Published January 27, 2022

The Complete History of Wolverine: The Origin Begins

In Part 1 of Wolverine’s chronological comics history, we revisit James Howlett’s journey from a frail boy to a wild man.

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Some think of him as a man. Others think he is an animal. He has many names, but you know him best as the mutant Wolverine. The tri-clawed X-Man has a long history—it happens when you’ve lived as long as he has! And, for the first time ever, Wolverine’s history is being told in chronological order. In vertical Infinity Comics series LIFE OF WOLVERINE, Jean Grey guides Wolverine through his life’s formative memories, taking readers on a journey from the (former) James Howlett’s earliest days, through Wolverine’s current place with the X-Men on Krakoa

The first two issues of LIFE OF WOLVERINE, now on the Marvel Unlimited app, focus on Logan’s very early years, first depicted in series WOLVERINE: THE ORIGIN (2001) and its sequel ORIGIN II (2013). For the next five weeks, we’ll expand on the timeline of events as told in the Infinity Comics series. A deeper dive, if you will. So, buckle up, Bub, because this is going to be a crazy ride! 


It’s the late 19th century, Alberta, Canada. James Howlett is a sickly child, but he has everything he could ever want. The best clothes, a puppy, and he lives in a castle. James doesn’t have many friends, but the ones he does have leave an impact on him. There’s Rose, a girl brought into the family to watch over James and to be his companion. (She’s also a redhead, like a certain Omega-level telepath he falls head over heels for in the future.) His other friend, “Dog,” is mischievous and brash and is not nearly as well off as James. Dog’s father, Thomas Logan, is cruel and transfers that cruelty to his son through his words and his fists. 

The status quo is broken one night when Dog and his dad break into the Howlett Estate. Dog kills John Howlett Sr., James’ dad, and this becomes the turning point for James. He becomes so enraged that bone claws pop from his hands, and in revenge, kills Thomas (who may or may not actually be his biological father). Mrs. Howlett, who has been in mourning over James’s older brother, can’t take the sight of her mutant son, shouting “You’re not my son! You’re a monster… an animal!” She ends her life after he leaves the estate; James doesn’t find out about this until years later. 

James Howlett’s first SNIKT! in WOLVERINE: THE ORIGIN (2001) #2 by Paul Jenkins, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove.
James Howlett’s first SNIKT! in WOLVERINE: THE ORIGIN (2001) #2 by Paul Jenkins, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove.

Due to the carnage caused, Rose and a semi-amnesiac James flee to a remote mining town in the Yukon Territory. Rose gives him a new name: Logan. He gets stronger and learns to fit in with the mining people, but the trauma from his strange transformation still affects his mind and memories. Logan’s reputation as a hard worker, and a great fighter, prompt others to call him “the Wolverine.” (Wonder if that name will have some significance down the line…) Unfortunately, the past catches up with Logan and Rose when Dog enters the town. His mission? To kill Logan! The men get into a fight, and Logan begins to remember his past. Once again, his anger overcomes him, and he unleashes his claws. Logan is so out of control that he accidentally kills Rose, his first love. “The beast within will not be contained.” 



Following Rose’s death, Logan is on the lam again. As he feels more beast than man at this point, he lives in the wild with a pack of wolves. The arrangement works: he catches their meals, and he is given shelter and a family. Sadly, as with everything else in Logan’s life, this peace is brief. A polar bear demolishes his wolf family when he is out hunting. Heartbroken, Logan strikes back. He dies, but thanks to his healing factor, his death is just temporary. The polar bear isn’t so lucky. 

Rumors of an “animal man” spread throughout the area and entices people to trap him. Some of the people interested in taking Logan captive are circus ringmaster Hugo Haversham and his partners Clara and Creed, as is the mysterious (and future X-Men villain) Dr. Nathaniel Essex. Hugo and his crew manage to capture Logan first, and he is basically turned into a sideshow. He’s electrocuted repeatedly for people’s enjoyment/entertainment, which makes Clara sympathetic to him. Creed, on the other hand, could care less, so long as he’s not the one in the cage.

ORIGIN II (2013) #2 by Kieron Gillen, Adam Kubert, and Frank Martin.
ORIGIN II (2013) #2 by Kieron Gillen, Adam Kubert, and Frank Martin.

But then, the circus begins to lose money. A salacious rumor of Logan being fake has been published in the local newspaper. Dr. Essex propositions Hugo: let him run experiments—for “research”—on Logan, and he can give him proof that he is indeed “The Marvel of the Modern Age!” Of course, things don’t go to plan. When Logan is escorted to the lab by Hugo and his men, Dr. Essex activates a deadly gas that immediately kills everyone but Logan. Dr. Essex reveals that he was the one who started the rumor about Logan and plans to use Logan’s healing factor to create an army of men like him. But before he can do that, Clara and Creed rescue Logan. Thank goodness! 

One month after escaping Dr. Essex’s lab, Logan is still with Clara and Creed, learning to be human again in New York. During this time, Logan and Clara bond and become close. Very close to Creed’s dismay. The good times don’t last as the Marauders, Dr. Essex’s men, bombard their apartment. Logan shifts into attack mode, taking them out with ease. However, history repeats itself when he accidentally strikes Clara, and she dies. (Sort of. More on that later.)  

Logan and Creed return to Dr. Essex’s lab with the intent to end him for good. He is completely unbothered by Logan, knowing he would return to him one day. Dr. Essex drops another bombshell: Creed has been acting as a mole for him and alerting him of their location. Logan makes quick work of Dr. Essex—stabbing and defenestrating him—and gets into a one-sided brawl with Creed. It’s during this fight that Clara reappears! She divulges to Logan that she and the rest of her family have a healing factor, but not one as strong as his. She also admits to her younger brother that she loves Logan; the latter takes this admission of love as permission to drown Creed in Dr. Essex’s vat of experimental potion. It isn’t permission. Clara is rightfully mad at Logan for killing her brother and wants nothing to do with him, calling him a “cold-hearted killer.” Alone for the umpteenth time in his life, Logan walks into the wintery woods. 

But he better watch out, because someone meaner and stronger than Saul Creed is on the prowl... 

ORIGIN II (2013) #5
ORIGIN II (2013) #5

Logan travels to the island of Madripoor, far, far away from North America. Surely, he’ll catch a break there, right? Right? Well, you’ll have to check out the next issue of LIFE OF WOLVERINE to find out. All comics mentioned can be found on the Marvel Unlimited app! 


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