Wolverine is arguably the most iconic X-Man and one of the most iconic comic book characters in Marvel Comics. Since he first debuted in 1974, the character gained wider recognition with ‘X-Men: The Animated Series’ (1992-1997) and additionally with Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character in Fox’s ‘X-Men’ movie franchise. As the character’s popularity kept increasing, it didn’t take long for a comic book reader to realize that two additional names for Wolverine exist; Logan and James Howlett. So, why is Wolverine also called Logan and James Howlett?
James Howlett is the birth name of the Wolverine. In the Marvel Comics canon, James was born in the late 19th century in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada, where Elizabeth and John Howlett raised him. However, it turned out later that his biological father was Thomas Logan, the Howlett’s groundkeeper. James’ mutant powers manifested when Thomas killed John in cold blood, and James attacked and killed Thomas with his claws in retaliation. After that, James escaped and, to hide his identity adopted the name Logan, which he kept all the way to the 21st century.
The Wolverine’s origin story was adapted in 2009’s ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ with some changes, although the main idea and purpose of Wolverine were kept. Unlike in the comics, where James Howlett was born in the late 19th century, the movie’s incarnation was born in 1832 in the North-Western Territory (which was disestablished in 1870). The movie also excluded the role of James’ childhood friend Rose O’Hara. In the coming paragraphs, we’ll dig deeper into Wolverine’s origin story and each of the names he’s known by.
The History of Wolverine
The character of Wolverine first debuted in ‘The Incredible Hulk’ #180 in October 1974, before he had his first full appearance in the next issue one month later. The ending of the #180 issue depicted an epic fight between the Hulk and Wendigo, during which the Wolverine enters the fight like a bolt from the blue. This cameo of Wolverine led to his first full appearance in the next issue.
When the comic book readers first met James Howlett, he was already established as the Wolverine. However, his origin story wasn’t fully depicted until the six-issue ‘Wolverine: The Origin’ series launched in September 2001. Written by Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas, and Joe Quesada, this series depicted the beginnings of James Howlett from his childhood days.
Wolverine was born in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada, sometime in the late 19th century. He was born to Elizabeth Howlett and raised in a large mansion owned by his father, John Howlett.
James didn’t know back then that he was the illegitimate fruit of Elizabeth’s affair with Thomas Logan, who worked at the Howlett’s as a groundkeeper. During his childhood, James was a good friend with Rachel O’Hara, who James’ parents asked to look after him, and Dog Logan, Thomas Logan’s son and James’ half-brother.
James’ life fundamentally changed one night when Thomas, drunk and armed with a shotgun, came to the mansion with Dog to take Elizabeth with him. John tried to fight him off, but Thomas shot and killed him.
Seeing that scene triggered James’ mutation, and bone claws emerged from his knuckles. In all his ferocity, James attacked and killed Thomas while also scarring Dog with three claw marks. To make the tragedy even worse, Elizabeth, who was completely emotionally disturbed, drove James away and took her own life with Thomas’ gun.
How did James Howlett become Logan and Wolverine?
After his mother cast him away and called him a monster, James fled the mansion with Rose. They took refuge in British Columbia, where they posed as cousins. To hide James’ identity, Rose rebaptized him with the name Logan. As time passed and his healing factor slowly erased his traumatic memories, James completely rejected his origins and started living his life as Logan.
Although he first earned his Wolverine nickname from the miners in ‘Wolverine: The Origin’ #5, it became his official superhero name when he reached another milestone in his story with the Weapon X program. As we know, the program fused the indestructible liquid metal known as adamantium into his skeleton.
Becoming the Wolverine, one of Canada’s first superheroes, Logan began his superhero career working as an operative for the Canadian government’s Department H, and his first mission was to stop the destruction caused by the brawl between Hulk and Wendigo, which was depicted in his first appearance in ‘The Incredible Hulk’ #180.
Why is the name of James Howlett equally important as Logan and Wolverine?
We wouldn’t be wrong if we said that on that night, when his claws first emerged, James Howlett died, and Logan/Wolverine was born, especially because of his healing factor and partial amnesia he suffered due to the tragedy. And even though he rejected his past life and embraced his new life as Logan, the name of James Howlett somehow always remained a part of him.
In 2017’s movie ‘Logan,’ we could’ve seen that Logan’s driving license is licensed under the name of James Howlett. While it might be that this was put in the movie as some sort of easter egg, it still indicates that, at least in the movie, Logan never changed his name, and legally he’s still James Howlett.
Also, let’s not forget a scene where he meets that family on the road, and he introduces himself as James, presumably to hide his identity again (he didn’t actually hide it, but you can see our point) because that name isn’t so known or notorious as Logan, let alone Wolverine.
Hugh Jackman appeared as Wolverine in ten movies (including cameo appearances) in Fox’s ‘X-Men’ movie franchise. Jackman said farewell to the role with 2017’s ‘Logan,’ which was the final installment of his ‘Wolverine’ trilogy.
However, after Disney purchased Fox and Ryan Reynolds was announced to reprise his role in ‘Deadpool 3,’ the first R-rated movie to be set in the MCU, it was announced that Jackman, who is also Reynolds’ BFF in real life, agreed to play James Howlett, aka Logan, aka Wolverine one more time.
Hugh Jackman will return as Wolverine in Deadpool 3, which, at the time of this writing, is scheduled to be released on May 3, 2024. However, the production is currently on hold, and it’s unknown if the movie will be completed before the scheduled date.
Are you a fan of Wolverine? Is he among your favorite X-Men and Marvel characters? Let us know in the comments.