Let’s face it, Wolverine has often been lauded as the epitome of hetero-masculinity for quite some time, and there are no doubt plenty of receipts to show why that vision persists.
The rough and tough character is just overflowing with testosterone-filled badassery and there are more than enough comics to back that up. He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice, right? He’s maimed and killed for years, and in that time, had more than his fair share of relationships with women in the greater Marvel Universe. From Mariko Yashida, Itsu who bore his son Daken to even Mystique as well as lesser known characters like Rose O’Hara and Silver Fox, the list continues of Wolverine’s sexual exploitations over the years. But in the course of this history, there has also been a slowly evolving broadening of his sexuality that while not canonically confirmed yet, shows there is more to this character than meets the eye, and trust me, there is a LOT that meets the eye. But it’s time for fans and more importantly, Marvel, to come to terms with the ever-elusive notion that Wolverine isn’t just a straight man.
While this isn’t a declaration of a definitive sexual orientation for our beloved Canadian mutant, there are more than a few instances throughout his history showing an evolution, both intentionally and unintentionally on Marvel’s part. The first and most prominent example of Wolverine’s increasingly fluid sexuality you will undoubtedly come across is a series titled X-Treme X-Men which began in 2012 spinning out of Astonishing X-Men featuring one “Captain Howlett” during his travels through the multiverse. In these travels, it is eventually revealed in X-Treme X-Men #10 that this version of Wolverine shared a romantic love with none other than Hercules.
Their love in this story reaches great depths, and when it is eventually lost, the grief that Logan feels is powerful. When this happens, the person beside him is quite literally the alternate version of himself, the Wolverine from the Astonishing X-Men. It’s an interesting moment to see the two grapple with the loss of this love as the mainstream vision stands just behind a vision of Wolverine that captured what he cannot. But in the heat of the moment there is only room for one tear and then that story becomes just a memory, destined to be lost to multidimensional retcons and reboots. A move like this for a character like Wolverine appearing in an alternate universe comes as no surprise, as Marvel has shown a strong reluctance to promoting these themes for him even when it is rather obvious.
Wolverine’s relationships with other men in the past have been complicated to say the least. Going all the way back to the Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975 when we are first introduced to the unique chemistry Wolverine shares with Nightcrawler, it didn’t really start all that well. Wolverine jokes and pokes fun at Nightcrawler often, but as we all know, the two would eventually grow remarkably close. It has rarely hit a point beyond close friends, even during the Marvel Comics Presents #101-108 run in 1992 titled “Male Bonding” which saw the two reunite for the first time following the Mutant Massacre. Here we see the closeness of their dynamics come to the forefront, once more only providing hints though. There have been interesting highlights, such as when Wolverine lashed out at Nightcrawler during Uncanny X-Men #143 in 1981 after Wolverine attempted to introduce Mariko at the X-Mansion to even recently when the two were able to share a moment of reflection just before a suicide mission in House of X #4 in 2019, the emotional depths of their relationship has been firmly put into place. But in order to take it beyond friendship, creators have been forced to sneak in signals right under Marvel’s nose, which as many fans of X-Men will know, isn’t all that much of a rarity.
In Wolverine #6 by Greg Rucka, Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer, we find Wolverine and Nightcrawler catching up at a bar sharing their love of beer together. It’s yet another moment that shows the intensity of their bond and how it can take shape, but for this issue, it isn’t the interior pages that make it stand out, it’s the cover.
The racy, not-so-nuanced cover featuring some provocative imagery between Wolverine and a definitely nude Nightcrawler is an example of the extremes that creators have gone to get hints across without the notice of strict editorial decisions. There aren’t many overt comic panels that you can point to as a definitive moments for a character like Wolverine in exploring sexuality, and that is something that Marvel continues to struggle with across the Mutantdom even today, but the cover to Wolverine #6 is a perfect example of that exploration making itself known regardless. People like series writer Greg Rucka and Jill Pantozzi have commented on the issue’s release with this cover and CBR even spoke with cover artist Esad Ribic after the issue was published saying ..
“I once was at a show where I asked Esad about this cover.
Esad is a big, cheerful, man with a wicked sense of humor.
He just looked at me.
And then he smiled.
And the smile got bigger.
And he said, “And nobody at Marvel noticed!”
And then he couldn’t stop laughing.”
These types of tidbits aren’t breaking news to longtime fans of X-Men, but it’s a process that becomes apparent in unique ways with this character. And that is ultimately the process that I am interested in with Wolverine and the constant state of evolution we’ve found the character in.
Despite the curious moments that fill Wolverine’s history, this is not a situation involving a prominent declaration such as when we finally got Iceman out definitively as gay. It’s about the exploration of sexuality itself and how the process of self-discovery can manifest in our relationships both with ourselves and others. We’ve seen a new stage in that process recently with even more hints coming from Hickman in the exciting Dawn of X initiative which sees Logan approaching his relationship with both Jean and Scott in an entirely new way, sparking countless discussions of something deeper happening with both of them. Even suggesting a “throuple” status between the famed trio thanks to some interesting pieces of information from HoX/PoX and what came after.
With Krakoa allowing them to all share a home together on the Moon in a place called the Summers House in X-Men #1 (2019), fans were quick to point out that the living arrangements placed Scott and Logan’s room on either side of Jean’s to conjoin them. It was once again a subtle hint, but it was then followed with a more on-the-nose conversation between Scott and Logan in issue #7 when Logan responds “Well, who could say no to that?” when Scott mentions himself in a Speedo as part of the scenery. Their relationship has certainly become more intimate as of late, with fans even going so far as to point out flirtatious touching between Cyclops and Wolverine. However, the history of LGBT+ representation in the X-Men is filled with hints and nonconfirmations such as this, and while some creators have been able to overcome this method and explore certain character’s sexuality more openly, it seems Wolverine has been left to just vague references.
Over the course of decades, more intense emotions flare and make themselves known in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, but they are also never followed up on in any sort of meaningful way. Wolverine’s constant evolution followed by periods of erasure represents an editorial process that reflects the industry itself and how its been able to find a voice in such matters, not always doing so successfully. Not only this, it also shows that every LGBT+ story will not look the same, and with all of the moments we can find even in Wolverine’s past, it’s the examination of oneself that represents the journey. I’ve found a sense of relatability in the journey that Wolverine is on as a character and where we as readers see him today.
Wolverine’s journey in its entirety, both on and off the panel, represents an evolution of masculine male sexuality despite expectations when confronted with erasure. It’s worthwhile, giving a voice to those with a story not nearly as recognizable as others, and it’s got the precedent to continue the exploration in a meaningful way, but where we go from here is up to Marvel.
Comic Watch Pride: The Evolution and Erasure of Wolverine’s Sexuality
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