There is a secret weapon comic writers have for doing whatever the heck they want within an established continuity. That secret weapon is the alternate universe. Marvel’s main continuity exists in a universe that is referred to as Earth-616 (the number Earth is how they’re all referred to since Earth is typically the center of the action for Marvel). That means a writer can do just about anything to any character or world without real repercussions usually as long as they claim it was a different Earth.
Marvel then pockets those ideas for potential future use (as we saw recently with Spider-Man when Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales all became big or biggish parts of Marvel books). Wolverine is a fascinating character with an established following and 40+ years of history behind him. Because of this he has, over the years, been a favorite target of writers for alternate versions. We will look at some of the most absurd ones; and we won’t even count his parody versions (like Slogan and Wolver-Wimp and Obnoxio-Wolverine).
15 Old Man Logan
As with many pieces of revenge western fiction, an event causes Logan to come out of retirement and into action. In this instance, Logan stands to lose his farm and see his family slaughtered if he doesn’t come up with money for the Hulk Gang. He is recruited by Hawkeye (who has vision problems) to go on a dangerous cross country trip on a delivery mission in order to get the money for the Hulks. In the process he runs afoul of the worst the wasteland has to offer. On returning back, Logan must confront the Hulk Gang and his own demons. This story of a Wolverine who has faded from glory and might have a final adventure in him is the spiritual impetus behind the upcoming film, Logan.
14 Age of Apocalypse: Weapon Omega
In one of the most well-known and far reaching instances of alternate realities in Marvel history, Logan plays a pivotal and most interesting role. The Age of Apocalypse is an event that took over all the X-books for a time in 1995 and 1996. The idea was that Legion (yes, the character that has a show on FX currently) kills Professor X in the past and creates a schism in what was supposed to happen in the world. In the divergent timeline, with Xavier dead, Apocalypse has taken over the world and subjugated humanity. Taking the torch from Xavier, Magneto has led an X-Men team against Apocalypse’s tyranny against all hope.
Logan, in this reality, goes by the name Weapon X. Apart from the X-Men, he and his lover Jean Grey (Cyclops is a bad guy) fight for the human resistance. Weapon X is also missing a hand, and has his stump covered with metal plating that can still sprout claws. Once Apocalypse and Mister Sinister (also one of the big bads) have been defeated, Weapon X is corrupted by a Celestial’s energy (think of a Celestial as a giant near-omnipotent race of space robots) and becomes the “heir” of Apocalypse. He renames himself Weapon Omega, and renews Apocalypse’s reign of terror… only to be stopped (in a later ongoing series also called Age of Apocalypse) by Jean Grey absorbing the Celestial’s energy from Logan.
13 Earth X
Earth X is a fascinating thing. A limited series written by Jim Krueger and based on character designs from legendary artist Alex Ross, Earth X is way too convoluted to attempt to describe in an entry like this one. It remains beloved for its unique way of re-interpreting characters and extrapolating events into a very different Marvel universe from the one we are used to, and it spawned two follow-up series in Universe X and Paradise X. Probably the one bit of information needed is that the Celestials (yes, the Celestials again) have manipulated human genes for their own ends, and that they have also been mutated by the Inhuman Black Bolt releasing terrigen mists on the world.
The Logan of this book is no longer a hero, but is overweight and a drunk. He lives with a woman who is claiming to be Jean Grey (it is later revealed after she leaves him that she is a clone by the name of Madelyne Pryor, who was a central character to the Inferno event in the 616 universe). Logan is also not a mutant in Earth X. It is revealed that he is actually one of the two oldest strains of pure humans left on the planet, and belongs to the “Moon Clan” (of which Moon-Boy of Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur series is also a member). The splinter group’s evolution is given as the reason for his claws and healing factor.
12 Lover of Red Sonja, Fighter of Conan
So this is the first entry in the list (but not the last) that hails from the What If...? series. On and off through the decades What If…? had been in publication to posit an interesting premise and see it out over the course of an issue (or more). This allowed writers to see what sorts of unintended consequences different actions had inside the Marvel universe. The series is often narrated by Uatu, the Watcher, who acts as a sort of giant, bald-headed Rod Serling.
In the issue titled “What If… Wolverine Battled… Conan the Barbarian”, we are brought to the final events of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Normally, Wolverine helps Jean Grey take control of herself to end things. In this issue, Uatu instead stops Logan from interfering and hurtles him back in time to the age of Conan. There he runs across Red Sonja, the famed red-headed warrior woman, and he instantly falls from her at the same time that she fights him for assuming he’s just a random thief. This all hinges on him pointing out she looks exactly like Jean (the object of his affection). Sonja battles Conan when Conan attempts to take an item Sonja is protecting, and that leads to a battle between Conan and Wolverine… which Conan wins. Wolverine comes to and ultimately cuts off Conan’s hand. Conan then gets sent back accidentally in place of Logan, and Logan stays back in the past to love and travel with Red Sonja.
11 Caught in a dream Wolverine
This is a bizarre entry because it comes from a parody book (even though we said we’d avoid parody Wolvies)-- but it is part of a story that is not exactly parody. And when we say story, we mean an actual prose short story as opposed to a comic (just words with a couple illustrations and not typical comic book sequential art). The story is written by Michael Kupperman (Tales Designed to Thrizzle) and is featured in a book called Shame Itself, which is a parody of the Fear Itself mega-event. The story is called “Triple Z: A Classic X-Men Story”.
In “Triple Z”, the X-Men are trapped in a seemingly endless dream-within-a-dream scenario where it appears that Professor X is working on getting the heroes to work inside the world of synchronized dreaming… and may have gotten them stuck in the process. Logan then appears to have woken from the dream, to be just a regular guy on a bus, on an errand to deliver a banana to a knitting circle. Things get very dreamlike (like the directions to the knitting circle are ‘written’ out of ants that are trained to organize in the shapes of letters). The story ends with the trapped-in-a-dream X-Men hovering over Logan, who appears to have fallen asleep inside their dream world.
10 Secret Wars' Civil War: Wolverine Hulk
The Jonathan Hickman-masterminded mega event Secret Wars turned the Marvel universe upside-down in 2015. The short version is that all the different realities were crashing into each other, getting destroyed in the process. Doctor Doom, with some help, took the shattered pieces of the 616 and a few other realities and stitched it into a sort of life raft universe for anyone able to survive… but installed himself as the God-King in charge of it all. During the event, a number of miniseries (many of them using the titles of past events, but diverging quite a bit from the original events) came out. One of those series was called Civil War and ran for five issues, detailing what had happened on a world in which the events of Civil War never resolved.
Written by Charles Soule and drawn by Leinil Yu, Civil War detailed an America that was literally torn in two by a giant explosion during the fight over the Superhero Registration Act. Iron Man controlled the eastern part (called The Iron), and Captain America controlled the western part (called The Blue). The two sides had an uneasy relationship, and were working on peace talks when the mediator was assassinated, throwing them into a renewed war. On Cap’s side, we see a dark grey Hulk that talks in a familiar tone to Captain America. It is revealed that Logan is in fact the Hulk we’re seeing when he pops his claws after having given Rogers the old Fastball Special.
9 Brother Mutant
Even for a comic, things get really complicated (more complicated than can be explained in a few paragraphs, anyway) and the Exiles are benched by their handlers (called the Timebreakers) in favor of a team of several different Wolverines. They are tasked with bringing down Brother Mutant. Brother Mutant was the accidental result of the Brotherhood of Mutants working to make Magneto more powerful by fusing Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton to Magneto. By doing this, the Scarlet Warlock (oh yeah, in this reality Scarlet Witch, Magneto, and Quicksilver are all gender-swapped) accidentally combines himself, Wolverine, Magneto, Quicksilver, and Mesmero into one person-- who dubs themself Brother Mutant. The Wolverines realize they’re not the first group of Wolverines sent in to take care of Brother Mutant (there are a ton of different Wolvies in the two issues this story takes place in), and that Brother Mutant has hypnotized all the previous Wolverines into helping him eradicate all humans. That’s when the ‘New Exiles’ wind up enlisting the Exiles to help make things right, and take Brother Mutant down.
8 Brother Xavier
Issue 111 of What If…? was entitled “Wolverine: Horseman of War”, and it posited a very interesting scenario. The book takes place in the near future, but a near future that is highly technologically advanced. It follows a young mutant who is having second thoughts about his role as a member of the War Watch, a police-like organization tasked with protecting the world’s peace from The Great Enemy and his acolytes.
The Great Enemy turns out to be Wolverine. He’d been transformed into the Horseman of War by Apocalypse, and subsequently betrayed Apocalypse-- killing him. He didn’t stop there and began to kill all supervillains. When all supervillains were dead, he kept going after criminals of a lesser and lesser nature, until he was even killing people harming the environment. The officer takes note of the advanced technology, peace, and clean environment of his world and begins to doubt that Wolverine really ever was an enemy. Looking to renew his commitment to the organization, he goes on a retreat created by the War Watch (they appear to have a spiritual component and the retreat is run by monks). It turns out that one of the monks, named Brother Xavier, founded the War Watch. He befriends the young officer and, in helping to defend the officer against the “agents of the Great Enemy” outs himself as the very same person he created the War Watch to guard against.
7 Astonishing X-Men: "Cormac McCarthy" Logan
Warren Ellis began writing Astonishing X-Men with a two-issue miniseries called Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes was released. The issues tied into a complicated story about the X-Men finding an artificially created mutant (actually a triploid, but let’s not confuse things with the facts) that was killed by the mysterious Subject X. Subject X attempted to activate a Ghost Box, which would have opened doors to parallel universes-- and the miniseries was used to explore a few of those universes with no real explanation.
In one story, the world is a The Road-esque wasteland and we find the X-Man Armor wheeling around a crippled Wolverine alongside a disfigured Beast. In the course of the eight page story, we are treated to maybe the grimmest and most nihilistic X-Men iteration ever. They are headed to meet up with Kitty Pryde, who will supposedly help people get off the Earth to a better situation. The adamantium in Logan's legs were twisted in the attack that decimated the planet. Beast went feral and attacked Armor and Wolverine, causing Logan to cut up Beast’s face, rendering him scarred and broken mentally. Due to a lack of food, they cooked up the chunks of Beast’s face for sustenance. When it turns out the prospect of Kitty Pryde saving the day was a trap that’d already been sprung, Armor mercy kills Beast by snapping his neck and Logan by burning the crippled mutant in fire. She then goes off to starve to death. The end.
6 Dormammuverse Wolverine
The third iteration of the Defenders title was just a five issue miniseries that appeared in 2015. It had a slightly irreverant comedic bent to the superhero goings-on, and featured the classic Defenders lineup of Doctor Strange, Hulk, Namor, and Silver Surfer.
In the miniseries Doctor Strange’s arch-nemesis Dormammu teamed with his sister, Umar, to defeat the cosmic entity known as Eternity. Dormammu assumed the power of Eternity and crafted the universe in his image. The world was known as the Dormammuverse, and he used his powers to go after the Defenders that’d infiltrated (and somehow not been changed by) his universe. Umar, working on her own plot to deceive and ultimately usurp Dormammu, makes the Hulk her personal sex slave (a very uncomfortable series of pages, if you ask us). With the creation of the Dormammuverse, Dormammu also created dark versions of several superheroes to serve him. They’re all dressed in black and leather and feature physical deformities or characteristics to make them look evil (or like a bad cenobite knock-off). For instance, the Dormammu Daredevil has eyes that are sewn shut and horns on his head. The Dormammu Wolverine doesn’t have any lines, and only appears in a few panels, but is so spiky that he warrants a WTF mention. He has sharp teeth, spiked leather shoulder straps, spike-bottomed boots, and barbed claws (that’d probably hurt way more going in and out of his skin). Presumably he disappeared when Dormammu was defeated by Umar and Hulk.
5 Wolverine: Lord of the Vampires
There have been many times where Logan has wound up as one of the undead. In an arc in Secret Avengers a vampire version of Wolverine is among the Avengers of the Undead (led by Brother Voodoo) in charge of defending Earth-666. In the regular old 616, Wolverine becomes a vampire at the behest of Cyclops in order to defend Utopia from Dracula’s son. None of these compare, however, to Wolverine being the Lord of the Vampires.
A What If…? Issue asks, “What If… Wolverine was Lord of the Vampires?” The idea is that when Storm becomes the vampire lover of Dracula (which actually happened in the 616), she has Dracula turn the the X-Men. Wolverine proves too strong for Dracula and kills him; becoming the lord of the vampires. His undead X-Men quickly begin taking over the world by focusing on superhumans. He turns some and sentences some to a “final death”. One of his first victims is Doctor Strange for fear of his power. After this happens, the ghost of Strange possesses the Punisher, and the combination of sorcery and firepower becomes the death of Wolverine. The following year a What If…? created a divergent timeline from this original divergent timeline: “What If… Wolverine had been Lord of the Vampires during Inferno?” The idea is Wolverine killed the Punisher before Strange’s possession. He winds up trading in cosmic exile for defeating Dormammu and the demons of the Inferno storyline, and the ending is more than a little nebulous.
Following the success of the Marvel Zombies miniseries, Marvel realized that they were able to have a little book about a far-out premise and sell some books both out of fandom and out of curiosity. One of the follow-up books was the Marvel Apes series, which is about exactly what it sounds like. The book, which is surprisingly deep, is followed by a few one-shots and a crossover with Marvel Zombies.
In it, most heroes and villains have taken punny versions of their 616 names related to their ape or monkey existence. Many code names also just have the word ‘monkey’ or ‘monk’ dropped in unimaginatively. What is interesting is that it appears the Wolverine of the Ape-verse has an indeterminate name. In the early appearances in the mini, the character is just referred to as Wolverine, eschewing the normal naming convention altogether (instead of something like Wolverape or Apeverine). He is also referred to as Logan (just like in the 616). Hulk, who appears to be less intelligent in Hulk form, calls Logan “claw monkey”-- but in the context it just appears as though Hulk is resorting to childlike associations in lieu of knowing names (he also calls Doctor Strange “magic monkey”). After this mention, though, it appears as though Claw-Monkey might be the Apeverse’s Wolverine’s actual codename. It remains unclear; but what is clear is that the trademark gruff and tumble attitude remains the same whether Logan is mutant or monkey.
3 Kid Wolverine
Superhero comics have a tendency to sometimes get silly. As such, there have been a number of times where Wolverine (and the other X-Men) have been turned into kids or babies. There was even a miniseries called X-Babies because of the popularity of the Skottie Young variant covers.
One of the instances of Wolverine being a kid, though, came in the pages of Prelude to Deadpool Corps. The idea is that Deadpool was such a popular (and zany) character, that a team of alternate reality (and zany) Deadpools would be able to carry its own weight. On that premise, a Prelude miniseries showed the 616 Deadpool hopping to an alternate reality each issue in order to pluck that version of him for his team.
In the second issue, Deadpool drops into a reality in with Charles Xavier is running a boy’s school (featuring kid versions of some of the famous X-Men) at around the time that an Emma Frost-led girl’s school is about to share a school dance. Kidpool (or Tito, as Deadpool also calls him) is a new kid and troublemaker. In the issue, Logan appears to be a greaser-type bully who is trying to woo Jean Grey away from Scott Summers. When Kidpool creates a distraction, he draws the ire of Logan who appears to have kid versions of Colossus and Angel for lackeys. Logan’s portion of the story never exactly resolves, and his last couple panels are just calling Kidpool “bub”, as he is wont to do.
2 Cosmic zombie Wolverine
Marvel Zombies was a fascinating book. The idea is that some superheroes and villains become infected by a zombie virus. They retain their powers and much of their intelligence, but their minds get overcome by increasing hunger. The heroes work as a team (mostly) in order to take down what little ‘food’ is still alive and kicking.
When they seem to have run out of food completely, they spot the Silver Surfer, who is operating as the herald of Galactus (who is about to eat this zombie-infested Earth). The zombies resolve to eat the Silver Surfer and, in attacking him, Wolverine loses an arm-- when the rotting flesh is torn from the rest of his body as his adamantium claws make contact with the Surfer’s impenetrable skin. The zombies eventually take down the Surfer and a handful eat the Surfer, including Wolverine. In doing so, they each gain a portion of Silver Surfer’s power cosmic. Using some ingenuity and pooling their power together, they down Galactus himself and eat him. Wolverine becomes a part of the Zombie Galacti, and travels from world to world, devouring everything in their path.
1 Dog Wolverine
We touched on the Prelude to Deadpool Corps earlier in the list. As in the regular 616 continuity, Wolverine and Deadpool are very closely linked in most alternate realities. Both characters are products of the Canadian Weapon X project, and therefore often come to books together, part and parcel.
In the third issue of Prelude to Deadpool Corps, Deadpool travels to Earth-103173, in which the Deadpool of that Earth is a dog. The idea is that instead of Weapon X, Wilson the dog is involuntary recruited to the Mascara-X experimental cosmetic program. It appears as though Wilson is deformed and killed in the experiment and is thrown into a dumpster. As with our regular Deadpool, this Dogpool has a superhuman healing factor, and claws his way out to eventually wind up as part of a circus. The dog’s circus act is to be violently “killed” only to come out okay. His experimenters attempt to recapture him on his discovery to no avail. They then create Wolverine (the dog) using the same process, in order to capture Dogpool. After a big chase, Wolverine (the dog) is shot by a circus cannon into a pool of acid. It is then that Deadpool appears and takes Dogpool with him.
Who is your favorite WTF Wolverine we didn't talk about? Is it General Howlett, the Viceroy of Canada? Is it the Cancerverse Wolverine? The Mangaverse Wolverine? Or maybe Professor W? Let us know in the comments!