Thoughts and observations on Green Arrow, classical liberalism, freedom, comic books and matters of social justice.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Careful where you scratch!

There are three known reasons not to be a Wolverine fan:

1. He's in the X-Men books;

2. He’s Canadian;

3. Everyone is a Wolverine fan.

I’ve been aware of Wolverine since the early 80’s and while the notion of a guy with extendable knives in his fist is incurably cool; again, you had to wade through the X-Men titles and an overabundance of characters and storylines to get to him. By the time he got his own title I had “missed the boat.” He’s just been one of those characters I appreciate but could never commit to long term.

This is not to say that on its own the character doesn’t have its problems. Up until several years ago his past was unknown. Who is he really? Where did he come from? How old is he? All these questions and more added to a mystique about Wolverine; predictably when the origins question was answered many fans were disappointed, seems not knowing was better.

But over the years the “false memories” and flashbacks were as overused as silly named villains in the books. And then there is Logan’s gruff demeanor; it became as predictable and one-note as Oscar the Grouch. It wasn’t until Hugh Jackman took the role in X-Men that I saw Logan with a few shades of emotion other than crotchety and stoic. The rank and file Kanuknuckleheads would vehemently disagree. I’m sure they could point to one of many examples that depict Wolvie as other than constipated. I just never thought it worthwhile to wade through it all to find a few gems.

There have been attempts at new Wolverine characters for those who want a blade wielding tough guy without the daunting back-story. Top Cow Comics’ Ripclaw comes to mind. Introduced in the early nineties in Image Comics’ Cyberforce, Ripclaw was the stand out (sort of) character in a clear X-Men knock off title. Robert Bearclaw, and American Indian, has a “mutant” connection with the spirit world and had his hands replaced with cybernetic implanted razor hands, a surprisingly common occurrence in the comic book world. What is also surprising is the number of similarities between Wolverine and Ripclaw.

Wolverine
Canadian
Sharp blades extend from fists
Body modification by implants
Wolf-like Superhero
Loner but reluctant team member
Wears a cowboy hat
Not above killing
Sells tons of comics, shirts, and toys

Ripclaw
American Indian
Sharp blades make up his fingers
Body modification by implants
Bear-like Superhero
Loner but reluctant team member
Wears a cowboy hat
Not above killing
Has had two action figures

And if you want a good Ripclaw story, well you’re still kind of waiting for one. Wolverine has had a few (I actually enjoyed the Origin story). And now that he’s a big movie star, with a solo film coming in the next year, almost anyone could be walking down the street with “SNIKT” emblazoned on their shirt. Hard not to feel like a Johnny come lately with that kind of competition.

But on the upside he does look like he could be from KISS.

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