Indiana University

IUPUI comic book class instructor delves into psyche of Wolverine

  • July 18, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- As the summer of superhero films continues, movie-goers are gearing up for “The Wolverine.” The movie about the X-men comic book hero confronting his demons hits theaters July 26.

Wolverine and others are the focus of a class offered in the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“We spend a great deal of time on superheroes,” Mark Harper said of “The History of American Comic Books and Graphic Fiction,” the three-credit, upper-level course he is teaching at IUPUI this summer.

Harper offers insight into the character and psyche of Wolverine.

“Wolverine is not immortal, like some of the more mythic superheroes, so when the claws extend, they literally tear his flesh," Harper said.  "Any heroic action on Wolverine’s part is accompanied by blunt physical pain. Whether he plays on a defensive or offensive position, emotions of rage and fear always color Wolverine’s game. Furthermore, he has to train his abilities around this special power -- a quintessential blessing/curse.

“Of course, we’d like the actions of our superheroes to be pure, just as we hope to have our own courage match our convictions. For Wolverine, this is never entirely possible; hence we identify with his struggle and celebrate his victories.”

Harper offers a quick primer on Wolverine the hero:

Timeline: The hero “Wolverine” emerged in 1974, during the Bronze Age of comic books, as “Weapon X”  in Marvel Comics’ “The Incredible Hulk.” His first appearance with the X-men was in 1975.

Some comic book historians rightfully refer to this period as an “era of independence.” Many of the comic book superheroes of the time were flawed individuals with insecurities, low self-esteem and emotional problems -- a definite break with the conventional valor and honor we associate with characters like Superman and Captain America, characters of the Golden Age.

Who is Wolverine: "He’s always at odds with his past -- and his emotions usually cloud his better objectives. ... We associate his animal status with raw survival instincts and an aggressive hunger. And like the animal, Wolverine is solitary at heart, and not likely to form a lasting allegiance to any group. His senses are heightened. ... Any actual combat is always going to have a sensational pay-off!"

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine: “It’s always made sense to me that Hugh Jackman was cast as this character since his wiry muscular build suggests athletic versatility. ... And as an Australian (on American screens), his demeanor reflects a cunning streak that we associate with survival in the outback."

To arrange media interviews with Mark Harper, please contact Diane Brown by phone at (371) 274-2195; or email habrown@iu.edu .

Note: The timeline in a previously published version of this press release incorrectly reported  information about Wolverine's introduction. Wolverine was introduced in 1974.

Media Contacts

Diane Brown