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Artist John Byrne reveals his inspiration for the design of Wolverine

original wolverine model

File this under obscure comic book trivia, as artist John Byrne has revealed his personal inspiration for the design of Wolverine. According to an interview Byrne gave that was picked up by Comic Book Resources, he based the character designs on actor Paul D’Amato.

original wolverine modelThat name may not ring any bells for you, as D’Amato’s career consisted mostly of smaller roles. For the Wolverine look, Byrne based his design on D’Amato’s protrayal of Dr. Hook, a rival hockey player in the Paul Newman comedy, Slap Shot. He made an impression even though he was only on screen for a few minutes.

Although Byrne didn’t create the character, nor did he first draw Logan without his mask (that honor belongs to artist Dave Cockrum), it was Byrne’s work that defined him. The artist is also responsible for saving the character. Following Wolverine’s introduction, Marvel wasn’t pleased with the character’s presence on the X-Men. At the time he was little more than a brawler, installed to add tension to the team. When the publisher was considering dropping him, Byrne stepped up and claimed that the presence of a fellow Canadian was good for the publication. It took some convincing, but Wolverine remained.

Byrne went on to create the Canadian superhero team, Alpha Flight, as a means to expand Wolverine’s backstory. It helped solidify the character, and Byrne’s run on X-Men lasted from 1977 through 1981, which coincided with a huge spike in popularity for the series.

Byrne’s designs have become the definitive look at Wolverine, and the artist is also credited with re-designing Wolverine’s costume in favor of the distinctive brown and yellow suit.

Under the cowl, Byrne used Cockrum’s original design including the hair, but looked to D’Amato for more definition. Check D’Amato out in the video below and you can see what Byrne was thinking.

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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