was handled well here, and Sabertooth really did come across as a threat. Absolutely fabulous casting helped him tremendously. Sick of all the fighting in his life, he finally admits defeat and returns back to the mansion, where he no doubt feels he can do some real good.

It feels wrong to have talked this long about the awesomeness of Wolverine without mentioning Cal Dodd, the actor who portrayed him in the show. He was absolutely perfect in the role. Kevin Conroy Batman perfect. Many fine actors have lent their voices to Wolverine since, including Scott McNeil, Mark Hamill and Steven Jay Blum but Dodd will always be Wolverine to me. If you donít hear Doddís voice when you read a Wolverine comic, thereís something wrong with you.

After realising that teamwork could indeed be useful against threats, he invited Collosus to join them, probably because he liked him more than everyone else. The following episode features an amusing scene of him being arsey with everyone else and acting like a little sweetheart to Jean.

In the season finale, he established a newfound respect with Cyclops and whooped a hell of a lot of Sentinel ass, finally delivering on his promise to Morph to avenge his death. If he only knew what awaited him in season two.