According to The Canadian Press, a raging wildfire known as “The Beast” forced all of Fort McMurray’s 80,000 residents to flee in 2016 and now Marvel comic fans are lobbying for a statue of another beast, Marvel’s iconic ‘Wolverine’, to be built as a tribute to the Alberta city’s resiliency.
During a debate by the City of Edmonton as to whether funding a new arena for the National Hockey League, the Oilers, local resident Brian LaBelle, started a petition calling for a Wolverine statue to be built as a way to revitalize the downtown and create tourism in the area. Sameer Singh, Labelle’s friend took the initiative, setting up an Indiegogo page to raise the estimated $85,000 it would require building a bronze statue of Wolverine in Fort McMurray. Sing says he thought, with the aftermath of the wildfires, the idea of the statue of Wolverine seems like a better way of giving back to the community than simply donating to Red Cross!
“When the wildfires … happened last year it had seemed like putting a statue of Wolverine up there seemed like a good way to give back to the community in a way that was beyond just donating to the Red Cross,” said Singh.
Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most popular characters, first appearing in the Canadian provinces battling the Hulk,and some Marvel lore speculates that Wolverine may hail from this area of northern Alberta, that being said, Wolverine’s origin story has changed quite a bit, and no one is sure exactly when and where he hails from! He’s a mutant with razor-sharp senses, the power to heal from almost any wound, along with an adamantium-laced skeleton, claws, and an attitude you wouldn’t want to cross paths with! As a representation of resiliency, he is most definitely in the running for poster boy!
Ashley Laurenson and her family were forced to leave when fire ravaged parts of the city and as manager of Nerdvana Collectible, Comics and Hobby in Fort McMurray, says she actually thinks it’s a really cool idea, being that Wolverine is ““as tough as nails, from northern Alberta, and can regenerate after taking massive amounts of damage. He seems like a fitting tribute for sure.” She says the comic-book store can’t keep Wolverine comics and graphic novels on the shelf for long. Laurenson also said, “Fort McMurray has a lot more of a nerdy base of people than a lot of people realize. We’ve got a lot of closet nerds up here,” and “Some people might think it’s a silly idea, but I know hundreds of people that I’ve talked to in the town who are super-keen to have a Wolverine statue.”
LaBelle says,“Fort McMurray is definitely northern Alberta and wolverines, the actual animals, live in northern Alberta and there’s even a Wolverine Drive in Fort McMurray, [and] it just sort of all came together in a vision of let’s do something really cool and unique and give back to a community that could use a helping hand.” LaBelle also pointed out that “It’s not as if famous mascots are anything new and Wolverine could help draw visitors to the northern city [as] there’s the statue of Captain America in the Brooklyn Zoo, a Hulk statue at the Chicago library and a Robocop statue being built in Detroit.”
Alberta’s tourism minister, Ricardo Miranda, likes the idea, saying “It’s not surprising that Wolverine’s hometown is Fort McMurray, they are both tough as nails. The people of the Wood Buffalo region have inspired us with the same indomitable spirit and almost superhuman ability to recover from adversity, that they share with their alter ego” and Miranda is looking forward to the community’s decision on the project!
Singh is aware that getting the statue completed could take a while and he would still need permission from Marvel to display Wolverine, while Fort McMurray’s mayor, Don Scott, says hearing of the campaign came as a surprise, “Nobody has told me about a Wolverine statue until now. I thought I’d heard about everything” and Scott added “My council colleagues, would be pretty keen on seeing exactly what the plan is. There’s a lot of rules … about what’s on roadways and where things are placed, so I’d have to see the overall plan before I could really comment on it.”
Brian LaBelle still hopes the people in town coming for the Edmonton comic expo or even the Calgary Expo, might have fun little extra fun on a side trip and see part of Alberta.
Unfortunately, by the time this article made it to the States and is published, Singh’s Indiegogo account had closed with only $2,295 CAD raised by 38 backers, which is about 3% of $85,000 flexible goal they were after for the Wolverine Statue. Possibly, after receiving the press in the US, Singh will try a different route. While Fort McMurray may not have a Wolverine Statue, they will always have Wolverine St.!
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