002: The Howletts

Version 4.00, last updated on March 14, 2011

In late 2000 shortly after the box office success of the first X-Men movie, Marvel Comics President Bill Jemas challenged his new editor-in-chief Joe Quesada and the rest of the Marvel Comics’ editorial staff to write “…the one story we can’t tell,” the origin of Wolverine. Many writers turned down the opportunity including Grant Morrison (“I thought it was a dumb idea.”), Brian Bendis (“I’m not the guy to write this.”), Mark Millar (“I didn’t want to drop anything I was currently working on.”) and Joe Casey (“Never a burning question in my mind.”). Finally Paul Jenkins, who had never written a Wolverine story, stepped forward and co-wrote the story with Jemas and Quesada.[1] Jenkins noted, “My sensibilities seem to lay, I think, in characterization much more than events… I have to examine his character and not just make it a series of important events. Because they become meaningless if there’s not actually people that you care about taking part in those events… If you do a good story with good art and people really dig the characterization, they will like it.”[2] As for the story itself, Jenkins later admitted, “Origin was based a little bit on my own upbringing in England.”[3]

Promotional artwork for Origin (Wolverine)
Joe Quesada and Richard Isanove, Origin promotional art

Wolverine: The Origin #1 (Nov 2001) – “Part I: The Hill”
Plotter: Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas & Joe Quesada; Scripter: Paul Jenkins;
Penciler: Andy Kubert; Digital Painter: Richard Isanove

We begin at the Howlett Estate up on “The Hill,” home to John Howlett, the son of a domineering self-made millionaire. John’s eldest son has died of a sudden fever years earlier, an event that sent the mother (and John’s wife), Elizabeth, briefly to an insane asylum. To help raise the youngest and now only son, James, a young girl named Rose is hired from the village. At the estate she encounters Thomas Logan, the groundskeeper and a drunkard, who lives nearby with his Huck Finn-like son, nicknamed Dog. Though James Howlett is frail and sickly, the three youths, James, Rose and Dog, spend the summer together, frolicking as kids do. One day, while James and Dog play near the water, James falls in and Dog rescues him. Later that evening while James recuperates, Thomas Logan beats his son for fraternizing with “their kind.” When Christmas arrives months later, James receives a puppy while Dog observes through a window. John Howlett takes pity on the poor child and gives him a toy train, but when Dog shows his gift to his father, Thomas Logan beats his son once again.

…While we are intentionally led to believe that Dog will grow up to become Wolverine, it is James Howlett who will be revealed as the mutant…

Wolverine: The Origin #2 (Dec 2001) – “Part II: Inner Child”
Plotter: Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas & Joe Quesada; Scripter: Paul Jenkins;
Penciler: Andy Kubert; Digital Painter: Richard Isanove

Several years pass and James Howlett, now a young teenager, still appears pale and weak. Rose, while continuing to attend to her duties, accidentally sees Elizabeth Howlett being dressed and notices three horrible scars across her ribs as if she had been clawed by an animal. In shock, Rose runs outside and is physically accosted by Dog. James witnesses the attack and alerts his father and before long John Howlett berates Thomas Logan over the conduct of his son. The following day, Dog attacks James in a secluded area of the grounds for ratting him out and kills James’ dog, Callie. By evening, John Howlett has Thomas and his son thrown off the premises, but later that night, they sneak back onto the estate grounds with rifles, forcing Rose to help them break into the house. Once inside, Thomas finds Elizabeth Howlett and tells her that she is leaving with him. At that moment, John Howlett barges in, and Thomas decks him, threatening him with the rifle. All of the sounds wake James, who walks in just in time to see Thomas fatally shoot his father in the head. Something snaps deep inside James, and he attacks Dog and Thomas. As Thomas pushes him away, we discover that James has bone claws coming from the back of his hands, claws that he uses to impale Thomas Logan, killing him on the spot.

James Howlett's claws appear for the first time
Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove, Origin #3

Wolverine: The Origin #3 (Jan 2002) – “Part III: The Beast Within”
Plotter: Paul Jenkins, Bill Jemas & Joe Quesada; Scripter: Paul Jenkins
Penciler: Andy Kubert; Digital Painter: Richard Isanove

After witnessing the bloody deaths of her husband and Thomas Logan, Elizabeth Howlett spurns her son James and his bone claws as an abomination. James flees the house in tears, while Dog tries to stop the bleeding from the severe facial lacerations he received in his scuffle with James. Outside, Rose tends to a now unconscious James Howlett, while inside, Elizabeth, clearly losing her grip on sanity, picks up Dog’s rifle and calmly kills herself.

It is strongly implied from the story that Thomas Logan, the groundskeeper, is James Howlett’s biological father, from his uncanny resemblance to the present-day Logan to the interplay between Thomas and Elizabeth Howlett. We are also given a glimpse of the tombstone belonging to James Howlett’s brother, John: born 1885 and dying in 1897. Hence the first part of this story definitely takes place after 1897, placing James’ birth in the late 1880s to early 1890s. Not everyone at Marvel seemed enamored with this origin for Wolverine as evidenced by an alternate future tale published later the next year…

Paradise X #4 (Sep 2002)
Plotter: Jim Krueger and Alex Ross; Scripter: Jim Krueger;
Penciler: Dougie Braithwaite; Inker: Bill Reinhold

A theory by Aaron Stack (Machine Man) in a future time line posits that Logan came from the Moon Tribe, a race of humans who remained feral and wild in Northern Canada. He further argues that Sabretooth is from a rival tribe, the Bear Clan. Additional speculation by Kyle Richmond (Nighthawk) suggests that the young, feral Logan was found and adopted by a well-to-do family, the Howletts, as a surrogate for John Howlett, their sole heir who passed away in 1897. Because this feral child showed no infirmities like those of a normal child, the family kept him secluded in the house, feigning illnesses to keep him out of sight.

Note that future time lines such as Paradise X are stories of speculation and are notoriously unreliable, so this conjecture is suspect, but it would nicely dovetail Logan’s early memories of childhood with the story of Wolverine: The Origin and the dream sequences he experienced during Jeph Loeb’s run of Wolverine five years hence. Another more philosophical theory of Wolverine’s origin appeared in the Marville limited series, a pet project of Marvel Comics’ former President Bill Jemas…

Marville #5 (Mar 2003)
Writer: Bill Jemas; Penciler: Mark Bright; Inker Rodney Ramos
In the year 100,000 B.C., time travelers from 5002 A.D. meet the first human, and he looks surprisingly like Wolverine. An individual similar to God declares to the time travelers, “After millions of years of genetic diversification, the perfectly matched male and female Neanderthal partners got together and produced the first human son – Wolverine. The human race started as one solitary fertilized egg, with a brand-new chromosome pattern. …Out comes Wolverine. He mates with dozens of Neanderthal women and they have hundreds of kids – all with Wolverine’s basic genetic code…” When the time travelers fast forward to 50,000 B.C., they again encounter Wolverine. Mickey, one of the time travelers, states that Wolverine “…is immortal, but not because of the healing factor – that’s just a metaphor. He’s immortal because he was the first human, and his basic genetic code lives in all of us.”

Yeah, right.

Logan as Neanderthal
Mark Bright and Rodney Ramos, Marville #5

Yet another alternate future timeline, this one written by Paul Jenkins (primary author of Wolverine: The Origin), tied directly into the events of James Howlett’s true childhood…

Wolverine: The End #1 (Jan 2004)
Writer: Paul Jenkins; Artist: Claudio Castellini
One hundred years in the future, an aging Logan confirms the events of Wolverine: The Origin, noting that the Howletts faced “…a tragedy – the children all died, one after another. The banks took over… all the money went missing.” Logan then adds, “I’m the only one left… I know I was born here – I found out a few little pieces about the family over the years.”

Wolverine: The End #3 (Jun 2004)
Writer: Paul Jenkins; Artist: Claudio Castellini
While searching for a man name Kitsunebi, Logan has a vague memory of a photograph showing his father and mother holding him as an infant. Later, when he finally does meet Kitsunebi, the White Ghost, Logan discovers the stranger is a mutant with ghost-like shifting abilities and bone claws extending from the backs of his hands, eventually revealed to be Logan’s older brother, John Howlett.

Photograph of James Howlett as a baby
Claudio Castellini, Wolverine: The End #4

Wolverine: The End #4 (Aug 2004)
Writer: Paul Jenkins; Artist: Claudio Castellini
With the revelation that he has a brother, Logan suddenly remembers being told as a child that John had died. His brother then gives Logan a photo taken by their father of James as an infant in his mother’s arms. John Howlett explains that their mother was having an affair with the gardener, Thomas Logan. When he confronted their mother about it shortly after James (Logan) was born, John was overcome with anger and sprouted bone claws from the back of his hands, gashing her mother’s ribs in the process. John’s father and grandfather arrived and subdued John. The grandfather took responsibility for John, promising “…the very best medicine has to offer,” but instead committed him to a lunatic asylum for the next fifty years.

Since John Howlett has only actively appeared in Wolverine: The End, and Logan does not possess his full memories as he did after House of M within our continuity, we must view this story as an alternate reality, meaning the revelation that John Howlett is still alive is unproven within the context of this chronology. Within continuity, however, are the following sequences by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday…

Astonishing X-Men #15 (Aug 2006)
Writer: Joss Whedon; Artist: John Cassaday
Logan is mentally regressed by Cassandra Nova to his childhood. Among the many things we learn about young James Howlett is that he likes to cut out paper chains and is deathly afraid of tigers, especially blue ones as large as a moose.

Astonishing X-Men #16 (Oct 2006)
Writer: Joss Whedon; Artist: John Cassaday
While still mentally regressed, Logan gives another clue to his childhood during a fervant plea to God. “Oh Lord, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee and for any wrongs I have done in your sight including that dream I had about the chambermaid that spoilt my bedlinens.” Later, he shows his courage by trying to assist Kitty Pryde. “You’re a girl, and if there’s danger about, I… well it isn’t right for a Howlett to hide behind someone’s skirts. I shan’t prize my life above my honor.”

Astonishing X-Men #17 (Aug 2006)
Writer: Joss Whedon; Artist: John Cassaday
In the final moments of his mental regression, Logan reveals a few more of his early attitudes, referring to the Japanese language as “heathen funny talk” and that “one reads about George the Third bumbling away the Americas.”

Perhaps the most confusing revelations of James Howlett’s origins are those put forward by Jeph Loeb in 2007…

Wolverine (Vol. 2) #50 (Mar 2007) – “Evolution, Chapter One: First Blood”
Writer: Jeph Loeb; Pencils: Simone Bianchi;
Ink & Washed Halftones: Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri

After regaining all of his memories, Logan begins to dream of Lupines, a race of wolf-like men who hunt sabretooth tigers in prehistoric times.

Wolverine (Vol. 2) #51 (Apr 2007) – “Evolution, Chapter Two: Deja Vu”
Writer: Jeph Loeb; Pencils: Simone Bianchi;
Ink & Washed Halftones: Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri

Logan’s dreams continue with the Lupines wiping out a group of Neanderthals.

Wolverine (Vol. 2) #52 (May 2007) – “Evolution, Chapter Three: Blood on the Wind”
Writer: Jeph Loeb; Pencils: Simone Bianchi;
Ink & Washed Halftones: Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri

While in Wakanda, Logan’s dreams evolve into those of Lupine warriors fighting on an ancient battlefield with armored elephants reminiscent of Hannibal. Much to Wolverine’s astonishment, he finds the ancient bones of the Lupines in a Wakandan elephant graveyard.

Wolverine (Vol. 2) #53 (Jun 2007) – “Evolution, Chapter Four: Insomnia”
Writer: Jeph Loeb; Pencils: Simone Bianchi;
Ink & Washed Halftones: Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri

Still in Wakanda, Logan’s dreams progress into those of Lupine gladiators fighting in the Colosseum of ancient Rome. Based on findings from the archaeological site, Black Panther and Storm pose the theory that Logan and other feral mutants like Sabretooth evolved from Lupines and are not actually mutated humans.

The theory posited by Jeph Loeb (through Black Panther and Storm) that Wolverine, Sabretooth and a handful of other feral mutants are actually evolved from wolves is pseudo-science at its worst even for the Marvel Universe. There is simply no credible evidence to support the theory that a heretofore unknown species is responsible for a handful of individuals already identified beyond a shadow of a doubt by Cerebro and the High Evolutionary (to name but a few) as mutants.

Wolverine (Vol. 2) #55 (Sep 2007) – “Evolution, Chapter Six: Quod Sum Eris ”
Writer: Jeph Loeb; Pencils: Simone Bianchi;
Ink & Washed Halftones: Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri

After a climatic battle with Sabretooth, Wolverine is confronted by Wild Child who claims that there have always been two great Lupine warriors throughout the ages and that Wolverine represents the greatest Lupine warrior of all time. He further reveals that the mysterious Romulus is the leader of the Lupine race throughout all of time and gave these dreams to Logan so he could better understand his heritage.

2009 saw a return to more traditional glimpses into Logan’s earliest years…

Weapon X: First Class #1 (Jan 2009) – “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
Writer: Marc Sumerak; Artist: Mark Robinson; Inker: Robert Campanella
When Professor Xavier probes Wolverine’s mind to help him regain his memories, Logan has a flash of the first time he popped his claws as James Howlett.

While not within canon, this all-ages comic was a humorous way to interact with Marvel’s toughest hero when he was not quite so tough…

Wolverine and Power Pack #3 (Mar 2009) – “Jack & Frank’s Excellent Adventure”
Writer: Marc Sumerak; Artist: Scott Koblish
The young superhero team Power Pack uses Reed Richards’ time platform to go back to New York City around the turn of the century. They find a young James Howlett being accosted by local ruffians and use their powers to help him out. James explains that his father is in town to discuss real estate matters. “He brought me with him because he thought that getting out of the house would do me some good but my allergies have been worse than ever since we got to the city.” Later when James is kidnapped, Power Pack comes to his rescue with the aid of Herbie, the Fantastic Four robot, but James faints dead away when confronted with a talking, flying robot. James finally returns to his father and bids a fond farewell to his new friends. Back in Canada, James seems invigorated by his experience, jousting with Dog as Rose looks on.

Wolverine: Origins #33 (Apr 2009)
Writer: Daniel Way; Pencils: Doug Braithwaite; Inks: Bill Reinhold
Nick Fury provides Logan with previously unknown information about his family history, including the fact that Logan’s mother was originally Elizabeth Hudson, sister of “…Elias Hudson, owner of the Hudson Bay Company.” Unfortunately, the company was named after the Hudson’s Bay, hence their name — Hudson’s Bay Company. We also learn that young James accidentally saw the scar marks on Elizabeth’s ribcage, presumably from his brother John.

Later in 2009, Marvel embarked upon a series of definite origins for its most popular characters, including…

X-Men Origins: Wolverine #1 (Jun 2009) – “Birth of a Weapon”
Writer: Chris Yost; Pencils: Artist: Mark Texeira
Wolverine dreams of when he was first popped his claws as James Howlett and killed his father’s murderer.

X-Men Origins of Marvel Comics #1 (Jun 2009) – “Wolverine”
Writer: Fred Van Lente; Artist: Mike Choi & Sonia Oback
“At the end of the 19th century, a boy named James Howlett was born in the forests of British Columbia. When he reached puberty, he discovered he was a mutant, born with retractable claws in his hands…”

Finally, Jason Aaron, the latest lead Wolverine writer, added his thoughts to the mix…

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #3 (Nov 2010) – “Another Fine Mess”
Writer: Jason Aaron; Pencils: Adam Kubert; Digital Inks: Mark Roslan
On the verge of death, Logan regresses to childhood and meets his mother who offers to hold him. “That’s all I ever wanted.”

Wolverine #4 (Feb 2011) – “Wolverine Goes to Hell, Part 4”
Writer: Jason Aaron; Pencils: Renato Guedes; Inks: Jose Wilson Magalhaes and Oclair Albert
After defeating the Devil in Hell, Logan comes face to face with his biological father, the groundskeeper Logan.

Wolverine #5 (Mar 2011) – “Wolverine Goes to Hell, Part 4”
Writer: Jason Aaron; Pencils: Renato Guedes; Inks: Jose Wilson Magalhaes and Oclair Albert
In Hell, Logan tells his son with pride, “You’re a Logan, through and through. There’s generations of of Logans down here and every one of ’em walked that same path, but none of ’em ever walked it the way you did, son.”

Previous: Lil’ Logan <<< Wolverine Chronology >>> Next: Days of Whine and Roses

[1] Christopher Lawrence, “Secret Mission,” Wizard #120, September 2001.
[2] “Paul Jenkins Talks Origin,” Comics Continuum (www.comicscontinuum.com), May 24, 2001.
[3] Richard Ho, “Logan’s Done,” Wizard #146, December 2003.

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16 years ago

It should also be noted that in Wolverine: The End #5 the man known as John Howlett, Kitsunebi, the White Ghost, admits that while he knows Logan intimately he is no brother of his.

Congratulations on having the best wolverine site on the web.

Keep up the good work.


16 years ago

Thanks for the kind note.

I believe John Howlett’s comment was intended as a red herring by the writer because in the following issue, John Howlett repeatedly asserts that Logan/James is his brother.

My interpretation is that the comment was intended to represent John disowning his brother, not denying their biological heritage.


16 years ago

I thought Rose was the one with scars on her ribs..?

15 years ago

well people, I’ve made my decision and I’ll be starting with Weapon X to later on move on to the essential X-men stuff. Hopefully this’ll get me interested and give me enough info on all edges and areas. From that maybe first class. But I want to wait with origin a bit to keep the “mystery-thing” alive.

Thanks for all the help so far. Probably haven’t heard the last of me yet. :P Cheers!

16 years ago

I just re-read the issue… it is definitely Elizabeth Howlett with the scars on her ribs.

15 years ago

Hey. Brilliant site. Found it today and I’ve surfing around on it for while now. I posted a thread in the marvel forum but haven’t got much (any response) so I wondered if you could help me. I watched X2 on tv the other night and’ve decided to pickup comics again and preferably my favourite character, Wolverine. So hwere d’you recommend I should start? I really want to find out about his past(s) and background (therefor I tried not to read to much about origin and the whole Howlett thing). Is origirin a good way to start? Please e-mail me… Read more »

15 years ago

Thanks for your compliments.

We had a similar discussion earlier this year and I think my recommendations from that post will be a good start…

Best Wolverine Trade Paperbacks of All Time

15 years ago

thanks man. I’ve had a look. So origin/s are really as bad as they say huh?

15 years ago

I think everyone has a different opinion on the Origins series. I personally think it’s a great series and I’ve stated my opinion here , here , here , and here is my rant for Logan’s code of honor.

15 years ago

The only good thing I can say is that Logan does not approve of what he was forced to do. Logan even gives Cyclops the only weapon in the world that can kill him. Before he leaves he tells Scott that “He Can’t use that weapon on his own son, and that it’s very possible they will capture him, brainwash him, and bring him back in.” Logan makes it clear that he will never live like that again and he’s counting on Cyclops to make sure that never happens again. This is evidence that strongly suggests that Logan was brainwashed… Read more »

15 years ago

Personally, I cannot recommend ‘Wolverine: Origins’ as it shows Logan to have committed atrocities that are simply beyond the pale. And ‘Wolverine: The Origin” (a different series) is overly melodramatic and trite in its telling of Wolverine’s earliest days.

I would recommend ‘Weapon X’ by Barry Windsor-Smith and the first ‘Wolverine’ limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. These two collections show Wolverine at his best… and are a good beginning before you make your way into stories and series that fail to capture what made Wolverine so popular.

15 years ago

Okay. But would you say origin is a good way to start? Or is it recommended to read a few other stories first? And also, a stupid quesiton but anyway, is there an origin and an origins series? or a the two the same series?

15 years ago

I recommend Wolverine: First Class if you are looking for a Wolverine is more identical to the one portrayed in the live action movie. Wolverine : First Class picks up when Logan still searching for who he is and what has happened to him. I think everyone on this site likes First Class because it’s the Logan we all grew up with. If you are looking for a story that shows Wolverine as a leader of black ops team of mutants, then you should really check out X-Force. Currently I am in love with the dark gritty atmosphere and I… Read more »

15 years ago

I really liked Origin too. I personally like it more then the overly praised Weapon X story line.

Origin doesn’t have any direct tie in’s yet, with the exception of the “Wolverine: The End” story line. They haven’t said Dog is Sabretooth and I really hope they don’t. I am guessing Romulus might be Dog though, since it seems he want’s to make Logan pay for something. He even said that turning Logan into his weapon is a “act of revenge”.

15 years ago

Does anyone know if a direct sequel to Origin will ever be made? I would like to see what happened to Logan and Dog. I mean it was never really confirmed if Dog was or was not Creed and I would really like to see that Logan had full knowledge of his past at least at some point before Weapon-X.

Mutant's truth
15 years ago

I knew something was off about Logan and Victor’s(Sabretooth) existence.These two are actually half-brothers and that James’ mother had two affairs with the gardener who has the same resemblance to Logan as a grown man and mutant.Their faces looked the same and poor Victor,he was abused as a child and started hating Logan throughout his life.It’s no wonder that every year when Wolverine has a birthday, Sabertooth is the only one who remembers.They need to stop hating each other.Dog is actually Sabertooth’s childhood nickname other than Victor Creed. I read Wolverine:Origins and I had to figure it out for myself.I… Read more »

14 years ago

I just don’t get how Logan in ‘X-Men: Origins’ kills his real father but leaves who he thought was his father but there were scars on Logan’s/James’ mom’s ribs but it didn’t say it in this movie. I’m confused, please help me.

14 years ago

Take the Thomas Logan relationship a step further….. The physical resemblance between Wolverine and Thomoas Logan strongly implies that Thomas is James` father, but what about the resemblance between both of these and ol` Grandpa Howlett. ….it seems to me that Thomas Logan is to the Howletts what Ray Krebbs was to the Ewings in Dallas . ……the illigitimate son of the family patriarch who lives on the family land as groundskeeper. That`s why, despite the fact that Wolverine and Dog are Thomas` biological sons, John Jr (The White Ghost) also has the physical similarity despite being John Howlett`s son.… Read more »

14 years ago

Just looked at my above post……..one problem there is, Dog isn`t Elisabeth`s son……so he and white ghost share no parentage, his ma musta bin a mutie too.

Carlos DeLeon
12 years ago

I always thought that John Howlett would be Sabretooth, and that Dog would be the middle child. As an adult, Dog still bore the facial scars; which would mean he doesn’t have a healing factor and couldn’t be Sabretooth.

12 years ago

dog’s not sabretooth, that has been established nobody ever wrote creed;s origin yet exceot the part where he was abused by his dad just like dog was tooth isn’t even canadian likie logan and dog was. thomas logan and john howlett might be half brothers why else would howlett tolerate him on his properyt even after he had an affair with his wife. john might have been soft after all. elizabeth waqs from the hudson lineage and romulus proved to be the ancestor of the hudsons and creed somehow in romaN MYTHOLOGY romulus killed his brother remus so somehow sabretooth’s… Read more »

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