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 “Give Some Answers”, a feature where long unresolved plot points are finally resolved.

One of the interesting things about working in the “Marvel method”, where the writer comes up with a plot and then the artist essentially writes the pages as they draw them (with the writer then coming back to add dialogue), it’s some times that you simply miss follow-up points because there is simply no room left in the book.

In 1974, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas asked Len Wein to create a Canadian mutant hero named Wolverine, and Wein and Marvel Art Director John Romita then promptly took it upon themselves to design Wolverine, who debuted on the final page of Incredible Hulk #180 (by Wein, Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel)…

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

We then cut back to Wolverine’s superiors in Department H, including an unnamed blond guy, and he mentions that if Wolverine fails to take out the Hulk, they’ll have backup in the form of a special group of agents…

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

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

Do you notice anything unusual? Wolverine’s mask now looks completely different!

We see him reporting to Department H only to quit and 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 completely different!

Thank goodness Wolverine was eager to leave and join the X-Men, so Xavier didn’t have to pull any “All Canadians are cowards!” nonsense that 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 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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IN X-Men Legends #1, we see the agents in action (they also fail to defeat the Hulk)…

(Hulken manages to avoid inhaling all the gas).

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

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

Colonel Bernardo first appeared on one page in INCREDIBLE HULK #181. He was the commander of Department H, first referring to Wolverine as “weapon X” and a “mutant”, but was only called “sir” and never given a real 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 took that character back and named him after John. “Bernardo” is John’s middle name.

Okay, so what about the mask?

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

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

He also explains the Kane thing:

The change 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 wrote X- MEN LEGENDS #1-2 in 2022, and used that story to, among other things, give a great justification for the change. I served as contract writer/editor when GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 really got going, even though I had set the ball rolling in the summer of ’74… so I had no direct part in the change . What apparently happened was that John Romita designed the Wolverine look and costume that Herb Trimpe faithfully wrote in the three HULK issues. Some months later, while Dave Cockrum drew the interior of GSXM #1, Gil Kane drew the main characters of the new X-Men for the cover. Gil, whether careless or because he didn’t care much for the Romita mask (I’m going to guess the former), gave Wolverine a significantly different mask than Romita and Trimpe had drawn, and that Dave drew inside. Dave, who also worked on the cover, liked the new Kane look and decided to adapt it to his own drawings, so Logan’s mask changed quite drastically between the HULK and GSXM issues.

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

But we quickly learn that Wildlife is a brainwashed beast (Mesmero brainwashed him after the Secret Empire storyline in Captain America. Maybe I’ll explain that too one day!), who has to wear a mask so he won’t be recognized at Brand Corporation…

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

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

He swaps his mask for Beast’s (who doesn’t need it anymore anyway once he gets over his brainwashing) and well, that’s it!

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 plot that was resolved after a few years (I usually use two years as a minimum, because otherwise you’re probably right in the middle of the actual initial reveal of the story, you know But I allow exceptions where a new writer taking over a story and having to resolve the previous writer’s unresolved plots), drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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