Weapon X Came Close to Being a Graphic Novel Instead

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, discover how close Barry WIndsor-Smith’s Wolverine epic, Weapon X, came to being a graphic novel

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and fifty-eighth installment where we examine three comic book legends and determine whether they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends. Click here for the first legend in this all-BWS installment.

NOTE: If my Twitter page hits 5,000 followers, I’ll do a bonus edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed that week. Great deal, right? So go follow my Twitter page, Brian_Cronin!


Barry WIndsor-Smith’s Weapon X was always going to be a Marvel Comics Presents features;



In 1988, Marvel and DC both tried out something that had not been attempted in quite a while in the comic book industry, which was a straight comic book anthology. The format used to be WIDELY popular, but that was back when comic books were sold on the newsstand market where fans were more willing to do impulse buying, so having a LOT of features was typically seen as being very appealing to the kid with a few dimes to spend on comic books. As the direct market became the primary way that people bought comic books, anthologies (and team-up books) fell by the wayside as people were more interested in seeing books that “counted” and that “mattered” to the continuity of the main heroes . Team-up books and anthologies are not very good for that sort of thing.

Marvel and DC, though, both decided to release weekly anthologies in the British comic book format of a lot of short serialized stories. DC cancelled Green Lantern Corps and gave their book, Action Comics Weeklyto Green Lantern as the lead characters whose adventures would “matter” while Marvel turned to one of their biggest characters period, Wolverine, for a new lead story by Chris Claremont and John Buscema (that story then led to a Wolverine solo ongoing series) .

One of the innovations that the editor of the series, Terry Kavanagh, had, was that this series could be used to reunite the acclaimed creators of slightly less known series, so for the first eight issues of Marvel Comics Presents, Doug Moench returned to Shang-Chi to write a Shang-Chi story (and later on, Don McGregor returned to the Black Panther for a storyline). The full-spread cover for #1 was by Walter Simonson)…

RELATED: The Strange Origins of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Iconic Wolverine Story, Weapon X

As I noted in the earlier legend, while Wolverine was the original lead feature in the series, the initial idea for the first 28 issues was to have other X-Men characters (Like Colossus, Cyclops, Excalibur and Havok) rotate in the lead. However, eventually, sales just didn’t merit that approach, and so Kavanagh was told by the higher-ups that he would have to start having Wolverine as the regular lead feature. The problem with that, of course, is that Kavanagh was not the editor of Uncanny X-Men guard Wolverine, so that each time he had a Wolverine face, he would have to clear it with Bob Harras, who WAS the editor of those two comics. Kavanagh and Harras were friends, so it wasn’t a big deal, but that would later become an issue.

RELATED: Peter David’s Supergirl Was Canceled Right Before It Went in a Bold New Direction

As I also noted in the earlier legend, Kavanagh had approached the great Barry Windsor-Smith about doing a short story in Marvel Comics Presents, but Windsor-Smith was more interested in doing a series (presumably a miniseries). In any event, like I noted last time, Windsor-Smith then just started work on what would become “Weapon X” on his own and handed in two finished chapters to Kavanagh. Kavanagh now, of course, had to convince Harras to allow him to feature a MAJOR development in the life of Wolverine (the reveal of how he received his adamantium skeleton) not in Uncanny X-Men or Wolverine, but Marvel Comics Presents.

Somehow, Kavanagh was able to pull that off, but then he was hit with another obstacle – the now-approved project was obviously really cool (Barry Windsor-Smith telling Wolverine’s sort of kind of origin?! How cool is THAT?), but Marvel’s sales team thought it was now TOO cool for Marvel Comics Presents. Kavanagh was told by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco that the project would instead be done as a graphic novel instead! It was too prestigious of a story to do in a bi-weekly anthology, especially as they wanted to do it on nice paper, give it all the bells and whistles that a project like this “deserved” (and, of course, presumably charge a nice penny for the final product).

Kavanagh, though, had a chance to plead his case to DeFalco, and he pointed out that Windsor-Smith had already started working on it as a serial, not a graphic novel, and, most importantly, Kavanagh had been told to make Wolverine the star of Marvel Comics Presentsthis was a Wolverine story, if it was “too good” for Marvel Comics Presents, then what was even the point here? Was the goal now to only do “just good enough” Wolverine stories, and if they’re too good, they’re published somewhere else? DeFalco, to his great credit, was convinced by Kavangh’s argument and canceled the graphic novel plans, choosing instead to just collect the story into a trade paperback as soon as possible (allowing Windsor-Smith to re-color it). That happened at the end of 1992 (this was at a time when Marvel collecting storylines was still a relatively novel practice, so this was a big deal)…

Thanks so much to Terry Kavanagh for the heads-up on all of this. He dropped me a line after the first legend to let me know that while the first part was mostly true, there was even more to the story, and he filled me in on that “more” today. Thanks again, Terry!


In the latest Movie Legends Revealed – Learn about the Star Trek actor who accidentally negotiated his way out of getting credited for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.


Check back soon for part 3 of this installment’s legends!

Feel free to send suggestions for future comic legends to me at either cronb01@aol.com or brianc@cbr.com

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