When we think of Wolverine we picture that yellow and blue costume that has been his primary, iconic look for most of his history. He started with this look, he has had this look for the last 30 years However, there was an extended period of time early in his career where he looked a lot different.
X-Men 139 featured the first appearance of the tan/brown Wolverine costume. The cover to X-Men 140 portrays the change in direction accurately, but it first appeared in the prior issue. The cover to X-Men 139 is misleading. He has his classic yellow costume on. This is nowhere to be seen in the interior except in a flashback, which I will cover.
The next decade…
He had this as the primary costume for the next ten years. During the ’80s this look became even more recognizable than the yellow and blue costume. All three of Wolverine’s solo outings (the Frank Miller miniseries, Marvel Comics Presents, and his 1988 ongoing self-titled-title) feature the tan/brown costume as the main look. In various crossover events like Secret Wars, Spider-Man Vs Wolverine, etc. This look was so established that it was the way Wolverine was depicted in the NES game, the X-Men arcade game, the “Pryde of the X-Men” cartoon pilot episode (that was the initial attempt before the X-Men Animated Series we actually got), and various board games, toys, and related licensed products.
X-Men 139 is also cool because it recounts Wolverine’s debut by way of a flashback while he is speaking with Vindicator in anticipation of a showdown with Wendigo. Wolverine recalls his first mission when he was charged to take down the Hulk. He then goes into detail about the curse of the Wendigo. All of this is told over several panels which reproduce (with new Byrne art) Hulk 180, 181, 182‘s story. This also serves the purpose of segueing out of the old Wolverine and into the new look.
Another thing of mild importance
Another minorly cool thing about this book in Wolverine history is that it is the first time a fellow X-Man learns his real name, “Logan”. To be clear, the first time “Logan” was mentioned was in X-Men 103, but that was not put out in the open. Here in this issue, Nightcrawler who has been his teammate since Giant Size X-Men 1, is surprised to learn his real name. He is somewhat of a mystery to the other members. This is one of the cool things about Wolverine in the Claremont/Byrne X-Men issues. He occasionally surprises his teammates with how little they know of him.
It’s not all about Wolverine though. The main thing associated with X-Men 139 is that it’s the issue where Kitty Pryde joins the team. That is usually what is promoted in the title or description, if anything, when people sell this book on eBay. Now, that is not a small thing by any means. It is an important point in time for the X-Men, having the addition of Kitty Pryde to the team. But if you think about how popular Spider-Man’s black suit has become, can this be a little bit of that for Wolverine?
Why the new costume? Why not!
In Spider-Man’s case, the black suit went on to have tremendous implications. It was later revealed to be an alien symbiote. It eventually spawned a character who was a perversion of Spider-Man, Venom. That is huge. Unfortunately, in this case, it appears the costume was just changed on a whim by John Byrne. It can be seen from this panel in X–Men 139. Wolverine seems to just brush off the question of “why the new costume” and change the subject. Still, that was some whim, as it lasted the whole of the 1980s!
That was such a long time that the return to the yellow and blue costume after a decade might also be worth picking up. I am not sure what issue that is, officially. If you know what issue that was, or have any more insight into the creation of this new look, leave a comment below!