Bellerose artist created X-Men's Wolverine

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He may be best known as the Silver Age artist who helped Spider-Man swing to new heights after co-creator Steve Ditko left, but Bellerose resident John Romita Sr. is himself co-creator of Wolverine, the Punisher and a raft of other Marvel Comics characters.

In 1974, "Incredible Hulk" writer Len Wein approached Marvel art director Romita with "a new character called Wolverine. That was all I would usually get from Stan [Lee] or other editors - they would just give me a name." Romita, 79, laughs as he admits, "At the time, I thought a wolverine was a female wolf!"

The office encyclopedia, however, described "a small, ferocious creature with catlike features and claws. So I go to my drawing table and start drawing sketches" incorporating those traits. "Because I wrote 'small' on my notes, I suggested on the original sketch to make him 5-4, 5-5. I said, 'He's ferocious, and he's little,' so you make him an angry little guy."

Romita's uncertain, but he thinks he also devised the claws' retractability. "When I make a design, I want it to be practical and functional. I thought, 'If a man has claws like that, how does he scratch his nose or tie his shoelaces?' "

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Wolverine debuted in the final panel of "Incredible Hulk" No. 180, drawn by regular series artist Herb Trimpe. Later, in various X-Men comics and solo series, he became one of Marvel's top characters.

"When I saw the first X-Men movie, I'm sitting with [my wife] Virginia in the theater," Romita recalls. "The first time he retracts his claws, I nearly jumped out of my chair. I got the biggest rush when I realized something I created was being used on-screen." -- FRANK LOVECE

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