In 1992, Chris Claremont had planned a story called the Dark Wolverine Saga
. The X-Men would have fought the Reavers again in X-Men (2nd Series) #4
, resulting with Lady Deathstrike ripping out Wolverine’s heart. Wolverine would have been pronounced dead, but would have reappeared one year later as The Hand’s "Master Assassin" (it is unknown would have happened in the pages of Wolverine’s solo series during the period of his absence).
The majority of the X-Men (including Cyclops) thought that Wolverine needed to be taken down permanently, but Professor X stressed that it was of paramount importance to bring Wolverine back to the good side. Wolverine would have led The Hand against the X-Men, and eventually Colossus would have ripped out Wolverine’s claws from their roots. The adamantium would have started to peel and leech out of his skin while his healing factor was at the same time working in overdrive to repair Wolverine’s heart, bringing his healing factor beyond it’s limits.
Following this battle, The Hand would have given Wolverine artificial claws. Eventually, The Hand would have battled the X-Men again, and Jean Grey would have infiltrated The Hand, and she would have succeeded in freeing Wolverine from The Hand’s brainwashing and spells. Wolverine and Jean would have become a couple afterwards. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Claremont in 1992...
“Originally, my intent was to have Wolverine killed by Lady Deathstrike. His healing factor would have gone into overdrive to save him. In the meanwhile, his body would be acquired by The Hand and he would be “reborn” by them as their new Master Assassin, at which point the would lead them against the X-Men. This in turn would lead the greatest unimaginable challenge to the relationship between [Cyclops] and Jean, with who knows what kind of repercussions (short & long term), leading up to a final cathartic conclusion in Uncanny X-Men #294, and then in Uncanny X-Men #300.
Wolverine died. Jean Grey goes in and becomes his evil babe, though not really, she would be faking it. She is trying to tap into the Wolverine that is buried beneath all of The Hand’s spells. Scott and company are figuring, “Wolverine’s gone bad, we gotta put him down”. Xavier is immovably adamant about the need to save him. The need to salvage him, to bring him back to the light.
Wolvie’s healing factor went into ultra high gear, when he was “killed”, it was essentially rebuilding his heart. This is really disgusting, but his arms and legs would have rotted, as his heart healed. His conscious mind would have been kept in total suspended animation, everything would have geared towards keeping his sentiency intact and repairing his heart, everything would have been left to rot. So you would find this partially decomposed body, with a full-healed torso, at which point, the decomposed bits would begin to heal. It would take a long time and be disgusting beyond words, but ultimately he would have survived. The idea was that Wolverine really is impossible to kill. Anyway, one of the side effects of this, the healing factor is purging all non-organic matter, which means the adamantium. So what was going to happen was that it was like the Silver Surfer with hair. He’d be this blinding, shining creature with killer claws. Ultimately, the adamantium would just be part of his hair, he’d look like a silver porcupine.
At some point, he and Colossus would have a major fight, and it would have this great cover, it would be a black background with a spotlight of light and in the center of the spotlight are two sets of claws with the housings, just as if they had been ripped out of his arms and one of the claws would be broken. What was going to happen in that issue was that Colossus was just going to pull the claws off from their roots.
So The Hand would then give him artificial claws, they would work or not work as the case may be, but again, as part of the healing process, gradually he would realize that he was growing something new. That there is a natural element is his body that gives him claws. And over a span of six issues, you would see them grow.
So, when all is said and done, it would come down to a major league fight between the X-Men and Wolverine. A major component of the fight would be Wolverine’s battle with himself over the goodness of his soul, the warrior of his soul fighting this demon he had become, and he would win. The adamantium would flake off and he would stand reborn as a totally natural being. His bones and claws would be virtually unbreakable, they could be broken, but they could also heal. But because of the incredible stress he has been under for the past two years, his healing factor is like, “I’m tired. Don’t do this again, not fore awhile, OK?” After all this, Wolverine is not only more vulnerable. He’s going to butt his head into the wall because “It hurts too much and why do I wanna hurt myself? I’ll use the key”. It is like Wolverine’s come face to face with his own morality, and his own limitations and is like, “I’m too old for this shit. We’ll find a better way.”
But at the same time, it would create a bond between him and Jean like nothing that’s ever been done before. So that even if she was in love with [Cyclops], there would be a level of communication between her and Logan that Scott could only dream about, or have nightmares about. And at the end of it all, would lead to a final confrontation with the Shadow King. But that was my storyline, my core story for the first two years of X-Men.”
Foreshadowing of the Dark Wolverine Saga
was subtly seen throughout Uncanny X-Men #’s 205, 207-208, 226, 251-253, 256-258, 268, 273, 275, Annual #14 (2nd story)
. In Uncanny X-Men #’s 256-258
, Psylocke becomes Lady Mandarin, and The Hand’s best assassin. She captures Wolverine, and The Hand try to brainwash him into also becoming one of The Hand’s assassins. The Hand used Psylocke to brainwash him, and one of her tactics in the process included entering into his psyche while posing as Jean Grey (as well as Yukio and Mariko Yashida) to seduce him, while on the corporeal world The Hand used technology called “sensory deprivation” in order to make him lose his group on reality. Ironically, Wolverine’s own insanity and mental delusions of Carol Danvers and Nick Fury (perpetuated by his crucifixion by the Reavers in Uncanny X-Men #251
) led to The Hand’s failure to control him, as well as his successful escape with Jubilee, and a de-brainwashed Psylocke.
In Uncanny X-Men #273
(page 15), Jean Grey asks Psylocke if she can ever return to her British form. Psylocke replies that not even Forge has invented technology to reverse the process, and she commented that her teammates are not quite sure that she is truly free from The Hand’s influence, as she also mentions her teammates not trusting Wolverine much anymore. The reader assumes that Psylocke was referring to Wolverine’s insanity and lack of grip over reality as a reason for not being trustworthy, but what Claremont really meant through Psylocke was what would have happened in the Dark Wolverine Saga. It was not Psylocke the X-Men had to worry about being loyal to The Hand; it was Wolverine.
Prior to the Dark Wolverine Saga
, Claremont wanted Wolverine to be less powerful, by bringing down his healing factor capabilities. Claremont seemed to have this idea earlier on in his run, such as in Uncanny X-Men #226
, where Wolverine is depicted as exhausted and weakened from using his healing factor extensively after a battle with Freedom Force. Claremont believed that Wolverine would be a much more realistic character if his healing factor actually had limits. Claremont depicted Wolverine’s healing factor having limits just as well in Uncanny X-Men #’s 207-208
He began the actual plot in Uncanny X-Men #251
, when the Reavers crucified Wolverine on an X-shaped cross, upon returning to the Australian Outback from Madripoor. The crucifixion overtaxed his healing factor. Claremont was slowly developing this story, such as in Uncanny X-Men #257
, page 18, where Wolverine considers taking death more seriously, after he started hacking and coughing from smoking a cigar. As Wolverine stated in Uncanny X-Men #196
, smoking cigars doesn’t hurt his lungs or heart because his healing factor can repair the damage. He also collapses and starts bleeding. He also was coughing and wheezing in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 (2nd story)
from smoking. In Uncanny X-Men #268
(page 12), the Black Widow notices that Wolverine looks really sick, but she says nothing of it. Rose Wu tells Wolverine that he has "certainly looked better" in Uncanny X-Men #257
(page 11). Wolverine was also suffering from mental delusions because of his insanity. He continued to believe that he was being accompanied by Nick Fury and Carol Danvers while he was traveling the Pacific Rim with Jubilee (and later Psylocke). He would talk to them, even though they were not really there. Jubilee didn’t know what to do about it. She kept telling Wolverine that there was nobody around but the two of them, but he just ignored her.