…Logan’s parentage?

Followers of this blog may recall its first big success back in January 2013 when it recruited as a guest contributor, comics’ royalty, Paty Cockrum, member of Marvel’s bullpen and wife of the late legendary creator of the All-New, All-Different X-Men Dave Cockrum.  This time around the proverb “good things come to those who wait” has finally come true for this blog, with Nate recently having the ridiculous good fortune to speak exclusively with the Godfather of The X-Men, Chris Claremont, over many elements of his time on X-Men. The following essay represents his thoughts on yet another of his dropped threads, the true parentage of Logan, the mutant known as Wolverine.

I wouldn’t want to in this particular instance.  That is, as long-time readers of this blog will know, I am a Claremont-purist.  So for the remainder of this blog post I will attempt to highlight how Chris’s explanation for who he intended Logan’s parents to be, more specifically his biological mother, was RIGHT THERE during his original run… and yet no X-fan saw it, but how in the hell did they MISS it?

In Chris’s conception, Wolverine is, in many respects, the anodyne of what Charles Xavier preaches to the student X-Men.

He is not a natural-born man of honour, he is not a non-violent person.  He is significantly older than all of the other X-Men, he has a life experience that is unlike any of theirs, and in terms of his inherent character, he is fundamentally, and continually, in conflict with himself.

Chris Claremont’s evolution of who and what Wolverine is, and where he came from, is substantially different from what evolved into traditional Marvel origin tropes. To Chris, he is a man in conflict with himself by virtue of the fact that half of his persona, and his physical abilities, are derived from his father, i.e. Sabretooth, and half is defined from his mother who in his conception was the fallen angel, Seraph, who ran the Princess Bar in Madripoor.

From that you have the reason why he is significantly height-challenged compared to Sabretooth…

…but also why, in Chris’s presentation of the character, every year on his birthday Sabretooth shows up and basically kills him… since from Sabretooth’s perception, this is a rite of passage.

Figure 03_WLV10p19

He’s totally aware of the reality, i.e. Logan has a healing factor that is as ruthlessly efficient as Sabretooth’s own.  So when one says Sabretooth kills him, he gets better and Sabretooth knows this.  But from his perception,

“If you’re my son, then the only way you get to be ‘top dog’ in the ‘pack’ is by getting rid of ‘the top dog in the pack,’ which is me.  And until you can do that, I’m not going to give you any respect…especially if you refuse to do that.”

And it’s even from Sabretooth’s perception Logan is even more of a blot on the family escutcheon because, not simply because of his height and his flawed attitude, i.e. a sense of morality, but also because he’s a cyborg thanks to the Weapon X foolishness.  He has adamantium-laced bones, he has the adamantium claws, so as far as Sabretooth’s concerned, Logan is broken goods.

From Logan’s perspective, he is torn between the half of his persona that is derived solely from his father, which is he’s a kick-arse hellraiser, i.e. if you look at any room he lives in, half of it is a total shithole and the other half derived from his perception of fulfilling his mother’s aspect of his persona, i.e. in him it’s epitomised by the essence of Japanese/ samurai culture, is almost a perfect symmetry of form and substance.  It is simple, it is unique, it is clean, it is essential…

…and that’s the battle that is always going on with him.  There is a part of him that always wants to be the passionate, but honourable, mate of Mariko Yashida, but the other half of him is even more passionately bound to Phoenix, or more importantly Dark Phoenix.  He wants to tear the Omniverse to shreds because that’s the way to win his lady’s heart…

…and he is constantly in conflict… and it drives him absolutely fucking crazy… which is about as brilliant a presentation for a character in a melodramatic setting like the X-Men as one could get.

So everything, for Chris at least, defining about Wolverine is the two aspects of his life are his past, in terms of the details of his past, who he is and where he came from, he doesn’t care, from Chris’s way of thinking, he has no interest in his origins, he knows his origins.  As far as where the claws came from, the fact that he doesn’t know doesn’t bother him, they’re here… he will deal with it. He isn’t interested in getting revenge, unless of course the person who did it is doing it to other people… if a person indeed did it.  His focus is on the present and what is yet to be, getting in this instance the X-Men and by extension the New Mutants and all the students associated with Xavier at the school ready for whatever will come at them down the pike.  But aside from that, he is not that concerned.  Part of that is solipsism on Chris’s part; basically he did not trust himself to come up with an origin that was so unbelievable… and unique… and absolutely kick-arse… that he wanted to risk it.  And the other half of Chris was even if he did come up with that, in ten years it would be stale and someone would want to change it.

Chris’s pitched Dark Wolverine Saga, where he would have the Hand turning Logan into their assassin, was a feint.  That is, Chris intended to reveal that the Hand were not interested in Logan except as a lure to reel in Jean, knowing that if he was needing rescuing she would be the one who would come after him…

…and then they would have Dark Phoenix and finally cut her lose.

But the kicker… this was the Shadow King’s plan.

That is, he was responsible for shaking up the Club and coordinating a more ruthless Inner Circle, Matsu’o his agent to use the Hand to put this plan into play.

As for Kitty, she is the next best thing to Logan’s daughter, she came in part to be because of him and was intended by him to become the inheritor of everything scary about Wolverine…

…including his immortality… the consequences of which would come down the line (the background to this being that the Shadow King came to learn her connection in Madripoor and this was behind him fading, not into the background, but cross-time where he manipulated others to his “cause” with the intention of using them to corrupt her – his big clue to us re: this was Sat-Yr-9, in guise of our Courtney…

…joining the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle).

The above all leads to a number of questions, including:

1. If Logan besmirched the “family escutcheon”, this mean his father(Sabretooth)’s side of the family had a coat-of-arms which suggests they are of noble lineage, and not too far back if Sabretooth is directly aware of this… and a family that believed morality to be a weakness/ flawed attitude.  So just where does this family come from?

Baron Strucker came from a line of Prussian noblemen.  He led the Death’s Head Squadron, first mentioned in Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos #5, but not SEEN UNTIL, yes, Chris’s Uncanny X-Men #268.  Although an S.S. division, they operated independently from the Reich, following only Baron Strucker’s orders, and were the ones shown in pursuit of young Natalia Romanova.  In that particular issue they were killed by Seraph, Madripoor’s self-appointed guardian.  The Death’s Head originated with pirates, e.g. the Jolly Roger, but there was also a Prussian version which had the crossbones behind the skull. Wolfgang came from a long line of Struckers who were all military leaders cut from the same cloth…

…a family that believed morality a weakness/ flawed attitude. So did Logan besmirch the Strucker escutcheon? Seraph went out of her way to shoot the Death’s Head Squadron. Hmm, interesting…

2. If Seraph was a “fallen angel” (and Chris insists this wasn’t a metaphor), what led to her fall?

How interesting is it that her son is destined to partner with the corrupted Phoenix, when the Second Book of Enoch denotes the Seraphim as the Phoenix, “flying elements of the Sun”.

3. There’s also the question of how Seraph came to meet Sabretooth?

Marvel Comics Presents #2 revealed the woman on David Chapel’s pendant, which he gave to Wolverine in the Australian desert, as the woman for whom the Princess Bar was named (at the time it seemed to be Jessan Hoan but at this point she had not long migrated there – given the later revelation in Wolverine #126, it was obviously Seraph).

Before she built the Princess Bar, Seraph met Sabes in Canada, had some fun, even worked together for a time as circuits clicked and emotions heated up between them. One thing led to another and they had a child (i.e. Logan). Early on he had been a proper rotter – think the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas…

… – leading to major conflict between the two of them.  Seraph hit the road to put some necessary distance between herself and Sabes while she figured out where to go from there.  To his surprise as much as hers, Sabes felt a connection with Logan so remained back to continue raising Logan.  Seraph went on to settle in Madripoor, it turning out to be the sole place in Earth where she felt safe (which of course makes one wonder what-who she might be afraid of).

4. Had a Princess ruled Madripoor before Prince Baran…

…and Seraph built the Bar on her behalf? Or did Seraph institute herself as reigning princess of the island of thieves?

This might explain why Viper felt it important to institute herself in that position.  That is, by marrying the son of Seraph…

…she believed she had inherited the title.

That means Logan is entitled to the position of Prince of Madripoor, and Sabretooth perhaps King of Madripoor.

If Wolverine wants the title of King, he will have to kill Sabretooth;)

5. What or who might Seraph be afraid of?

Well if she had been an Angel, but had lost her celestial attributes, does this mean she had been a member of Lucifer’s host who all “fell” after banishing the N’Garai from Earth (cf. Marvel Preview #7)?  Given the Camarilla of the N’Garai wished to punish Satana as revenge on her father, the seraph, Lucifer, for his role in their banishment from Earth…

…did the demons similarly have their agents after Seraph? I can see it now while she is working in the Kulrane, the N’Garai curse that was the Wendigo in pursuit of her, leading to a showdown between the creature and Sabretooth.

Or did she seek Sabretooth out because she heard of his power and perhaps thought by having a child with him she could raise a champion to defeat the N’Garai?

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…why a Burglar traveled from Midtown Manhattan to suburban Queens?

While considered a classic, Marv Wolfman’s “Dutch Malone” anniversary story in Amazing Spider-Man #200 represents a major lost opportunity in that it never effectively addressed the “Mother of All Coincidences” left over from the original story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Amazing Fantasy #15 whereby an anonymous criminal who encounters Spider-Man in a TV Studio in Midtown Manhattan a few hours later comes completely by coincidence to the house in Queens where Spider-Man lives.

Steve and Stan did, of course, only have eleven pages to tell their tale, but Marv had thirty-seven, more than ample space…

And, remember, it’s not just the burglar… it was also the same cop, Captain Harrigan, in Manhattan and Queens.  Heck of a precinct don’t you think!

How is it that no writer – and out of all Marvel’s titles Spidey has had some of the best – has been able to come up with a simple, easy solution, a connection that makes it perfectly logical for all the necessary people to be in the right place(s) at the right time(s) without violating anything we already know?

The fix needs to answer:

“What gets the burglar and the cop from a random encounter with Spider-Man in Midtown Manhattan to the very house in Queens in which Spider-Man lives?”

By saying “the burglar had stashed loot in the house” another layer of coincidence was merely added by Wolfman, rather than explained away.

However, by saying: “Both the burglar and Captain Harrigan were from the Forest Hills/ Queens area,” we can assume that the burglar, having seen Spider-Man while casing the Parker house, made the trip to the TV Studio in Manhattan (followed by Harrigan, of course) for the purpose of finding Spider-Man there.

It would seem to be the only reasonable explanation for why both he and Harrigan were so far from home (and also a reason why he’s “rifling through the dressing rooms”).

Better to connect the Burglar to both Ben and Spider-Man, so that the coincidence element can finally be laid to rest.

The coincidence is not that the guy robbing the Manhattan TV station improbably ends up robbing the Parker house in Queens, but that the guy casing out the Parker house in Queens surely turns up at the Manhattan TV station.

With a connection to Spider-Man now established a priori, you have a reason for the burglar to be there even if not stated.

So the burglar bursts into the house, clamouring for Spider-Man. They scuffle. The shot rings out.  Uncle Ben is dead.  If ever Aunt May had a reason to not like Spider-Man much before, she sure is given a doozy of one now!  This would be an intentional underscoring of her feelings, like removing yet another coincidence from the Spider-Man mythos.  Aunt May’s dislike of Spider-Man was obviously there to add one more thorn to poor Peter’s side – we always needed there to be something more to it than her just being gullible to buy the unsubstantiated twaddle J. Jonah Jameson was peddling in the Daily Bugle.  This, for me, is it.

As to why the guy was initially casing out the Parker house in Queens…

…after the scene in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 which had Peter finding pictures and clippings of his deceased parents after moving an old trunk in his Aunt’s house, the subsequent revelation that they were American counter-spies, written by Stan himself I might add who contributed to Wolfman’s story, seemed like the perfect gift…

That is, the burglar was actually after notebooks of Richard and Mary Parker, and Ben recognised him, which was why the burglar shot him to shut him up…

…the complete Super-Soldier formula… set-up notes and everything… which makes the whole origin make sense.

The burglar (doing a little freelance on the side) sees a kid with super-strength demolish a pro-wrestler three times his size. He steals the gate – but what he’s REALLY after is the sign-in-book (a good diversion, since everyone will think he’s just after the money).

And he deliberately chooses his exit to get a close look at the kid.

There he sees it, on the sign-in sheet: Peter Parker, Forest Hills.

Bingo! His higher-ups immediately make the Richard Parker connection, and believe that young Parker has gotten hold of his Dad’s notes and given himself super-strength. Or maybe it’s Ben Parker’s doing. Doesn’t really matter! So he’s instructed to go after the notebook.

He goes to the house, looks for the notebook, doesn’t find it (because it doesn’t exist); wakes up Ben. Ben recognises him, the thief shoots him. He scarpers.

Thief is now on the lam for the murder. His higher ups decide to burn him since he didn’t get the formula. He’s terrified – not because of the New York cops, but because Ben has a file with both the FBI and CIA, if only because he’s Parker’s older brother – but also because he knows that he’s being chased by a super-powered teenager who might very well literally tear him limb from limb.

This does, of course, complicate the simplicity of the original story – but a neatly tied bow, don’t you think?!