Jun 3, 2015

The Rewriting: Wolverine joins the Marvel Universe

The Rewriting: Taking a narrative from a film, TV show, video game or what have you and making it something different than what it was to improve it or just for giggles.

Next summer Spider-Man will (likely) be making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Captain America: Civil War which marks the end of Sony's exclusivity over the character. Up until now Marvel Studios has not had the film rights to Spider-Man, the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four. To make it brief I will oversimplify why this was done. In the 1990's these film rights were sold off because Marvel was in a bit of financial trouble. At the time they basically sold the rights off to all of their most popular characters, which funny enough, was basically everyone but The Avengers. So Sony got Spider-Man, Fox got the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Daredevil (the latter would eventually find his way home.) Now the film deals work like this, the studios must make and release a movie in those respective franchises every few years or the rights revert themselves back to Marvel. This is what happened with Daredevil and the Punisher.

But in the case of Spider-Man a deal was struck where Sony and Marvel Studios could "share" the character. Basically Marvel helps Sony make the movies creatively and financially while Marvel gets to use one of their most popular characters in their Avengers franchise. Sony went for the deal mostly because they had little choice. The Amazing Spider-Man movies did well financially but critically they were a mixed bag and the box office profits had been dropping for three movies. Tying Spider-Man to the Avengers and starting over again is the booster shot the movie franchise needs to move forward.

So what the hell does any of this has to do with Wolverine? Nothing much really, this is all just background info for a hypothetical situation where a similar deal is struck in the imaginary universe in my head with everyone's favorite Canadian superhero. Essentially Marvel is not going to get the film rights to the X-Men back from Fox any time soon. That franchise is doing just fine and has had new life breathed into it by X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. But let's suppose for a moment that Fox let Marvel use Wolverine and an X-Men character or two in their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU.) How would that work?

The Problem: Marvel can't really use the concept of mutants as it exists in the X-Men movies. For one, the concept barely holds together in the comics if you take a magnifying glass to it for too long. Basically the whole deal is that the general public doesn't understand or outright hates these people born with powers. As we all know it's a super powered stand in for a civil rights movement. But apparently the general public doesn't have any problems with Captain America, or Thor, or Vision, or the Fantastic Four or any of the other non-mutant heroes having civil rights. Not only that but for the most part they are adored by the public and various governments as heroes. But if you're a mutant you're a freak and deserve nothing. That doesn't make much sense according to the Agent K principle. The general populace, especially those prone to prejudice, are not going to differentiate between mutant and super powered human. But it gets worse when you think that while this civil rights movement is going on all of Marvel's other heroes are just kind of going about their day not paying much attention to it or if they are they are paying lip service to it. The latter is the bigger problem as it comes to the MCU. At this point there is no way the very concept of mutants would not have come up within any of the films at all so late in the game. Also: in universe, super powered beings are new on the scene so the idea that Xavier and Magneto have been very publicly fighting for mutant rights since the 60's doesn't work.

So how do you get Wolverine in the MCU? You do what they did with Wanda and Pietro, don't make him a mutant. Make him just the product of science gone wrong during the Weapon X Program.

The Proposal: A few years ago there was a Wolverine series called Wolverine Weapon X by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney. The first volume of which was called The Adamantium Men where Wolverine discovers that somebody got a hold of the old Weapon X files on him and created a number of soldiers with his powers. Basically they accomplished what Weapon X could not: make some nasty guys to do nasty things. The story follows Wolverine, along with another former Weapon Xer Maverick, and investigative journalist Melita Garner as they attempt to discover who is behind everything, destroy the files, and take down these bloodthirsty mercenaries while doing it. In terms of tone is has a very "Bourne Identity" vibe to it which would fit right along nicely with what Marvel did in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There's a lot of stuff about privatized military contracts and the like. It's a very well written work because it takes the concept of Wolverine and Weapon X and spins it in a 21st Century way. It also works as an origin story for Logan without jettisoning the characters history wholesale. Old fans and new fans alike can read and understand everything. I think this would be the story to adapt into the MCU. But not as a film. As a Netflix series like Daredevil.

Maverick, Art by Ron Garney
Melita, Art by Ron Garney
Basically you start with the basic concept of Logan as he was in the first X-Men movie, an amnesiac with weird powers just keeping his head down. In the comic he happens to be in the same subway car with Melita when a couple of idiots try to mug them. Logan quite literally shoves one of their guns up their asses and leaves with Melita following him begging Logan to tell her more about himself. Logan basically says bugger off and loses her. Not long afterward Logan runs into Maverick who wants his help. In the comic, Logan knows Maverick, but for the purposes of this show he doesn't as this is a Logan that's starting "fresh." Maverick knows Logan as an old teammate from the Weapon X days but unfortunately can't help Logan with filling in his memory because they weren't exactly chummy. Maverick can only tell him about the parts of Logan's life he was there for. Maverick left the program shortly after Logan got his claws and has been a hired gun ever since. But he's run across a new operative or two with healing factors, enhanced senses, and the iconic three claws that Logan has in each arm. They're being used for political hits as well as assassinations of seemingly ordinary people. Maverick knows the files got out and he wants to stop them. At the same time he needs help, so he goes to the only other ex-Weapon Xer that's still breathing. Logan. Logan initially brushes him off but eventually decides to help stop what's happening. Maybe he can even find some information on his past along the way and save another unwilling soul the pain and agony of what he went through.

Along the way, Melita starts getting anonymous clues as to who and what Logan is. She begins to dig deeper into the Weapon X program.

Logan and Maverick's alliance see them breaking into government facilities as well as protecting people on the "adamantium men's" hit list. Logan assumes that they are not only unwilling participants but there are only one or two guys running around. Three at maximum.

Well about that...
Art by Ron Garney
These guys are not nice and they signed up for it. So much for "saving" them.

Along the way, Logan learns more about the process of what was done to him as well as the type of man he was before he lost his memory. Surprise, surprise, he wasn't a nice guy either. He signed up for it too and also did some nasty things. But after Logan got his claws he went berserk, killed nearly everyone in the facility and escaped into the Canadian wilderness with no memory and has been laying low for the past ten years. So after learning about his past Logan now has to deal with the person he was and become the person he wants to be to make up for past sins.

Klein, Art by Ron Garney
Which kind of contrasts with the main antagonist for Logan and the lead commander of the commandos. His name is simply Klein and he's a professional. He has his own code of honor that involves doing the mission and following orders but at the same time not involving bystanders in the carnage nor does he take pleasure in the bloodbaths. This contrasts with Logan's previous self who didn't much have a code. One of the best moments of the comic comes when Logan and Klein are cutting chunks off each other in the street in broad daylight and both notice that there is a school bus full of kids watching them. Without a word both men stop and sheathe their claws. They walk down the street to an alley to finish their business away from the children's eyes. On the way they exchange words of how Klein saw Logan in action once and decided he wanted to become better than him. Then when they reach the alley they resume their fight with more respectful banter knowing full well only one of them will live to see tomorrow.

Also during the investigation Logan and Maverick come across Hank McCoy aka Beast. Now in the Marvel comics Beast plays no part in the story line and is most definitely not a veteran of Weapon X. I think it would be worth adding him to the cast and the MCU. Unlike his portrayals in the movies he's a rather jolly guy and was a prominent member of the Avengers some years ago. For the purposes of this series Hank's bouncy quips would be a welcome refresher with all the doom and gloom going on in the main narrative. It would also be neat to see this character step up and join the Avengers on the big screen. He's got a real good rapport with the team as seen in the recently released Avengers: Rage of Ultron

Here's a quick sample.

Art by Jerome Opena

Making fun of Hawkeye? Of course he fits right in.

But while I believe this is the version of Hank to build towards, he's not going to start this way. He's going to be the son of one of the scientists that worked for Weapon X and his condition is a result of his father testing a serum on him when he was a boy. He's a bit bent out of shape about it but masks it behind jokes and smiles. I envision him joining the "team" halfway through the series.

Fast forward a bit...

Eventually the big bad privatized military corporation is brought down and Melita's investigation exposes them to the world. While throughout the series it was strongly hinted Maverick was her source. It became all but clear when Maverick intervened and saved her from some local hit man tried to kill her one night. But as a twist it's revealed it was Logan tipping her off. He wanted insurance in case they failed that at least someone could get the word out about Weapon X.

As for who leaked the files to the corporation in the first place... well it was Hank. Hank had hit a low point in his life much like Bruce Banner, but unlike Bruce, Hank can't pass for normal under any circumstances. Hank was desperate for a cure and when some men in suits tracked him down, promised him a cure for the small favor of his father's hard drive it was an easy choice. But Logan can't hold it against him and the final perpetrator of the whole thing isn't killed for his crimes because he was just as much a victim as any of them.

The Future: Logan, Maverick, and Hank made a bit too much noise to go unnoticed by S.H.I.E.L.D and other organizations, not to mention the report Melita has filed. So one night Logan is approached by Nick Fury. He can make a lot of the attention go away but in return the trio will work for him. Not for S.H.I.E.L.D, but for Fury. Fury wants an "off the books" team to do some things and go places S.H.I.E.L.D can't go. Namely Weapon X wasn't the only organization with dubious ethics making super soldiers. There's more out there that need to be stopped and The Avengers are too public to get their hands dirty in this sort of thing. So that's where this "team" comes in. From here you can spin off into a new Netflix series or a movie. Either way, Logan and Fury end up butting heads over the philosophy of the team as Fury is basically black mailing them into doing Fury's wet work.

So yeah, what do you folks think about my idea? Do you think it could work? What other characters you think could be brought over from the X-Men into this world of non-mutants? Off the top of my head I wouldn't put any more than three more: Magneto (his powers the result of Nazi experimentation,) Psylocke (a psychic ninja that used to be a S.H.I.E.L.D Agent,) and Deadpool (because Deadpool). But that's a whole other story for another day.

As always you can find me on twitter @MisterFroggie and if you liked this article please share it.

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