A Marvel comic book character, created by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe, first appeared in Hulk #181 but became the most popular character in the X-Men series.

Although the details of his background have become convoluted, as is par for the course in modern comics, this much we know:

  • Wolverine is a mutant with a healing factor that enables him to recover quickly from injuries
  • The Canadian Weapon-X program laced his bones with indestructable adamantium; combined with the healing factor, this makes him very difficult to kill
  • Wolverine has heightened senses, enabling him to track prey by smell
  • He has six adamantium claws that spring from his wrists; the cuts heal thanks to his healing factor

Wolverine has most commonly been characterized as a ferocious fighter with a barely-submerged feral rage.

The character is portrayed in the X-Men movie by Australian actor Hugh Jackman.

One of the carnivores referred to as "The four great ones" the wolverine, Gulo gulo, has a reputation of being the cruelest of hunters. The old Swedish name for the woverine was filfras, which comes from the German word Vilefrass that means "the one that eats a lot". In french the wolverine is called Gloutton, which kind of speaks for itself. So, this animal has been considered to kill for fun, or just to drink the blood of its victim. However, the wolverine is not a very skilled hunter. Actually it's downright clumsy. It catches its occasional prey with great difficulty and is often seen to follow the bear, fox or lynx in hope to find some carcass these more agile carnivores might leave behind.

The greatest asset of the wolverine are not its sharp claws, but rather its huge paws. These make it possible for the wolverine to stalk reindeer when the snow has just fallen and is not yet very solid. The reindeer will plunge through, whereas its stalker can move more swiftly on top of the snow and then catch its prey. Also the wolverine looks particularly cute when it uses its oversized paws to surf the snowy waves made by avalanches on the mountainside.

The wolverine (or carcajou in French) is the largest terrestrial member of the Mustelidae, the weasel family. They are adapted to survival in extreme northern habitats, and are powerful predators. The wolverine can be found throughout northern Canada and Scandinavia.

General biology and behaviour

The wolverine has a passing resemblance to some bears, but upon seeing the animal move there is no mistaking its relation to other members of the weasel family. They are powerfully built animals, with heavy skulls and very developed teeth. Males generally weigh about 15 kg, while females are somewhat smaller at 8-10 kg. Their brown fur is thick and longer on the tail than the rest of the body. Frequently, the fur near the toes and face is a lighter colour, often becoming completely white.

Wolverines are remarkable predators, preying principally upon ungulates like deer, moose or caribou. While they are capable of killing live deer, the majority of their ungulate consumption occurs as a result of scavenging. In the winter months when ungulate prey are not available, like wolves the wolverines rely upon local rodent populations to supplement their diet. Their scavenging lifestyle puts them at times into direct conflict with mountain lions and wolves. These two species are known to prey upon adult wolverines, and likely the young. Given the extent to which female wolverines go to secure nests for their kits, biologists believe that the risk of predation on young wolverines must be quite high.

Wolverines are highly territorial animals, patrolling home ranges on the order of 400 to 1500 square kilometers. As a result of their huge home ranges, wolverine densities, even in optimal habitats, are quite low, making them susceptible to extirpation (see Conservation status). The size of the home range is supposedly negatively correlated to prey abundance, and some scattered evidence supports this contention. Also, the home range size and position for males is directly related to the home ranges of females of reproductive age.

Wolverines communicate with one another by using vocalizations and marking their territories. They can scent their territories using both their urine and abdominal rubbing. While they, like most mustelids, have anal glands, their musk is used mostly for defense rather than communication.

Wolverines are distributed circumpolarly. They can be found in the northern parts of Canada in the taiga or tundra, but can also be found at high elevations further south. There are extant southern populations in British Columbia, Montana and Idaho. In Eurasia, they are found throughout Scandinavia and east to Siberia and Asia. Unlike most other northern species, however, they do not hibernate.

Both male and female wolverines attain sexual maturity relatively quickly (15 months for the females, 24 months for the males). Wolverines do not form breeding pairs like wolves, but some evidence suggests that males may remain in a female's territory to help with the early care of the young. Females go into heat once per year (they are monestrous) and breeding takes place from May to August. Males begin to have elevated testosterone levels and sperm production by early April, but they revert to a non-breeding state by August. Unlike many animal species, the female initiates copulation. After fertilization, the eggs remain at the blastocyst stage for several months. Further embryonic development does not begin until November or December and females give birth the following March or April. 2-3 kits are produced per average litter, and feed from their mother for roughly 10 weeks. After weaning, they remain with their mothers for a number of months before leaving to begin their solitary existence.

Conservation status

Given the very low densities and large home ranges of wolverines (see General biology and behaviour), the species is one at considerable risk of extinction by humans. Not only habitat destruction but also habitat fragmentation have resulted in extirpation of local populations. Not only do wolverines need considerable areas to survive, but these areas must also be uninterrupted by human influences. Forestry and mining in northern reaches negatively influence wolverines in three ways. First, they perturb the habitat, removing forest stands and low-lying vegetation preferred by wolverines. Second, their presence reduces the density of ungulates, meaning there are fewer prey for the wolverines. Third, the construction of access roads significantly modifies the movement patterns of wolverines, thus reducing their ability to find one another, mate and forage for food.

Humans also trap wolverines for their pelts. Trapping is legal in British Columbia, Alberta, Alaska and Montana, despite the low densities reported for the species. They are considered endangered in eastern Canada, threatened in Western Canada and the United States, and have been listed by CITES in some Scandinavian countries. It is also listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

Importance to humans

Wolverines have been trapped by humans for hundreds of years for their lush, warm pelts. They have also been targeted by trappers due to the fact that they often raid previously laid traps and steal the carcasses for food.

They are animals of some importance to the spiritual lives of the Innu. The wolverine (Kuekuatsheu) is seen to be a highly intelligent but foolish trickster, and plays a role in many Innu myths and stories.

Taxonomy

Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae, the weasels
Subfamily: Mustelinae
Genus, species: Gulo gulo1
1Some scientists believe that there are sufficient morphological differences between wolverine populations to justify the creation of three subspecies: the Old World wolverine, Gulo gulo gulo, the New World wolverine, G. g. luscus, and the Vancouver Island wolverine, G. G. vancouverensis.
Just a quick note about two of the w/u's above. Sudderth is incorrect in claiming that the wolverine was desended from wolves; they have completely separate evolutionary histories, and are related only inasmuch as they are both members of the order Carnivora. And Cobra Rax states that the French call the animal Glouton and while that is a synonym, it is more often known as the carcajou, which Stavr0 tells me is derived from the Innu name Kuekuatsheu.
Information culled from ... * http://www.wolverinefoundation.org
* http://www.predatorconservation.org/predator_info/Forest_Clearinghouse/Wolverine/buecking1998.htm
* http://www.innu.ca/myth.html

Wolverine is one of Marvel Comics's most famous creations. His first appearance was in Incredible Hulk #181. Since then, he's made steady appearances in just about all the X-titles (X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, et al.); Wolverine also has his own monthly comic (creatively titled "Wolverine"). He was created by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe.

Unfortunately, the Marvel line of X-Men-related comics has too many plot twists for me to include allthe facts about Wolverine, so rather than offer you up a very in-depth review of Wolverine the character, I'm finding that I'm forced to generalize and flat-out omit information, for the sake of a contiguous, sense-making writeup. I apologize for that; if you really want an in-depth idea of this complex character, here's an idea: head to a used book store, or comic store, buy up bargain basement, destroyed comics involving Wolvie, and read the hell out of them. Fortunately, Wolverine suffers from little with regard to insanely lame and nonsensical writers--unless you include all the plot twisting, but that's just Marvel in general; we can't blame Wolverine for that, can we?

Just the facts, ma'am

His real name is Logan. Whether or not he has a last name is unknown*. Originally, the character was a Canadian secret agent/assassin/psycho. We know for sure he's ex-Canadian military (maybe this is a Marvel "joke," I dunno; they refer to the government agency as "Department H", woo). At first, we know very little. It takes a few appearances in Uncanny X-Men to clarify even the basics about him, but what we find is this: his name is Logan, he's worked with a Canadian group called Alpha Flight, and is the product of a program called Weapon X--this program is responsible for the adamantium claws housed in his forearms, and also the adamantium covering his entire skeleton. It's also responsible for destroying his memory and perhaps making him at least part-insane. He escaped, fought Hulk, and moseyed his way on to Westchester, New York, and hooked up with Xavier and his posse.

Over the course of Wolverine's superhero life, he's had several changes, and because we're talking about Marvel Comics, they've been major changes to the entirety of the character. His number one love interest, Mariko, was killed, he's given up and returned to the X-Men, had his adamantium ripped out of his body by Magneto, went extremely feral, being drawn extremely animalistic and bordering on inhuman. The character changed little, however: still smokes cheap cigars, eats pork rinds, says "bub" a lot. He's a stalwart individual, faithful to his friends, no matter how much he hates them (but hey, don't we all hate Cyclops?) He's characterized as being something of a rough individual; he smokes, drinks, and curses (or would, if Marvel would let that past their censors). He believes himself to be the best at what he does, and who can argue? He just kicks ass.

What about the mutant part there, bub?

Okay, so of course, he's a mutant. You have to be to join the X-Men. But at first Wolverine's powers weren't all too clear. Sure, he could go toe-to-toe with Hulk, Venom, Punisher, all these other tough guys, but what was it that made him so special? Shortly into his comic book career, we found out that Wolverine's mutant powers are animal in nature: sharp hearing, great eyesight, excellent sense of smell. In addition, he has amazingly heightened healing, allowing him to shrug off blows that would severely impair or even kill your average human. So, you combine that with the adamantium skeleton--and in truth, his healing factor was the reason they were able to infuse his bones with a foreign metal--and you've got one tough bastard.

With fiends likes these, who needs enemas?

As I've stated, we've got to keep this writeup short, otherwise we'd have four or five different writeups, all over the place. I've decided to cut out a friends section. What of that? Most of Wolverine's friends are X-Men, and these characters are well-documented here at E2. We could also add characters like Maverick, who is also a Weapon X graduate. Anyway, on with the big three enemies:

Lady Deathstryke (first appearance Alpha Flight #33): a crazy ninja-esque woman who was once part of the Reavers. She has apparently spent some goodish time with Wolverine in Japan, but for whatever reason has now sworn "vengeance" on him. Hey--Marvel's never really clear. She's tall, thin, and a cyborg, with huge claws on every finger; her hands seem to be about two feet long. They've had tons of conflicts over the years, and just about all of them are good. But not quite as good as...

Omega Red (first appearance X-Men #4): Arkady Rossovich is a fucking lunatic Russian with a grudge. More or less, Rossovich is an ex-solder-nutcase with huge carbonadium--which is to adamantium what cubic zirconia is to diamonds--tentacles springing from both of his hands. He is a mutant as well, whose power is pheromones that can kill, mostly. If he doesn't periodically release these pheromones, they attack him. He's big, he's scary, he's crazy, and a totally rad character. He is so nuts that the Russian government put him in cryogenic freeze. Yeah, that's right. By the way, ya know, Claremont is responsible for this madman. Even though Red is incredibly, incredibly cool, all of the badguy props must go to the real arch-nemesis...

Sabretooth (first appearance Iron Fist #14): Victor Creed. If Omega Red is a nutcase, then Creed is a full-bore, mushroom-cloud-layin' sociopath with zero regard for human life. They made him more or less the same mutant as Wolverine, except he's completely insane. He's got the healing factor, the keen senses, along with strength, size, and sheer brutality. As for famous fights? Pick one. They're all good. They seem to be part of the same Weapon X program, but who knows? All the memory implants Sabretooth and Wolvie have had could mean any or all of their life experiences are frauds. Hell, one set of memories told us that Creed was in fact Logan's father.

What else?

Wolverine's self-titled comic is up at issue #188 as of the date of this writeup; check it out. Through all the comics he's been in, what I enjoy the most is that he's a fighter. No matter what, he defies improbably odds. You've got madmen out to kill you (whatever the reason), your memories are all frauds and the things you do remember all lead to dead ends. But still, you keep going. I admire that. And he's got one thing that straight-laced fuckos like Cyclops or Prof. X do not have:

BALLS.


Note: from what I'm told, there's a series of comics out where they say Logan's first name is James, and his last name may or may not be Howlitt, but the character doesn't know it. I'm checking into this.

Wol`ver*ene", Wol`ver*ine" (?), n. [From Wolf, with a dim suffix; prob. so called from its supposed wolfish qualities.]

1. Zool.

The glutton.

2.

A nickname for an inhabitant of Michigan.

[U. S.]

© Webster 1913.

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