Wolverine: The Lost Trail dives into the political allegory that has fueled the best X-Men and comic book stories of the past half-century. A podcast series from Marvel and Stitcher Radio, Wolverine: The Lost Trail picks up where Wolverine: The Long Night left off, telling a new story about Logan (Richard Armitage) on a violent quest of violence and redemption in the Louisiana bayou.
During a roundtable interview with the cast of the series, the stars of Wolverine: The Lost Trail reflected on how the show, like all the best X-Men stories, is based on the political and social anxieties of the present day. Some of the most important X-Men stories of all-time have leaned hard into politics; as early as their inception in the 1960s, X-Men was seen as an analog for the Civil Rights Movement, with the differing philosophies of Professor Xavier and Magneto being compared to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, respectively. The movies, comics, and various animated series are peppered with subtext and overt comparisons to a variety of issues, from gay rights to genocide and the irrepressible “fear of the other” that so frequently is invoked by politicians and hatemongers who seek to consolidate power for themselves.
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In the real world, the very existence of certain groups of people is political, and there’s no getting around that fact. Hate crimes are committed against people for no reason other than that they exist. In the Marvel universe, mutants are different, and are thus targeted for their otherness. Overt political themes are not something that authors have added on top of the X-Men lore over the decades; political action is woven into the very DNA of the X-Men. The entire X-Men canon is a celebration of diversity. In a world where terrorists target innocent victims based solely on their race or religion, celebrating diversity is nothing short of a political statement, and for an X-Men tale to deliver anything less would be a disservice to nearly sixty years of storytelling.
Wolverine represents a protector of the mutant community; someone who takes action when the innocent are attacked just for being different, but who perhaps contributes to the general public’s fear of mutants. Richard Armitage, who plays Wolverine in the series, explains:
“Every time the word mutant comes up in a pejorative way I get a little kind of flinch. I feel very protective towards them. I don’t think it’s by accident that (this theme) appears in this season. I think there is social relevance to what is going on in the world at the moment. These are people who are desperately in need, and ostracized and rejected by society.”
Further, Armitage is none-too-subtle when he discusses the power of villain Jason Wyngarde, better known to comics fans as Mastermind:
“I think the mutant community, in their search for a safe haven, they are tempted into something malevolent by Jason Wyngard. That’s an allegory in and of itself. I’m really fascinated with Jason Wyngard. Just this idea of somebody who can manipulate the mind of somebody to believe something that isn’t true… To me, that’s an allegory for propaganda, let’s just say. I was thinking, ‘Wow, what an amazing villain,’ and then, realizing… Oh, are we living in that?”
There are factions in the comic book fandom who want comics to steer clear of political timeliness, for these stories to be naught more than good guys in capes fighting bad guys in capes. There are factions who interpret the very presence of a hero of color (Black Panther) or a female hero (Captain Marvel) to be a bridge too far, not realizing that their expression of fear and outrage towards such movements is itself a harshly political stance, completely unaware that they are invoking the same “snowflake” mentality of which they so often accuse their enemies. Actor Rachel Holmes, who plays Maureen in Wolverine: The Lost Trail, states it with a blunt righteousness:
“We’re living in really hard times. That’s cards face up. I don’t need to pretend. If you don’t want to believe that, you need to have a reality check. Don’t tell me these stories don’t matter. My family hails from the Caribbean, from Jamaica. My father just told me that his grandfather lived his most of his life as a slave. There’s an African term, Sankofa. It means looking back to see where you’re headed.”
Wolverine: The Lost Trail is knee-deep in politics, and proudly tells a provocative story about people who are forced to fight for their right to exist in a world which fears and hates them for being different. It’s the same story X-Men has been telling for generations, through comics, movies, television, and – now – podcasts. Any X-Men fan who is surprised or distraught by this knowledge clearly doesn’t understand the fundamental principles of love, respect, and tolerance which inspired Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1963. This political awareness is why X-Men has withstood the test of time and will continue to endure into “the not too distant future” and beyond.
More: 15 Mutants Who Have Led The X-Men
Source: Wolverine Podcast