In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover how close Wolverine came to standing trial in the early 1980s for killing people
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and sixty-third installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.
Jim Shooter wanted Wolverine (and if not him, then another member of the X-Men) to stand trial for killing in the early 1980s
Jim Shooter, Marvel's longtime Editor-in-Chief from the late 1970s through the late 1980s, was a very hands-on manager, and there are a number of prominent stories that resulted directly from Shooter putting himself directly into the storytelling process of the comic books. That's fair enough, as he was the Editor-in-Chief, so obviously he had the right to do so, but just noting that he did have an oversized impact on the stories being told at Marvel during his stint as Editor-in-Chief. One of the books where he seemed to have more of an interest in than most (most likely due to it being one of Marvel's top books of the era, and thus drawing the most attention) was X-Men/Uncanny X-Men.
As I'm sure you all know by now, it was Shooter who decided that Phoenix had to suffer the price for destroying an entire planet of aliens during the Dark Phoenix Saga, and thus he would not accept the original plan by Chris Claremont and John Byrne to have Jean Grey's punishment be the loss of her mutant mental powers. He wanted much more of a punishment, and Claremont and Byrne ultimately decided to just kill her off then. That debate, though, carried over to another member of the X-Men - Wolverine!
WHAT WAS JIM SHOOTER'S PROBLEM WITH WOLVERINE?
One of the most famous panels in comic book history is the final panel of X-Men #132, as John Byrne and Terry Austin draw a marvelously awesome shot of Wolverine, though to be killed by the Hellfire Club, popping out of the sewers, swearing vengeance.
Since they tried to kill him, it sure seems like he is going to then try to kill them right back, right?
That's what it seemed like at the start of the next issue, the classic X-Men #133 (by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin), as Wolverine tears through the Hellfire Club's guards...
The storyrelling of these pages is exquisite...
This is also one of the early examples of Wolverine's healing power getting perhaps TOO strong (at the time, that is)...
In one of the most memorable scenes in the sequence, Wolverine basically pulls a Dirty Harry on one of the guards...
That was quite the ending...
Besides an awesomely written (and beautifully drawn) fight sequence, do note that it sure looks like Wolverine just killed some dudes, right? There's no "Yep, I sure killed that guy," but, I mean, come on, he DEFINITELY killed those guys.
Jim Shooter had a problem with that. He was just getting done saying that Phoenix had to be punished for her killing, and here was Wolverine going around killing people, as well! So, as I noted in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed, he had Chris Claremont and editor Louise Simonson reveal that Wolverine DIDN'T actually kill those guards, which was later revealed in Uncanny X-Men #152 (by Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod and Joe Rubinstein).
However, that wasn't really totally enough for Shooter.
WHAT WAS JIM SHOOTER'S SOLUTION TO THE WOLVERINE "PROBLEM"?
In an interview with Harry Broertjes in Fantaco's The X-Men Chronicles, Shooter explained:
I don't want the heroes killing people, and as far as I'm concerned, Wolverine hasn't killed anyone. Chris said, 'Yes, but he's a homicidal maniac.' I said, 'Chris, that's what you call a "conflict."' This is the essence of 'story.' Here's a hero, a guy who's on the side of the good guys, basically, who is also a homicidal maniac. God, that's fodder for a million stories! You've got Professor X - he's gotta keep this guy here because you can't let him loose, and while he's there, he's a constant threat to everyone he comes into contact with. What a story device! That's wonderful! I said, 'If I were writing the book tomorrow, I'd immediately do a story where we see everyone Wolverine was supposed to have killed. Some of them were, maybe, wounded pretty bad. Some of them are, maybe, incapacitated in some way. And they get checks in the mail every month from Xavier - and one of Xavier's big worries is, 'God, should I do something Wolverine? Should I use my mental powers and go into his mind and fix it? Or does that make me the worst tyrant who's ever lived?' In other words, it's a real problem - and problems, that's the definition of a story. A conflict resolved. Here we've got a brilliant conflict and there's nothing being done about it.
After reiterating that he told them to make the dead guards turn out to be alive, Shooter then noted, "[W]e're going to demonstrate that he hasn't killed anyone - until such time as Chris is ready to have him kill someone and then paly it out, address that new conflict. OK, he's killed someone. Now what does Xavier do? Let's have the guy brought to trial. Let's see if it's OK for him to kill someone. Let's see if it was self-defense. Or was it not necessary? And if it wasn't ,what do they do?"
Earlier in the interview, Shooter also explains that the Phoenix situation led him to tell Claremont that he wanted a character to kill and then see them stand trial. So it didn't HAVE to be Wolverine, but it seems like Wolverine was obviously the one that Shooter had in mind.
Thanks to Jim Shooter and Harry Broertjes for the information!
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PART TWO SOON!
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