Marvel’s Best Hero Stolen From DC?

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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While fans love to argue about almost everything related to their favorite comic book superheroes, one thing nobody can argue about is the fact that Wolverine is Marvel’s most popular character. He has become so synonymous with the company, in fact, that most fans could never imagine the aggressive mutant coming from any other publisher. But here’s a fact that may pull the adamantium right out of your bones: comics legend Dave Cockrum once revealed in a 1982 interview with Peter Sanderson that he believed that Marvel effectively stole his idea for Wolverine from something he had drawn while working for the DC comic Legion of Super-Heroes

Wolverine Debuted In 1974

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To get to the bottom of this Wolverine accusation, we need to take things back to the very beginning. As most Marvel comic nerds know, Wolverine made his debut in the 1974 comic Incredible Hulk #180. That comic was written by Len Wein, and he, along with his editor Roy Thomas, are credited as co-creators of Wolverine. Dave Cockrum is never part of the conversation about creating Wolverine, but to hear him in this 1982 interview with Sanderson, he very well should be.

DC’s Legion Of Super-Heroes

According to Cockrum, he had created a number of characters that were intended to be used in the DC comic book Legion of Super-Heroes. One of these characters was actually named Wolverine and had many of the same qualities that Marvel’s mutant would later have: in Cockrum’s own words, he was “animalistic, bestial, feral.” In that same interview, the artist acknowledges that his Wolverine didn’t have any claws but that “he was a nasty son of a b*tch” and “had almost the same haircut that Wolverine has now.”

Cockrum Wanted His Design To Be Part Of The X-Men

How, then, did Marvel allegedly get inspiration for their own Wolverine design from Cockrum? The world of comics was much smaller back then, and Cockrum claims that he had shown his own Wolverine design and several other characters to Roy Thomas before the future X-Man Wolverine would make his debut. Speaking of which, Cockrum alleges that the main reason that he was showing these designs to Thomas in the first place is that DC hadn’t used them, and Cockrum hoped these characters might eventually be used as X-Men, especially since Thomas was that book’s editor.

The Theft Wasn’t Malicious

So, what happened next? Unfortunately for Cockrum, Thomas also passed on the ideas, but the editor later told writer Len Wein that Marvel needed a Canadian character named Wolverine. In the interview with Sanderson, Cockrum doesn’t think the idea was stolen maliciously, claiming instead that he believes Thomas “just forgot that I showed him my Wolverine,” leaving readers to decide for themselves whether the fact that Marvel’s Wolverine was so similar to Cockrum’s DC Wolverine design was a coincidence or not. 

The Story Is Disputed

Unsurprisingly, Roy Thomas disputes some of Cockrum’s implications: in a 2021 interview with AIPT, he claims that he doesn’t remember Cockrum showing him his Wolverine design but that he would take the artist’s word for it. Somewhat defensively, he replied to Cockrum’s allegations with the weird statement, “I knew what a Wolverine was since I was 5 or 6 years old,” and that he knew these creatures “were really fierce and known to take on animals 10 times their size.” This implies that his existing knowledge was the source of the Marvel character’s scrappy personality rather than an adaptation of Cockrum’s original concept.

Marvel’s Most Popular Character For Decades

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Like many old tales about comic book history, this ultimately comes down to one person’s word versus that of another. However, it is interesting to note that even Thomas doesn’t directly dispute Cockrum’s claim that he showed off a very similar character of the same name well before Marvel premiered their own version of Wolverine. That means that Marvel’s most famous character and the co-headliner of the upcoming blockbuster Deadpool & Wolverine may very well owe his very existence to a forgotten DC Comics character from decades ago.

Stealing from someone else and claiming a great idea as their own? Bub, you better believe Marvel is the best at what they do…and what they do isn’t very nice.

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