Wolverine And Sabretooth Relationship Explained Because It’s A Lot To Unpack

By Zack Zagranis | Published

Liev Schreiber

One relationship most X-Men adaptations don’t explore in depth is that between Wolverine and Sabretooth. Sure, they’re always shown to be rivals—archenemies even—but most cartoons and films don’t go any deeper than that. Not that we blame them. In the X-Men comics, the pair have such a long, convoluted relationship that it can be hard to unpack.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Is Horrible

Liev Schreiber

We’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It figures that the worst X-Men movie would be the one to dive into Wolverine and Sabretooth’s past because it does it in the worst way possible. Origins depicts the two as a) the same size and b) brothers.

Two things Wolverine and Sabretooth are most definitely not. The brother thing does have some reasoning behind it, but we’ll get back to that.

Both Characters Date Back To The 70s

marvel wolverine

Both characters were introduced in the ’70s, Wolverine in Incredible Hulk #181 (Nov 1, 1974) and Sabretooth in Iron Fist #14 (August 1977), and initially had nothing to do with each other. Originally, Sabretooth was just a plain hired assassin dressed in fur, but eventually, it was revealed that he had all of the same mutant powers as Wolverine. With both characters possessing a healing factor, animalistic tendencies, enhanced senses, and claws, it only made sense that there would be some connection between them.

Grand Plans For Sabretooth

Famed X-Men writer Chris Claremont would later claim that he always intended for the characters to be connected, but this has never been verified. What was verified is that a few years later, Claremont and artist John Byrne got the idea to make Sabretooth Wolverine’s father.

The idea was that Wolverine had been stalked pretty much his whole life by Sabretooth, and the pint-sized Canadian had no idea why. Each time they met, Wolverine would get bodied by Sabretooth until the older, larger mutant finally went too far and killed his “son’s” girlfriend. This would result in Wolverine finally overpowering Sabretooth and killing him once and for all, but not before finding out Creed was his real dad.

Parts of the storyline happened as planned, but in the end, Byrne left Uncanny X-Men, and Claremont didn’t pull the trigger to make Sabretooth Wolverine’s pop. Not in the early ’80s, at least.

The Annual Attack

Instead, on the cusp of the last decade of the 20th century, Chris Claremont wrote one of the coolest Wolverine and Sabretooth stories ever that heavily implied once again that Victor Creed was Logan’s father. Wolverine #10 (August 1, 1989) featured a story where it’s revealed that Sabretooth finds Wolverine every year on his birthday—no matter where in the world he is—and beats him savagely within an inch of his life, just to show that he can.

Retcon Through Cloning

The whole thing was meant to represent an old-school Alpha Dad telling his son, “You won’t be a real man until you can beat your Old Man in a fight!” The only problem was Wolverine had beaten Sabretooth before—as had several other heroes not even on Wolverine’s level. Claremont’s solution to this was to retcon all of Sabretooth’s earlier appearances as inferior clones created by Mr. Sinister. In Claremont’s mind, the real Sabretooth didn’t show up until that one issue of Wolverine.

Claremont never got to officially set up the cloned Sabretooth subplot nor show definitively that Wolverine was Sabretooth’s son, thanks to Marvel editor Bob Harras. At the start of the ’90s, Harras took on more of a leadership role when it came to all of the X-titles and put the kibosh on the whole “father and son” thing…until the mid-’90s, that is.

Not Really Wolverine’s Dad

Further into Wolverine’s solo-title, the subject of his relationship with Sabretooth was explored again. This time, Sabretooth came right out and told Wolverine, “Don’t you know, Logan boy? I’m yer ever-lovin’ daddy dearest!” Welp, that settles that.

Except, of course, it doesn’t because this is the X-Men, and no storyline can be wrapped up that easily. In the very next issue, Nick Fury informs Wolverine that blood samples from both mutants prove conclusively that Sabretooth is not Logan’s dad. Fury lamely adds that Sabretooth doesn’t know that, though, so Marvel didn’t have to come up with another reason that Sabretooth was always stalking Wolverine.

The Comic That Introduced Many Problems

That would have been the end if X-Men (2000) hadn’t made so much money at the box office. After the first X-Men movie did so well, Fox allegedly told Marvel that they might want to go ahead and tell Wolverine’s origin in the comics because the studio was going to do it eventually, whether Marvel told the story first or not. As a result, Marvel published Origin in 2001.

Origin finally revealed Wolverine’s true backstory, naming him James Howlett and a half-brother named Dog. Dog resembled Sabretooth more than a little bit, prompting fans to assume Wolverine and Sabretooth were brothers! Unfortunately, the writer of Origin never intended for Dog to be Sabretooth but instead included him as a parallel to Wolverine’s arch-nemesis.

Relationship Changes Depending On The Writer

Fox didn’t care, though. They adapted Origin for the beginning of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with the only difference being that the movie definitively states that Sabretooth is 100 percent Wolverine’s brother. To further complicate things, Marvel put out X-Men Forever in 2009, the same year that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released.

X-Men Forever was written by Chris Claremont and advertised as a continuation of storylines he was working on before he left Marvel. One of those storylines was—you guessed it—Wolverine being Sabretooth’s son. Now, it’s important to note that X-Men Forever took place on Earth-161 and not the main Marvel universe of Earth-616. As such, it was never meant to be canon.

However, the amount of people who paid attention to that is probably close to the amount who realize that the X-Men movies were not canon to the comics. In other words, most fans still thought Wolverine and Sabretooth were related. To add to the confusion, just for fun, the Sabretooth of Marvel’s Ulitmate universe believed he was Wolverine’s son to subvert their alleged relationship in the main 616 continuity.

Marvel Could Change All Of This Tomorrow

So, what is the real, canon relationship between the two feral mutants? The truth is there is none.

Sure, they have a history together as both allies working for the Canadian Secret Service and enemies fighting tooth and nail to end the other’s life. But as for an actual genetic connection between Wolverine and Sabretooth, there is none whatsoever to speak of. For now, at least.

Who knows what Marvel will retcon tomorrow?