John Byrne’s Best Wolverine

by Blaise Tassone

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Although Wolverine wasn’t created by artist John Byrne or X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, he nonetheless blossomed under their creative guidance. However of the two, it was Byrne who did the most to develop the diminutive Canadian Wild-man. In this post, I’ll explore the best and most iconic John Byrne Wolverine comics.

Wolverine is easily one of the most popular Marvel comic book characters. As we all know, Wolverine first appears in Incredible Hulk #s 180-181, which has the writing credits attributed to Len Wein and is edited by Roy Thomas. The first time Wolvie appears in print, he is also drawn by Herb Trimpe. However, and if the Marvel Bullpen stories are accurate (as recounted here), Wolverine was actually originally designed by John Romita Sr. (who, at the time, was art director for Marvel Comics). Originally, Wolverine was introduced as a Canadian mutant working as a police-man and given the assignment of protecting the Great White North from the Great Green Threat of the Hulk.

Then, courtesy of Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, he joined the X-Men. Early on, however, he was given little to do in the group and even though he was part of the new X-Men lineup his early appearances amount to something between comic relief and filler.

For that reason, it really is hard to say what Wolverine’s popularity would be like today if John Byrne hadn’t evolved the character.

Len Wein and Chris Claremont both kept Wolverine a part of the all new and all different X-Men, and, illustrator Dave Cockrum gave us a chance to finally see him without his mask on. However, Claremont and Cockrum have both admitted they had no idea what to do with the mysterious mutant going forward. Claremont was, at one point, actually preparing to write him out of the X-Men!

After arriving on X-Men drawing duties, Byrne (starting with X-Men #108, Dec. 1977) began asserting himself and insisted on focusing attention on Wolverine. Byrne –who was born in England but grew up in Canada – put his foot down at the diminishing role Logan was being given.

During the Byrne years, the Wolverine as feral warrior that we know and love was born. Starting with X-Men #114, Byrne began co-plotting X-Men with Claremont. Wolverine not only was kept on as a character, but his role in the new group was expanded to the point that he became the most popular character in the series.

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X-Men #116 (December 1978)– First time Wolverine Kills in a Comic

It happens off panel, but make no mistake, Wolverine wouldn’t be Wolverine without his feral Berserker rage and his ‘being the best at what he does’ (which ain’t pretty, bub). Wolverine’s dynamic with the other X-Men was something Byrne worked on during his run. Since he is older than any of the other characters, and has experienced a harsher existence, Wolverine was the one X-Man who would cross the line. It made him an anti-hero but by the 1980s it also defined his character and made him one of the most popular Marvel heroes. Period. It begins here. You can find X-Men #116 on eBay raw for around $10.00-15.00 in lower grade. A certified 9.2 will cost you around $70.00 and that price can climb up to as high as $825.00 in 9.8.

 

 

 

 

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X-Men #120 (April 1979)– We learn about Wolvie’s past/Alpha-Flight connection revealed- First cameo appearance of Alpha Flight

James Hudson as Weapon Alpha was a figure from Wolverine’s past. He first appears as Weapon Alpha in X-Men #109, where we learn that Wolverine was called Weapon X. In this issue, with its standout Byrne cover, Hudson returns as Vindicator and he brings more characters from Canada, i.e. Alpha Flight. This comic will cost you $20.00-$30.00 raw (in mid-grade). Lately, sales on CGC copies have picked up and the last 9.2 sale was for $193.00 [eBay: 09/08/2019], the last 9.6 sold for $535.52 [eBay: 10/08/2019] and the last 9.8 went for $2, 5000.00 [eBay: 09/06/2019]. Notice a pattern here?

 

 

 

 

 

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X-Men #133 (May 1980) -Wolverine Fights Alone

Here’s the first time we get Wolverine on an X-Men cover without his teammates. This is the chapter in the ‘Dark Phoenix’ story just before Jean transforms into the Dark Phoenix and in it, Wolverine is left to fend for himself against the Hellfire Club. Claremont and Byrne used the opportunity to emphasize his incredible healing factor. This was a power that was hinted at earlier but comes to the fore in this issue which brings the mysterious man known as Logan closer to being the Wolverine we know and love. Right now is a great time to buy the Phoenix keys. The last Fox movie based on the books was a complete bomb and they are more affordable than they’ve been for a while. X-Men #133 is usually overlooked in favor of the subsequent issue, but for Wolverine fans, it’s a must-have. Currently, you can find it for $30.00-40.00 in Fine to Very Fine grade raw. Certified 9.2 copies sell for around $100.00 and at 9.8 those prices jump to $475.00.

 

 

 

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X-Men #141 (January 1981) – “Days of Future Past” storyline, Old Man Logan and Everybody dies

We can end with one of the last Bryne-Claremont team-ups and storyline. ‘Days of Future Past’ wasn’t just a great story it changed the course of the X-Men comics. On top of aging Logan for the first time, we also learned that Mutants and Humans would eventually fight each other and that an Apocalyptic future awaited our brave heroes. A certified 9.8 copy of this book will cost you $350.00 and that’s down from highs of $500.00 plus that was reached a few years ago back in 2013 in anticipation of the film of the same name. It was a good film, but prices were slow to recover.

Wolverine’s early John Byrne drawn appearances are always good investments. I would grab these up before Marvel reboots the character in the coming years.

 

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