Wolverine's the best he is at what he does and he'll be back in movie theaters on Friday, May 1 in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"!
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By Dan Brooks
He's the best there is at what he does—and what he does is wear tons of different costumes.
Ever since his introduction in 1974, Wolverine has changed outfits about as many times as he's killed ninjas—a lot. For a comics icon, this can be a rarity. Captain America, Spider-Man, and Daredevil have become essentially synonymous with their trademark costumes, but not Wolverine.
As fitting with the X-Man's loner nature, Wolverine hasn't stuck to one outfit like many of his contemporaries. From the "brown-and-tan" to his new X-Force suit, Wolverine's costumes share certain traits—forearm-length gloves, menacing cowl, form-fitting bodysuit—but diverge in color schemes, design patterns, and other salient details. Each fan has his or her favorite, and the topic of "Best Wolverine Costume" often sparks a fierce debate. But each of Wolverine's different looks has a place in his history, and the diversity of his costumes reflects the complexity of his character.
Here's a guide to 10 costumes from the 'ol Canucklehead's ever expanding and evolving wardrobe, including each outfit's first appearance, the circumstances surrounding its design, and its historical significance.
Costume #1: Original
INCREDIBLE HULK #181 (1974)
Worn in his first appearance—a memorable three-way throw-down with the Hulk and Wendigo—Wolverine's original costume introduced his signature blue and yellow color scheme and other apparel that would become hallmarks of the character's look. Featuring blue gloves, trunks, shoulder pads and winged-boots with a red belt over a yellow spandex body suit highlighted with tiger stripes, this would serve as the basis for most of Wolverine's future costumes. Designed by John Romita Sr., the yellow and blue colors were chosen because it presented a new combination in comics. This costume also featured Logan's controversial "whiskers" mask, which contained thin lines above the mouth and very short "wings" above the cowl. Fun fact: Wolverine would not retract his adamantium claws even once during his first appearance, making the later reveal that his claws were a part of him and not his gloves all the more surprising.
Costume #2: New Mask
GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975)
When the decision to place Wolverine in the X-Men in GIANT SIZE X-MEN #1 came about, his original mask came as part of the package—an accident helped define his iconic look. After interior artist Dave Cockrum completed the issue, cover artist Gil Kane drew the new X-Man's mask with longer wings, colored black from the top down to his jaw line—eliminating the whiskers in the process—and filled the eye-holes with an eerie white. Cockrum loved the changes so much, he went back and redrew the mask throughout the entire issue, panel-by-panel. Over time, the redesigned mask combined with the blue and yellow bodysuit has become perhaps the character's most well-known look.
Costume #3: Fang
X-MEN #107 (1977)
Designed by Dave Cockrum and originally intended to become Wolverine's new outfit, the "Fang" costume—named for the Imperial Guard warrior it belonged to, who Wolverine took it from after victory in battle—lasted only two issues. A maskless costume featuring a collar, belt, and glove and boot cuffs made up of bony claws and skulls, it represented a steep departure from what came before. John Byrne, who soon took over art duties, quickly switched back to the blue-and-yellow in X-MEN #109, but the artist must have taken note; the brown and tan colors of the Fang costume would make the transfer over to his upcoming revision of Wolverine's costume, one that would become a fan favorite.
Costume #4: Brown and Tan
X-MEN #139 (1980)
When asked by Nightcrawler about the reason for his latest outfit change, Logan aptly replied, "Why not?" Ditching the shoulder pads, tiger stripes, and bright colors of the original costume, John Byrne designed a more muted, intimidating look for Logan. Swapping blue and yellow for brown and tan proved the most significant change, as the darker colors more closely matched the personality of the character and resulted in a costume that struck a chord with fans. Among all his costumes, the brown-and-tan would go on to have the longest continuous run, as it lasted until Wolverine switched back to his blue-and-yellow duds in 1991. But this costume has not been forgotten, and its brief return in WOLVERINE: ORIGINS brought much rejoicing from fans.
"The way I see it, the blue and gold outfit is his uniform—it's the X-Men colors" says WOLVERINE: ORIGINS and DARK WOLVERINE writer Daniel Way. "That's for official business. The brown costume, however, is for personal matters, and that's what ORIGINS is all about, so I thought it fit. That, and it's my favorite. Don't know why that particular color scheme looks so bad-ass on him, but it just does."
Costume #5: Black
WOLVERINE #1 (1988)
To kick off his first ongoing series, Wolverine donned an all-black outfit, featuring shorter gloves than usual, and a netted mask over his eyes. Created by John Buscema, this costume did not last long, but remains significant and fondly remembered for representing the character's stealth tactics, ties to Japan, and varied fighting skills.
Costume #6: Weapon X
MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #72 (1991)
In the landmark "Weapon X" story by Barry Windsor-Smith telling part of Logan's origin, Wolverine gets abducted, tortured and brainwashed into a living weapon by the Weapon X Program. For Wolverine's field test training, Windsor-Smith created a look fittingly disturbing. In this "costume," Wolverine runs around essentially nude, short for spikes jutting out of his skin and a virtual reality helmet connected by cables to a belt containing various electronic gadgets. It's a relatively simple design, but has proved memorable. The helmet's red visor comes off threatening and conveys the blank slate that had become Wolverine's mind; the unnerving spike show the pain of the character; the cables illustrate the control and manipulation of his captors; the electronics show that Wolverine's close to becoming the machine that he would be as Weapon X. The story's images of Wolverine released into a snow-drenched forest, wearing nothing but this horrific gear, remain unforgettable.
Costume #7: Feral
WOLVERINE #100 (1996)
After Magneto ripped the adamantium from Wolverine's skeleton, we learned that Wolverine's claws were actually made of bone, and not surgical implants from the Weapon X program as long believed. Later, Cable's son, Genesis, hoping to make Wolverine into one of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, drew him into a trap designed to rebond adamantium to Wolverine's bones and ready him for Apocalypse. After Wolverine broke free during the bonding process, he had mutated into a grotesque feral-like form. Designed by Adam Kubert, Wolverine now had long forearms and legs, with animal-like nails and patches of fur, thick claws, and a deformed face. The most significant and remembered design change costume-wise, however, came with Wolverine's decision to wear a bandana to hide his mutated face. "I used to be a man," Wolverine said remorsefully shortly after his transformation, and the face-concealing mask perfectly reflected his shame at what he'd become.
Costume #8: Black Leather
NEW X-MEN #114 (2001)
When writer Grant Morrison took the helm of the X-Men Universe in 2001, out went the costumes. Instead came a more uniformed look for not just Wolverine, but the entire team: black leather outfits featuring yellow day-glo X's. The new designs, courtesy of Frank Quitely, were heavily influenced by the then-recently released first "X-Men" film, with Wolverine looking particularly Hugh Jackman-esque: He got rid of the mask, his winged-hair got toned down, and he began sporting his military dog tags and a white ribbed undershirt. Decidedly non-super hero, this costume fit well with the more adult, sci-fi tone of Morrison's run on the title.
Costume #9: Astonishing
ASTONISHING X-MEN #1 (2004)
"Here come the tights," Wolverine said in ASTONISHNG X-MEN #1. With the launch of the groundbreaking title, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday returned the X-Men to superheroics, and fittingly, to costumes. Cassaday designed a costume for Wolverine that blended elements of several of the character's previous outfits—the yellow-and-blue color scheme, a shorter mask recalling the original "whiskers" cowl, and yellow tiger-stripes similar to those worn by Ultimate Wolverine—with new alterations, such as striking blue paneling down the outside of the costume, visible stitching and zippers. The result: a costume that looked both current and retro, signaled the return of Wolverine the super hero.
Costume #10: X-Force
X-FORCE #1 (2007)
In the wake of "Messiah Complex," Cyclops reactivated X-Force as a wetworks team, with Wolverine as its leader. For these stealth missions, the team donned sleek black-and-grey costumes. Wolverine's wears a variation of the classic brown-and-tan designed by artist Clayton Crain, featuring new black lining down the inner leg, and menacing red eyes and "X" belt buckle. Streamlined, modern, and badass, the X-Force costume has quickly become one of Wolverine's more popular suits, and his outfit of choice in the new WOLVERINE: WEAPON X ongoing series.
For more Wolverine, check out Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited and our "Wolverine: Required Reading" list. Like gaming? The official "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" video game hits stores May 1! And remember: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" comes to a theater near you on May 1—visit the official "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" movie site!
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