So Sayeth the Odinson: Great Rivalries in Comics History: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth

Greetings from the Odinson,

They are feral.  They are dangerous.  They are feared.  They both have claws, unparalleled combat skills, bad attitudes, and uncanny healing factors that make them unbelievably hard to kill. 

And, they have one of the greatest rivalries in Comics History.

Great Rivalries in Comics History: Wolverine vs. Sabretooth

 James Howlett.  Logan. Weapon X. He is a man of many names and easily one of the most complex characters in the history of comics.  He is a savage berserker with the soul of a samurai.  He is a brutal killer with the heart of a hero.  He has been the leader of Alpha Flight, the backbone of the Avengers, and the champion of the X-Men.  He is the Wolverine.

Victor Creed is easily one of the most dangerous living beings on the planet.  He is a ruthless, sadistic killer that enjoys bringing harm to people.  He revels in the manipulation of others.  The people he murders out right get off easy.  Those he takes a shine to will be in for a lifetime of physical pain and mental torture, and for a long-lived human like Logan that’s a torture that can last decades.  Creed is a brutal killer with the strength of a monster, the power of his namesake – Sabretooth

This is one hard fought, bloody, oft times very cruel rivalry that spans back well over a century.  Plus, due to mind wipes, false memory implants, and continuity retcons, it is also one of the most convoluted and complicated rivalries in history.  So, instead of trying to piece together their story in chronological order (something I may address at a future date), instead the Odinson will explore the vicious history between these two feral mutants in the same order it was unveiled to me.     

The Mutant Massacre (1987) – Their bloody rivalry was first revealed during one of the earliest, best, and most impactful X-crossovers ever.  At this point in Marvel History, both were already well established as forces to be reckoned with, Logan in the ranks of the X-Men and Creed in his long running feud with Iron Fist.  But, this is the moment when master scribe Chris Claremont ignited the fires of what would go on to become one of the greatest, and bloodiest, rivals in Comics History.

The battle is epic.  The First Round, from Uncanny X-Men#212, takes place in the dark, dirty sewers below the streets of Manhattan.  Round 2, from the legendary UncannyX-Men #213, takes place on the grounds of Xavier’s School for the gifted.  Not only did this knockdown, dragout battle kick off their storied rivalry, it is easily one the best throwdowns between them to date.      

“Tag, sucker, you’re it.” (1987) – This is one of the most overlooked chapters in the rivalry between Logan and Creed.  In this nail-biting back-up story from ClassicX-Men #10, we learn for the first time that Creed and Logan’s animosity goes back a long time.  Every year, on Logan’s birthday, Sabretooth shows up to mess with him.  It’s an amazing piece as it reveals a little more about Logan’s mysterious past (something that in 1987 was still a complete enigma), and it establishes the feral villain as a credible threat to someone even as tough as Wolverine. 

Plus, it establishes Creed as a truly sadistic foe, especially when these yearly visits are explained, but more on that in moment.  

“Put him out of his misery.” (1987) – The Marauders are the super human hit squad responsible for all the death and carnage during the Mutant Massacre and their rivalry with the X-Men is the stuff of legends.  During this particular exchange, the mutant known as Scrambler uses his powers to turn off Wolverine’s healing factor.  Sabretooth takes advantage and savagely attacks his longtime foe.  However, caught up in his bloodlust, Creed forgets about Logan’s Adamantium skull and breaks his paw. 

Wolverine, proving that he is a cunning warrior and not just a berserker, plants his three Adamantium claws into the villain’s chest, then tosses him toward Scrambler saying, “Put him out of his misery.”  Basically saying Scrambler should shut off Creed’s own healing factor and let the wound end his miserable existence.

Yeah, these two guys do not like each other very much, and the next entry on this list is a big piece in the puzzle as to why.       

Silver Fox (1989) – One of the earliest looks into Logan’s mysterious past takes place in Wolverine#10.  Remember earlier it was established that Creed visits Logan on his birthday every year to torture him?  The reason for those tortuous visits is made clear as it is revealed that in the past Sabretooth murdered Silver Fox, the woman Logan loved.  This is also an odd chapter in Wolverine’s very complex history as it is revealed later that Logan and Creed’s memories of their past may not actually be what they think (see Wolverine #61-64).    

I for one think all the memory implants, mind wipes, and retcons when it comes to Logan got way out of control.  The editors over at Marvel should have clamped down a little harder on all that because it has made Logan’s history very confusing.  It’s almost impossible to discern which stories are cannon and which ones are fake. 

“I am your father.” (1991) – Once again, it’s Logan’s birthday and guess who shows up to celebrate, you guessed it – Sabretooth.  But this time, Sabretooth takes his mental torture to a whole new level as he declares that he is Wolverine’s father?!!  As these two try to tear each other apart, things get really complicated when the no nonsense super soldier from the future Cable shows up and starts shooting first and asking questions later. 

Of course Sabretooth wasn’t really Logan’s daddy, but the fact that he believed it for a while was yet another delicious twist in this storied rivalry.    

Claws over Times Square (1991) – The Hunter in the Darkness is a cryptozoic creature of myth and legend that Logan crossed paths with once before.  Now, the beast is caged and on display in the middle of Times Square and this doesn’t sit too well with the ole Canucklehead.  When Wolverine sets out to save the beast, his old pal Sabretooth, still believing he is Logan’s pappy, along with the deadly Lady Deathstrike show up to make our hero’s life as miserable as possible.  What follows is one of the most clawtastic, rip-roarin’ bloody 4-way battles between Wolverine, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, and the Hunter in the Darkness that comic book fans will ever witness!   

SNIKT! (1995) – This issue has one of the biggest pay offs in the History of Comic Books.  For years and years, Wolverine ended fights without bloodshed by popping two claws on either side of an enemy’s face and threatening to pop the third center claw up into their head if they did not stand down. It’s a moment that became synonymous with the character and almost as iconic as him saying “I am the best there is at what I do.”  He even did it in the very first X-Men Movie in the first scene he is introduced. 

For years, just the threat of popping that third claw was enough to end the fight.  Fans always wondered if Logan would ever make good on that threat.

Well, on the day Creed pushed Logan just one step too far and threatened to murder everyone his hated enemy loves and cares for, a threat Logan knows all too well that Creed is capable of caring out, Wolverine popped that third claw, and the world came to an end…literally.

NOTE: Wolverine #90 ends with the cosmic power of the M’Kraan Crystal engulfing the universe and ushering in the Age of Apocalypse

Sabretooth Triumphant! (1998) – Over the years, Sabretooth had always been bigger, faster, and stronger than Wolverine.  In fact, the only things that kept Creed from flat out just demolishing our hero was Logan’s superior combat prowess and his unbreakable Adamantium skeleton.  Well, after Wolverine’s Adamantium was ripped from his body by Magneto during the Fatal Attraction campaign and Sabretooth had his skeleton laced with the unbreakable metal by a mysterious benefactor, the tables completely turned.

In fact, with his new upgrade, Sabretooth proved to be nigh unstoppable and would go on to become a serious threat to the entire world.  Enter: Apocalypse.     

Apocalypse was going to recruit a new Horseman and gave Wolverine a choice. Either defeat Sabretooth in a battle to the death and submit to the villain’s control, or allow himself to die and allow Sabretooth to become the Horseman, Death. 

This happened in Wolverine#145, the 25th Anniversary of the character’s debut and, you guessed it, his birthday.  For the full story of how Logan became a member of the mutant tyrant’s Four Horsemen brigade, check out The Twelve storyline.

Evolution (2007) – Wolverine and Sabretooth’s long running and bloody rivalry came to a head, no pun intended, when they clashed for what was touted as their final confrontation, a battle so brutal that only one of them was walking away from it alive.  The brutal battle ends when Wolverine decapitates Sabretooth with the Muramasa, a sword that counters the effects of healing factors. 

Though the events of this final showdown were later retconned, it is probably the most appropriate and fitting end to a long, brutal, savage rivalry such this one.

The First X-Men (2012) – Finally, in yet another flashback tale that takes place years before Professor Xavier ever assembled his First Class, we witness an adventure involving a motley group of mutants including a young Magneto.  Logan and Creed are also along for the ride and as you can guess, they do not get along very well.  In a truly surprising twist, this tale introduces a woman whom Creed is in love with who does not survive the adventure.  Creed blames Logan for her death.  The story ends with Sabretooth declaring that he will destroy anything and anyone that Wolverine cares about for the rest of their unnaturally long lives. 

Over the years this stalwart X-Man and vicious Marauder have punched, clawed, kicked, stabbed, and tried everything else under the sun to try and get the upper hand in this long running rivalry, and to this day, they are still trying to kill each other.

Be sure to check out past installments of Greatest Rivalries in Comics History like Hulk/Thing, Superman/Flash, Superman/Batman, and IronMan/Sub-Mariner, and be on the lookout for future installments like Hulk vs. Wolverine, Punisher vs. Daredevil, Superman vs. Captain Marvel, and more!

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell     

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About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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