Damn, am I ever excited for LOGAN (2017). Each new trailer is more impressive than the last, and I think it’s fair to say that the X-Men movie franchise is nostalgic for most, considering that it’s been going strong since the 2000s. Of course, any 90s kid will tell you that the 1992 cartoon show was better.
That was where I first met Wolverine, and damn did he help me through my childhood.
I’ve said before that Spider-man taught me that it was ok for me to be who I was, no matter what society thought. To a certain extent, Wolverine taught the same lesson, with his brash, devil may care attitude. He chain-smoked, drank, didn’t mince words, and didn’t have a problem kicking ass when he needed to. The Mary Sue pointed out that Wolverine’s behavior was emblematic of the worst aspects of masculinity: physical dominance, aggression, lechery, etc. While the Mary Sue isn’t wrong, I’d argue that its read is overly simplistic.
Wolverine in the 1992 cartoon and in the movies IS a messed-up guy possessing all of those vices. Having no memories and being a societal outcast will do that to you. In the cartoon show, you could set a watch by how often he flies off the handle… yet at the same time, Wolverine was a character deeply aware of his character flaws. He saw his hot temper as weakness, not a strength. He understood that he sometimes needed distance from his teammates to better understand his personal shortcomings. He understood that he couldn’t always have what he wanted, especially romantically. He was never a stranger to his feelings. For as much as Wolverine was propped up as the ultimate phallus (hilarious, considering that EVERYONE reminds him of how short he is), the cartoon show went out of its way to “emasculate” him.
Check out what happens when Wolverine goes up against Proteus:
Holy shit. There was NOTHING so mind-blowing as a kid than seeing the toughest character you’d ever known break down sobbing. Especially when bullies picked on you for that. It was ok to experience the full range of human emotions.
The ultimate lesson of the cartoon Wolverine, and even the movie version is that everybody hurts. Physical wounds, mental wounds- everyone faces times of sadness and tragedy, and sometimes it’s hard moving past those times. Yet we must.
In 1993, the X-Men comics took that a step further, when Magneto did what he’d always threatened in the movies: he ripped Wolverine’s metal skeleton out.
Wolverine nearly died. By the time he stabilized, he was back to flesh and bone (claws included), and his healing factor was nonexistent. In short, he was dying. There wasn’t any sense in projecting rage -his team had done all they could to save him. All that was left was for him to put his affairs in order.
The Wolverine I knew, the one from these pages, was one of immense humanity and frailty. Once an indomitable warrior, each new fight could be his last. He had to bury his ego and accept pity and mercy from his enemies. He had to accept that he couldn’t be there for everyone who needed him. He had to accept that even he was going to die.
About 21 years later. In a completely unrelated arc, long, long after he’d gotten all his powers back and then some.
The point is, sure, Wolverine is emblematic of plenty of negative, traditionally masculine values, but he also embodies countless strengths of character, including humility, restraint, and tenderness. Considering the directions the X-movies went, it’s easy to forget, too, that Wolverine, like the rest of the X-Men, is a human (and mutants!) rights’ activist. As a child, those latter virtues meant the world to me and shaped how I’d approach good times and bad times. As an adult, I like to think I follow those same lessons.
Plus, Wolverine’s a badass, amiright?