BEVERLY HILLS, California — For decades, comic book fans have considered two names at the very top of cinema’s superheroes: Batman and Superman. Don’t look now, bub, but it’s time for a sideburned face to join them atop that movie Mount Rushmore.
With this weekend’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Logan reaches the rare territory of comic book heroes who have appeared in more than three films. And actor Hugh Jackman gains membership into an even more exclusive club — tying “Superman” star Christopher Reeve as the only actors to ever play the same hero in four feature films.
“It was very satisfying playing [Wolverine again],” Jackman said. “I felt confident; I felt like I knew the character.”
But before all this history was made, Wolverine already had a long, uncanny history.
James Howlett first appeared in an October 1974 issue of “Incredible Hulk,” written by Len Wein and drawn by Herb Trimpe. Months later, he was among the fresh faces in an X-Men comic relaunch. As the years went by, such comic luminaries as Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Frank Miller all added significant touches. Although open to numerous interpretations, the basic elements have kept Howlett (more commonly known as Logan) envisioned as a mutant with animalistic senses, retracting bone claws, adamantium skin and a really bad attitude.
“There’s a couple of very important comic books that we draw on for this,” Jackman said of “Origins,” a film that had him scouring back-issues for precious plot points. “One is the origin story, and I love that idea of the younger kids and where Wolverine came from — which is what we began the movie with. I love the scene of him fighting [in] wars throughout history. We really battled how to condense 100 years of time to show not only who this character was and what he’s been doing, but his relationship to his brother. … [A lot of the plot is] drawn from ’Weapon X,’ which is a very famous comic book in the series.”
Throughout three “X-Men” movies and into the spin-off, Jackman has always maintained a sense of loyalty to the character. In “Origins,” that desire for faithfulness even had the star stripping down to his birthday suit.
“I actually insisted on the running-naked bit,” Jackman said of a scene that has Wolverine emerging from his adamantium bath and escaping in the nude. “Because there’s one picture of him in that ’Weapon X’ comic running through the snow after escaping with the claws. It looks so animalistic — and to me, it was so powerful and dangerous. I actually had that [panel from the comic] cut out, and I’ve put that on my wall ever since ’X-Men.’ ”
Although some tidbits in Wolverine’s history have been rewritten to better fit in with the overall “X-Men” movie series, Jackman is proud of the fact that “Origins” is such a sharp retelling of Wolverine’s blade-bearing backstory.
“I was playing someone who didn’t know about his past in [the early ’X-Men’ films],” he said of his unusual path to the new, first acts of Wolverine’s epic tale. “[When we began ’Origins’], I was finally getting down to who he was and evolving the character. That’s normally how you start!”
Check out everything we’ve got on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
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