THE MARVEL UNIVERSE
Wolverine is a character from the fictional Marvel Universe, which is a so-called Multiverse, meaning there are many different parallel universes (each with its own continuity). The main universe is the 616 Universe, which is the universe and continuity of most of the comics published by Marvel Comics which exists since the early 60s. All of the ongoing series are part of the 616 universe as well as all Event-series (limited series that depict a major event in the 616 universe that involves nearly every major Marvel superhero). The Wolverine of the 616 universe for instance is currently starring in the monthly ongoing series Wolverine, Wolverine and the X-Men, Uncanny X-Force and New Avengers. he also was a major character in series like Uncanny X-Men, X-Men (later titled New X-Men and currently titled X-Men: Legacy) as well as The Avengers but has since left these series. he also every now and then appears in the series of other Marvel characters such as Deadpool or Spider-Man. Additionally Wolverine has been featured in nearly every major event-series such as House of M (2005), Civil War (2007), Secret Invasion (2008), Dark Reign/Siege (2009/2010), Fear Itself (2011) and is also a major character in the current Mega-Event series Avengers VS X-Men
The 616 universe also showed some alternative realities and timelines such as the dystopian future from the "Days of future past" storyline (an alternate future where Mutants have been herded into camps and are hunted down by humans to near extinction and where the world lies in ruins and is ruled by the mutant-hunting Sentinel-cyborgs) or the "Age of Apocalypse" (an alternate future where the evil ancient mutant Apocalypse has conquered the world). These different timelines are also universes of their own, seperate from the 616 universe. Though these tend to crossover more often with the 616 universe then others. For instance a major character in the 616 universe (Rachel Grey) is actually the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey of the Age of Apocalypse (AOA) universe but she went to the 616 universe and has been living there since the 80s now.
Another important universe is the ULTIMATE universe. In that universe the stories of several Marvel characters (Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four) are told from scratch in a new modern way with a completely new continuity which has no connection to the main 616 universe. Things are quite different in that universe. For instance most of the X-Men have actually died in the "Ultimatum" event and in this universe mutants were created as part of a US government experiment (while in the 616 universe mutants are beings of higher evolution). Wolverine himself was killed by the villain Magneto during the Ultimatum event and his legacy in the Ultimate universe is now continued by his son Jimmy Hudson (who exists only in the Ultimate universe) while the Wolverine in the 616 universe is very much alive. In the 616 universe Wolverine has a son too, the japanese mutant Daken who later became the villain Dark Wolverine. He recently killed himself in the comics though.
Four more very important universes in the Marvel Multiverse are the universes in which the live action films take place.
X-Verse: The universe in which the X-Men films take place which so far includes the films X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and X-Men: First Class (2011). The Wolverine and First Class films are prequels and therefore take place before the first film. First Class actually is also partially a reboot since it changes several established elements from the third film (Such a thing happens often in comics and is called a "retcon") and replaces them with a new canon/continuity. Upcoming films that take place in the X-Verse are The Wolverine (2013) which will adapt the legendary Wolverine comics-miniseries that was published in 1982 and written by comics legends Chris Claremont and Frank Miller and X-Men: First Class 2 which will be released in summer 2014. This obviously is the universe in which the live-action version of Wolverine (played to perfection by Hugh Jackman) appears.
Spider-Verse I : This is the universe in which the first three Spider-Man films (directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst) take place. Besides Spider-Man and Mary-Jane watson this universe featured villains such as the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr.Octopus (Alfred Molina), Sandman (Thomas Hyden Church) and Venom (Topher Grace). Bryce Dallas Howard (Victoria in The Twilight saga: Eclipse) plays Peters legendary first love from the comics, Gwen Stacy in the third film. This universe has been concluded with Spider-Man 3
Spider-Verse II : This is the universe where the new Spider-Man films will take place, beginning with the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man (directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans) which will retell the Spidey-story from scratch and in a different way. The films of this universe have no connection to the previous Spider-Man films. the second film in this new Spider-Verse will be released in 2014.
Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) This universe is quite unique in movie history since many different superhero films are all taking place in this universe and therefore share the same continuity, much like in the 616-universe comic books. So far the films Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (both 2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger (both 2011) and the Mega-Blockbuster The Avengers (which has just been released) take place in this universe. Besides the titular superheroes from their films this universe also features superheroes War Machine (in Iron Man 2), Black Widow (Iron Man 2 & The Avengers) and Hawkeye (Thor & The Avengers). The upcoming films Iron Man 3, Thor 2 (both 2013) and Captain America 2 (2014) will also all take place in this universe.
The movie-universes do not have connections with each other and although they are based on the comic books of the 616-universe they do not share the same continuity as the comics but exist as stand-alone universes within the Marvel Multiverse. The reason why the movies do not all take place in one universe (like in the 616-books) is because although Marvel has the rights for the MCU, the rights for the Spider-Man and X-Men films are owned by Sony and 20th Century Fox respectively.
THE CREATION OF WOLVERINE
While most Marvel superheroes from the 60s such as the original X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four or Daredevil were created by comics legend Stan Lee (who has cameo appearances in nearly every major Marvel film) and many are under the belief that he created Wolverine as well this is not true. Wolverine was created by another comics legend, Len Wein in 1974 as an adversary for the powerful Hulk. Wolverine first appeared in the teaser panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 and then was fully featured in issue 181 where he both fought the Hulk and the villainous beast Wendigo. Wolverine then concluded his first appearance in issue 182, where he appeared briefly. In this first appearance he was a mutant and special agent/asassin, working for the canadian intelligence agency known as Department H. He was send by them to stop the Hulk and Wendigo who caused massive destruction on canadian soil with their battle. Until today Wolverine is famous for being the only human who can successfully take on the Hulk with a more than decent chance of survival (The Hulk is the physically most powerful being in the Marvel universe who has no control over himself and is driven by rage)
When Marvel decided in 1975 to relaunch the X-Men comics and planned to bring in a completely new team of X-men that have all different nationalities they decided to bring in Wolverine as the canadian mutant on the team. Wolverine debuted as part of the X-Men (along with new characters such as Storm, Nightcrawler or Colossus who all became some of he most popular X-Men characters ever) in the special issue Giant Size X-Men #1 in 1975. From then on Wolverine and this new team of X-Men were also the new main protagonists of the regular ongoing series The Uncanny X-Men. The new X-Men team rose to incredible popularity and during the 80s The Uncanny X-Men had become the most successful ongoing Marvel series. While Wolverine initially was overshadowed by the other characters in the 70s (and Marvel even considered killing him off for a while) he rose to unbelievable popularity during the 80s, starting with the 4 issue miniseries Wolverine in 1982, written by Chris Claremont (who was also the writer on Uncanny X-Men from 1975 - 1991) and comics legend Frank Miller (who later also created the graphics novels 300, Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns which are all considered some of the most important works in comic history). Following that miniseries Wolverine became more fleshed out and immensely popular. By the end of the 80s he had become the most popular mutant character in the Marvel Universe and subsequently was not only featured in Uncanny X-Men but since 1988 was starring in his own ongoing series titled Wolverine (which is still ongoing and has more than 300 issues by now) as well.
The popularity of X-Men prompted Marvel to create a second ongoing X-Men series in 1991, simply titled X-Men, where Wolverine was also prominently featured. This second series became especially popular and legendary in the early 90s when comics artist legend Jim Lee was drawing the series. His designs for the X-Men became very iconic in popular culture and were also used for the X-Men animated series that was produced in the 90s (That series too featured Wolverine prominently)
During the 2000s X-Men was renamed into New X-Men and had a very famous (and notorious) run under acclaimed writer Grant Morrison who among other things killed off beloved original X-men member Jean Grey (who also was the love of Wolverines life. After she was killed Wolverine went into a berserk rage and beheaded her murderer). At the end of the 2000s New X-Men was then renamed yet again into the current title X-Men: Legacy. When the book was renamed into Legacy Marvel decided to give each X-Men book (Uncanny X-Men & X-Men: Legacy) a certain cast of characters. While most of the major X-Men such as Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Kitty and Emma Frost were featured in Uncanny, the characters Xavier, Rogue and Gambit were the prominent lead characters on Legacy.
At the beginning of the 2000s Marvel also launched its Ultimate Universe (see above) which introduced the Ultimate version of Wolverine and the X-Men. Ultimate X-Men ran for 100 issues and then concluded with the big Ultimatum event which had most of the X-Men (including Wolverine killed). In 2011 Marvel launched a new X-Men series in the Ultimatum universe called Ultimate Comics: X-Men which has the survivors of Ultimatum along with some new additions (including Ultimate Wolverines son Jimmy) form a new team of X-Men in a world where mutants are now officially terrorists.
When the Marvel superheroteam The Avengers was reformed after the big Marvel event "Siege", Wolverine and Spider-Man joined the team and so Wolverine from now on also appeared in the ongoing comic series The Avengers. However in 2011 Wolverine (along with Spider-Man) switched over to a second team of Avengers called the New Avengers and so Wolverine was now instead featured in the ongoing new series The New Avengers while at the same time still being an X-Man and main character of the Uncanny X-Men series.
It was also in 2009 that X-Men leader Cyclops put Wolverine in charge of a black ops mutant team called X-Force who were tasked to do the dirty, nasty jobs that the regular X-Men couldnt do. This resulted in Wolverine appearing now also in the new ongoing series X-Force. Cyclops disbanded X-Force officially in 2011 but Wolverine and the original X-Man Angel still saw the need for a black ops X-team and reformed X-Force in secret, keeping its existence under wraps. The new X-Force team consisted of Wolverine, Angel, Psylocke (a telepathic and telekinetic ninja mutant who is close friends with Wolverine and is also a member of the X-Men) ,Fantomex (a mutant mercenary with nanotechnology in his blood who can create powerful illusions and is a master marksman) and Deadpool (a very popular wisecracking mercenary who wields two katanas as well as guns and has a very powerful healing ability).
This new team starred in the newly launched Uncanny X-Force series. Due to the storyline Angel eventually was forced to leave the team and has currently been replaced with an alternate version of the late X-Man Nightcrawler (his counterpart from the Age of Apocalypse-timeline).
In 2011 the major X-Men event "Schism" led to a massive change in the X-Men. Wolverine decided that he doesnt want teenagers to be warriors and left the X-Men island Utopia. Half of the X-Men (including Kitty, Beast, Iceman, Rogue, Gambit and Rachel Grey) went with him while the other half stayed with Cyclops on Utopia.
Wolverine then rebuilt the old Xavier mansion and re-opened the former mutant school, naming it the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning (named after Wolverines great and dead love Jean Grey) with many mutant teenagers enrolling at the school. Wolverine himself is the headmaster of the school while the other X-Men (that went with Wolverine after Schism) are all teachers (with Kitty as Headmistress and Beast as vice-principal).
The adventures of Wolverine and the others at the new school are told in the new ongoing series Wolverine and the X-Men. While Wolverine is being headmaster by day, he still secretely leads the X-Force team and is also still a member of the New Avengers.
This means that Wolverine is currently starring in 4 ongoing comic series (more than any other Marvel superhero):
Wolverine and the X-Men
So much for Wolverines creation and publication history. In the next blogpost I will detail his fictional biography in the 616-comics, the Ultimate universe and the X-Men films.