X-Men Legends Solved a Nearly 50-Year-Old Wolverine Costume Mystery

The following contains spoilers for X-Men Legends #2 (by Roy Thomas, Dave Wachter, Edgar Delgado and VC’s Joe Caramagna), on sale now.


Today, we look at how longtime Marvel Comics writer Roy Thomas solved a little-known Wolverine costume mystery after nearly 50 years.

This is “Provide Some Answers,” which is a feature where long unresolved plot points are eventually resolved.

One of the interesting things about working in the “Marvel Method” of the writer coming up with a plot and then the artist essentially writing the pages as they draw them (with the writer then coming back to add dialogue) is that sometimes, you just miss out on following up points because there’s simply no room left in the book.

In 1974, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas told Len Wein to create a Canadian mutant hero named Wolverine, and then Wein and Marvel Art Director John Romita took that prompt and designed Wolverine, who debuted on the last page of Incredible Hulk #180 (by Wein, Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel)…

In the next issue, we get a good look at Wolverine’s mask up close…

We then cut back to Wolverine’s superiors at Department H, including a blonde guy with no name, and he mentions that if Wolverine fails to take out the Hulk, that they will have backup coming in the person of a special group of agents…

However, the agents never show up, despite Wolverine getting knocked out during his fight with the Hulk. The next issue, the Hulk is just off on a new adventure, with no mention of either Wolverine or Department H.

The following year, Wolverine was then a member of the All-New, All-Different X-Men who debuted in Giant-Size X-Men #1, with an outstanding cover by Gil Kane (and outstanding interiors by Lein Wein and Dave Cockrum)…

Notice anything unusual? Wolverine’s mask is now totally different-looking!

We see him as he reports to Department H only to quit and go join Professor Xavier in the X-Men…

However, the blonde guy we saw in Incredible Hulk #181 is now gone!

And, again, his mask is now totally different!

Thank goodness Wolverine was eager to leave and join the X-Men, so Xavier didn’t have to pull out any “All Canadians are cowards!” nonsense like he used to get Thunderbird to join (good choice, Thunderbird! I’m sure you won’t die on your second mission!).

Well, those two bits were plot danglers for many years…until the first two issues of X-Men Legends by Roy Thomas, Dave Wachter, Edgar Delgado and VC’s Joe Caramagna

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WHAT HAPPENED TO THE AGENTS DEPARTMENT H SAID IT WAS SENDING AFTER HULK?

In X-Men Legends #1, we see the agents in action (they fail to defeat the Hulk either)…

(The Hulk manages to avoid breathing in all of the gas).

We now learn that the guy in charge was a Colonel Bernardo, who was about ready to get out of his job as the head of Department H…

This new name for this old character was an homage to Roy Thomas’ friend and manager, John Cimino. Here’s Roy on what he was thinking:

Colonel Bernardo first appeared on one page in INCREDIBLE HULK #181. He was the commanding officer of Department H who first refers to Wolverine as “Weapon X” and a “mutant” but was only called “sir” and never given a proper name or seen again. When I wrote X-MEN LEGENDS, I wanted to put my manager and friend John Cimino in the story, so I brought back that character and named him after John. “Bernardo” is John’s middle name.

Okay, so now what about the mask?

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HOW DID WOLVERINE CHANGE HIS COSTUME BEFORE GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1?

At the start of X-Men Legends #1, Wolverine is in his original costume and mask…

I have done a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how Kane had just drawn the mask differently on the cover, and Cockrum (who inked the cover, liked it so much that he just altered all of his art in the book to match Kane’s accidental new design ). However, Roy also had his thoughts on this change, so why would I deprive you all of hearing from Roy freakin’ Thomas?

He explains the Kane thing, as well:

The alteration of Wolverine’s mask between THE INCREDIBLE HULK #180-182 and GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 really has nothing to do with me… or at least it HAD nothing to do with me, until I scripted X-MEN LEGENDS #1-2 in 2022, and used that story to, among other things, give a canon rationale for the change. I was acting as a contractual writer/editor by the time GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 really got underway, even though I had set the ball in motion in summer of ’74… so I had no direct part in the change . What happened, apparently, was that John Romita designed the Wolverine look and costume, which Herb Trimpe penciled faithfully in the three HULK issues. Some months later, while Dave Cockrum was penciling the interior of GSXM #1, Gil Kane drew the main figures of the new X-Men for the cover. Gil, whether from carelessness or because he didn’t much care for the Romita mask (I’d guess the former), gave Wolverine a considerably different mask than Romita and Trimpe had drawn, and that Dave was drawing inside. Dave, who was also working on the cover, liked the new Kane look and decided to adapt it into his own drawings, and so Logan’s mask changed fairly drastically between the HULK and GSXM issues.

So WHY the change? Well, Wolverine is sent to the States to work with an old Roy Thomas-created X-Men villain, Jack of Diamonds, and once there, they are ambushed by Mesmero and a seemingly new mutant known as Wildlife…

However, we soon learn that Wildlife is a brainwashed Beast (Mesmero brainwashed him after the Secret Empire storyline in Captain America. Maybe I’ll explain that, as well, some day!), who has to wear a mask so that he is not recognized at the Brand Corporation…

Jack of Diamonds tries to take the Beast down and Beast’s mask is damaged…

Beast’s old secretary, Linda Donaldson (an agent of the Secret Empire), has a device Wolverine and Jack of Diamonds were sent to retrieve, and he’s cool with killing her, but Wolverine is not, and Wolverine uses his claws to tear Jack of Diamonds apart, but in the process, the diamonds tear Wolverine’s mask to shreds…

He swaps his mask for Beast’s mask (who doesn’t need it any more anyway, once he got over his brainwashing), and, well, there ya go!

Such a classic Roy Thomas-style explanation!

Thanks to Roy and John for the heads up! Check out John’s website.

If anyone has a suggestion for a comic book plot that got resolved after a few years (I tend to use two years as the minimum, as otherwise, you’re probably just in the middle of the actual initial reveal of the storyline, ya know ?But I’ll allow exceptions where a new writer takes over a storyline and has to resolve the previous writer’s unresolved plots), drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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