He’s 5 feet 4 inches tall, has razor-sharp metal talons growing out of his knuckles, and his flyaway hairdo could give Don King the heebie-jeebies — but he’s this year’s Big Mutant at the Newsstand. We refer, of course, to Wolverine, that sneering, snarling, Canadian-born superhero who has become one of America’s hottest-selling comic-book stars — and is soon to become a Saturday-morning cartoon idol.
”He’s got attitude,” says Bob Harras, 33, editor of the Wolverine comic books. ”He’s got a chip on his shoulder, a berserk nature inside of him that he’s always wrestling to control. Kids relate to that. They identify.”
The mutant without a cause made his debut in 1974 as a guest star of the Incredible Hulk. A few years later, Wolvie became a regular in the X-Men, a comic-book series about a group of benevolent but misunderstood mutants — like Cyclops (who shoots lasers out of his eyeballs), Archangel (who has wings), and Nightcrawler (who can teleport himself anywhere) — who use their special talents to battle bad guys. ”But every time we put Wolverine on an X-Men cover, sales would skyrocket,” says Harras. “So five years ago we finally decided to give him his own book. He’s the only X-Men member with his own series.” So far, there have been 65 Wolverine comics, and each has sold more than 400,000 copies at $1.75 an issue.
Pretty soon he may be the only X-Man with his own movie: Harras reports that Marvel is considering a live-action film version for 1994 (an X-Men cartoon series is coming to Fox on Oct. 24). Like the comic-book version, a movie of the Wolverine wouldn’t be just kid stuff: ”These are stories about racial prejudice, hate crimes,” says Harras. ”They’re stories about an oppressed minority, hated simply because of who they are — mutants. And that’s key to their success. These stories have meaning.”