The pope comics examining the hero motif: Wolverine

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Welcome back to The Pope’s Comics, our new regular column from award-winning novelist, poet and Comic Watch collaborator Bethany Pope! Bethany brings a wealth of knowledge on literature, history of LGBTQIA + issues, genre, comics and more. We sincerely hope you will enjoy!

This week, I take a look at the hero model as it applies to one of the most popular (and certainly the most ubiquitous) characters in modern literature. Wolverine has been reconnected and revamped so many times that it’s hard to squeeze out a clear narrative thread, but since this historical inconsistency plays a big part in shaping this same character, it was a fun exercise.

This model is based on The Hero: A study in Tradition, Myth and Dreams by Lord Raglan. As I have said several times before, this model is inherently sexist. I reworked the most offensive points.

Here’s the full pattern, for comparison:

Incidents that occur with regularity in the hero-myths of all cultures:

1. Hero’s mother is a royal virgin;

2. His father is king, and

3. Often a close relative of his mother, but

4. The circumstances of its conception are unusual, and

5. He is also considered to be the son of a god.

6. At birth, an attempt is made, usually by his father or maternal grandfather to kill him, but

7. it is carried away, and

8. Raised by foster parents in a far away country.

9. We are not told anything about his childhood, but

10. Upon reaching adulthood, he returns or goes to his future Kingdom.

11. After a victory over the king and / or a giant, a dragon or a wild beast,

12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and

13. And becomes king.

14. For some time he reigned without incident and

15. Prescribes laws, but

16. Later, he loses the favor of the gods and / or his subjects, and

17. Is driven from the throne and the city, after which

18. He meets a mysterious death,

19. Often on top of a hill,

20. His children, if there are any, do not succeed him.

21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless

22. He has one or more holy sepulchres.

Here is the model, as it applies to Logan / James Howlett / Wolverine. As always, I have only developed the points that apply directly to the character as he exists in the current continuity.

1. Hero’s mother is a royal virgin;

James Howlett was born to an upper class woman; Elizabeth Howlett. Since he’s the product of an extramarital affair (and since children born to upper-class women out of wedlock are used to being portrayed as the product of virgin births), Logan checks that box.

2. His father is king, and

Logan was raised by John Howlett, a man who was the de facto ruler of his small Canadian enclave. The role of the noble cuckold has a rich mythical history, especially among cultures that have been influenced by Arthurian legend. Mallory, of course, introduces Arthur as a variety of Magnanimous Cuckold (thanks to Robertson Davis’ magnificent Lyre of Orpheus, which handles this story very effectively and quite lengthily) and he presents the archetype of the totally noble man. . as someone who is absolutely undefiled by human desire, and therefore powerless. It is a medieval Christian understanding of sexuality, which postulates that holiness must be totally separated from the flesh. If you belong fully to God, you cannot be boned. The code of chivalry applied this to men as well as to women, although the former were not bound to it as strictly as the latter – and other genders were not even taken into account. Just as Arthur of Mallory has his role of husband usurped by his servant and dearest friend, the role of John Howlett is also occupied by his lowborn caretaker. Interestingly, according to this calculation, nobility can arise from corruption (Galahad and Logan both had “unclean” biological fathers), but nothing at all can be generated from physical and spiritual purity. sterile.

4. The circumstances of its conception are unusual, and

Being a bastard is not that rare, but the idea of ​​a lower class man fathering a child over an upper class woman, whose husband then adopts the child is quite rare – not to mention mythical .

5. He is also reputed to be the son of a god.

There was all this weird wolf-spirit association in the Wolverine: Origins series. Better not to think about it too deeply. Or consider the fact that the author seems to have confused wolverines (of the ferret family) with wolves.

6. At birth, an attempt is made, usually by his father or maternal grandfather to kill him, but

Logan’s biological father did not attack him until puberty, but he attempted to kill his son. The onset of puberty is, of course, a very important psychological moment, and this episode could be read as a dramatization of the conflict that male (cis or trans) children often feel for the most reflective parent. their gender.

Father-related issues

7. it is carried away, and

Logan runs away from his decimated house with Rose, his first love and childhood companion.

8. Raised by foster parents in a far away country.

Rose and Logan spend their teenage years lifting each other up, scratching each other in a forest town.

10. Upon reaching adulthood, he returns or goes to his future Kingdom.

After escaping the Weapon X program and attempting to assassinate Charles Xavier (retirees, am I right?), Logan joins the X-Men – a team of heroes he will frequently lead.

11. After a victory over the king and / or a giant, a dragon or a wild beast,

This is probably best interpreted as her triumph over the brood embryo that the queen implanted in her breast. The central struggle of this episode (and indeed of the character as a whole) was identifying and protecting her identity as a person. Son of man, can these bones live? Can Logan’s scattered fragments really be integrated into a cohesive whole? The Brood Saga, which focuses on the dissolution of the personality enlightened by the horrors of forced physical transformation, was the first confirmation we got, as readers, that there was a variety of essential selves. in this mess of rage and trauma. The importance of this bow cannot be understated.

12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and

We can ignore her aborted engagement to Marioko, as it was never physically or legally consummated. Currently, Logan is a third of a polyamorous thrupple consisting of his figure Anima (Jean Gray) and the embodiment of his Jungian shadow (Scott Summers). By embracing his psychological opposite (Summers, a man he once hated), he was able to integrate his Anima, a woman who had previously rejected him as fiercely as she sometimes encouraged his advances.

Roll in the clover.

13. And becomes king.

Wolverine has long been one of the most important (or at least profitable) characters in the X-Men books. In the text, it fulfills more or less the same role.

14. For some time he reigned without incident and

I would say the Wolverine scene rolling in clubs with a pack of kids after Krakoa was founded fulfills that requirement.

15. Prescribes laws, but

As a team leader, both of the X-Men, Xavier School, and X-Force, Logan has literally ruled the day.

16. Later, he loses the favor of the gods and / or his subjects, and

Even a successful character sometimes loses its appeal. Some time after Wolverine hit the peak of wonder saturation, readers got bored. In the text, it made him lose his healing factor.

17. Is driven from the throne and the city, after which

As his death neared, Wolverine withdrew from the books, until his “final” series (for a few years, anyway).

18. He meets a mysterious death,

Wolverine is dead, covered in Adamantium, essentially becoming a monument to himself.

Ouchies!

19. Often on top of a hill,

This death was literally on top of a hill.

20. His children, if there are any, do not succeed him.

Wolverine doesn’t understand this point. His daughter Laura (originally believed to be a clone, but in fact Logan’s biological daughter) took over Wolverine after Logan’s death. She’s the best Wolverine. I will not allow any dissent on this point. I am including this bullet for the sole purpose of stating this very obvious fact.

21. His body is not buried, but nevertheless

Logan’s Adamantium shell was placed in a Shinto shrine in the Canadian wilderness. He was eventually buried, but he didn’t stay underground long enough for this bashing to count.

22. He has one or more holy sepulchres.

He had a literal temple dedicated to him.

Logan scores a grand total of 19 points by this measurement. It is clear, by any measure, that this is a character who has assumed substantial mythological importance in our present culture.

Poet, novelist, fencer, pirate, Za-Za and regular contributor to Comic Watch, Bethany Pope lives in China. They also hold a master’s and a doctorate in creative writing. Their latest novel, The hungry and the lost, will go on sale December 1, 2021 from Parthian Books. You can follow them on Twitter at @theMasqueWriter.

The pope comics examining the hero motif: Wolverine


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