Wolverine first appeared in 1974 in Hulk #181. It’s fairly safe to say that few could have predicted the impact the character would have. Certainly, the Wolverine has seen more screen time than countless other more senior characters within the Marvel pantheon. Even though Wolverine’s healing factor gives him a great deal more longevity than your average Canadian, as a comic book character, at 44 years old, he’s becoming decidedly long in the tooth, right along with the average age of your friendly neighborhood comic geek, which is about 35.
Perhaps sensing this, the cosmic overlords at Marvel killed off the Wolverine we know and love in 2014. Fret not; Wolverine’s an X-man, and they “always come back”, as most recently evidenced by Jean Grey in X-men Red. The concept of a character staying dead in the Marvel, or any comic universe, is just a reboot away from the punchline it tends to become. In the case of Wolverine, it’s been a soft reboot, that tends to emphasize the softer parts of Wolverine as a whole.
Old Man Logan launched as an 8-issue storyline in 2009 taking place in a hellish alternate Earth. After the Death of Wolverine, Old Man Logan became a full-on X-man, having relocated to one of the less hellish Marvel timelines. Just shy of a total reboot, Wolverine’s clone, X-23, took up the reigns for the monthly Wolverine title, with the addition of her tween clone, Gabby, aka Honey Badger. Daken, Logan’s son, also shows up from time to time. As does Old Man Logan, which ends up creating a bizarre family unit. There’s even a pet; Jonathan, the talking Wolverine.
At 44 years young, it’s not so strange that Wolverine would have created some semblance of a family. Odds are, if you grew up reading about the adventures of Weapon X, you’re at an age where you have genetic experiments of your own. The advent of Old Man Logan into the Marvel universe brings the idea of family to the forefront. In his timeline, everyone he ever knew or loved is dead, so Old Man Logan is a big softie, at least when compared to his younger self. A storyline where he goes on a mission to save Jubilee reads like a parent (or at least an uncle) leaping into danger for family.
The film Logan, which cobbles together bits and pieces of the Wolverine legendarium, has a senile Professor X waxing nostalgic about family, and here too, Wolverine sacrifices himself for family. Seeing Wolverine on screen and in comics as a more vulnerable, albeit grizzled and damaged, soul strikes a chord. Though he’s sometimes more than a bit of an anti-hero, Wolverine has a heart that’s mostly gold. As the passage of time has sanded him down, that gold starts to shine through.
Wolverine is the first character to have his own serialized podcast; “The Long Night”. Someone with a heap of data in front of them thought that releasing a podcast thriller about a violent Canadian on a subscription-based service is a good idea. If movies about comic book characters are mainstream, then a podcast about one is full-blown Dad rock.
As easy as it is to believe that comics and elves and dice-rolling are things people grow out of, a lot of people don’t see “childish things” precluding functioning in an adult world. The biggest movies and television series on the planet are about comic books and fantasy worlds. The reality is that the world of the fantastic is expanding every day, across demographics and across platforms. It seems safe to say that even as we grow up with comic book heroes, they too evolve with us.