May 09

The Man With No Name’s Name!

FT4 comments • 378 views

Thinking about the reasons for the utterly futile X-Men Origins: Wolverine, made me consider the above point. We don’t care what the Man With No Name’s actual name his. The lack of name is part of his character, the mystery is central to the character and destroys it when broken (he is a walking Schrödinger Cat Box). Wolverine in Marvel Comics for thirty years did not have a back story, he pops up with no memory after Weapon X treatment to give him adamantium claws, and there is a suggestion that his healing factor also masks his ageing, he could be hundreds of years old. In the first X-Men film this origin is pretty much repeated, his berserker rage, his haunted cynicism comes from this lack of memory.

About five years ago Marvel comics thought it was time to wring all the money they could out of one of their most popular characters, and publish Wolverine: Origin, much of which is nicked as a pre-credit sequence here*. But origin stories aren’t really suitable for the X-Men, they are mutants who one day manifest their powers. There is little spider biting fun. Indeed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine there is little fun at all, just a string of mutant encounters and fights between people who can’t be killed.

Look, I moaned about this back in 2003, when X-Men 2 came out! Watching indestructible characters trying to kill each other is a bit of a busted flush. Its even more of a busted flush in a prequel where nearly all of the main characters (here Wolverine, Sabretooth and General Stryker) all survive for the rest of the franchise. So we have a film with pointless fight scenes with nothing to play for, and a plot which exists to not upset the status quo. All we discover is what will win in the epic battle between claws and fingernails -WHICH WE ALREADY SAW IN X2! To whit I sat Shnikt!, but take out the n and the k.

As for the Man With No Name, well he is called by names in each of the films, each name could well be just a nickname. Joe, in A Fistful Of Dollars, Monco in A Few Dollars More, and Blondie in the Good The Bad And The Ugly. Even if a nameless man has a name, he protects his uniqueness by never saying it. Wolverines schtick was the enigmatic background. Once he has lost that he is a man with funny sideburns and a knifeblock in his knuckles.

*With this one, and the Watchmen one, 2009 is slowly being remembered for as the year of the narrative credit sequence.


  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 13 May 2009 #

    This review should be subtitled The Shower Of Shit Continues…

  2. 2
    Pete on 17 May 2009 #

    It struck me thinking about the X-Men films and their diminishing returns is that what wa snice about the Wolverine character was exactly how un-bad-ass he was. In the first film he is beaten up by a woman, in the second he barely survives a fight with a woman. In the third, well he kills a woman (albeit an extremely powerful one) by distracting her. Only in the prequel does he actually “save the world” by beating up an indestructible monster balanced on top of a nuclear reactor. And it seems so much less compelling!

  3. 3

    i have two questions for people who actually continue to read comics during and after these films

    i: are they having any good or bad effect on the comics themselves, story-wise, franchise-wise
    ii: in particular, film-as-a-form is all about closure; the comic as a form is all about The Serial (to adopt Wanky Theory Capitalisation): hence in the latter retconning and “Crisis in…” type moves, as the decades bring confusion and hinkiness re the weight of backstory for characters who (on paper) can live forever… so has the emergence of films-as-serial, which require EITHER response to visible ageing or (batman-style) multiple players of a role*, clouded matters further for the Narrative Technics of Serialism, or possibly unclouded it?

    *TV can obviously hack Serialism, and use to it produce work that’s better TV than used to be, out of An Comics Aesthetic; I don’t think movies can… film series that get up into the VIIs and VIIIs are really not working ideas about Serialism much at all

    (clue as to where i’m coming from: i’ve been very belatedly catching up with post-hiatus love&rockets, which has now been being written for more than 25 years ffs! to be massively silly about it, this project is becoming the “a la recherche du temps perdu” of comics, in terms of vastness and subject-focus… can’t speak to which is better obv as never read prowst; l&r has hottter s3chs scenes i imagine) (i think i shd blog this separately shouldn’t i?)

  4. 4
    Pete Baran on 17 May 2009 #

    a) Yes blog L’n’R.

    b) The comic series tend to carry on regardless to the films these days, having noticed that popular films do not seem to drive people to the comics, and if they do what the new readers like is being inducted into a fiendishly complex back story. An example of this may well be that last year, when The Incredible Hulk movie came out, they were at a point in comics where
    1) the Hulk had been shot into space because he was too dangerous
    2) the Hulk had conquered an alien planet and its warlike denizens, getting a queen in the bargain (Planet Hulk)
    3) said queen and planet get damaged by the ship the Hulk is sent to space in
    4) Hulk returns to Earth and tries to beat up everyone because they shot him into space and killed his wife (World War Hulk)
    5) Hulk vanishes to be replaced by a Bright Red Hulk!

    It was at point 5 the film was released! There wasn’t even a character who looked like the star of the film in the Hulk comic! (what’s more the sobriquet “The Incredible” had been usurped by Hercules of Roman and Sam Raimi myth).

    The closest I can think of them doind this is after X-Men, when Grant Morrison took over, they wore similar costumes for a bit!

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