I may have totally misread this, but it seems as if Daken (a.k.a. “Wolverine’sSon Daken,” a.k.a. “Dark Wolverine”), during the last issues of his solo series, totally realized he was just a spinoff of one of the most popular Marvel Comicscharacters of all time. And, to boot, not even the most successful such spinoff (those honors going to the significantly more well-known and beloved X-23).
It sucks, to an extent, being a spin-off superhero — someone’s son or daughter or rogue clone or niece or godchild. Perhaps if Daken had possessed totally different powers than his dad (the ability to eat drywall and belch it out into fire, for instance), things might have turned out differently. But no — he had the claws, the healing factor. Stormin’ Norman Osborn roped him into wearing his dad’s brown and tans…that must have been awkward.
Whenever I discussed Daken with other fans, I got back: “oh, that ripoff of Wolverine.” Certainly, he was much more than that. But he couldn’t shake the stigma. When you’re a spin-off superhero, everybody thinks you got your solo book out of nepotism. You didn’t really deserve it, didn’t earn it, the way, say, the Eric O’Grady Ant Man did. O’Grady really had to workfor his book. Daken? Just another title with the magic nine letters on the cover: W-O-L-V-E-R-I-N-E.
Reading the last arc of “Daken: Dark Wolverine” (#s 21-23), you really get the feeling that not only has Daken realized he is nothing more than a spin-off superhero, but that his book is being cancelled. Freakin’ CANCELLED, man! Plus, just to button up the whole affair (and perhaps address the “spin-offs suck” situation), he’s conveniently dying. And he’s mad as hell about this. (Spoilers ahead)
True to his (rightly or wrongly attributed) “emo/hipster” reputation, he’s gets all meta on us. In issue #21, he visits a Times Square Toys R’ Us and steals a Wolverine beanie toy. That Toys R’ Us is right outside my window as I write this. I could go to the store and buy that cuddly Wolverine toy right now, if I so wished. Daken sneers at the materialism of all it all. He also dresses down Human Torch a scene later and quips: “REAL people stay dead when they die, Johnny.” There were no big PR initiatives for Daken’s own impending demise, as there was for Johnny Storm. The painful truth: he just wasn’t that popular. He was just a stupid spin-off. The Human Torch got a tribute issue with several gorgeous variant covers; Daken gets a relatively less promoted arc with several fill-in artists (“all hands on deck”-style) in the middle.
In the last issue, even Spidey can’t help but get in a barb at Daken, calling him (air quotes) Edgy Son of Logan. But Daken, in-between bombing Midtown Manhattan, gets a few good ones in too. He calls the Fantastic Four “that saccharine, horribly outdated post-nuclear family.” Ordinary citizens are “lowest common denomination dullards, with their jobs and their babies and their obesity and their ugliness.” But hey — at least they don’t exist simply to extend the Wolverine franchise.
As our anti-hero lures the Avengers to “5th Avenue, South of Bryant Park” (where Marvel’s offices until recently were located), as he helps demolish part of a department store (which just might be Lord & Taylor, right across the street), and into Times Square (where perhaps “Daken” writer Rob Williams might have strolled to after visiting the Marvel offices, stopping by Toys R’ Us along the way), all of us, like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, are eager to see this snotty bastard die. Daken knows this as well. And he’s looking for one more “final triumph of nihilistic intellect” — giving the finger to the hated heroes in their “silver tower,” his ultra-merchandised estranged sire, and the readers who didn’t support his damn book.
But in spite of all this, Daken — who blows himself up and is assumed to be (air quotes) dead — leaves one final clue that betrays his hipper-than-thou attitude, his disdain for what he regards a crass, materialistic society, and his self-knowledge of his own existence as just another marketing idea. He kept the Wolverine beanie toy. Daken, like many of us fans who got into reading comics as a cherished childhood hobby but later denounced it all as being all about commerce, was “a puppet to his wounds and weaknesses.”
Despite it all, we can’t help but get sucked into the swag, into those idealized visions from our youth. The snapshot of Daken’s apartment on the cover of #23 could just as well have been the comics memorabilia room of any of us. Yes, he was the spin-off of Wolverine, and Wolverine is f**kin’ cool. And in the end, Daken knew that too.