Favorite Fictional Characters, #75: Wolverine
This is when I get to play my comic hipster card. Wolverine was my favorite long before he became the overexposed Batman of the Marvel Universe. Long before Hugh Jackman's surprisingly decent (if too tall) cinematic portrayal, long before he inexplicably became an Avenger, even before he became an eminence grise on the the X-Men. I loved Wolverine when he was just Logan (James Howlett? Huh?), back in the mid-1980s when he was still the barely-controlled bad boy of the spandex set, before Punisher or Deadpool or Dark Knights made gritty growling the new black. Wolverine was brooding, mysterious, savage, and magnetic. He was the forerunner of the more vicious, less preachy, more nuanced comic character directed as much at adult readers as youngsters.
Even so, at nine and ten years old, this was my guy. He was at war with everyone, including himself, torn by a contented acceptance at who and what he was versus a desire to be more than that. There was a yearning to Wolverine in those days, a struggle that led him to defect from Alpha Flight and the only real home he'd known to join Xavier's second generation of X-Men. His friendship with Nightcrawler, his rivalry with Cyclops, his kinship with Storm and Colossus, these relationships emerged slowly and brilliantly under the skilled craftsmanship of Byrne and Claremont, during one of the greatest creative runs in comic book history. Jean Grey's death affected him deeply (though their attraction would later be a little too emphasized through retconning), and the arrival of Kitty Pryde ushered in a new era in Wolverine's layered narrative: Logan the Yoda. He took Kitty (and later Jubilee, and others) under his adamantium wing, teaching them samurai wisdom and hard lessons. It tamed his wildness in ways Xavier's martinet approach never could.
For me, there will never be anything better in comics than Wolverine's siege of the Hellfire Club or his assault on Broodworld. A close second would be his aborted wedding to Mariko Yashida in Japan, an emotional wound lovingly depicted and an example of humanity and restraint so rare in the modern comics of Ultimates and Extremes and 2099s. Wolverine was the symbol to me of the Silver Age of comics, and while he's suffered from hack writers and artists during this contemporary watering down and erosion of comicdom, to me he will always be the guy who surprised everybody by sneaking up on deer close enough to touch them, the guy who opened his beer cans with his claws and who got away with calling Profesor X "Chuck". Yes, he was - and probably still is - the best there is at what he does, even though what he does isn't very nice.